The Experience Of Mount Athos
By Warren Bensinger
When my family asked me “How would you like to go to Mount Athos”; I really didn’t know how to answer. I had read about it and thought about what it was like. Reading books like “The Mountain of Silence” and “The Inner River” had given me a cursory feel for what things might be like there, but for me to go to Greece was not ever thinkable. Then my daughter said that she had “Frequent Flyer Miles” that were going to be lost if someone didn’t use them, the idea started to take shape. That was in May and by June my reservation with the Russos pilgrimage was made and the wheels were put in motion. I started having discussions with people that had gone and figured out that I could probably do it without dropping of the face of the earth. But who was I going with? What plans would I have to make? Would everything be timed right? Flights? Taxies? Hotel? Meals?
Well everything turned out just right. There were only two hiccups and both of those were with my camera, so it was a very smooth trip. That has to do with the physical part of the trip. What about the spiritual side? That couldn’t have been better! I didn’t really realize it or understand it during the trip but something was happening to me that I’m still trying to gather together.
We have a prayer called the Paraklesis that is directed to the Theotokos during the Dormition Fast in August. This time I continued praying it until my departure and began to understand a little bit of the help that was coming from the Holy Mother of God to visit Her Holy Garden known as Mt. Athos.
With Her assistance I was able to experience the glory, mercy and Love of God through the services that we experienced as well as the Relics that we venerated. This was carried over to the accommodations, food, travel provisions and friendship that we enjoyed together in the group as well as the Guest – Masters and other Monks that help us along the way.
Most of this I didn’t understand until I got home and the trip started to sink in. What we experienced from the countryside to the architecture with the frescos and Icons and singing and chanting was nothing short of Heavenly.
I think the Relics that we venerated affected me the most of anything. I don’t even know how to explain it either. It is as though I really made contact with real men and women that have been praying for me but now I know them because I was able to be in their presence and pray with them. This is beyond imagination. This is Super-natural. This is Spiritual.
I Thank my wife, my family, Theofilos Russos, Fr. Andrew, Ken, Peter, James, Willem, Basile, Maria, Florin, Pericles and the men and women, nuns and monks every day for the experience that I’m only beginning to enjoy. I’m looking forward to a follow-up trip soon.