It has been many years since we spent Holy Week in Greece.
And this year, while we succeeded in getting here, the coronavirus has imposed its own ‘logic,’ with the result that this Easter is different from the previous ones.
The number of worshipers allowed inside the churches is limited – the concern over the coronavirus is palpable.
Thus, on the one hand there is a numbness, but on the other, there is a holiness that – perhaps because of the coronavirus – is even more noticeable.
In Crete, just before you reach Chania airport, there is a crossroads. You can turn right and go to the airport or go left. If you follow the road to the left, after about 10 minutes, you reach the Monastery of Agia Triada Tsangarolon.
The Monastery, built in 1630, is surrounded by a high, strong wall. You go up the stairs, through a heavy, old, beautiful door that was designed for high security, apparently to protect it from various invaders of that time – and perhaps pirates – and enter the courtyard.
The interior of the Monastery is a masterpiece, with an amazing garden of trees and flowers, which at this time scatter a wonderful fragrance and create the image of a small paradise.
The monks’ living quarters are located in one one part of the Monastery while other communal spaces are scattered throughout the rest of the enclosed area. The Monastery also has a large basement, where the monks store the various products that they produce – all very clean, all in order, all under the care of the Abbot and the brothers of the Monastery.
In the past, in these basement areas, women, children, and the elderly took refuge to escape from the various raiders that invaded the island throughout its history.
But what is most impressive about the Monastery is the Katholikon, the main church, standing tall in the middle of the courtyard with its high dome, rare iconography, and a very impressive chandelier – similar to those in the monasteries of Mount Athos – evoking in visitors an almost metaphysical contemplation, reflecting the piety, the humility, but also the nobility of the time of its creation.
On Holy Tuesday night, the troparion of Kassiani was sung under a clear, bright sky. The nave of the Katholikon was filled (at the limited coronavirus capacity) as was the courtyard, with the people there exercising proper social distancing.
It was a special experience of mental delight and joy.
A holiness was diffused in the darkness along with the light of candles, with eloquent chanters and views of the monks performing their services.
On the bishop’s throne, the young abbot of the Monastery, Bishop Damaskinos of Dorylaion, with an eager eye, watched and directed everything.
There would be many who would pray that the Sequence would never end…
The Bishop was elected Abbot of the Monastery only about a year-and-a-half ago. In this short time, he has performed miracles. Educated, cultured, dynamic – and at the same time humble and spiritual – with eloquence, he is one of the hopes of the Church. He is a hierarch who can offer important services to our Church and the Nation.
We will visit other monasteries in the area. But it is certain that we will return again and again to Agia Triada.