I’ve been living in Thessaloniki for the past year now, acquiring proficiency in the language, and entering into the spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral life of the Church, both here and on Mount Athos.
This is the second year of the St. Maximos the Greek Institute Program in Advanced Studies in Orthodox Theology and Spiritual Life which takes place at Vatopaidi Monastery and is under the spiritual direction of Geronta Ephraim, the monastery’s abbot. It is directed to young doctoral students or doctoral graduates of Orthodox Theology and focuses on the relationship between the contemporary saints and elders of Mount Athos and the Patristic tradition of ascetic experience. Eight of the applicants were selected to come to the Monastery this weekend for interviews with the board which included Mantzaridis, and a final interview with Geronta Ephraim, and all eight of us were accepted this year, four of which are young laymen, and four of which are clergy/monastics: Two Americans, two Serbians, two Syrians, one Romanian, and a Greek. We will become October 5th, and spend two months at Vatopaidi for a year (two months in the Monastery, two months off, two months on, etc.), engaging in intensive sessions taught by renown Orthodox theologians and fathers from Athos, Greece, and around the world. The program takes place in Modern Greek and will emphasize also Ancient and Patristic Greek and contemporary research on the new saints. We will complete and share six essays throughout the course of the year and in the end produce a 50+ page thesis. We will also take place in the daily liturgical life of the monastery and have access to the many resources of the monastery. The program will support us with a monthly scholarship allowance.
I’m honored to be one of the two American Orthodox representatives in this program this year, and pray that this experience will help the new generation of Orthodox clergy and theologians contribute to the ongoing Patristic renewal of Orthodox Theology in the United States, and continue to encourage for all Orthodox Christians the spiritual relationship between the Orthodox ascetic inheritance of Greece and Mount Athos, with the United States.