Priest Ioan Istrati
Today at the commemoration of the holy elder Dionisios from the skete of Colciu from the Holy Mountain many friends asked me to write something more about the Mountain with saints. The mountain of the Holy Mother of God is a kingdom of the grace of God, guarded by Angels, a land which is full of pious men, hermits, theologians. Wherever you walk, the land is sanctified by two millenniums of prayer, fasting, ascetic endeavours and sight of God
The air in Athos is different. It is heavier and thinned by light, it is like a veil of the wedding of the man with God. The wind blows differently, from up downwards, it is harsher and more heart breaking, like an admonishment from God for your sins. The light itself is much more filled by crystals of grace, it murmurs from heaven like a symphony of the divine love.
There it is not like in the world. Here, on the land soiled by sins you can pretend that God doesn`t exist or that He doesn`t see you and that He doesn`t hear you, especially if you are very insensitive. God withdraws from the world and He is felt only by those who cry when praying.
In Athos God is crushing evidence, a sensation of a holy superabundance, a murmur of joy, a spring of tears pouring down from heaven, a sublime presence, of an infinite finesse which makes you breathe the air with fear and tenderness.
There everything has become prayer, feeling of the skies, taste of heaven descending in the soul and overflowing in history.
I will give you an example.
When I went to Athos for the first time I was a student and had left Philotheou Monastery from the heart of the mountain going to the Romanian Monastery of Prodromou on a way of many kilometers by foot.
I had a club in my hand, two big plums in my backpack and a stone painted with the Holy Mother of God which I carried all the way long on the mountain as if it were a millstone
I ate the plums. The sun was burning hotter and hotter, there were over 40 degrees in the shade and there was no shade at all to be found on the barren way where only bad thorny shrubs were. There was no spring, nothing at all, only heavy dust on the way and the unbearable heat. Slowly my powers faded. I was sweating heavily and the undershirt covering my head was burning.
All of a sudden I felt like fainting. I sat in the yellow dust from the wayside. I felt dizzy. There was no tall or big tree on a distance of hundreds of meters
I sighed: Holy Mother of God. This is all I could say. I closed my eyes for a moment. I saw a shadow before me. It was a young monk with a black dusty robe. He gave me a bottle of 0.5 liters of icy water. I drank it in a second. I recovered. I thanked him. When I raised my eyes there was no one around. The monk vanished.
Back and forth on a distance of a kilometer there was nobody. I was keeping that blue plastic bottle in my hand and I was crying. I am still keeping the bottle from the invisible monk.
This is how God is felt in Athos.