On Friday 8 August 2014 Hs Grace Bishop George of Mayfield visited two monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, both located in Mangrove Mountain here on the New South Wales Central Coast: Pantanassa Monastery and Holy Cross Convent. His Grace was accompanied by our parish rector, Father James Carles.
Arriving at Pantanassa Monastery shortly after 10.00am, Vladyka was greeted with the ringing of the monastery bells. Abbot Eusebios and his brethren had assembled before the main monastery building to welcome Vladyka, after which they escorted him to the chapel. There, Father Eusebios served a brief moleben for Vladyka’s health before greeting him with warm words of welcome, thanking him for his attention and asking for his prayers.
The brethren then received Vladyka in the monastery reception room, serving Greek coffee, nuts, dried fruits and Greek pastries. An edifying conversation followed, with Vladyka and the brethren sharing details of the life and struggles of their respective monasteries. The brethren asked for Vladyka’s thoughts with regard to the monastic life in particular and Orthodox Christian life in general, and all shared their concern with regard to troubling developments in contemporary life.
After walking over the monastery grounds, inspecting the new guest house and garage being constructed, and venerating the large Cross of Christ in a small outdoor chapel, the guests were invited to the refectory. There, Vladyka was given the place of honour, and as the brethren and their guests ate, the monastery’s newest monk, Father Theodoros, read from the Counsels of Elder Paisios.
Following lunch the entire brotherhood escorted Vladyka and Father James to the site of their new monastery, an imposing structure under construction high on the cliff above their present home. Vladyka was again welcomed with the ringing of bells, after which he was shown the new church and the future refectory, kitchen, library, office and monastic cells.
Father Eusebios and his brethren then bid Vladyka a warm farewell, asking for his prayers and expressing the hope that he might one day visit again.
Vladyka and Father James then drove the short distance to the Holy Cross Convent. Abbess Philothea and her sisters also greeted Vladyka at the monastery gates with the ringing of bells, escorting him to the public chapel while singing the troparion of the Cross in Greek. After taking refreshments in the convent dining room and discussing the two monasteries of the Holy Cross – in Mangrove Mountain and in West Virginia - the guests were given a brief tour of the buildings and grounds by Mother Philothea and her sisters, finishing at the site of the new church, the construction of which is soon to begin.
Vladyka and Father James then returned to our church for the all-night vigil for our patronal feast of Saint Panteleimon. Their visit to the monasteries was a most edifying one. The Greek Orthodox monastics greeted Vladyka with warmth and showed him great honour, also giving an inspiring example of what can be achieved with trust in God and steadfast commitment to His service. Glory be to God for all things!