Greece - Agion Oros Athos (Aspects of Every Day Spiritual Life D) 2009

Greece - Agion Oros Athos (Aspects of Every Day Spiritual Life D) 2009
Greece - Agion Oros Athos (Aspects of Every Day Spiritual Life D) 2009

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Greece - Agion Oros Athos (Aspects of Every Day Spiritual Life D) 2009

Under the coenobitic (communal) system of administration, which is the traditional and strictest form of monasticism, the Abbot is the spiritual and administrative leader of each monastery. The Abbot is the head of both the Iera Synaxis (Holy Assembly of Elders) which runs the monastery, and the Committee, which is its executive body. He is the spiritual father of the monastic brotherhood, leading, advising and inspiring the monks with his teaching and by example, and the monks must respect and obey him. Together with the Elders, the Abbot allocates tasks to the monks and presides over all the religious services that take place inside the monastery. His office is signified by his staff and pectoral cross.
The Abbot is elected for life by the brotherhood of each monastery, in accordance with the Charter of Mount Athos (1926) and the monastery’s internal regulations. He is chosen for his principled and righteous morality, ecclesiastical education and administrative ability.

The Holy Community of Mount Athos, which has its seat at Karyes, is constituted as a body from the 20 representatives of the sovereign monasteries of Mount Athos. According to the Greek Constitution (Article 105) and the Charter of Mount Athos (1926), it is the central administrative body of the Athonite State, meeting in regular session twice a week and in extraordinary session whenever necessary. Meetings are led by the Protepistatis (chief supervisor). If invited, the civil governor of Mount Athos, the official representative of the Greek State, may also attend these meetings.
The Holy Community has jurisdiction over Athonite affairs throughout the peninsula. It is responsible for actions of a general nature and for the smooth running of the Athonite administration. It approves the internal regulations of the holy monasteries and also constitutes a judicial authority at first instance and on appeal. Throughout their year-long term of office, the members of the Holy Community also take part in ceremonies to welcome official dignitaries to Karyes, while by decision of the Holy Community, they sit on committees that have been established to represent the Athonite State in various matters between Mount Athos and the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.

The Holy Epistasia (Holy Administration) constitutes the executive authority of the Holy Community of Mount Athos and has four members. The twenty monasteries are divided into five groups of four, each group assuming the Holy Epistasia once every five years. The Epistatis (supervisor) of the first ranking monastery is called the “Protepistatis” (chief supervisor). He is the president of the Holy Epistasia and first among equals.
The Holy Epistasia deals with and seals the correspondence of the Holy Community. The seal of the Holy Community is divided into four parts (one for each Epistatis). In addition, it manages the Common Fund in accordance with the orders of the Holy Community and is in charge of the cleaning, good order and smooth running of the Karyes market, fulfilling the general duties of a municipality and a county court.
A commemorative photograph is taken of each Holy Epistasia together with the secretaries and seimenides (gendarmes) that make up the small body of laymen with policing duties.

The Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy was founded in 1748, next to the monastery of Vatopedi, and opened the following year. It operated for a number of years and in its time, was well attended both by clergy and lay students, including St Kosmas Aitolos and Rigas Feraios. When the scholarly Eugenios Voulgaris became the head of the School, its reputation spread throughout the Orthodox world. Apart from “theological sciences” the course of studies also included “secular science” (mathematics, physics, philosophy, etc).
During the 1821 War of Independence, the school closed. It reopened in Karyes as a secondary school in the mid-19th century. Despite the difficulties which it encountered in the 19th century, it received legal protection under the Charter of Mount Athos (1924) as an educational foundation of the twenty holy monasteries and in 1930 relocated to the Skete of Agios Andreas at Vatopedi, where it remains to this day. The school still belongs as a foundation to the Holy Community and the monasteries of Mount Athos. Since 1953 it has been a public ecclesiastical Gymnaseion and Lykeion (the Academy being temporarily inactive). Its pupils are boarders and attend a series of specialist lessons including icon painting, liturgics and Byzantine music.

Chorostasia is the name given to the participation of the Abbot, or the head cleric in general, in the monastery’s religious services. Especially at important celebrations (devoted to the Lord or the mother of God, the Theotokos) and on feast-days, the Abbot presides over the services in the katholikon in the most official manner, ascending to the Despotic Throne. Dressed in his vestments, he wears the pectoral cross and holds the pastoral staff. As spiritual father, he also leads the prayers in the Eucharistic Synaxis of the monastic brotherhood. He stands by “in chorostasia”, chanting, reading, saying benedictions and praying for the deliverance of his flock and all mankind.
When the Abbot of a monastery or a bishop is invited to an official feast day of another monastery, this official guest presides “in chorostasia”.

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