29 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
72, Vlatádon Monastery, Thessaloniki

The katholikon or main church of the Monastery of Vlatádon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week is Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. My photographs this morning (29 April) are from the Monastery of Vlatádon in Thessaloniki.

In the hills above the city, the Royal and Patriarchal Monastery of Vlatádon is in a leafy, secluded location. As you make your way up the hill, you keep seeing the over-hanging walls of the monastery, founded in the 14th century, perhaps by two monks from Crete.

In recent years, Vlatádon has been renovated and expanded, and has lost much of its old feeling. But the charming, inner, tree-shaded courtyard is a cool and refreshing place to rest and contemplate. This is one of my favourite places in Thessaloniki, and I visit it each time I am in the city. I spent Easter Day there three years ago (2018), and I once met the actress Irene Papas in this courtyard in the late 1990s.

From Vlatádon, the panorama looks out over the whole city and as far as the peaks of Mount Olympus. The resident peacocks are usually in good voice. They are here because peacocks are an early Christian symbol of faith in the resurrection, perhaps because it was believed that their flesh did not decay after death.

The Turks badly damaged the original frescoes in the church and they have not been restored. Today, the monastery of Vlatádon is the only active monastery among about 20 monasteries in Thessaloniki.

Traditionally, the abbots and monks of Vlatádon have close links with the University of Thessaloniki and the Theological School in Chalki. The Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies was founded here in 1965, and it has a library and publishes the journal Klironomia.

By tradition, the little chapel of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Vlatádon stands on the very spot where the Apostle Paul preached when he visited Thessaloniki in the year 50.

In the cloisters of the Monastery of Vlatádon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 13: 16-20 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 16 ‘Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’

A cross in a corner of the church in the Monastery of Vlatádon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 April 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us remember that certain parts of the world are struggling with other diseases during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as malaria. We pray for USPG partners running healthcare initiatives in Myanmar and Tanzania.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Icons and religious goods and books in the shop in the Monastery of Vlatádon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Looking across the churches, the city and the bay of Thessaloniki from the Monastery of Vlatádon, the ‘Balcony of Thessaloniki,’ on Easter Day in 2018 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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