Turning the corner, “BAM”, they appeared reaching to the skies, jaw-dropping scene. Huge, imposing, majestic, unlike anything I had ever seen: jutting out of the earth resting high above the landscape. Spires of rock looming over everything: perched clinging to tops and sides: Buildings. The scene was baffling, dumbfounding, extraordinary….
Meteora, meaning between the Earth and Sky, perfectly describes the topography.
Jutting upward like raised arms towards the heavens.
It is the perfect setting for spiritual emphasis and communion.
On top of these stone edifices, are four Monasteries and two Nunneries, left of the original 24: Built in the 9th Century AD to serve Monks and Nuns following the teachings of the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church. Monks have been in this area since 80 AD. They used to live in caves, surviving on the surroundings. At some point, the towers of stone were given to the Monks. Overtime, Monasteries were built.
These are also referred to as the “Hanging Monasteries”
because of how they cling to the stone skyscrapers.
They appear suspended/hanging in space.
Before paper was commonplace, the Monasteries and Nunneries had great libraries. (Donations for safekeeping.) So, lots of nobles around the world sent their young Princes and Princesses there for higher education; learning languages and Christianity. The influence of these “schools” sent Christianity into countries where it wasn’t prominent.
Before 1922, when steps were carved into the pillars of stone, the only way to reach the holy places was by a rope and net. Attached to a spool, they dropped a large rope with a net to the bottom. The person wanting entrance sat in the middle of the net, the pulled rope made a net cage and they hoisted the person to the top. This was a dangerous process, especially under windy conditions.
Today, mountain foot paths have become small windy roads, and they have traded rope/net for hundreds of steps; making a visit, a climb. Yet, the views and experience are worth the uphill ascent. We trekked to the St. Barbara Nunnery.
I‘ve always found Nuns and Monks intriguing; their devotion is remarkable; it captures me! Despite the controversy over such practices, would I be willing to forego a normal life in the world for obscurity and completely focus on communion with God, prayer, scripture reading etc.
I’ve always wondered, if in their hearts, they love God more than I.
I may romanticize the reality, but would I?
If God called me to this, what would my response be. I desire wholeheartedly to commit my whole life to God, but would I cross this line, if asked. I want to say I would do anything for God, but would I?
Therefore, the visit was exciting for me. A glimpse behind the curtain, one rarely available. We didn’t see how real life works there. We saw a few rooms and a chapel, yet, there was a sense of parts of their life. The nuns were not very relational. (We saw two or three, they told us there are 13 at this nunnery.) I saw no smiles or even conversing much. Lots of “yes”, “no”, or brief answers. It seemed an unwritten rule not to impose. We were outsiders.
Standing on top of these heavenly spires gave breathtaking views! I can imagine sensing God in this place, less interrupted and busy: fewer people, more God. That seemed a simple conclusion.
Entrance Door to St. Barbara’s
How these were constructed is mind blowing; likely, lives were given to build such places. I was staring at what I consider a world wonder! Months and years of back breaking sacrificial laboring to make dwelling places for people devoted to God. (Several countries assisted in this task.) I’m not sure we, in today’s culture and society, can fully relate: The “spiritual” being this important to society or you might say “elevated”, that they would build these places for them.
My take away from our visit was: Would I? Do I? If so, How?
It’s easy to say I put God first, but if I do, how do I? Or do I comfort myself with modern Christian platitudes, to convince myself? Compare myself to prove the point to my own soul? Which is an absurdity to unhealthy degrees. We can always find some scapegoat who seems less significant spiritually… we live in a visual world.
But, behind the curtain of my heart, what do I see? If I dare to look, who or what is most important? What do I give up to pursue God? We American Christians can live our entire lives without giving up much of anything: we add Christianity onto our lives. If we give up 10 minutes for devotions each day, one hour a month to help our community, 2-3 hours a week for Bible Study/Worship, one day here, a little money there, a week mission trip (With tourist excursions to gain our interest in the first place), etc.: Can we call them sacrifices? When comparing our life span, these are mere tidbits of time. Sometimes, with ulterior motives mixed in.
These Monks and Nuns, as odd as it may appear, willingly give up life in the world!
It spoke and speaks volumes about commitment and devotion.
A sermon without words, but it preaches loud and clear!
Whew… the questions are real and pierce my heart and soul:
Would I? Would You? Do I? Do You? If so, How?
Feel free to share with a friend(s).
“Subscribe” on the right or below to have all posts delivered to your email inbox.