Chicago, IL - The Lenten Pilgrimage to Orthodox monasteries in the Arizona desert organized by Holy Resurrection Cathedral was successful and memorable.Within the four day spiritual voyage (March 31-April 3), the pilgrims were able to visit two outstanding monastic communities: St. Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Safford, Arizona and St. Anthony’s the Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona.
Besides the long but heavenly liturgical services, veneration of the holy relics, humble and tasty meals, and peaceful walks through the gorgeous monastery surroundings, the pilgrims were also blessed with two special gifts: an insightful lecture given by Father Dorotheos (the spiritual father at St. Paisius Monastery) and a blessing by Elder Ephraim (the spiritual father of St. Anthony’s Monastery). The following is a diary segment from one pilgrim who sums up his pilgrimage experience in these words: “Let us remember that while we are unquestionably in the world, we are cautioned not to be of the world. John 15:19. The perceived subtlety of that prepositional change is not lost on the Orthodox Christian. The disciplines of prayer and fasting are just two means by which we are drawn to Christ and his radiant love. When we pray and fast we simultaneously make the world, and its transitory problems, recess, if not eviscerate.
Our Arizona pilgrimage was an intense, clarifying experience as it taught/reminded that apprehending our Savior and His majesty is not a casual encounter, but rather a rigorous, intentional and mystical experience-one that cannot always be achieved “in the world”. There are no words that give justice to the spiritual truths magnified in our pilgrimage, but it began with the stark realization that we were invited to very special places where there was the complete absence of confusion. In the St. Paisios and St. Anthony monasteries the wheat separated from the chaff, the inane identified and dispensed with and that which is profound made obvious.”
We hope and trust that every parishioner will fulfill this faith mandate. Pilgrimage essentially requires us to physically remove ourselves from the cares, snares and lures that too often dominate our secular existence, which unfortunately diminish our life’s true purpose. Every Orthodox Christian knows well the ultimate, salvific promise that comes at the end of this life and is equally aware that active participation in that goal is indispensable. Let us all choose dates certain for pilgrimage on our concededly crowded and busy calendars-the experience is one that benefits us and our families eternally.