307 – Legend of the Twelve

When greek writer George Zarkadakis was in the monastery of Paulou (photo by hv, may 2007) he heard this story:
You know the legend of the Twelve? asked father -Ioakim as we waited for the weather to change in the small kitchen of the monastery. They say that up on the Athos highest reaches there lives a small community of twelve Athonites. They live completely isolated from the rest, naked, without shelter, feeding only on wild grass and praying continuously, impervious to the elements that lash at them everyday. Whenever one of them dies, they come around the monasteries seeking a replacement. They stand in the distance and wait for someone to come out and join them. If no-one does they go on to the next Monastery and do the same. They never speak a word. Their call is a silent one. There will always be somebody to make them twelve again because, you see, their number must always remain constant, like the number of Jesus’ apostles. They say that the twelve have reached sainthood and their lives are one with God…That is the power of true and selfless prayer.
He is pretty convinced that there are still wolves on Athos:
Bad weather continued pounding at the Monastery throughout the night. The heavy rain filled the mountain’s crevices with water which formed torrents and streams. The roaring sound of water gushing from the thick forest was my companion throughout the night. I slept in a large room with other pilgrims who were all anxious for their return to Karyes. But, without the boat service, return was impossible. There were no cars or buses and the walking trail took more than six hours through heavy cold and rough terrain, not withstanding the packs of wolves one could encounter along the way.

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