471 – M. Basil Pennington: The Monks of Mount Athos

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Part of a review on Amazon May 17, 2006 by Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA)
Twenty-five years ago, Cistercian monk Basil Pennington, who recently died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident, spent a sabbatical on Mount Athos, the holy mountain of Eastern Orthodoxy. This was and remains an unusual feat: pilgrims are generally not allowed to spend more than a night or two at any one of the monasteries and sketes on Athos. Moreover, members of the Latin Church are generally not all that welcome on Athos anyway.

But Pennington, who although a Latinist was also a member of a contemplative monastic tradition, managed to spend four months on Athos. Most of his time was spent at the monastery of Simonos Petras, but he also visited quite a few others. He was welcomed at Simonos warmly and generously. At some of the other monasteries he visited, the hospitality was decidedly more wary. Throughout the entire experience, Pennington entered as deeply as an outsider can into the Orthodox spiritual tradition, attending services (when permitted), praying the Jesus Prayer, and absorbing the holy atmosphere and history of Athos. His journey of the experience, in which he recounts both the everyday and the spiritual, was originally published in 1978.
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