There is a legend according to which Athos was consecrated by the Virgin Mary or the Mother of God to allow her frenzied worship only by men.
This legend is beautiful and is related to the spiritual foundations of Mount Athos itself.
“It is known that after Jesus’ crucifixion, following Jesus’ command: ” Going teach all nations. and preach the gospel to all creation,” the apostles cast lots which way to go to preach. With them departed the holy myrrh-bearing women, headed by St. Virgin Mary.
In this way they each set off in a part of the world. As for the Mother of God, God alone, according to His providence, foreordained her fate, sending the archangel Gabriel, who proclaimed to her, to go to Mount Athos, where most of the ancient Greek non-Christian temples are.
This was accomplished under the following circumstances: On the island of Cyprus Lazarus, who rose on the 4th day from the dead, had been ordained bishop; ordained by the Apostle Barnabas the disciple of St. Ap. Paul.
After a while, somehow, Lazarus was seized with an unspeakable longing to see, once more before he gave his end to the Most Holy One. Virgin; but knowing well that he could no longer go to Jerusalem because of the Jews, who sought to kill him, he wrote an epistle to the Mother of God, in which he begged her, with great earnestness and deep humility, that she might come to Cyprus to impart to Him the blasphemy of the Son and God.
The Mother of God, receiving this tender letter, replied to St. Lazarus would grant his wish, only to send him a ship to the port of Jaffa to take her. Having received this answer, St. Lazarus was filled with unspeakable joy and immediately sent the ship to port. Our Lady was waiting for her. She got into the boat, accompanied by the apostle John the virgin – in whose care the Saviour had left her – and two other apostles, and they went by ship to the island of Cyprus.
But the wind being against it, – according to the divine order from above – is found after some time of travel, at the harbour of Climent, on Mount Athos, near the Monastery of the Ivirs today.
The inhabitants welcomed the Most St. Theotokos and St. Apostles who were with her. Then the Mother of God revealed to the people all the mysteries of her Son, teaching them to believe and be baptized in His name.
And so all the people believed and were baptized from small to great, giving thanks to the Most Pure Mother.
Our Lady also said these words to them: “O be enlightened, hear. This place was destined for me by my Son and God. But you will not stay long here, for on this mountain I will send men from all over the world to live in purity in the image of angels.”
After this, the most pure mother went into the ship with the two disciples who accompanied her, and giving her last words to the people, blessing them, she set out for the island of Cyprus.
St. Lazarus, after much waiting, seeing the ship approaching, greatly cheered, shedding tears of joy. And when the ship arrived, Our Lady told St. Lazarus as she was ordained to go to Mount Athos, where she brought all the people to the true faith.
St. Lazarus rejoiced greatly, and taking the longed-for blagostovenia, the ship with the Mother of God departed from the shore, proceeding to Jaffa and then to Jerusalem. It is not known for sure when the first monks came to Mount Athos. It is suspected, however, that it may have come from the time of St. Apostle and Evangelist John (101 AD), who had accompanied St. Virgin on His journey to Athos.”
The beautiful legend has endured and even today women have not been allowed access to the Holy Mountain.
This allowed the development of numerous monasteries, cells and hermits throughout the mountain, where an intensive and efficient form of Orthodox Christianity was practiced in the middle of the 21st century. Many Athonite Christians pray in retreat, or, as they say, in the hermitage, or at least in a small cell built on the mountain where it was possible and more secluded.
So the whole mountain is covered with monastic settlements here and there, and you cannot say that there is an isolated area where tourists (men or women) could move without interacting with the inhabitants of the monasteries.
Well, this is why it is not possible for women to access the Holy Mountain, because monks, practicing here one of the most effective forms of Orthodox Christianity, would be tempted. Rightly so, by the way.
There are people who would say that the reason for the ban is that the woman is inferior, according to their view (misogynistic assertion with which we disagree). We believe that women and men are each capable more in certain directions and less in others, because they are different.
Such an argument seeks to embarrass the motivation for banning women on Athos and is damaging and quite false.
The real reason is that woman is a temptation for man (as, for that matter, man is a temptation for woman – almost any woman would admit this)…
The Athonite monk, because he is isolated from the ordinary world and no longer has any contact with women, shows a strong increase in the inner desire to seek completeness and, not finding it around through the body or face of a woman who can comfort him a little (but never completely), directs his entire aspiration to the spiritual realm, especially to the fervent adoration of Our Lady, the Mother of God (and, of course, Jesus Christ).
Living on the Mountain you feel that a new power begins to grow within you, which you did not know before and which supports you to perform sometimes gigantic spiritual steps.
The ban does not infringe the right of free movement within the European Community.
How is this possibly true?
Because, in fact, it is about respecting the privacy of those who pray on the Holy Mountain.
Similarly, we can think, for example, that it is natural to have toilets for men and, separately, for women, and no one questions that this is a violation of the right to free movement.
Or an isolation space such as in sanatoriums, hospitals, or athletes’ training facilities.
No one demonstrated in the streets that footballers who train are forbidden (depending on the coach) contact with women during training and they considered this to be natural in the process of achieving performance.
Likewise, what the Athonite monk does is a sui-generis physical, mental, mental and spiritual “training” to “perform” in the direction of his choice – the spiritual one.
And for this it needs respect for privacy.
Of course, an argument of the malevolents is also the fact that there is no similar space dedicated only to the spiritual activity of Orthodox Christian nuns. True, a similar space does not exist (not all things can be symmetrical, and the church did not pay equal attention to women and men in ancient times), but there are, however, monasteries that are reserved exclusively for women.
It does not mean that everything is perfect on Holy Mount Athos.
But in reality, it is an amazing boon and chance that this spiritual enclave – Mount Athos – exists, and we cannot understand how, even some churchmen aberrantly dare to speak out against this ban.
The dancers should know that changing this provision would criminally change the value of the spirituality practiced on the Holy Mountain and we would not be able to enjoy, to such an extent, the spiritual gems that grow here.
We believe that some of the people who act to liberalize access to the Holy Mountain, both for male tourists (now access is possible, but restricted) and, especially, for women tourists, act subversively to diminish or alter the force of spiritual practice here.
We appreciate that the secular ban on Mount Athos is not a loss to the free movement of people, and we even affirm that it is an enormous gain for humanity.
Anyone who has not known the monastic life on Mount Athos has no way of knowing this, but if he is a wise man, he can assume it to a certain extent.
Of course, relationships between man and woman are natural and they can be a chance of evolution or a chance of falling (depending on the wisdom and skill of the two), but
An Orthodox Christian capital enclave such as Mount Athos based on absolute passive abstinence and spiritual life spent in retreat is a blessing.
Let us receive it wisely in our minds and hearts…!
Prof. Eng. Leonard Radutz
AdAnima Academic Society for Transformation and Self-Knowledge
June 29, 2008
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