Holy Mount Athos

As it reached the end of its first millennium in 1963, the monastic republic of Mount Athos seemed to have completed its life cycle and to be breathing its last. It had been born, grown to maturity, produced a rich harvest of fruit, and grown old. Its strength was shockingly reduced. The numbers of the monks had fallen considerably and their average age was now over fifty-five. The elders were dying naturally, without seeing younger men come to take their place in the monasteries and hermitages. Huge monastic complexes that had once pulsated with life now stood derelict and deserted. Everything betokened decline and decay. Certainly, this was not the first decline the monastic republic had experienced in its long history. Yet almost everyone believed it would be the last. Many of the monks, even, had come to believe that they would have no successors. And so, on the fringes of the millennial celebrations, it was being said that the festivities were in fact the 'funeral service' or even the 'requiem' for Athonite monasticism.


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