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Posted by Mike Stonelake (U14460482) on Monday, 10th May 2010
When I lived in Russia a colleague used to talk about her "spiritual father" who lived on an Island in a lake near the Russian border with Estonia, near a town called Pskov. I asked if I could come with her next time she went. We had to wait until the lake froze over, as it was only accessible a few months each year.
We took a 6 hour train journey to Pskov, then cabs to the edge of the lake. We then stepped onto the ice and walked for three hours across a cold, windswept lake in the moonlight.
Once on the island we sought Father Nicolai (Gurianov) for his blessing. His house was easy to find - it was the one covered in pigeons. He anointed us with oil, but was feeling unwell, so we went to the church where a very slow liturgy was being held. Eventually, after some dinner with someone my friend knew on the island (it is populated with fishermen) we saw the priest (or Starets, which means "Elder") and came up to him again for a blessing. A crowd had gathered around him, asking questions and advice. He would answer each question immediately, without hesitation.
Eventually we headed back for the 10 hour journey home, and arrived around midnight.
This experience was a significant moment in my journey to orthodoxy. Since then other pilgrimages have followed - Puhtitsa in Estonia, Holy Island - they are an important part of Orthodox tradition and spirituality, and, if the destination is a monastery, one can experience the hospitality of the monks and nuns, as well as meet other orthodox people from around the world.
Posted by I designed the future (U10597198) on Wednesday, 12th May 2010
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