The Monk From Mt. Athos

Letter From Greece

Our Greek host on Santorini, a young hotelier and newly married tour promoter, is trying to sell us a Mount Olympus excursion.  “Half the German tourists frown, they are unhappy, and you wonder why,” he explains.  “We Greeks, we drink, we dance, we smile, we enjoy life.  When you are on holiday, you should enjoy like you are one of us.”  Our host provided excellent advice on the primitive village of Akrotiri; Profitis Ilias; the day hike from Fira to Oia along the narrow sun-washed trail, with its spectacular views of the caldera; beaches of various colors; and local wine.  But my wife believes we will meet a special individual on Patmos, the Isle of Revelation where Saint John the Evangelist received the Word of God.  So it came to pass that we entered the port of Skala near sunset, after a long day of airports and island-hopping across the eastern Aegean.  We trade airplane and hydrofoil lines for a quiet seaside dinner at a local café.  I eat fresh octopus in vinegar; my wife has a Greek salad; and our waiter relates the first of many legends: Saint John defeated a magician, whose remains lie underwater off the nearby Agios Theologos beach.

The next morning at breakfast at Hotel Skala, we are surprised to see Kallistos Ware, an English bishop within the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and lecturer on Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford, at the next...

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