As if summoned by the approach of a lost soul, Patra Symeon, hieromonk of Timiou Stavrou, appears in the dappled shade of his patio, draped in a lightweight black tunic, open at the neck, and leather-belted around the waist. His long brown hair is drawn back into a ponytail; his silver beard ruffles sensuously in the afternoon breeze as he steps forward to take my hand.
In the Greek Orthodox tradition, they’re known as gerontas, charismatic elders who appear at precisely the right moment, in exactly the right form. A geron finds you only when you’re ready to recognize wisdom. Dig down beneath the surface of your beliefs, he’ll say, and when you do, you will find that there is no such thing as contradiction, that the real nature of existence is connectedness.
But what is that connection? Does it have identity? I ask Patra Symeon if he’s reconciled his “contraries”?
The hieromonk smiles obliquely. “Not yet. Perhaps not until this body turns to dust. But when I came to understand the truth of the Contraries, I knew that I was finally on my way home.” Patra Symeon spreads his arms in a blissful, expansive gesture toward his Holy Mountain. “This is what belongs to me. What is truly sacred.”