Why women should not go to Hilandar (Chilandar)

An Orthodox womanís thoughts

Radmila Misev


            If I said I wasnít curious about Hilandar, and didnít dream about visiting it, and feigned disinterest in the place where our nationís soul resides, then I would be lying.

            I cannot tell you how greatly I desire to venerate the Icon of our Most Holy Mother, the Theotokos of the Three Hands - but not on the Holy Mountain. She Herself will come to Serbia, though only for a short visit. But She will come.

            The Most holy One gazes lovingly upon the Holy Mount, Her garden. How, then, can another woman besides Her set foot on this sacred ground?

            She, the Most-Blessed Theotokos, has prayed there for us. To what avail, then, is it to even contemplate allowing women on Mount Athos?

            We do not venture onto the Holy Mountain, just as we do not venture into the Sanctuary. Thus it has been established and, with humility, thus should we let it remain.

            Women know this. Just as they alone know how to bear children and how truly to love and honor Man.

            You claim that women are discriminated against in the Orthodox Church.

            Have no fear - we do not feel cast off from Her. It is this world that has thrust women aside, laid a burden on their shoulders which they are unable to bear, or which, in many ways, is inappropriate for them. This is the reason mothers are unable to teach prayer, songs and patient endurance to their children - they themselves have never been taught these things.

            And it is this patient endurance and longsuffering that have kept our faith alive. Faith flows from a motherís breast.

            If we do not teach our daughters, who will keep watch for Manís return home? Who will be his support? Who will keep the fire in the hearth burning, and who will keep a lamp lit for him?

            You, dear friend, will never know the love with which a travelerís return is awaited, the expectation with which socks are knitted for a yet unborn child. The traveler and the child are not here, but they will come.

            And even if they do not, and the heart breaks free from its root and bursts, and if it hurts terribly, unspeakably, it is a womanís pain, and without pain, nothing is ever born or dies. Neither man, nor love.

            Donít speak to me of womenís rights. Permit me - I am a woman and I know all about them.

            Our right, granted to us by God (a right greater than all rights), is to prolong life, as the earth does: to bear forth the continuance of our race, to love,  raise and teach our children. Nor are we lacking in other gifts: we can work, write and paint, and do many other things, together with men.

            But only we can console, wipe away a tear, and only with us and through us can Man come to know himself.

            The daughters of Eve are neither better nor worse than her sons. We are the same - in sin, in forgiveness, in repentance and in falling and getting up again.

            Some things, however, must be different. Therefore, do not speak to me of women in Hilandar. Someone will see it in our stead, and pray for us there, and bring us a story. And a story brought from the Holy Mount will be woven into the most delicate fabric of the heart, wherein it will nourish it and guard it.

            For, what is a story, unless it warms the heart?

            Wither leads a path, unless to the Church?