Consecration in the Sierra Scenic

FRESNO, Calif.

People said they were moved by tradition and the scenery.

The Monastery of the Theotokos, or Life Giving Spring, is a prime destination for members of the Greek Orthodox church in the Central Valley.

This architectural gem sits deep in the Sierra in the town of Dunlap an hour east of Fresno.

Saturday morning this scenery and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who oversees all Greek Orthodox affairs in the U.S., drew a crowd of more than 800 for an official consecration of the church.

"We are blessed to be here and to attend the holy liturgy and all the serenity," said Demitra who showed up with ten of her friends from San Francisco.

Dino drove in with his wife from Toronto. "It's a once in a lifetime event. I'm here to pray for myself, family, loved ones," he said.

"A consecration is a sanctification of any holy space. So it's a very significant day and a very holy day and sacred day for us," said Father Jim Pappas who currently oversees St. George Greek Orthodox in Fresno.

Before that Pappas was the head priest here in Dunlap when the church was built in 2005 to resemble 11th century architecture.

"The monastic environment is very ancient and so you're going to see something that's almost like stepping back in time," Pappas said.

An example of this period is the icon screen that separates officials from was carved on the Island of Crete in Greece and shipped over.

"…and then the icons themselves, the holy pictures that are in the beautiful carved screen where done by the nuns here," Pappas said.

18 nuns and one priest live at this monastery full time. They're completely self sufficient. However, contact with the outside world is somewhat limited except through weekly services that are available to the public. They're performed primarily in Greek.

During Saturday's service the alters were wiped in oil with a special cloth and prepared for future gatherings. "All the cloths that we used to wipe down the alter get cut up in little pieces and everybody who is participating gets to take that home," said Pappas. "Most of the people will place the cloth in a worship space in their homes."

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