The gateway that leads to the kitchen stairs, with the trapeza bell in the early morning sun
August 31 is the feast of the deposition of the precious cincture (ἡ τιμία ζώνη) of the All-holy Theotokos in her church at Blachernae in Constantinople. The most remote of all the chapels on the high Sinai plateau is dedicated to this feast day. Father Nikodemos, Father Akakios, and I went there the previous evening to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. It is a three hour climb from the monastery to the chapel.
Proskomede at three o’clock in the morning
The small chapel and iconostasion
The chapel and surrounding mountains
Other mountains visible in the distance
Hawthorn trees grow in the Sinai mountains
The berries are edible
Beginning the long trek back to the monastery. The peak of Sinai is visible in the distance.
Following the trail through the mountains
Dried seed pods on a desert plant
Services in the Chapel of the Prophet Aaron
A detail of the mahogany stasidia where the protopsaltis stands. Over the years, the stain and varnish have worn away, revealing the grain of the wood underneath.
Ἐν τῇ κοιμήσει τὸν κόσμον οὐ κατέλιπες Θεοτόκε
In thy dormition thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos
Then stretching out her hands, as we may believe, she blessed all those present, and then she heard the words, ‘Come, my beloved Mother, to thy rest. Arise and come, most dear amongst women, the winter is past and gone, the harvest time is at hand. Thou art fair, my beloved, and there is no stain in thee. Thy fragrance is sweeter than all ointments’. With these words in her ear, that holy one gave up her spirit into the hands of her Son. What happens? Nature, I conjecture, is stirred to its depths, strange sounds and voices are heard, and the swelling hymns of angels who precede, accompany, and follow her. Some constitute the guard of honour to that undefiled and immaculate soul on its way to heaven until the queen reaches the divine throne. Others surrounding the sacred and divine body proclaim God’s Mother in angelic harmony.
From the Second Homily on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary by Saint John Damascene
A ripidion depicting the Holy Transfiguration
Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας, οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.
And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31)
The icon of Christ in the basilica portrays him as King of Kings and Great High Priest. He is encompassed by the four emblems of the Evangelists, which in turn derive from the vision that the Prophet Ezekiel beheld of the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:10).
At the beginning of Mesonyktikon, the Midnight Office, the icon is lit only by the oil lamp kept burning before it.
Sunday was the feast of Saint Anne, and we made our ascent to the little chapel dedicated to her memory.
The first golden sunlight on the peak of Sinai.
Stone steps show the way.
It is a joy to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in this beautiful and remote little chapel.
This year also we were able to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Prophet Elias on his feast day.
Father Akakios and Father Ioakeim decided to ride up on camels.
Our guide was Muhammad. It was his second climb to the top that morning.
Καὶ ἀνέστη καὶ ἔφαγε καὶ ἔπιε· καὶ ἐπορεύθη ἐν ἰσχύϊ τῆς βρώσεως ἐκείνης τεσσαράκοντα ἡμέρας καὶ τεσσαράκοντα νύκτας ἕως ὄρους Χωρήβ. (Γ΄ Βασιλειῶν ιθ΄)
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:8)
The last rays of the sun fall on the minaret and bell tower. For a few moments, they are in shadow, while the mountain behind is still lit by the sun. Then the sunlight on the mountain also fades away.