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Shadows from the Parapet

Wooden beams supporting the parapet cast shadows along the rampart at the northeast corner of the fortress wall.

Plaster Wall

The last rays of sunlight on a weathered plaster wall.

The Fire That Appeared to Moses in the Bush

A beautiful passage from the Fifty Spiritual Homilies of Saint Macarius:

Imitate her then, my child; imitate her whose eyes were fixed upon nothing but Him only, who said, ‘I am come to send fire upon the earth, and I would that it were already kindled’. There is indeed a burning of the Spirit, which burns hearts into flame. The immaterial divine fire has the effect of enlightening souls and trying them, like unalloyed gold in the furnace, but of consuming iniquity, like thorns or stubble; ‘for our God is a consuming fire’, ‘taking vengeance on them that know Him not in flaming fire, and on them that obey not His gospel’. It was this fire that worked in the apostles, when they spoke with fiery tongues. It was this fire which shone by the voice round St. Paul, enlightening his mind, but blinding his sense of sight; for not without the flesh did he see the power of that light. It was this fire which appeared to Moses in the bush. This fire, in the shape of a chariot, caught up Elias from the earth. The blessed David was seeking the operation of this fire when he said, ‘Examine me, O Lord, and prove me: try out my reins and my heart’. It was this fire which warmed the heart of Cleopas and those with him while the Saviour talked after His resurrection. So the angels and ministering spirits partake of the shining of this fire, according to what is said, ‘Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire’. It is this fire which burns up the beam that is in the inward eye, making the mind clear, that, recovering its natural power of penetration, it may see without interruption the wonderful things of God, according as one says, ‘Open Thou mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous things of Thy law’. This fire drives away devils, and destroys sin; but it is the power of resurrection, and the effectual working of immortality, the illumination of holy souls, and the strengthening of rational powers. Let us pray that this fire may reach us also, that always walking in light, we may never for a moment ‘dash our feet against a stone’, ‘but shining as lights in the world, may hold forth the word of everlasting life’; that enjoying ourselves among the good things of God we may rest with the Lord in life, glorifying the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Saint Macarius, Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily XXV

The Stairs to Father Symeon’s Kelli

The stairs to Father Symeon’s kelli, just after twelve o’clock noon. The banister has passed into shadow, while the wall is still in full sun.

Coppery Gold

The mountains to the south of the monastery turn a coppery gold, reflecting the last rays of the setting sun.

A Paved Work of Sapphire Stone

In the Sinai mosaic, Christ is depicted within an aureole of graduated blue tesserae set in four concentric bands, with the darkest blue at the centre. Eight rays of light extend outwards from His person. The artist has achieved this by using the next higher register of colour within each of the bands, until the light emerges white from the aureole.

The blue tesserae call to mind God’s revelation to Moses and the Seventy Elders of Israel, where it is written,

Καὶ εἶδον τὸν τόπον, οὗ εἱστήκει ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ ᾿Ισραήλ· καὶ τά ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ ἔργον πλίνθου σαπφείρου καὶ ὥσπερ εἶδος στερεώματος τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῇ καθαριότητι. Καὶ τῶν ἐπιλέκτων τοῦ ᾿Ισραὴλ οὐ διεφώνησεν οὐδὲ εἷς· καὶ ὤφθησαν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἔπιον.

And they saw the place where the God of Israel stood: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the appearance of the firmament of heaven in its clearness. And of the elect of Israel not even one was lost; also they appeared in the dwelling place of God, and did eat and drink. (Exodus 24:10-11 LXX)

Evagrius the Solitary, who lived in the fourth century, has invoked these verses as a spiritual place which all are summoned to enter:

When the mind has put off the old man and clothed itself with grace, then during prayer it will see its own nature like a sapphire or the colour of heaven. In Scripture this is called the dwelling place of God that was seen by the Elders on Mount Sinai.

The Play of Light

The sixth century apse mosaic at Sinai depicts the Transfiguration of Christ. His garments are white, with shades of light grey. They are bordered by gold bands, executed in tesserae of light gold, dark gold, and tesserae with gold leaf.

When the light is direct, the gold leaf is bright, and it blends with the light gold tesserae. When the light is oblique, the gold leaf is dark, and it then blends with the dark gold tesserae. This play of light was clearly understood by the artists who created the mosaic so many centuries ago.

Cloudy Morning

A cloudy morning

Olive Trees

The olive trees are in bloom. Some of the olive trees at Sinai are over one thousand years old.

Thursday After Pascha

The Thursday after Pascha was also March 30, the feast day of Saint John, Abbot of Sinai, and author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Νῦν πάντα πεπλήρωται φωτός, οὐρανός τε καὶ γῆ καὶ τὰ καταχθόνια· ἑορταζέτω γοῦν πᾶσα κτίσις τὴν ἔγερσιν Χριστοῦ, ἐν ᾗ ἐστερέωται.

Now are all things filled with light, heaven, and earth, and the regions under the earth. Let all creation, therefore, celebrate the arising of Christ, whereby it is established.