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Christmas Hymn

Μυστήριον φρικῶδες ὁρῶ· Θεὸς γὰρ ὁ κατέχων δρακί, πᾶσαν κτίσιν, περιέχεται σαρκί, ἐν φάτνῃ τῶν ἀλόγων, καὶ ράκει σπαργανοῦται, ὁ σπαργανῶν ὁμίχλῃ θάλασσαν.

A dread mystery do I behold: for God who holds all creation in His hand is contained in the flesh in a manger of irrational beasts, and swathed in bands, He who swathes the sea in mist.

The Nativity of Christ

Detail of a Sinai icon painted in miniature scale in the first half of the twelfth century.

Ἀπεγράφετο ποτέ, σὺν τῷ πρεσβύτῃ Ἰωσήφ, ὡς ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυΐδ, ἐν Βηθλεὲμ ἡ Μαριάμ, κυοφοροῦσα τὴν ἄσπορον κυοφορίαν. Ἐπέστη δὲ καιρὸς ὁ τῆς γεννήσεως, καὶ τόπος ἦν οὐδεὶς τῷ καταλύματι· ἀλλ’ ὡς τερπνὸν παλάτιον, τὸ Σπήλαιον τῇ Βασιλίδι ἐδείκνυτο. Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, τὴν πρὶν πεσοῦσαν, ἀναστήσων εἰκόνα.

Once with Joseph the ancient, as of the seed of David, was Mary enrolded in Bethlehem, bearing in her womb her babe, not of seed; then came the time of her bringing forth; and there was no room in the inn: but as a delightsome palace for the Queen did the cave become. Christ is born, to raise the image that was formerly fallen.

Translated by J N W B Robertson, 1894

Ruined Walls

Ruined walls of ancient kellia on the north face above the monastery.

A detail of the photograph.

Stairs

There is no end to the stairs at Sinai.

Parapet

Winter sun on the parapet

Saint Catherine 2020

This year we celebrated the feast of Saint Catherine, but the monastery services remain closed to visitors. Although we have only a few chanters, we were still able to have a full vigil service that began at 8:00 PM and ended at 3:30 AM. The service was most beautiful. The church was adorned with embroideries and banners, and all the lamps were lit.

The service in an empty church. On the feast of Saint Catherine, the church is usually crowded with many hundreds of pilgrims.

All the lamps were lit over the reliquary of Saint Catherine.

At the conclusion of the vigil, we had a procession around the church with the relics of Saint Catherine, saying special prayers for the present community, for those who have gone to their rest, and for all Orthodox Christians.

Dreaming

Dreaming of a sparrow snack.

Passageway

The passageway up from the Burning Bush at dusk.

Patterns

Passing clouds create patterns of light and shade on the granite cliffs to the north of the monastery.

Bema Windows

Two windows allow light to enter into the bema. On the outside, the vertical stone between the windows has been carved with two outer columns and a central pier, each surmounted by a capital. The central pier supports a cross atop an orb. These were carved in the sixth century.