The holy night of Pascha. We had pilgrims from Egypt, from Greece, and from Russia. There were many Russian children, a new development for this ancient monastery.
Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων ἐγένετο.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
1 Corinthians 15:20
Chanting the Lamentations before the epitaphios on Holy and Great Friday
Ὡς φωτὸς λυχνία νῦν ἡ σὰρξ τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑπὸ γῆν ὡς ὑπὸ μόδιον κρύπτεται καὶ διώκει τὸν ἐν ᾅδῃ σκοτασμόν.
As a lamp of light hid beneath a bushel, now is God’s flesh hid beneath the earth, and it driveth away the darkness that is in hades.
The twisted almond tree under a cloudy sky, creating dappled sunshine.
With regard to patience the Lord says, ‘In your patience possess ye your souls’. He did not say ‘in your fasting’ or ‘in your vigils’. I refer to the patience bestowed by God, which is the queen of virtues, the foundation of courageous actions. It is patience that is peace amid strife, serenity amid distress, and a steadfast base for those who acquire it.
Saint Gregory of Sinai
The twisted almond tree at the Chapel of Saint Gregory of Sinai as the shadows lengthen in late afternoon.
Christ is the capstone uniting us with Himself. He is the pearl of great price: it is this for which the monk seeks when he plunges into the depths of stillness and it is this for which he sells all his own desires through obedience to the commandments, so that he may acquire it even in this life.
Saint Gregory of Sinai
The almond tree growing next to the Chapel of Saint Gregory of Sinai, on the high Sinai plateau, has a gnarled and twisted trunk. The location can be cold and windy. Even so, it manages to bloom every spring.
The oldest and tallest almond tree in the garden now has only a few branches that are still alive.
There is one almond tree growing inside the monastery, next to the Chapel of Saint Stephen. Its subtle fragrance fills the air in the early morning.
Almond blossoms are the heralds of spring.
The almond trees are again in bloom, their fragrant pink blossoms in stark contrast to the bare granite mountains that surround the monastery.
The chapel on top of the mountain to the east of the monastery is dedicated to Saint Theodore. On February 8, the feast day of the saint, we climbed to the chapel for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. We set out when it was still dark, and reached the summit just as the first light of a new day was appearing on the horizon.
By the time of the Liturgy, the sun was shining through the high east window, made in the form of a cross.
The painted icons have been moved to the monastery for safekeeping. In their place are paper prints. The walls were decorated in a secco technique by Father Pachomius, a monk of Sinai who died in 1958.
Geckoes were hibernating on the cold wall.
A view of the small chapel in the morning sunlight, as we began our descent back to the monastery.