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Prophet Elias 2020

On Sunday, we climbed to the Church of the Prophet Elias, to celebrate the Liturgy on his feast day.

The first light before dawn is rose coloured. This only lasts a few moments before the light changes to blue.

Sunlight on the peak of Sinai as we made our ascent.

The proskynetarion with an icon of the Prophet Elias.

Greek Horologion

Sinai Greek 898 is an Horologion, written in the year 1335.

Sinai has beautiful manuscripts with brilliant illuminations, and letters executed in gold leaf that flash and gleam as the pages are turned. But the library also contains many humble volumes, generally small in size, intended for individual reading. The edges of the pages are stained from long use. Some of them have been repaired with whatever materials were at hand – bindings or even split pages sewn back together with thread in rough stitches. These manuscripts are no less significant, emblems of prayer and devotion, and witnesses to the austerity and privations of Sinai in centuries gone by.

From the Prayers of the Sixth Hour: Ταχὺ προκαταλαβέτωσαν ἡμᾶς οἱ οἰκτιρμοί σου, Κύριε, ὅτι ἐπτωχεύσαμεν σφόδρα. Βοήθησον ἡμῖν, ὁ Θεὸς, ὁ Σωτὴρ ἡμῶν, ἕνεκεν τῆς δόξης τοῦ ὀνόματός σου. ‘Let Thy tender mercies, O Lord, speedily go before us, for we are become exceeding poor. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy Name’ (Psalm 78:8-9).

Arrow Slit Window

An arrow slit window in the sixth century wall. These windows are narrow on the outside, and wider on the inside, allowing an archer to shoot arrows at an enemy, with little chance of being struck himself.

Whitewashed Wall

When the sun strikes the outside wall of the Chapel of the Holy Apostles at an oblique angle, a few moments before it goes into shadow, the many layers of paint come into sharp relief. I have photographed this wall many times. Here is yet another photograph.

Sunlight on Chapel Wall

The first rays of sunlight strike the plaster wall of the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist.

Prophet Elisha

We climbed to the Chapel of the Prophet Elisha to celebrate the Liturgy on his feast day. It forms a double church with the Chapel of the Prophet Elijah.

In the distance, the chapel at the peak of Mount Sinai as we made our ascent.

The panel on the back of the bishop’s throne, with multiple shades of blue.

The icon of the Prophet Elisaie (Elisha) on the iconostasion. He holds a scroll with the words, ‘Open, I pray thee, O Lord, their eyes, and let them see’, (IV Kings 6:20 in the Septuagint, II Kings 6:20).

We read in IV Kings 6:14-17, ‘And the King of Syria sent thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of Elisaie was risen early and gone forth; behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots: and his servant said unto him, O master, how shall we do? And Elisaie said, Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisaie prayed, and said, O Lord, open, I pray thee, the eyes of the servant, and let him see. And the Lord opened his eyes, and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses, and there were chariots of fire round about Elisaie.’

I was reminded of a similar vision, and a similar message to take courage in the midst of afflictions, in an account from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers,

There was a time when Abba Moses of Petra was terribly embattled by porneia. When he could remain in his cell no longer, he went and revealed it to Abba Isidore. The elder invited him to return to his cell, but he would not accept that, saying, ‘Abba, I cannot’. So he took him and brought him up onto the housetop with him and said to him, ‘Look to the west’. He looked and saw a multitude of demons; they were milling around together and shouting, ready for battle. Then Abba Isidore also said to him, ‘Look to the east’. He looked and saw an innumerable host of glorious angels. Then Abba Isidore said to him, ‘Look, these are they who are sent to the holy ones by the Lord to help them; they in the west are the ones who are fighting against them. They who are on our side are the more numerous’. When he had given thanks to God, Abba Moses took courage from this and returned to his own cell.

The Trapeza Bell

The trapeza bell in the first sunlight of a new day. The bell is rung after the noon service to summon the monks to the trapeza, the refectory.

Arbain 2020

An hour’s walk up the valley to the north of Sinai brings you to Arbain, the Church of the Forty Martyrs. We were unable to go there on March 9, the feast day of the saints. Father Michael celebrated the Liturgy there on the Wednesday after Pentecost.

That same day at vespers we chanted the hymn,

Μωσῆς ἐν ὄρει τὸν Ὄντα, πυρὶ τεθέαται· ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς θεόπταις, καὶ σοφοῖς Ἀποστόλοις, τὸ Πνεῦμα πυριμόρφως κάτεισι νῦν, ὡς σαφῶς ὑπεμφήνειεν, ὡς εἷς Θεὸς ὁ λαλήσας τότε καὶ νῦν, ἐν ταυτότητι τῆς φύσεως.

Moses on the mount beheld in fire Him Who Is; but to the God-seeing and wise Apostles, the Spirit descendeth now in fiery form, clearly giving to understand that it is one God who speaketh then and now, in identity of nature.

The morning light reveals the path that leads to the summit of Mount Saint Catherine. It takes about four hours to climb to the peak, which is at an elevation of 2642 metres, or 8625 feet.

The small chapel before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy.

The chapel is on the ground floor of a walled compound. Above are two storeys with balconies and rooms. The top floor has a small kitchen, and an adjoining room with a fireplace.

Passing Clouds

Passing clouds create shadows on the precipitous mountains to the north of the monastery.

Last Rays of the Sun

The mountains behind the Burning Bush are lit by the last rays of the sun.