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.
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.
There is an ancient marble inscription mounted on the south wall of the Chapel of the Forty Martyrs of Sinai and Raithou.
+ Τῆς δ΄ δεκάδος τὴν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος κολυμβήθραν ζηλώσαντες οἱ ἰσάριθμοι ὅσιοι π(ατέ)ρ(ε)ς / ἐνθάδε κατάκεινται, ὧν ἡ εὐφροσύνη ἡ βάτος ἡ ἀληθινὴ ὑπάρχει· δι᾿ ὧν ὁ θ(εὸ)ς σῶσον ἡμᾶς +
+ Having emulated the baptism by blood of the 4 ten, the righteous fathers equal-in-number / lie in this place. Theirs is the joyous and true Burning Bush. Through them, O God, save us +
Scholars have had different opinions about the best way to understand and translate δ΄ δεκάδος. The simplest explanation is that it refers to the ‘four [ranks of] ten’ who were martyred at Raithou, with an equal number at Sinai.
The Burning Bush is an emblem for being in the very presence of God.
On January 14, we celebrate the feast day of the Forty Martyrs of Sinai and Raithou. In the year 373, forty monks were martyred at Raithou, on the coast of the Red Sea. Another forty monks were martyred at Sinai.
The chapel to the south of the Chapel of the Burning Bush is dedicated to their memory.
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