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A Sinai Honeybee

For a few weeks each year, the honeybees have lots of flowers with nectar and pollen.

Almond Tree in the Morning Sunlight

An almond tree in the morning sunlight, with the northwest corner of the monastery fortress wall.

Almond Blossoms

When the almond trees bloom, it is the first sign of spring. They seem eager to emerge from the dormancy of winter. The fig tree is much more cautious. It is the last to put out new leaves.

Ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς συκῆς μάθετε τὴν παραβολήν· ὅταν ἤδη ὁ κλάδος αὐτῆς γένηται ἁπαλὸς καὶ τὰ φύλλα ἐκφύῃ, γινώσκετε ὅτι ἐγγὺς τὸ θέρος.

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. (Matthew 24:32)

Garden Gate

The garden gate with the first almond blossoms.

Carved Mouldings

Carved mouldings on the southeast corner of the basilica catch the sunlight in the middle of the day

The Nativity of Christ

‘And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger’ (Luke 2:16). Detail of a Sinai icon dated to the eighth or ninth century.

Two passages from On the Nativity of Christ, by Saint Gregory the Theologian:

Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, δοξάσατε· Χριστὸς ἐξ οὐρανῶν, ἀπαντήσατε· Χριστὸς ἐπὶ γῆς, ὑψώθητε. Ἄσατε τῷ Κυρίῳ, πᾶσα ἡ γῆ· καὶ, ἵν᾿ ἀμφότερα συνελὼν εἴπω, Εὐφραινέσθωσαν οἱ οὐρανοὶ, καὶ ἀγαλλιάσθω ἡ γῆ, διὰ τὸν ἐπουράνιον, εἶτα ἐπίγειον.

Ὢ τῆς καινῆς μίξεως· ὢ τῆς παραδόξου κράσεως· ὁ ὢν γίνεται, καὶ ὁ ἄκτιστος κτίζεται, καὶ ὁ ἀχώρητος χωρεῖται, διὰ μέσης ψυχῆς νοερᾶς μεσιτευούσης θεότητι, καὶ σαρκὸς παχύτητι. Καὶ ὁ πλουτίζων, πτωχεύει· πτωχεύει γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν σάρκα, ἵν᾿ ἐγὼ πλουτήσω τὴν αὐτοῦ θεότητα. Καὶ ὁ πλήρης, κενοῦται· κενοῦται γὰρ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ δόξης ἐπὶ μικρὸν, ἵν᾿ ἐγὼ τῆς ἐκείνου μεταλάβω πληρώσεως.

Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth; be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth.

O new commingling; O strange conjunction; the Self-Existent comes into being, the Uncreate is created, That which cannot be contained is contained, by the intervention of an intellectual soul, mediating between the Deity and the corporeity of the flesh. And He Who gives riches becomes poor, for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the richness of His Godhead. He that is full empties Himself, for He empties Himself of His glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His Fulness.

Archetypal Sinai Kelli

An archetypal Sinai kelli facing one of the inner courtyards within the monastery

Making Prosphora

Ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ζύμῃ, ἣν λαβοῦσα γυνὴ ἐνέκρυψεν εἰς ἀλεύρου σάτα τρία ἕως οὗ ἐζυμώθη ὅλον.

The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)

Making prosphora from natural yeast (‘sourdough’) starter is a challenge. There are many variables. After many trials, and errors, the variables slowly become a coordinated whole, and the process becomes a joy. But always there is more to learn.

Pilgrims from Greece bring us κίτρινο αλεύρι από σκληρό σιτάρι, ‘yellow flour from durum wheat’, the best flour for making prosphora.

Chapel of the Prophet Aaron

The Chapel of the Prophet Aaron in the last moments of sunlight

The Topmost Kelli

The topmost kelli along the east wall