Promontory at Sunrise

Sunrise from the promontory above the chapel of Saint Anne.

The Nativity of the Forerunner

Today we left a little after four o’clock in the morning to celebrate the Liturgy in the small chapel dedicated to the Nativity of the Forerunner.

As we made our ascent, the morning sun revealed ridges of mountains extending into the distance.

At the crest of the mountain, from which we took the path that leads to the little chapel.

A bedouin guide helped us make the trek.

It was a joy to celebrate the Liturgy in this little chapel that has been closed for so many years.

Cross at Sundown

The cross over the Chapel of Saint Stephen at the end of the day.

Chapel of the Forerunner

In March, I was able to spend the first three days of the fast at the Chapel of Saint Panteleimon. I took the occasion to open the Chapel of Saint John the Forerunner, which is nearby. I had never been inside before.

The old door was of wood. When it became dilapidated, some entered and left their initials scratched on the plaster wall. We now have a metal door in place. The walls were whitewashed a few years ago, leaving the three apses at the front, which had painted decorations.

The Holy Table is carved from a massive block of granite. The top has been recessed to leave a moulding around the edges, a sign of its antiquity.

In the years I have been here, no one has celebrated the Liturgy in this little chapel. Perhaps this year it might be possible.

Cross in First Light

A wooden cross mounted on a promontory to the south of the monastery receives the first sunlight of a new day.

A detail of the photograph above

Weathered Post

A weathered post behind the kitchen area catches the last rays of sunlight.

Last Beams of Sunlight

The last beams of sunlight as the sun climbs into the sky.

Ἑστῶτες ἦσαν οἱ πόδες ἡμῶν ἐν ταῖς αὐλαῖς σου, ῾Ιερουσαλήμ.

Our feet stood in thy courts, O Jerusalem. (Psalm 121:2)

Transfiguration Mosaic

When the mosaic of the Transfiguration is illuminated by the reflected beams of the morning sun, it is possible to imagine the church as it was when it was first built. The original templon was made of Proconnesian marble, with columns of porphyry. It was low, and allowed an unobstructed view of the mosaic.

Anyone fortunate enough to attain to the divine energy, and to undergo divine transformation, himself becomes completely like the light. He is with the light, and by means of it sees clearly things which, were it not for this great and inexpressible grace, would be invisible to all. According to the Lord’s Beatitude, which cannot prove false, those whose hearts have been purified see God, Who, in the words of the great Theologian, John the Son of Thunder, is Light, and dwells in, and reveals Himself to, those who love Him, and are loved by Him, in accordance with His own promise to them.

Saint Gregory Palamas, Homily on the Entry of the Theotokos into the Holy of Holies

Old and New

The eighteenth century iconostasion is surmounted by a Cross that extends almost to the ceiling beams of the basilica. On the back wall, sixth century mosaics depict, on the left, Moses at the Bush that burned with fire without being consumed, and on the right, Moses receiving the Law from the hand of God. There, Moses is depicted standing in a cleft of the rock, from which he beheld the glory and the majesty of God.

Orthodox hymns and icons often make reference to this juxtaposition, the Old Testament foreshadowing the New, the New Testament fulfilling the Old. This is especially vivid at Sinai.

Into the Nave

As the sun rises higher in the sky, the rays of sunlight reach down into the nave.