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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.

3 comments to Arbain 2020

  • Anna Courey

    Is the Church of the Forty Martyrs along the way to the summit of Mount St. Catherine? Does Mount St. Catherine have the Church of the Holy Trinity at the top of the peak, or is that on Mount Sinai? Can tourists climb Mount St. Catherine for the Church of the Forty Martyrs, or is it closed off to the public, like Mount Sinai?

    • Father Justin

      The entire area is closed to the public at present, to protect the area from the coronavirus. On July 1, direct flights to Sharm el-Sheikh will resume, and when the authorities consider it safe, we will again be open to the public. The chapel at the peak of Sinai is dedicated to God in the Highest, and we celebrate the Liturgy there on the Monday of the Holy Spirit, the day after Pentecost. So sometimes it is also called the chapel of the Holy Trinity. Visitors are free to climb to the summit of Mount Saint Catherine, with a guide for their own safety. But the entire expedition takes about ten hours. You walk to the Church of the Forty Martyrs, and begin the ascent from there. Felix Fabri, the Dominican monk from Ulm, Germany, did exactly that in the year 1483. You can read his account in H F M Prescott’s book, Once to Sinai, published in 1958.

  • Seraphim

    See the vespers hymn

    The Greek Is so vivid, to wit: Moses, mountain, The Being, in fire…

    I again must thank you for the judicious selections you make of what are overwhelming services. John Mason Neale said there was much divinity in the Greek hymns, and you continue to unfold their sound doctrine. Of course your photography adds so much to the message.

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