Wednesday, January 03, 2007

November 12, 2005: I missed former Pres. Clinton by 10 minutes!

Well, I went to the Holy Sepulchre tonight to stay for the midnight Liturgy & was told that I'd just missed former President Clinton 10 minutes earlier. It wouldn't have been as momentous as running into Vladimir Putin at the beginning of my pilgrimage, but it still would've been something to see how he would've conducted himself there...

I don't have long to send a full update, just a brief one. I'm ok, things in Jerusalem weren't affected by the bombings in Amman a few days ago, but tensions have started to run high again b/c the Israeli police shot an unarmed Palestinian man in the back for apparently no reason a few days ago & Palestinians are starting to protest around the city & make public demonstrations. A young child was just shot recently as well while playing with a toy gun, & supposedly the police thought it was real...seems strange to think a child would have a real gun out in the open when it's illegal for Palestinians to own or carry any type of firearms...

I'm currently staying on the Mt. of Olives at the Russian Convent of the Ascension until I depart for Lebanon & Syria on Monday. I'll actually stay in Jordan for a day, drive down to the ancient city of Petra hewn out of the solid rock (one of the remaining wonders of the ancient world), and make it to Beirut on Wednesday. This convent sits atop the Mt. of Olives & boasts a tower with the best & highest views available in the area! (I'll have to include these photos in another e-mail). The community was actually founded by the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission to support the vast number of pilgrims that were coming to the Holy Land before the Russian Revolution. During excavation for the building of a chapel they found the site of the 1st & 2nd finding of the head of St. John the Baptist. More about this monastery in my next e-mail as well, because the internet cafe is closing!

This week I went out to St. Savvas (Mar Sabbas) monastery for 3 days, over the feasts of St. Demetrios & St. Stephen of St. Savva Monastery respectively. It's one of the oldest functioning monasteries in the Christian world, and the oldest in the Judean desert for sure surviving for over 1500 years. They have about 15 fathers there currently, hailing from Greece, Cyprus, Romania & America to name a few. The monastery is on the steep slope of the Kidron Valley between Bethlehem & the Dead Sea. It was founded by St. Savva, but has also been home to many other important saints of the church: John of Damascus, John of Kolonia, Cosmas the Hymnographer, Stephen the Wonderworker, Michael Syngelus, Theophanes, Cyril of Scythopoulos & Theodore of Edessa. I was able to visit both of St. Savva's caves, John of Damascus' cave, & the miraculous spring of St. Savva. They also have a miraculous date palm which helps cure those couples unable to bear children. Under the guidance of their spiritual father, with prayers & fasting, the couple drink a tea made from the palm leaves. They gave me one leaf which I'm sending back to Fr. Dositheos in Texas for those in need (with the instructions from the monastery). It is the Liturgical typicon established by St. Savva that the church has come to inherit & practice. Also, their daily typicon is similar to that of Mt. Athos, awaking in the middle of the night for personal prayer & then corporate prayer in the church. They spend most of their time with upkeep of the monastery, providing hospitality to groups of pilgrims throughout the week, and tending to their lands. I enjoyed my stay their much, a beautiful & quiet retreat from the hustle & bustle of the city!



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