Thursday, July 12, 2007

Flashback: "I'm Not Christo", Summer 2006

We headed down to breakfast without having made our final plans for the day. Because the Guest House dining room is rather small, we sat down at the table that seemed to have the most room. After exchanging pleasantries, the couple we shared the table with mentioned that they were heading to St. George’s monastery and wondered if that was in our plan and if we wanted to share a cab. The offer sounded great, so we quickly cleaned our plates and ran back upstairs to grab our stuff.

In the cab ride over, we found out that our traveling companions were Eric and Sylvi, a Jewish couple who were in their early 60’s. Eric was from New York, a practicing psychiatrist and this was his first trip to Israel. Sylvi was from Paris, an author and professor at SUNY, making her second trip. The ride proved to be a great experience as we discussed our lives, our studies and talked about current Old Testament studies from the perspective of a modern-day Jewish person. Eric proved to be rather knowledgeable in speaking Hebrew and expressed his preferred translations of the Old Testament were the RSV and JPS. He dismissed the others as too Christological in their approach.

When we got to the site, we took the long descent down to the monastery itself. The scenery was beautiful and the monastery itself was incredible, hewn into the side of the face of a cliff. Also of note on the descent were the carved aqueducts which still held several inches of flowing water. After knocking on the front door of the monastery repeatedly, it was opened and we were welcomed inside. They provided us with water and juice. After a short time they invited us into side rooms to see their treasured possessions. Chief among these were the bones of St. George and St. John, the founders of the monastery, and the skulls of 14 other martyrs who died in defending it.

Leaving these rooms, we found an interesting scene. There was a monk there dealing with two senior Orthodox women. Both women in turn seized his hand and pressed it to their heads and their lips. They squeezed his hand and murmured unintelligible prayers. The monk, obviously taken aback, repeated over and over, “I’m not Christo. I’m not a Priest. I’m just a monk. I’m just a monk.” It was a touching scene that greatly enhanced my opinion of the monks from this order. Later we would have another interesting encounter w
ith one of the monks who was wearing Nike sneakers. As we were leaving, asked us young Americans what the word Nike meant, and be overjoyed to find out that it came from a Greek word meaning “Victory.”

We went to the upper level of the monastery where we found the cave where Elijah supposedly received comfort while in the desert. The cave was filled with Orthodox icons; pictures hung from every wall, candles burned in all corners, there was nary a section of the wall that was not covered. It was an interesting sight. As we left the cave, we discussed the difference in worship style with Eric and Sylvi. Sylvi stated, “Protestants have it the wor
st. No walls to kiss or scrolls to revere. No pope. It’s just you and God.”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.

1 comment:

p said...

welcome back