Dear Friends of Sinai, Many years on the Feast of Sinai’s Saint John Climacus today!
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Today, as in ancient times, the Sinai desert rang with praises to the glory of God, as three separate Liturgies took place simultaneously. As the fourth Sunday in Great Lent is dedicated all over the world to Saint John Climacus, the author of the famed Ladder of Divine Ascent, monks liturgized at the cave where the saint spent four decades in solitary prayer. Another was celebrated at another ancient hermitage whose Feast happened to fall today, and the third Liturgy of course took place in the great basilica of St. Catherine’s.
Monks also travelled to the most remote location of all yesterday, to liturgize in honor of the Feast of Saint George Arselaitis, who Saint John mentions in The Ladder as his own spiritual guide. Arselao is 1.5 hours by jeep through the desert, and then another 1.5 hours on foot to a very beautiful location in a valley with a little greenery surrounded by cliffs.
It was Saint George whose prayer resulted in the miracle of the main Monastery’s empty oil vat filling with oil, “gushing up as though from a spring.” The oil storeroom was made into a chapel dedicated to the Mother of God of the Life-giving Spring, where Divine Liturgy is still celebrated until today on Wednesday of every week in commemoration of the miracle. In the deep desert, the remote location of Arselaiou was also the ascetic dwelling-place of Saint John the Sabbaite who also figures prominently in The Ladder.
“Time has another meaning in Sinai,” says anyone who has been there. It is said that the sixth century has never ended in this ancient culture, where the desert still rings, as today, with the glory of God as monks fulfill the tradition of our Fathers amongst the Saints, as pilgrims everywhere join their own voices to their praises.
As Archbishop of Sinai Damianos was preparing for an overnight journey to Cairo after a long and no doubt fatiguing day, he asked to convey his warmest greetings to those assisting the new St. Catherine’s Monastery nonprofit, but also to everyone in the US that knows him, searching his memory to honor each by name; and then, as neither was that enough to satisfy the burden of his overwhelming love, he finally resorted to requesting, “Please give my warmest regards to everyone who knows me and to everyone who does not!”