Saturday, March 24, 2012

by Fred & Gloria Strickert

Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.  Mark 1:13

Lent is the season for wilderness walking.

The perfect time for a congregational outing to the wilderness east of Jerusalem.

            A Picnic Lunch
One does not live by bread alone--a little peanut butter & nutella, please-                                                                       
Our destination: St. George's Monastery in Wadi Qelt --the valley cutting through the wilderness from Ramallah to Jericho.  In the 5th-6th centuries, over one hundred monasteries covered the wilderness landscape around Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The hike down
The view from below
Beginning with the monk Chariton in 330 ce, Christians began the practice of a Lenten pilgrimage to the wilderness, living in caves in the rugged landscape and then joining together each Sunday in the monasteries for their weekly Eucharistic feast.  Note the date:  When Christianity was legitimized and became main-stream under Constantine, and when persecutions and hardships were less frequent, the faithful felt the need for such Lenten discipline.

Note the caves to right of Mona- stery.   Tradition said that Elijah stayed here on way to the Sinai.The monastery was destroyed several times and later rebuilt, most recently in the late 19th century.

The winter rains in Jerusalem and water from a spring transform the Wadi into an oasis. 

Inside the monastery chapel: Iconostasis with traditional Greek Orthodox icons.
Icon of St. George of Koziba and his relic box (skeleton)- the monastery's leader in the late sixth century. 

Playing with the monks' pet dog.
Women are welcome to visit St. George's, unlike many other Orthodox monasteries.  Tradition says that Joachim, the father of Mary of Nazareth, had retreated nearby when he learned that his wife Anna was pregnant with Mary.  Later in the 6th century, a Christian noblewoman following a vision of the Virgin Mary came here and was healed.
The view below 
The trek back up, by donkey.
Our wilderness trip was capped off by a visit to Nabi Musa, a Pilgrimage site of Palestinian Muslims in honor of the Prophet Moses.
Greetings from the Wilderness, with the Dead Sea in the background and Mount Nebo beyond the Jordan.

by Fred & Gloria Strickert

Photo credits: Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath & Anna Johnson