Trip to the Jordan
On 20 January,
the feast of the Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner, we usually
take a trip to Galilee, to the source of the Jordan. As is well
known, the place of the baptism of the Savior, in Bethavar, near
Jericho, is located in an Israeli militarized zone and is made accessible
to the Orthodox only once a year, on the eve of Theophany. Only
a few from the Convent are able to travel there, since the time
of the Convent’s divine services coincides with the blessing of
the waters at the Jordan, which is performed annually by the Patriarch
of Jerusalem together with many clergymen of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
So that all who want to may avail themselves of an opportunity to
wash in the waters of the Jordan, we organize a pilgrimage in two
buses from our Convents. This year, Vladyka Mark flew in from Germany
to share with us the solemnities of Theophany. Vladyka arrived on
a night flight and drove immediately to the Liturgy at the Mount
of Olives Convent, which was celebrated in the Chapel of the Discovery
of the Head of St. John the Forerunner. Afterwards he boarded one
of the buses. The weather was marvelous--warm and sunny, like springtime.
There were many children on the bus--our littlest parishioners--for
whom the three-hour journey was a difficult trial.
Last year on this day, five people were baptized in the Jordan.
the Rite of the Sanctification of the Waters with Hieromonk Nikon.
Nuns from both convents chanted. Over the river, instead of a dove
there flew white seagulls. Almost all of us immersed ourselves in
the holy Jordan. Despite the warm weather, the water was cold. The
children cried; yet as soon as they jumped out of the water, they
smiled and rejoiced in their first victory. It is no mean thing
for a little child to overcome its fear in the face of the cold
the Jordan, we, as always, drove to Capernaum, to visit the most
hospitable monk in the Holy Land, Father Irenarchos. Anyone who
has ever been in the Galilee cannot fail to remember the Church
of the Twelve Apostles, which sits right on the edge of the sea:
it is white with rose-colored domes. All around it lies an orchard
and farmyard, with chickens, turkeys, peafowl, ducks, a donkey,
cats, dogs. And all of it is watched over by a single Greek monk.
They greeted us with the ringing of the bells. Having served a moleben
in the church, they laid out a meal for us. There was quite a crowd--about
We fit snugly at two large tables. One long table was set out by
the water under an awning. After the meal, Father Irenarchos asked
Father Nikon to go all around the grounds and sprinkle them with
holy water. The nuns of the Mount of Olives chanted the troparion
in Greek. Nature, as it were, froze in place; there was not a puff
of wind. We enjoyed this tranquility for two and a half hours, a
real respite from the tumults of Jerusalem. InJerusalem it is only
quiet a night, and not for long even then. But by the Sea of Galilee
serenity reigns over all. The sea is like a mirror. Far off, the
waters seemed to merge with the sky, all in a blue, pellucid haze.
Such a trip greatly restores one1s strength, recharges one1s energy.
Glory to God for the fortunate possibility to be in the holy places
on the great feastdays!
No one on the
bus wanted to sleep on the way back, so great was our sense of joy
of the Gethsemane Convent.