Jerusalem:  January 22, 2004


A 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.


Vladyka concelebrated 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 streams.

After visiting 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 100 people.
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 and peace.

--The nuns of the Gethsemane Convent.