Friday 7 March 2014

Rusticatio to Wadi Qelt

A view of the Wadi Phara / Qelt and the Judean desert
Another great rusticatio today - to Wadi Qelt and the monastery of St George of Kosiba, mainly. We left by a taxi which took us first to the ruins of the crusader fortress near the Good Samaritan, and then deposited us, as per Vernet's instructions, at a point from where we walked - a good hour and a half, I think - towards the monastery. Flanking us on the left, all the time, was a stupendous view of Wadi Phara which is also known in its lower reaches as Wadi Qelt. Wadi Phara was of course the goal of another rusticatio, two years ago, a memorable one. Unfortunately, this time, the wadi was quite bereft of water.
First view of the monastery

The monastery again

And yet again
After a halfway halt for rest and refreshment, we reached the monastery: a stupendous view from the top, though I think the domes were even more beautiful when they used to be painted a striking blue. From the gate barring the road it is another half hour walk up to the gate of the monastery. We were quite relieved to see the timings put out there quite clearly: 0900 to 1300 every single day. We had a half hour to spare. The monks, I must say, were extremely kind and hospitable, and we, on our part, got easily into the atmosphere of silence and prayer. I spent a wonderful 20 minutes sitting on the floor of the main chapel, praying: recalling Jesus who had spent his 40 days in this desert, and who, possibly, had spent time even in the Wadi Qelt - the wadis being places where water could easily be found. (As Vernet said, it is said he ate nothing for 40 days; it is not said that he drank nothing.) The imagination stretched backwards to a time when there was no monastery, but only the wadi, probably always full of water in those days; and the caves, and the three Herodian aqueducts bringing water to his palaces and to the city of Jericho. Jesus spending time alone - quite alone - with no one for company except 'the wild beasts.' We had seen droppings of various creatures - little beads, smaller than those of goats; little larger droppings; and other fairly large ones. I was very fortunate to see not only the iracis (irex?) but even a few antelope on our way back. It is something quite wonderful to see wildlife still surviving, despite human inroads. So Jesus, spending a day alone, two days alone, 40 days alone. Led by the Spirit, and full of the Spirit. After having heard the voice of his Father: This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Vernet's homily was quite touching: the Lord complaining that Israel, his beloved, had abandoned him, had become useless and good for nothing, like the loincloth Jeremiah had buried in a cleft in the rock at Wadi Phara. The monks, not abandoning the Lord, but clinging to him. In imitation of Jesus, over whom the Father had said just the opposite of what he says to Israel: You are my Beloved Son, in you I am well pleased. To hear these words, now, here, being addressed not only to the Son, but to all his sons, to me.... He is there, and he listens: to me, to what I have to say, to the pains and the joys of my heart, and the pains are lifted, and the joys multiply.
Vernet explaining about the monastery
Making our way to Jericho along the Wadi Qelt


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