Monday, November 25, 2013

Monastery of Mt Sinai

Today, in both the Byzantine and older Roman rites, is the feast of St Catherine of Mt. Sinai  the virgin martyr and daughter of an Alexandrian king whose rare education endeared her to Christ to the point of death. According to tradition her remains were miraculously taken to Mt. Sinai where they were discovered by an already established monastic community, which cares for her veneration to this day.
The monastery—built around the Burning Bush—is now, of course, Eastern Orthodox, but that does not make it less interesting to us as Catholics and as people appreciative of liturgical historical. Mt. Sinai houses possibly the oldest extant icons in the Christian world, icons which were written when Byzantium was thriving and St. Gregory the Great just an infant. Below is a very short documentary on the monastery which focuses on the place's unique place in icon history.
The beginning, for the uninitiated, is the Hajmeh, the first part of the night-long celebration of Pascha which transitions into Mattins and Lauds and ends with the Divine Liturgy. The faithful take "light  that never fades" from the Paschal candle blessed at the Vesperal "vigil" Liturgy earlier that [Saturday] morning. I found my first experience with this rite simultaneously awe inspiring and frightening, much how the two women felt when they encountered the Empty Tomb that day in the year 33, when the Sun was only just rising.

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