Deir Mar Musa Al-Habashi (The Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssian)
So, I started writing a very long reflection post on the monastery on my laptop, but I can’t get wireless anywhere, so I’m writing this at an Internet café. I’ll post more on the monastery later, since I have a lot to say about it. For the sake of maintaining a cohesive blog narrative, though, I’ll give some chronological details:
I arrived at the monastery after a long bus ride with a bus full of men. I was, like, falling off the seat half of the time because the guy next to me was taking up so much room. Do women not take buses or something? Whatever.
Anyway. The hike up to the monastery was not as bad as I was expecting, in terms of steepness—I was imagining something like the stairs at Petra, which would have been hellish. But the stairs were built recently and all, so that was good. The only problem was that it was late morning and I was carrying thirty pounds’ worth of stuff. AHHH. By the time I got to the top I was exhausted. And also sunburned. But! They have cold filtered water on tap right at the top. Praise Jesus.
Again, I plan to post a much longer reflection on my time at the monastery, so for now I’m just going to outline what the average day was like. (For the first 24 hours, it was exactly like this except I was standing around awkwardly not knowing what to do.)
Wake up at 7AM. Go to morning prayers at around 7:45. (All in Arabic, including psalms, which I could almost sort of get the general idea of what they were about!) Get ready for breakfast at 9:15. (Basically, setting out ridiculous amounts of goat cheese, yogurt, marmalade, olive oil and zata’ar.) After breakfast, help out until noon-ish. Usually this involved cutting up vegetables for lunch, but there was also a day where I got to scrub down some really grimy chairs. SO SATISFYING. Lunchtime was always a hassle: it involved all of the same stuff as breakfast, and then some, because there was also a main dish and a TON of people (day visitors). After lunch, clean up and chat with people: sometimes the visitors, sometimes the long-term guests. Also, sometimes I would walk up further in the mountains or go into the church and read. At 7:30PM we entered an hour of silent meditation, which I usually spent in the church praying. (I was trying to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary in Arabic. Success! I’m tackling the Apostle’s Creed next…) Then at 8:30 there was Mass. Which, by the end of my time there, I could basically follow. AWESOME. It was always extremely beautiful—there are no chairs in the church, so we would all sit around in the ancient candle-lit church on cushions and pray. After Mass, we had dinner, which was also huge. Much tea was imbibed. Shortly after dinner we usually went to bed.
This feels like I’m completely shortchanging the experience, because I am. I met so many amazing people, learned so much from them, and found so much peace there that when it came time to leave, I really didn’t want to.
Next post: Hama and Aleppo!