Sing: On Eagle’s Wings, UMH 143
Saint Catherine’s Monastery (I wrote about Saint Catherine back on Day 3 Site 3 of this devotional trip), also known as the Monastery of the Transfiguration, is situated at 5,249 feet in the high mountains of the Sinai Peninsula. It sits at the base of Mount Sinai (7,500 ft.) where Moses met with God, first at the Burning Bush and then later to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law.
Christian hermits began to gather at Sinai from the middle of the 3rd century. The life that these early hermits followed was neither easy nor safe. The 4th and 5th centuries were particularly bad times, when Christians were not only persecuted, but suffered from barbarian assaults.
Tradition holds that, in 330 AD, in response to a request by the ascetics of the Sinai, the Byzantine empress Helena ordered the building of a small church, dedicated to the Holy Virgin, at the site of the Burning Bush, as well as a fortified enclosure where the hermits could find refuge from the attacks of nomadic tribes. By 374 there were also churches at the summits of Mount Sinai and Mount Horeb. In the 5th century the growing population of hermits compelled their Bishop to request assistance from the Byzantium emperor Justinian. Justinian responded by founding a magnificent church enclosed within walls strong enough to withstand attacks and protect the monks against nomadic raiders. That compound is the Monastery of Saint Catherine.
In the 7th century the monastery survived the Muslim conquest of the area through the direct influence of Mohammed himself, who saw the Christians as brothers in faith. In the 10th or 11th century a mosque, which still stands today, was built within the walls. Today it is not uncommon for a hundred or more pilgrims and tourists to visit the ancient sacred site in a single day. Greek Orthodox monks tend the monastery and its extraordinary collection of Byzantine art and illuminated manuscripts.
The Well of Moses - Exodus 2: 15-22
Probably misnamed - but the story of Moses meeting the seven daughters of Jethro does not give this well a name. So it has become the Well of Moses, where he met his wife, Zipporah. The well probably had a name before Moses showed up but that name has been lost. It is still a functioning well today and helps supply the monastery the water they need.
The Burning Bush
You were not expecting to find the Burning Bush at the base of Mount Sinai – neither was I! It was transplanted here about eleven hundred years ago. It is a rare species of the rose family called Rubus Sanctus. This species is widespread in the Sinai and extremely long-lived, a fact which gives scientific credibility to the site. If you look closely you can see under the overhanging bush an icon of Moses removing his sandals.