Friday, 16 March 2007


Quite by accident I found myself outside the gate of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St Mark just as Vespers was starting. I was given to understand afterwards that the half hour office was slightly shorter than usual because the Community only breaks its fast after vespers in Lent so breakfast was waiting! The service was in Aramaic, sung throughout from memory. The only downside was the approximate nature of the tuning. Melodic tone clusters for half an hour can be somewhat trying but, hey, I’m not complaining. To cap it all and to make my day, I was invited to go up and receive a blessing from the bishop who was presiding.

The church is built on top of what is claimed to be St Mark’s family home and the door on which St Peter knocked after he’d been sprung from jail by the angel. They also claim this as the site of the ‘upper room’ and therefore of the Last Supper and of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost. There are of course rival claimants for the site of these events but St Mark’s Monastery certainly ‘feels right’ and over the past few days I’ve come to set some store by such feelings. My more rational friends and acquaintances therefore have one more reason to despair of me.
Oh yes, they also claim to have the original 'miraculous' icon of the Blessed Virgin writen by St Luke. The elderly lady who looks after the place told me an extraordinary story of something that had happened to her. If true it would certainly qualify as miraculous. I will write this up in due course.
The photograph which I'm afraid I snuk during the service was a two-second exposure (without flash or tripod) under very low light. That it is as clear as it is and shows no sign of camera wobble is certainly unusual. I make no stronger claims.

No comments: