Then the thurifer appears, the boy carrying the thurible or incense burner. He is dressed in a white alb, with crossed sashes perhaps denoting his seniority? He stands in front of us and swings the thurible in four directions, north, south, east and west, rotating on the spot as he does so. Then he goes around the church, censing the font and the several colorful hangings around the walls, called Sutore (sutoro singular). These hang on the bare walls and there is also a large one hanging from a curtain pole separating the sanctuary from the congregation. This is pulled open at various stages in the liturgy to reveal the sanctuary. On the altar a paten and chalice are in a state of readiness to celebrate the eucharist at any time. The liturgy proceeds like this for the best part of an hour. We get into the rhythm, standing whenever the incense is being used, and whenever the prostrations tell us that prayers are being said. Otherwise we sit.
|the sanctuary sutoro|
There is just about enough time for a shower before breakfast. The total service has taken a little over an hour.
The process is repeated when we return to the monastery after our day out, when we join the boys and monks for Ramsho, the evening liturgy. After that liturgy we walk out into the evening sunshine, in time to see one of the boys drawing water up from the well just outside the church.
Time soon for supper and bed. After such an early start to each day no one seems to object to going to bed early, at 8 or 9 pm at the latest. That suits me just fine!
For further detail there is an excellent paper Monasticism in Tur Abdin: A Present Day Account by Mark DelCogliano in Cistercian Studies Quarterly 41.3 2006 p. 311