In the hushed atmosphere our bishop leads us in prayers and we all say the Grace together: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.”
We are in one of the three churches at the restored Mor Abraham Syriac Orthodox Monastery in Midyat. The oldest church, dedicated to Mor Hobel (Saint Abel) and probably built in the late 5th century, is now the Beth Qadishe or House of Saints, where relics of saints are housed. A larger and later church is dedicated to Mor Abrohom (Saint Abraham) and then there is the Mother of God (Yoldath Aloho) church.
Leaving the monastery we make our way to the Syriac Orthodox church of Mor Basomo (Saint Barsumas in the West) in the old town centre of Midyat. Mor Basomo was an influential Syrian monk who attended the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 AD, and died in 457 AD.
Walking through the town afterwards as a small group is a fascinating experience, giving us a chance to observe some of the local color and customs.
There are women in a sewing machine room, the door open to the street to try to keep cool while they are busy making dresses – for what market I wonder? A tethered cow stands by the side of the pavement. It has water and food but is very nervous and would surely have preferred to be grazing in an open field. We see the local lads playing what looks like a variant of hopscotch – in a wider area of the main road – dodging mopeds as necessary; I recalled how I amused myself as a child with similar simple games in the streets of Manchester all those years ago. A Kurdish woman is carrying a bunch of faggots on her shoulder and there are more women making flat bread in an outhouse – they wave happily to us as we go by and do not seem to mind having their photos taken. More women are walking down the narrow street leading a goat on a rope – I feared it is going to be sacrificed for the Islamic feast of sacrifice, and my heart goes out to it. I hope its end is swift and as pain free as possible. Does no one else care about the cruelty we inflict on our animals?
Midyat used to have a large pond; it is still mentioned in many guidebooks to the consternation of travelers who look all over for it and cannot find it! It became so full of litter in the “troubles” that it was filled in and replaced with a new public park and car park. We all meet up on the coach and go back to the monastery for evening prayer at 5pm.
The concept of generous hospitality is an important part of our pilgrimage,
for us to take away with us and hopefully learn from. It has largely been lost in our own busy urban societies. The word “pilgrimage” is derived from the Latin peregrinus or “foreign”, from peregre meaning “going” abroad, originally derived from “per ager” or “through the fields” – that was largely what we did today. In the larger picture, we are all abroad on a journey.
|prayer shawls ready for use|
The depth of the blue sky must be due to the clean pure air. The sun glinting on the vines as we drive along makes the green colors of the leaves take on an almost fluorescent quality. The stars at night under a clear sky are as clear as I’ve ever seen them; there is absolutely no light pollution here. Then I realize that what I thought were trees distressed by the summer drought may perhaps have been the small oaks cultivated for the acorns used for animal feed, and they are simply displaying their autumnal deciduous colors!
Tomorrow we will sadly say goodbye to Mor Gabriel monastery and make our way towards Mardin and the Saffron Monastery, where we will stay for two nights while we explore the western Tur Abdin region.