Thursday 29 December 2011

Cyclamen


And this is a cyclamen. They come in various colours, red, pink, yellow perhaps, and are often available potted, expensive though.

Absolutely beautiful, though: like a snowdrop. The purity of the colour and line.

Fr Stephen tells me that this came as a potted plant. There are others planted near it, gathered probably from the Carmel hill. Not yet in flower. 

Jonquils




These are probably jonquils - narcissus jonquilla, a type of daffodil. They are tiny. I thought daffodils were bigger. At any rate, these are autumn - winter flowering.  

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Of sheep and shepherds




Sheep and perhaps a shepherd at Bet Gemal.

Salesian house at Bet Gemal





The lovely Salesian house at Bet Gemal (= House of Gamaliel), where St Stephen's body was buried after his martyrdom in Jerusalem. Note also the ancient olive tree, still bearing fruit, reputed to be more than 2000 years old (estimated by the girth of the trunk).  

Monday 26 December 2011

Children of God

We know that in our cribs there is Jesus, and Mary, and Joseph. We also know that there are shepherds, and some sheep, and the three kings, and an angel or two. But why  the ox and the ass? Where do they come from? Search the gospels, and you will not find them. Instead, read Isaiah 1:3: "The ox knows its owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand." The ox and the ass: mute invitations to recognize our master - to whom we belong, who gives us our food (manger, see the Italian mangiare, for instance), who gives us himself: Bread of Life!


John puts it in a different way in the Prologue to his gospel: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." God comes, but his own do not receive him. There is no place for them in the inn, or the katalyma, or just simply in our hearts. But to those who do receive him, he gives power to become children of God, born not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. To us who receive him. To you who receive him. You have been transformed into children of God. Born not of flesh or of blood or of the will of man, but of God. 


This is the mission of Jesus: Jesus who died, to gather into one the scattered children of God. Jesus who broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Greek. Jesus in whom Paul says there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, but we are all one. 


Here then is the call of Christmas: to become children of God. Children of one Father. The new family of God. So today we shall pray for the needs of our broken world. We shall pray for peace, in the Holy Land, in all lands, on the earth. But we shall pray also for ourselves. Today we are called not to be neither Jew nor Greek, but both Jew and Greek. We are called to celebrate differences, not to drown them. We are called to love and to grow together into the one family of God. 


There are not only cultural and national differences, but also personal differences stemming from our histories and our geographies. Each of us has our own own shopping lists of things we want and things we don't, things we like and things we can't hear. One wants everything perfect, another cannot tolerate too much perfection. One rejoices in noise, another would like blessed silence. We are different. But we all all called nonetheless to love. 


But what is love? This is a large question. But I was thinking: to love you means to have a positive attitude towards you, to esteem you, even if we are different. It means being willing to spend time with you and eventually even to begin liking it and you. It means being ready to be of help when I am needed. 


All this is central to our formation. And the power to do it comes from love. Only he who is loved is able to love. So let us realize that God dances over us. "See how he comes, leaping over the mountains." (Song of Songs 2:8) "He will exult over you with joy, he will renew you with his love, he will dance over you with shouts of joy, as on a day of festival." (Zephaniah 3:17-18) For it is not we who love God, but he who has first loved us. So let me hear these words as addressed to me today: "Come then my love, my lovely one come, my dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice, for you voice is sweet, and your face beautiful." (Song of Songs 2:13-14) All this Benedict XVI has in mind when he says that God begs for our love, thirsts for our love, longs for our love. (Message for Lent 2007)


I wish you much Joy, overflowing Joy, Joy that flows down like oil on the beard of Aaron and on the collar of his robes. "How good it is when brothers dwell as one. It is like oil flowing down upon the beard of Aaron, upon his beard and upon the collar of his robes."  (Ps 133:2)

Sunday 25 December 2011

Mass at the manger grotto




Just back from Bethlehem, where we celebrated mass in the manger grotto... 8 or 9 salesian priests, and about 20 of our brothers, plus some lay people... Wonderful. And after that, sitting in St Catherine's church, which is just adjacent to the Nativity Basilica and belongs to the Franciscans, the powerful experience of a church full of people from some French speaking African country. What a choir, what lively participation. Wonderful. Even the long wait - interminably long - at the checkpoint has not dampened our spirits.

Years ago, in my first visit to Bethlehem, we read the same Prologue of St John's gospel, and I was powerfully moved at the concluding words: From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the Law was given to Moses, but grace and truth - hesed and emeth - have been given to us through Christ Jesus.

Photos: (1) the large crib outside St Catherine's; (2) A Palestinian family that runs a souvenir shop; (3) the overcast skies over Bethlehem at Christmas. 

Wet Christmas

One of our priests here has Hebrew class in the afternoon. It is quite usual to have Hebrew class on Sunday afternoon. The problem is that today is Christmas. I said this was not sensitive. They were anti-Semitic: they were not respecting Jesus. Till I came to know that the teacher had consulted the class: how many of you would have a problem having class on 25 December, seeing it is Christmas? The problem was that a large part of the class is Orthodox Christian - they celebrate Christmas much later, perhaps at Epiphany. No problem they said. So much for flash judgments!

A real rainy Christmas anyway. "I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas..." But I find it quite... novel and fascinating.

Lunch is just over. And now off to the manger grotto in the Basilica of the Nativity at Bethlehem, for a mass...

The ox and the ass

Someone wanted my homily for the midnight mass, so here it is, more or less.
Have you ever asked yourself: the ox and the ass in our cribs: why are they there? Where do they come from? Search the gospels, and you will not find them. Instead, read Isaiah 1:3: "The ox knows its owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."
The ox and the ass: mute invitations to recognize our master - to whom we belong, who gives us our food (manger, see the Italian mangiare, for instance), who gives us himself: Bread of Life!

Our response: Joy!
"I give you good tidings of great joy." "When they found the child they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy."

and more: Dance!
Two people who danced in the Bible: David who danced before the Ark of the Covenant, and danced with all his might.
And the babe John the Baptist dancing in the womb of his mother, recognizing the new Ark of the Covenant, Mary, bearing within her the Glory of the Lord, coming over those same hills on which David danced.
The word 'LEAP' is the same as the word dance: SKIRTAN, in Greek.

So: dance at the coming of the Lord! rejoice in his incarnation!

But there is more: God dances over us!

"See how he comes, leaping over the mountains!" (Song of Songs 2:8)
"He will exult over you with joy, he will renew you by his love, he will dance with shouts of joy for you, as on a day of festival." (Zephaniah 3:17-18)

The Good News is that it is not we who first long for God, but it is God who first longs for us.
"Come then my love, my lovely one come, my dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff. Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face beautiful."

Benedict XVI: God longs for our love. Before the human heart, God is a beggar. He thirsts for our love, he longs for our love.

So on this Christmas night: let's hear these words as addressed to us, to me, to you. Words of endearment: come then my love, let me hear your voice, for it is sweet, let me see your face, for it is beautiful. This is the reality of Christmas.
Let us respond, let us open our hearts to him.
"Give up everything that does not lead to God, all worldly ambition. Have no ambition except to do good."
Rejoice over God, over his incarnation, over this helpless baby. Dance. Know you are loved. And Love, with all your heart. 

Saturday 24 December 2011

Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall'

I've been reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, a fictional depiction of Thomas Cromwell and his role in helping Henry VIII set aside his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, get married to Anne Boelyn, and separate from the Catholic Church. The novel paints a very favourable picture of Cromwell, and is particularly bent on demonizing Thomas More. The card that is played, both in upholding Henry's acts, and the ideas of the Reformation, and against More, is religious persecution: More is depicted as a viciously cruel persecutor of heretics. Casual dipping about for information reveals contrasting pictures: several, and not all of them Catholics, have the highest regard for More. But More was accused by some of being the type of person Mantel makes him out to be. More himself denied cruelty. It would seem, however, that at least 6 persons were burned at the stake for heresy during More's three years of Chancellorship. Whatever the truth of the matter, two things: (1) Mantel goes out of her way to blacken More, just as she probably goes out of her way to paint a favourable picture ultimately of Cromwell; (2) there is absolutely no justification for the Church's use of violence in the service of the truth. To set things in a balance, perhaps I must say here that Protestants themselves did not hesitate to use the worst possible methods in defending the truth. But two wrongs do not make a right.  

Friday 23 December 2011

Christopher Hitchens

The famous atheist and antitheist Christopher Hitchens died a few days ago. There is some notice about him in the Israeli papers here. It seems he discovered he was a Jew at the age of 38. That did not change his pro-Palestinian stance, it would seem, nor his anitheism. But perhaps it did modify it somewhat. About his discovery of his Jewishness, he said: I am pleased to find that I am pleased.

Dancing for Christmas

The four leaps: David leaping before the ark; the lover leaping over the hills in the Song of Songs 2,8; God leaping over his people in Zephaniah 3,18; and the babe leaping in Elizabeth's womb in Luke. The first and the last certainly are the same word: SKIRTAN in Greek. Dancing.
The human being dancing before the Lord, before the Ark of the Covenant: David in the Book of Samuel, and the babe in Elizabeth's womb before the new Ark of the Covenant in Luke.
But also God himself dancing over his people, over us, over me, in the Song of Songs, in Zephaniah.
Human longing and waiting for the Lord, but also, and perhaps more truly, and first, God waiting for us, for me. Coming bounding over the hills to see his beloved. Dancing with joy over his people.  

Tuesday 20 December 2011

William Russell on Scotus and consensus


Bill Russell is working on a book on Duns Scotus (Bill is Scottish; I had no idea that the Don was a Scot, despite the name). He told me he came across a little book in a Franciscan library in Zambia, which spoke about Scotus’ proposal that the right to rule is based on consensus. He had been earlier familiar with certain writings of about the same time in Scotland, arguing that Bruce had the right to rule because he had the consent of the people. He made the connection between the two. Scotus’ work predates these writings; it is from 1302 or so. Bill proposes that the writers, mostly Scottish clergy, came over to Paris where Scotus was teaching at the time. that they came over is recorded. That they met Scotus is not. So Bill is making a proposal, a suggestion, a hypothesis. His book proposal has been accepted by Brill, he told me, but the book is long, and long in getting ready. But once Brill publishes, the book remains in print. And despite the terrible prices, the scholarly world gets to know about the book.
The idea is that the notion of consensus arose within the Catholic Church. It is not something that the church has to learn to accept in a sort of rearguard action.
Bill says we have demonized Scotus too much, and set him up unnecessarily in opposition to Aquinas.
I remembered Hauerwas putting a huge accusation against Scotus, that I need to look up. He blames the univocity of being proposed by Scotus for all the ills of capitalism and consumerism and even certain forms of postmodernism, and finds salvation in Aquinas’ analogy. (See my paper for ACPI Faridabad)
Then of course Scotus is a bête noire for Lonergan.
And Scotus seems to be behind Wolff, and so Kant, and ultimately Hegel and Heidegger too. And therefore behind much of the contemporary philosophical cultural scene, if not also theological.
But all this is my conjecture. 

Saturday 17 December 2011

The Lord does not stay in an inn

"Yahweh, hope of Israel, its Saviour in time of distress, why are you like a stranger in this country, like a traveller staying only for one night?" (Jer 14:8)
Some commentaries make the inn explicit: "that turns into an inn to lodge there for a night, and that only; and so is unconcerned what becomes of it, or the people in it; he is only there for a night, and is gone in the morning." (See Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, at http://bible.cc/jeremiah/14-8.htm)
The Lord is not a stranger who stays in an inn. 

Swaddling clothes

Solomon says in the Book of Wisdom:
"I was nurtured in swaddling clothes, with every care.
No king has known any other beginning of existence;
for there is only one way into life, and one way out of it." (Wis 7:5-6)

Ox and ass

Why the ox and the ass in our cribs?
 "I have reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; Israel does not know, my people do not understand. (Isaiah 1: 3)

Christmas thoughts

+ We are called to be the epiphanies of God
+ The ox and the ass in the crib: Isaiah: the ox and the ass know their owner, but my people do not.
+ Swaddling clothes: the king (Solomon) was wrapped in swaddling clothes (Wis 7:3-4)
+ The inn: God does not stay in an inn, like a wayfarer (Jer 14:8)
+ The great goal of Jesus: the joy set before him: the reconciliation of all things in him

Friday 16 December 2011

Nabatean watershed




An ancient water conservation system, built by the Nabateans, near Shivta. Channels running down from the two slopes on either side, and terraces for collecting water, with a slot in the middle for the overflow. Almost our modern watershed technique, and this 2000 years ago. The trees visible have of course grown over the centuries - but they bear witness to the water that is there underground.

Nizzana and Shivta in the Negev


The trip was great. This is the third Ratisbonne trip to the Negev Desert in the south of Israel, but my first, I missed the other two. We drive down towards Beer Sheva (7 wells), where Abraham and Isaac and Jacob seem to have stayed (now a modern town); then further south to Nizzana, which practically touches the border with Egypt. Then back up to Shivta. Both these are towns which probably have a lifespan of 100 BC to 700 or so AD - ended with the Muslim invasion and the defeat of the Byzantine army by Caliph Omar in 636 AD. After that they dwindle. The Nabateans became great builders (you might have heard of Petra of the desert?), and also wonderful irrigators and conservers of water in an arid land. The remains of the churches are amazing, and our dear Fr Vernet made us even spend 30 minutes of silent praying or wandering about. Stunning. (The two photos above are of Nizzana, while the three below are from Shivta or Sobota.)
The church on top of the hillock (Tel) is dedicated to Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) and to the soldier saints Sergius and Bacchus.
In this church, there was discovered a very precious store of papyri, now known as the Nitzana or Nessana papyri, containing both religious and secular documents, which provide us with much knowledge about life in the Negev at the time. According to Fr Vernet, part of this store may be found in the Franciscan Convent of the Flagellation, in the Old City at Jerusalem. For one of the texts, see The Negev: The Challenge of a Desert, at http://books.google.co.il/books?id=Weqy__d__xAC&pg=PA120&lpg=PA120&dq=nitzana+papyri&source=bl&ots=AgJRXfuB2q&sig=ie6yVvMmZOrH-72NCUQ5ZVyMaEw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pfbqTreDGoiKhQfP4ry6CA&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=nitzana%20papyri&f=false



To think that this was the land in which Abraham wandered, and where Isaac and Jacob were born and lived; and through which, perhaps, Jesus, Mary, Joseph walked in their journey to Egypt...
Many associations with Isaac. The Hebrew word MEASHEARIM comes from Gen 26:12: you will reap a HUNDREDFOLD (mea = 100 in Hebrew). Today associated with an Ultra Orthodox quarter of Jerusalem. The town name REHOVOT comes from the large well dug by Isaac (Gen 26), it means LARGE ROOM, and is translated by the Latin Vulgate as LATITUDO. Both the words indicate blessing, abundance, peace...
The Negev, or a large part of it, used to be the portion of the tribe of Shimon (Simeon), a tribe that had a very short life, being rapidly absorbed by the tribe of Judah, and hardly mentioned in the OT. The rabbis regarded it as a punishment for the deeds of Shimon...

The other impressive thing about Shivta: the presence of Dina and Ami, who have chosen to live in the desert, reconstructing the life of the Nabateans, trying to live off the land, and so on. They run a small restaurant and also have 3 rooms to be let to guests. Dina spoke to us, in halting English, but impressed us all with her gentleness. The tel.:  08-6550911  0507-383802

Levinas on the Eucharist

One of Vernet's asides yesterday, during one of the pauses during the visit, probably in the monastic church at Shivta: it seems the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas was being interviewed. (Levinas, it is well known, is a Jew, and a philosopher who has reflected abundantly on the Bible and the Talmud.) He was asked: What do you think of the Christian Eucharist? In reply, Levinas shifted the microphone away, and then said: I think the whole of the Bible points to the Eucharist. 

Thursday 15 December 2011

Shivta and the Nabateans


We are going to the Negev desert in the southern part of Israel tomorrow, to a place called Shivta, where there are ruins of cities and Byzantine churches. We have to pass through Beer Sheva (=Seven Wells), 4th largest city in Israel, and on one of the old routes to Egypt. It is likely that Abraham, Jacob, Joseph used this route. Isaac seems to have lived here most of his life - Fr Vernet described him as timid. Jacob instead was a great wanderer, as was Abraham. The Nabateans - the same ones responsible for "Petra of the Desert", now in Jordan - built cities here from about 100 BC onwards. They also had sophisticated water conservation systems. They eventually adopted Byzantine christianity. The cities and churches were destroyed when the Byzantine army was defeated by Caliph Omar in 636 AD... 

Sunday 11 December 2011

Agora (2009)

We watched Agora (2009) last night. The science - religion conflict introjected into 4th or 5th century Alexandria, centred around a beautiful woman philosopher Hypatia, and the Christians, mainly Cyril of Alexandria. A Da Vinci Code type of historical mishmash, which people tend to swallow up whole. Quite a lot of probably deliberate playing about with history. The Christians come out very badly, of course. see http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2010/05/hypatia-and-agora-redux.html, which points out, for example, how the philosophers are all mostly dressed in white and speak in upper class British accents, while the Christians are portrayed mostly in black, and seem to be all louts.
But the way Hypatia explains her stuff is fascinating, especially the elliptical orbit of the earth around the sun, which is her last insight before she is (in the movie) stoned to death by the Christians at the instigation of Cyril of Alexandria.
Still, see the note on Cyril in the online Catholic Encyclopedia: not very flattering. He did expel Novatians and Jews from Alexandria, and he did incite mobs to violence. And Hypatia was a contemporary, as was also Orestes, the Roman Prefect. 

Saturday 10 December 2011

The Jews over the centuries

This morning I accompanied our fourth year theology students to the Holy Sepulchre for mass. On the way back, talking with one of them, I realized, to my great surprise, that by 'Christian persecution of the Jews' he understood only the Nazi Holocaust. It was a great surprise to him to learn that there had been persecution of the Jews by Christians down the centuries, for at least 1700 years. I asked him whether the topic had been dealt with in any of the courses he had attended over four years. He said no.
I began having doubts myself, because most of my knowledge of the persecution comes from James Michener's The Source, I think, or some other novelistic source. So I went down to our library and looked up the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. ed. Nothing under 'Anti-Semitism.' But there was a substantial article under Judaism, post-Biblical history of, by K. Hruby. Very fair and objective, I think. And it contains substantial references to the persecution.
But I also came across Samuel ha-Nagid (our institute is on 26 Shmuel Hanagid) of Spain; the poet Rashi (we have an auditorium named after him); and of course Moses Maimonides, Moses Mendelssohn, and others.
The Sephardim are, in fact, Jews who migrated out of Spain towards Turkey and other Muslim countries where they were better received. Spharad is the Hebrew name for Spain. The Ashkenazi, instead, were associated, in the article, with the Jews in Poland. Yiddish is the Jewish language developed in Germany, but carried with them to Poland. Ladino instead is the language developed by the Jews in Spain and carried with them to Turkey and other places.
See Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land, for a fictionalized history of the 12th century Jewish merchant from Egypt, with Indian connections, based on documents found in the Cairo Geniza. I had begun reading this interesting novel, which the Wikipedia defines as undefinable in terms of genre, but had to return the book before coming to Jerusalem.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Some Arabic words...

Slowly some words of Arabic are seeping through... I go for mass sometimes to the Holy Rosary Sisters nearby, who form part of an all-Arab congregation founded in Palestine. The sisters are interesting: the mass is in English, some of them reply in Arabic, the first reading is in Arabic and sometimes in Italian if the Blue Sisters come, the response and some of the singing is in Arabic. But, as I said, some words are beginning to seep through. Rab, for example, as in Rab ne bana di jodi, means Lord or God. Noor means light. Sabah is morning, almost our subah. Then there is Mabruk = welcome, Mubarak as in Id Mubarak, meaning blessing or blessed (the barak root seems to me to be the same as in Hebrew, baruch and so on). Qurbana, of course, indicating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as it does also in Kerala.

Friday 2 December 2011

The Anathoth of Jeremiah, and Wadi Phara


We had the Rusticatio today. The word inevitably calls up for me the ‘rustication’ reserved in India for those caught cheating, copying, etc., but really rusticatio comes from the Latin word for the countryside, and so means a ramble in the country. The indomitable Fr Vernet led a group to Anathoth and Wadi Phara. Anathoth – barely 7 kms. from Jerusalem, which was the first surprise – is the birthplace of the prophet Jeremiah. We took an ‘Arab’ minibus from Damascus gate, paid 5 shekels each, and were driven through a checkpoint into Anathoth. I did not understand the exchange in Arabic, but I gathered that much of what we were passing through was a refugee camp called Anath. After winding through the ‘town’ we came to the outskirts and got off. In front of us was a barren hillock, with a single small construction, which turned out to be the tomb of a Muslim notable from the 18th century. Vernet showed it to us as an example of what the tomb of Abiathar might have looked like. Abiathar – one of the two high priests in the time of David – fell out of favour with Solomon (he backed the wrong contender for the throne) and was exiled to Anathoth, where he died.
At any rate, the prophet Jeremiah was born in Anathoth. His father Hilkiah was a priest of the high place of Anathoth. There were many high places dedicated to the Lord in Israel in those days: Bethel, Nob, and Anathoth among them. So this barren hillock must have once housed a sanctuary to the Lord, in the days of Jeremiah. It would appear that Jeremiah deserted this sanctuary for the one in Jerusalem; this earned him the wrath of his own people, his own family (see Jer 11:21: the people of Anathoth are determined to kill me). The town was a Levitical town, and so probably full of priests. All we could see now was stones and a very large number of cisterns. Jeremiah speaks of cisterns, leaky cisterns: see Jer 2:13 (they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, leaky cisterns that hold no water).
From the hillock Vernet pointed out a number of towns mentioned in the Bible: Givat Shaul, which was the first capital of Israel, Saul’s capital; Nob, 5 kms. away from Givat Shaul, marked now by the tower of the Augusta Victoria Hospital, but completely destroyed in its day by Saul because its priests had helped David; Ophrah, or the Ephraim mentioned in Jn 11:54; and so on.
The OT mentions Anathoth a number of times, but the NT never mentions it. But surely Jesus must have passed by, if not through, Anathoth on his way to and from Jerusalem. It was on the ancient route, through which conquering armies marched upon Jerusalem. 
We sat on the top of the hillock and heard passages from Jeremiah: 1:1-2 (The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests living at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin), 7:1-4 (Do not say, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord); 11:18-20 (I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughterhouse); 16:1-5 (You are not to marry or have sons and daughters in this place - Jeremiah is the only celibate prophet); 20:1-6 (not Pashhur but Terror-on-every-side is the Lord’s name for you); 20:7-18 (the famous passage where Jeremiah complains that God has seduced him); chs. 30 and 31 (the book of consolation); 32:1-15 (Hanamel sells a field to Jeremiah, who has the right of redemption; it must have been one of the fields around the hill of Anathoth); 29:11 (Jeremiah’s letter from Babylon; Vernet quoted a line in Hebrew: I have thoughts for you of peace and not of affliction). And then the mention in 2 Mac.
Jeremiah – the reluctant prophet, the complaining prophet; but also the prophet who sees God’s word in the little things of everyday life: buying a field, burying a loincloth, a leaky cistern. A powerful prophet. One of the four great prophets of the OT, with Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.


From Anathoth we walked down to Wadi Phara, with its spring (En Phara or En Parat). Jer 13:4 has the Lord telling the prophet to bury the waistcloth by the Euphrates. Vernet said the Euphrates was too far from Jeremiah’s home town; it was probably the spring at Phara that was meant by the original. The translators into Greek in Alexandria had no idea anymore of the topography of Anathoth, and so translated En Phara as the river Euphrates. But it was probably En Phara that was indicated in the text. Delightful place, now enclosed in a nature reserve, for which we had to pay 22 shekels each to enter. The spring was flowing, the water clear and cool, and full of largish fish. And a monastery on the hillside. The monastery of St Caritone, the first ‘laure’. Laure means the narrow way, in contrast to the wide road to perdition. Caritone was captured by thieves and left bound in a cave in the wadi. Some snakes came and began drinking from the wine in an amphora left by the thieves. As a result the wine was poisoned, so that when the thieves came after another robbery, they drank the poisoned wine and perished. Caritone managed to free himself, distributed the gold to the poor, and began to live in the cave, a life of penitence and self-abnegation. Some others came to join him, the first laure, in different caves on the hillsides. This was at the same time as St Anthony of Egypt. 

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