The third of five blog posts about our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land (see part 1 here)
Part 3 – Desert Christianity
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In the fourth century when the Egyptian bishop Saint Athanasius wrote “The Life of Saint Anthony” he helped to open a new era in Christianity. Christians around the Mediterranean were moved to emulate Saint Anthony’s complete dedication to the quest to know God, and leaving all behind they went into the deserts of Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine.
During our pilgrimage we had the opportunity to step back in time and visit four such monasteries in the Judean desert.
Most of the desert that begins east of Jerusalem and extends to the Dead Sea is utterly barren – not at all like the flowered desert in Borrego Springs, California where our monastery was located for nine years. There is certainly nothing to distract the mind here, other than the harshness of the surroundings. The scarcity of flora is matched by the scarcity of fauna. We saw a few goats being herded by some Bedouins, heard rumors of desert asps, and managed to spy what I would call a God-knows-what Monster Fly – a bristling grand-daddy of the flies most of us know, almost six inches long. (It is said that the desert father Saint Macarius died by allowing desert insects to bite him, rather than shooing them away. It’s easy to imagine these are the guys that could do the job.) And that was all.