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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Desolation of a Monk's Dreams -- The Monastery of St. George, Judean Desert

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Hiding in folds of the Judean Desert are ancient monasteries which, since ancient times, have given hermits the desolation of their dreams. Orthodox Christians -- whether from Palestine, Greece, Russia, or Ethiopia -- enliven these monasteries today, as they have since the sixth century.

Orthodox Christians maintain a rich and ancient worship style that has not reformed as Catholic and Protestant Christians have. And, logically, their art feels timeless, too. The icons here are a reminder of how, for these monks, the meditation, isolation, and hermetic way of life can all help them to better understand the message and will of Jesus.

The dramatically set Monastery of St. George welcomes pilgrims and tourists alike. For 15 centuries, the faithful have ventured to this spot, hiked into the ravine, quenched their thirst, and nourished their soul.

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Looking up at this imposing monastery -- burrowed into its cliff -- it almost seems like a mirage in a parched desert. If you want holy solitude, this is clearly the place.

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The monks at St. George were very camera-shy. They didn't want to be "actors." While they sang to us beautifully off-camera, they told us that filming rooms with just candles was enough.

I'll continue this Holy Land series until November 21st. Then, to celebrate my homecoming, I'll give a live, free slideshow lecture on Thursday, November 21st at 7 p.m. P.S.T. in Edmonds, Washington. You can attend in person (registration required)...or watch the live webcast from anywhere in the world (no registration required). Learn more at Rick Steves - Holy Land: Israel and Palestine Today.

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