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furlongs distant from Jerusalem, which is called Etham; very pleasant it is in fine gardens, and abounding in rivulets of water; thither did he [Solomon) use to go out in the morning, sitting on high in his chariot."
Our present approach to the convent of Santa Saba will be by the sober light of day, and must lack the elements of romance. As the country is now quiet and safe, there is no reason why we should shut ourselves up within the walls of the convent; and therefore our tents will be pitched on the usual camping-ground outside of its gates. In the morning we will visit it at our leisure.
i Ant. viii. vii. 3.
SANTA SABA TO JERICHO.
Convent of Santa Saba.-Saint Saba.--Santa Saba to the Dead Sea and 'Ain es Sultân.
Juniper-tree.-Coals of Juniper.-Mount Hermon.—The Jordan.—Plain of Jericho.Excursion with the Pilgrims to the Jordan.—The Dead Sea.–Visit of Vespasian.Return of the Pilgrims to Jerusalem.-Camping-ground at 'Ain es Sultân.--Extensive Aqueducts.—'Ain Dûk and 'Ain Nawâ'imeh.—March of the Hebrews to attack Ai.Relief of Gibeon.-Wady Nawâ'imeh to Bethel.—Castle of Doch.—'Ain Dûk to the Jordan.-Kŭrn Sŭrtabeh, Altar of Ed.-Plain of the Jordan a Wilderness.—Bluffs above the Jordan.-Ferry of Nawâ'imeh.—Débouchure of the Jordan into the Dead Sea.Crossing of the Jordan by the Hebrew Nation.-Overflow of the Jordan in Harvest.Sources of the Jordan.-Flats on the banks of the River.-Rise and Fall of the Jordan earlier than in Ancient Times.- Kŭsr el Yehûd, Convent of St. John.— Traditional Sites of the Baptism of Christ.–Pilgrims' Bathing-place.-Accounts of the Baptism by the Evangelists.—Probable Location of the Baptism.-Bethany and Bethabara.-Mukhâdat el 'Abârah.—'Ain Hajla.-Beth-hoglah.-Kủsr Hajla.- Location of Sodom and Gomorrah.—Abraham and Lot.—Biblical References to the Sites of Sodom and Gomorrah.—Opinions of Authors.-Ciccar.-Cities of the Plain not Submerged.-Probable Site of the Doomed Cities.—'Ain es Sultân.—Healing of the Fountain by Elisha.-Site of Ancient Jericho.- Biblical History of Jericho.—Return of the Captives of Judah to Jericho by the Samaritans.-Capture of Zedekiah by the Chaldeans.—Visits of our Lord to Jericho.-Blind Bartimeus.-Zaccheus.—Pompey.-Cleopatra.-Herod the Great.Rose of Jericho.—Zŭkům, Balm of Gilead.—Burckhardt's and Bruce's Description of the Balm.- Jericho the Centre of Religious Pilgrimages.-Erîha, Modern Jericho.Present Inhabitants. - Jiljûlieh, Gilgal.— Tabernacle at Gilgal.-Samuel and Saul.
April 23d. Our morning ramble through this strange convent has had, to me, all the charm of a new revelation, disclosing some of the hidden mysteries of monastic life.
I am glad you have had an opportunity to spend a morning in an Oriental convent, and become acquainted with these remarkable institutions. Santa Saba is amongst the very best specimens, and it seems to have been a sort of frontier castle in the heart of this stern desert of Judæa. Saint Saba was probably attracted to the
spot by those very savage aspects of the scene which strike the mind with dread—the howling wilderness, the stern desolation, the terrific chasms, the oppressive solitude, the countless caverns, the ever-prevalent dangers from wild beasts and wild robbers: these and such as these were the charms that fascinated his morbid imagination. We would not judge the dead, however; nor will I forget the shelter and good dinner which this institution has afforded me in the past. It is really, in our day, a very respectable hospice; and gentlemen, but not ladies, can scarcely do better than to spend one of the two nights there which an excursion from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and the Jordan necessarily requires. The régime, it is true, partakes of both military sternness and conventual austerity, so far as the fortress itself and the monks within it are concerned ; but both are necessary, the one to repel the attacks of the Bedawîn, who prowl about at all seasons, watching for an opportunity to force an entrance and to plunder the rich treasures of the establishment; the other to meet the requirements of the Church.
And now, as we take our departure from the convent, it may be proper to inquire into the history of Santa Saba himself.
He was one of the most celebrated men of his age, and his story deserves to be studied as an instructive illustration of the dominant spirit of the times in which he lived. His parents were persons of high rank, and he was born, A.D. 439, in a village of Cappadocia, called Mutalasca. They went to Alexandria, in Egypt, when Saba was quite young, leaving him under the care of two uncles. By them he was placed, when only five years old, in the convent of Flavianæ. There he became so enamored of monastic life that, when fifteen years old, he refused to engage in secular employments or to take possession of his own property, quoting in justification of his conduct the saying of our Lord, that “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." To this decision he adhered with inflexible resolution during his long life of more than fourscore years and ten.
In his eighteenth year he came to Jerusalem — A.D. 457 — and even at that early age desired to lead the life of an anchorite. He was rejected by Euthymius, the abbot of a monastery somewhere
1 Luke ix. 62.
in this region, on account of his extreme youth; and subsequently he went to Egypt, where he met his parents. The father had assumed the name of Conon, and had risen to an important command under the government. As was natural, he endeavored to withdraw his son from monastic life, but failed; and Saba after a time accompanied Euthymius into the wilderness near the Jordan, and then into the region south of the Dead Sea.
In his forty-fifth year he retired to a cave in the clefts of the Kidron, and commenced to found his own convent. A convent with a certain number of surrounding cells and anchorite caves was then called a Laura; and this one of Saba received the name of Magna Laura, owing to the number of anchorites attached to it, amounting to one hundred and fifty. On account of his ability, zeal, and sanctity, Saba became quite celebrated. He entered warmly into the current theological disputes of the day, and was a vehement opponent of Origen and his supposed Monophysite heresies. He was sent to Constantinople by the patriarch of Jerusalem, Elias I., in the hope of persuading the Emperor Anastasius to oppose the Monophysites, but did not succeed; and, in the disgrace that befell his own party, Saba was in great danger of being banished along with the patriarch Elias, who was exiled to Aila, at the head of the Gulf of 'Akabah. There Saba visited that aged patriarch, in A.D. 518, when he himself was about eighty years old.
The Emperor Justinian I., who succeeded Anastasius, recognized the Council of Chalcedon, and, according to the spirit of the times, persecuted the Monophysites; and Saba, though nearly ninety years old, was sent to publish in the cities of Palestine the imperial decrees. In his ninety-first year he again went to Constantinople, this time on a mission of charity and compassion. It appears that the Samaritans had committed great outrages, and ravaged the country to such an extent that the people were unable to pay their taxes, and Saba appealed to the emperor to have them remitted. In this mission he was entirely successful, and the taxes were remitted.
It is very pleasant to find this old theological belligerent closing his checkered career in such a truly benevolent work. He died in peace in the ninety-fourth year of his life, and was buried in his
own convent, the Magna Laura, and there we examined his tomb this morning The convent of Santa Saba, called by the natives Deir Mar Saba, has been plundered more than once, and its inmates are said to have been cruelly massacred; but it has never been destroyed. It is reputed wealthy, and is held in high veneration by the entire Greek community. Its founder was a man of great energy and unwearied activity. “He acted an important part in that turbid period of ecclesiastical history, and fearlessly threw himself into agitations arising from the great Monophysite schism ; nor did age seem either to have diminished his ardor or restricted his exer
'Ain es Sultân, April 23d. Evening. The tent never was more welcome to me than at the close of this long day's ride. I am glad we have taken it, but do not wish to repeat it.
The reasons for this unusual weariness are that we have actually been in the saddle more than twelve hours, and then the greater part of the day and of the ride has been in the depressed and hot region of the Dead Sea. The fact is, our visit is nearly a month too late both for pleasure and health. But the fatigue is over, and we may now review at our leisure this interesting excursion.
Amongst the multiplicity of sights and scenes which drew my attention hither and thither in rapid succession, only a few points have impressed their features upon my memory. In the morning I climbed to the top of the tower of the convent of Santa Saba, on the south of the ravine. From there my eye roamed over a wilderness of rusty brown hills, the most dreary and blasted that I ever beheld. Beyond and below it was the Dead Sea, bordered on the east by the abrupt cliffs of Moab. Turning to what was beneath, the wonderful chasm of the Kidron struck me with amazement. We have seen nothing so profound or so wild in all our travels.
The ride from Santa Saba to the Dead Sea you surely cannot have forgotten, nor the path along the perpendicular cliffs of Wady en Nâr—Valley of Fire-as the wonderful gorge of the Kidron is called, nor the long descent into and ascent from it, nor the barren hills over which we toiled in the broiling sun for seven hours, fre
1 Smith's Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog.