Of Wind and Flame

Singing Brazilian FreresThe Feast in the GalleryThese nuns know how to celebrate!DSC_0279Limoncello made by the Contemplative SistersDSC_0282
Rooftop View from Ecce HomoDSC_0288DSC_0294Bet you wish you were here.DSC_0298DSC_0301
DSC_0302DSC_0305Vespers in The Last Supper RoomDSC_0312DSC_0318The Upper Room
Sion GateFlowers in Notre Dame de Sion

Pentecost, a set on Flickr.

How to recap the last few days? How to even capture on words the movement and beauty that surrounds me?

Hot, desert wind blew through Ein Kerem on Friday. I was told to close the windows because this type of wind, Hamsin they call it, carries sand and dust. By 8AM you could already feel the coming noonday heat. I spent the morning cleaning Father Marie’s (the founder of the order) house and high wooden shutters along the gallery. The shutters were slow, tedious work that involved wiping every individual slate clean with protective oil. By noon the heat evaporated my energy, so I rested in the coolness of the library and waited for the worst to pass. By 5:30PM I finished the rest of the shutters in hopes that the work won’t have to be repeated in the near future.

Saturday morning surprised me with clouds and cool winds. We had our first “review meeting” over breakfast in the gallery, outside with a gentle sun and happy birds. In between a few small work tasks, I managed to clean my own room and do some laundry. There is something about cleaning one’s place that makes it yours. I don’t have much here: a room that’s smaller than some bathrooms I’ve seen, and a bathroom that’s smaller than some closets. Plain white walls, a single cot, an old dresser, a locker for a closet, and a tiny table for a desk. But it’s a room with a view of sky, hills, and gardens. A room that welcomes the evening breeze and morning bird-songs.

I spent Saturday evening with the Apostolic Sisters in their apartment. Sister K gave a fascinating presentation on icons of Pentecost. Afterward, we had drinks on the terrace and dinner where we shared wine and bread.

Sunday morning was even cooler. The wind was refreshing and light. All the Sisters and Brothers of Sion gathered in Ein Kerem to celebrate Pentecost. After Mass, we had lunch in the gallery and I met people from Australia, Ireland, and the Philippines. There was much laughter and spirits, and I was warmly welcomed as one of their own.

I caught a ride into the Old City with the Sisters from Ecce Homo. Sister K, Sister P, and I set off to find “Bible Sandals” – made of camel leather. They were found and purchased. We wandered through the Armenian quarter and discovered that there was going to be Vespers in the Cenacle (site of the Last Supper Room and the Upper Room). Of course, Vespers on Pentecost… at the Upper Room. The “Guardian of Mount Sion and of the Holy Sepulchre and the Custos of the Holy Land,” Pierbattista Pizzaballa, presided, flanked by many Franciscan Monks. We saw all manners of Christians – I’ve never seen so many different types of habits in one place before – and faces of all colors. The songs were sung mostly in Latin but at one point the Lord’s Prayer was recited in each owns language at the same time. Candles were lit, the flame passed from one to another.

Sound like the wind

Light like a flame

We then walked through the Jewish Quarter for a little while and people-watched in a square. The differences between the quarters are remarkable; one can tell who has the money. The Old City is strange, medieval, grotesque and beautiful. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve been before… and it’s growing on me.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is making more sense to me now. God came for all nations, not just one. If only we could realize that no one has a monopoly on God. As Sister A shared on Saturday night, God is Spirit, like wind, like fire, like water… you cannot grasp these things with your hands. You can only be as a vessel – to hold and be filled

with light,


and love.


4 thoughts on “Of Wind and Flame

  1. I always feel this affinity with priests who choose Jesus’ mother’s name 🙂 Seeing those flames (photo of the Sisters lighting votive candles) on Pentecost is special. Oh, and I’d like to try that limoncello.

  2. You would love here, Marie! And I met a Filipina Sister (who thought I was Filipina:)). Thanks for your comments!!! I wish I could bring back some limoncello… it was gooooood.

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