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selves faithful imitators of him who, being rich, out of love to us made himself poor. They allow themselves no rest in this world, because they are full of spiritual consolations; they wander about in the deserts, and live with the wild beasts which they there meet with; they are on the tops of the hills like burning torches, giving light to those who come to seek them from the impulse of a sincere piety. They are in the solitudes like walls which cannot be shaken, and this it is that causes them to retain there a solid and constant peace; they rest upon the hills like doves, and they perch like eagles on the tops of the most elevated rocks. If they are ever weary, in consequence of their toils, it is a sort of pleasure to them to take a little repose on the ground; but presently they awake, and with fresh fervour their voices, like clanging trumpets, sound forth on all sides the praises of God. Christ, who never forsakes them, and the hosts of his angels which incessantly surround them, defend them against the attacks of their enemies. If they kneel upon the ground, it is presently steeped with their tears; and when their prayers are finished, God himself does not disdain to serve his servants.
“Their death is neither less happy nor less admirable than their life : they take no care to construct themselves tombs, for they are crucified to the world, and the vehemence of the love which unites them to Jesus Christ has already given them their death-blow. Frequently, the very spot where they stopped to hold their fasts is that of their sepulchre. Several of them have sunk into a sweet and quiet sleep, in the force and fervour of their prayers. Others, fixed as it were on the points of sharp
rocks, have voluntarily resigned their souls into the hands of God. There have been some, who, wandering about with their usual simplicity, died in the mountains, which have served them for a sepulchre ; some, knowing that the moment of their deliverance had arrived, confirmed in the grace of Jesus Christ, after providing themselves with the sign of the cross, have laid themselves down in their graves. Others have fallen asleep in the Lord, while eating the herbs prepared for them by his providence. Some there have been who, while singing the praises of the Lord, have expired in a moment with the effort, death alone terminating their prayers and stopping their mouths. Now, these incomparable men are awaiting the trump of the archangel, and the arrival of that moment when the earth shall give up, at the command of God, the bodies committed to it; when they shall live and flourish anew, like lilies in ineffable whiteness, brightness, and beauty; when Jesus Christ shall crown with his hand, and reward with a happy eternity the hardships which they have endured for his service and glory.”
The monastery of St. Saba is now inhabited by monks of the Greek ritual : their life is as austere as that of La Trappe, with the exception of oil, which we are not allowed to use; but their bread is far inferior to our's. Notwithstanding the severity of their fasts and their penitence, they enjoy excellent health, and live to a great age : I have seen one of a hundred-and-one years, and who was not yet hors de combat.
I was received by the community with all sorts of attentions. The apartment allotted to me is a very clean
CONVENT OF ST. SABA.
room, surrounded with very elegant divans. On the wall hung a picture of the Virgin, before which a lamp was burning. I would fain have solicited the favour of being put into a simple cell ; but I felt that my request would not be granted, and I spoke of nothing but my gratitude.
My dinner, decently served up on a tray, was soon brought to me: it consisted of olives, fishes' roes, and a kind of salad, just brought from Jerusalem. I had reluctantly suffered myself to be installed in my little saloon ; I could not resolve to take my meat seated on a divan - I, a monk of La Trappe, and in the monastery of St. Saba, a few paces frorn some hundred heads of martyrs ! To the great surprise of the brethren, I therefore carried my tray to the grotto of St. Saba, hewn out of the rock not far from the convent; and there, seated on the stone on which he formerly sat, having another stone for my table, I enjoyed one of the happy dinners similar to those of which I have already sometimes made mention.
In the afternoon, I went to see the interior of the house, in all its details. I tarried a few moments in the chapel, in which is interred St. John of Damascus.
On quitting it to proceed to the towers, I was struck to find on the terrace a superb palm-tree, whose fresh foliage of a beautiful green formed the most pleasing contrast with the uniformly yellow or greyish tint of this barren desert. I could not tire of looking at it: the traveller who meets with an oasis amidst the burning deserts of Libya does not experience a more soothing or a more delightful impression.
In one of the towers I found a great quantity of small
CONVENT OF ST. SABA.
and very black loaves. The famished Arabs come and knock at the door, and, from a height of eighty feet, the fathers let down to them by a cord this food, which they devour several times with their eyes before it reaches them. Probably the robbers could not get to this place on the day when they plundered the convent. Perhaps, too, the prey appearing to them to be of too little value, they confined themselves to flour and rice. I took with me one of these loaves, which I cannot compare to any thing but to those which are made in Europe for dogs. Two days afterwards, I ate it, and, what is extraordinary, I thought it good : it did me no harm.
On descending, I went to see the Greek pilgrims, with whom I had come, at dinner. There were upwards of a hundred, most of them seamen, from the Archipelago. There were
no women among them: they cannot, upon any pretext whatever, be admitted into the monastery.
The new guests were supplied with lentil soup, onions, fishes' roes, afterwards coffee, an article of prime necessity in the Levant, and lastly, brandy. The prior dined with them, and all ate in silence.
Towards evening, more provisions came from Jerusalem. They seemed to me less necessary than I had at first thought them.
What I saw led me to believe that the good prior had somewhat exaggerated the mischief done by the Arabs, or that they had perhaps not been able to carry away that they would fain have done.
Meanwhile, night had fallen, and the monks were sleeping soundly till the hour for singing the praise of
God should arrive. For my part, stretched on my divan, I should have striven in vain to get a few moments' sleep: all that the day had shown me—that dreary and wild nature; that desolate soil ; those rugged mountains stricken with sterility; those caverns; those yawning rocks; those deserted and silent grottoes; those deep abysses; that stream, rolling along scarcely water sufficient to cover the rocks over which it flows; that monastery; those heads of martyrs, preserved there to attest that the religion of Christ is not afraid of executioners; those monks, maintaining their post and perpetuating themselves under the protection of Heaven, amidst the most inveterate enemies of the cross; the remembrance of so many heroes of penitence, who sacrificed themselves on the same spot, and bequeathed their examples to their successors; that horrible famine among the Arabs; that immense charity of the good fathers all these images, all these thoughts, succeeded one another in my mind, and, if I may be allowed the expression, urged one another forward with such precipitation, that, for a long time, it was not able to tarrya t the feeling which each of them excited.
And when this rapid movement had somewhat slackened, and it was possible for me to meditate, then, thinking of that which of all things on earth is dearest to my heart, “What is become,” said I, “what is become of the house, where, admitted to penitence, I, too, enjoyed happiness, a still purer happiness than that enjoyed in their cells by the good fathers of St. Saba, unfortunately, alas! cut off from unity! Where is that couch which the world deems so hard, and upon which I