Visit to Holy Virgin Mary Monastery School and Cherubim Monastery; Farewell Gathering - 11/16/10

Saydnaya, Syria

Our last full day in the Middle East was spent visiting some sites that we had missed, even though they were within the grounds of Saydnaya’s monastery complex. We toured the school associated with the Holy Theotokos Monastery, complete with brand-new amenities for the hundreds of students it serves. The delegation also revisited Cherubim Monastery so we could see it better in the daytime. It overlooks the vast Syrian Desert and the nearby towns. Though they look dry and desolate, we could not help but feel a sense of inner peace and a union with God, just as the Desert Fathers and Mothers themselves had experienced throughout the centuries. Now we know why they retreated from the world. Several in the group remarked that Cherubim Monastery was where they felt the calmest during the entire trip.

That night, we had our farewell dinner at St. Christophorus with Samer Laham and our tour guide in Syria, Abdullah Hadjar. Both were extremely knowledgeable and, without them, this pilgrimage would not have happened. The delegation reflected on it experiences over the past two weeks with gratitude and astonishment for all that we had seen and done. These men, including our guides in Lebanon, filled our brains with so much information that it was difficult for us to remember it all; hence, the reason for these articles, which recorded just a glimpse of what they shared. No amount of money would be enough to make up for what they gave us. The one thing we will not forget about them is their overflowing of love; they took us to the holy places in our spiritual and ancestral homeland not only so we can reconnect with the holy men and women—not to mention our Savior—who had once lived and walked there, but because they loved us as their own brothers and sisters. On our last night, we presented Samer and Abdullah with small tokens of our appreciation for all that they had done for us. Even then, their hospitality continued, as they gave us gifts to take home on top of all that they had shared with us (in addition to all the souvenirs we had packed).