Last year this time I was preparing to fly to Ethiopia in order to visit ancient Christian churches and monasteries and come to a deeper appreciation of Ethiopian Christian art. One dream was to visit the monastery of Debra Damo. This video gives you an insight into the challenge I faced to scale the side of the cliff in order to gain access to the monastery. I am happy I did it a year ago because I’m not sure if I could do it again.
My journey to the monastery Debre Damo was a dream come true. It was like approaching an island in the heavens.
The monastery sits atop a sheer-sided flat top mountain. Abuna Aregawi was one of the Nine Saints who established Debre Damo. Ethiopic hagiography relates that a snake lowered his tail down a 15-meter cliff and he climbed up. Today a rope is lowered and you begin an ascent.
The Rope: As I approached and saw folks struggling I had second thoughts. Then I thought “I have come this far and it is the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel in Ethiopia today so I will do this.”
The first third of the climb was frightening because I could not get my balance but once I did that it was fine; however the last pull up was hard. Everyone was cheering and applauded when I made it. It is all young people. The monk said you are among the few of the older folks that tried and fewer that made it. One boy said “you are older than my grandfather and he could not do what you did.”
My love for Ethiopia began over 40 years ago in my first Church History course in Rome. We are so deprived of the riches of our exceptional Christian culture! These early monks went to such extremes in asceticism in a place that was barren but then was filled with beauty. Early Christianity is a mystery that is thick in meaning whereas today Christianity in most people’s minds is very thin and flat but in reality is so rich; however that richness is hidden from their eyes. My blog this year is to share my love and fascination with an aspect of Christianity that has captured my heart and leads me to a deeper love for Jesus. As for me because my mind lives in this ancient world, the modern world for me is very flat and thin whereas the Christian world is so thick with meaning.