Fire, Wind, and Water

Bless the Lord, O my soul....
You ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers....
You make springs gush forth in the valleys....
From your lofty abode you water the mountains....
When you send forth your spirit...you renew
the face of the ground....
—Psalm 104

The desert night is silent as we climb aboard our camels and begin the steep ascent of Mt. Sinai. We leave from just outside the thick walls of ancient St. Catherine's Monastery, home to the world's most complete collections of early Christian manuscripts and icons, and an imposing reminder that monasticism was born here in the Egyptian desert.

A half-moon shines high in the sky like a gem before us, and behind us the Big Dipper scoops into a mountain silhouette. The peaceful quiet is broken only by the gentle humming of my guide and the occasional bellow of a camel protesting its handler's prodding to hurry along.

The last third of the climb is on foot. Guided by moonlight, we alternately scramble and plod up seemingly endless rock steps, stopping often to catch our breath and take in the view of the rugged Sinai wilderness spread out under the stars. At the summit we settle into a cleft in an eastern rock face. Buffetted by a strong wind, we wait. And wait. And then a blaze of red appears above the mountains as the sun greets the day.

This mountain on which we sit is about fire and wind. It is here that Moses encountered the burning bush and received his call to lead his people to freedom. It is to this mountain that God descended in fire and smoke to give Moses the Ten Commandments. And in this same place Elijah, hiding in a cave, confronted wind, fire, and the "still small voice" of God.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1997
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