So, I am on a “business trip” to meet with US Coptic Orthodox bishops and gather the data on their parishes. Naturally, a perfect place to meet is St. Antony Coptic Orthodox monastery.
It was established in 1972, on a small piece of land in the Mojave desert in Newbery Springs, CA. And it was the first Coptic monastery outside of Egypt. What started as a very small monastic community has become an impressive spiritual center and architectural complex with 25 monks in residence. I arrived when it was dark already (it takes about 2.5 hours of driving from Los Angeles in addition to six hours from Berkeley to LA). So, more pictures and stories tomorrow. However, on the way from Los Angeles , I was rewarded with truly beautiful sunset in California’s desert.
A Peaceful Day of Praying
I stayed the entire day at St. Antony Coptic monastery. And it was a looooong day which began with 4 am “midnight worship,” followed by 5.30 am liturgy, followed by a fun conversation at breakfast with a group of Coptic parishioners and their priest from Phoenix, AZ and, then, most of the day in conversations with Deacon Paul, one of the most senior brothers residing at the monastery. It has been quite a while ago that I felt entirely at peace with myself, all people around me (although they talked mostly in Arabic), and the surrounding nature which was – again – surprise, because of the rather barren landscapes. As far as worship services, it was both very familiar and, yet, a lot of small differences. Taking off shoes and leaving them before entrance to church, clergy changing their black robes into white clothes while celebrating liturgy, the “handshake of peace” similar to Catholics, the “naive” style of iconography, the images and stories of ancient saints mostly unfamiliar to me. But I felt fully included and welcomed (being the only non-Coptic person there)
Last Day at St. Anthony Monastery
Today, I finally had a chance to walk around entire monastery’s territory and explore by myself. By the way, it was quite a long walk: the monastery’s property is about 700 acres. And…here was a surprise. I saw from the distance a nicely looking church building (the monastery has three churches)…
As I approached it, a beautiful and very sizeable “lake” appeared. Naturally, it was a man-made lake, but what a pleasure to see something like this in desert
I liked St. Antony and its brotherhood and will definitely be back. In the meantime, I was given two presents – two nice “memories” to take with me: the icon of St. Antony and the rosary. Big THANKS goes to all monks and novices who made me feel home at St. Antony.