In the building of the monastery of Our Lady Virgin Mary – the Life Giving Spring – in Dibeen - Jordan
By Archimandrite Christoforos Atallah
The idea of establishing a monastery began as a dream combined with the love of spiritual monastic life. That was when I used to hear Patriarch Diodoros, the blessings of the Blessed Trinity be upon him, in Jerusalem, telling us about a beautiful forest area in Dibeen. Then, when I came to Jordan in 1989 to study at the University of Jordan and to serve our parishioners in Amman, I went to Dibeen, which is approx 60 km far from Amman and 15 km far from Jerash. There, I saw an abandoned house comprised of 3 rooms and a hall, which was used by the late Patriarch Diodoros when he was a bishop in Jordan. The land is about 2 hectares.
I was impressed by the tranquility and serenity of the place. This reminded me of that blessed tranquility the Holy Fathers of our church speak about. The tranquility that isolates you from the world chaos and vanity plunges deep into your internal world. While having your prayer rope in your hand, praying "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me the sinner." You will realize your nothingness, without God you cannot do anything, (St. John 15:5) and to discover that you are not alone, but with your sweetest Christ and your most sweet Mother, All-holy Virgin & all the Holy Saints and the whole world with you. Hence, to ignite the Divine Eros blaze in your heart to warm your life, this Eros is theology, and theology is a perpetual communication with God.
Once a nun asked the Holy Elder Paisios to tell her something from whatever is in his heart:
He said: "My heart is telling me, to take a knife and cut my heart into pieces, give them to people and then leave this life.
With these words, we comprehend the love of the crucifix Who was crucified and died for our sake out of his love to us. The true monk lives this crucified love through which he preaches as a testimony for the contemporary person. The monk, whose heart is at blaze from the love of Christ, quits the world and follows his beloved Jesus living in the monastery, praying for the salvation of the whole world and melts like a candle. This candle illuminates the path for many people. Therefore, the monastic life confines the hearts of many, mainly the youth who seek for a true example, in a world that destroyed the examples and destructed all true and beautiful things. From this, we realize the importance of the monasteries in the life of both Christians and church; therefore, our Holy Fathers said that the monasteries are the lung of the church and without spiritual life, suffocation and spiritual death occur.
Hence, the idea began to evolve to a different nature, taking a more practical form after I started going to this location (this piece of land) with some families and members of the church youth and spiritual children, either to serve the Holy Divine Liturgy, or praying the Supplication of Our Holy Mother Virgin Mary or the compline with Salutation of Our Holy Mother Virgin Mary. The prayers took place in an open area. I recall, that I used to take them to parts of this piece of land telling them, here we shall build the main church of the monastery, and here the cells for the nuns and the workshops for embroidery, incense, candles …etc. Also there the refectory and guest hall, and there the retreat building to accommodate people those who desire to come for spiritual retreat and learn about the monastic life of our Orthodox Church, and there also will have a clerical school.. All these were dreams and hopes.
Consequently, we have put before our eyes the need to attain the spiritual renaissance of our church whereas the concept of monasticism, monasteries & spiritual life is unfamiliar to our congregation. Given that, it is our ecclesiastical & spiritual duty to nurture the congregation awareness. Here, and truly, I have to emphasize the role of the Orthodox societies and clubs, mainly the role of the Orthodox Educational Society in spreading and establishing the Sunday schools, granting theological scholarships, and providing theological training, which is still running to this date.
Furthermore, not to forget the role of my brothers the fathers, who exerted all efforts within their scope and power, even the simple and the attainable. Mainly in serving the Holy Divine Liturgy, that represents the life of the church and union of the Holy Spirit, in which we take the Holy Body and Holy Blood & unite with Him together with the saints.
In an attempt to nurture the spiritual awareness, we bought spiritual patristic books in Arabic language which were translated by parishes and monasteries of the Orthodox Antioch See to pass on to our parishioners the teaching and biography of the saints & fathers of our church. We brought and distributed more than half a million spiritual books, and we passed the Orthodox icons, Candle lamps, and prayer ropes on to our spiritual children as a blessing to their homes, and to encourage them carry out their spiritual duties from prayers, & participation in the mysteries and life of the church, mainly confession sacrament and the Holy Divine Liturgy.
The Grace of God inspired all to begin working for a spiritual renaissance… the young and the old … youth & elders … men and women … all in accordance with their abilities and capacities & from their positions, that they all started to work like a beehive.
My beloved, believe me this period of my life had a great impact on my soul. The love of the congregation and their humility imprisoned me. I used to see and feel on daily basis their spiritual thirst transforming into yearning (aspire) for knowledge and love of God and to abide by His commandments. As time passes, during my youth till now, I realized and discovered more & more the shortages, carelessness, negligence, and even the spiritual crimes committed against our spiritual children, from us as clergymen, from our spiritual presidency, that is to say the patriarchate who was entrusted by God to pastor their spiritual interests and work for the salvation of their souls.
May your love permit me to recite to you some of the many examples that I will never forget as long as I live, about the acting and teaching love which I lived & still living with the parishioners on daily basis:
- Some of them made available their offices and companies for meetings and workshops, where members of the youth used to meet after their working hours as to execute the working plan, and it happened that they used to stay until 2:00 or 3:00 am, and the next morning they needed to go to their offices. All used to feel and speak of the blessings that existed during the work. Everything was running smoothly, even in difficulties an unseen hand used to accomplish everything. Once I asked a seven-years-old child about his feelings because his father returns home late in the evening. He said: "father I miss papa because he is not always with us and mama works too hard and is tired, but I know he is with you and you work for the Mother of God. Last night I saw Her and She told me that She is very pleased with the work that papa is doing for Her.. That’s what she told me". This is what motivates all to work.
- I will not forget Father Constantine Karmash, this senior priest who invited and encouraged me to present daily sermons / homilies, to raise spiritual awareness, which I used to carry out for many years in the hall of the Annunciation Cathedral in Abdali area. He used to sit for hours beside me listening to the homily, smiling, rejoicing in silence. His heart was filled with joy, when he used to see the hall full with the parishioners... He taught me humility, love for serving & giving homilies and encouraging the youth to work for the church.
- An elderly person also used to come for confession, late Najeeb Aweis (Abu Tawfiq), who was a chanter for decades, and a Sunday school teacher. He taught generations the love of the church, the Orthodox and country. I recall the first time he came for confession and said: "I came as an old person to you to confess, where was my church that I used to serve all my life! Where were its spiritual fathers to confess people. So be careful not to let the new generation pass in ignorance, misery & spiritual negligence, which my generation has passed through. We love the church but there was no one to encourage us and take our hands into salvation and sanctification path. With these words he conveyed to me the worries, soreness, sorrow and affliction of generations of fathers and grandfathers, and at the same time he burdened me with this spiritual responsibility and a humane duty, and a message that I pledge to work towards materializing it, for the sake of our fathers and forefathers who reposed on the hope of resurrection & eternal life, & for those who struggled and worked for a spiritual renaissance in our church. Noting that, the daughter of the deceased Najeeb Eweis is now a nun in the monastery.
These examples indicate the love of our Christians and the blessing of Our Lord God and Our Holy Mother to carry on with the spiritual renaissance and to build the monastery. This idea and dream started to develop, as during the Great Lent of 1999, we started with the structural excavations of the main church of the monastery with the blessing of the thrice blessed reposed Patriarch Diodoros who attended on 15/4/1999 the feast day of the "Life Giving Spring" to place the cornerstone of the church after the Divine Liturgy, that was presided by the Thrice-Reposed Bishop Silvestros with the presence of the blessed Thrice-Reposed Bishop Constantine the Patriarchal representative in Amman, and several clergymen and children of the congregation. This was the first step taken towards our conviction of the importance of monasticism for keeping the straight faith and nourishing the Christianity spiritual life, and armoring them spiritually in order to confront the heresies & heterodox or agnostic trends, or thoughts invading our contemporary society, to affirm Christian existence in the region, that witnessed the spread of the annunciation to the whole world. From this holy land, monasteries, monastic life, and its organization began and spread all over the world, and now, unfortunately, the children of the Holy Church of Jerusalem, mother of all churches lack monasteries since more than five centuries.
Then, the dawn shed lights on the dream after the completion of building the main church and its yards, and furnishing it completely (still the work is carrying on with the interior wall iconography). In addition, to the construction of the temporary cells for the nuns and renovation of the abundant building and taking care of the garden.
On 10/5/2002 the feast day of the "Life Giving Spring" and with the blessing of His Beatitude & Holiness Patriarch Irenios, the inauguration took place, and His Beatitude Metropolitan Venediktos robed three nuns, with that announcing the beginning of the monastic life under my supervision as a founder and spiritual father of the monastery.
Also on 24/7/2002 we started working on the second stage comprising the nuns’ main building. The cornerstone for this stage was placed on 18/10/2002. The building consists of two floors and a basement. It can accommodate 24 nuns, in addition to the workshops for handicraft work (candles, incense, embroidery, and iconography) and a furnace plus a big hall for spiritual sermons and future theological conferences.
We built a shrine dedicated for the great martyr St. Christoforos (Christ holder) for serving the daily services and the baptism sacrament of our beloved children and babies. Moreover, during the year 2010 we have reconstructed the old building from inside and outside, and built a second floor consisting of 7 rooms and a hall with all its facilities to be used as a guest house for those who wish to experience the monastic life and having a retreat.
With God's Grace we have finished the third stage of the monastery buildings which consist of 3700 square meter area of buildings, excluding the reservoirs with a volume of 450 cubic meters and the surrounding wall around the monastery.
Here, I would like to mention two incidents out of many that encouraged us to continue with the work despite all assailing internal and external hinders & obstacles, however we were counseled and sustained by Gods blessing & the intercession of Our Holy Mother and the Hermits and Hermitess of our church:
- Once a small child came to the monastery holding his piggy bank and told me "father I know you are building a house for Virgin Mary, and this is all I have summoned during the year."
- During the construction period, debts accumulated and once we have issued a cheque without balance for the amount of JOD 11,900 (Eleven thousand and nine hundred Jordan Dinars) due on 30/8 of that year. I was preoccupied with this matter because of its legal repercussion. On 28/8 on the day of the Dormition of the Mother of God and after we have finished the Divine Liturgy, a person whom I don’t know and never met before came to me and said, "this cheque is a donation for the monastery", I gave it to the nun in charge without reading the amount. The nun came back and said to me: "Father look what a present Virgin Mary has sent us on her feast day". I looked and the amount was JOD 11,900 (Eleven thousand and nine hundred Jordan Dinars). I thanked my Holy Mother and told the sister to contact the person and ask him why the amount JOD 11,900 and not 11,000 or 12,000 and he told her "God has sent me an amount of money, which I was not expecting and this is 10% of the amount God granted me".
The monastery does not exist by its buildings, but by my spiritual daughters, the nuns, who have deserted the world for the love of Jesus, the bridegroom, and sacrificed their souls for the monastic life. The monastery exist on the daily services and prayers which are held for the sake of all the world, the sick, those afflicted, those who are in sorrow or misery, young and old, students, and for the sake of the reposed souls on the hope of resurrection and eternal life.
Now, we ask your prayers for the monastery, for who is in charge, and the sisterhood, so God may preserve them, and to always enlighten them with the Divine Light to continue with their vocation and monastic life, and allowing this monastery, the first in Jordan to become a beacon that shines with its spirituality on all Christians, and overcome all obstacles & hindrances standing before presuming its message. To this date, the Holy Synod has not endorsed the internal rules & regulations of the monastery, and the monastery not yet recognized by His Beatitude & Holiness the Patriarch.
Remember us in your prayers.