St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1739 NW Couch Street
One Hour Prior to Cappella Romana’s concerts of Medieval Byzantine Chant Mt. Sinai: Frontier of Byzantium in Portland and Seattle
Film to be followed by Question Time with Sister Joanna
Sr. Joanna is an Orthodox nun from the ancient Red Sea hermitage of Hammam Mousa (Springs of Moses), where the Hebrew people camped during the Exodus following the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.
She will give a free presentation one hour prior to the concerts by Cappella Romana of Mt Sinai Frontier of Byzantium in Portland (Sat., Nov. 19, film & talk at 7pm, concert at 8pm) and Seattle (Sun., Nov. 20, film & talk at 3pm, concert at 4pm). Film and talk sponsored in part by the Middle East Studies Center at Portland State University.
Sister Joanna will begin with a video presentation called “Simplicity of Soul.” The film contemplates the mystery of simplicity of soul, which captivated the ascetic saints of the Sinai desert as requisite to the ultimate Christian goal of union with God.
Stepping “off the grid” into a forbidding environment of granite mountains which offered neither protection from the elements nor basic dietary sustenance, these early monastics discounted extreme privation in order to experience divine revelation, which they recorded in famous works such as The Ladder of Divine Ascent, by St. John Climacus of Sinai, universally considered the most important spiritual manual in the history of the Christian tradition, secondary only to the Bible.
Video and audio from the present day Monastery environs and worship services, images of the Burning Bush, ancient Monastery spiritual treasures, and the view from the Holy Summit of Sinai where Moses received the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), would seem to indicate that modern life in Sinai has changed little since the massive present day fortress was raised by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century.
About Sister Joanna
Sr. Joanna was born in New York City. Her maternal grandparents immigrated to San Francisco from the villages of Koroni and Kandila in the Greek Peloponnisos in the early 20th century. Having trained in classical music performance at UC Santa Cruz and enjoyed some years in the San Francisco music scene, she followed her forbears’ footsteps back to Greece in pursuit of “the art of arts, and the science of sciences” – the monastic life.
She has been associated with St. Catherine’s Monastery since 1990 through its dependent monasteries in Greece and Sinai. She is temporarily serving “on assignment” in California, and regularly contributes journalistic articles on the spiritual tradition of the Sinai to the Hellenic Voice newspaper published in Boston.
Viewing this ancient body of Christian wisdom through the lens of modern society, the articles are largely composed of interviews with the famed Sinai ascetic elder, Priestmonk Pavlos, and are also slated for publication in book form by St. Katherine Press.
About the Middle East Studies Center
The Middle East Studies Center at Portland State University promotes understanding of the people, cultures, languages and religions of the Middle East. As a National Resource Center for Middle East Studies under the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program, the Center serves as a resource on issues pertaining to the Middle East through activities that reach students and scholars, as well as businesses, educators, and the media. The Middle East Studies Center supports academic conferences, workshops, cultural events, lectures, and a resource library.