Thursday, June 26, 2014

Holy Land: Legends of El Khudr

The Elijah article in Wikipedia contains abundant information about Jewish, Christian and Islamic legends of Elijah, who is often associated with El Khudr. There is also an article about the Cave of Elijah.

In addition, you might want to look at the Wikipedia article about the dybbuks of Jewish folklore, whom you will also read about here: Dybbuk.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Holy Land Folklore unit. Story source: Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish by J. E. Hanauer (1907).

Legends of El Khudr

The following legend concerning this convent was related by a native of the neighbouring village of Beyt Jala:

"A very long time ago, in the days of the ancestors of our great-grandfathers, the Greek priest was administering the Holy Communion in the church of El Khudr. Now, as you know, the Greeks crumble the consecrated bread into the cup of wine and administer both the elements at the same time by means of a spoon. Whether the celebrant was drunk or not I cannot tell, but this much is certain: that whilst about to put the spoon into the mouth of a communicant kneeling in front of him, he somehow or other he spilled its sacred contents. They fell on to his foot, made a hole right through it, and a mark on the flagstone beneath. The wound which the body and blood of the Saviour made in the foot of the priest never healed, but was the cause of his death.

"Some time afterwards, however, a man afflicted with a grievous disease visited this same church of Mar Jiryis and, without being aware of the fact, knelt down on the flagstone which had received a mark from the falling upon it of the consecrated bread and wine and prayed for recovery. To his great joy, and to the surprise of all present, he was healed on the spot.

"The fame of his cure brought many others who were stricken with incurable maladies to El Khudr and, as soon as they knelt on the sacred stone, they were cured, to the glory of God and of Mar Jiryis, so that the reputation of the church became widely spread and even reached the ears of the Sultan of the Muscovites, who, jealous that so holy a stone should be kept in such an out of the way village, coveted it for the benefit of himself and his people.

"He sent a man-of-war to Jaffa, bearing a letter to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, saying that the slab should be taken up at once and transported to Jaffa. As the Sultan of the Muscovites was a good friend, benefactor, and protector of the Church, the Patriarch did not hesitate to obey his order, and had the stone conveyed to Jaffa. It was placed in a boat belonging to the war-ship in order to be taken on board, but all the efforts of the rowers to reach the vessel were vain, for Mar Jiryis himself appeared and repeatedly pushed the boat back to the shore with his lance. This happened so often that the Muscovites were obliged to desist from their purpose, and when it was reported to the Patriarch, he realised his error, and had the stone brought back and reverently deposited in the church at El Khudr, where it is shown to this day."

On the northern slope of Mt. Carmel there is another celebrated centre of El Khudr worship. It is frequently visited by Jewish, Christian, Moslem, and Druze pilgrims who are in search of bodily or mental healing. Some very remarkable cures are said to have been performed at this place. The following example was told me by the late Dr Chaplin, who was for many years head of the L.J.S. Medical Mission at Jerusalem.

One day there was brought to him a young Jewess, suffering from a nervous complaint which he considered curable, but only by long treatment. The girl's relations at first agreed to leave her at the hospital, but afterwards took her away in spite of his remonstrances. They said that they were sure that she was not really ill, but only under the influence of a "dibbuk" or parasitical demon, and they intended to treat her accordingly.

Some months later the doctor happened to meet the girl in the street and found to his surprise that she was well again. Asking how the cure, which seemed to him astounding, had been effected, he was told that her friends had sent her to Mt. Carmel and locked her up one night in Elijah's cave. Shut up alone, she said, she fell asleep, but was roused at midnight by a light that shone on her. Then she saw an old man all in white who came slowly towards her, saying, "Fear not, my daughter." He laid his hand gently on her head, and disappeared. When she woke next morning she was perfectly well.




(800 words)




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