You can look out from the terrace of the monastery and see where ISIS’ advance was stopped in 2014. Destroying this place would have been the first task on their “to-do” list.
High above the Iraqi town of Alqosh, Rabban Hormizd monastery has been a site of Christian worship for almost 1400 years. Founded in the seventh century, it has fallen into disrepair in recent years, and Mass is no longer said in the new church constructed in the 1960s. Times are unstable, there are many other churches in the village; no-one is going to climb the mountain.
The monks no longer live here either. They relocated to a new monastery closer to town (and in a supposedly more defensible position) more than a century ago. If you count the caves carved into the rock you can see that at one time there were more than 600 of them, each one carved by a different monk seeking his personal place of solitude.
It must have taken great faith to climb this mountain and say: “Here I will stay.” It is isolated now; I can only imagine how much more remote it would have been in 632.
Hormizd chose this remote location because he felt the solitude would help him become closer to God. He had a small cave up on the mountainside where he spent a lot of time in prayer. In his monk’s cell, an eight foot square room also carved into the mountain, he would hang suspended by chains, for hours at a time. I gather the idea was to kind of beat the body into submission.
I’m not too sure that is sound theology, but I can appreciate the sentiment behind it. Hormizd was making a statement that still hold true today, especially in this Muslim land: being a Christian requires faith and discipline.
Not many people have faith such as that today. I suspect the Church (and society) is poorer for it.