Today we took a side trip with some friends, Frank and Marilyn, to Florence, Arizona.
Florence is the seat of Pinal County, home of Sheriff Paul Babeu (you may have read or heard about him - he is a tough sheriff in the mold of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County - except he is an ex-Marine and also is gay). Also, McFarland State Historic Park is located in downtown Florence. Ernest McFarland is known as the "Father of the G.I. Bill." He was a staunch supporter of WWII vets returning home and needing assistance to get back into civilian life. He authored the business and home loan sections of the bill as a US Senator.
Florence is also the home of St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery. In the summer of 1995, six monks came to the southern Arizona desert to establish the monastery. Since setting up the main church - living quarters and a dining hall - the monastery expanded with more chapels, a vegetable garden, a vinyard, a citrus orchard and an olive grove. Soon a system of gardens, gazebos, paths and fountains were built, offering a true oasis in the Sonoran desert. The monastery is name after St. Anthony the Great, "the father of monasticism." In addition to the main church, there are seven other chapels dedicated to other saints.
Male visitors are required to wear long sleeveshirts and long pants. Female visitors must wear long sleeve (no form-fitting clothing), a long skirt and a scarf to cover their hair. Paula and our friend, Marilyn looked like little old grannies in their "clothing" that was provided by a worker at the monastery.
When looking at the pictures, look closely at the Fountain of the Cross. Notice that the stone cross has three bars. This is the traditional Orthodox cross, also called the Russian Cross. The top small bar is the sign that placed upon the cross with the inscription "Jesus the Naarene, King of the Jews." The second bar represents where Christ's hands were nailed to the cross. The bottom bar is the footrest; it is slanted because the thief on the right of Christ was saved and went up to Heaven and the other theif to the left of Christ went down to Hell. Thus, the right end of the bar points up and the left end points down.