Project Canterbury

 Mother Eva Mary, C.T.
The Story of a Foundation

By Mrs. Harlan Cleveland

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1929.

Chapter V. Goings and Comings

INSTEAD OF ENTERING St. Mary's in 1895, Eva went with her brother on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This year of pilgrimage has been graphically described by herself in "A Little Pilgrimage to Holy Places." The sister and brother had been warned from Washington not to attempt to enter Palestine that winter, there being a disagreement between our government and the Porte, and as it happened there were only six Americans at Jerusalem while they were there. Perhaps her spiritual experience can be best summed up in three of her own sonnets:


Up from the great and weary wilderness
Where Famine, Drouth, and Fiery Serpents dwell,
With pillared cloud and fire for sentinel,
We have been led until our feet now press
The borders of the land we shall possess;
Yet we are straitened for a miracle;
Before lies Jordan, with his moan and swell,
Behind, the desert, vast and pitiless.
O mighty river rolling to the sea,
O Death! dark are thy waves and tossed with storms.
When we have passed beyond thy fear and thee,
Shall we not waken from our vain alarms
To find the darkness of thy mystery,
The Shadow of the Everlasting Arms?


O Ancient City, thou hast thrown thy spell
Upon the world's large heart, silent and deep;
Tho' not of Israel, we yet must weep
Thy captive state among the infidel.
From Isaac's tents, where thou wast wont to dwell
In pleasant peace with sacred laws to keep,
God's chosen, set upon the mountain steep,
Thou art become the slave of Ishmael.
Alas! how art thou fallen, City of Peace!
The Hand of God, how terrible in woe!
In vain crusading hosts sought thy release;
E'en now the nations fear to strike the blow;
God hath reserved thee till His wrath shall cease;
'Tis His to exalt thee as He laid thee low.


Salem! Thy name doth mock thy captive state!
What peace unto the slave who humbly bows
Unto her master her unveiled brows,
And on his haughty will must learn to wait.
Alas! Thy Prince of Peace without the gate
Thou cast in scorn to thy eternal loss;
Too proud to bear the stigma of the Cross,
The Crescent brands thee, burning deep in hate.
City that David loved, that the wise King
O'erlaid with gold, where prophets spilt their blood,
A higher claim to honor canst thou bring,
A holier life was poured upon thy sod.
O Consecrate! In deepest suffering
Thy Crown thou boldest still the Blood of God,

From Jericho she wrote:

Feb. 27, 1896.

My dear Sister:

You have probably learned from my letter written from Cairo, just before starting, that we made a sudden change in our plans almost at the last minute and came to Jerusalem after all.

We embarked from Port Said for Beirut on Thursday, reaching our destination Friday at noon. There we stayed in quarantine for two days. It was really not at all bad as we did not have to leave our vessel, only we were awfully crowded, I being in a cabin with three other ladies, and Paul fared no better in his quarters. After the quarantine was over we had a few hours in Beirut, which we spent driving about the town, visiting the American College, etc., and Sunday night we came down to Jaffa which we reached Monday morning.

At Jaffa there is no port and the launching is made in open boats, so no sooner had we dropped anchor than the ship was surrounded by a small fleet of little boats filled with screaming, gesticulating Arabs. We were handed down the ladder from hand to hand, something like buckets of water at a fire, and after I had fairly taken my seat a huge brown hand came down on my shoulders and moved me over a foot or two, just as if I had been a pawn on a chess board. Jaffa was wonderfully Oriental and picturesque, with its crowded market place, its trains of camels coming and going, and the Bedouins and Arabs in broad striped coats of white and brown and picturesque headgear, while everywhere were huge oranges, almost as big as my head, very sweet and luscious and almost seedless.

We spent the morning going about Jaffa with our dragoman, who has a most unpleasant way of taking for granted that we know nothing about the Bible. We had to tell him finally that we knew the stories, all that he had to do was to show us the places. We saw the house of Simon the Tanner and went up on the housetop where St. Peter had his vision. It was very ancient and might have been the place, at any rate it was no doubt just such a house where he lodged. In the afternoon we took a train for Jerusalem, where we arrived about five o'clock.

Tuesday morning we took a walk about the walls of Jerusalem, seeing the supposed site of the house of Caiaphas, now a Greek church; the hill of Zion, Mount Moriah, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Mount of Olives, and the Garden of Gethemane. The Gate Beautiful was walled up, but the old archway was still there, and it is pointed out as the gate through which our Lord rode as He entered Jerusalem on that triumphal Palm Sunday. It was the only gate that was at once an entrance into the city and the Temple enclosure, which explained to me how it was that the children were crying Hosanna in the Temple Court while He was riding through the Gate.

In the afternoon we drove to Bethlehem, about six miles from Jerusalem. The ancient church built by Saint Helena over the grotto of the Nativity is still standing, with its ancient Byzantine pillars, though it has been added to and subdivided by partition walls to accommodate the Latins, the Armenians, and the Orthodox worshippers, and at every point we saw a Turkish soldier stationed, to keep the peace, they say. The Grotto is a small natural cave whose rough walls and ceiling are covered, but not entirely concealed, by rich hangings, and it is lighted by numerous hanging lamps of silver and gold, richly wrought and shaped something like censers. I really looked for the smoke of incense to rise from them. It would seem natural in so holy a place. The spot of our Lord's birth was marked by a large silver star, and we knelt in prayer before it, Paul repeating the Collects for Christmas and Transfiguration. I hardly wanted to go anywhere after that, but we went to Saint Jerome's Grotto, where he lived so long with his lion, and where he made the Vulgate version of the Bible, and where he was finally buried with Saint Paula, who under his instruction founded the first convents for women in the Western Church. But their bones have long since been transferred to Rome and perhaps distributed in various reliquaries. Why can they not let the dead rest in peace?

Paul and I had no taste for shopping after what we had seen, so we left the rest of the party to be enticed into the shops while we walked soberly back through the village that ranks only second to Jerusalem itself in sacredness. Such are the wonderful ways of God, who chooses the weakest vessels for His mightiest blessings.

Yesterday we made an early start and rode from Jerusalem over the mountains here to Jericho in view of the Dead Sea and of Jordan. It was a long ride of about twenty-four miles, including detours, and as the horses were decidedly poor, a hard one. Two of our party were thrown, but fortunately there was no serious hurt; but we had reason more than once to be seriously angry with our dragoman who kept all the best mounts for himself and the servants.

In another letter she wrote:

Jerusalem, Feb. 29, 1896. My dearest G--:

I was obliged to break off my letter to M--without telling her anything of our Jordan trip, so I shall begin there with you.

It was a long ride over the mountains of Judea all dressed in their spring green and with the richest carpet of wild flowers that I have ever seen anywhere. We rode over to the ruins of old Jericho and almost to the foot of the Mount of Temptation, the exceedingly high mountain which is pointed out as the one to which the devil took our Lord to show Him all the kingdoms of the earth, for this wilderness was the scene of our Lord's temptation and fasting.

The next day we were all rather stiff and sore from our long ride, but we mounted our horses again and rode to the Dead Sea. I was very much surprised at its beauty, surrounded by purple hills with a stretch of desert on one side, not like the Egyptian desert but a clayey plain with a growth of low sage bushes and salt crystals here and there in patches, looking like a light powdering of snow. The shore of the Sea was a pebbly beach like many another that I have seen, and the water clear and looking no heavier than the Atlantic, though I suppose it was. Paul took a swim in it and said it was most delightful, very stimulating and refreshing.

We then rode to the Jordan where we ate our lunch. It is a muddy stream with a very swift current, the soft clayey banks being overgrown with willow and poplar slips, looking for all the world like the Miami river. I wandered off by myself after lunch and twenty years seemed to drop out of sight and I was a girl of fourteen again on a soft mild day of late February. Certainly I have seen exactly such days and exactly such scenes and just at this season at home, and yet this is where Saint John the Baptist preached and baptized the multitudes that came to him, the very waters that Christ Himself entered and forever sanctified for the great Christian sacrament. Multitudes of Russian pilgrims come here every year and bathe in the waters of the river. They wear a white linen robe which is carefully preserved for their shroud. At Christmas and Epiphany there are great crowds, four and five thousand who enter the water at once. We passed companies of them every little while during the day, some of them singing most sweetly. There are hospices erected for them at different points through the valley. I entered one towards evening where there were three hundred and fifty lodging for the night. A large number were out in the open court where they had built a campfire and were eating their simple supper. Inside, the floor of the large hall was covered with them, some eating, some already lying down to sleep with only a little straw matting for mattress and pillow. There were also rooms with four or five beds apiece. No fixed charge is made at the hospices but pilgrims give what they are able, and I am told that rich Russians make this pilgrimage in the same coarse dress and with the same hard fare as the poor.

On our return to Jerusalem yesterday, Paul and I started an hour ahead of the party to make a detour to visit St. George's Convent, built in front of the cave where Elijah lived during the drouth and was fed by the ravens. We were accompanied by the Bedouin guard, a fine looking young fellow, splendidly mounted, and evidently very proud both of his family and his house. The dragoman and other servants followed the rest of the party on the more beaten road. It was a lovely fresh morning, and the gorge into which we descended, leading our horses, was very wild and beautiful and full of flowers, while beneath the brook Cherith foamed and cut its way ever deeper through the rocks. The monastery seemed to be clinging to the side of the cliff and one of the monks took us into the cavern where Elijah was said to have lived. In all probability his great successor, John the Baptist, lived here too. The monk who took us about had a tray of sweetmeats, strong waters, and glasses of the brook water brought to us. Our guard would not touch anything because it is the fast of Ramadan when the Mohammedans neither eat nor drink from sunrise to sunset, but we took a little of the preserve. It was very good, but I could not tell exactly what it was, and drank full glasses of the Cherith water. In the court there was a mediaeval scene, a company of pilgrims sitting about on benches and on the floor eating their breakfast, but we had to leave it to join our party, whom we found soon after on the high road, all very cross because they had not gone with us, though Colonel Gould, the head of the party, had refused to do so when I asked him for the whole party the evening before.

We have been rather amused at the way one or two can make a thing seem valuable to other people. If we eat sardines and hard boiled eggs for lunch because it is Lent, all the others leave the meat untouched and devote themselves to sardines and eggs. If we ride on horses all the twenty miles back, the others who had a carriage meet them at the halfway house are quite envious, though they were all stiff and sore with the riding they had done. One thing in the ride back that pleased Paul very much was our Bedouin's saying that I was a very good rider.

We have had a very hard day today. This morning we spent in the Temple precincts visiting the Mosques of Omar and El Akbar. The former is a beautiful octagonal building covered on the outside with blue tiles and surmounted by a high dome. It contains the holy rock on which Abraham made his memorable sacrifice, and which was in later days used as the foundation on which was placed the altar of sacrifice in front of the Temple. Mahomet is supposed to have taken his last flight to heaven from this rock and to have sent down the Angel Gabriel to keep it from following him.

The Mosque of Akbar is supposed to be on the site of the Jewish Temple. It was a Christian church built by Justinian, and now once a year eighteen monks of the Greek Church hold a service in it. Underneath this mosque is the Mahometan paradise and it is therefore most sacred to all Moslems. In both these mosques there are numerous fragments of the old temple of Solomon's building, and the great foundation stones that he laid are still visible at the Jews' wailing place, but not one stone of the Herodian temple has been found.

This afternoon we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is most gorgeous, with lamps of silver and gold, and candles shining like stars, a lavishness of color and beauty that I must confess far exceeded my expectations. The grotto was destroyed in the very early days of the Romans when they rebuilt Jerusalem after its destruction, but the place where our Lord was laid is covered with a white marble tomb and the whole enclosed in a very rich shrine. It was very solemn and wonderful to think that His body once touched that spot and here was enacted the great scene of the Resurrection. But I could have only a minute there for prayer as there were pilgrims waiting to enter.

Calvary is covered by the original church built by Saint Helena. There has been much incredulity about the tradition regarding these places because the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is within the city walls, but a remarkable discovery has been made during the last five years strongly confirming the traditions. In making the excavations for the foundation of a new church, a fragment of the old city wall and the gate through which our Lord must have passed was found, throwing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre without the old walls of the city, not more than a stone's throw indeed, but when one considers the haste they were in lest the Sabbath should be desecrated (!) it was most natural that they should have taken the first convenient spot they came to. We walked down the Via Dolorosa till we came to Pilate's house, which is now a school and orphanage kept by the Sisters of Zion, a French Roman Catholic sisterhood. There we saw some of the old Roman pavement on which our Lord must have stood, over which He must have passed in beginning that long, painful ascent to Calvary. Now I cannot write any longer tonight for I am very tired.

I have written this letter at odd times through the day, a scrap here and a page or two there, while waiting for lunch or dinner, or for the party to gather. I feel that I have not half time enough here to see what I want to see and as I want to see it. The feeling, too, that the other members of the party regard my veneration for the sacred places as savoring of superstition is rather chilling to the devotional susceptibilities that are always so delicate, and I have longed to go alone when no critical eyes will be watching. I hope they will all go to Hebron on Monday, but though that is their plan, I don't believe they will go simply because we are not going. We leave on Tuesday for Jaffa, where we shall embark for our long journey westward, and we expect to be at home before Maundy Thursday, very soon now.

She lived to see Jerusalem under a Christian mandate and to revisit it in her age. After again visiting the Holy Places, Bethlehem, the Jordan Valley, the Mount of Olives, in 1926, she wrote, "Indeed I feel like a small Gulliver reading a very large Brobdig-nagian folio Bible and having to run at full speed to keep up with the text as it spreads out on the open page before me."

On this second visit she had a realistic experience of the returning of the Jews to their own land. She wrote from the little steamship Britannia of the Fabre Line:

Our delightful little yachting trip has now been turned into a regular caravansery--a veritable pilgrimage in fact. Jews everywhere, in our seats on deck, in our limited sitting room, in the passage ways; the only safe refuge is our own cabins, and I have retired to mine to write this letter. There are 628 Jews on board, just third and fourth class, the latter being given double decker beds in the holds, and down there humanity fairly swarms like insects. I don't mind the poor ones as much as I do the rich ones. At least they have not taken possession of our deck chairs! Sister Beatrice gave Father Abraham (a traveller's way of nicknaming a Jewish fellow passenger) some little cakes of chocolate to distribute among the children and he came back from the steerage, his eyes dancing. "They mob me," he said, "they all want it. One big man he stoop down and say, 'I little child onct." She will send down some of her little toys tomorrow by the same messenger. She does not want to be mobbed herself by people she cannot understand. These Jews come from Poland and are going to live in Palestine--whole families. They had to pay fifty dollars for each passport permitting them to leave Poland. Many of them are fair haired and blue eyed--and it is an impossibility to keep clean, packed as they are.

But the ones traveling first class, who are underfoot all the time, are the really bothersome ones. They have their own special meals--served kosher. We asked Father Abraham, who eats when we do, though at a table to himself, if he would not now go to the other table, but he made a gesture of disgust. "No, no," he said, "I eat kosher where I am." And indeed he does. He eats potatoes baked in their skins, eggs boiled in their shells, fruits in their skins like oranges, apples, etc., and canned stuff from the can! Nothing, you see, has been handled, but of course the sardines and salmon were handled in canning. Perhaps he thinks it is all done by machinery.

It was interesting and pathetic to see them coming on board yesterday--waiting patiently in the bitter cold, part of the time in snow and sleet, while one by one or family by family passports were examined and they were bundled on board. They had come a day too soon--we probably were a day late, we are behind in our schedule--so cargo had to be taken off before room could be made for them all, and that evening there was a crowd in the companion way of tired women and wailing children and it was nine o'clock before all were settled for the night. We are due to be off now any minute--so Goodbye, dear.

From that first pilgrimage in 1895-6, the brother and sister returned in time for Easter, 1896, which they spent with the family at Oakencroft; and arrangements having been made with Bishop Vincent, Paul started his work at St. Luke's Church, Cincinnati. During the pilgrimage Eva had been working out her plans, preparing a rule of life, and even studying the dress of the Bethlehem women as a model for the habit, which proved so simple, beautiful, and serviceable. On her return she showed her sister how easily the veil went on and tried on blue materials for the habit; dress is never a matter of indifference to women.

The Jerusalem Cross, worn by the Conquering Crusader, Geoffrey de Bouillon, took her fancy, and she chose it as the emblem of her Sisterhood, which she conceived of as American with roots in Jerusalem rather than in Rome. [One who knew and loved Mother Eva understandingly suggests that she never did anything without a reason and that the Jerusalem Cross symbolized to her the Life of Transfiguration. After the Transfiguration our Lord "set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem!"] It was her valiant Americanism which finally won Bishop Vincent's cooperation. She wanted to give to the community the name of St. Mary and St. Martha of Bethany, as descriptive of her ideal of work and prayer, but her Bishop told her there was already a Sisterhood of Bethany in the Church. "Have you no favorite collect?" he asked, by way of suggestion. So she told him of her love for the Transfiguration. "The very thing!" he said. "An American collect for an American community." And the lovely name of Transfiguration was agreed upon.

The Bishop had hesitated long about accepting Eva's offer to work in his diocese as a Religious and under life vows. He had endeavored to persuade her to become a deaconess, as that office appealed to him as scriptural. Their conversations were long and friendly and he finally agreed to allow her to work out her plans for the Religious life under him if she on her part would recognize his authority by obedience to him as her diocesan. To this she readily agreed, and after renting a house conveniently near to St. Luke's Church, in order still to cooperate with her brother, she made a flying trip to Omaha to break up the household there, which had held together in her absence, and bring back with her such of the members as wished to join her in the Cincinnati work. The last letters from Omaha were written in May and early June, 1896:

May 28, 1896. My dearest Sister:

Here I am at last with my dear girls in the cozy but rather tight little house where we are settled at present, and there are so many regrets at my proposed departure that my confidence has been almost shaken--almost but not quite--though my heart bleeds for the work here that seems to have such claims upon me.

I arrived in Chicago Saturday evening, and spent a quiet, pleasant Sunday with Sister Frances. Monday morning I went to Kenosha. It happened to be a great day at Kemper Hall, Founders' Day, and there were a good many visitors, a beautiful choral celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Bishop Nicholson being present. I met the Bishop after luncheon. He asked me about Paul and my work here. When I told him I was about to transfer it to Cincinnati he said: "That is a dry and weary land where no water is." "All the more need," I replied, "that some one should dig wells; the water is there if we only dig deep enough." "But the Bishop," he said, "is so very low in Churchmanship." I told him I thought it was only certain aspects of ritualism that Bishop Vincent objected to, that he was a staunch Churchman and Catholic at heart. He evidently did not believe me and bowed himself off.

I left Chicago by the night train and found quite a delegation to meet me on arriving here, Pauline and Beatrice and Carrie, Mr. Welles, Mr. Young, and Father Watson. I have seen numbers of people already and had such warm welcomes from all that it is really heartbreaking to have to leave them all.

On the first of June:

I seem to find the time for everything but letters; a spare quarter of an hour is an impossibility. This afternoon I go down to Ashland to spend the night with Mr. and Mrs. Musson and tomorrow evening the missions give me a farewell reception at the clergy house. It is very kind of them. Yesterday afternoon I visited the poor house and saw a good many of my old friends there. I was glad too to have a long and satisfactory talk with Father Williams. He was sympathetic and interested in all my plans and was quite satisfied with my rule of life. He had feared I would make it too easy, but as I discussed it with him he was inclined to relax it a little in certain points, so I feel that he was not disappointed in it. Mr. Young told me yesterday that he did not like the idea of a diocesan Sisterhood; he thought it brought the Sisters too much under the power of the Bishop. I told him I thought women ought not to be freer than men and certainly no order of women ought to outrank the priesthood in privilege, and the priests certainly were subject to the Bishop. At the same time I recognize the experimental character of my establishment and all my theories may vanish under the fire of actual reality.

In the last of these letters she wrote:

I had a pleasant visit at Ashland. The Mussons are just as grumbly about everything American as ever. Wouldn't I just love to have them go back to England for a while! However, I always enjoy them. I inspected Mr. Musson's chicken yard and learned something about chickens and about keeping eggs. He was amused at the number of questions I asked, but I was so disgusted with Joe's management, and my own inability to tell him how to do better, that I determined to learn something about chicken raising at my very first opportunity. I came back this morning just in time to get dinner. Miss Hawksworth usually does, but it was her birthday, so we thought it would be nice to give her a holiday, and the others were busy at the clergy house, getting it ready for the reception tonight, which of course I am not allowed to have any hand in until the hour for the guests to arrive.

Wednesday morning: "It was a beautiful reception last night. The house was crowded; there were about three hundred, I should think, and it was a great pleasure to see my friends again, and to see how many there were. Surely the increase of a hundred fold is given to the little seeds of love we scatter by the way!

So closed, in joy, the first experimental chapter of her life of self giving.

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