Wednesday, January 03, 2007

November 19, 2005: Lebanon "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"

I can't believe it...I've been hearing that song since I was a kid, but I haven't ever had the opporutnity to enjoy them until I come to Lebanon! Well, I just wanted to let you all know that I made it through Jordan & to Lebanon without a hitch. With the day that I had I went nearby to the ancient Roman ruins of the city of Jaresh. I'd wanted to go to Petra, but it turned out that there wasn't enough maybe after my visit to St. Katherine's, b/c it's just across the Sinai peninsula, a ferry ride & then a short taxi/bus trip to this ancient wonder. Security was tighter everywhere in Amman after the bombing. I had a few good laughs with the airport security & army personnel who asked if I was going to hi-jack the plane with my walking stick...after checking with their superiors, they indeed wouldn't let me on with it anymore after the bombing (although my airline tix info declared I could take it onboard...that's why I tried), & forced the airline personnel to find my bag amongst the checked luggage so that I could strap it to it. By that point, everyone was laughing, because c'mon, do I look like a terrorist?!?!

Lebanon is beautiful! Not at all what I imagined! It's a cross between the limestone craginess of the Texas hill country and the dramatic sloping mountains right down to the Mediterranean Ocean like Northern California or Mt. Athos. In my short time here so far, I've been able to tour Beirut (with a visit to the site of the bombing of former PM just 9 mos. ago) and see where some of the fiercest fighting occurred during the war (which many of the buildings tell the story, with evidence of shrapnel damage & bullet holes), visit several beautiful monasteries in the mountains & meet some of the spiritual fathers & mothers of Lebanon with whom you feel grace in their presence. I have been shown the most wonderful hospitality by my dear brother in Christ, whom I connected with here & his family, and have been afforded the opportunity to experience a bit of what life is like here. As someone I met recently described Lebanon as the jewel of the Middle East, and from what I've seen so far, they are right! The people & their faith remind me of what I experienced in Romania, with only the language & topography being different. Forgive my lack of embellishment, but my time is short on the internet. In the next couple of days I'll head to Damascus & hopefully go as far as the sites of St. Isaac & Ephraim the Syrians & St. Simeon the Stylite while I'm in Syria (maybe about a week). I will definitely go to visit the monastery that the miracle occurred through that I sent the note out about, as well as the place of the baptism of Paul. After this, I'm currently thinking of heading back to Egypt to see Alexandria & venerate the relics of the Apostle Mark, Coptic Cairo, & the ancient monasteries of the Nile Valley, besides go back to St. Katherines for a longer stay & hopefully their feast day.
I'll also include a couple of parting shots of Lebannon that I'd wanted to include in the last e-mail but hadn't downloaded from my camera yet (view from St. John the Forerunner monastery & two photos from the interior of their main church, that of the Nativity & contemporary elders awaiting canonization!)...



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