Having explored the myriad of civilisations that have passed through this land, I decided to seek out some of the iconic locations referred to in the Bible. As a Christian, to be anywhere near places that I read about in school and that are referred to in sermons in church every week, I was so excited. (I know, I’m a religious geek!)
I had the privilege to explore two astonishing places, one in the south one up north. On the way to Sidon and Tyre in the south I visited Magadouche to see a cave/grotto where Mary herself waited for Jesus whilst he preached to the Canaanites in Sidon. Being there was a bizarre feeling and I was confused by my response. Of course it was a spiritually charged place for me and is a famous pilgrimage site, but I also felt a wonderment that I can only associate with being star struck: the thought that Jesus was there. The man I follow, the Lord in my eyes, has stood on this spot. It was overwhelming. I sat for hours and read the history, in Mark 7:24 it says Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. I was there in that place. WOW! And in John 2:1-11 it explains how Jesus turned water in to wine, this took place 10 kms down the road. The first miracle of Christ; encouraged by his Mother. I was overwhelmed to say the least.
Another sanctuary that truly inspired me was the monastery of Mar Sharbel and St Maroun. High in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and snow-capped this time of year lays this humble monastery. A remarkable building and home to both St Charbel and St Maroun, the latter who founded the Maronite Church, a Catholic associated sect found mainly in Lebanon and accounts for 20% of the population. I was there in time for a service where I heard passages from the bible chanted in Arabic. Upon the altar were nine black cloaked monks singing in a baritone harmony that was quite mesmerising. I snuck in a little video, so keep your eye on YouTube for that. The tomb of Mar Sharbel is housed there and pilgrims come from miles around to pray for healing. Mar Sharbel is famous for healing people of all faiths, a true man of God who lays his hands on the sick. Legend has it a lady was healed of a rare form of cancer and she to this day attends the monastery on the 22nd of every month. It is said that her wound weeps when she is on the mountain. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there on the 22nd but the vibe of this extraordinary property with such a spectacular backdrop certainly beckons. It commands the presence of God and in faith I think anything is possible.
I’ve had two welcoming and kind families host me and share with me their faith and culture. I’ve met interesting characters, both Christians and Muslims, and both are equally proud of their heartlands and what has happened there. I’ve even had some frank discussions about Hezbollah and Daesh which came forth quite naturally.
I love Lebanon I feel even more connected with my faith having come here and I hope to return in the summer to delve further into this country, its people, its past, and of course for some more tabouli and meze, The Gluttonous Pilgrim lives on!
Yours in Faith,
The Unlikely Pilgrim