2000 Year Wait

"We have been waiting for you to come and visit us for 2000 years," Fr. Firas welcomed us.

We joined the Melkite congregation in Zababdeh for worship, the 23 of us taking up the bulk of the small worship space. Elizabeth and I had been in Zababdeh when the Melkite church was closed and had also been fortunate enough to participate in Fr. Firas' ordination to the office of both deacon and priest, and to celebrate the first liturgy to be sung in the church in 17 years. So to be back for what was now a "regular" worship service was quite the welcome change.

The night before, Fr. Firas had spoken with us about our call, as it were, not only to come and visit the living stones of the ancient churches. "You must also be willing to get your hands dirty," he said, "working alongside us."

Liturgy, from its Greek origins, means "the work of the people." And so, in that sense, we began that work Sunday morning. Since most of the service was in Arabic, we may not have understood the content of what was said. But we certainly knew, especially as the peace was passed between us, that the love of God is alive and well and can breach all of our human constructs of tongue and nationality and culture and, yes, even faith.

All of us crammed into his tiny home for lunch, a wonderfully messy meal msakhan, oil-soaked bread covered with almonds, spices, and chicken. Without any silverware to speak of, we also managed to heed the call to get our hands dirty.

As we left, Fr. Firas reiterated his earlier welcome. "We waited 2000 years to welcome you. Please don't make us wait another 2000 for your next visit."