Visits to the Cedars of Lebanon and the Gibran Khalil Gibran Museum; Meeting with His Eminence, Metropolitan GEORGE of Mount Lebanon - 11/08/10

Beirut, Lebanon

The delegation ascended through the mountains of Lebanon to the country’s most prized natural treasure: the Cedars of Lebanon. The forest’s elevation is well over a mile above sea level (which provides the crispest air in the entire region) and its trees can grow 130 feet above that. Trunk diameters span more than eight feet and roots reach 330 feet. The Cedars of Lebanon are more than 3000 years old and are a source of Biblical and national pride, as writers and artists throughout the ages have been awestruck and inspired by their beauty. The Prophet David said they were planted by God Himself (Psalm 103) and the Hebrew prophet Isaiah used the Lebanon Cedar as a metaphor for the pride of the world (Isaiah 2:13). The Cedars have been subject to deforestation and disease over the past century, but the government and the people lead constant efforts to save the rest.

The next stop was to the final resting place of a national treasure, the famed artist, poet and writer Gibran Khalil Gibran. He wrote the famous work “The Prophet” and is the third best-selling poet of all time behind William Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu. Gibran led a complicated life, constantly suffering by the untimely deaths of his mother and sisters, and disappointed in one romance after another. Through all of this, he never gave up on humanity and the inner good it possessed, and this is reflected in all his works. The museum constructed in Gibran’s honor is built around his grave, which includes the furniture of the two rooms in his family’s nineteenth century home. Next to his casket, the inscription reads, “A word I want to see written on my grave: I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you.”

The group then trekked into Beirut, Lebanon’s cosmopolitan capitol. We were greeted by the standard rush-hour traffic that swarmed the city. Like the rest of Lebanon, Beirut is in a state of constant renovation and rebuilding after fifteen years of civil war and periodic attacks by Israel. Brand new buildings have gone up right next to their shelled neighbors along the coast. We quickly checked into our latest hotel before making our last stop of the day at the Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon in Broumana. Welcoming us was the famed and beloved Orthodox Christian scholar and teacher, His Eminence, Metropolitan GEORGE (Khodor), who addressed us on a wide range of topics and answered our questions in Arabic, English and French. Before our meeting, Sayidna JOSEPH confessed to the group that he hoped he did not have to translate for his one-time teacher because his train of thought is so deep that the challenge could make his head spin. Sayidna GEORGE is considered the Patriarchate’s foremost theologian and canon scholar, yet in his humility takes a page from the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates: “All I know is that I know nothing.” His Eminence pulled no punches in defending Orthodox Christian teaching, yet did so in a loving manner free of all arrogance.