This is the fifteenth (final)in a 15-part series of pics from Syria.
First — Second — Third — Fourth — Fifth — Sixth — Seventh — Eighth — Ninth — Tenth — Eleventh — Twelfth — Thirteenth — Fourteenth — Fifteenth.
Having spent about five days at the Chancery in Sweida — right next door to the Cathedral — I’d never actually been inside the Cathedral until just hours before my departure from Syria. On my final day, Friday, there was to be a Liturgy in the Cathedral for the school children. (Friday is a weekend “holiday” in Syria, whereas we have Saturday-Sunday weekends in the United States, workers and public schools have Fridays and Saturdays off in Syria.)
Inside the altar of St George Cathedral, Sweida.
Now, for those who may have listened to my Syrian Pilgrimage Podcast, The Blindside, (or read it): See the icon pictured on the far wall, about eleven o’clock from center, to our left from the procession cross?
It’s the same one pictured here, five years earlier, at a small Mission in North Carolina. The monk (with the hat) is Fr Paul, also mentioned in the podcast. He was on his way back to Syria, taking the icon of St Mary of Egypt, with relic, as a gift to Metropolitan SABA from Bishop BASIL. (Also pictured here, to my right: the future priest, Christopher Morris and his wife, Anastasia, who were also visiting the Mission that day.)
Monk Paul, who was home on “holiday” visiting his parents in North Carolina, converted to Orthodoxy at the same time as my wife and I, back in 1993. His home monastery is St Paul’s on Mt Athos. Here he is showing the Mission faithful the location of all the historic monasteries of Mt Athos which are portrayed on the image of The Abbess of Mt Athos. (This icon forms a foundational portion of my Syrian Pilgrimage Podcast / Article).
… and here’s a close up of the same icon of St Mary of Egypt, snapped from the back wall of the altar in St George Cathedral, Sweida.
After marveling at the ways of God, which pass our understanding …
I found a seat near the back of the Cathedral. As the young school children began gathering around the chanter’s stand, I wondered if they would actually sing the service …
They did! It was such a blessing!
A parting shot of His Eminence and me before I headed back to Damascus for my 3-hour flight to Dubai and the next day’s 16-hour flight back to Houston.
There’s nothing left to say that wasn’t said here (or written here).
Thank you for your prayers!
Most Holy Theotokos (the Abbess of Mount Athos), St Thekla – Equal to the Apostles, St George the Great-Martyr, St Mary of Egypt — and All Saints of Syria — pray to God for us!