Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday Mass in Beirut

Arriving at Saint Mary's for Good Friday Mass
In good traditional manner, it rained on Good Friday in Beirut. But this only added to the solemnity of the day that is celebrated here with devotion, passion and great community spirit.

I have already mentioned that Holy Week and Easter is my favorite season of the year (Off to Beirut in time for Easter, 16 April 2011). I haven’t been in Beirut during Passion Week for more than 20 years. I wanted to participate in the traditions that my mom Vicky and I used to enjoy so much.

So it was off to Good Friday Mass at Mom’s parish church, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Dormition in Makhoul Street off Hamra. Arriving in time for the 6 p.m. start, the church was already completely packed. Accompanied by my cousin Lillian, we were lucky to eventually get a seat, the mass lasting more than two hours.

The packed church
Jesus' symbolic coffin
St. Mary’s, better known as Saydeh, is the parish church of the Greek Orthodox community in Ras Beirut and currently counts around 400 families. It is one of the 11 parishes that constitute the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut. The present archbishop, His Eminence Metropolitan Elias Audi, was elected by the Holy Synod, to the See of Beirut in 1980. The See of Beirut covers the Lebanese capital area and the town of Souk el-Gharb, the Metropolitan's summer resort.

The Greek Orthodox community is the second largest Christian community in Lebanon and the Greek Orthodox Church of Beirut traces its history back to the year 66 AD when Quartos, one of the 70 disciples, founded the Church of Beirut. 
The priest spraying the congregation with blessed rose water
There was no Orthodox church in Ras Beirut before the year 1860. Land to build a church with a cemetery and a school for parish children was donated by the Rbeiz and Bekha’azi families, the largest Orthodox families in Ras Beirut. And it is in fact there that many friends and family members are buried.

Kissing the symbolic shroud at the end of the Good Friday Mass
The Good Friday mass was an occasion for the community to gather and meet. Despite the many tears in the congregation that the mass stirred up, there was also a festive atmosphere. People were going in and out to give their places to others. There were families, children, and a lot of Aunties that reminded me of Mom.

My Good Friday flowers
The ceremony was long, more than two hours, but it was full of symbolism and tradition as you can see from the pictures. And you leave with a feeling of peace and thanksgiving… and blessed flowers that were distributed at the Church gates. I now have these next to my computer.
Fairouz sings Good Friday hymns on TV
I was also pleased to catch the Good Friday Mass hymns on TV by Lebanon’s Grande Dame, Fairouz.

Happy Easter!