January 23-24, 2006 - Post No. 3
Rarely have I felt better prepared for travel than I did when I climbed into Joanna Foust’s Olds, which she fondly refers to as Vladimir, for the trip to the Quebec City airport and the journey to Beirut via Toronto and Milan. Three months of inch-by-inch preparations seems to have paid off, and I was set free to begin this four month adventure.
First stop in the journey, Toronto where Anglican Foundation office director June Moyle and her ever capable colleague Nancy Johnston whisked me away for a send-off party at the local Kelsey’s. Present for the celebration (pictured here from left to right): June Moyle, Fr. Ed Jackman, Nancy Johnston, yours truly, Canon Gordon Baker, Canon Philip Hobson OGS and Canon Harold Nahabedian.
Arrival in Beirut (Jan 24, 2006)
24 hours after boarding the plane in Quebec City, I arrived in the “Paris of the Middle East”, the swarming city of Beirut. Its International Airport is cavernous but quiet; and this giant sign greets visitors along the passageway to immigration and customs clearance.
The Catholicosate in East Beirut
Father Ananya was waiting to greet me as I made my way out of the customs area. Fr Ananya (the Armenian variation of Ananias), is a new priest and member of the monastic brotherhood based at the Catholicosate in Antelias, in eastern Beirut. He is something of the property manager for the Catholicosate and has a variety of duties, including ferrying visitors to and from the airport. He reports having made 15 trips to the airport over the past few days, mainly because of come and go related to the biennial gathering of the Celician monastic brotherhood, some 45 members (clerics and prelates) from around the world. Fr. Ananya is an accomplished driver and this is a good thing. Traffic in Beirut is hectic, to say the least: there are no street signs, no street numbers, few traffic lights, basically no rules. Needless to say, lots of honks to be heard, but these seem mostly of the polite staccato variety and less often the angry wail.
The Catholicosate is the home of the Catholicos (pontiff) of the Great House of Celicia and headquarters of one of the two main branches of Armenian Orthodoxy. The walled compound of the Catholicosate has a single entrance with a 24-hour guardian that leads into a large courtyard (pictured here). Various buildings surround the courtyard with the Cathedral centre and east and the official residence of the Catholicos opposite (its front steps can be seen in the photo, left). Guest quarters, above the “departments” or offices of the Catholicosate, line the southern wall of the compound; and the museum, library, priests’ and bishops’ residences line up along the northern wall.
Fr Ananya helps me with my luggage, lifting the heaviest with ease, and leading me to my second floor room in the guest wing overlooking the central courtyard. This photo was taken just outside the door to my room.
My quarters in the guest wing are just fine. They include ample furnishings, TV (one channel in French, three, Arabic), en suite toilet and shower, two large windows looking down on the busy street below. The room is wired for internet and a very kind woman keeps me stocked with fresh fruit, green vegetables and pop. The Rule of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd allows the brethren to enjoy “moderate comfort”, happy to report that my circumstances in Lebanon are very much in harmony with the Rule!