Wednesday 12th August
Today’s reflection from Rev Ian
Beirut explosion: church altar’s survival brings hope
St Dimitrios Greek Orthodox Church in Achrafieh is less than a kilometre away from where the Beirut explosion took place.
Father Youil Nassif rushed to the church to check for damage, finding the nave completely ruined. But the sacred altar space, protected by the “iconostasis” (wall of icons), was almost unscathed – including an oil lamp that had remained lit throughout the blast. Also unscathed were a bible and chalice all on the altar.
Father Nassif points out in the video that he saw this as a sign of God’s protection and preservation, and hopes that seeing the video will encourage the faithful to continue to hold on and keep building for a better future.
This reminds me of two other iconic photographs. During the devastation of World War II, as soldiers moved through the ruins of country villages, often the local church’s crucifix was the only object still standing. This was a real sign of hope.
Likewise among the ruins of the twin towers after 9/11, two metal girders were left standing – one vertical and one horizontal, also forming the shape of the cross. These girders were kept and now stand as part of the memorial to the victims of the twin towers in New York.
Sceptics will of course scoff at this as being just a coincidence, but it happens too often especially in the darkest times. God’s people have always been able to discern a sign of hope that God is with us in our suffering, and the cross is the enduring symbol of the victory of light over darkness and hope over despair.