This is the second episode of my Holy Land journal, from my trip to Jordan and Israel in March 2016. We are still on Day 1, which lumps together all of the flights from home and our initial experiences in Amman. It’s basically two days, but it keeps the itinerary in sync to consider it one very long, LONG, day.
Following on from our adventures in Holy Land – Day 1: Taking Flight, we pick up after our late lunch and driving tour of Amman, the capital of Jordan.
It being Sunday, we are scheduled to attend Mass at a local Melkite Greek Catholic Church. You can learn about the Melkite Rite here. Although a very different liturgy from the Latin Rites of Catholicism, the Eastern Greek Catholic Churches are in full communion with Rome, and so a valid liturgy for us to attend.
It was getting dark when we arrived at the church in a quiet Christian neighborhood. The Church compound is surrounded by a tall cinderblock fence and in many ways it reminded me of other churches in other parts of the world. I’ve been blessed to have attended Mass in many countries, in many languages, and in several different rites and cultures. I knew walking up the steps, and into the darkened courtyard, what it was going to be like being the foreign visitors. I always feel intrusive when I’m with a group walking into another’s parish, and I wanted to be overly respectful towards the people we encountered.
My only other experience attending an eastern rite liturgy was at the Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the spiritual home of all Eastern Orthodox Christians. Not surprising though, the liturgy at this much smaller, less ornate church, reminded me of that other high liturgy in many ways.
In fact, I preferred this experience. You could tell that this was a home parish for working Christians of Amman. A palpable bond exists among the people, holding on to an ancient spark of Christianity amidst so many pressures, dangers and coercions that come from being in an Islamic country.
The parishioners, in their own quiet ways, welcomed us to be with them for their liturgy. Sure, most of our group couldn’t really follow along too well, but we could still immerse ourselves in the music, chants, sights-sounds-smells, and prayer of these people. I loved every minute of it. Here are a couple of shots of the interior of the church. I only took these two, to avoid being seen as just a tourist.
Following the liturgy, we were invited by the priest to a gathering space. Here we spent some time with parishioners, including some Iraqi Christian refugees. We shared some tea and some awkward minutes not knowing what to say or how to interact with each other. I get the feeling that no one really knew exactly what we were gathered for.
I regret that I didn’t have more energy in the moment to reach out to the others. Having had very little sleep since leaving Oklahoma, there just wasn’t much to give.
Nonetheless, I am glad that we could spend time together and share in their hospitality. I hope I get the chance to do the same when some group visits my parish.
Departing the church for dinner, we are left with the view of this small church with its brightly lit and somewhat defiant crosses on top.
Following Mass, we head off for dinner, our second large meal in about 4 hours time. The restaurant, called Sufra, is supposedly one of Amman’s best. Seated at long tables, and desperately trying to stay awake, we were treated to a variety of Jordanian dishes.
Note: my tour companion Ciara created an online shared document for our group to record details of our trip. So from this point forward, I’m going to be relying on it for some of the specifics. I’m going to call it THE JOURNAL.
According to THE JOURNAL, our menu consisted of: hummus, yogurt, eggplant dip, mozzarella balls, chicken livers, roasted whole tomato, tomato relish, falafel (looks like hushpuppy but yummier), flatbread, chicken with mint, kafka? ground lamb & beef with sliced potato swimming in cream sauce. Then tea with sage, and dessert. More small sweets: honey rolls & other fried sweet goodies.
Finally, after dinner we arrived at our hotel, Le Meridien. A strange looking hotel, to be sure, but comfortable and a welcome sight.