Lebanon, The Only Country With A St. Charbel, Celebrates Having The Biggest St. Charbel Statue In The World

A 26 meter St. Charbel statue made its journey from Jounieh to Faraya. If that’s not enough of a Keserwan dose for one day for anyone, I don’t know what is.

The problem is it doesn’t stop there. The problem is that this huge statue is being celebrated as some kind of national achievement, à la the giant plate of hummus we made to beat Israel as they continuously attempt to appropriate our national food.

Except there’s really nothing to prove to the world or to ourselves or to even Mar Charbel himself here, and there’s no other society on Earth today that’s setting out to beat us when it comes to how big we can make a Mar Charbel statue. Why? Because there’s no other country on Earth that has a Mar Charbel to begin with, and no other country celebrates this particular saint as much as we do.

I’m beginning to think St. Rafca and St. Hardini are beginning to get jealous at the amount of attention Maronites put towards St. Charbel while completely ignoring the fact they have a bunch of other saints to indulge with endless veneration. But please don’t get any more ideas for 26 meter statues.

The fact of the matter is this St. Charbel statue is not a national triumph. It’s not even a religious triumph. If anyone knows any inkling about the life of St. Charbel, they’d have known that his entire life was centered around that which is humble. His pillow was a wooden log. His mattress was a thin layer of cotton on the floor. His entire life was a celebration of what it is to be a human who knows that pride is not how you heal your soul.

And yet here’s a 26 meter statue of him being paraded around as some form of victory. For whom? For him? He’s probably nauseous at the site of it wherever he is. For Maronite pride? It’s pitiful if that entity needs a 26 meter flag for validation. For Keserwan to have some claim to being a religious pilgrimage site for the country as it boasts to being the beacon of Maronitism while every saint in this country lays elsewhere?

This 26 meter St. Charbel statue is yet another example of a practice that we as Lebanese excel at: the art of vanity. Even in prayer and religion, two acts which should be as subdued and restricted to one’s person, we have to get out of our way to prove – no idea to whom – that we can do it bigger, flashier, and better.

I wonder, what does Faraya have to do with St. Charbel in the first place? He was not from there. His town Bkaakafra, in the heart of the North, is long forgotten in this equation. He was not buried there – Annaya, Lebanon’s top pilgrimage site seems not to be part of this. The only reason why such a gigantic statue would be placed in a town whose entire economy revolves around tourism can be summed up with one word: boasting. It’s a “mine is bigger than yours” country.

Picture this from now: visit Faraya, home of Lebanon’s most visited slopes… and the biggest statue of the country’s most famous saint.

What this statue does is further numb the masses to the many failings that their politicians have dealt them by giving them the opioids they crave most: look at how big we can make your religion look. It’s only a matter of time before the region’s and other Maronites politicians rise to the mantle of declaring themselves responsible for such a statue. Remember this come Election time, for they will remind you of it.

For a saint whose entire existence was to get his fellow Christians to rise beyond their idolatry, this statue is the biggest insult one can deal him. You’re not doing St. Charbel proud by erecting a 40 ton statue of him. You’re not making him proud by boasting about this being the world’s biggest, a foolish claim to say the least. We’re not proving anything to the world except how unfocused and deluded our priorities are as a nation if we go gaga over a statue whose purpose is to boost someone’s ego.

I wonder, as a closing thought, what this statue cost. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on a statue of a saint that could have been spent in donating money to the Monastery where that saint’s body resides or, better yet, to his village to better its infrastructure or, even better, actually help the needy societies – Maronite or otherwise – of this country, for that is what Charbel would’ve wanted.

Until then, enjoy the traffic.

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There Goes My Heart… Home

We all know how it feels to be home… you’re too comfortable being there, you’re yourself there… But you know what feels even better than being home? Going home after a long absence.

I belong in Batroun. I am from the North and my heart will always go there. Driving around my hometown, Ebrine, in the Batroun Caza, I snapped these pictures.

When I wake up and open the blinds, this is the first thing I see:

And if I feel like going to sightsee, I don’t need to wander off a lot… these are a few scenes that await me after a few minutes of walking.
And whenever I feel like I want to be alone, I can simply drive down to a very old church, dating back to the 1400s. This is St. Charbel (the Lebanese saint took his name).

My hometown also harbors the mother Convent for Sainte Famille. We all know people who have been to their schools and there are two streets, one in Tripoli and one in Beirut, named after my hometown because they have Sainte Famille convents on them.

And if I feel like visiting my grandma, I pass by a canopy of trees and beautiful olive tree fields…

And if you ever feel hungry, Royal’s Pizza in Batroun offers the best pizza in Lebanon. And trust me, I have tried many, many pizzas. Nothing will ever come close.

All of these pictures were taken through my iPhone 4 and all effects are via an iPhone app: Camera+