Before you read this incredible and true blogtale, if you are not familiar with the Jerusalem Syndrome follow the link and educate yourself. If for nothing else, you'll see I'm NOT making this stuff up - I'm not THAT creative.
Last Friday morning Judy, a friend from the states, and I were walking with Father Anthony. Fr. Anthony is one in the same with the Melkite priest who "appeared" in my last entry. Judy met Anthony on the Nesher, a shared van ride company from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They struck up a conversation which resulted for the three of us, in a pleasant walk, an engaging chat, some free coffee, and an unusual experience.
After we had the exchange with the "Imsh' Allah, Orthodox" priest, we continued to walk through and out of the Old City to Notre Dame of Jerusalem to have a cup of coffee. Notre Dame is an elegant pontifical institute and guest house. We found the dining room and we were shown a table. It was later in the morning so there were not many people left who were dining. Judy and I followed Fr. Anthony to a table in a sunny area overlooking the Old City. He just sort of pleasantly commands his way through life.
No sooner had we sat down and Fr. Anthony began to talk with a man from L.A. at a table adjacent to us. As you are beginning to figure out, Fr. Anthony is a collector of people. It seems that every place he goes he's talking with people, some he knows, many he doesn't. In the end everyone is Anthony's friend. Fr. Anthony is Lebanese but has lived in Boston for quite a while.
The conversation that unfolded had, in the end, Judy and I raising our eyebrows and smiling and Fr. Anthony saying firmly, "this truth I cannot compromise!"
To begin, the L.A. pilgrim had on shorts and sandals which, is fine...if it were summer. But, for all intents and purposes, it's WINTER here, duh! True the days are sunny, but they are cool and Friday in particular was extremely windy and cold. His dress should have been our first clue that this pilgrim was one amen short of a full prayerbook. But we continued.
This pilgrim is a real estate developer in L.A. Before he left on his personal odyssey he had bought a building. While in Jerusalem he had this vision of a building were, ALL people, of ALL faiths could come and what, I'm not sure. Pray, worship, be in communion, just over all be happy with one another regardless of his or her religious or cultural practises. Well, Judy a conservative Jew, Fr. Anthony a Melkite priest, and me a UCC protestant pastor looked at one another. We wanted to know more. And, he enthusiastically told us more, and more, and more. In fact, there was no stopping his ecstatic utterances.
Judy said, "Well, you know this sounds a little like the Tower of Babel and that didn't work out so well." I said, "You can't do that, no one is going to give up his or her beliefs in order to come to your syncrenistic building of diluted faith." Fr. Anthony said, "Your truth is not my truth!"
The man from L.A. was delusional, clearly a victim of the Jerusalem Syndrome. Don't get me wrong by outward appearances he looked normal except for the shorts and sandals in December. He was clean shaven and as nice as could be. Fr. Anthony and L.A. continued talking, no not talking, actively debating. At one point Fr. Anthony leaned back in his chair and knocked the lampshade off of the wall sconce.
Judy leaned over to me and whispered, "Have you ever heard of the Jerusalem Syndrome? I think this man has a case of it." I burst out laughing and at that point I heard Fr. Anthony say, "This truth I will not compromise!" L.A. was getting in over his head. He realized it. He got up quickly and left.
Fr. Anthony went to pay the bill and the waiter said, "Your coffee and juice....free." We were elated at this news and gave thanks to the waiter whole heartedly. Now WE know a true miracle when we see one.