There is so much in Charles Glass’s book, ‘Tribes with Flags’ that should be engraged in stone somewhere. He had a long conversation with a Maronite priest in Lebanon which is full of wisdom and compassion. Here Glass writes
“I reminded him of a parable recorded by Michel Chiha, a Chaldean christian whose family originaly came from Iraq. a banker and writer, he helped to draft the Lebanese Constitution of 1926. In an article entitled, “Discussions with Patrice”, a mythical philosopher tells Chiha,
“I read in Ruskin an unforgettable passage. This was the substance. Five men constitute the foundation fo the city they are the priest, the judge, the doctor, the soldier and the merchant. The priest must die rather than contradict his faith the judge, rather than violate his consicence; the doctor, rather than run from an illnes he can ease or cure the soldier, rather than betray his country. And the merchant? Do you see in what circumstance the merchant must face death? Now, says Ruskin, he who does not know when it is time to expose himself to death is ignorant of how to live. He is incapable of doing something greater when his eyes do not see the eternal law of sacrifice.
“We are a people of merchants,” Patrice concluded. “That’s why the bones of our fathers are warmer than our lives.”
“Is Lebanon just a nation of merchants with loyalty to nothing but making money?” I asked Father Moannes.
“I would like to say, in historical movement, you have the time of the priest, of the judge, of the soldier and of the merchant. Carthage was destroyed when the merchants took over. Rome suffered under its merchant princes. People must be driven with dreams, heroism, dignity, poverty and not with money. The 1950s and 1960s were the time of the commercial state, and we’ve had its destruction. You cannot serve God and money together. I am not a pessimist. We had a merchant society for half a century. We have now a society of martyrs. This means spring is coming. We’ve had 10,000 young people killed out of 126,000 total dead in the war. For the United States, this would be the same as 100,000 people killed from the young generation. We sowed the blood of our martyrs. Pure people, lovely people. I believe myself in the power of God to give grace to build a pure society. We baptised our society with the blood of the money-changers in the temple. Now there is a kind of understanding among young people who feel they have to save their country. We have been purified by this Crucifixion. I pray to God for a resurrection for my country. …..
Father Moanes leaned towards me, his elbows on the table. “The ony law we believe is of love, of charity. the Bible says, my god lives. I can’t seak only in a social way. The morning is coming. The full dark gives me full life. Lebanon is not only a crossroads for people, it is a crossroad for gods.”