Spiritual Presence

                                         Souq

                                         Souq

For the Team, Allen McDonald

Today was a special day for me with new encounters beyond description. As usual we followed Assis (Rev.) Nuhad and his nephews Tariq and Bashar – who have been our gracious drivers, guides and protectors – into the old city. First we walked through souqs (markets) selling crafts and necessary daily items like food and spices. From there, we came to a destination for many for the past thousand years or so, the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. It stands across the square from a Roman temple of Jupiter. Prior to its present expression of spiritual presence, it was a Byzantine basilica dedicated to John the Baptist. In the seventh century AD, it became the Great Mosque. It is clearly the product of countless hours of planning and execution.

         By tradition, this is the tomb of St. John, the Baptist

         By tradition, this is the tomb of St. John, the Baptist

Inside, the floor is covered with oriental carpet. Also inside, there is a large enclosed shrine with a stone casket containing the headless remains of John the Baptist. Astoundingly, there is a remnant of the prior basilica on display in the mosque: a baptismal font.

I am overwhelmed by the presence of these markers of our desire to be connected to a source of spiritual presence and inner growth, from pagan concepts to our knowledge of one God who sees us, desires our knowledge of Him and has provided for us direct encounter through a beloved Son.

Allen McDonald, North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia