DAMASCUS, Syria (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop Samir Nassar is thankful to be alive after barely avoiding a deadly explosion.
The archbishop, a Maronite Catholic, was in his home in Damascus taking a nap on Monday. When he woke up and went to use the bathroom, an artillery shell apparently flew through a window and detonated near his bed.
It was part of a bombardment of the capital by opponents of the Syrian regime, according to international non-profit Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Archbishop Nassar wrote to ACN, "A shell fell on my bed on Monday, January 8, 2018, at 1:20 p.m., when I had retired for a little siesta — a few seconds at the sink saved my life! The bed was riddled with shrapnel."
At first, clergy and staff at the Maronite patriarchate felt certain that Abp. Nassar was killed in the explosion. They were shocked when they saw him emerge from the wreckage.
"They cried with joy when they saw me coming out alive from the smoke and rubble," the archbishop recalled.
He also said, "Providence watches over his little servant, but now I am exiled like 12 million Syrian refugees who have nothing left."
The cathedral in Damascus was also hit hard by the shelling and is need of repairs. Archbishop Nassar elaborated, "The doors of the cathedral and 43 windows and doors have to be replaced, holes need to be filled, fuel tanks and water tanks need repairing, as does the electricity network; plus, a car was damaged."
He concluded with an almost poetic complaint about the conflict and unrest in Syria; he wrote, "Violence is the only master — innocents are being sacrificed every day."
The Maronite Catholic Church is an Eastern Church that has remained throughout the centuries in full canonical communion with the Holy See.
Canonically, it is a sui juris particular church. This means it has its own liturgical traditions and canonical disciplines. It also has more direct oversight from the Vatican.
The Maronite Church takes its name from St. Maron, a Syriac monk of the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. Its liturgical texts are in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic that was likely spoken by Christ Himself during His earthly life.
Many Maronites live in modern-day Syria and Lebanon. Outside of the Middle East, Maronite parishes are set up in dioceses and governed by regional eparchies. (There are currently three eparchies spanning the United States, for instance.)