St Dimitrios Greek Orthodox Church in Achrafieh is less than a kilometre away from where the Beirut explosion took place.
Father Youil Nassif rushed to the church to check for damage, finding the nave completely ruined. But the sacred altar space, protected by the “iconostasis” (wall of icons), was almost unscathed – including an oil lamp that had remained lit throughout the blast.
“You can call me naive but I felt it was unbelievable. I felt it was a message from God saying, ‘I will be by your side, we will rise up,” Father Nassif said in an interview with BBC News.
Father Nassif says he left the church with his children 12 minutes before the explosion, but when he returned he was shocked by what he found.
“The altar was untouched. The holy chalice was in tact. You can see the Holy Bible, you can see the oil lamp that didn’t move… even the glass was not broken,” he says.
“In times of crisis we search for signs, we search for a light in the darkness. I felt as if this was a sign.”
Father Nassif concluded by asking people to “just pray” for the people of Lebanon as they deal with the aftermath of the horrific explosion which killed more than 150 people.