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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > El Maten > Monastery Mar Abda

The Monastery of Mar Abda el-Mushammar

After passing through the tunnel at Nahr el-Kalb, the Dog River, as you drive along the highroad northwards from Beirut, you turn right and follow the riverside road for a couple of miles. Then on your left you will see a hill crowned by a monastery called Mar Abda’s.

This road is delightful and one may very well follow it on foot. There is plenty of shade and an atmosphere cooled by the rich greenery and the waters of the river. This is quite shallow and bordered by plantations of orange trees, banana trees, anonna, and olive trees, vineyards, clumps of fine old plane trees, and beds of reeds. The road itself climbs up until it joins the main artery of the Metn district.

The above-mentioned monastery belongs to the Maronite Order of Saint Anthony (les Antonins) and its name Abda signifies Servant, that is to say Servant of the Lord. Several anchorites and other monks have borne this name. The first was a disciple of the apostle Saint Thomas who was martyred in 124 A.D. in the region that is now Iraq. The second and more famous Abda was from the same area and preached Christianity there, being martyred in the year 380.

Yet a third Abda, the one most popular in Lebanon, was a disciple of the hermit Saint Simon the Stylite and lived in a cave on the coast during the fifth or sixth century, near a Phoenician temple where women used to come in order to present their first-born baby son to the god Baal. The holy hermit Mar Abda was able to convert many to Christ, after which people came in ever larger numbers, families with mothers and children and particularly women who wanted a child. Even now, people come from many countries to make vows to the saint.

The hill on which the monastery stands is known as El-Mushammar; it stands in a strategic position in the heart of the valley and its summit was once the site of a temple dedicated to Baal. Archeological diggings have shown that this fertile hill was inhabited even in prehistoric times. Several basements hewn out of the rock have been revealed, as well as ancient stones and other remains near the monastery. An ancient Phoenician temple had an underground passage, now passing under the monastery, that led down to the river.

The cave where the hermit Saint Abda once dwelt has long been a centre of pilgrimage for the faithful. A church dedicated to the saint was put up near the cave, but was destroyed by earthquakes. Another built on the site was destroyed in the year 1305 by the Mamelukes, who ravaged everything in their path when they invaded the Lebanon, even cutting down trees and slaughtering the livestock. Their cruelty and barbarity have remained legendary.

Once again in 1685, when Stephan Dwaihy was Patriarch, a church was built, together with a house alongside. In 1716 there was now a monastery dedicated to Saint Abda attached to the Anthonine Order, becoming their third religious house in Lebanon. The monks built cells for their occupation and then worked on the land, gave religious instruction, celebrated Holy Mass and the religious offices, and received the faithful who came on pilgrimage. A spacious courtyard stretched out in front of the church and basements and arcades were added. The monastery was brought up-to-date between 1810 and 1853 and there was more restoration in1966 and 2011. During the eighteenth century the monks made a hermitage near the monastery which was to have several occupants, including Germanos el-Dernani.

Numbers of barren women of every religious confession come to implore the saint to intercede with the Lord on their behalf that they might have a child. Mar Abda is certainly a place worth visiting, offering an oasis for meditation and prayer.

Joseph Matar Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

- Monastery Mar Abda: >> View Movie << (2014-04-01)



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