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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Saint Elisha

Saint Elisha, Amsheet - Read as well in Arabic: Church Mar Elichaa

“Ecclesia”, an Assembly, this means neither parliament, nor theater, nor auditorium, but is a Greek word which has given église, church, in French and ecclesiastic in English. It is a building for prayer and communion with God.

It is not so much the architecture but rather the assembly of people who are believers in communion with their Creator which makes the place sacred.

The Phoenician, Greek and Roman temples were put up in the cities and other prominent places. We may take for example the temples of Venus, Bacchus, Apollo or Jupiter-Zeus. On the other hand churches exist wherever the faithful are to be found, and it is they who really form the Church.

Among the Maronite community in Lebanon there are churches bearing the names of Christ the Savior and of all the saints, the Holy Virgin Mary, Saint Elijah, Saint Joseph, Saint Theresa, Saint Maroun, and Saint John. The names form a long, long list and may be summed up in All Saints.

In the towns and villages where there are individuals who are socially eminent and rich there is a tradition of their families each having its own church dedicated to the particular family’s protecting patron saint. In the town of Amsheet in the District of Jbeil there are no less than twenty-seven churches, among them that of Saint Elisha, built in an important and very ancient quarter.

Elisha, the prophet Eliseus, was, so the Bible tells us, the successor of the prophet Elijah, for the latter threw him down his cloak from the soaring chariot of fire which took him up to heaven.

The families such as the Lahouds, the Zakhias and the Karams have their own churches. Saint Elisha belongs to the Karams and very close to it is the house of the late Father Butros Karam, the former parish priest well known for his personal sanctity. Formerly there was in every family one individual devoted to the service of God and the particular church as secular priest, monk or member of some religious order.

To reach the church of Saint Elisha one must follow the main road in the direction of the center of the village and then turn left passing alongside the Maronite archbishopric. In this way one arrives at the church of Saint Elisha, which is surrounded by alleyways, a square, open spaces, wells, and in particular a very picturesque little spot with a number of trees including oaks and olive trees.

The church stands there with its age-worn stones, belfry, and façade. Its solid walls have few openings, only three small doors and windows on the southern, western and northern sides respectively. One door is surmounted by a small rose window and an ornamental low-relief. The church sits comfortably in its environment, well integrated.

Inside, the church is vaulted and conserves its original charm. A grill of early date separates the men from the women. The bells are rung every evening to call to vespers and to announce to the faithful when it is time for Holy Mass, 6 o’clock in summer and 5 o’clock in winter. Sundays Mass is celebrated twice in the morning, at 7.30 and at 9, and again in the evening. As well as the four parish churches of Amsheet there are other churches in the town such as Saint George’s and Saint Barbara’s, but these, having no parish attached, are generally smaller and kept closed, being opened only for special occasions such as Mass on the feasts of their patron saints.

The church of Saint Elisha invites all passers-by to enter and pray, and in my opinion churches should never close their doors. The faithful are ever more numerous who come to pray in Saint Elisha’s and to saunter in the surrounding streets of Amsheet, admiring the beautiful old houses in the midst of a restful nature which reveals at every corner and turn of the road a view of breath-taking beauty.

Joseph Matar
Translation from the French : Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Saint Elisha, Church inside: >> View Movie << (2016-11-01)
- Saint Elisha, Church outside: >> View Movie << (2016-11-15)



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