“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
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
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.
Translation from the French : Kenneth J. Mortimer
- Saint Elisha, Church inside: >>
- Saint Elisha, Church outside: >> View
Movie << (2016-11-15)