Many of you know that I’m Lebanese and that I try to go back to Lebanon at least once a year. Last year, I posted two blogs about my visits: one about my March 2016 trip and one about the Feast of the Assumption, which falls on August 15th. You all enjoyed my posts so much that the former post appeared in the Aramco Expats online edition and the other one resulted in my getting more emails than any other post!
Given that it’s August 15th today, the day of the Feast of the Assumption, I thought I’d show you, in pictures, how much the Virgin Mary is celebrated in Lebanon. It’s a national holiday there, and everyone named Mary is celebrated! I drove my dad crazy when we would go for walks as I stopped to photograph every shrine we passed. Making it a challenge to find unique and hidden shrines added to the fun.
In these photos, you’ll find shrines dedicated not only to the Virgin Mary, but to other saints that are important to Lebanese Christians. These include Saint Sharbel (also spelled Charbel), Saint Elias, and Saint Thecla. You can read more about the saints specific to Lebanon here.
This post is meant to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to walk and drive around the small Christian mountain village of Broummana, 20 minutes east of Beirut, in the Mount Lebanon Governorate. You will hear church bells ringing all day on Sunday and on other days of the week. Going to church is a daily activity for many. Outings to visit churches or larger shrines are common all year round. It would be an understatement to say that people in this small village are religious because they are very religious! Many activities revolve around the local churches. Check out this huge church square overlooking the beautiful mountains of Mount Lebanon:
The mini shrines are typically at the front of people’s properties, near the road, for others to see and enjoy. They can be on trees, set high on pedestals, or set in the woods. And, they can be indoors at public places like hospitals.
These shrines are so much more than the physical structures because they represent a devotion to God and to the saints they depict. They’re a daily reminder about the blessings of life and the need to pray and feel connected spiritually to God, nature, and each other.
These shrines are well-maintained and you will often find fresh flowers or lit candles that have been intentionally placed by passers-by and devotees. It’s common to cross oneself every time you pass one of these shrines and to say a quick prayer. There’s a sense of peace, belonging, and comfort as you walk around and see the number and variety of shrines.
Have a look at all of the different mini-shrines and bigger shrines dedicated to saints, below. The captions will tell you more about each one:
So, what do you think? Have you seen so many shrines in such a concentrated place before? Many Catholic and religious parts of the world have such shrines and I’d love to hear where you’ve seen some!Email This Post