March 3, 2022

Into Mount Lebanon

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by Andrew Doran, Senior Research Fellow

With a new and familiar monk

Even after two hours of driving up Mount Lebanon, a range that spans over a hundred miles along the Levantine coast, you never quite feel that you’ve arrived; there are, somehow, always more mountains. With the Mediterranean at our backs, a Lebanese friend and I travel eastward and upward, by twisting roads that intersect with pathways ancient and new — even the Via Appia, from which all roads led and by which they returned to Rome. We drive to meet a monk.

Seventeen centuries earlier Abraham, a monk, made this same ascent on foot at the behest of Saint Maron (for whom the Maronites are named), to convert the recalcitrant and sometimes violent Phoenician pagans of Mount Lebanon. The mountain was sacred to the Phoenicians, and there they clung to ancient rites to appease terrifying deities. Brother Abraham succeeded in his mission, despite much hardship. The caves that for millennia were the scenes of macabre sacrifices by torchlight became the site of a new ritual, one that reenacted a single blood sacrifice in Jerusalem…