|A monk and priest named "Maroon",
friend and classmate of Saint John Chrysostom, lived
in the second half of the fourth century, in northern
Syria. He began his hermit life approximately 386 A.D.
on the Cyrus Mountain, near the famous city of Antioch.
At the time the Roman Emperor Theodosianus issued a
decree "all pagan temples to be destroyed ".
So "Mar Maroon" destroyed one pagan temple
and, on its ruin, he built a tent. He lived there
as a hermit serving the Lord in Penance, in self-reconciliation,
and in adoration. He retired from the outside world
because he wanted to devote himself totally to God.
In his loneliness He found the Lord and he began to
preach and teach through the word of God and the good
example. His hermitage became a centre to reach God.
Thus the hermit, Maroon, became for the people an
Apostle, a Teacher, and a Man of God. His tent therefore
became a " Light-House" in a country where
wrong and the Schism dominated.
The inhabitants of this Country wanted, if possible,
to near Mar Maroon and to live under his guidance.
Many young people came to him so that they could fulfil
the commandment of the Lord: "Come and follow
Mar Maroon died approximately in 423 A.D. While dying
he beseeched and recommended to his disciples to follow
always the Church's teaching.
|Mar Maroon hermit's spirit
was still alive among his followers. In a short time,
his Community grew rapidly and built a monastery for
800 Monks, named "THE CRYSTAL MONASTERY".
This " Crystal Monastery" was located on the
bank of the Oronte's River (Al-Assi), in Apamea, near
the City of Hama in Syria, it was for a few centuries
the nucleus of the Maronite Church. In the beginning,
nothing special differentiated the Maronites from other
oriental Christians. With a deep personal engagement
the Church became strongly and solidly rooted in their
Land. The monks of the "Crystal Monastery"
reached a significant position, and played an important
role in the faith of the people.
In 431 A.D. there came the dismissal of Nestorius
and the extension of the "Nestorianismus"
in the Middle East. The Chalcedony Ecumenical Council
in 451 A.D. dismissed Dioskur; this was the beginning
of the monophysitism and the monothelism movements
and the changes in the Church of the Region.
Their unshakeable faith lead the Maronite Monks and
laity to Martyrdom. The 350 Martyrs became the first
witnesses for Christianity in the Maronite Church,
in 517 A.D. They destroyed the "Crystal Monasery"
This martyrdom inspired and still inspires the Maronites
to live and fight in a genuine belief of serving God.Around
the "Crystal Monastery" a Christian community
with the monks, resisted the persecution. In 517,
following the martyrdom of 350 Maronites, the Pope
HERMISDA wrote a letter to the monks and to the Maronite
people praising their courage and strengthening their
belief in defending the word of God.
During the course of the 7th century, there came
into Syria, Palestine and Lebanon the Islamic invasion.
Throughout this Invasion the steady contact with the
Mother Church ANTIOCH became difficult and impossible.
Therefore, the monks of the Crystal Monastery decided
to elect their Abbot as Patriarch. It was Saint John-Maroon
to become the first Maronite Patriarch of Antioch.
Thus the Maronite church as an independent and autonomous
in communion with the POPE in Rome and his Successors,
it was called the "ANTIOCHIAN MARONITE CHURCH
|Because of these external
pressures, the Maronite Community depended on the Patriarch
to be a spiritual and political Leader, Protector of
his Church and his Nation.
To protect this "Faith" - Depositum Fidei-,
this newly independent Church took refuge by their
brothers and sisters in faith in the Mountains of
Lebanon, where the Maronites monks, in the early fifth
centuries, obeying to the orders of St. Simeon Stylite
and to St. Maroon went to preach and so to christianise
inhabitant of the Lebanese Mountains "the Phoenicians"
who also took refuge in the Lebanese mountains in
386 A.D. when the Roman Emperor decreed to destroy
the Pagan Religion and its Temples.
These Phoenicians became Christians according to
the Maronites Catholic Belief. And the Maronites identified
themselves with the inhabitants of the Mountains of
Lebanon and they became one Family believing in ONE
GOD, in ONE COUNTRYand in ONE PATRIARCH.
This fusion with the Phoenicians of Lebanon was so
deep and so well identified that their neighbours:
Arabs and Muslims, Byzantine and Christians did not
separate any more this two constituents elements of
the Lebanese Nation, [Phoenicians and Maronites],
but they considered them One Nation," the Maronite
Nation", and the "aborigine Nation Of Lebanon."
In the mountains of Lebanon the Maronites lived an
authentic Christian life, and to present days they
transmitted the Creed from fathers to sons, in an
unbreakable communion with the Universal Catholic
Church of Rome.
The Crusades at the end of the 11th century brought
a light of hope into their Land, and made the contact
with the Mother Church Rome possible and easier. So
is to allow the Maronite Patriarch "MAR JEREMIAH
AMSHETE" to go to Rome and participate at the
4th. Lateran's Ecumenical Council (1214 A.D.).
|Through the work of the eminent
Maronites scholars in the 17th century, the Maronite
church maintained the living Syriac-Christian tradition.
In virtue of her Aramaic origin, and being the heiress
of the traditions of the Antiochian Syriac School and
Patriarchate, the Church played a special role as a
bridge between Eastern and Western Churches.
Because of her geographical location in the middle
of Islamic countries, and throughout her spiritual
development the Maronite Church was and still is a
persecuted Church. This Church is a witness of Jesus
Christ because she is a "SUFFERING CHURCH".
Like Saint Paul, the Maronite Church can say:
" So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses
my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay
over me, and that is why I am quite content with my
weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions
and the agonies, I go through for Christs sake,
for it is when I am weak that I am strong." (2
|Today the Maronite Church
is established throughout the world: In Lebanon, Syria,
Israel and Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt there are approximately
ONE MILLION Maronites.
In the New World the presence of the Maronite Church
is to be better organised and her followers deserve
to be looked after.However in Argentina, Brazil, Canada,
United States of America, Central America, Chili,
Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay and
Venezuela, in Australia, in Africa, and in Europe
there are approximately Four millions Maronites.
|The Maronite Church is lead
by one PATRIARCH in Communion with the successor of
Saint Peter, the Pope of Rome. Presently, he is helped
in the Government of the Church by 30 Cardinals, Archbishops
There are 9 Archdiocese and Dioceses in Lebanon:
The Patriarchal Diocese
(Becharre-al Joubbe in Diman, Batroun, Ehden - Zghorta
The Archdiocese of Tripoli
The Diocese of Jebeil
The diocese of Jounieh
The Archdiocese of Beyrouth
The Archdiocese of Saida
The Archdiocese of Tyr and the Holy Land
The Diocese of Zahle & Baalbek,
The Archdiocese of Antelias
The Diocese of Deir Al Ahmar.
There are three Archdioceses and Dioceses in Syria:
The Archdiocese of Aleppo
The Archdiocese of Damascus
The Diocese of Lattequie.
There is one Archdiocese in Egypt:
The Archdiocese of Cairo.
There is one Archdiocese in Cyprus.
The Archdiocese of Cyprus.
The Maronite Church presently is served by approximately
1,200 diocesan priests; 1,000 priests in Religious
Orders and about 1500 Nuns.
In Lebanon there are four Maronites Catholics Universities,
and three Seminaries.
Outside of the Middle East, the Maronite Church has
Brooklyn N.Y. U.S.A. (1965) with 31 Parishes and
Sao Paolo, Brazil (1963) with 4 Parishes.
Sydney Australia (1973) with 10 Parishes and two Convents
for Maronites Nuns and one Monastery for Maronites
Montreal Canada (1982) with 8 parishes and one convent
for Maronites Nuns and two Monasteries for Maronites
Monks. Western and Eastern Europe (1993) Buenos Aires,
Los Angeles, Cal. U.S.A. (1994) with 23 parishes.
Holy Land ( Israel and Palestine) (1995)
Mexico City, Mexico (1995).
(Historical Precis of the Antiochian Maronite Church)
Msgr. Kheirallah Aoukar
Founder of Our Lady of Lebanon Parish