Maronite History

THE MARONITE CHURCH

The Maronite Church dates back to the early Christians of Antioch where “they were called Christians for the first time” (Acts 11:26).She still uses as Her liturgical language, Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic that Jesus Himself spoke, and takes Her name from the hermit-priest, Saint Maron, who died in 410 AD.

Within a few years after Saint Maron’s death, over 800 monks adopted his way of life and became known as the Maronites. Later, the Muslim invasions (7th-10th Centuries), coupled with conflicts from within the Byzantine Empire, caused the Maronites to flee the plains of Syria and their churches and monasteries, to the natural protection of the mountains of Lebanon where they first lived in caves and grottos, and then later built small churches and monasteries. By 687, Maronites organized themselves around Saint John Maron, whom they elected Patriarch of the vacant See of Antioch, and thus developed as a distinct Church within the Catholic Church.

The Maronite Church has been enriched by three centers of learning and culture:

Antioch: A city in West Syria (now Turkey) that served as a center of commerce and education and was known for its Greek and Syriac culture. Antioch gave the Maronite Church much of her unique liturgical life.

Edessa: A prominent city in ancient Mesopotamia, which had a Semitic culture and influenced the prayers and hymns of the Maronite Church. It was also the home of Saint Ephrem, Doctor of the Church, who gave the Maronite Church much of Her poetry and prayer.

Lebanon: The land that provided a safe haven to establish a stable monastic and parish life, as well as schools to educate the children of the close knit and devout Maronite families. Maronites have been a positive force for the development of Lebanon as a country of peaceful coexistence for all peoples. Maronites now live in many cultures, their Mother Church is in Lebanon and daughter communities exist throughout the world.

THE MARONITE CHURCH AT A GLANCE

The command of Jesus continues to find partial fulfillment in the missionary work of the Maronite Church: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15) Today there are millions of Maronite Catholics throughout the world. The Patriarch, in communion with the Pope of Rome, resides in Bkerke, Lebanon, with a summer residence in Dimane.

Patriarchal See: Bkerke, Lebanon

Eparchies: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan, Holy Land and Jordan, Lebanon (13), Mexico and Venezuela, Syria (3), United States (2).

Parishes Without Maronite Eparchies:

In Europe: Belgium, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland.

In Africa: South Africa, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tago, Nigeria.

In Latin America: Uruguay, Santo Domingo, Colombia

In Arab Countries: United Arab Emirates, Kuwait

Seminaries: Ain Saade, Ghazir and Karm Sadde in Lebanon; Washington, DC in the United States; Maronite religious orders and communities have houses of formation in Rome and in Lebanon. The Maronite College in Rome houses student priests who seek advance degrees.

The United States is home to two Maronite Eparchies with over 80 parishes and missions, along with a Seminary, Monastery, Convent and Shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon.

MONKS, RELIGIOUS AND CONSECRATED LIFE

Religious life, in all its forms, was and still is an important part of the Maronite Church. Hermetic and communal monastic life accompanied the birth of the Maronite Church from the beginning, thus linking the history of the Church to the monks of the Monastery of Saint Maron.

Toward the end of the seventeenth century, religious life became more organized, new orders were founded and their mission expanded.Monks, nuns and religious priests and brothers serve in schools, universities, hospitals, parishes, missions, orphanages, and nursing homes in Lebanon, the Middle East, and in many places throughout the world.

Today there are several religious orders and congregations for men and women numbering hundreds of religious. Some are of Pontifical right, some Patriarchal and some are Eparchial, which means they are dependent upon the Pope, Patriarch or Eparchial Bishop respectively. Each order and congregation has its own rule of life and focuses on living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience according to the charisma of their founders.

The Liturgical Year

During the year, the different seasons celebrate the moments of the saving plan of Christ, following every aspect of His life and ministry. The Liturgical Year begins the first Sunday of November with a consecration and rededication of the Church.

The Seasons are:
  • Glorious Birth
  • Epiphany
  • Lent
  • Holy Week
  • Resurrection
  • Pentecost
  • Holy Cross

Special rituals accompany each of the feasts. The faithful are invited during each liturgical celebration to conform their lives to that of Christ and His Church.


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