Friday, February 09, 2007

Feb. 9th: Feast of Saint Maron

Today is the feast of St. Maron, the father of the Maronite Church, who lived in the fourth and early fifth centuries. The following account is from - I would have included an icon, but Blogger is acting funky.

All that is known about Maron, the spiritual father and protector of the Maronites comes from Theodoret, the bishop of Cyr. In approximately 444, Theodoret undertook the project of writing a religious history about his religion. Theodoret never knew Maron personally, but only through the disciples of this holy man. He described Maron as "the one who has planted for God the garden which flourishes now in the region of Cyr." Little is known of the birth or youth of Maron because Theodoret was unconcerned about that aspect of his life. He felt that Maron was a man born not for this world, but for heaven. In his description of the beginning of Maron's life, Theodoret assests that Maron had "already increased the number of saints in heaven."

According to history, Maron was never satisfied with the ordinary practices of asceticism, but was "always seeking for new ways to accumulate all the treasures of wisdom." Maron was the spiritual leader not only of the hermits who lived near him, but of all the Christian faithful in the area. He used to counsel them, heal their bodily and spiritual ills. All of these apostolic endeavors manifested wisdom and holiness of the hermit Maron.

Some hold the opinion that Maron and John Chrysostom studied together at Antioch before 398 and that the famous letter sent by John Chrysostom was indeed sent to this hermit Maron and not to some other anchorite with the same name. If the monk referred to in this letter is from the region of Cyr, it is indeed our spiritual father, Maron.

The date of Maron's death is placed somewhere between 407 and 423. Because of his great popularity among the people, riots broke out at the time of his death because everyone wanted to save his remains in their village.

The following is excerpted from the homily by Fr. Sharbel Maroun from the Feast of St. Maron, 2005:

This week the Maronites worldwide celebrate the feast of our founder and patron saint Maron.

In Lebanon, where there are seventeen different sects of Christians and Moslems, February the 9th is a national holiday where the whole government is shut down.

Maron’s influence on the Syriac group of Christians in the fourth century was so great that they took their name after him; Bet Moroon, “Maronites.”

Through this holy man god has performed many miracles and wonders. Even among his followers, one can find some twenty saints, four of whom are women. In recent history, the Maronite church has given the church more saints, among them St. Sharbel, St. Rafka, and St. Nimatullah.

The Maronites have endured continuous persecution for the last 1600 years, offering their blood in martyrdom for the sake of their faith and freedom. Our Maronite brothers & sisters in Lebanon are in a danger of disappearing with the spread of Islam & fundamentalism. It is our duty to pray for them and help preserve Christianity in the land where it was born 2004 years ago.

The first Maronites came from the Syriac branch of Christianity, the direct descendants of the people who received the faith from the apostles. The Maronites are people of faith who are always willing to sacrifice themselves and what they have for Christ’s sake as a gratitude for sacrificing himself on the cross on their behalf.

Because of the harsh persecution in Syria during the Moslem expansion, the Maronites fled to Lebanon in the seventh century where they established themselves as a church, gathering around their spiritual father, the patriarch, and establishing their liturgy, spirituality and identity.

[…] Our (i.e. the Maronites) ancestors are none but the direct descendants of the apostles and Jesus himself. Our liturgical language is the same language that the Son of God spoke, and our mother land is the land where Christ and his mother Mary and the apostles walked upon; our forefathers are the Phoenicians who have discovered the first alphabet, and the first people who sailed the oceans.

In order for this Maronite church to continue to flourish and grow, the spirit of Maron must be followed with love and unity.

Let us imitate Maron as he imitated Christ his lord, and like him follow Christ with simplicity, faith and humility.