(Image of the three 3 Lebanese Maronite Holy Saints: St. Rafqa, St. Charbel, St. Al Hardini. The bottom man is Lebanese Maronite Beatified and soon to be Saint, Blessed Estephan Nehme)
The Maronites are essentially Eastern Rite Catholics, whom since their origin have professed the One True Apostolic Catholic Faith of Pope St. Peter the Prince of the Apostles, have celebrated the same Sacred Mysteries and retained the same Holy Sacraments as the universal Catholic Church, the One True Church of Jesus, all the while maintaining diversity through their own distinct Code of Canon Law and Divine Liturgy. The one true thrice-fold goal of all Maronite Clergy and Laity is the Love of The Lord, the salvation of souls and loyalty to the Supreme Pontiff who gives their diversity meaning and canonical status.
The origin of the Maronites was in the fertile crescent, which is an area modernly comprised of Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, which all spoke the common language of Aramaic, receiving it’s sacredness for being one of the primary languages Our Divine Master Jesus spoke while at the last supper and with the Holy Apostles. Because of this, the Maronites chant hymns in Aramaic, learn this language thoroughly in seminaries and sing the opening prayers, the most Sacred Consecration and the Our Father of the Divine Liturgy all in Aramaic.
A certain Holy Saint by the name of St. Maroun or Maron, who was born in around 350 AD in a town near Antioch named Cyrrhus, and after having grown into a young man, left to live a hermitic and penitential life of asceticism on a hill. It was recorded that this hill was home to thousands of pagan worshipers, to which St. Maron responded with prayer and penance which saw thousands of pagans convert to the True Holy Mother Church and Her invisible head: Jesus our Beloved. St. Maron attracted many followers through His acts of extreme charity, Miraculous physical and spiritual healings, Piety and Holiness, which attracted both laity and desert monks, to the extent where the revered and Pious St. John Chrysostom while in exile wrote a letter to St. Maroun, reading: “[Dear Maroun], we are bound to you by love and interior disposition, and see you here before us as if you were actually present. For such are the eyes of love; their vision is neither interrupted by distance nor dimmed by time… we address ourselves to your honour and assure you that we hold you constantly in our minds and carry you about in our souls wherever we may be… please pray for us.”
After St. Maron faithfully departed in 410 AD, many of the faithful Laity and Clergy that were followers inspired by St. Maron’s remarkable example of Sainthood, built numerous monasteries in His name, including one of the largest monasteries by the name of “Beit Maron” or “house of Maron.” One of the primary characteristics of Beit Maron and the Holy Maronites was their fervency for defending the fullness of truth and their loyalty to the princely throne of Our Holy Father St. Peter, to the extent where they upheld every Catholic Doctrine even under the pain of death, and because of this, came about the persecutions of the Maronites in 517 AD which saw 350 Maronite monks martyred for their loyalty to the Council of Chalcedon (451) which declared Jesus as “True Man and True God.” Even to this day, on the Holy Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, we pray during the Divine Liturgy; “O Lord, preserve your children from all error or deviation, grant us to live and die proclaiming: ‘Our Faith is the faith of Peter, the faith of Peter is our faith!’” This is arguably not only because of Our Lord’s words in the Holy Gospel deeming St. Peter as rock, but also because St. Peter fled to Antioch during the persecutions in Jerusalem and passed on the Faith to Antioch who were the first people to call the Holy Apostles Christians (Acts 11:26) and the Maronites are direct descendants of these people.
In the 7th century, the Maronites selected their first patriarch, another Holy man named St. John Maroun, who was approved by Holy Father Pope Sergius I which highlights the everlasting Maronite communion with Holy Rome, however years later another wave of persecutions hit the Maronites killing 500 and causing the Maronites from the fertile crescent and Israel to recede into the Lebanese Mountains, in which they flourished until about the 13th century. In the 13th Century during the crusades, Beit Maron was destroyed completely and Patriarch Daniel ELhadsheeti was martyred along with many of the northern villages of Lebanon being destroyed (the village of I, the author, being one of the many destroyed). In 1367, Patriarch Gabriel Hejola was burned alive at the stake, and the many persecutions that followed caused the Maronites to move temporarily to cyprus and the Patriarchate also moved to Wadi Qonnoubine.
Later in the 19th century, the ottoman empire took control and during their rule managed to completely destroy many villages, Holy Churches and martyred many Maronites, among whom were the Blessed Massabki Brothers, Francis, Abed and Raphael who were beatified by Holy Father Pope Pius XI. This then catalysed several waves of migration to the Americas and Australia, which has now made the Maronites internationally situated but nevertheless many remain in the original Lebanese mountains. Many of us, including I who am in Australia, uphold Maronite Catholic tradition to this day which is Sacred and represents the very birth of the Bride of Jesus in the middle east, by speaking the native tongue of Our Lord and remaining forever faithful to the Holy Father.
How can we be inspired by the Maronites of Holy Mother Church? the Faith of the Maronite people which is like an inextinguishable fire, reveals to us that Our Holy Lord and His Immaculate Mother Mary, the “OuhmAllah” or “Mother of God” call people of all nations and cultures to enter into a union with the Celestial Courts of Heaven and thus realise, through Humility which means to know yourself, that we are an abyss of Misery that can do nothing on our own but we find greatest fulfilment in union with the Life giving spirit of Jesus. The Martyrdom of the Maronites who remained faithful to the infallible teaching of the Living Magisterium and the Holy Father that Jesus is True Man and True God, through the hypostatic union of both His two natures, teaches us that the greatest act of Love is the baptism of Fire; to lay down one’s life for his Friends, or in other words, to give up oneself sacrificially and in toil for Holy Mother Church, all Her teachings, Her visible head the Supreme Pontiff, and of course, Our Best Friends Jesus and Mother Mary (St. John 15:13).