Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cedar of Lebanon

Today is the Feast of St. Sharbel Makhlouf (1828-1898); he is commemorated by Maronites on the third Sunday of July (his properly Maronite commemoration) and on the 23rd (his commemoration according to Rome's general calendar), and which of the two is emphasized more seems to vary according to the Maronite parish. As it happens, I was at a Maronite liturgy both last Saturday evening for the Vigil and today at two different Maronite churches, so I caught both commemorations.

St. Sharbel, or Charbel, was the son of a mule-driver who used to sneak away to pray at the monastery of St. Maron in Annaya, Lebanon. He eventually became a Lebanese Maronite monk there, but after some time there he decided to go further and become a hermit (this requires special permission, which he received). He was a hermit for twenty-three years, and gained a widespread reputation for hospitality and holiness.

Annaya

Cedars grow tall on Liban hills,
life rooted deeper than human will;
flame is bright over muddy grave
of a hermit-saint who hid his face;
the heart is kissed by burning light
as cedar soars to sun and sky,
is charged with day without a night,
and burns but is not burned.

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