Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Maronite Year XXVII

One of the formative events in the history of the Maronite Church was the rise of the Maronite movement, as people flocked to the mountains of Syria and Lebanon in order to follow the example of St. Maron. This movement flourished for quite some time, but the area was heating up greatly with the constant struggle between the Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Persian (Sassanid) Empire, the two main Eastern powers. The worst and most terrible of these struggles was the Byzantine-Sassanid (or Byzantine-Sasanian) War, from 602-628, a vast and terrible war over almost the entire Middle East. In the midst of this, the Patriarch of Antioch, St. Anastasius II, died in 609. Because the entire area was in turmoil, the Patriarchs of Constantinople began choosing a titular patriarch of Antioch, who would reside in Constantinople, and just technically keep the title open. This was extraordinarily unpopular throughout Syria.

At some point, the bishops in the area just began choosing their own patriarch. This is a very murky period in history -- as one would expect from the all-out war throughout the region -- so it is difficult to get any precise evidence about how this occurred. However, it's widely thought that John Maron was chosen as the first Maronite Patriarch of Antioch in 685. There is a long tradition that the Maronites received approval for their move from Pope St. Sergius I; and it in fact would not be wholly surprising if they did seek the confirmation of Rome -- seeking out, at some point, some sort of recognition from other important sees would have been natural, and they certainly wouldn't have received any confirmation from Constantinople. In any case, it was John Maron that moved the primary see of the Maronites from Syria to Lebanon, one of the most significant events in Maronite history. It would be in the mountains of Lebanon that the Crusaders and the Maronites would meet, in the reign of Youssif al Jirjissi, the twenty-fourth patriarch from St. John Maron, the first. St. John Maron is on the universal calendar, so his feast day of March 2nd is shared by Latin Catholics and Maronite Catholics.

Feast of St. John Maron
Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 5:13-17

Where is the shepherd to watch over the flock?
The Lord would not forsake His little lambs!
Thus the Merciful One raised up a shepherd,
John Maron, loving father, faithful light;
diligent, his heart was set upon the Lord.
On the altar he offered Christ to Christ;
He was a priest and image of his High Priest.

Antioch's honor is its faith in Christ;
may they shine with bright rays, all the splendid stars,
the lights you have kindled for your people.
Our Lord Jesus calls out to His disciples:
"I will make you fishers of men; follow."
You are a great fisher of men, John Maron,
a template for all who would succeed you.

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