FREE Catholic Classes
This article will give first the present state of the Maronite nation and Church ; after which their history will be studied, with a special examination of the much discussed problem of the origin of the Church and the nation and their unvarying orthodoxy.
I. PRESENT STATE OF THE MARONITES A. Ethnographical and Political
The Maronites (Syriac Marunôye; Arabic Mawarinah ) number about 300,000 souls, distributed in Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, and Egypt. Of this number about 230,000 inhabit the Lebanon, forming nearly five-eighths of the population of that vilayet and the main constituent of the population in four out of seven kaïmakats, viz., those of Batrun, Kasrawan, Meten, and Gizzin (the Orthodox Greeks predominating in Koura, the Catholic Greeks in Zahlé, and the Druses in Shûf). They are of Syrian race, but for many centuries have spoken only Arabic, though in a dialect which must have retained many Syriac peculiarities. In the mountain districts manners are very simple, and the Maronites are occupied with tillage and cattle-grazing, or the silk industry; in the towns they are engaged in commerce. Bloody vendettas, due to family and clan rivalries, are still kept up in the mountain districts. The population increases very rapidly, and numbers of Maronites emigrate to the different provinces of the Ottoman Empire, to Europe, particularly France, to the French colonies, but most of all to the United States. The emigrants return with their fortunes made, and too often bring with them a taste for luxury and pleasure, sometimes also a decided indifference to religion which in some instances, degenerates into hostility.
For many centuries the Maronite mountaineers have been able to keep themselves half independent of the Ottoman Empire. At the opening of the nineteenth century their organization was entirely feudal. The aristocratic families -- who, especially when they travelled in Europe, affected princely rank -- elected the emir. The power of the Maronite emir preponderated in the Lebanon, especially when the Syrian family of Benî Shibâb forsook Islam for Christianity. The famous emir Beshîr, ostensibly a Mussulman, was really a Maronite; but after his fall the condition of the Maronites changed for the worse. A merciless struggle against the Druses, commencing in 1845, devastated the whole Lebanon. Two emirs were then created, a Maronite and a Druse, both bearing the title of Kaïmakam, and they were held responsible to the Pasha of Saïda. In 1860 the Druses, impelled by fanaticism, massacred a large number of Maronites at Damascus and in the Lebanon. As the Turkish Government looked on supinely at this process of extermination, France intervened: an expedition led by General de Beaufort d'Hautpoult restored order. In 1861 the present system, with a single governor for all the Lebanon, was inaugurated. This governor is appointed by the Turkish Government for five years. There are no more feudal rights ; all are equal before the law, without distinction of race; each nation has its sheik , or mayor, who takes cognizance of communal affairs, and is a judge in the provincial council. Every Maronite between the ages of fifteen and sixty pays taxes, with the exception of the clergy, though contributions are levied on monastic property. In contrast to the rule among the other rites, the Maronite patriarch is not obliged to solicit his firman of investiture from the sultan; but, on the other hand, he is not the temporal head of his nation, and has no agent at the Sublime Porte, the Maronites being, together with the other Uniat communities, represented by the Vakeel of the Latins. Outside of the Lebanon they are entirely subject to the Turks ; in these regions the bishops -- e.g., the Archbishop of Beirut -- must obtain their bérat , in default of which they would have no standing with the civil government , and could not sit in the provincial council.
Like the other Catholic communities of the Turkish Empire, the Maronites are under the protection of France, but in their case the protectorate is combined with more cordial relations dating from the connection between this people and the French as early as the twelfth century. This cordiality has been strengthened by numerous French interventions, from the Capitulations of Francis I to the campaign of 1861, and by the wide diffusion of the French language and French culture, thanks to the numerous establishments in the Lebanon under the direction of French missionaries -- Jesuits, Lazarists, and religious women of different orders. It is impossible to foresee what changes will be wrought in the situation of the Maronites, national and international, by the accession to power of the "Young Turks ".
The Maronite Church is divided into nine dioceses : Gibail and Batrun (60,000 souls ); Beirut and one part of the Lebanon (50,000); Tyre and Sidon (47,000); Baalbek and Kesraouan (40,000); Tripoli (35,000); Cyprus and another part of the Lebanon (30,000); Damascus and Hauran (25,000); Aleppo and Cilicia (5000); Egypt (7000). The last-named diocese is under a vicar patriarchal, who also has charge of the Maronite communities in foreign parts -- Leghorn, Marseilles, Paris -- and particularly those in America.
(1) The Patriarch
The official title is Patriarcha Antiochenus Maronitarum. The Maronite patriarch shares the title of Antioch with three other Catholic patriarchs -- the Melchite, the Syrian Catholic, and the Latin (titular) -- one schismatical (Orthodox), and one heretical (Syrian Jacobite). The question will be considered later on, whether, apart from the concession of the Holy See, the Maronite patriarch can allege historical right to the title of Antioch. Since the fifteenth century his traditional residence has been the cloister of St. Mary of Kanôbin, where are the tombs of the patriarchs. In winter he resides at Bkerke, below Beirut, in the district of Kesraouan. He himself administers the Diocese of Gibail-Batrun, but with the assistance of the titular Bishops of St-Jean d'Acre, Tarsus, and Nazareth, who also assist him in the general administration of the patriarchate. He has the right to nominate others, and there are also several patriarchal vicars who are not bishops. The patriarch is elected by the Maronite bishops, usually on the ninth day after the see has been declared vacant. He must be not less than forty years of age, and two-thirds of the whole number of votes are required to elect him. On the next day the enthronization takes place, and then the solemn benediction of the newly elected patriarch. The proceedings of the assembly are transmitted to Rome ; the pope may either approve or disapprove the election; if he approves, he sends the pallium to the new patriarch; if not, he quashes the acts of the assembly and is free to name a candidate of his own choice. The chief prerogatives of the patriarch are: to convoke national councils; to choose and consecrate bishops ; to hear and judge charges against bishops ; to visit dioceses other than his own once in every three years. He blesses the holy oils and distributes them to the clergy and laity ; he grants indulgences, receives the tithes and the taxes for dispensations, and may accept legacies, whether personal or for the Church. Before 1736 he received fees for ordinations and the blessing of holy oils ; this privilege being suppressed, Benedict XIV substituted for it permission to receive a subsidium caritativum . The distinctive insignia of the patriarch are the masnaftô (a form of head-dress), the phainô (a kind of cape or cope ), the orarion (a kind of pallium ), the tiara, or mitre (other bishops wear only the orarion and the mitre ), the pastoral staff surmounted with a cross, and, in the Latin fashion, the pastoral ring and the pectoral cross. To sum up, the Maronite patriarch exercises over his subjects, virtually, the authority of a metropolitan. He himself is accountable only to the pope and the Congregation of Propaganda ; he is bound to make his visit ad limina only once in every ten years. The present (1910) occupant of the patriarchal throne is Mgr. Elias Hoysk, elected in 1899.
(2) The Episcopate
The bishops are nominated by the patriarch. The title of Archbishop (metropolitan), attached to the Sees of Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, Tyre and Sidon, and Tripoli, is purely honorary. A bishop without a diocese resides at Ehden. It has been said above that the patriarch nominates a certain number of titular bishops. The bishop, besides his spiritual functions, exercises, especially outside of the Vilayet of the Lebanon, a judicial and civil jurisdiction.
The bishops are assisted by chorepiscopi, archdeacons, economi, and periodeutes ( bardût ). The chorepiscopus visits, and can also consecrate, churches. The chorepiscopus of the episcopal residence occupies the first place in the cathedral in the absence of the bishop. The periodeutes, as his name indicates, is a kind of vicar forane who acts for the bishop in the inspection of the rural clergy. The economus is the bishop's coadjutor for the administration of church property and the episcopal mensa.
(3) The Clergy
Of the 300 parishes some are given by the bishops to regulars, others to seculars. Priests without parishes are celibate and dependent on the patriarch. The others are married -- that is to say, they marry while in minor orders, but cannot marry a second time. There are about 1100 secular priests and 800 regulars. The education of the clergy is carried on in five patriarchal and nine diocesan seminaries. Many study at Rome, and a great number in France, thanks to the "Œuvre de St Louis" and the burses supported by the French Government. The intellectual standard of the Maronite clergy is decidedly higher than that of the schismatical and heretical clergy who surround them. The married priests of the rural parishes are often very simple men, still more often they are far from well-to-do, living almost exclusively on the honoraria received for Masses and the presents of farm produce given them by the country people. Most of them have to eke out these resources by cultivating their little portions of land or engaging in some modest industry.
(4) The Religious
These number about 2000, of whom 800 are priests. They all observe the rule known as that of St. Anthony, but are divided into three congregations: the oldest, that of St. Anthony, or of Eliseus, was approved in 1732. It was afterwards divided into Aleppines and peasants, or Baladites, a division approved by Clement XIV in 1770. In the meantime another Antonian congregation had been founded under the patronage of Isaias, and approved in 1740. The Aleppines have 6 monasteries ; the Isaians, 13 or 14; the Baladites, 25. The Aleppines have a procurator at Rome, residing near S. Pietro in Vincoli. The lay brothers give themselves up to manual labour; the priests, to intellectual, with the care of souls, having charge of a great many parishes. The monastic habit consists of a black tunic and a girdle of leather, a cowl, mantle, and sandals. -- There are also seven monasteries, containing about 200 religious, under a rule founded by a former Bishop of Aleppo. At Aintoura, also, there are some Maronite sisters following the Salesian Rule.
(5) The Liturgy
The Maronite is a Syrian Rite, Syriac being the liturgical language, though the Gospel is read in Arabic for the benefit of the people. Many of the priests, who are not sufficiently learned to perform the Liturgy in Syriac, use Arabic instead, but Arabic written in Syriac characters ( Karshuni ). The liturgy is of the Syrian type, i.e., the liturgy of St. James, but much disfigured by attempts to adapt it to Roman usages. Adaptation, often useless and servile, to Roman usages is the distinguishing characteristic of the Maronite among Oriental Rites. This appears, not only in the Liturgy, but also in the administration of all the Sacraments. The Maronites consecrate unleavened bread, they do not mingle warm water in the Chalice, and they celebrate many Masses at the same altar. Communion under both kinds was discouraged by Gregory XIII and at last formally forbidden in 1736, though it is still permitted for the deacon at high Mass. Benedict XIV forbade the communicating of newly baptized infants. Baptism is administered in the Latin manner, and since 1736 confirmation, which is reserved to the bishop, has been given separately. The formula for absolution is not deprecative, as it is in other Eastern Rites , but indicative, as in the Latin, and Maronite priests can validly absolve Catholics of all rites. The orders are: tonsure, psalte , or chanter, lector, sub-deacon, deacon, priest. Ordination as psalte may be received at the age of seven; as deacon, at twenty-one; as priest, at thirty, or, with a dispensation, at twenty-five. Wednesday and Friday of every week are days of abstinence ; a fast lasts until midday, and the abstinence is from meat and eggs. Lent lasts for seven weeks, beginning at Quinquagesima ; the fast is observed every day except Saturdays, Sundays, and certain feast days; fish is allowed. There are neither ember days nor vigils, but there is abstinence during twenty days of Advent and fourteen days preceding the feast of Sts Peter and Paul. Latin devotional practices are more customary among the Maronites than in any other Uniat Eastern Church -- benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Way of the Cross, the Rosary, the devotion to the Sacred Heart, etc.
(6) The Faithful
In the interior of the country the faithful are strongly attached to their faith and very respectful to the monks and the other clergy. Surrounded by Mussulmans, schismatics, and heretics, they are proud to call themselves Roman Catholics ; but education is as yet but little developed, despite the laudable efforts of some of the bishops, and although schools have been established, largely through the efforts of the Latin missionaries and the support of the society of the Ecoles d'Orient, besides the Collège de la Sagesse at Beirut. Returning emigrants do nothing to raise the moral and religious standard. The influence of the Western press is outrageously bad. Wealthy Maronites, too often indifferent, if not worse, do not concern themselves about this state of affairs, which is a serious cause of anxiety to the more intelligent and enlightened among the clergy. But the Maronite nation as a whole remains faithful to its traditions. If they are not exactly the most important community of Eastern Uniats in point of numbers, it is at least true to say that they form the most effective fulcrum for the exertion of a Catholic propaganda in the Lebanon and on the Syrian coast.
Help Now >
II. HISTORY OF THE MARONITES
All competent authorities agree as to the history of the Maronites as far back as the sixteenth century, but beyond that period the unanimity ceases. They themselves assert at once the high antiquity and the perpetual orthodoxy of their nation; but both of these pretensions have constantly been denied by their Christian -- even Catholic -- rivals in Syria, the Melchites, whether Catholic or Orthodox, the Jacobite Syrians, and the Catholic Syrians. Some European scholars accept the Maronite view; the majority reject it. So many points in the primitive history of the nation are still obscure that we can here only set forth the arguments advanced on either side, without drawing any conclusion.
The whole discussion gravitates around a text of the twelfth century. William of Tyre (De Bello Sacro, XX, viii) relates the conversion of 40,000 Maronites in the year 1182. The substance of the leading text is as follows: "After they [the nation that had been converted, in the vicinity of Byblos ] had for five hundred years adhered to the false teaching of an heresiarch named Maro, so that they took from him the name of Maronites, and, being separated from the true Church had been following their own peculiar liturgy [ab ecclesia fidelium sequestrati seorsim sacramenta conficerent sua], they came to the Patriarch of Antioch, Aymery, the third of the Latin patriarchs, and, having abjured their error, were, with their patriarch and some bishops, reunited to the true Church. They declared themselves ready to accept and observe the prescriptions of the Roman Church. There were more than 40,000 of them, occupying the whole region of the Lebanon, and they were of great use to the Latins in the war against the Saracens. The error of Maro and his adherents is and was, as may be read in the Sixth Council, that in Jesus Christ there was, and had been since the beginning only one will and one energy. And after their separation they had embraced still other pernicious doctrines."
We proceed to consider the various interpretations given to this text.A. The Maronite Position
Maro, a Syrian monk, who died in the fifth century and is noticed by Theodoret (Religionis Historia, xvi), had gathered together some disciples on the banks of the Orantes, between Emesa and Apamea. After his death the faithful built, at the place, where he had lived, a monastery which they named after him. When Syria was divided by heresies, the monks of Beit-Marun remained invariably faithful to the cause of orthodoxy, and rallied to it the neighbouring inhabitants. This was the cradle of the Maronite nation. The Jacobite chroniclers bear witness that these populations aided the Emperor Heraclius in the struggle against Monophysitism even by force (c. 630). Moreover, thirty years later when Mu‘awyah, the future caliph, was governor of Damascus (658-58), they disputed with the Jacobites in his presence, and the Jacobites, being worsted, had to pay a large penalty. The Emperor Heraclius and his successors having meanwhile succumbed to the Monothelite heresy, which was afterwards condemned in the Council of 681, the Maronites, who until then had been partisans of the Byzantine emperor (Melchites), broke with him, so as not to be in communion with a heretic. From this event dates the national independence of the Maronites. Justinian II (Rhinotmetes) wished to reduce them to subjection: in 694 his forces attacked the monastery, destroyed it, and marched over the mountain towards Tripoli, to complete their conquest. But the Maronites, with the Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, St. John Maro, at their head, routed the Greeks near Amiun, and saved that autonomy which they were able to maintain through succeeding ages. They are to be identified with the Mardaïtes of Syria, who, in the Lebanon, on the frontier of the Empire, successfully struggled with the Byzantines and the Arabs. There the Crusaders found them, and formed very close relations with them. William of Tyre relates that, in 1182, the Maronites to the number of 40,000, were converted from Monothelitism ; but either this is an error of information, due to William's having copied, without critically examining, the Annals of Eutychius, an Egyptian Melchite who calumniated the Maronites, or else these 40,000 were only a very small part of the nation who had, through ignorance, allowed themselves to be led astray by the Monothelite propaganda of a bishop named Thomas of Kfar-tas. Besides, the Maronites can show an unbroken list of patriarchs between the time of St. John Maro and that of Pope Innocent III ; these patriarchs, never having erred in faith, or strayed into schism, are the only legitimate heirs of the Patriarchate of Antioch, or at least they have a claim to that title certainly not inferior to the claim of any rival. -- Such is the case frequently presented by Maronites, and in the last place by Mgr. Debs, Archbishop of Beirut (Perpétuelle orthodoxie des Maronites).
(1) The Monastery of St. Maro before the Monothelite Controversy
The existence since the sixth century of a convent of St. Maro, or of Beit-Marun, between Apamea and Elmesa, on the right bank of the Orontes, is an established fact, and it may very well have been built on the spot where Maro the solitary dwelt, of whom Theodoret speaks. This convent suffered for its devotion to the true faith, as is strikingly evident from an address presented by its monks to the Metropolitan of Apamea in 517, and to Pope Hormisdas, complaining of the Monophysites, who had massacred 350 monks for siding with the Council of Chalcedon . In 536 the apocrisarius Paul appears at Constantinople subscribing the Acts of the Fourth Œcumenical Council in the name of the monks of St. Maro. In 553, this same convent is represented at the Fifth Œcumenical Council by the priest John and the deacon Paul. The orthodox emperors, particularly Justinian (Procopius, "De Ædific.", V, ix) and Heraclius, gave liberal tokens of their regard for the monastery. The part played by the monks of St. Maro, isolated in the midst of an almost entirely Monophysite population, should not be underrated. But it will be observed that in the texts cited there is mention of a single convent, and not by any means of a population such as could possibly have originated the Maronite nation of later times.
(2) St. John Maro
The true founder of the Maronite nation, the patriarch St. John Maro, would have lived towards the close of the seventh century, but, unfortunately, his very existence is extremely doubtful. All the Syriac authors and the Byzantine priest Timotheus derive the name Maronite from that of the convent Beni-Marun. The words of Timotheus are: Maronîtai dè kèklentai àpò toû monasteríon a&útôn Marò kalonménou èn Suría (in P.G. LXXXVI, 65 and note 53). Renaudot absolutely denies the existence of John Maro. But, supposing that he did exist, as may be inferred from the testimony of the tenth-century Melchite Patriarch Eutychius (the earliest text bearing on the point), his identity has baffled all researches. His name is not to be found in any list of Melchite Patriarchs of Antioch, whether Greek or Syriac. As the patriarchs of the seventh and eighth centuries were orthodox, there was no reason why St. John Maro should have been placed at the head of an alleged orthodox branch of the Church of Antioch. The episcopal records of Antioch for the period in question may be summarized as follows: 685, election of Theophanes; 686, probable election of Alexander; 692, George assists at the Trullan Council ; 702-42, vacancy of the See of Antioch on account of Mussulman persecutions ; 742, election of Stephen. But, according to Mgr Debs, the latest Maronite historian, St. John Maro would have occupied the patriarchal See of Antioch from 685 to 707.
The Maronites insist, affirming that St. John Maro must have been Patriarch of Antioch because his works present him under that title. The works of John Maro referred to are an exposition of the Liturgy of St. James and a treatise on the Faith. The former is published by Joseph Aloysius Assemani in his "Codex Liturgicus" and certainly bears the name of John Maro, but the present writer has elsewhere shown that this alleged commentary of St. John Maro is no other than the famous commentary of Dionysius bar-Salibi, a Monophysite author of the twelfth century, with mutilations, additions, and accommodations to suit the changes by which the Maronites have endeavoured to make the Syriac Liturgy resemble the Roman (Dionysius Bar Salibi, "expositio liturgiæ", ed. Labourt, pref.). The treatise on the Faith is not likely to be any more authentic than the liturgical work: it bears a remarkable resemblance to a theological treatise of Leontius of Byzantium, and should therefore, very probably, be referred to the second half of the sixth century and the first half of the seventh -- a period much earlier than that which the Maronites assign to St. John Maro. Besides, it contains nothing about Monothelitism -- which, in fact, did not yet exist. John Maro, we must therefore conclude, is a very problematic personality ; if he existed at all, it was as a simple monk, not by any means as a Melchite Patriarch of Antioch.
It is to be remembered that before the rise of Monothelitism, the monks of St. Maro, to whom the Maronites trace their origin, were faithful to the Council of Chalcedon as accepted by the Byzantine emperors; they were Melchites in the full sense of the term -- i.e., Imperialists, representing the Byzantine creed among populations which had abandoned it, and, we may add, representing the Byzantine language and Byzantine culture among peoples whose speech and manners were those of Syria. There is no reason to think that, when the Byzantine emperors, by way of one last effort at union with their Jacobite subjects, Syrian and Egyptian, endeavoured to secure the triumph of Monothelitism -- a sort of compromise between Monophysistism and Chalcedonian orthodoxy -- the monks of St. Maro abandoned the Imperialist party and faithfully adhered to orthodoxy. On the contrary, all the documents suggest that the monks of Beit-Marun embraced Monothelitism, and still adhered to that heresy even after the Council of 681, when the emperors had abjured it. It is not very difficult to produce evidence of this in a text of Dionysius of Tell-Mahré (d. 845) preserved to us in the chronicle of Michael the Syrian, which shows Heraclius forcing most of the Syrian monks to accept his Ecthesis, and those of Beit-Marun are counted among the staunchest partisans of the emperor. One very instructive passage in this same chronicle, referring to the year 727, recounts at length a quarrel between the two branches of the Chalcedonians, the orthodox and the Monothelites, where the former are called Maximists, after St. Maximus the confessor, the uncompromising adversary of the Monothelites, while the latter are described as the "party of Beit-Marun" and " monks of Beit-Marun". We are here told how the monks of St. Maro have a bishop in their monastery, how they convert most of the Melchites of the country districts to Monothelitism and even successfully contend with the Maximists (i.e., the Catholics ) for the possession of a church at Aleppo. From that time on, being cut off from communion with the Melchite (Catholic) Patriarch of Antioch, they do as the Jacobites did before them, and for the same reasons: they set up a separate Church, eschewing, however, with equal horror the Monophysites, who reject the Council of Chalcedon, and the Catholics who condemn the Monothelite Ecthesis of Heraclius and accept the Sixth Œcumenical Council. Why the monks of Beit-Marun, hitherto so faithful to the Byzantine emperors, should have deserted them when they returned to orthodoxy, we do not know ; but it is certain that in this defection the Maronite Church and nation had its origin, and that the name Maronite thenceforward becomes a synonym for Monothelite , as well with Byzantine as with Nestorian or Monophysite writers. Says the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, referring to this period: "The Maronites remained as they are now. They ordain a patriarch and bishops from their convent. They are separated from Maximus, in that they confess only one will in Christ, and say: 'Who was crucified for us'. But they accept the Synod of Chalcedon." St. Germanus of Constantinople, in his treatise "De Hæresibus et Synodis" (about the year 735), writes: "There are some heretics who, rejecting the Fifth and Sixth Councils, nevertheless contend against the Jacobites. The latter treat them as men without sense, because, while accepting the Fourth Council, they try to reject the next two. Such are the Maronites, whose monastery is situated in the very mountains of Syria." (The Fourth Council was that of Chalcedon.) St. John Damascene, a Doctor of the Church (d. 749), also considered the Maronites heretics. He reproaches them, among other things, with continuing to add the words staurotheis dì emâs (Who didst suffer for us on the Cross) to the Trisagion, an addition susceptible of an orthodox sense, but which had eventually been prohibited in order to prevent misunderstanding [ maronísomen prosthémenoi tô trisagío tèn sta&úrosin ("We shall be following Maro, if we join the Crucifixion to our Trisagion" -- "De Hymno Trisagio", ch. v). Cf. perì òû phronematos , ch. v.]. A little later, Timotheus I, Patriarch of the Nestorians, receives a letter from the Maronites, proposing that he should admit them to his communion. His reply is extant, though as yet unpublished, in which he felicitates them on rejecting, as he himself does, the idea of more than one energy and one will in Christ ( Monothelitism ), but lays down certain conditions which amount to an acceptance of his Nestorianism, though in a mitigated form. Analogous testimony may be found in the works of the Melchite controversialist Theodore Abukara (d. c. 820) and the Jacobite theologian Habib Abu-Raïta (about the same period), as also in the treatise "De Receptione Hareticorum" attributed to the priest Timotheus (P.G., 86, 65). Thus, in the eighth century there exists a Maronite Church distinct from the Catholic Church and from the Monophysite Church ; this Church extends far into the plain of Syria and prevails especially in the mountain regions about the monastery of Beit-Marun. In the ninth century this Church was probably confined to the mountain regions. The destruction of the monastery of Beit-Marun did not put an end to it; it completed its organization by setting up a patriarch, the first known Maronite patriarch dating from 1121, though there may have been others before him. The Maronite mountaineers preserved a relative autonomy between the Byzantine emperors, on the one hand, who reconquered Antioch in the tenth century, and, on the other hand, the Mussulmans. The Crusaders entered into relations with them. In 1182, almost the entire nation -- 40,000 of them -- were converted. From the moment when their influence ceased to extend over the hellenized lowlands of Syria, the Maronites ceased to speak any language but Syriac, and used no other in their liturgy. It is impossible to assign a date to this disappearance of hellenism among them. At the end of the eighth century the Maronite Theophilus of Edessa knew enough Greek to translate and comment on the Homeric poems. It is very likely that Greek was the chief language used in the monastery of Beit-Marun, at least until the ninth century; that monastery having been destroyed, there remained only country and mountain villages where nothing but Syriac had ever been used either colloquially or in the liturgy.
It would be pleasant to be able at least to say that the orthodoxy of the Maronites has been constant since 1182, but unfortunately, even this cannot be asserted. There have been at least partial defections among them. No doubt the patriarch Jeremias al Amshîti visited Innocent III at Rome in 1215, and he is known to have taken home with him some projects of liturgical reform. But in 1445, after the Council of Florence, the Maronites of Cyprus return to Catholicism ( Hefele, "Histoire des counciles", tr. Delare, XI, 540). In 1451, Pius II, in his letter to Mahomet II, still ranks them among the heretics. Gryphone, an illustrious Flemish Franciscan of the end of the fifteenth century, converted a large number of them, receiving several into the Order of St. Francis, and one of them, Gabriel Glaï (Barclaïus, or Benclaïus), whom he had caused to be consecrated Bishop of Lefkosia in Cyprus, was the first Maronite scholar to attempt to establish his nation's claim to unvarying orthodoxy : in a letter written in 1495 he gives what purports to be a list of eighteen Maronite patriarchs in succession, from the beginning of their Church down to his own time, taken from documents which he assumes to come down from the year 1315. -- It is obvious to remark how recent all that is. -- The Franciscan Suriano ("Il trattato di Terra Santa e dell' Oriente di fr. Fr. Suriano", ed. Golubovitch), who was delegated to the Maronites by Leo X, in 1515, points out many traits of ignorance and many abuses among them, and regards Maro as a Monothelite. However, it may be asserted that the Maronites never relapsed into Monothelitism after Gryphone's mission. Since James of Hadat (1439-48) all their patriarchs have been strictly orthodox.C. The Maronite Church since the Sixteenth Century
The Lateran Council of 1516 was the beginning of a new era, which has also been the most brilliant, in Maronite history. The letters of the patriarch Simon Peter and of his bishops may be found in the eleventh session of that council (19 Dec., 1516). From that time the Maronites were to be in permanent and uninterrupted contact with Rome. Moses of Akbar (1526-67) received a letter from Pius IV. The patriarch Michael sought the intervention of Gregory XIII and received the pallium from him. That great pontiff was the most distinguished benefactor of the Maronite Church : he established at Rome a hospital for them, and then the Maronite College to which the bishops could send six of their subjects. Many famous savants have gone out of this college : George Amira, the grammarian, who died patriarch in 1633; Isaac of Schadrê; Gabriel Siouni, professor at the Sapienza, afterwards interpreter to King Louis XIII and collaborator in the Polyglot Bible (d. 1648); Abraham of Hakel (Ecchelensis), a very prolific writer, professor at Rome and afterwards at Paris, and collaborator in the Polyglot Bible ; above all, the Assemani -- Joseph Simeon, editor of the "Bibliotheca Orientalis", Stephanus Evodius, and Joseph Aloysius. Another Maronite college was founded at Ravenna by Innocent X, but was amalgamated with that at Rome in 1665. After the French Revolution the Maronite College was attached to the Congregation of Propaganda.
In the patriarchate of Sergius Risius, the successor of Michael, the Jesuit Jerome Dandini, by order of Clement VIII, directed a general council of the Maronites at Kannobin in 1616, which enacted twenty-one canons, correcting abuses and effecting reforms in liturgical matters; the liturgical reforms of the council of 1596, however, were extremely moderate. Other patriarchs were: Joseph II Risius, who, in 1606, introduced the Gregorian Calendar; John XI (d. 1633), to whom Paul V sent the pallium in 1610; Gregory Amira (1633-44); Joseph III of Akur (1644-47); John XII of Soffra (d. 1656). The last two of these prelates converted a great many Jacobites. Stephen of Ehdem (d. 1704) composed a history of his predecessors from 1095 to 1699. Peter James II was deposed in 1705, but Joseph Mubarak, who was elected in his place, was not recognized by Clement XI, and, through the intervention of Propaganda, which demanded the holding of another council, Peter James II was restored in 1713.
Under Joseph IV (1733-42) was held a second national council, which is of highest importance. Pope Clement XII delegated Joseph Simeon Assemani, who was assisted by his nephew Stephanus Evodius, with an express mandate to cause the Council of Trent to be promulgated in the Lebanon. The Jesuit Fromage was appointed synodal orator. According to the letter which he sent to his superiors (published at the beginning of Mansi's thirty-eighth volume), the chief abuses to be corrected by the ablegate were: (1) The Maronite bishops, in virtue of an ancient custom, had in their households a certain number of religious women, whose lodgings were, as a rule, separated from the bishop's only by a door of communication. (2) The patriarch had reserved to himself exclusively the right to consecrate the holy oils and distribute them among the bishops and clergy in consideration of money payments. (3) Marriage dispensations were sold for a money price. (4) The Blessed Sacrament was not reserved in most of the country churches, and was seldom to be found except in the churches of religious communities. (5) Married priests were permitted to remarry. (6) Churches lacked their becoming ornaments, and "the members of Jesus Christ, necessary succour", while, on the other hand, there were too many bishops -- fifteen to one hundred and fifty parishes. (7) The Maronites of Aleppo had, for ten or twelve years past, been singing the Liturgy in Arabic only.
With great difficultly, J. S. Assemani overcame the ill will of the patriarch and the intrigues of the bishops : the Council of the Lebanon at last convened in the monastery of St. Mary of Luweïza, fourteen Maronite bishops, one Syrian, and one Armenian assisting. The abuses enumerated above were reformed, and measures were taken to combat ignorance by establishing schools. The following decisions were also taken: the Filioque was introduced into the Creed ; in the Synaxary, not only the first six councils were to be mentioned, but also the Seventh (Nicæa, 787), the Eighth (Constantinople, 869), the Council of Florence (1439), and the Council of Trent ; the pope was to be named in the Mass and in other parts of the liturgy ; confirmation was reserved to the bishop ; the consecration of the holy chrism and the holy oils
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Mysteries of the Rosary
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint of the Day for Saturday, Oct 1st, 2022
The Apostles' Creed
Female / Women Saints
St. Therese of Lisieux
Saints & Angels
A Guide for Confession
- Daily Readings for Sunday, October 02, 2022
- St. Leger: Saint of the Day for Sunday, October 02, 2022
- Prayer for the Unborn Child: Prayer of the Day for Sunday, October 02, 2022
- Daily Readings for Saturday, October 01, 2022
- St. Therese of Lisieux: Saint of the Day for Saturday, October 01, 2022
- A Prayer to Saint Therese De Lisieux for Guidance: Prayer of the Day for Saturday, October 01, 2022
Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.