Who are we? When answering this question it is fitting to start broadly and work our way narrowly.
1. We are a religious group. We are a group of people united by a common way of communication with the divine
2. We are Christians. We accept and live the Nicaean creed. We believe in one God, in the Trinity, in the incarnation, in the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, in baptism, and in life everlasting.
3. We are a Church. Together we make up the people of God, the flock of Christ, the body of Christ. We have a hierarchy centered on our bishops and our patriarch.
4. We are a Catholic Church.
5. We are a Antiochene-Syriac Church. The city of Antioch was one of the original four (and later five) hubs of the church. The theological school in Antioch (one of two major schools in the 3rd through 6th centuries) taught that the Bible should interpreted literally rather than allegorically. Syriac theology focused on typology (looking for promises and signs of Christ in the Old Testament (the death of the Passover lamb and the death of Christ).
6. We are Maronite. We have our own history, liturgy, theological expression, spirituality, and organization.
St. Maron was a fourth century hermit who left the world to be with Christ and drew followers because of his holiness. A monastery was built around his grave, and grew in theological and ecclesial importance. The Monks of the Proto-monastery and monastery were known as defenders of the Council of Chalcedon (see theology). The monastery began to plant other monasteries, priests of the monastery were ordained bishops and when Patriarchal See of Antioch was empty, the monastery was in the natural position to fill the void and name a patriarch- John Maron in the 9th century. Around this time, due to persecution, the Maronites began to migrate to the Lebanon Mountains from further north. The group became known as Maronites. In the 11th century during the first crusade the Maronites supported the crusaders and the crusaders (and the Roman Church) in turn began to support the Maronite Church (sending gifts and priests) and a vibrant relationship followed.
The Maronite liturgy has roots in Antioch, in Jerusalem, and in Edessa.
The separation of the “science” (for example into history, liturgy, theology, spirituality, organization, genius) are for academic purposes only and the distinctions are not proper to the lived theology of the Maronite Church.
Spirituality is the practical relationship of God’s people to God. I would like to make a distinction between those practices which have been adopted by and beneficial to many Maronites that we have received from others and those practices which the Maronite Church to offer for our own benefit and for the benefit of the greater Church.
Many Maronites have great devotion to Mary in litanies and in the Rosary. Many Maronites love the Stations of the Cross. Many Maronites enjoy reading the writings of St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Ignatius, St. Aloysius, St. Francis deSales, and the writings of Franciscan fathers. In recent years, Maronites have readily accepted the new devotions promulgated by recent popes or encouraged by recent lay movements.
Yet, the Maronite Church is not a mother unable to nurse her children. The Maronite Church purposes a liturgical spirituality, which inserts daily life into a liturgical frame and inserts liturgy into life. The Maronite spirituality is centered on the liturgies of the monasteries. Yet, the laity would participate through participation in the morning and evening prayer before going off to work where they would sing hymns. The monks would be the teachers and spiritual fathers to the people, and monasticism was an option for most children. The Syriac fathers (Ephrem, Jacob of Serugh, Balai, Aphrahat) provide spiritual food. Scripture and the Eucharist are fonts of spirituality. The Eucharist is something for the people, not for the priest alone and not for the perfect alone, but Christ comes to us to forgive our sins and to be new life in us. Scriptures are read frequently and expounded upon for the benefit of the hearer, and neither the Eucharist not Scripture are diverted into public acts, but are ordered to connect the community to God.
Maronites express their love and gratitude through the walking of pilgrimages and through the building of small private shrines.
The Maronite Church offers blessings throughout the year to divinize each aspect of life from natural events to supernatural and divine events.
The Maronite church is centered historically on the monastery of the patriarch and the bishops. Today the Maronite church continues in this tradition through a church centered on the patriarch together with the synod of bishops.
The genius of the Maronite Church is in her life, in her liturgy, in her scriptural interpretation, in devotion, and in her single-mindedness that unites all of these elements