As Christians went forth from Jerusalem they encountered different traditions, cultures, customs and languages, soon the Church became a communion of Churches united in love with each other, looking to the See of Peter in Rome as the first among them all. The Gospel of Christ has reached the four corners of the world.
Jesus prayed for their unity, "that they all may be one" (John 17:21). For Catholics united with the Pope in Rome, there is already an amazing unity even within the reality of cultural diversity. The Catholic Church, comprised of twenty-one Eastern Churches and one Western Church, is a communion of Churches, with the Pope as the visible head, “gathered in the one spirit, breathing as though with two lungs – of the east and of the west – and burning with the love of Christ in one heart – having two ventricles" (Sacri Canones; Pope John Paul II).
One of the Eastern Catholic Churches is the Maronite Church. She has Her own hierarchy composed of a Patriarch who is Her father and head, and over forty Bishops who shepherd the many Eparchies (Dioceses) in Lebanon, the Middle East and throughout the world. The Patriarch governs the Church in a synodal manner with his body of bishops as is customary in the Eastern Churches.
There are six major traditions of the Catholic Church:
Each Catholic Church practices a common faith according to one of the six major traditions. The Maronite Church follows the Antiochene Tradition.
All Churches within the communion of Catholic Churches share the same:
All Catholics believe the same truths of the faith yet worship differently. One could say they share the same essence of faith, but have a different expression of that faith. Each Church embraces its own culture and tradition to express Her faith in Jesus the Risen Lord.
Each of the Catholic Churches:
The Maronite Church dates back to the early Christians of Antioch where "they were called Christians for the first time" (Acts 11:26). She still uses as Her liturgical language, Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic that Jesus Himself spoke, and takes Her name from the hermit-priest, Saint Maron, who died in 410 AD.
Within a few years after Saint Maron’s death, over 800 monks adopted his way of life and became known as the Maronites. Later, the Muslim invasions (7th -10th Centuries), coupled with conflicts from within the Byzantine Empire, caused the Maronites to flee the plains of Syria and their churches and monasteries to the natural protection of the mountains of Lebanon where they first lived in caves and grottos, and then later built small churches and monasteries. By 687, Maronites organized themselves around Saint John Maron, whom they elected Patriarch of the vacant See of Antioch, and thus developed as a distinct Church within the Catholic Church.
The Maronite Church has been enriched by three centers of learning and culture:
Antioch: A city in West Syria (now Turkey) that served as a center of commerce and education and was known for its Greek and Syriac culture.
Antioch gave the Maronite Church much of her unique liturgical life.
Edessa: A prominent city in ancient Mesopotamia, which had a Semitic culture and influenced the prayers and hymns of the Maronite Church. It was also the home of Saint Ephrem, Doctor of the Church, who gave the Maronite Church much of Her poetry and prayer.
Lebanon: The land that provided a safe haven to establish a stable monastic and parish life, as well as schools to educate the children of the close knit and devout Maronite families. Maronites have been a positive force for the development of Lebanon as a country of peaceful coexistence for all peoples. Maronites now live in many cultures, their Mother Church is in Lebanon and daughter communities exist throughout the world.
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