The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch is an eastern Catholic community of Syriac Antiochene origin with no Orthodox counterpart. Its origins are traced to the late 4th cent. when Syriac-speaking Christians between Aleppo and Antioch gathered around a charismatic monk, St. Maron. In the 5th cent. the community became identified with its defense of the Christological formulation of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Liturgically, the Maronite Church represents an independent branch of the Edessan tradition developed by Syriac-speaking Chalcedonians who established themselves independently of the Greek-speaking Mediterranean coast.
With the Muslim Arab expansion of the 7th cent., the Maronites took refuge in the mountains of northern Lebanon where they lived in relative isolation and assumed a distinct identity. This allowed the Maronite Church to preserve its Syriac identity while other Syriac-speaking Chalcedonians eventually adopted Byzantine liturgical usage. As a result of the absence of a Chalcedonian patr. of Antioch, late in the 7th cent. the monks of the monastery of St. Maron elected a patr. , St. Yuḥanon Maron, who assumed the title ‘Syriac Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East’. Since 1790 the patr. has resided at Bkerke near Beirut.
With the coming of the Crusaders to the Levant, contact with the West was established and relations with Rome were strengthened. While this helped secure the survival of the Maronite Church in the Muslim Middle East, it also inaugurated the process of Latinization that began in the 13th cent. and that continued through modern times. The legislation of the Council of Trent (1545–63) and Latin liturgical customs were introduced into Maronite usage. In 1583 a Maronite College was founded in Rome and played an important role in fostering the study of the East in Europe. In 1736 the Synod of Mount Lebanon was convened under papal aegis; the Synod radically altered the liturgical and canonical life of the Maronite Church by formalizing and codifying centuries of Latinizing influence into law. This Romanizing tendency persisted until the Second Vatican Council (1962–5) mandated that all eastern churches begin a process of renewal that would return them to the authentic expression of their cultural, spiritual, and liturgical roots. As a result, over the past fifty years the Maronites have eliminated many Latinizing customs and have restored authentic Syriac Maronite usage.
In modern times the Maronite Church has experienced a revival of its ancient monastic origins in the form of a return by some monks to the anchoritic or secluded ascetical lifestyle. In addition to Maronite eparchies (dioceses) in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, eparchies now exist in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and Canada.
- P. Dib, L’Église Maronite (1930).
- R. J. Mouawad, Les Maronites. Chrétiens du Liban (2009).
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Joseph P. Amar, “Maronite Church,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Maronite-Church.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Amar, Joseph P. “Maronite Church.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Maronite-Church.
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