Today, February 9, is the feast day of St. Maron, a fourth century priest and hermit who began the group of Christians that would come to be known as the Maronites. “Maron” is a Canaanite-Phonecian word meaning magnanimous, or great in spirit. It accurately describes this spiritual leader, who made the first Christian converts in Syria, converted a pagan temple into a Christian Church, and inspired many followers through his holiness and virtue. John Chrysostom, a contemporary of Maron, sent the saint a letter in 405 AD, expressing his love and respect for him, and asking for his prayers. Little else is known about the life of St. Maron, aside from the hermitic life he lead on the Mountain of Ol-Yambos in Syria and the influence he had on Christianity in the region of Syria and shortly thereafter, through his followers, in Lebanon. Since the majority of St. Maron’s life was spent in the region of Kefar-Nabos in the Ol-Yambos mountain, this area is referred to as the cradle of the Maronite rite.
The Maronite rite was influenced by both the life and spirit of St. Maron. His own example and role in the early Christian community of Syria led directly to the beginning of the Maronite rite. Abraham of Cyrrhus, St. Maron’s first follower, traveled to Lebanon and made the first Christian converts in that region by introducing the pagans to the life and preaching of St. Maron. Today, the Maronite rite continues to exist in Syria, but is most active in Lebanon. The spiritual life of St. Maron also characterized the Maronite rite, in which monastic life, asceticism, prayer, silence and solitude are deeply respected and appreciated.
May all Christians unite ourselves to the Maronites on this day, thanking God for the life of St. Maron, and praying for those that continue to bear his name and follow his example in the present day.