Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 22, 2010
Maronites mark St. Maroun's jubilee
Spiritual heritage of Lebanon finds a home in Alberta
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Maronite Catholics at Our Lady of Good Help Parish spent much of the Family Day weekend paying tribute to St. Maroun, their patron saint.
A Saturday evening social with Lebanese dishes and entertainment followed by a Sunday morning Divine Liturgy in Arabic, English and Syriac were part of the celebration of the 1,600th anniversary of St. Maroun.
A St. Maroun cake was cut following the Divine Liturgy followed by the reading of a short biography of the saint.
"He is the patron saint of the Maronites," explained Father Michel Kassas, pastor of the 120-family parish. "He is our spiritual father."
The Maronites are Catholics in full communion with the pope. They follow a rich liturgical observance at the heart of which is the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Traditionally the rites were in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Today the rites are in both Aramaic and Arabic. In Edmonton, Mass is also celebrated in English on Sundays at 10 a.m.
Historically, the origins of the Maronite Church are to be found among the monastic and lay people who gathered around the hermit, Maroun. These Christians who accepted his way of life and worship were soon identified as "those of St. Maroun" - the Maronites.
Maroun was born around 350. He was ordained a priest and later withdrew as a hermit to a mountain near Antioch. He was a renowned miracle worker and healer who passed his life in prayer, penance and the defence of the Catholic faith.
His holiness and miracles attracted many followers in Syria and Lebanon and drew attention throughout the empire.
The Maronite movement reached Lebanon when Mauron's first disciple, Abraham of Cyrrhus, set out to convert the pagans by introducing them to the way of St. Mauron. His way was deeply monastic with emphasis on spiritual and ascetic aspects of living.
Mauron was also a zealous missionary with a passion to spread the message of Christ to all he met. He sought not only to cure the physical ailments that people suffered but had a great quest for nurturing and healing lost souls.
His missionary work came to fruition when Mauron was able to convert a pagan temple into a Christian church in the mountains of Lebanon. This was the beginning of the conversion to Christianity in Syria.
Maroun died in 410. His feast is Feb. 9.
The history of the Maronites has been a ceaseless struggle to preserve their Catholic faith and to express it freely.
The Maronite people have a strong emotional attachment to the mountainous regions of Lebanon, the mountains where they fled in the seventh and eighth centuries to escape violent persecutions. "For this, we call the Maronite faith the faith of the mountains," Kassas said.
In Lebanon the Maronites represent 29 per cent of the country's population of four million. About 1.5 million more Maronites live in other countries. Canada has more than 100,000 Maronites in 14 parishes, the largest in Montreal with 5,000 families.
Kassas, 39, has been the pastor of Our Lady of Good Help for less than a year. He was ordained Feb. 15, 2009 and became pastor two weeks later.
Our Lady of Good Help is a dynamic parish that offers Arabic language classes for the young and Bible studies for all. The parish also offers catechism for children and young adults and has an active youth group with 40 members, a Ladies' Sorority with 25 members and a Knights' of Columbus Council with 50 members. Parishioners also visit the elderly and the sick.
"Our mission is to spread the Word of God for all the world," said Kassas. "We have to say to everybody that Jesus Christ is the truth, Jesus Christ is the way and Jesus Christ is the life. There is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ."
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