First Patriarch of the Maronite Church
The Monastery of St. Maron was established in the Roman Province that covered much of the area we know as the Levant. John Maron was born in the seventh century and lived his life during a period of great political and religious conflict.
Politically, the period saw the onset of the Byzantine-Persian War that left both empires devastated, consequently allowing the advance of the Muslim invaders and the loss of the entire territory to the followers of Islam.
Within the Church, there was continued tension regarding the nature of Christ. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 stated that Christ had both a divine and human nature. This is the Catholic doctrine we hold today. Others, partly motivated by their animosity for the Byzantines, asserted that Christ had only one, divine nature.
The Chalcedonian Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius II, died in 609. After his passing, patriarchs were appointed by Constantinople and lived in exile in the imperial city and the patriarchal see of Antioch was effectively vacant. The absence of a patriarch for the Chalcedonian Christians of the region, coupled with the aftermath of war and Muslim invasions left the Chalcedonian community in need of effective leadership.
Many looked to the Monastery of St. Maron, the center of Chalcedonian monasticism. The monks of elected a priest to serve as Patriarch of Antioch who took the name John Maron, who was to guide the Maronite community during a time of great strife. The new patriarch also facilitated the migration of many from the region of the Orantes River to Mount Lebanon in order to take refuge from continued conflict. There are numerous liturgical and theological works attributed to him, but admittedly, there is little direct evidence of their authorship by John Maron.
Despite the historical inaccuracies of John Maron’s hagiographies and the dearth of concrete evidence, the Maronite Church definitely had a first patriarch whose leadership and spiritual fortitude allowed the Monastery of St. Maron and its followers to flourish in the midst of war, persecution, religious strife, and uncertainty. His leadership and holiness inspired veneration among the people that persists to this day. There is an anaphora attributed to him that forms part of the Maronite liturgical patrimony.
The feast of St. John Maron, the first patriarch of the Maronite Church, was transferred from 9 March to 2 March in 1778 by Patriarch Joseph Estephan.
May his prayers be with us.