Constitution of Maronitism in Mount Lebanon
During the second half of the Vth century, the first independent Maronite Church and the first organized Maronite society were created, on the banks of the Orontes River, in Syria.
Well before the Arab Islamic conquest of the Fertile Crescent, i.e., Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, those three countries were nearly entirely Christian, and formed part of four major churches: The Melchite and Orthodox Churches, submitted to Byzantium: the Nestorian Church; and the Monophysite and Jacobite Church; and the Maronite Church. The Aramean or Syriac languages were common to all four of these churches and their liturgy.
After the Chalcedon Council which condemned the Monophysites, the Maronites separated themselves from the Christians of Syria, founding their own Church and independent society on the banks of the Orontes. The most celebrated of these was the church consecrated to St-Maron, founder of the sect. it became the main Christian Centre in Syria.
In the early part of the VIth centuy, 350 Maronite monks were massacred in an ambush, others were persecuted, and several convents were burned down.
The Maronites have acknowledged a dual nature in Christ: Divine and Human.
The political and religious struggles waged by the Maronites against their enemies have developed a sense of independence in them, and made them feel the necessity of electing a leader to manage their affairs. Thus was the Bishop St-John Maron declared Patriarch of Antioch, a title which his successors bear until this day.
The Maronites spread out in the various regions of Northern Syria at first. Fleeing persecution, many of them left Syria by successive groups, either to Cyprus, or to the deserted mountains of Lebanon where they formed their own national society, in other words, the Maronite Nation.
Many Maronite churches were built since the second half of the VIIIth century, amongst which “Mar Moussa” at Ehden, dating back to 749 A.D.
The merger between Maronites and Mardaites around 700 A.D. was the basic factor in the advancement of the Maronite community, and the historic role which it played on the Lebanese forum.
Syriac was the official language of the Maronites. In the XVth century, they adopted Arabic, in addition to their initial language. Nowadays, the latter is only used for liturgy, even though it was still spoken in many villages of the North until the late XIXth century.
The Abbassides fought the Christians in Lebanon, and fanned the flames of Islamic fanaticism, compelling a large number of Maronites to renounce their faith.
In the Xth century, after the destruction of the Convent of St-Maron on the banks of the Orontes, the Maronite Patriarchal See was transferred to Lebanon.
Despite poverty and adversity, the Maronites were a proud race, and were fanatically attached to their independence: they defied their hostile destiny, and survived all attempts to annihilate them. With patience and tenacity, they converted their barren soil into blossoming gardens. They have remained solidary, attached to the excise of their cult under the leadership of their Patriarchs, who were both their temporal and spiritual chiefs.
During the Crusades, Lebanese ports were opened to trade with Europe. The MAronites thus enjoyed an era of prosperity which lasted two centuries.
The Mamluks, however, put an end to this golden age, forcing the Maronites to leave their country, or to seck shelter in mountain grottoes in order to escape persecution.
Mount-Lebanon, which was not occupied by the Mamluks, became a refuge for all oppressed minorities: The Maronites of the North, the Druzes of the Centre, the Shiites from the South.
The Ottoman invaders were not more merciful. The mountains, however, were able to retain a certain measure of autonomy, continuing to act as havens of refuge for all persecuted people in the Orient.
Under the rule of Fakhreddine, Lebanon acquired a new look. This gave the Maronites some respite, and they enjoyed a further period of peace and serenity. Although they were religiously oppressed, they still retained a certain independence in the exercise of their liturgy.
Under the rule of Emir Beshir II, Lebanese political society formed a sort of federation of communities; this in turn, enabled Lebanon to attain political independence in 1943.
The Maronites contributed considerably to the renaissance of Arabic literature. They are always proud to promote the evolution of Arabity, but as a culture.