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Monasticism in the Maronite Church



1. There are, in our Maronite Church, many male and female monastic institutions presently comprising more than one thousand five hundred monks and nuns whose roots extend into the depths of the ecclesiastical life and its heritage, linking contemplative-apostolic patterns recognized by the Antiochene Church since its dawning. The monasticism has accompanied the birth of the Maronite Church, which flourished in its climate, without which she would not have been herself. Pope John Paul II said: “Monasticism has always been the very soul of the Eastern Churches: the first Christian monks were born in the East and the monastic life was an integral part of the Eastern lumen passed on to the West by the great Fathers of the undivided Church”[1]. Before we examine the present state of monastic life, with its statutes and expectations, we will survey, in brief, the most important information made available concerning the origin of this life, its launching, theology, status and role in the Maronite Church, discussing the roots of this life. Then we summarize its most prominent historical turning points, devoting a chapter to the spirituality of monastic life, its statutes, and its connection to the ecclesiastical authorities. After surveying the realms of its mission, we will attempt to ponder as to what extent it is presently being refreshed through the milestones of early spirituality with its fervor and its springheads. This matter is presupposed as the basis of every renewal and a necessary prerequisite for defining identity.

Chapter I: Principal Historical Turning Points

First: The Roots of the Syriac Antiochene Monastic Life

2. Since the dawn of Christianity, the features of consecrated life appeared springing from the way of life of Christ the Lord and his teachings. Some people in the East vied to renounce this world and to clutch on to the Gospel, living it in its radicalism as they understood it, following a solitary or familial or communal pattern of living, vowing to a life of chastity and celibacy. However, we know nothing about these people except what some books brought us, such as the Acts of Thomas[2], and the Kitab Al Maraqi (Book of Advancement)[3], the writings of Aphrahat[4] about the anchorite ascetic trend and about the congregation of the sons and daughters of the covenant who lived a consecrated life. They constituted the prelude to the bursting out of monastic life in the East; rather, they formed the first monastic state[5].

Starting with the fourth century, monastic life began in an individual form at the hands of anchorite hermits who rejected the prevalent laxity which followed the Constantine induced peace; living alone in the wilderness and in hermitages. Their austere and ascetic way of life flourished. Among these hermits we have known the first hermit, Jacob of Nisibis and Julianus called Saba, that is, the elder (+367). Maron was the most prominent among those living in the open air and got credit in the foundation of monastic life in the open air in the Cyrrhus area. Many men and women were tutored under him. Among his men disciples were Hawshab of Cyrrhus, John, Bardat, and Jacob, and among his women disciples were Marana, Cyra and Domnina. Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, made mention of the names of these disciples in his history book on Antiochene monasticism entitled Tareekh Asfia’ al-Laah (The History of God’s Chosen)[6]. Those anchorites became the principal support in witnessing to the teachings of the councils and in refuting heresies. The foundational interaction between the Council of Chalcedon and the building of the monastery of St. Maron were the launch of the first instances of communal living. The resulting influence of the translation of several Egyptian monastic books into Syriac[7], especially following the spread of the news concerning St. Anthony’s biography, written at the hands of his contemporary, Athanasius of Alexandria, and after being acquainted with the laws of St. Pachomius and with the pattern of St. Basil the Great[8], all these factors fostered the intermingling of the anchoritic way in the Syriac Antiochene tradition with that of the communal living way. Soon enough, many turned away from individualistic asceticism to a union of anchorites in order to unify knowledge and unify the heart and conduct through the sharing of experiences and curbing exaggeration and extremism[9]. Then, monastic communal life began with the gathering of hermits, rapidly revolving around monastery life, either partially (qannoubi)[10], or fully, while retaining the option of individualistic hermitage, one of its important ascetical facets[11].

3. The Antiochene Syriac monastic life during this stage was distinguished through utter austerity and the living of various hermitic patterns and was also characterized by undertaking preaching, evangelization and mission activities. Writers testify that the monks of the Saint Maron Monastery were not limiting their activities to hermitages, perfection through virtue and the saving of their souls, but pursued the apostolic mission, giving due regard to the saving of the souls of others also[12]. Nuns played a supporting role and mother superiors of convents were charged with the diaconal task of anointing with oil the women candidates for baptism after their foreheads were anointed by the priest. Actually, the Christian faith did not encompass all of Syria and Mesopotamia and did not spread in the regions of Persia, Armenia and India, except through the great apostolic activity undertaken by the Syriac monks through steadfastness and faith[13].

This double characteristic contemplative-apostolic monastic life continued throughout the Antiochene Church and accompanied the rise of the Maronite Church herself, toward the end of the 7th century.

Second: From the 7th to the 17th Century

4. Monastic life in its two forms, the hermitic and the communal, accompanied the birth of the Maronite church, thus, linking the history of the Maronites to the monks of the Monastery of St. Maron, the hermit and his disciples. They played an important role in the life of the Church, where monastic life constituted the nerve of Maronite ecclesiastical life and the secret behind her deep Syriac and Antiochene rooting, and this role remained active throughout history until the present day. Monastic life in the Maronite Church developed and flourished and the monks built the famous Saint Maron Monastery and the number of monks and hermits living there reached eight hundred. Three hundred among them lead solitary lives in nearby cells and hermitages, cutting themselves off for prayer and meditation, whereas the others remained in the monastery subject to the authority of a superior and a discipline. Thus, the life in the monastery appeared to be a prelude leading those called from among the monks to the hermitic life and complete isolation from the world[14].

Historians and theologians concur in saying that the Saint Maron Monastery with its bishop and monks and the Christian faithful living in its vicinity formed the inner core of the nascent Maronite Church, without forgetting that the Monastery and its monks emerged from a believing environment. It was said: “It is a unique phenomenon in the history of the Universal Church, where we know of no other Church that originated from a monastery and became pivoted around it, despite what monastic movements had a profound influence on the life of the Churches in the East and the West. It is therefore perfectly natural for the Church of the Maronites to be distinguished through a hermitic and monastic spirituality imprinted in her since her inception, and her history became entwined with the fate of monastic life which became tantamount to being a throbbing heart within her”[15].

5. When the Maronites set their face toward northern Lebanon for the sake of preserving the freedom of their religious beliefs following the Arab conquest, they settled in the region of Aj-Jibbi, and the valleys of Qannoubine and Qozhaia, seeking refuge in those mountains with their rugged paths, and hide in the steep walled valleys. After having settled in these regions, the number of monks and hermits increased and many of them advanced to those nature-made caves and remote hermitages. Monastic and hermitic life flourished in this holy valley and its historic stages were characterized by an admirable spiritual capacity which poured forth through a group of elite, pioneering Maronite monks and hermits characterized, like the Cyrrhus hermits of old, by a radical evangelical inclination welling up from the abyss of divine revelation and the richness of the Maronite heritage, transforming these valleys into lush gardens, and expanding to other mountainous regions.

Following the defeat of the crusaders and the assault on the mountain, many monks and nuns were slaughtered, monastic life suffered and the large monasteries disintegrated. However, soon after, the monastic state came back blossoming in the depths of valleys and the highest summits of Mount Lebanon, forming, between the 14th and the 16th centuries, a paradise of monks and nuns.

6. After the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Council for the Propagation of the Faith (1568) was created and Roman missions were firmly established in Lebanon and the East. In 1584, Pope Gregory XIII established the Maronite College in Rome with the aim to form Maronite clergy on the teachings of the Council of Trent. The new developments led to the introduction of western patterns to the monastic life in the East, and to comparisons and preferences between men and women worshipers and the returning graduates of the Maronite College, and between them and the rest of the educated religious missionaries who had established schools and taught children through outside support and gained the trust and sympathy of the people. Many queries were raised and the outlook toward the poor monks and hermits living in hermitages and monasteries changed. Their number started to dwindle which reduced the distinctiveness of Maronite monastic life in the early seventeenth century. Therefore, a new stage was set to begin with the reform and renewal toward the end of the seventeenth century.

Third: From the End of the 17th Century until today

7. Before the end of the seventeenth century, reforming the prevailing condition began first with the monks and soon encompassed the whole Maronite Church through the Lebanese Synod (1736), which completed the statutes of the monks and nuns and ratified the reforms. The new structuring constituted an important turning point in the face of what seeped into monastic life during the preceding century to reconfirm its Eastern heritage without neglecting organizational development already in effect in the west.

8. Beginning in 1695, the previous organizational structures underwent transformation with a move from having independent monasteries pursuing varied monastic and hermitic methods to monastic orders grouping several monasteries under the authority of one superior assisted by a council of aides, that is, a central authority to which are attached a grouping of persons and property in administrative and organizational succession. With the adoption of the new order, the new organizers clung to the spirituality of Eastern monastic life, confirming it, as Abdallah Qaralli says in the introduction of his book entitled Al-Musbah Al-Rahbani, (The Monastic Lamp): “In my explanation of the statutes, I aim at nothing other than to prove its conformity with the teachings of the ancients and their statutes.” Thus, monastic life began its reform relying on asceticism, prayer and manual work; however, it ended up being built on the same structural pattern adopted by the Latin religious orders established in the region.

9. Thus, monastic life witnessed a renewal and organizational reform which started with three young men from Aleppo: Gibrayel Hawwa, Abdallah Qaralli and Youssef al-Batn, followed by Germanos (Gibrayel) Farhat, who came to Mount Lebanon and presented themselves to Patriarch Estephan Douaihy in Qannoubine and informed him of their intention to become monks. After ascertaining the strength of their resolve and their willingness to lead a life of austerity, he had admiration for them and sent them accompanied by his blessing first to the monastery of Our Lady of Tamish and afterwards to that of St. Maura – Ehden (in North Lebanon), and from there down to Qannoubine where the Patriarch clothed them with the angelic cowl on the 10th of November 1695, and so started the trek of the Aleppo Monastic Order (the Lebanese, after 1706), which attracted many. Soon after, the number of monasteries filled with monks and nuns, increased.

In 1770, this monastic order was split into two: Aleppo[16] and Baladiya[17] (later, the Mariamite and the Lebanese); the split was in persons, monasteries, properties, debts, influence and transactions.

10. Also, in 1700, and from the same Tamish Monastery, and after a profound monastic hermitic experience for years, Bishop Gibrayel al-Blawzani, Bishop of Aleppo and superior of the monastery, encouraged a group of monks and fathers, Rizkallah as-Sab’ali, Boutros al-Baz’ouni, followed by Sleiman bin al-Hajj al-Mishmishani, Atallah Kraykar and Moussa al-Ba’abdati to start the trek of the Antonine Order in a non-Christian environment in what is presently the Northern Matn district, in the Mar Ish’ia (Isaiah the Prophet) Monastery which they built, with support from the Bishop, on a hilltop consecrated to the Phoenician goddess ‘Aramta. They dedicated themselves to service and work, and in turn, the Order grew and spread rapidly into all the Lebanese regions particularly into totally non-Christian areas. The Order’s centers became numerous, and the number of its monks and nuns increased.

11. Often the convents of nuns were erected adjacent to the monasteries of monks, as it was in the past, to facilitate spiritual service to them and to meet their material needs, to benefit from their various internal services, and to protect them against attackers. The Lebanese Synod, however, stirred up some skepticism by deeming this situation abnormal and suspicious; and took firm decisions in this respect [18] However, execution of these decisions was not easy. Work commenced on diminishing common activities to a minimum and some monasteries were gradually reassigned in as much as that was possible. But not all monasteries were in effect separated until Patriarch Youssef Hobeich put a stop to double monasteries through his letter dated the 26th of September 1824. Despite the segregation of most monasteries and their reassigning, the Lebanese and Antonine nuns remained under the protective wing of the masculine religious orders. The nuns were linked to their development; they operated in their name and under the auspices of their superiors for two and a half centuries, maintaining an ascetic, contemplative, clustered life of prayer, austerity and manual work so as to provide the best of service. As for their statutes, they were those approved for the monks, with Chapter 14 devoted to them, in addition to what was apportioned to other Maronite nuns in the precepts of the Lebanese Synod, including the last and astounding decision concerning the possibility that their superiors may receive the diaconal blessing from the hands of the bishop as a revival of the first and unique Antiochene Church tradition[19].

12. In 1940, the Apostolic See abolished the cloister for the Antonine nuns allowing them to exercise missionary activity outside the convent. Then, in 1953, he polled them about this matter and the nuns chose active missionary work. The Apostolic See approved their rules in 1958. The nuns of the Lebanese Order chose to remain, by special privilege, under the protective wing of the religious order of men until 1984. At that time, the Apostolic See decided to unite their convents within one monastic organization provided that it remains bound to the Lebanese Order of monks with regard to the spiritual aspect. Their monastic life is to lean on communal living while continuing to consider the convent as an independent monastery with a specified community where its supreme authority lies with the general council, which is to elect a mother superior and an administrative council.

13. In 1643, Patriarch Habib al-‘Aaqoury founded Mar Youhanna of Hrach Monastery. All we know about this convent is that the Maronite Synod was held there and that its first mother superior died in 1659, and that Bishop Abdallah Qaralli lived there after he became Bishop of Beirut because it became impossible for him to reside permanently in the See of his eparchy [20]. He helped the cloistered nuns and looked after their affairs promulgating for them statutes of a predominantly ascetic character which became a constitution for the rest of the independent convents; and some nuns from this convent were dispatched to other conforming monasteries to train their communities on abiding by this law. They would divide their monastery activities between daily meditation, spiritual reading, individual prayer and manual work, whereas some of them today run a school which they established in the middle of the twentieth century. They are under the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Sarba (presently, the Patriarchal Eparchy).

14. In 1744, the convent of the Nuns of the Visitation was established in ‘Aintoura. Two of its nuns left for Zouk Mikayel to establish another convent whose nuns would be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch according to a condition laid down by Patriarch Youssef Hobeich for the acceptance of the endowment of the house and properties of Bechara Jaffal El-Khazen, his sister Badwania, and his wife Ziara provided that the nuns adopt the Maronite Rite[21]. They abide by the statutes which reflect the spirituality of the founders: St. François de Sales and St. Jeanne de Chantal. They were enacted for the cloistered Nuns of the Visitation established in France (Annecy) in 1610, who lived in independent convents and are under the jurisdiction of the local bishop, except in Lebanon, where they are under the authority of the Patriarch and follow the Maronite Rite. The ‘Aintoura Monastery has not been accepting novices for the past 40 years, and presently still remaining, are six aging Maronite nuns who are hoping that the decision will be taken to accept novices anew. Then the convent may return to its previous spiritual growth and true witnessing to the presence of the faith and prayer in the hermitic life and “anchoritic life may regain the status that is due to it,” as stressed by the Apostolic Exhortation “A New Hope for Lebanon[22].

15. As for the Convent of Sayidat al-Haqli (Our Lady of the Fields), it remained a double monastery until 1818, under the shade of which two monastic communities, male and female, living the life of worshiping monks and worshiping nuns. When the Louaize Synod convoked in 1818, it made inevitable the separation of monk monasteries from nun monasteries, and the Monastery of Sayidat al-Haqli was assigned to the nuns[23]. To this day, this Convent is still an independent one, with the nuns abiding by the monastic statutes that were promulgated by Bishop Abdallah Qaralli in 1725.

16. In 1839, in the reign of Patriarch Youssef Hbeich and under his guardianship, the “Congregation of Evangelical Missionaries” surfaced and from its pioneers were a few priests of the Maronite Church. However, it faltered in the beginning and Father Youhanna Habib (later Bishop) from Btiddeen al-Meer, in Al-Kreim Monastery – Ghosta, embarked on its renewal in 1865, with the help of Father Estephan Qozzah from Bikfaya, and its name became “the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries,” and Patriarch Boulos Mass’ad approved its statutes in 1873. The two priests labored steadily at awakening vocations, forming them, and launched missionary service throughout the Church. The Congregation embraced the mission of evangelization, through preaching of the Word, spiritual direction, the media, writing and education. Early on, it spread toward the Countries of Expansion, starting with Argentina (as of 1901), where today, close to half its members are active outside of Lebanon and of the East.

17. On the 15th of August, 1895, Patriarch Elias al-Hoyek, while still a bishop, founded the Society of the Nuns of the Holy Family as a monastic missionary congregation aimed at union with God in the service of the Church and the family. This goal manifested itself in the educational, teaching, human, and social services, and in the service of the pastoral family and catechetical Christian formation.

18. On the 17th of May, 1935, the date of the Canonization of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Chorbishop Antoun Saad Habib Akl established the Congregation of the Maronite Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Its goals were to sanctify the souls of its members and serve the suffering humanity primarily through the erection of orphanages, hospitals and shelters, and to assist the parish priests in their pastoral work following in the spirituality of little St. Therese, that is, living the Christian simplicity, the infantile spirituality, and the joy in service and mission. Their hospitals, schools and pastoral service became renown in Lebanon and the Holy Land.

19. In 1966, Father Emile Ge’ara founded in the Monastery of Saint Anthony – Ain Warka, the Congregation of Missionary Nuns of the Blessed Sacrament. Its aims are: to provide and propagate devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to provide formation for village girls, and to assist parish priests in their various apostolate activities under the motto: “Send me to announce Glad Tidings to the poor and to heal the broken hearted” (Luke 4:18). Its patroness is the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, and its mission field is the village, being the most in need. In 1969, they established a new mission center for them in Beit Hibbaq (Jbeil), and presently have eight centers spread in the different Lebanese regions.

20. A year after the canonization of St. Sharbel (1977), Benedictine Father William Driscoll agreed, with some of his confreres to adopt the spirituality of the new saint, and they built in 1981 with the approval of the Eparch of the Maronites in the United States, Archbishop Francis Zayek, a monastery and a church in Petersham, Massachusetts. There they prepared their statutes under the supervision of the Lebanese monk Father Youssef Mahfouz (later on Maronite Bishop of Brazil)[24]. On the 8th of September, 1989, the Bishop of the Eparchy signed the new statutes and declared the monastery an independent Maronite eparchial monastery under the name of the Most Holy Trinity Monastery. There are presently 20 monks, who lead a contemplative clustered life in this monastery, nine of whom are priests, and its superior, Father William, was conferred with the title of Abbot in 1996, on the feast day of St. Anthony the Great. This religious community, established in the year 2000 another satellite monastery in the town of “Monastery,” in Nova Scotia in Eastern Canada under the jurisdiction of the Maronite Eparch of Canada. We hope that this Maronite monastic journey will meet with its cloistered – apostolic worship roots and may it grow through the radiance of the monastery and the witnessing of those living in it.

21. On the 12th of July, 1959, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut Ignatius Ziade gave permission to the Nuns of Unity to establish a convent in Yarzé that follows the Maronite Rite. In addition, there are in Lebanon and in the Eastern Arab countries a religious Congregation for women called the Little Sisters of Jesus affiliated in these countries with the Eastern Churches, and each choosing the appropriate rite in accordance with the statutes congregation which is of pontifical right. Based on that, the province of Lebanon belongs to the Maronite Church and her nuns are bound to the shepherds of this Church following the liturgy of the Maronite Church, its laws and its spirituality.

22. Hence, five male monastic organizations are active in our Maronite Church today, comprising 723 monks, among whom are 565 priests; and six female monastic organizations comprising 820 nuns[25], and all these organizations maintain a deep authentic spiritual heritage conditioned by monastic statutes accompanying the Church’s contemporary epoch.

The male monastic organizations are the following: the Maronite Lebanese Order, the Maronite Mariamite Order, the Maronite Antonine Order; and these three orders are of pontifical right; the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries is of patriarchal right, and the religious of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity is of eparchial right.

As for the female monastic organizations, they are: The Maronite Lebanese Nuns (of pontifical right), the Maronite Antonine Nuns (of pontifical right), the Society of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family (of patriarchal right), the Society of the Maronite Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (of patriarchal right), and the Society of the Missionary Nuns of the Blessed Sacrament (of patriarchal right).

Other nuns maintaining their affiliation to ancient independent monasteries are: The Nuns of the Convent of Our Lady of al-Haqli, the Nuns of the convent of Mar Youhanna Hrach, the Visitation Nuns of the convent of ‘Aintoura, and the Visitation Nuns of the convent of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Zouk.

In addition to these Maronite monastic organizations, our Maronite Church supplies, through vocations, other Catholic monastic organizations belonging to other Churches, in such numbers that in some of them the Maronites form the majority of members. Moreover, many religious orders and congregations in Lebanon observe the Maronite Rite.

Chapter 2:

The Spirituality of the Maronite Syriac Antiochene Monastic Life


23. After these historical stations, we can now depict a spiritual portrait that accompanied Maronite monastic life through its epochs. We can briefly expand on pointing out its features, since in essence it entails all the patterns of this life. This spirituality is linked to the special gifts of the monks and nuns, reflecting one of the features of the Lord Jesus Christ based on the solid nuclei derived from the Syriac Antiochene heritage, which was characterized by the evangelical roots, the spirit of prayer, devotion and intercession. The prayerful word nourished the strive of the monks and nuns through their austerity and their constant missionary concern with teaching, preaching and life witness. In addition to the nuclei of the Syriac heritage, Maronite monastic life enriched itself from a mixture of the spirituality of the Fathers of the desert and got fermented later on through a varied and inborn heritage that became manifested in both a scientific phenomenon and an ascetical one. All of this has been done as part of our Maronite monastic march to reestablish and reassess the reality without leniency with an exuberant spirituality which, in depth, is a spirituality of resurrection and patient hope, a spirituality of embodiment in the Church and the land, a witnessing and martyrdom through asceticism, service and expending of self. As for the most important characteristics of this portrait, they are:

1. Rooting in the Gospel

24. Through the theological reading of the Bible, the monks and nuns have found the springhead of their spiritual life and its origin. So, they relied on it and answered the personal call to follow Christ, the obedient, the virgin, the poor; to become his disciples, to strive to imitate him and to share in his fate. They followed his example in seeking solitude and praying on the mountain first, then, in reviving the bonds of brotherhood so as to bear a mission demanded by the dynamics of a fruitful relationship with Christ. They sensed the necessity of conveying it to others and its embodiment in them and among them, whether through prayer which has always been as Vatican II considered, “a glory of the Church and a well-spring of heavenly graces,”[26] or through service, each according to his specific gift. Pope John Paul II asserted that monastic life, “finds expression in a radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus”[27].

Thus, monastic life in the Syriac Antiochene sphere is exemplified in the form of a special call to emulate Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose for the sake of saving the human race. As Christ surrendered himself totally to the work of salvation, obedient even unto death on the Cross for love of his heavenly Father; in like manner, the religious surrenders himself unto death, emulating Christ, longing to accomplish his salvation and that of his neighbor.

2. Love for the Only Son of the Father

25. Our Syriac spirituality has stressed the need to have the purity of heart that enables one to see God. Hence, it focused on the person of Jesus Christ with the preferred Syriac title “the Only” as a way of life. For Christ is the Solitary par excellence. He is his “Father’s Only” (John 1:18) and “who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being,” (Hebrews 1:3). Ephrem considers, along with the rest of the Syriac writers, that to be attached to Jesus and to emulate him is the goal of all the baptized. Christ represents, to the anchorites, “the Only” without challenger. They are clothed with “the Only” in a special and distinctive way and become united to him. They become in turn anchorites, able, through the eye of faith and purity, to comprehend the hidden secret of God, manifested through nature and the Holy Bible, revealed through the Only Son of God Himself incarnate through the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the heart of the Church, bearer of the Mysteries of the Son.

The spirituality that the consecrated live is that of the bridal Church which incorporates them into the divine love in its ecclesiastical dimension. This bridal image, which St. Ephrem is enamored with, makes all, children of the Most High. All the baptized are pure and are engaged to Christ and their lamps are lit as they enter the chamber with the Bridegroom. Anchorites are baptized individuals following Christ without equal. They are single minded and their heart is united and undivided, ready for the Only Bridegroom. Thus, Theodoret describes them in the introduction of his book saying: “It is not their mortal nature filled with much suffering that grants them victory, but rather, their resolve charged with divine grace. Since they were passionately in love with the Divine Beauty, determined to work and to bear all things willingly for the sake of their beloved; admirably resisting the impulses of passions”[28]. This is the wisdom of witnessing and of martyrdom. It is the wisdom of the cross that stamped monastic life with patience in hope and has become a substitute for martyrdom with blood or its companion, a daily white martyrdom, for love of the risen sacrificed Lamb.

3. Ascetic and Communal Life

26. Often Syriac monks astonish us with the variety of their ascetic practices and the rigidity of their mortification. We cannot ignore the missionary influence of these ascetic feats which contributed to the propagation of the Gospel in the region. Throughout the whole history of the Syriac Antiochene monastic life we find that asceticism, or the solitary life, and seclusion has always remained for the monk an example to aspire to. The communal life that struck root in the Eucharist, common prayer, breaking of the bread and spiritual experiences, and preserved some of the hermitic practices, was considered a stage leading those who were capable, to the anchoritic life. We have but few documents concerning numerical comparisons of the number of anchorites to that of hermits in any one community, across the different epochs of Syriac monastic history. However, it is estimated that communal life within the community has always been predominant. Concerning hermits, Patriarch Estephan Douaihy wrote in his work Tareekh al-Azmina[29] (History of the Times) brief excerpts on the life of Maronite hermits, recording their names and indicating that many among them were promoted, becoming bishops, with three of them occupying the seat of the Patriarch[30].

Hermitages were established around most large monasteries, and many monastic hermits were showered with graces abundantly. This pattern is still being practiced because in recent years it witnessed a noticeable resurgence with the existence of three hermits in the hermitages of the monasteries of the Lebanese Maronite Order[31]. They observe the rules of hermitages based originally around devoting time for long prayers and silent meditation on the secret of the age to come, along with work, mortification and fasting. They eat only one meal a day, abstaining from certain foods even when ill, except with the direct and express permission from the superior general of the order.

4. Inner Struggle and Spiritual Development

27. Monastic life is above all a burning search for God with awe and love. Since John of Apamea (John the Anchorite, first half of the 5th century), this quest stressed on union with God through the image of the three stages on the road of mysticism represented by the body, the soul and the spirit, as expressed by St. Paul (1Thes. 5:23).

This spiritual ascension is realized by transferring from communal life to an anchoritic life in the vicinity of the monastery and finally to a harsher solitude. The matter here depends only on this pattern, of the exemplary life in which the Holy Spirit blows wherever and whenever he wills.

During the course of life within the congregation, particularly during the novitiate and the period of temporary vows, a monk is to apply works of corporal mortification under the supervision of his spiritual father and in accordance with his discernment. These works are specifically: fasting, vigilance, the Divine Office, spiritual reading, prostration and serving the brethren…. The monk’s corporal exercises are aimed at fighting the passions of the flesh, such as gluttony, love of money and selfishness. This is the purification stage.

When this ascetic stage reaches some degree of perfection and in accord with the opinion of the spiritual director, the monk then proceeds to the stage of the soul. In addition to fasting and staying up later into the night longer than in the previous stage, and to the prayer of the Divine office and prostrations, the monk will cut himself off to pray long hours meditating on the Word of God and his plan of salvation for mankind. During this second stage the monk is purged of the desires of the soul such as laziness, languidness, boredom, anger and arrogance…following in all this the advice of the spiritual director. This is the enlightenment stage.

At the end of this ascension the monk reaches the “spiritual stage,” that is, spiritual liberty of the spirit bearer. From here on, the Holy Spirit is able to resurge in him and guide him to the apex of spirituality, that is, contemplating the Holy Trinity. Thus, moving forth from this life, the monk enters consciously and through a sacramental way into the life of the indescribable love of the One and Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, not all will reach this stage, though they desire it as a goal and a calling. This is the sanctification stage.

5. Prayer and Work

28. “Pray and work,” is a common saying entirely appropriate to describe Maronite monastic life. Thus, the prayer of the Divine Office and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy morning and evening of everyday, the prayer in common of the canonical hours imbued with the teachings of the holy councils, and the Trinitarian approach, the special and perpetual remembrance of Mary, with strict observance of Maronite rituals and their tunes constituted the essence of the statutes and the main duties in the life of the monks and nuns. They were called the vigilant wakeful and their monasteries were filled with the permanent fragrance of incense, personal prayer, emulation in the practice of free mortification, meditation on the Holy Bible and the writings of the Fathers and the liturgy, both of which are weavings from the Word of God enriched with the hermitic experience and embodied in life.

Nothing would interrupt these prayers and spiritual exercises except devoting time to work. As long as work had a double purpose with respect to the monks, whether to conform to the general human status, that is, to earn the daily bread through one’s own sweat, avoiding idleness. The second purpose was to be of service to neighbor through sharing what is produced, through fostering human dignity, and then through offering him the bread of the Word, in addition to the Holy Sacraments, education, health care and culture…aside from considering tiring manual work as an element in the program of penance for the monks and their special method in living poverty. That is why they would work the valleys and the mountains, reclaiming slopes, making them terraces fit for planting vine, mulberry and olive trees. They would weave cloth to meet the bodily needs of the community, they would build churches and monasteries to meet their spiritual needs, stressing on the powerful correlation of the Maronite monastic life with that of the people of God.

The Syriac-Antiochene monastic organization, and specifically the Maronite, was characterized by its diligent strive to reclaim land and by its love for literature. Agricultural work has helped the people to rely on the skills of the monks and their shrewdness in providing food and provisions for the people in circumstances that were often difficult. From love of the land and making it fertile, their faith drew the characteristics of fortitude, spontaneity, endurance, patience and contentment. As for the cultural work, there is also a common saying “Ktoobokh w-nafshookh” (Your book and your soul). That work took many variations like conserving the Syriac heritage and developing it, launching an Arabian Syriac double culture transcribing manuscripts, ensuring the education of children and practicing on vocational professions…The book was considered the companion of the Syriac monk and a mark differentiating him from the monk of upper Egypt. As a result of this heritage, the first printing press in the lands of the East, was at the Monastery of Mar Antonios Kozhayya. It was brought in by the ancient monks from the West in 1585. This activity remained distinctive and on going through the Tamish printing press toward the middle of the 19th century and the Antonine press at the onset of the 20th century, and presently through the Kreim printing press which provides splendid service to the Church.

6. Monastic Apostolic Life

29. Maronite monastic life was distinct through its intense involvement in the mission of the Church. The apostolic zeal in monastic life has many aspects: the radiant sacramental exemplary life of the congregations which includes the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the graceful hospitality, the social activities that are embodied in compassion for the sick and the needy[32], the evangelization to non-Christians and the catechizing to Christians, etc….

Consequently, the harsh asceticism of the Syriac monks did not impede them from associating with the world so as to bring it to Christ. Their personal spiritual struggle was necessary preparation for a more difficult one against evil in the world. Every time they leave their caves or monasteries, they would trek roads, and enter towns and villages to preach to people so as to win them over to the Gospel. This missionary impetus of the Syriac monastic organizations lasted about one thousand years (400-1400). Yet, the tragedies of time acted to cause its decline starting with the 15th century and its eventual abatement, becoming restricted to the neighborhood, only to retrieve this impetus after they reorganized at the end of the 17th century, spreading it into all Lebanese regions and beyond with a direct and prompt commitment.

7. Open Monastic life

30. Another mark to distinguish Syriac-Antiochene monastic spirituality is its unique ability to be open to all spiritual currents and to acquire some of the monastic organizational portraits derived from other ecclesiastical horizons. The history of this organization is the best witness to this fact. Throughout the centuries, with the preservation of its special identity, our tradition was characterized with openness to the influence of Egyptian monastic life (under the charge of St. Anthony the Great), and gulping, through the subjugation of Syriac and Arabic translations, from the contributions of the great masters of the Byzantine spirituality (Saints Basil the Great and John Climacus) and the Eastern Syriac spirituality (St. Isaac of Nineveh). After a probable seclusion in the middle ages, it again started embracing spiritual currents and institutionalized forms from the Christian West. Monastic life today is peeking out on various cultures and on the diverse specializations of its members in all that pertains to the well being and service of man. It is active in furthering the ecumenical movement, as it is contributing in the arrangement of material and the preparation of studies for the dialogue of religions.

This spiritual adaptation led monastic life into a process of reform and renewal of frameworks along western patterns with regard to organization. This spiritual adaptation should always be leading it to launch a renewal march while at the same time safeguarding, in principle, the anchoritic, hermitic – apostolic origin for every monastery and center. There is a need to uphold the existential experience of the ancients represented by the elements of this same fermented spirituality, even if one element sometimes overpowers another.

Chapter 3:

The Statutes of Monastic Life

31. It appears that monastic life in Lebanon and the region, from its inception and until the end of the 17th century, was not organized in its minute details. So, it did not progress in accordance with specified and detailed laws and decrees tailored for it, neither did it celebrate public vows in the way they had been celebrated in the past three centuries. The Gospel was the supreme constitution of the monks and nuns and their rule in life. In addition to following the example of hermits, especially that of St. Anthony, the teachings of the ecclesiastical councils, what was adapted from St. Pachomius’ statutes, and the rules of St. Basil the Great, the Rabboula constitutions, and what was stated in al-Huda (Guidance) book concerning prayer rules and the Patriarch’s referential authority of confirming superiors, each community used to be subject directly to the authority of the superior who would follow unwritten hermitic rules, which were in essence customs and traditions the hermits inherited from their teachers. The authority of the superior was the official law for each monastic congregation. This is what can be deduced from Patriarch Douaihy’s written history and the writings of Jerome Dondini and Jean de la Roc and from the writings of Qaralli. Father Dondini, who was sent as the Apostolic delegate to the Maronites in 1596, says: “these monks do not follow a rule of life or statutes to distinguish them from others like the rest of the monastic congregations; rather, they all follow one plan”[33]. Abdallah Qaralli says: “The Maronite monks did not have statutes and decrees before 1695, but were walking in a naivety that is fit for the righteous and dangerous for the unrighteous”[34].

32. As a consequence, Qaralli drafted the first constitutions consisting of 22 articles, reduced afterwards to 15, to which were added three articles[35] on humility, patience and brotherly love. Patriarch Estephan Douaihy approved these constitutions for the Lebanese Monastic Order on the 18th of June, 1700, and after him, Patriarch Ya’coub Awad in 1725, and Patriarch Al-Blawzani ordered the Antonine monks to adopt it as of 1705, after they considered adopting St. Augustine’s law, having translated it into Arabic. These rules were called St. Anthony’s rules. Thus, the three nascent orders became known as the monastic orders of St. Anthony, despite the fact that many of the added articles were taken from the Jesuit system as well as that of the Carmelites[36]. After further editing by Bishop Youssef as-Sim’ani, this same law with its 18 articles was later ratified by the Roman Apostolic See and remained in force for the three monastic orders, for men, and for the Lebanese and Antonine nuns until the Apostolic See enacted new statutes for them in 1938[37], forming a complete revision to the first rules. It is worth mentioning here that many oriental Churches adopted this new systemization.[38]

33. Added to the fundamentals derived from the regulations of the missionaries, the first constitutions were inspired by the Syriac monks and their heritage. In the constitutions, aside from recognizing the three vows, we see a special stress on the spirituality of observing obedience: “the monk is to consider his superior in the place of Christ, regardless. He must obey him in all things, except sin; to give him excess dignity and love inwardly and outwardly; he must not probe into his decisions concerning the brethren; he must inform him of all his actions.” The old rules stressed that adopting disciplined conduct would be the optimum means to keep the soul nourished and invigorated, affording silence considerable space. Actually there is a benefit for being silent particularly in the presence of the superior and spiritual director as it accustoms the monk to be a listener. Listening opens the door for dialogue and also respect for others, which instills in the person a spirit of humility. On the other hand, by always keeping high the number of brothers, has enabled male monastic orders to enjoy the strength of truth and reality through the monastic clerical distinction, in the sense that the majority of its members are formed in a familiar way to accept the Sacrament of Holy Orders, since their monastic mission often includes priestly service.

34. Among the structural changes was with respect to the hierarchical authority in the Church. Firstly, the status of the Maronite Lebanese Order was transferred from being a patriarchal right to becoming a pontifical right, as sanctioned by the ratification by Pope Clement XII of the statutes of the Lebanese Monastic Order in 1732 with the bull “the Apostolic Function.” Then, the Antonine monks followed suit and asked that their statutes be ratified, in harmony with the guidelines and prescriptions of the Lebanese Synod[39], supplied with letters of recommendation from Patriarch Youssef al-Khazen and the bishops. Their statutes were ratified in 1740, with the papal bull “The Father of Mercies.” This approval included confirmation of the entirety of privileges pertaining to the anchoritic organizations, most notable were special privileges afforded to the superiors of male monastic organizations, including the privilege of wearing pontifical insignia even in the presence of the Patriarch and the bishops. The Lebanese Synod included reference to these privileges saying: “The ancient custom in the Holy Church of God prevailed, namely, that major superiors who preside over several monasteries, be privileged by wearing pontifical insignia during liturgical celebrations, that is the miter, the crosier, the pectoral cross and the ring, in their monasteries and in the churches under their authority, or when they are assisting the bishops and His Beatitude the Patriarch during liturgical celebrations”[40]. In addition the Synod, insisted on giving the monks who completed their studies in Rome full authority to commence preaching, to absolve and dispense in the confessional and to exercise the duties of the mission throughout the Patriarchate, also obligating them to teach in their monasteries.

35. After the promulgation of the Apostolic document “On Monks, Ecclesiastical Goods and the Meaning of Words” in 1952, the monks applied themselves assiduously to studying their statutes in order to make them conform to the new statutes. In the mean time, Vatican II was held and affected a renewal in the life of the entire church by forming a major shift in all domains. The Council also laid down general principles for the renewal of consecrated life, asserting that to follow Christ is the sublime rule of every consecrated life and inner renewal is the foundation of every external renewal and its guarantee of success. It also urged getting acquainted with the spirit of the founders, calling for its preservation and that of the heritage of the institution, and its participation in the life of the Church according to its distinctive gifts and character, after considering the status of the human person and the needs of the Church in today’s world, working zealously to provide effective assistance. Thus, monks and nuns, reformers and founders applied themselves diligently to continue adapting their new statutes, purposefully scrutinizing and slowing down in anticipation of the publication of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Each institution concluded the adaptation of their statutes in conformity with the new Code, submitting them to the appropriate authorities who adopted them recently for a trial period of four to six years for some, and eight or ten years for others.

Chapter 4:

The Mission of the Monastic Institutions

36. Based on the mission of ancient monks and nuns, monastic male and female institutions today carry a rich heritage which gained them high credibility because of their great capability to endure and flourish. This credibility was confirmed through extended experience. The monastic institutions enriched the Maronite Christian heritage through dedicated work and transmitted it faithfully. The religious “have transmitted to us a respectable human heritage, spiritually and liturgically”[41] and they filled the nation with monasteries and churches to the point that a modern writer prominently named Chapter 5 of his book “Lebanon, a Monastic Land[42].

Of the most important fruits of monastic life is the abundance of graces poured forth as a result of the regular prayers raised in most of the monasteries and hermitages. The last century and the beginning of this century were marked by the glitter of the era of the beatification and canonization of some monks and nuns. The holiness of Father Sharbel Makhlouf, and the nun Rafka ar-Rayes and recently Father Neemetallah Kassab al-Hardini were declared. Their fame and their Maronite monastic approach spread throughout the world. We hope that many other faces would exhibit their signs of holiness.

Monasteries incorporating shrines attract Christian and also non-Christian visitors alike from Lebanon, the Arabian region and the world who flock in to breathe the fragrance of the spirit filling its confines. Monastic orders continued to accompany the ecumenical concerns of both the Universal and the local Church. They are participating in the revival of the Antiochene heritage after having studied it thoroughly, and they are still contributing to the sharpening of intellectual capacities and all means that would strengthen the dialogue between religions for the sake of living together in mutual respect.

As for the martyrdom of blood that marked monastic life from the early beginnings, it continued throughout the centuries. However, it did not diminish the capacity of monastic orders for dialogue and openness. This facilitated their settling in multi-confessional areas and countries with varied cultures.

37. On the cultural and educational levels, the monks and nuns spread education, knowledge and culture and contributed greatly to cultural progress. They turned their monasteries into centers of radiance and of good spiritual reference, carrying out a huge mission, then as now. Presently, they run 92 prominent schools, around 20 technical and vocational institutes, one college institute and three universities. These universities are striving to complement each other, vigilant to grow and evolve. Through their performance, these universities are establishing prominent positions among the national and international educational establishments. Theology, religions, liturgy, sacred art, iconography, ecclesiastical history and others occupy a good stretch of their curricula. Monks were the pioneers of the renaissance of the ecclesiastical music in uninterrupted sequence with great ecclesial musicians, preserving the Syriac heritage and its chant, creating special Maronite tunes. Monastic orders generously funded their institutions, and were obliged at times to sell part of their holdings to insure continuity and development. Moreover, they continued to write and translate books to print and publish them. They published also innumerable reviews, the first fruit of which was Kawkab Al-Barriya (Star of the Desert) the first periodical published by an Eastern monastic order in Lebanon and Syria at the outset of the last century, and was given the title of St. Anthony the Great, as a blessing and a good omen[43].

38. On the level of development, monastic orders were the first to introduce the system of partnership with the laity for land exploitation and to effect extensions for their monasteries to include those living in the vicinity and those who frequent them. These people were to participate in the cultivation of the land to revive the Divine Office and spiritual exchange, thus forming the greater family of the monastery. However, disregard of clear and legal regulations, failure to update this bond, in addition to the turning away of the majority of monks from actively participating in working the land delegating it to the partners, were things that voided this system of its spiritual and existential dimensions, often leading to strife, unresolved except at great sacrifices. Monastic orders engaged in raising cattle and silk-worm; their mills and presses became famous, and irrigation water flowed. Here we are today, however, in a position where caring for the land in many monasteries is of importance, despite the disasters that have befallen the agricultural sector. In fact, the University of the Holy Spirit has established a School of Agriculture which indicates the authorities’ awareness of the importance of this sector, a sector that is distinctive in the history of the sons and daughters of the Maronite family.

39. On the pastoral and services level, the monks assisted by the nuns insure service to parishes close to their monasteries as well as those distant from it, in and outside Lebanon. They care for the sick in 13 hospitals which they run. They also provide preaching, spiritual retreats, confessions, guidance in schools, universities, prisons and hospitals. They establish orphanages, homes for the elderly and the handicapped. They contribute through invigorating the university pastoral work and the judicial, media, and social apostolate as well as other ecclesiastical fields they might be asked to participate in or even to be charged with its responsibility. Moreover, monastic orders foster and guide cultural, apostolic and scout movements and others. Through that, “Monastic congregations became to eparchies and to the Church a massive treasure and a wellspring of grace and vitality”[44].

The activities of the monastic orders were not limited to the central part of Lebanon, but, went generously beyond that, to the far and remote regions. Even more, monks and nuns took care of pastoral and educational services for the Maronites of the Expansion wherever they settled. Since their renewed launch, they established schools in Cyprus, Akko and Latakia. They have served parishes in those countries and those located in Syria, Egypt, Palestine and Turkey. Then, since the middle of the last century, they reached Africa, Canada, Australia, America, Brazil, Mexico, England, Belgium, France, Uruguay, Venezuela and Argentina. They also secured a concentrated monastic presence in Italy.

40. In the social field, monastic orders became renowned for their solidarity stands of being compassionate to the neighbor, sharing its goods and its products. Their monasteries were known as a refuge for the needy as they opened wide their monasteries and centers, transforming them into refuges and restaurants for the wretched during World War II and the last Lebanese war. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the Maronite Lebanese Order mortgaged all its properties with the French Government and other orders sold part of their properties in order to help the victims of World War I. They maintained hospitality, assisted, and still do, in providing free education to a good number of the needy and job opportunities for great numbers in their educational, social and services institutions. Moreover, they are undertaking the construction of many residential projects in order to facilitate ownership while facilitating payment plans and have made available centers for many associations and social organizations.

41. Therefore, reality confirms that “monks and nuns today have a presence in all sectors of the Church and society”[45]. This presence is neither accidental nor out of curiosity or competition, but rather, a living, effective and integrated participation in our Maronite heritage.

Chapter 5:

Attachment of Monks and Nuns with the Church Hierarchy

42. Our Maronite history stresses the strong bond that exists between His Beatitude the Patriarch, local authorities and the monastic orders. It is not by accident that a bishop, namely Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus transmitted to us the biography of God’s chosen ones of his time. It is not unusual either for monastic orders to initiate their renewal through the endeavor and guidance of patriarchs and bishops. Since its birth, monastic life was strongly bound to the patriarch, the bishops and God’s people, maintaining this ecclesiastical bond with the hermits and the ascetics of Apamea and other regions. From this stems the constant stress in our prayers on the interaction and the organic harmony between the churches and the monasteries. Theodoret stressed on the complete harmony existing between the ecclesiastical authority and the hermits, asserting love and integration between them. The Council of Chalcedon (Canon 4) enacted in 451, a law subjecting all monks in cities and in the countryside to the authority of the local bishop, forbidding the erection of a monastery without his permission, and this prevailed across generations. Obedience to the bishops, delegates of the patriarch in the parishes, as well as superiors of many monasteries, was one of the characteristics of Eastern monastic orders, and is naturally obedience to the Patriarch, guardian of the entire Patriarchal Domain, in the absence of eparchial divisions prior to the Lebanese Synod. The patriarch, archbishops and bishops shared the life of monks. They participated in their prayers and activities, and they reside only in monasteries. In fact, there was no known bishop or patriarch who was not himself a monk. Thus, it is affirmed that across the ages there existed a strong affinity and special integration between the local authority and the monks to the extent that for centuries any distinction between them was nonexistent. This characteristic remained strong and apparent to the end of the 16th century.

Since the beginning of the second millennium, the commitment of monastic life to the directives of our Maronite Church and its distinctive characteristics became apparent. Monks manifested deep reverence for the Roman Pontiff, the Patriarch and the bishops, and, at the same time, great comprehension for the admirable variety in the Church’s fused hierarchy and in harmony with the Maronite Church in all her groups. This is what the first statutes of the monks (1732, and 1740) stressed upon, obligating monks and nuns to be submissive to the Apostolic See and His Beatitude the Patriarch concurrently, reading in the second part, Chapter 9, firstly: “(…) Let all superiors strive to inculcate in their monks the belief that obedience and submission to the Roman Apostolic See is the foundation, the mark and sign of our faith through which our Maronite Syriac Church willed to be different and distinct from all other Eastern churches. (…) Let them strive totally to safeguard this priceless trust conferred on us by our predecessors.” And secondly: “After honoring the Supreme Roman Pontiffs, let them honor their mother the Antiochene Church and His Beatitude the Patriarch who is charged with the shepherding of our people and our monastic orders on behalf of the Holy Roman Church, to be subject to him with a special and unique love, as a personal father; and let them submit and obey all his decrees and orders which do not contradict the Catholic faith and the Roman Pontiffs or contravene them.”

43. However, the resurgence of monastic orders with their new reorganization was contrasted by an all-encompassing and new ecclesiastical reorganization as well, especially with respect to entrusting each eparchy to a residing bishop who has full authority in his eparchy, and for monasteries spread in several eparchies, this necessitated an authority higher than the limited one of the geographical bishop. So, naturally, the patriarchal right continued its consolidation. Soon after, the monks responded positively to what and who forced them to change their supreme referential authority to the supreme ecclesiastical authority in Rome especially that the entire Maronite Church honors and obeys him. Patriarch Youssef al-Khazen enjoined his successors and the bishops to facilitate the obtaining of this privilege for any other fledgling monastic order[46].

Even though the promulgation of the constitutions by the Roman Apostolic See does not in itself mean the egress of monastic orders from the entity of their Maronite Church, the huge organizational changes raised several questions, particularly because it differed from their Maronite tradition and their habitual ecclesiastical organization. Contrasting concepts and unconventional practices surfaced which sometimes led to differences and a resort to the Apostolic See who intervened recurrently to impose solutions to make Maronite Church constitutions more conformal to their counterparts in the Latin Church. Subsequently, the authority of the bishops was consolidated in their eparchies and the monastic orders became tied to the Apostolic See in a direct and exclusive way motivated by the overall welfare of the Church. Despite that, monastic orders continued to manifest great respect for the Patriarch and every local ecclesiastical authority. In parallel, the patriarchs and bishops continued to be concerned for the wellbeing of the monastic orders, respecting their laws and statutes and looking after their interest. However, increased participation by monastic orders in the apostolate necessitated the deepening of relations between bishops and the monastic orders, East and West, and clarifying crisscrossing authorities and their framework. Thus, came the document Mutual Relations, the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (Consecrated Life), the Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (Light of the East), in addition to the directives of the Vatican Council II in its Councilor Decree Christus Dominus (The Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church), and Decree Ad Gentes (On the Mission Activity of the Church), and other documents, to stabilize relations between the monks and the ecclesiastical authority on the foundation of the theological concept of the Church. Those concerned strive for inspiration and guidance from these references; they enrich it with the distinctive experience of the Patriarchal Church after revealing its specificity so that their mutual relations will embody the rising of the spirit of communion and service. Furthermore, they assert that their ecclesiastical dealings can only be based on cooperation and coordination, that monastic life may remain tightly bound to the life of its Church and to the faithfulness of her witness.

44. The new Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches subjected all monks and nuns to the Roman Pontiff as they are subject to their major superior, obligating them to obey him by virtue of the vow of obedience[47]. Regarding the constitutions of the monastic orders and their regulations and internal administration, the new code confined this authority with the Apostolic See for monastic orders of pontifical right[48], and with the Patriarch or eparchial bishop for monastic orders of patriarchal or eparchial right. However, these canons asserted, at the same time, the subjection of all these monastic orders to the authority of the eparchial bishop in all activities related to the public celebration of divine worship, preaching and catechizing, and the various activities of the apostolate, even in matters concerning the conduct of members linked to the clerical state. It also asserted the referential status of the Patriarch and the Synod of Bishops with respect to some judicial and financial affairs pertaining to institutions of monastic life, even those of pontifical right[49]. The new Code of Canons prompt patriarchs and bishops to meet with superiors of monastic orders on set dates and anytime it seems necessary, to coordinate operations and exchange opinions related to the activities of the apostolate[50].

Chapter 6: On-Going Renewal

45. What we have said about monastic orders and their mission does not mean that they did not suffer wounds that require treatment and continuous renewal in the light of their spirituality and their unique goal, which is Christ the Lord. There is no doubt that renewal in all living matters is vital and urgent at all times and in all circumstances so monastic orders could maintain their freshness and the strength of their witness and sincerity. In our belief, monastic life “can never fail to be one of her [the Church’s] essential and characteristic elements, for it expresses her very nature”[51]. Our Church considers that perpetual renewal of her monastic life is a factor that contributes to her entire renewal. Likewise, monastic orders admit that any flourishing in the Maronite Church is a flourishing of their very life as well. Therefore, we would like on this holy occasion to point out the necessity of tackling some of the all-encompassing and important matters. Furthermore, we call upon monastic orders to undertake a courageous and firm renewal deriving its broad lines from the spirit of the history of our Church and its authenticity. Then, the monastic orders will be inspired from the constants of this renewal in order to adopt them in her response to the calls of the times and its contemporary needs.

46. For a present and future perspective, it is a must to ponder deeply on synodal documents and listen well for the call of heritage so that we may find inspiration for the path and so that we may concentrate on the Christological and ecclesiological dimensions of monastic life. Accordingly, monks and nuns are striving to accentuate the position that the authorities of their Maronite Church occupy in their lives so as to consolidate it, and have empathy for these authorities, heart and soul. “Monks and nuns, on their part, even if they belong to an institute of pontifical right should consider themselves members of the family of the eparchy and to undertake the necessary conditioning,” “and it is very important for theological and pastoral reasons that monks and nuns actively fuse into the heart of ecclesiastical life”[52]. Monastic life will bear fruit only in proportion to the depth of its roots in ecclesiastical life. Monks and nuns are to be witnesses of their affiliation to their patriarchal Church and to foster their integration with their patriarch, relying on his fatherly and presiding authority, because relations with the Patriarch “go beyond the narrow canonical framework to meet the historical and present calling”[53]. The authorities in turn are to protect and respect the particularity and the charisma of monastic orders, cooperating with them, trusting them, sharing with them the evangelical and apostolic authority, that they may continue their spiritual, pastoral, liturgical and social services and other work. In order to provide the requirements of participation between the local ecclesiastical authority and the authority of the monastic orders, whether they are of pontifical, patriarchal or eparchial right, this Synod recommends the activation of the Patriarchal Secretariat to coordinate between bishops and the monastic orders[54], aiming to consolidate integration with the referential authority of the Maronite Patriarchate and cooperation with the bishops as well as stressing on a unified position with openness and sincerity in all the various domains.

47. Modernity has produced values that have rapidly infiltrated into monastic orders such as liberty, equality, justice, integration, partnership, transparency, spirit of criticism and others. Monastic orders benefited from this modernity establishing value of the individual, providing opportunity for initiatives and self development for them, and participating in the various apostolic, developmental and social sectors. From a different perspective, these values could facilitate for some a trend towards having freedom without bounds, equality that denies authority its due, or frankness bordering on insolence, stubbornness that reveals troubled convictions, or deficiency in loving submission; and having others that may manifest the phenomenon of the strife of the generations and the features of a double crisis: a crisis of identity with respect to monastic life; a crisis of truthfulness with regard to others. However, the crisis remains the prime mover penetrating all the communities of the Holy Bible. These crises were the launching point for a new qualitative move returning monastic life to its initial momentum, its newness “as an evangelical memory,” purifying all defects in a purging furnace. A result of the crisis is to intensify interaction between the gift and the spirituality divulging identity and manifesting the characteristics of the inherited model which brings about abbreviation of self and an embodiment of the heritage, transforming it into a permanent mission, a mission of continuous repentance to God, which is the only path to liberation and deliverance and the returning of self to its true self. The revival of the absolute presence of the Lord is the inherited constant that is beyond comprehension and that aids in exhibiting the echo of committing the Word of God to memory in what the Lord can create in those He calls.

48. In addition to the challenge of the faithfulness to the pronounced vows and living them with sincere and loving commitment, the spiritual life remains the greatest challenge facing monastic life in the Maronite Church. Her mission will never bear fruit except in union with Christ through a giving that encompasses her life in its entirety. Hence, many monks and nuns devoted themselves to activities of the apostolate, which in itself is praiseworthy considering the nature of the Apostolic Church and our monastic heritage which has always been eremitic, contemplative and apostolic concurrently, but it may distance some from their personal and communal experience of the Lord. So, personal and common prayers in all monasteries and centers remain a sure guarantee and a protective shield for monastic life. It is a must to “declare the Truth without compromise, seeking it and putting it into practice”[55], and to assert the status of prayer, contemplative life and its perennial value in every balancing operation between “the mountain and the desert” and “villages and cities” in the various forms of monastic life. If it is inevitable that we endeavor to further the contemplative dimension in the monasteries and centers of religious orders, then we must, for a good reason, arouse impetus to support the total contemplative life especially, in the existing autonomous monasteries.

49. Frequently, the monastery is embedded within in the ecclesiastical congregation becoming a center by virtue of the life of the congregation and their witness. However, its status is abating today in the life of society and the Church. Barriers were erected between the monastery and the people, and its witnessing role was weakened. Some monasteries began to be emptied of those who lived their life “in what is the Lord’s” and those who can prove that it is a place of concealment and an oasis of prayer, contemplation and guidance. It is imperative to again strengthen monastery life, before doing anything else, through assuring communal living inside it and preserving its constants, especially brotherly love, and also through asserting, in word and deed, that the monastery is the place where one lives the prophetic dimensions, which alone are capable of bespeaking the kingdom. In addition, the monasteries are refuge for the poor, shelter for strangers, and their place of healing and hope with no barriers between them. Rather, the monasteries are a sign of the presence of God and His closeness to the people and His communion with them. They are the residence of religious whose time is spent serving those who seek help and whose day is charged with prayer and toil. From its depth, the rest of the institutions and services launch, and by its spirituality they are tinged.

50. Along with the acknowledgment that monastic life has flourished during the last three centuries by virtue of its institutional structure and the common work performed within it, we point out that excessive preoccupation with the widening concerns of the institution, along with the pursuant inclination toward administrative work, is a source of anxiety for the person and makes him lose his serenity leading him to aridity and he will unavoidably fall, having placed his hope in his works. For this reason, monks and nuns are careful not to let their institutions become another kind of enterprise similar to so many others in which the one who devotes his time to it finds it difficult to detach himself from its seductions, focusing on the level of productivity and return on investment. Thus, he will easily be swept away, becoming like the rest of the employers; consequently, the institution loses its power to witness to the world of the beatitudes, then the poor and the needy are excluded under the pretext of the subsistence and development of the institution. Such programs overpower the fundamental goal, which is conveying the Good News and communicating salvation. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the ascetic dimension by opening the hermitages of hearts and entering their inner wilderness, that they may be a regulator of monastic life, protecting monks and nuns from the vainglory of appearances, endearing to them the nakedness of abandonment, that they may continue to lead a life of simplicity which is a sign of individual and collective maturity. It is also necessary to develop a living network of spiritual vitalization encompassing all those working in their institutions that they may be living churches witnessing to Christ and his mercy as they become true evangelical spiritual schools.

51. In a world easily torn and divided, unable to rise above its wounds and overcome its domineering spirit, emerges the necessity of strengthening the witness to the loving brotherly life, unbiased and dedicated. Out of this kind of love, springs forth the fertility of monastic life. Also there is a pressing need for developing the spirituality of partnership between communities of monks and nuns in order to confirm their membership, entity-wise, to the One Who brought them together, that they may live the paschal and the eschatological dimensions invigorated by the Holy Spirit. The scattering of communal life can be avoided at least by organizing fixed and highly concentrated numbers of encounters during the feasts, mutual forgiveness, enrichment from different experiences, and through profound spiritual meditations and recurrent retreats. A community living in love, even with a change of tenure and redistribution of tasks, does not allow itself to be infiltrated by a worldly spirit that shreds, wounds and destroys, or withdraws or refrains from common work or refuses to acknowledge the will of Christ in a superior he does not approve of. Furthermore, the nature of the monastic calling, despite accepting difference and being fed variety, it forbids hostile partisanship and it forbids the assuming of stands on the basis of personal feelings and those of the ego.

52. The necessity for unity, cooperation and coordination extends to include the relationship among religious institutions especially Maronite Monastic Orders in their two branches: male and female, thus fostering the partnership of responsible endeavors and their integration with that of the nuns, avoiding rivalry in their institutions. They work to confirm the unity of belonging, of closeness, and of the one quest, through constructive mutual aid and the exchange of experiences especially in regions containing neighboring monastic centers, and similarly in the Countries of Expansion where missions ought to be organized in a logical fashion. Our Synod urges monks and nuns in the Countries of Expansion to embark from the monasteries that they erect and invigorate with abundant monastery life, in order to stress the need to devote attention to the spirituality of their Church. They are also urged to stress the necessity of forming the Maronites of these countries on their spiritual link to the spring source of their Eastern religious heritage, and guiding them through the authoritative directives of their patriarchal Church and her aspirations, safeguarding their integration and affiliation, and the consolidation of their Maronite heritage which sanctified many, without that being at the expense of their interaction with their environment.

53. The more essential thing is for monastic orders to give the utmost importance to formation, “for, the future of consecrated life is dependant on the dynamic capacity expended by the monastic institution in the formation of its members”[56]. They must awaken vocations, discern them, accompany them and train them with deliberation, whereby anxiety over quantity does not overpower witnessing and sincere commitment in words and deed, and that the priestly goal does not swallow the state of permanent brotherhood, focusing on personifying the vocations and organizing it through creating the need to dedicate themselves to reading Divine Scriptures, and to practice silence and asceticism, where the called learns to become a permanent disciple of Christ before sinking into the tumult of unrestrained activities. Formation ascends and integrates, not for the purpose of accumulating knowledge, but to augment the possibility of witnessing through life and operating in the midst of contemporary transformations. Moreover, monastic orders seek to plant affinity between its students and the eparchial seminarians for acquaintanceship, concord, and integration in the service of the one apostolic work. Our Synod blesses all common encounters in this context and recommends intensifying those gatherings.

54. Monastic life must devote special attention to the land and its exploitation as part of its work, and contribute to extricating the agricultural sector from its slip, and to achieve the modernization of the patterns of partnership with laity. This partnership is in the depth of the Maronite spirituality and it is an anticipation of the communion of saints and an incentive to make the monastery utter the Word of God and witness to Him even in the midst of strife. This partnership is also the awaited link to stabilize the smaller family surrounding the monasteries and for national support in the strive for harmony and unity, in the defense of the greater family. The land carries history and preserves the heritage, especially in that it assembles the families from whom the Church is constituted.


55. In the light of the preceding, the Maronite Church asserts that the life of the monks and the nuns within it, in all its various forms, was, still is and will deeply continue to be a precious gift and a phenomenon of well being and vitality at heart. Monastic life is indispensable to the church because “it is an indivisible part of it”[57]. However, she asks God to inspire the superiors, all monks and nuns to be led to a leaping conversion that will renew their life and cultivate it in the light of the Gospel, the teachings of the Church and her guidance, and the solid hermitic inheritance conditioned to the calls of their brethren and their needs. Then, credibility of this life will shine and truly witness to its planting in the depth of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings.






1. Consolidating Communal Monastery Life to manifest the Spirit of the Gospel and the Monastic Charisma.

1. Since common monastery life is the most suitable for monks and nuns to live the evangelical teachings, especially brotherly love, and because increased activity of monks and nuns in apostolic fields would weaken this partnership in some cases, the Synod urges monastic institutions to take the initiatives which would foster common monastery life in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, monastic laws and traditions and the circumstances of time and place.

1.a: Monastery communities are to draft a program to include, on an ongoing basis, monastic synods, brotherly encounters on various occasions and exchanges of experience.

1.b: To be constantly adorned with monastic virtues especially at the time of changing responsibilities and tenure.

2. Balance between Prayer, Meditation and Work.










2. Since personal and communal prayer and the meditative dimension are fundamental constituents of monastic life; and since the development of the apostolic dimension in our monastic institutions has come to threaten the hoped for balance between prayer and meditation, and work in some cases, the Synod recommends that these institutions work toward strengthening the life of prayer and meditation in all its monasteries and centers such that the latter becomes living signs of the Kingdom.

2.a: Committing to a schedule of daily communal prayers suitable to the varied duties of monks and nuns.

2.b: Consolidate the Divine Office prayer with regularity and enabling the laity to participate in it.

2.c: Preserving an atmosphere of solitude, silence and distancing from the world.



3. The Laity Working in Monastic Institutions.

3. Since the laity working in the monastic institutions along with the monks and nuns form one spiritual family, the Synod recommends that these institutions provide those working with them special attention, keeping watch over their spiritual formation that they may witness to Christ in and outside the sphere of their work.

3.a: To attend to combining justice with Christian love in implementing work rules.

3.b: Provide periodic retreats and spiritual accompaniment for the laity working in monastic institutions.

3.c: Erecting spiritual leagues between them and the institutions.

4. Maronite Monastic Orders and Caring for the Land.

4. In view of the spiritual, economic and social importance some Maronite monastic orders afforded the land since its foundation until today, and as the exploitation of the land contributes to the development of society and to the limiting in rising emigration, the Synod recommends that these monastic orders continue their efforts to develop the agricultural sector on their land.

4.a: Exploitation of the land on modern scientific bases, and introducing the industrialization of agricultural products.

4.b: Evolve the system governing the partnership with the laity working in the monastic institutions.

5. Activating the Patriarchal Secretariat to Coordinate between Bishops and the Monastic Orders.

5. Since Maronite monastic orders are at the core of the Patriarchal Church and in her service, especially in pastoral domains, with a spirit of partner-ship for the good of the Church and its edification, the Synod recommends the activation of the Patriarchal Secretariat so as to coordinate between bishops and the monastic orders.

5.a: Coordinating between the bishops and the superiors general and the mother superiors concerning pastoral service and apostolic work.

5.b: Consolidating existing encounters between diocesan seminarians and the monks and nuns studying together, that they may be trained in Church service with an authentic spirit of communion.


5.c: Care for the pastoral formation of monks and nuns.


6. Coordinating between the Monastic Orders.

6. In encouragement of constructive cooperation between monastic institutions with an apostolic character, and desirous of a responsible distribution of capabilities that they may satisfy the needs of the Church in Lebanon, in the Patriarchal Domain and in the Countries of Expansion, the Synod recommends the need for coordination and cooperation between these institutions especially in the areas of high concentration.

6. This matter shall be entrusted to the Patriarchal Secretariat to coordinate between bishops and the monastic orders and to the Council of Superiors General and the Mother Superiors.



  Name of the Order

Number of Novices

Number of Religious with Temporary Vows

Number of Religious with Perpetual Vows,

other than Priests

Number of Priests


  1 - Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary






  2 - Maronite Lebanese Order






  3 - Antonine Order






  4 - Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries






  5 - Most Holy Trinity Monastery in the U.S.A.






  6 - Antonine Sisters






  7 - Lebanese Sisters






  8 - Sisters of the Holy Family






  9 - Sisters of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus






10 - Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament






11 - Sisters of Saydet Hakle






12 - Sisters of St. John - Hrach






13 - Sisters of the Visitation - Zouk






14 - Sisters of the Visitation - Aintoura






15 - Little Sisters of Jesus in Lebanon












[1]. John Paul II Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen (Light of the East), 3 May, 1995, No. 9.

[2]. The Syriac text was published in W. Wright’s, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, volume 1, London 1871.

[3]. The Syriac text was published in M. Kmosko’s, Liber Graduum, Patrologia Syriaca, Pars prima, Tomus 3, Paris 1926, 6; Bishop Francis Al-Baisari translated it into Arabic. Refer to Kitab Al-Maraqi (Book of Advancement), Paulist Library, Jounieh 1989.

[4]. The essays of Aphrahat were published in Syriac by Fr. R. Graffin, Aphraatis Sapientis Persae, Demonstrationes, Patrologia Syriaca, Pars prima. Father Boulos Feghali translated the text into Arabic Aphraahat al-Hakim (Aphrahat the Wise), Beirut, 1994.

[5]. Refer to S. Brock’s, Le Monachisme Syriaque, histoire et spiritualité, On the works of the Second Syriac Convention, Antélias, 1998, p. 31.

[6]. It was published along with the Greek text: P. Cavinet and Alice Leroy-Molinglen, Theodoret de Cyr, Histoire des Moines de Syrie, Sources Chrétiennes, 234-257, Paris 1977. Archmandrite Adrianos Chakkour translated it into Arabic Tareekh Asfia’ al-Laah (The History of God’s Chosen), Jounieh, 1987.

[7]. Refer to P. Bedjan’s, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, vol.VII.

[8]. Refer to J. Amar’s, Byzantine Ascetic Monachism and Greek Bias in the Vita tradition of St. Ephrem the Syrian, in Orientalia, Christiana Periodica 58 (1992), pp. 123-156.

[9]. In addition to the people of the open air, the Stylites and the hermits, Antioch has known ascetics who spent their life standing, or on trees, or in vigilance, or eating only herbs or spending their life weeping who became known for their violent asceticism. Antioch has known also roamers and those who pray constantly. These types of ascetics caused it an abundance of trouble. For more details, refer to the articles of Father Souhail Qasha, Ascetic life and Monarchism in the Church, in Al-Manara magazine, Vol. 41, Nos. 2, and 3, pp. 298 – 302.

[10]. This a group of hermits to which the Anchorites are annexed, submitting to their superior and seeking him for advice. At the end of the week they will meet to celebrate the Eucharist together and share the bread and the experiences before returning to their hermitages.

[11]. Isaac the Antiochene describes this change at length saying that most hermits and monks began abandoning the harsh solitary life in the caves and crevices during the second part of the fifth century to settle permanently in large monasteries. Refer to P. Bedjan’s, Homiliae S. Isaaci, Syri Antiocheni, Paris 1903, and also Father Chafiq Abou Zaid’s article, Al-Hayat ar-Rahbannia fi Souria wal-‘Iraq wa Filastine, fil-Masihiya ‘Abra Tareekhiha fil Mashriq (Monastic Life in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, in Christianity Across its History in the East), Council of the Churches of the Middle East, Beirut 2001, p. 396.

[12]. Bishop Debs says: “the monks of Saint Maron Monastery were not limiting their activities to hermitage, perfection through virtue and the saving of their souls, but pursued the apostolic mission, giving due regard to the saving of the souls of others also, roaming through towns and villages preaching the word of God encouraging the people to pursue virtue and shun vice, particularly apostasy, opposing heretics and promoters of false doctrine through preaching, correspondence and debates. Their superiors were like army commanders defending the true religion and the monks were their courageous soldiers and their victorious fighters. Their monasteries were like well fortified strongholds sought by everyone persecuted by apostates, or visited by those in need of the weapon of true knowledge to oppose the unbelievers”. Tareekh Suryia ad-Dinyawi wad-Deeni (Syria’s civil and religious history), Vol. 4, p. 454.

[13]. Sozomenus says: “They penetrated, in the reign of Emperor Valens, the regions most attached to paganism and settled near Apamea, Homs and other cities and preached Christ, converting a number of Syriacs, Persians and Arabs. Sozomenus: Historia Ecclesiastica, in P.G., 67, Vol. I, 34, col. 1396.

[14]. Refer to ‘Ali bin il-Hussain bin ‘Ali Al-Massoudi’s At-Tanbih wal Ishraf (Admonition and Supervision), Lieden edition, 1894, p.153; and the articles of Bishop Touma al-Kfartabi (11th century) in the Syriac manuscripts in the Paris public Library, No. 203, pp. 97-98.

[15]. Refer to Father Elias Khalife magazine of Awraq Rahbania (Monastic Papers), 47 (1995), p. 85-86.

[16]. In 1969, the Aleppo Monastic Order became the Maronite Mariamite Monastic Order.

[17]. The Lebanese Maronite Order was called al-Baladiya because its members came from Lebanon.

[18]. For more details concerning double monasteries, refer to Mahfoud, G.J. L’organisation monastique dans l’Eglise Maronite, Beirut, 1967, pp. 289-315.

[19]. The Lebanese Synod (The translation of Bishop Youssef Najm) Section 4, chap. 3, No. 20, p. 507.

[20]. Refer to Father Ibrahim Harfoush’s, Rahibaat Deir Mar Youhanna Hrash (The Nuns of the Monastery of Saint John of Hrach), op. cit. p. 71.

[21]. Their convent was named Al-Bichara Monastery, and the statutes of the Nuns of the Visitation were adopted to memorialize the name of the founders of the Monastery: Bchara Jaffal al-Khazen and his wife Ziara (Visitation).

[22] . Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 56, and 57.

[23]. Refer to Fr. Boulos Sfeir’s: Rahibaat Sayidat al-Haqli (The Nuns of Our Lady of the Fields), in the al-Manara Magazine, year 31, issues 2 and 3, 1990, p. 58.

[24] . Most Holy Trinity Monastery, Petersharm, MA.

[25] Included at the end of this text a detailed annex of the number of monks and nuns in each congregation as of the beginning of 2004.

[26]. Vatican II Decree: Perfectae Caritatis (Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life), No 7.

[27]. Apostolic Exhortation: Vita Consecrata (On the Consecrated Life), No 3.

[28]. Refer to: Tareekh Asfia’ al-Laah (The History of God’s Chosen), by Theodoret, Introduction, 5. In the last chapter of his book entitled Fil-Mahabba-l-Ilahiya (On Divine Love), Theodoret says: “As worldly lovers derive fascination at the sight of the object of their love, and the thorn of the body will be spurred. In like manner those who have been hit by the arrows of divine love and those who contemplate its pure beauty will intensify the flame of this love. So they will avoid quenching their thirst in order to enjoy it for a longer time. Ultimately man is satiated from the pleasures of the senses, but divine love is not subject to the laws of satiety.”

[29]. Among the many manuscripts of the work of Patriarch Douaihy, Tareekh al-Azmina, there is one manuscript in the archives of the Patriarchal See at Bkerke under No. 46 (old numbering) and 137 (new numbering), and another manuscript in the Vatican Library under No. 215, which Patriarch Douaihy had sent to Rome in 1680 for printing there. It stayed without printing until in recent years Abbot Boutros Fahd undertook that mission in 1976.

[30]. The Patriarchs hermits are: Mikhail ar-Razzi (1567-1581), Sarkis ar-Razzi (1581-1596), and Youssef ar-Razzi (1596-1608).

[31] They are Father Anthony Shina who entered the hermitage of St Paula – Mar Antonios Kozhayya Monastery, on May 30, 1982, Father John Khawand who entered the hermitage of St Anthony – Our Lady of Tamish Monastery, on January 17, 1998, and the third is Father Dario Escobar of Colombian origin, who came to live the Maronite spirituality in hermitage, influenced by the life of St Sharbel, entering Our Lady of Hawqa Hermitage on August 15, 2000.

[32] The monks have considered the poor standing at the door as God himself knocking concealed under the garments of the poor. See the sermons of James of Sarugh, in P. Bedjan 11 p. 832.

[33]. Father Jerome Dondini: Rihla ila Jabal Lubnan Sanat 1596 (Voyage to Mount Lebanon in 1596), Arabic translation by Father Youssef Yazbek al-‘Amchiti, Beit Chebab, 1933, p. 55.

[34]. Abbot Butros Fahd: “History of the Maronite Order in its two branches” Vol. 3, Jounieh 1965, p. 277.

35. Became known as the Black Law.

[36]. Refer to: Coussa R., Epitome Praclectionum de iure ecclesiastico orientle, vol. I (1984), p. 47, note 118; Chedid C. (Mariamite). L’origine delle Costituzioni dell’ordine Libanese Maronite, Roma 1966.

[37]. It became known as the Red Law.

[38]. The Apostolic See approved the same statutes for the Melkite Catholic monks in 1743 and for the Chaldean and Armenian Catholic monks in 1825. Refer to Mahfoud G.J. op. Cit pp. 15, 16, and note 30.

[39]. In an address to the Antonine monks Bishop Youssef Sim’aan as-Sim’ani said the following: “since (the Lebanese Synod) has prescribed among other things that the monks are to endeavor to have their statutes ratified by the Apostolic See and the Holy Roman Church…” Refer to Abbot Emmanuel al-Ba’abdati’s: Tareekh ar-Rahbannia al-Antonia al-Marounia (the History of the Maronite Antonine Order), 1992 (2) p. 66.

[40]. Lebanese Synod section IV, Chapter 2, No. 6.

[41]. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter: Orientale Lumen (Light of the East), 2 May, 1995, No. 9.

[42]. Leroy, J.: Moines et Monastères du Proche-Orient, Paris 1957, p. 129.

[43]. Kawkab Al-Barriya (Star of the Desert) magazine was launched from the St. Isaiah Monastery in 1905, and its publication continued in a new garb in 1911, from the Mar Antonios Monastery in Ba’abda where the Antonine Printing Press was installed. For more details, Refer to Father Maroun Hayek’s: Deir Mar Antonios Ba’abda (St. Anthony’s Monastery Ba’abda), Beirut, 1999, pp. 41-43.

[44]. Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No 54.

[45]. Ibid, No 52.

[46]. Refer to Abbot Emmanuel al-Ba’abdati’s: Tareekh ar-Rahbannia al-Antonia (the History of the Antonine Monastic Order), Beirut, 1999, p. 114.

[47]. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, C 412, Para. 1, C 555, and C 564.

[48]. Ibid, C 413.

[49]. Ibid. Refer, for example, to C 1036, Para. 2, No. 3; and, C 1063, Para. 3, No. 3 and 4.

[50]. Ibid. Refer to C 416.

[51]. Apostolic Exhortation: Vita Consecrata (On the Consecrated Life), No. 29.

[52]. Ibid.

[53]. From the modern statutes of the Antonine Order: Article 229, Para. 2.

[54]. The Synod Bishops of the Maronite Church erected this office ratifying its statutes on the 16th of June, 2000.

[55]. Title taken from the document Starting Afresh from Christ, which was published by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 2002, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (On the Consecrated Life).

[56]. Draft of Apostolic Exhortation: Vita Consecrata (On the Consecrated Life), No 90.

[57]. Apostolic Exhortation: A New Hope for Lebanon, No. 53.