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MAR MARON CHARACTER & MESSAGE AND Christianity spread in all Syrian cities

Mar Maron lived in a period full of religious and political events which accompanied the spread of Christianity. Christian monks were highly influenced by the successive and concurrent events especially after Roman Emperor Constantine had issued the famous decree of Milan 313AD which allowed Christians to declare their new religion publicly and recognized Christianity as a state religion.

In his book "History of Maronites", issued in the eighties of the past century, Lebanese father Botros Dhaw said: "Since the start of Christian era and until 313AD, Christians suffered from persecution. One day, exactly at sunset, Constantine, saw the image of a cross drawn in the sky by sun rays and "With this you will win" written near it. In the morning he ordered new banners be made for the army with the sign of the cross on them and he won the battle over his opponent, Emperor Maxentius, in 312AD near Rome. After that he ruled all Europe and issued the declaration of 313AD which stopped persecution but fell short of declaring Christianity as a state religion.

The declaration assured freedom of religion for both Christians and pagans. In 330AD Constantine left Rome and lived in Byzantium, Istanbul today, and made of it capital of his empire.

In the period following the death of Constantine, Christianity spread in all Syrian cities while some rural areas remained pagan. At that time Mar Maron was born. During Emperor Theodosius reign, and exactly in 380AD, Mar Maron's fame was at its utmost in Koresh, north of Syria, and exactly in the village of Kafr Nabbo. In this place, people used to worship an Assyrian God known as Nabbo. This God was famous in Mesopotamia and in Syria. Mar Maron succeeded in convincing people to embrace Christianity and changed Nabob’s temple into a church and abolished all traces of paganism.

In his book "History of the Church", issued in 453 AD,the Greek historian Theodoratos said:" Maron was not satisfied by promoting the new religion, but also dealt with the people of Koresh gently.

He used to listen to their problems, to offer them advice, and to teach them the true teachings of Christianity. Many of them started believing in his power of healing diseases and sicknesses. He did not pray for healing physical illnesses only, but also to cure the souls of people from other illnesses like hatred, selfishness, fanaticism and intolerance, calling for virtue and righteousness. This policy of fighting paganism and good behavior convinced many priests and hermits to seek his teachings in Kafr Nabbo. Among them was the famous St. Simeon the Stylite who spent 37 years of his life worshipping God on a pillar.

In his book "History of Times" Lebanese historian Estephan alDwehi (1630-1704) said: "Originally, Maronites were an Arab tribe which came from Najran, in Yemen, after the devastation caused by the failure of Ma'areb Dam and settled in Northern Syria. At the beginning of the fifth century people of this tribe followed Mar Maron. When Maron's fame spread in the region many monks and priests followed his steps and started building churches and monasteries in the region". As a result, the term Maronite, a religious name, was given to the Arab tribe which followed Mar Maron in the middle of the fifth century. At that time Christians were divided into Arians, after Arius, Priest of Alexandria, who believed that Jesus Christ was a human being, Monophysites, and Nestorians after Monk Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople who insisted on the divine nature of Christ. Each party believed they were right and fought each other about their different doctrines. Mar Maron, and his followers, refused to follow either of them and continued believing in the Nicen creed, promoted by Emperor Constantine who believed that Christ has two natures; human and divine.

Mar Maron used Syriac, the language of Jesus Christ, in his prayers and sermons, and it is universally known that the word "Mar" in Syriac means Master. Maron died in 410 AD in Kafr Nabbo but was buried in Brad, only a few kilometers far from Kafr Nabbo, which was the capital of Koresh. Ruins there indicate that Brad was a large city at that time, and it is also said that Maron's followers established the Monastery of Simeon the Pillarist (Stylite) in 454, i.e. after 44 years of Mar Maron's death. After his death the Maronites entered in a struggle with the Jacobeans (Followers of the Monk Jacob who insisted on the Calcedonian doctrine and held the Council of QadeKoy in Turkey, now on the Bosphorus) in 451AD to confirm the decisions of the Council of Nicia. When some Maronites embraced the decisions of Nicia's Council they raised many problems with the Jacobeans and lost more than 350 Martyrs- all killed by the Jacobeans. This event forced many of them to migrate from Northern Syria to Lebanon's mountains in the second century, and this was their first movement of migration to Lebanon.

The visit of many important Lebanese Maronite personalities to the tomb of Mar Maron were important occasions to start annual convoys of Christian Maronite pilgrimage to celebrate the sacred anniversary of the death of Mar Maron.

 

Haifaa Mafalani

 

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