Volume 2 No.1 January 1998
Contemplating Saint Sharbel's Centennial (1898-1998)
"Mystic of the East", "Path of Silence", "Ecstatic of God", "Hermit of Lebanon", "Fervent Man of God", "Saint of the Century" are just a few of the titles bestowed upon Saint Sharbel.
Sharbel the saint epitomizes virtue. Sharbel the hermit embodies the mystic tradition of the Christian Orient. Sharbel the humble embodies truth in our world where the sacred is dishonored and where the secular and the profane are idealized. Sharbel the silent manifests God's awareness of His people in a Middle East where fanaticism reigns and intolerance ever prevails. Sharbel the Lebanese reveals God's promise to a land torn by conflicts and baptized in blood and tears.
This land of Sharbel's birth is engaged in continuous warfare between evil and good, "desert-barrenness and fertility" as historian Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) described it. Sharbel's appearance in this land is not just a fact of history. It is rather a part of God's plan which is revealed in love for His people and in His vigilance over their hope in Him.
For too long we have prayed, pleaded, and begged for Divine guidance and intervention. God responded in His own way. God's answer is Sharbel. With all the evidence of God, some of us still do not approach the Divine Spring. We remain lost, searching the mirages of heresies, starved spiritually and empty of His abundant love.
During the centennial of Sharbel's death -- as we observe God's greater use of him in His works of salvation -- we are called to ponder his spirituality, contemplate his refutation of modern pride and materialism and emulate his hope in heavenly mercy.
This year, there will be various celebrations and religious observances at the Monastery of Saint Maroun, the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul in 'Annaya and at the House of Saint Sharbel Center in Bekaa-Kafra, his home town. These celebrations are made available on MARI's web site under "Saint Sharbel Centennial Celebrations" for those who wish to make a pilgrimage to Lebanon this holy year or create the program for themselves or their parish.
Throughout the centennial, MARI prays that the Maronite Church -- its people and clergy -- will experience a rebirth in the spirit of Sharbel (ca. 1828 - 1998). MARI also prays that the Universal Church will learn about Sharbel and be revitalized by his spirituality.
Guita G. Hourani