Volume 1 No.3 July 1997
"The Maronite Church is the best kept secret of the whole Catholic Church", someone once said. This is probably due to the fact that the Maronite Church is privileged to have been among the first churches to know Christ and His Apostles personally. It may also be due to the fact that it has been a witness to Christ's teachings through faith and martyrdom, uninterrupted, for the last 1600 years.
For centuries, knowledge of the Eastern Christian tradition, exemplified by the Maronite Church, was suppressed by lack of understanding by the Western Church Hierarchy and physical separation caused by the Islamic conquest. Hence, valuable traditions, originating directly from Christ and His Apostles, were lost to the Western Church. Still today, Christians are unaware of the rich traditions existing in the Eastern Churches.
Various Popes during the past 100 years or so have called for the preservation of Eastern traditions. These Popes have recognized the importance of the Eastern Churches and the need to preserve them for the benefit of the Universal Church. Pope John Paul II recently said that the "venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ's Church. In comparison to any other culture, the Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born."
The feature article in this issue of the Journal of Maronite Studies
addresses the language, the rituals, and the symbolism of the Cross in the Syro-Maronite tradition - our spiritual heritage. It highlights the most beautiful expressions of love, supplication, and veneration. It speaks at a level of spirituality which is simple yet profound; modest yet inspiring.
In his Orientale Lumen
, His Holiness Pope John Paul II called upon all Catholics to "be familiar with [the Eastern] tradition, so as to be nourished by it." We Maronites are at the source of this heritage, and we are especially called to celebrate it, share it, be proud of it, teach it to our children, and be nourished by it.
Guita G. Hourani