If Today You Hear His Voice...

By Ian Van Heusen
It is appropriate that I take a moment to reflect on how I came to the decision to enter seminary and say “yes” to the priesthood. However, in the words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “be not afraid,” this will not be a blog entry about myself or my background. Instead, I want to explain my growth within the womb of the Maronite Church where my vocation was spiritually nourished.
The Maronite Church has and continues to make a unique contribution to the Catholic Church. Through her history, the Maronite Church bears witness to the fact that the Catholic faith has its roots in the Middle East and that the Catholic faith is not an invention of the Roman Empire as many throughout the world try to falsely insist. But the Maronite Church is more than just the “Church of Lebanon.” There is more to this Church than can be confined to one ethnic group.
Chorbishop Michael Thomas once stated that the Maronite Spirituality is not a Good Friday or an Easter Sunday theology, but rather a Holy Saturday theology. His point was that the Maronite Church does not emphasize the crucifixion of Christ, nor does it emphasize the resurrection, but rather Maronites focus on that time when Christ was in the tomb; when the world eagerly awaited its redemption.
This does not mean that Maronites ignore those important facts of the faith, but rather that the Spiritual Fathers of the Maronites saw in the tomb a symbol for our spiritual journey. When we become Christians in our Baptism, we are called on to think about others and their concerns before we think about ourselves. This is called “dying to oneself.” When we die to ourselves, as Christ died, we also enter into a spiritual tomb where we await the resurrection of our bodies. This tomb is our daily lives, where we try to draw closer and closer to the glorious day of our Resurrection. The function of this world is not to maximize pleasure, but rather to prepare for the next.
The Maronites don’t just talk about this in their liturgy; they live it in their lives. In my home parish of St. Michael’s in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I have seen how everyday people live in eager anticipation of the resurrection. I do not mean that they walk around saying to people, “I just can’t wait to be resurrected.” No, what I see in these people is how they hold onto the hope that there is a meaning and purpose to the sufferings and struggles of everyday life.
Many of them suffer immense sorrows, but you could not tell that by visiting our parish. The intensity with which we worship God, the joy with which we receive God and eat of his flesh and drink his blood, all bear testimony to the fact that we are citizens of heaven and of the resurrection. We do not live for this world, but the next. We come together and our hearts and souls are transported to heaven where we sing with choirs of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.”
When I think of what it means to have a vocation to the Priesthood or to the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, I don’t think of ideas, but rather people. I think about the great joy of bringing the hope, faith, and love of my home parish and enlightening the world with the living flame of Christ.
If you think you might be called to bring Christ to world, listen to the words of scripture that proclaim, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.”

Ian is a seminarian for the Diocese of Raleigh and is currently attending St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. His sister, Tresa Van Heusen is an applicant with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.