Here is a brief historical note on the patriarchate as we welcome our Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai who began his inaugural US visit on Oct. 4 and will conclude on Oct. 23. The Maronite Patriarch is the head of the largest Catholic patriarchal church.
Formation of The Maronite Patriarchate
This series from the “Faith of the Mountain” deals with the Maronite Patriarchate which means Glory-Asceticism-Testimony. It reveals and shows a way of life and recalls a glorious struggle and an uninterrupted testimony for Catholicity and human right values in the midst of the Middle Eastern religious plurality.
Maronity is Martyrdom
In fact the Maronite Patriarchate was a necessity during the darkness of a vacancy; it was in that time a martyrdom to replace the murdered Antiochene patriarch. While the others had run away, the Maronites were steadily ready to offer themselves.
The Patriarch is consecrated a Head, a Father, a Guide, and a Civilian Ruler; he is a Symbol of Unity, a “father and an example of our faith" in a biblical sense. If we recognize him as our Head, we will be faithful to our Ancestors’ will, we confess and foster our Unity, and we rescue our Church, as a distinguishing minority, from fusion in the melting-pot of this huge world.
The Apostolicity of The Antiochene See
The Incarnate Word of God arose within the context of the Roman political structure. By order of their Master, the Apostles pushed themselves forward to the cities where the civilized world of the Roman Empire was centered and it was quite natural that Antioch, “the Queen City of the East", should be the first center for Apostolic activities. This is proved by the fact that it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus Christ were for the first time mockingly called “Christians” (Acts XI, 26).
According to Church Tradition, the See of Antioch was founded by Peter the Apostle who was joined by Paul and Barnabas. There, in Antioch, one of the first conflicts within the Church developed between Peter and Paul concerning the necessity of circumcision for Gentile converts to Christianity. Other conflicts followed during the early centuries; this is indicative of the dynamic nature of that Christian Community. As a result, the Patriarchate of Antioch has the right to claim greater antiquity and fuller apostolicity than all the other ancient Christian Churches.
(Taken from the catechetical series: Faith of the Mountain)