Maronite Catholic Hymn for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary taken from the Book of Offering, Maronite Catholic Church. link
While on a recent stay in Chicago, I had the opportunity to pilgrimage to a newer Maronite church in Lombard, Illinois and there venerate the Holy Relics of St Sharbel (or Charbel) Makhluf, a Lebanese priest and hermit of the 19th century who was canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI.
Maronite Catholics are Eastern Catholics in full communion with the Catholic Church and have a system of self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Their history is “thick” and I recommend further study.
A Short Pilgrimage
My first visit to the church was on July 23rd, the day of the reception of the relics and the Maronite feast day of St Sharbel. The Latin rite churches memorialize St Sharbel on July 24th.
July 23rd is also the memorial of St Birgitta (Bridget) of Sweden, another saint I quite admire.To to be honest, I couldn’t find a celebration in her name anywhere nearby, however, I did locate Chicago's Swedish American Museum which I toured at a later date and... I was able to view a new movie on her life... but I diverge.
St Sharbel or Charbel's house is now a place of study and prayer. Behind the traveling relics of the saint, shown in the images below, you will note that the altar resembles his little house in Bekaakafra with a small central entrance.
For forty days after the death of the holy St Sharbel, a bright and supernatural light, not artificial like the city lights at the top of this blog, emitted from around his burial site and upon opening his grave, less than one year later, inspectors discovered a miracle. To read more open the a PDF file on the “Life of St Sharbel” taken from the informational tracts distributed alongside the relics. (page bottom).
The Order of St Sharbel' s Life:
Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Humility, Silence, Prayer, Fasting, and Penance.
"...a hermit of the Lebanese mountain is inscribed in the number of the blessed, a new eminent member of monastic sanctity is enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people. May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God..." Pope Paul VI, October 9, 1977. The entire document is translated, PDF (page bottom).
Sunday, August 13th, I returned a second time with my husband, David, to participate in a Triduum Mass honoring The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven; the solemnity feast is on August 15th. A Eucharistic procession with St Sharbel's holy relics and the “Our Lady of Elige” icon followed the Mass.
"This beautiful icon, also known as Our Lady of the Maronites, depicts the Virgin Mother supporting on her lap, the Child of her womb, Jesus Christ (a favorite theme of St. Ephrem.) It was discovered at the Patriarchal Church of Elige, Lebanon and is dated around the 10th Century. This original image had been painted over several times, each time the image became more Latinized, and the features of the main figures became more European. After uncovering several diverse pictorial layers, this the original icon has been revealed. This painting reflects a development of the tradition initiated by the RABBULA manuscript of the 6th Century." stsharbel.org
The Syriac Language
The Maronite liturgy was beautifully celebrated in a rich and flowing combination of both English and Syriac which is a form of Aramaic; the language of Jesus. Below are selections from the Book of Offering.
The Syriac language, also known as Syriac Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic...During its approximately 3100 years of written history, Aramaic has served variously as a language of administration of empires and as a language of divine worship, religious study and as the spoken tongue of a number of Semitic peoples from the Near East…. In addition to the formal, literary dialects of Aramaic based on Hasmonean and Babylonian, there were a number of colloquial Aramaic dialects. Seven Western Aramaic varieties were spoken in the vicinity of Judea in Jesus' time. They were probably distinctive yet mutually intelligible." Wikipedia
In the News
ASIA/LEBANON - The giant statue of Saint Charbel to be installed on the heights of Kesrouan
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