Homily of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay on the occasion of the Feast of St Maroun

9 February 2017

Dearly beloved in Christ,

The feast of St Maroun is an occasion for all of us, especially for Maronites, to be reminded that they belong to a family of saints. St Maroun and then the saints who followed in his footsteps: St John Maroun, St Charbel, St Rafqa, St Nehmetallah and many others, are role models in living the faith and outstanding examples of putting one’s trust in the Lord. 

Our celebration of the Feast of the Patron of our Church is enriched tonight by the presence of all our dear guests, friends parishioners, and Maronites from all over Sydney. Allow me to particularly welcome the Hon Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW, on her visit to this Cathedral and the Maronite community as Premier. We congratulate you on your election and pray that our Lord grants you the blessings and graces you need as you serve this wonderful state and its people.

The Gospel for the Feast of St Maroun is rich with lessons that we can take to inspire and guide us in our life. The “life in this world” which we are told to hate is the life of selfishness and greed, for it is this life which fears to lose anything of what it has, fears to follow Christ, and fears to die, because, for it, death is truly the end. 

But there is a life for which the death of the body is only the necessary precondition of a change. This is the spiritual life. The spiritual life takes many forms. This evening, we remember and celebrate the life chosen by St Maroun. This is the life of the monk and hermit: a life which follows Our Lord in embracing poverty, celibacy and obedience. Indeed, it is committed to obedience even unto death. Being prepared to let the body return to the earth for the sake of the Kingdom of God, we are assured of a glorious fruit-bearing rebirth, for the physical body is the grain which bears within it the seed of the soul.

This very rebirth is perhaps the defining feature of the spirituality of St Maroun. This great saint, who died about 1600 years ago, died to the social life of the city to be reborn as a hermit in the countryside of Syria. He left his home for an abandoned pagan temple on a hillside. He converted that temple to an honoured church of the true God. He taught lay persons to die to their lives of sin, anger and laziness, and be reborn in goodness, patience and activity. He taught the most dedicated of the men and women to die to their worldly occupations, and become hermits, monks, nuns and missionaries, leading people all across Syria and Lebanon to the knowledge of Christ and his Gospel of Salvation.

The spirituality of St Maroun was that of a monk and hermit. It involved mortification of the body and the perfection of the soul through: daily prayer, fasting and sacrifices. Maroun knew that just as the Olympic athlete needs to train the body and mind, so too does the spiritual athlete. And this spirit of mortifying the body to sanctify the soul was evident in the lives of the followers of Maroun and the history of the Maronites who were willing to give up their life in defence of the true faith in Jesus Christ.  

As such, the spirituality of the Maronite Church is based upon the monastic traditions of detachment from earthly things, and the witness of the martyrs who sacrificed their life to be reborn in the image of Christ and gain eternal life.

Our Maronite Patriarch and the Synod of Bishops have declared a year, from the Feast of St Maroun 2017 to the Feast of St John Maroun, on the 2nd of March 2018, as the Year of the Martyrs and their Witness. Anyone with some knowledge of the history of the Church and of Christians in the Middle East, can see how timely this is. This is a period devoted to remembering, praying for, and seeking the prayers of the martyrs. If anyone has learned the truth of voluntarily laying down one’s life to be given it back in eternity by God, it is the blessed martyrs.

Together with this year long theme, here in Australia we have two unique events to bring to your attention: these are the International Maronite Youth Forum to be held in July in Lebanon. The theme for this gathering is “Be Strong and Engaged”. And then, in November, we are holding our Maronite Diocesan General Assembly for our Eparchy here in Australia, to bring together clergy and people from all over the country, to consider where we are heading as a Church in this land.

As we celebrate the Feast of St Maroun this year, let us remember that we are children of a holy calling. We are called to be the grain of wheat in this world, although small, we are called to bear good fruits. This is our calling: to walk in the footsteps of St Maroun who drew people close to our Lord. As our Maronite community is growing in Australia, I am pleased to say that planning is progressing for the establishment of seven new parishes, and these are: in New South Wales, St Raymond’s in Auburn, St John the Second in Ryde, The Hills Parochial District, and the Milperra Parish; in Victoria, St Charbel’s Parish in Greenvale and St Anthony’s Centre in Dandenong; and in Western Australia, St Charbel’s Parish. 

We are also blessed in our Eparchy to have eleven seminarians, preparing to join the priesthood and to serve our Maronite people in different capacities. This Holy Feast is a beautiful occasion to call upon all young men and women to search for their vocation in life and heed their calling, whether as ordained men and consecrated women, or lay people serving in the Church.  

Dearly beloved, may we live up to our calling to be good seeds in this world, whatever our vocation may be. Let us ask St Maroun, Our Lady and all the saints, to add their prayers to ours in seeking from the Lord God the wisdom, strength and patience, to make this Year of the Martyrs and their Witness a year of true spiritual rebirth for us all.



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