In the first quarter of the fifth century, Maron, a Syriac-speaking hermit of Aramean origins, died in the region of Cyrrhus, between Aleppo and Antioch (north-west of present-day Syria). The region was administratively known back then in the Roman-Byzantine period under Syria Prima.
We do not know when Maron exactly died. While the tradition states that he died in 410, all what we know about his death is that it has occurred before the appointment of Theodoret as Bishop of Cyrrhus in 423.
Saint Maron did not found a church or a monastic order, nor did he leave any theological or philosophical works. He was mainly devoted to Christ in a unique way, tutoring a lot of disciples: monks, worshipers and nuns... He established in a way or another, a spiritual monastic-hermitic school that is still thriving today, depicted by Theodoret as “the philosophy of an open-air life.”
In 451, during the Council of Chalcedon, the church was divided into many local churches due to dogmatic, semantic and political conflicts. The Syriac church was divided into two branches: the anti-Chalcedonian branch (Jacobites) and the Chalcedonian one.
In 452, influenced by Theodoret and following the order of the Byzantine Emperor Marcian (450-457), the disciples of Saint Maron built a monastery on the Orontes River and named it after their patron. This monastery quickly became the stronghold of the Orthodox-Catholic doctrine according to the Chalcedonian dogmatic definition, in the Syria Secunda region (Hama – Homs). Even though the historical sources do not specify where the monastery was located on the Orontes River, one thing is sure: this monastery was not only a “house of prayer and work, but also a fortress of faith and the foundation of a message” as Abbot Boulos Naaman stated.
There is no doubt that the real Maronitism stemmed from the Monastery of Saint Maron. It was a spiritual monastic movement that boldly stamped their way of life and influenced their historical course.
The monastery of Saint Maron prospered and became the foundation of a series of monasteries that burgeoned in Syria Secunda. The community gathered around these monasteries was known as the Beit Maroun.
This new community soon expanded in different cities of Roman Syria, preaching the Chalcedonian faith. It also reached many places in Mount-Lebanon, where Ibrahim of Cyrrhus, one of the disciples of Maron, had previously converted many pagans to Christianity in the valley of the Adonis River, which was later named after him: Nahr Ibrahim.
Elie T. Elias and Jad Kossaify