The Maronite Church, A Church of Hope (Part 2)

By nature, the Church is driven forward towards the fulfillment of the kingdom of Heaven to which Christ called us to belong. He established its foundations and principles in order to guide all believers towards the kingdom. The Maronite Church is seeking to institute a constant spiritual renewal which includes multiple facets of Her life; She invites all Her children to strengthen their hope in Christ, despite all the difficulties and disappointments that they may face on more than one level. In all, the Maronite Church relies on the strength of the Holy Spirit who assists her in her journey and breathes hope into her. 

Church inside the monastery of
Saint Antonios Kozhaya, Kannoubin

In order to highlight its comprehensive outlook toward a hope that is built on complete trust in God and in His promises we have simply to go back to certain sources in our Maronite heritage. The following text will have recourse only to liturgical texts about the tribulations of hope. It will then move to analyzing the current state of affairs and its concerns, along with its signs of hope that enrich our Church and help her in forecasting a future of hope. 

Hope is based on the promises of God in the Beatitudes, the upholding of the commandments, and the carrying of His burden, if we are to enter the kingdom of Heaven: “Help us O Lord to keep on seeking the kingdom of Heaven which You have promised us and to yearn for the blessings that You have prepared for us” (Wednesday evening). Hoping in Christ's promises is consolation: “Console us, O Lord, with the hope of Your true and abundant promises, save us from the tribulations of the temptations and sorrows surrounding us…Help us to follow the path of Your commandments” (Friday evening). However, the believer and the community in its diversity are faced with hurdles and hardships. Some of these stem from the heart of the human being who indulges in worldly matters and their temptations, forgets God, and commits sins. Here the sinner compares between his wretchedness and the mercy and compassion of God, so that he remembers Him: “This wretched soul glorifies You because You have embraced him in Your mercy though he is not deserving. Your compassion has given him greatness from nothing. You have created him with Your grace, You have saved him for You are all merciful, and You have pity on him for You are all compassionate…” (Monday morning, 3rd hour). He also remembers God’s forgiveness of the sinful woman and beseeches Him by saying, “My Lord, the sinful woman has beseeched You with pious tears and sighs and You forgave her sins through the abundance of Your mercy. You have made her the hope of all who repent” (Monday Night). 

This is why there was an appeal to become aware of temptations, and the need to avoid them. This appeal stems from meditation on the end of the world, from renunciation of the world and its despotic rulers, and from avoidance of worldly traps. On the other hand, there also is an appeal to remember the promise of the kingdom of Heaven which calls upon each person to remain vigilant like the wise virgins and to keep the lamps lit, awaiting the Heavenly Bridegroom, who is Christ, the One who brings joy to all who have awaited him. He invites them to come to the Wedding Feast and places them at His right hand, granting them eternal life. 

Some of the other hardships that face the believer stem from the external world itself. The Church is surrounded by obstacles on all sides, which is why she beseeches God to have mercy on her and to save her: “The Church is beseeching You with pain and tears, for all her children suffering from pain, hunger, disease, torture, and oppression. O God grant them Your mercy, so that all those bowing before You will know the promise of Your salvation, and all the people will praise You and glorify You” (Tuesday evening). 

“O Lord, bestow peace on the whole earth, put an end to war and enmity between all Your creatures, preserve the Churches and the monasteries…and safeguard Your people” (Wednesday morning, third hymn). 

In spite of all the hardships, Christ remains “The helper of the righteous, the hope of all the pious and the refuge of all believers” (Saturday evening). That is why they come to him to support them, “O Christ the King, you are the hope of all believers, you are our Savior. We beseech you every hour. Come to our aid O God and strengthen us in Your ways so that we may praise You and glorify You at all times” (Sunday evening).

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