St Marina

St Marina – Feast 17 July

The story of St Marina has fascinated and inspired generations of Maronites.


The Entrance to St Marina’s church in Wadi Qannoubine, Lebanon

This dispute dialogue  has been reproduced by Sebastian P. Brock.

St Ephrem appears to be the earliest Syriac author to adopt this ancient Mesopotamian literary technique into Syriac. It usually involves two characters who are in discourse about a dispute. That genre was further developed over the course of the fifth century and continued by anonymous Syriac writers over the centuries, including within the Maronite Church. Over time it developed and took different forms, always by way of an argument dialogue with strong theological overtones. Sometimes it would be between two biblical characters, often it would draw on a moment of tension from the Gospels and two speakers conduct an argument in alternating verses to highlight something of importance. The dialogues eventually came to be regularly used in the Night Office at specific periods in the liturgical year, including the Annunciation, Nativity and during Holy Week. Sometimes the characters were personifications such as Body and Soul and at other times one of them would be a saint.

The text of this dispute dialogue is between St Marina and Satan (see the full text below). It was found at the end of the Maronite Night Office for the Feast of St Marina (17 July), probably written specifically for use at the shrine of St Marina at Qalamun, near Tripoli (north Lebanon) or perhaps even in Quannoubine.

The Historian Clugnet published the Maronite Office of St Marina, together with the dialogue without translation in 1904 in “Revue de l’orient chrétien”. The Syriac text was derived from a manuscript provided for Clugnet by a Maronite priest, Fr Pierre Hobeika. There are two further manuscripts of the Office of St Marina that survive, both from the seventeenth century.  The first is very close to closely related to the one provided from Fr Hobeika but often provides stanza which appear to be have lost in the Fr Hobeika version. The version from Fr Hobeika may have been copied from it.  The second is from the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik and is dated 1694 which seems to be the earliest and most authentic version. Dr Sebastian Brock, to which the Maronite Church is greatly indebted (The Maronite of America nominated him for a Papal award in recognition) has painstakingly considered all three versions and translated it into English.


St Marina’s Church in Wadi Qannoubine

The story of St Marina here is a short summary from the Synaxarion of the Maronite Church today.  It is taken from an article written by an Maronite Academic Dr Guitta Hourani.

“Marina was born in Qalamoun North Lebanon. Her father was a pious

man. Her mother died while Marina was very young. This has made her

father renounce the world and leave for the Monastery of Qannoubine in the Holy Valley; accompanying him was his daughter, whom he dressed like a man. Both father and daughter entered into monkshood without revealing the identity of the daughter to the monks. As a monk she was known by the name Marinos.

Although young, Marinos occupied himself with the practice of monastic virtues with utmost spirit and minuteness. He was silent and reticent with bowed head and eyes, making of his cowl a veil concealing the features of his face and eyes.

One day he was sent to a neighboring town on a mission for the Monastery. He was obliged to spend the night at the house of a friend of the monks named Paphnotius. Paphnotius had a young girl who had fallen into adultery and was found pregnant. Upon finding out, her father was enraged and demanded the name of the perpetrator. His daughter told him that Marinos the Monk had raped her the night he spent in their house. Her father went straight to the Monastery and told the Superior, who was surprised for he knew that Marinos was a pious and pure man.

The Superior called Marinos and scolded him, but Marinos said nothing to defend himself. Consequently, the Superior was very perplexed and considered Marinos’ silence to be an admission of guilt. He then sentenced Marinos to dismissal and to be thrown outside the Monastery.”

The setting of the dispute is between Marina and Satan and is the moment when Marina is on the point of being driven out of the monastery, falsely accused of fathering a child. The girl’s parents are represented by those who live in the ‘Sown’ and the abbot and fellow monks are represented by the ‘Desert’. The devil is trying to persuade Marina to save herself at this point by revealing that she was really a woman.


Pictures in St Marina’s church in Wadi Qannoubine

Saint Marina, pray for us.


St Marina and Satan: A Syriac dialogue poem 45


To the melody ‘Praise to you, Lord; you do they worship’.


  1. O discerning listeners, come and listen to the dispute

between Marina and Satan, and sing praise to the Lord of all.


  1. SATAN The Evil One said to Marina, the dearly beloved virgin,

‘Desert and Sown, in their envy, have spoken falsehood against you’.

  1. MARINA ‘Every word Desert and Sown have spoken against me is in falsehood: in the name of the Lord do I put my hope to escape victorious from them’.

  2. SATAN ‘In the name of the Lord you shall escape if you pay attention and listen to me, my daughter: reveal your identity, that you are a woman, and you will escape from all guile’.

  3. MARINA ‘Those men and women who have emerged victorious first entered into trials and were rescued by the hope they held in the name of the Lord – and like them I too have hope’.

  4. SATAN ‘I have revealed and shown you the right path by which you shall be victorious, but you won’t listen; I am greatly upset in my concern for you, and my pain won’t go away since you won’t listen to me’.

  5. MARINA ‘My skin cleaves to my bones [Lam.4:8]: I have greatly toiled in my labours so as to be numbered among males in order to steal righteousness from them’.

  6. SATAN ‘If you wish to be numbered among males, listen to what I have to say to you: go and reveal your identity, how you are a woman, and then go and live in the world along with men’.

  7. MARINA ‘What you have to say is miles away from what I have in mind: my desire is to die in the wild – and I shall not do what you have said’.

  8. SATAN ‘This wild place shall be your tomb and you will not get away from trials, for if you don’t listen to my words, you will die and perish, with your hope cut off’.

  9. MARINA ‘Great woe is reserved for you and for whoever listens to any of your words. There is hope in God, and those who hope in him are not ashamed’. [Ps 25:3]

  10. SATAN ‘It is a double woe that you will have if you fail to listen to any of my words: you will die in the wilderness and wild beasts and birds of prey will devour you’.

  11. MARINA ‘I will sing praise while I live, [Ps 146:2] while I have a place where to sing; and whether I live or whether I die, it is to the Lord I belong all the time’.

  12. SATAN ‘Sing on then, and don’t stop – for in a little while your song will come to an end; you will go down to Sheol without hope and your lot will be a double woe’. [cp Ps 31:18, 55:16]

  13. MARINA ‘The Lord is living and holy is his name, and whoever hopes in him will not be ashamed: [Ps 25:3] from this monastery I will not depart and will not go away from its gate’.

  14. SATAN ‘Savage animals are roaring, eager to rip you apart, and vultures too; if you don’t carry out my advice they will tear you apart and drink up your blood’.

  15. MARINA ‘A great blessing will be mine if they tear my body apart and drink up my blood, for my Lord is the Lord of all: he will not do what you have said’.

  16. SATAN ‘So torture you consider a blessing? What then do you think of eternal woe? Flee from the error in your mind; follow my advice and live’.

  17. MARINA ‘Let the sea and land testify concerning me, the heavens too, and all that is in them, [cp Deut 4:26, 31:28] that I renounce you and your words: cursed is your counsel, and accursed your name’.

  18. SATAN ‘I know that women don’t have much intelligence or brain, for they don’t know what they are saying, and they do what is harmful to themselves’.

  19. MARINA ‘All the advice that you give is bad; your words are bad too – because you are bad: as our Lord said in his Gospel, “a tree that is bad bears bad fruit”’. [Matt 7:17]

  20. SATAN ‘Check your words, stupid woman, and shut up: you don’t realize it is your duty to save yourself, as far as you are able, and live a normal life, and not perish’.

  21. MARINA ‘Accursed are your words, Satan, and accursed is the instruction which you teach, for your mouth is full of cursing and wickedness, and on your tongue are fraud and deceit’.

  22. SATAN ‘You haven’t read or learnt the Scripture; you are ignorant and you don’t listen. My words and utterance are full of truth, and deceit is far from my heart’.

  23. MARINA ‘If I listen to you I will indeed perish, for you have set a trap that leads to perdition, and I won’t be able to save myself if I listen to you and your counsel’.

  24. SATAN ‘My advice is crystal clear, its light is illumined by the sun, but because the light of your mind is darkened you don’t see the light even when it shines out’.

  25. MARINA ‘Take a rest from laying your traps, for I shall break them all up: I place my hope in Jesus’ name and no harm will come to me’.

  26. SATAN ‘You should give a rest to your words: that I should rest is not my wish. It is a great sin that you commit if you remain in this wild place.

  27. SATAN ‘You will do yourself harm at the hands of marauding robbers: if they realize you are a woman I don’t know what they will do to you!’.

  28. MARINA ‘The hope that I’ve placed in God will rescue me and I will not be harmed; he is the hope of the poor and the orphans, and to all who hope on him’.

  29. SATAN ‘Escape from all sorts of harm while you still have a chance to escape: don’t put the Lord, your Lord, to the test, hoping he will perform a miracle with you’.

  30. MARINA ‘It is from you that I will make my escape and I won’t touch your words of advice; if I escape from you and your words, then will I be accounted blessed!’.


  1. Satan replied and said SATAN ‘If you reveal that you are a woman all the abuse you are getting will go away and then you can sing praise and rejoice’.

  2. MARINA ‘I will not give you any answer for all your talk is importunate: all that you say is false. You give a lot of advice, but you are the one who needs it’.

  3. SATAN ‘Cruel crosses are set up in readiness for you on every side: summer is preparing burning heat for you, and winter, snow and ice’.

  4. MARINA ‘Our Saviour endured the Cross because of our human race, and if he holds me worthy to endure it, then this will be a great blessing for me’.

  5. SATAN ‘Get up and prepare yourself to receive crosses, sufferings and torments which evil people, and the monks, will bring upon you – just as you are wanting!’.


  1. MARINA ‘I have already received these from you, and I will do so in future for I am ready for suffering: whether from you, O Evil One, or from human beings, from wild animals, or from reptiles’.

  2. SATAN ‘It is pride that women love, and boasting is in their heart, but in a little while they grow weak and are defeated: then tears start coming, flowing from their eyes!’.

  3. MARINA ‘Yes, women love pride – as you have said in your pride; but they are humble before their Lord, while it is you and your pride they will trample down’.


  1. Give peace to your Church and her children with that peace that pacifies all; rebuke the Evil One and his band: let them be scattered like smoke! [cp Ps 37:20]

  2. Let peace reign in the midst of your Church; let fights and schisms be brought to an end: may they be brought under your yoke and do service before you.

  3. May your handmaid enter her monastery and in the Holy of Holies offer up to you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – and may both Desert and Sown be joined in peace.

  4. May my supplication enter and be accepted in the presence of your divine tribunal; may the Evil One and his band feel shame, and may the Church be radiant in giving praise!


Maronite Icon of St Marina

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