THE STORY OF MARONITES
The history of the Maronite Church is rooted in the Middle East. The Church has its origins in modern-day Syria before its immigration to Lebanon. Throughout their history, Maronites have immigrated to other parts of the world.
The Maronite Patriarchal Synod held between 2003 and 2006 in Lebanon defines the Maronite Church as an Antiochene Syriac Church with a special liturgical heritage, in full union with the Holy See and the pope, and embodied in her Lebanese and Eastern environment, and the Countries of Expansion. The origins of the Maronite Church date back to the 4th and 5th centuries to a monk by the name of Maron who lived on the mountains of Cyrrhus in northern Syria and was followed by several men and women who adopted his lifestyle of living in the open air (Daou, 1984).
Early Maronites settled heavily in Syria, especially in the valley of the Orontes and Apamea where they built their monastery and called it “The House of Maron,” as well as in Antioch and Edessa in modern-day Turkey. Missionary activities led many Maronite monks to arrive in Lebanon. These monks settled in Lebanon and evangelized the region turning pagan temples into churches (Tayah, 1987).
The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD that defined the dual nature of Christ as both human and divine led to a split in the church between the Chalcedonians—Western Church, Byzantine, Melkites, and Maronites—who accepted the teachings of the council and the Non-Chalcedonians known as Monophysites. This split resulted in persecutions; 350 monks were killed and the monastery on the Orontes River was burnt.
Many Maronites fled to Lebanon escaping the persecutions. The conflict between the Arabs and the Byzantine and the Islamic conquest of the area led many Maronites to immigrate to Lebanon as well. The major resettlement of Maronites took place in the Lebanese mountains and valleys where they took refuge and practiced their religion freely (Harb, 2001).
After the Crusades, the Maronites found their way towards the islands of the Mediterranean and toward the end of the 13th century, they founded their largest settlement in the Northeastern part of the island of Cyprus (Tayah, 1987). In the middle of the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII sent a delegation to Lebanon to choose young men to study the catholic doctrine in Rome. In 1584 the Maronite School of Rome was founded. Many Maronite clergies traveled from Lebanon to study in Rome (Harb, 2001; Tabar, 2010). Maronites also immigrated to the surrounding Arab and Middle Eastern countries, especially Syria and Palestine. Maronites who immigrated to Egypt played a significant role in the social and political life of Egyptian society. Many Maronite priests and monks immigrated to Egypt in the beginning of the 18th century to serve the Maronite community there (Maronite Patriarchal Synod, 2008).
Maronites were part of the Lebanese immigration waves that started at the end of the 19th century. Their primary destinations were North and South America, Australia, and South Africa. They settled in major cities where they established their own businesses and social organizations before the church could send clergy to serve them. Toward the middle of the 20th century, Maronites immigrated to Europe seeking work and educational opportunities (Maronite Patriarchal Synod, 2008).
The majority of Maronite immigrants to the United States came from Lebanon. Their situation in the United States was different from those in other parts of the world where they emigrated. As soon as they settled, they sent letters asking for priests to serve them (Labaki, 1993). The church sent many clerics and missionaries in the beginning of the 20th century to establish churches and parishes and serve the needs of the faithful supporting them and safeguarding their ethnic, religious, and cultural identities. Maronite churches were under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic bishops (Maronite Patriarchal Synod, 2008). Fr. Peter Korkomaz established the first Maronite mission in 1890 and in 1924 the number of Maronite churches reached 37 (Labaki, 1993).
Maronites started their own churches wherever they settled in the United States, a sign of their attachment to their ethnic and religious identities. However, this was not an easy task. Churches were established usually when the number of immigrants reached 50 families or more. Most communities were served by priests who were relatives to someone in the community or from their hometown. Community leaders, as well as ethnic clubs and organizations, played an important role in establishing these churches by hosting dinners, bake sales, raffles, and many other activities. Once the funds were available, a house was purchased and remodeled as a church. In many cases, the building would serve as a church, rectory, and guest house. After a while, Maronites built their own new churches and named them after the patron saint of their home village or the patron saint of a major donor (Labaki, 1993).
In 1961 the dedication of the Maronite Seminary in Washington, DC, from which several American-born Maronite priests graduated, was a step forward in the progress of the Maronite Church in the United States. Students who joined the seminary were offered special courses in Maronite history, spirituality, and traditions, as well as classes in Syriac and Arabic languages (Tayah, 1987; Labaki, 1993). In 1963 a group of dedicated Maronites gathered in Washington, DC, and founded the National Apostolate of Maronites, known as NAM, an organization whose goal is to unite the Maronites in the United States and keep their heritage, tradition, and culture alive (Saade, 2012). In 1965 Maronites from around the nation participated in the dedication of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson, OH, modeled after the original shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon. It was a place of pilgrimage where they could visit and pray.
By the 1960s most Maronites were on their way to assimilation in the American Church. The need for a single authority and spiritual direction was urgent. In 1966 the first Maronite exarchate (apostolic vicariate) in the United States was established by Pope Paul VI and it became the Eparchy of Saint Maron in 1971. The first Bishop to be appointed was Bishop Francis M. Zayek who established his see in Detroit, MI, and then moved to Brooklyn, NY, in 1977 (Labaki, 1993). In 1994 Pope John-Paul II established a second eparchy for the Maronite in the United States, that of Our Lady of Lebanon. Bishop John Chedid was its first bishop and he established his see in Los Angeles, CA, (Saade, 2012).
The Maronite Church is an independent Eastern Catholic church that is in communion with the Roman Church. According to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the establishment of an eparchy and the appointment of eparchial bishops outside of the patriarchal territory is a right reserved to the pope. A patriarchal territory is defined by the area where the patriarch, head of the patriarchal church, has jurisdiction, in the case of the Maronite Church, the patriarchal territory is Lebanon and the Middle East (Faris, 1992).
HIERARCHS OF THE MARONITE CHURCH
Francis, Pope of Rome
Beshara Peter Al-Rai Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
Elias A. Zaidan, Eparch (Bishop) of Our Lady of Lebanon of LA, USA
MARONITE DIVINE LITURGY
The Ritual of the Holy Mass, according to the Antiochene Maronite Catholic Church that is celebrated today, has its origins in the ancient rites of the Universal Apostolic Church established centuries ago by Jesus Christ and by his Apostles. Since the establishment of the Church by Christ, many diverse forms of Christian worship have developed. In the same period, the rites and customs observed by the Maronites have progressed and flowered into the form that can be seen on God’s Altar today.
Consequently, through periodic liturgical reforms since the days of early Christianity, the Church has attempted to give its faithful a deeper comprehension of, and appreciation for, the spiritual meaning of the Mass, and in addition, has tried to give a better understanding of the spiritual benefits to be derived by those who partake in the Holy Sacrifice.
The most recent reform in the Maronite liturgy came about as a result of the second Vatican Council. On December 4, 1963, the Vatican Ecumenical Council issued a decree entitled ” The Liturgy.” In accordance with the terms of the decree and the wishes of the Maronite Clergy, 1) The Vatican Ecumenical Council. 2) The Maronite Bishops. 3) Other Members of the Maronite belief, clergy, and laity alike. 4) The Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon who was empowered (by the terms of the regulations issued November 21, 1965, pertaining specifically to the Eastern Church and being part of the Ecumenical Decrees of Vatican II) to reform the liturgy of the Maronite Church, His Eminence Cardinal Patriarch Peter Paul Meouchi in a patriarchal decree, dated April 13, 1973, ordered the priests of the Maronite Church to amend the Mass and to use the new Ordo Missae as a new form of prayer and devotion for a trial of one year from the date of the decree.
Shortly after the Decree was issued, hostilities broke out in Lebanon, and His Beatitude and Eminence Cardinal Patriarch Antonius Peter Khoreiche prolonged the experimental year for a further indefinite period. Moreover, to free the clergy of the Maronite Church for more important work of ministering to those who had suffered as a result of the upheavals in Lebanon, His beatitude ordered a postponement of the decision – making meetings respecting church procedures until some future date when the country was once more at peace.
In 1992, His Eminence Cardinal and Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir ordered the new edition of the Maronite Mass, ad experimentum for five years.
The most important elements written into the Maronite Mass by the Patriarch at the time of the decree made April 13, 1973, and in July 1992 are as follows:
In his observance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, a priest should always face the Congregation at those times when he directly addresses the Community or when he gives a blessing or benediction, and he should turn to the altar when he addresses or prays to the Lord.
The text of the Mass should be in the vernacular, particularly at those times when the priest speaks to the congregation. However, the words of Consecration, the Epiclesis (the invocation of the Holy Spirit), as well as certain hymns and blessings, should be in the original Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ, to remind the faithful of their Maronite heritage and traditions.
The faithful will bow their heads in accordance with an ancient Maronite custom rather than genuflect in the Roman Catholic fashion.
The first part of the Mass, the “preparation of the faithful,” shall consist of prayers, hymns, and readings that vary according to the seasons of the Church and feast days honored by our Holy Mother Church.
On certain special feast days during the year, such as Ash Monday, Palm Sunday, Commemoration of the Finding of the Cross, etc., and for weddings, funerals, and baptisms, a special liturgy appropriate to the occasion will replace the usual prayers prescribed for the preparation of the faithful.
PARTS OF THE MARONITE MASS
Before members of the faithful can receive a Sacrament, the Church prepares them through prayers, hymns, and readings from Holy Scriptures. This is particularly true of the faithful attending the Mass. Consequently, the Mass is divided into three distinct parts :
I. The preparation of the faithful and the offering,
II. The consecration of the bread and wine (the offering),
III. Holy Communion, a sharing in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
I-The First Part: The Preparation
This part is subdivided into three components :
a. Preparation of the Offerings,
b. Preparation of the Celebrant (the Priest),
c. Preparation of the Faithful.
a) The Preparation of the Offerings
The Holy Mass is a renewal of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, yet it does not involve the shedding of blood. The Mass is, at one and the same time, a sacrifice made on behalf of all Humanity. The sacrifice of Abel is recorded in the Old Testament, and an emulation of the sacrifice requires that only one’s most prized possession should be offered to God.
At one time, Christians coming to Church to attend Mass brought with them their choicest bread and wine so that the priest could choose the most superior quality from among the gifts for the actual sacrifice. From this custom came the word “BOURSHANA” (the host) which in the original Aramaic (Syriac) language means “the choicest of the offerings (Gifts).” The remaining bread, wine, and other offerings were left for the personal support of the priest, the poor, and the needy.
After barter was made obsolete and money became the medium of trade and exchange, the bringing of gifts to church ceased, and the custom was replaced by Mass stipends and collections.
Since the instigation of recent experimental forms of the mass in the Maronite Church, there has been a return to the age-old custom of preparing the offering prior to the preparation of the faithful. Where more than one altar exists in a church, there is usually a smaller one to the right of the main altar known as the “preparation’s table,” and is used for the preparation of the offerings.
b) Preparation of the Priest
The preparation of the Priest commences with his confession before the altar where he prays for forgiveness and for support with prayers to celebrate the Holy Mass honorably and humbly.
The Priest asks the participants also to pray for him in order that he may be enabled to celebrate the mass in faith, in truth, and in devotion as Christ desires him to do, and as the Holy Mother Church prescribed.
c) Preparation of the Faithful
The preparation of the faithful also consists of three components:
1. The opening prayers and the blessing of the incense.
2. The prayer to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, or a hymn or psalm,
or one of St. Ephrem’s Hymns (Ephremiate); varying according to the Proper of the Mass, this is followed by the singing of the Trisagion (Qadishat) 3- Readings and Instructions
After the faithful have been prepared by confession, hymns, and prayers imploring our blessed Mother and the Saints for help, readings from Holy Scripture, the basis of our Christian religion, help our faith to increase.
We learn from the Scriptures how to follow in the footsteps of our Lord, how to live a good Christian life, how to increase our faith, our hope, and our love for God, our neighbors, and all members of the Christian Community.
After a reading from the Epistles of St Paul, or from other Apostles, followed by a reading of the Gospel, the priest explains in his sermon or homily the meaning of our Christian beliefs and how to apply ourselves daily to the living of a good Christian life.
Subsequently, a recitation of the Creed takes place, during which we renew our Christian vows and our faith in the Holy Universal, Apostolic, and one undivided Church.
II – The Second Part: The consecration
a) The Anaphora
The word “anaphora” comes from Greek and means the repetition of words and deeds. According to Maronite interpretation, the word has a dual meaning, the first pertains to a repetition of Christ’s words and deeds as they were uttered and performed by Him on the First Holy Thursday at which time He commanded that the Holy Sacrifice be repeated. He said: “do this in commemoration of Me until I return.”
By his use of these words, Christ intended that Christians should celebrate the Mass until His return to this world.
The second meaning of “anaphora” in the Maronite tradition pertains to the repetition of words in the same language and idiom that Christ Himself spoke when he lived on earth and is taken to refer to the words of Consecration and the institution of Holy Communion.
The Antiochene Maronite Catholic Church is one of the richest if not the richest in the number of anaphora contained in its Liturgy. There are at least seventy-two Maronite Amphorae. In the present reformed Maronite mass, the “Anaphora of the twelve Apostles ” is the one used. The Maronite Synod chose this particular Anaphora and hopes to reform the other seventy-one Anaphora so that there will be a wider choice of Anaphora available for use by Maronite priests celebrating Mass.
b) Transfer of the Offering to the Main Altar and the Kiss of Peace
Where there is more than one Altar in the Church, the Offerings are carried to the main Altar in a solemn procession and the Mass now truly begins.
Immediately following is the ceremony of peace where the faithful carry out the instruction of Christ;
“if you are bringing a gift to the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you, then leave your offering and go and make peace with your brother, and then return to offer your gift.” Matthew 5,23.
At this point, the priest touches the altar to gather blessings from it. With his hand folded as in prayer, the priest symbolically holds the blessings which he holds between his folded hands to a member of the congregation as he repeats words of the priest. The members of the congregation repeat the actions and words of the altar boy or server. In this manner, the ceremony of peace is conducted throughout the congregation.
The Eucharistic ceremony which follows consists of three parts:
1) A thanksgiving to God the Father.
2) A remembrance of God the Son.
3) an invocation of the Holy Spirit.
1- Thanksgiving to God the father
In the thanksgiving, we thank God for sending His one and only Son to save mankind from the bondage of sin and for granting us the privilege of being children of God, thereby entitling us rightly to call God “Our Father. ”
2- Remembrance of God the Son (Anamnesis)
This essential part of the Mass commemorates the words and deeds of Jesus Christ and permits us to fulfill what Our Lord commanded us to do, that is, to consecrate bread and wine into the Body and the Blood of Christ. This is known as the Canon of the Mass. The canon is a repetition of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ who, in order to save mankind, died on the Cross and rose again from the dead.
3- Invocation of The Holy Spirit (Epiclesis)
Here, the priest genuflects on both knees, followed by a general genuflection by the congregation. The priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to sanctify the Sacrifice of all the faithful and particularly of those present. The priest concludes the invocation with a prayer for help for his people, for the deceased, for the needs of the Church, and for the entire world.
III – The Third Part: The Communion
a) The Communion commences with the breaking of the consecrated Host by the priest and mixing it with the consecrated Blood of Christ. The Chalice is raised before the faithful in order that they may renew their faith and reconfirm their belief in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearance of Bread and Wine.
b) The priest then requests the congregation to pray the “Our Father” as Christ taught us to pray it.
c) Upon completion of the Lord’s prayer, the priest invites the members of the congregation to receive Holy Communion by saying:
“Sancta Sanctis” means that whoever considers himself to be worthy may come forward in faith and in love to share in the Body and Blood of Christ.
d) The priest concludes the Mass with the prayers of thanksgiving, words of blessings, the making of announcements pertaining to baptisms, and other events relating to the parish. Each member of the congregation now leaves the Church taking with him or her a renewed strength and consolation and encouragement to live as Christ did and with the hope of fulfilling the words of the Apostle St. Paul: “Every Christian must be another Christ in the society and environment in which he lives and works.”
Our Father who are in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come;
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven,
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgives us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace!
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Prayer of Praise (Doxology)
† Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit now and forever.
Holy are you, O God!
Holy are you, O Strong One!
Holy are you O Immortal One!
(said three times)
Have mercy on us!
The Jesus Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
Prayer Before a Meal
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
O Lord God, may your blessing † and prosperity
come down upon this meal prepared by your worshipers,
and bestow upon those who partake of it
the abundance of your favors.
Prayer After a Meal
May food abound and never fail;
may it remain plentiful,
through the prayers of Our Lord’s Mother,
and the prayers of the righteous and just,
who pleased the Lord with their deeds.
you are a good God,
and we praise and thank you,
Father Son, and Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. Amen.
O Lord, accept the prayers we offer in memory of our
Father, St. Maron.
Bless and protect the people who bear your name.
Make us worthy of his holy legacy that we may carry
the message of your Gospel
throughout the world.
Grant faithfulness to his people and courage to his
Prayer for the Beatification of Patriarch Duwayhi
O Lord Jesus,
You bestowed your many graces upon Patriarch Estefan Duwayhi.
As a true disciple, he responded to them, eager to imitate his
Master, for the love of you and your glory.
You said, “Let the children come to me.”
He sought the children of Lebanon, poor and orphaned, and taught them the words of truth.
You traveled through cities and villages, preaching the Kingdom of God.
Through his preaching and writing, he announced your Good News as a priest, then as a bishop and later as a patriarch.
You said, “Do not be afraid, 0 little flock.”
Your chosen one, Patriarch Estefan, took on himself these words, and passed them to all his children, encouraging them, confirming them, and defending their faith.
You loved your Church and gave your blood to redeem her. He bore all kinds of hardships for the Church’s love and salvation.
We now ask you, 0 Lord, to reveal the abundance of your graces to him, and to show us how great was his response to them, so that the holiness of his life may shine before us.
Grant us to see our Patriarch Estefan among the ranks of your saints, so that he may shine like a lighthouse in our land of the East.
Through his intercession, grant us to build up your Church with knowledge, faith, devotion and courage, so that we may become true witnesses to you and lighthouses of love and peace. To you only are due glory and honor, now and for ever. Amen.
Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory Be …