Maronite Liturgy

Introduction

The liturgy is the living treasure for the Maronite Church. It is on a permanent pilgrimage toward the Kingdom of the Father. The Church is enriched by the liturgy and her spiritual and human experiences are richer through it. The liturgy plays a central role in the march of the Church. It is one of the most essential constitutive elements of the Church that begins with the Paschal Event: the death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross and his Resurrection from the dead. The liturgy is the source from which the Church draws her spirituality and puts on holiness. It is the goal of all ecclesial activities dealing with the mysteries and the missionary efforts of the Church’s presence in the world.

The liturgy was the primary subject that ecumenical councils dealt with. To show how important the liturgy is to the life of the Church, the fathers of Vatican II chose to treat it in a special constitution in the first session. The Maronite Church accorded great importance to the liturgy from the 16th century to the middle of the 20th century in her local synods. This attention given to the liturgy helped her easily implement the instructions of the Vatican Council and answer the repeated calls of the popes and, more recently, the apostolic exhortation “A New Hope for Lebanon.” In responding to these calls, the Maronite Church renewed the structures and texts of her rituals according to the instructions laid down in ”The Constitution on the Liturgy” by returning to the sources[1] and origins. This Synodal journey offers a fitting occasion for this renewal.

The liturgical experience of the Church flows out from the Holy Trinity and returns to it. The liturgy is the expression of the Church’s prayerful experience with and toward the Trinity.

Through it, the redeemed community thanks and glorifies God the Father, Creator and Savior. Her expression of gratitude is a Eucharist offered with the Only Son who thanked the Father for the salvation realized in Him for the sake of the world. The liturgy of the Church is achieved by the Holy Spirit who came down on it at Pentecost and dwells within it during the liturgical celebration. The Holy Spirit completes seals and realizes in it and in the world the fruit of salvation. The Spirit is the one who guides the Church of Christ. The Spirit leads her, renews her and makes her a permanent Pentecost; he prays in her with patience beyond description. Then, the liturgy is the work and the celebration of the Holy Trinity; it flows from and returns to the Holy Trinity. Through this Trinitarian dynamic the Church becomes one with the paschal mystery of Christ’s death, descent to Sheol and resurrection. Thus, the liturgical celebration becomes a living experience of a renewed Easter and a continuous proclamation of the resurrection[2].

The liturgy occupies the most central place in the Church. It is one of the constitutive elements of the Church. It is the pure expression of the prayerful spiritual experience of the Church. For this reason it reaches its climax in the great worshiping service in which the celebrating Church renders glory to the life-giving Trinity.

Hence, the Church becomes the real educator of Christian life and the most complete brief expression of her various aspects. The liturgy is the climax and source of the life of the Church[3]. It is a participation in the mystery of Christ and His Church; it ”actualizes” it for the present time and calls the believers to meditate on it and live it, giving thanks to the Lord for His infinite love.

 

The liturgical experience in general and, more specifically, the Eucharistic experience, constitute the first theological / human “locus” for the proclamation of the Lord’s death and His blessed resurrection. In the liturgy the Church participates effectively and instantaneously in the paschal mystery. Life is renewed in the pasychal mystery and from it pours the whole liturgical and sacramental life. From the person of Christ, the liturgy assumes its eschatological dimension because He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the awaited king who will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.

The Maronite liturgy summarizes the Maronite experience and embodies it in most of her dimensions and aspects. Thus, theology, spirituality, Sacred Scriptures and the mission of evangelization are all reflected in the liturgy.

The Maronite Church is part of the Syro-Antiochene school and her patristic, liturgical, theological, spiritual and ecclesial heritage flow from this noble culture: the Maronite theology in a general way is reflected in her principal lines within the liturgical books. Thus, the prayers, whether in prose or in poetry, the prayers of forgiveness, the music of the Divine Liturgy and the mysteries and rituals are full of biblical and theological characteristics that reflect a spirituality proper to this Church. The motto of St. Augustine, “the norm of prayer is the norm of the faith” (Lex orandi est lex credendi) finds an obvious echo in the Maronite liturgy. The Maronite Church’s faith is clearly reflected in her authentic and profound experience of prayer through the centuries. This experience reflects clearly her theological belief and confirms the truth that the liturgy is a school of faith.