We visited a Maronite Rite church and will attend the Divine Liturgy this weekend. Can you tell us a bit more about this rite, it’s history and what we may expect?
The Maronite Catholic Church was founded in the Fourth century by St. Maron, an influential monastic leader. They have never been out of communion with Rome, although communication was interrupted for many years due to geography. The Eucharistic Liturgy is a variation of the Liturgy of St. James, with some Latin traditions mixed in. In the twelfth century the Maronites came into contact with French crusaders, and as a result many Latin customs and traditions became incorporated into their worship. Since Vatican II, much of the original Syriac tradition has been restored to the Liturgy.
You will not find an iconostasis, as that is a Byzantine usage. Instead, you will find a very intricate but beautiful liturgy, which makes much use of the poetry of St. Ephraim. The Eucharistic prayer (anaphora) is said in Aramaic, which is the language spoken by Jesus! Communion is distributed by dipping the Body into the Precious Bloood, and placing it on the communicants tongue by hand. I hope that you have a wonderful visit.
What is the Maronite Divine Office like? Is is much like the Latin Liturgy of the Hours?
There is a considerable difference between the Maronite Divine Office and the Latin Liturgy of the Hours. Although I have never prayed the Maronite Divine Office, I hear that it is extremely beautiful. In the Maronite Church Vespers is called “Ramsho” and Matins is called “Safro.”
My question concerns ecclesiastical titles in the Maronite Church. What are the various offices and ranks of this Church and what are the titles to both verbally address (e.g. Your Excellency) and to address in writing (e.g. Most Reverend)
The head of the Maronite Catholic Church is a Patriarch. The current leader is Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, who has reigned since 1986. He is addressed as “Your Beatitude.”
The Maronite Church also has chorbishops. Here is what Fr. Deacon Lance Weakland says about chorbishops:
“In regards to chorbishops what you wrote was true, chorbishops were the equivalent of a Latin auxillary bishop with the appointment of episcopal vicar. However, in current Eastern Catholic practice, the office of chorbishop is much like our office of archimandrite and does not include episcopal consecration. It is conferred during the liturgy and the recipient is given use of some pontifical insignia like the gold pectoral cross, ring, crosier, and masnaphtho (amice-like hood). He may or may not have added office or jurisdiction like protosyncellus (vicar general) or syncellus (episcopal vicar). Currently this title is used among the Maronites, Syrians, Malankars, and Chaldeans.”
I believe that otherwise the Maronites use the same titles that are found in the Latin Church.
Of all the Eastern Churches, why is it that the Maronite Church hasn’t produced as may icons as the Byzantine or Melkite Churches?
Actually, the Maronite Church does have its own distinctive style of iconography. Unfortunately, because of the Crusades and the resulting influence of French culture in Lebanon, much of the Maronite iconographic tradition was lost and replaced with Western statues. Thus, today many Maronite Churches have no iconography and only use statues.
The Second Vatican Council requires all Eastern Catholic Churches to recapture their authentic traditions, even those that have apparently been lost. For the Maronite Church this includes recapturing its tradition of iconography. I have heard of some places where this is occuring, but progress is slow. Hopefully more young Maronites will come to realize the value of this tradition, and will take steps to restore it.