A Roman Catholic and a Maronite Catholic walk into
a bar a Catholic church. The Roman Catholic leans over and jokes, “But wait, are you even Catholic?” The Maronite Catholic looks into the distance, as if starting into a camera on The Office.
Yes, Maronites are Catholic. Just as Catholic as any other Catholic. Amazing, isn’t it, that Catholicism isn’t limited to the Latin Rite?
Okay, to be fair, the list of Rites is long. It’s confusing. Why would any Roman Catholic in their right (rite?) mind even consider the concept of a culturally different religious experience?
But what if I told you why the experience would be worth it?
Let me preface. There are 22 different Eastern Catholic churches, one of which is the Maronite church. The Maronite Liturgical Rite is categorized under one of these Eastern Rites called the Antiochene Rite. This beautifully historical Eastern Church was named after Saint Maron, a Lebanese monk and miracle-worker of the fourth century, and the patron saint of the Maronite Church. Most importantly, the Maronite Church does not differ in faith from the traditional Catholic Church. The Maronite Church professes the same Apostolic faith, celebrates the same sacraments (which we call Mysteries), and is completely in union with the Church of Rome. In fact, it’s the only Eastern Catholic church with no comparable Orthodox Church!
Now that you’re familiar with the history (and hopefully convinced that we are indeed, Catholic) – what’s the big deal? Why is the Maronite Divine Liturgy (i.e. Mass) such a worthwhile experience?
One of the most beautiful experiences in attending the Maronite Liturgy is the language. The Divine Liturgy is based in Syriac, Arabic, and Aramaic, which is the language of Christ himself. Think about it. The Consecration, being sung in the very language that Jesus spoke. The way the soft syllables of Aramaic permeate your mind is almost eerie, but in an incredibly beautiful sense – I’ve actually heard newcomers describe it as a supernatural experience.
In addition, the Maronite Liturgical Rite uses ancient traditions (so different, in fact, that I was actually quite lost the first time I attended the CSC!) We cannot receive Communion (which is dipped into the wine) with our hands – only by mouth, and only administered by a bishop, priest, deacon, or sub-deacon. We receive the sign of peace directly from the altar – the priest passes peace to the altar boys, who deliver it to every pew of the church by sliding “prayer hands” over yours. Incense is used several times during mass, and the congregation must bow every time it is used.
These traditional and cultural differences are just the beginning of an unforgettable religious experience, and I encourage each and every one of you to take that step.
We are Lebanese.
We are Maronite.
We are Catholic.
“The Eastern Churches are the Treasures of the Catholic Church” — Pope John XXIII