Maronite Rite

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Yesterday I was under obligation to attend a Maronite Rite Mass. The Priest at this relatively new Church had been an advisor and a helper to the Carmelite community. His bishop was visiting and he needed to swell the ranks of his members at the early Mass.

I say under obligation, but also under some curiousity about what exactly the Maronite Rite might consist of.

It was an interesting experience. The church was beautifully arrayed. I had half-expected an iconostasis, because the rite is Eastern. There was not one. Overall, the church had the effect of a slightly less ornate Roman Church. This may be because it was relatively new and Father George had to woo western Rite Catholics to make a go of it here. I don't know. But it was a small, beautiful church.

The rite itself suggested the Byzantine in some of its particulars, but that may just be the result of a liturgical tin-ear. Communion was by intinction.

The most interesting aspect of the Mass is that the prayers of instittion (or whatever the prayers are called when we say "The night before He was betrayed, Jesus. . .") were in Aramaic. It didn't sound all that much different from the Syriac of some of the responses.

It was a perfectly wonderful, beautiful rite. I could be at home in this Church, but I am not tempted away from my own parish and its liturgy. As I said, I probably have a liturgical tin-ear. While there may have been a bit more of holy silence about the place than there is in any Latin Rite church I've attended, that may also have been the result of a smaller congregation. While the prayers and responses in syriac were interesting and mysterious, they did not inspire me to heights of devotion, nor did they particularly perturb me. I got lost in the missal a couple of times, but was easily able to find my way back.

I am grateful that the Church embraces such a diversity of traditions--22 in all, I'm told--21 Eastern, the bulk of which are in the Patriarchate of Constantinople so they vaguely resemble the Byzantine Rite, and one Western-Latin or Roman Rite.

As I reflect upon this experience I discover that I am likely a ritual indifferentist. So long as Jesus is there it doesn't matter to me if we pray in English, Latin, Slavonic, Syriac, or Aramaic. I am not persuaded to greater heights of devotion by mysterious foreign languages or clouds of incense (which, during allergy season only aggravate my respiratory troubles). It is for this reason that it may take me a while to work up the desire to wander out to a Tridentine Mass. I'd like to see what so many hold so dear, but it isn't a burning, overwhelming desire, it is mere curiousity. Perhaps I would be transported with new joy over it, but I suspect, protestant-raised as I am, that it will have minimal effect. On the other hand, if we really have Gregorian Chanting--I would find that moving and interesting and I hope reverent and awe-inspiring.

I suppose this is to say that if the entire Church were to return to the Tridentine Mass tomorrow, I'd adjust and go on my way, hopefully toward God. I don't think it would perturb me, but I'm also uncertain it would particularly inspire me.

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If you say 21 Eastern and 22 total, how do you classify the Mozarabic (in Toledo) and the Ambrosian (in Milan)? They are very different from the Roman (or so I'm told).

Dear Jack,

I don't classify at all. I was just going by the information at the Church. It is entirely possible that they have recognized as monolithic what really does have some smaller Rites. Don't know.



I once went attended an Maroinite when they had the Marionite Cardinal from Antioch visit our parish. It was quite beautiful and interesting to hear the Mass in he language that Jesus used.

I believe the Mozarabic and Ambrosian, among a few others, such as the Bragan, Carmelite, Dominican, and Carthusian, are classified as Western rites as well. In any case, there's more than one, even if the Roman rite tends to overshadow them.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 6, 2005 7:00 AM.

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