Jesus in the Maronite Liturgy
By Roger AbiNader
He asked them, "But who do you say that I
Although all Catholics and most Christians share the same Creed of Faith, their views and experiences of the Trinity are not completely identical. This is most evident in the manner in which prayer expresses praise, thanksgiving, supplication, sorrow, reconciliation and love. The Creed, adopted late in the 4th century, was an attempt to codify into dogma the doctrines of "orthodox" believers in the face of heresy, and the demands of the rapidly expanding official religion of the Roman Empire. The Creed established the core belief about the nature and persons of the Trinity and its presence in this world through the church.
This codification of doctrine accommodated the mindset of Greek and Roman culture and law, which followed linear, logical patterns, based on intellectual and philosophical reflection. In essence the Creed settled the debates about the nature and origin of Jesus, and sent theological speculation off in other directions. However, in the East the debates continued because of the more dynamic, experiential nature of spirituality. For centuries afterward, Christians of the East literally fought over the nature and person of Jesus.
As the "Jesus People" movement grew, the teaching and preaching focused on pastoral concerns rather than philosophical and theological speculation. They Showed believers how their new faith was to be lived. As they moved into pagan Syria of the Canaanites, the evangelizers found it necessary to develop a variety of arguments to explain why our ancestors should change their religion. In this effort, they encountered both fertile ground and formidable opponents. Syria enjoyed one of the highest cultures and standard of living in the region. With the development of great centers of Greek culture and learning, Syria had something for everybody.
SyroCanaanites loved learning, the arts, construction, engineering and business. They had a highly developed religion with "monks", ascetics, missionaries, evangelists, priests, a plethora of divinities and cultic practices, and plenty of fanatics. Unlike many other religions, the Syrians practiced private prayer and devotions. On the other hand, the Syrian culture reveled in its brutality and severe business practices. Their pagan faith provided little dignity and hope to the human condition. To relieve the daytoday pain and despair, the religion exaggerated cultic practices, fed on immediate gratification, dabbled in magic and divination, and developed an eschatological sense that all would be set right in the future by an apocalyptic act of El. The gospel message was a clear sign of hope and fulfillment to the Canaanites as to the Jews.
Maronite spirituality, descendant of both Judaism and Canaan, reflects more on the experience of God rather than on mancentered philosophical ruminations. We are more interested in God's role in our lives and in the events of time as revealed and interpreted in written word and through preaching and teaching. Despite a strong Greek influence and centuries of Romanization, the Semitic character prevails in our liturgical prayers. In reaction to tan in concert with our spiritual roots, our liturgy primarily honors and praises the Trinity through the experience of relationship: Who the Trinity is in relation to its Persons and its Creation. Who the Trinity is in what it does to enhance that relationship. In other words, "who are you? What have you done for me lately?" Very simple. Very concrete. Real persons in relationship. We know who persons are by what they do and how they do it in relationship to others.
The Maronite liturgy answers these questions simply: Jesus is the fullness of revelation by showing God to believers and in bringing Truth to them. Jesus completes this revelatory function by giving us slavation and , thus, being our Redeemer, the Christ and Savior. A survey of the five liturgical books, including the Fenqitho and the Mystery of Crowning, provides a rich number of references to Jesus which follow this two part format. Part one states, in praise and glory, a specific title for Jesus derived from the creative and salvific experience, followed by part two, which states these experiences and blessings. Reflective of our spiritual roots, these proclamations are made in a milieu of hope, unity, immedicacy, repentance, eschatology, evangelism, reverence, piety, dignity, asceticism, resurrection and eternal life.
Well Known Titles of Jesus in the New Testament
Other New Testament Titles Used
Titles of Jesus with Found in the Maronite Liturgy
The following titles specifically refer to Jesus and are found in
Although these titles overlap in their meanings and references to various aspects of Jesus, we can separate them into specific categories or themes. Column one presents a short-hand notation referencing these central themes.
H-H: The Humanity and Humility.
The humanity of Jesus is a predominant theme in Eastern spirituality, for without Jesus becoming truly man, justification, and therefore, salvation are not possible. In His divine compassion and love, God "humbled" itself and condescended to take on the person of a human. In complete and humble submission to the Father's will and because Jesus was like us in all things except sin, Jesus, in his divinely inspired compassion, humble himself to the creatures and creations of those who He had created. Jesus humbled himself before the Law when he was presented in the Temple. Jesus responded to the supplications of the people in his healing and teaching. Jesus modeled behavior by washing the feet of his Apostles. Finally, Jesus died on the cross for us.
T = 3P: Revealor of the Mystery of the Trinity.
Judaism and Christianity are based on religions initiated by the Deity. This is rather unique, for other religions are man's attempts to be in relationship to a deity. Jesus revealed the mystery of a loving Trinity, three person in one God; hence, T = 3P. This theme is closely related to Jesus' divinity. Yet, the Answers provide sufficient definition for a separate theme.
Holy: Divinity and Pre-Existence of Jesus.
The divine pre-existence of Jesus is central to our Christology, and had been the determining factor in recognizing heresy for many centuries. Jesus' divinity authenticates the Church and the Priesthood. The Canaanite and Jewish tradition necessitate divine authorship.
PX: Christ, Savior, Redeemer.
This theme identifies statements which directly relate to the many messianic ideas stated in the Old Testatment. Especially in Isaiah and the Psalms, the expected messiah would be a king, a priest, a healer, a teacher, a nurturer, a sustainer, a liberator, the suffering servant, and an acceptible sacrifice.
Own: More intimate, personal God.
This new relationship between God and man is demonstrated by a number of unique and beautiful references to the infancy and death of Jesus.
We formulated these themes according to the function and intent of the "Call" statement, in column two, as modified and defined by the "Answer" in column three.
The Call extols Jesus by a title stating "Jesus is ..." or "Jesus You are ...". The Answer designates what quality or action we are extolling by the Call. The general headings in bold print separate the information by title, while column one provides overriding themes. Finally, column four cites where you can find these statements in our liturgical books according to the key above.
An example helps to explain the arrangement of this information.
Under the general heading "BREAD - FOOD - WINE", we listed five separate titles which refer to Jesus as spiritual sustenance: Bread of Life, Food, Life of the Word and Wine. Rather than calling Jesus' name repeatedly, we proclaim Him by His various attributes demonstrated in the dynamism of His relationship to the Trinity and to His Creation. These "Answers" tell us that Jesus feeds us, saves us from hunger, and makes us a family through the common meal of the Eucharist.
| Back to Issue | Copyright | Next |
Maronite, Christians, Syriac, Aramaic, Lebanon, Saint Maron, Saint Maroun, Mar Maroun, Church, Eastern Churches, Eastern Christianity, Catholic, Lebanese, Mount Lebanon, Phoenicia, Near East, Middle East, Israel, Syria, Levant, History, Migration, Diaspora, Culture, الموارنة، لبنان