Latin Catholic by birth, Byzantine Catholic by the grace of God.
Pro: Restoration of the Holy and Universal Christian Roman Empire.
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Location: Upstate, New York, United States

Saturday, August 07, 2004


I attended a Maronite liturgy this past weekened. They're from the Antiochene Patriarchate, and follow a heavily Romanized version of the liturgy of St. James. It's good, better than the current Roman Missal, but doesn't touch the Ukrainian Byzantine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

Icons are not seemingly in their tradition, and like the Romans, they have updated their liturgy frequently over the years. Apparently, as the article linked above discusses, they (the Lebanese) developed an intense devotion to Rome, as they swam in a sea of Orthodox schismatics and Muslim heathens. So, they made changes to their liturgy that they didn't have to, to show their love of the pope, mixing up his role as Latin Patriarch and Supreme Pontiff. Thus strangely, the Catholic Churches that were formerly in schism have better liturgies, because they are more rabidly attached to tradition.

The most notable aspect of the Maronite liturgy, at least where I live, is that it is said in five languages. Arabic chant, the consecration in Aramaic (wow! cool!), a Latin hymn, the Kyrie in Greek, and English hymns (it's the vernacular here, after all) really make the centuries melt away and bring you into the universal, historical continuity of the Christian Era. Beautiful! The heavy incense is wonderful, the devotion tops current Roman custom, and the kiss of peace is handed from the priest to one person, who hands it to the next, and so on, in the ancient custom. You receive the peace from God that way, instead of the touchy-feely way you "receive" it from the people next to you in the Novus Ordo.

But, only 2/3 of the liturgy is chanted. After the Ukie experience, I find spoken liturgy banal. There's no comparison. A few yahoos also raise thier hands at the consecration, as is the loony charismatic custom (which I must note is not directed in the missal, even in the Roman), as if they are co-consecrating. That drives me nuts. And this parish lets females lector! Boo!

But I'm going back. I may even join there, and support the parish. One side effect of the ultra-tradition of the Ukrainians is their unfriendliness. In almost a year, I've had three conversations, and the priest has never wanted to meet me, in their tiny parish. I'm also usually the only one who's not Ukrainian. At the Maronite Church, a full third are not Lebanese, and they invited me to stay for wine and snacks after liturgy.They were curious about me, and very welcoming. Now, while I know "community" is a silly buzzword people use for leaving the Church for some Protestant "church," no man is an island, and it's really hard to re-engage religion (I spent some years as a poor Catholic) by yourself. My wife, parents, and friends are supportive of my Eastern leaning, but I always have to go by myself, and they get sick of hearing me talk about it. So I think I may split my time between the Ukrainian and Maronite parishes.

On a strange side note, I saw Tiny Tim on Laugh In recently, and it inspired me to find out his story. Turns out he was a Maronite, and his grandpappy was a Maronite priest. After some indiscretions, he died a good Maronite Catholic. Weird, huh?


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