After the Profession of Faith, the Eucharistic prayer or Anaphora begins. The bread and wine are processed to the main altar where the priest prepares to offer the sacrifice. He prays for God’s pardon for himself and all the faithful. He offers the gifts, prays for the needs of the people and then extends to them a sign of peace from the altar. Peace is exchanged from the altar without words by a simple gesture of hands open to receive and hands joined to give. It takes place before the sacrifice is offered in keeping with Jesus’ warning recorded in the Gospel of Matthew: "Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Mt 5:23-24).
Then, a prayer of praise to the Holy Trinity is offered and the Eucharistic narrative of the Last Supper is chanted in Syriac. During this time, by the word of the priest and the invocation of the Holy Spirit which follows, the bread and wine are transformed into Sacred Mysteries: the Body and Blood of Christ. The people sing Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy), and the consecratory part of the Anaphora is complete.
The intercessions for the intentions of the Church and world are then offered. This is followed by the Breaking of the Body of Christ, the Signing of the Chalice, and the Elevation of both species as the congregation stands.
The "Our Father" is prayed with hands extended. A prayer of forgiveness follows as all bow their heads before the Sacred Mysteries. The faithful are then invited to communion with the words: "Holy gifts for the holy". The Sacred Mysteries are then offered to the faithful who receive the Body and Blood of Christ on the tongue by intinction.
After Communion, prayers of thanksgiving are then followed by the last blessing. The final prayer of the Anaphora is one of farewell to the altar. The priest prays silently, “Remain in Peace Holy Altar of God, I hope to return to you in peace…I know not whether I will return to you again to offer sacrifice… This special prayer reminds the priest of his own mortality and just how sacred divine communion actually is.
During the year, the different seasons celebrate the moments of the saving plan of Christ, following every aspect of His life and ministry. The Liturgical Year begins the first Sunday of November with a consecration and rededication of the Church.
The Seasons are:
Special rituals accompany each of the feasts. The faithful are invited during each liturgical celebration to conform their lives to that of Christ and His Church.
The core of the present day Divine Liturgy dates back to before the 5th century. The monastic spirit of asceticism and simplicity penetrates the entire Divine Liturgy – its prayers, gestures, music, art and architecture.
The purpose of Maronite art, music and ritual is worship of the Trinity and repentance from a life of self-centeredness to a life centered on God. In the words of the 10th century Syriac monk Rabban Isho, when told of the beautiful ceremonies and music of other churches, he said: "unless it brings one to repentance, what good is it?"
Music animates the words of the prayers and serves as a teaching tool and memory aid. Saint Ephrem, James of Serugh and others greatly influenced the ancient simple chant still used today.
Syriac art, the oldest source being the Rabbula Gospel Book (560 AD), portrays human figures, and manifests them with divine mystery. The great churches of ancient Syria were beautifully adorned. Today, however, they are in ruins. The small chapels and monasteries of the mountains of Lebanon, with their arches, ceilings, walls of hand-cut stone, and their modest wall paintings, became the heirs of this artistic tradition.
Earthly things take on a spiritual significance during special feasts and rituals throughout the liturgical year. Water, for instance, is blessed in various ways to give it a spiritual dimension.
At Epiphany water is blessed with a lighted coal to signify the fire of the Spirit who entered the Jordan River at Christ’s baptism.
At Pentecost water is blessed with the priest’s breath to signify the Divine Breath over the waters at creation and at the first Pentecost.
At the Holy Cross water is blessed with a hand cross to signify the divine power that flows from the saving cross.
Prayers of the funeral liturgy (Ginnaz) take place in the home or the funeral parlor, the Church and finally the cemetery. These prayers are chanted in Syriac, Arabic and English to enable the faithful, the deceased and all in the ‘communion of saints’, to enter into a dialogue with God. The departed are remembered as they make their way home.
Death, the end of our earthly pilgrimage, is the beginning of a passage from life in this world to life in the next. The Mother of God, our Patroness, in both worlds, is beseeched to offer safe passage for the departed as they begin their journey to paradise.
Copyright (c) 2021 Holy Family Maronite Church, St Paul. (v2104.02)