Skip to comments.Lebanon's Maronite (Catholic) Church elects new patriarch
Posted on 03/15/2011 10:39:41 AM PDT by NYer
BEIRUT (AFP) – Bishop Beshara Rai was elected as the 77th patriarch of Lebanon's influential Maronite church on Tuesday to succeed Nasrallah Sfeir, at a time when his community's political loyalty is deeply divided.
Monsignor Youssef Tawk, head of the council of Maronite bishops, announced the news from the church's headquarters in Bkerke, northeast of Beirut, after days of meetings behind closed doors during which the bishops voted on who would succeed the long-serving Sfeir. The head of the Maronite church wields considerable influence in Lebanon, where Christians make up about one-third of the four-million population.
Rai, 71, a high-profile monk known for his relatively moderate politics, frequent media appearances and educational credentials, succeeds Sfeir as head of Lebanon's Maronites. snip
Sfeir's resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI last month after serving for 25 years as Patriarch of Antioch for the Christian Maronites. The 91-year-old was known for his staunch opposition to Syria's three decades of domination over Lebanon, which ended in 2005 when Damascus withdrew its troops following former premier Rafiq Hariri's assassination.
During his tenure, Sfeir also played a key role inside Lebanon's fractious political scene, often adopting stances that earned him stiff rebukes from some of the country's rival factions, such as Hezbollah and its Christian allies. After the Copts of Egypt, Lebanon's Christian community is the largest of any country of the Middle East. The majority are Maronites, who were the most powerful community in Lebanon before the 1975-1990 civil war, but their leverage has since waned as high emigration and low fertility rates take their toll.
The Maronite church was founded in the fifth century by Maron, a Syriac monk fleeing persecution who sought refuge in north Lebanon's Qadisha Valley.
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Much excitement amongst the Maronite here in the US. They consider him young - he's 71!! He is also a monk and well respected by the clergy.
The new patriarch's first name Beshara means annunciation. He has chosen to be installed on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. Since the Maronite Church traces its roots to Antioch where St. Peter served as bishop before proceeding to Rome, it is the tradition of each elected patriarch to adopt the name Peter as part of their official name.
May God bless the new patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church!
Are you a Maronite NYer? Just curious.
I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith in a Maronite Catholic parish for the past 7 years. The liturgy is reverent and beautiful, the parish community like an extended family and our priests, devout. I also serve as Director for Religious Education. This parish was the answer to prayer and I am very grateful to our Lord for guiding me there.
You are very blessed!
Viva Il Papa!
(OK, I’m new to this.)
(I’m another Latin whose been going Lebanese lately. I’m leaning a little towards a nearby Melchite parish; my wife is leaning towards a Maronite parish. So you know which one we go to.)
(I love it.... it just takes a little longer to adjust to.)
The Church of Antioch was the ancient See of Peter and developed its liturgy with influences from the Church of Jerusalem. The Maronite Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles represents the oldest tradition of the Church of Antioch. St. John Chrysostom took this Anaphora with him to Constantinople and became the basis of the Byzantine liturgy. As heir to the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Maronite Church represents the Antiochene liturgy in its fullness. Thus, the Maronite Church, in its prayer life, preserves the way of worship of the Apostles and their earliest disciples.
Initially, the liturgy can be disorienting but after a few weeks, you get swept up in the flow of the hymns and prayers. The one aspect I (surprisingly) enjoy most is the constancy of the liturgical calendar and the Seasons of the Church. Now that we are in Lent, the Sunday gospels are focused on the Miracles of Jesus. It kicked off with the Entrance to Lent on Cana Sunday when He turned water into wine. Word of this miracle spread quickly - essentially, the cat was out of the bag. Here are the Sunday Gospels in Lent:
1. Sunday of the Leper (Mark 1:40-45)- keep in mind that leprosy was prevalent in those times. It is a disfiguring disease that attacks the body. It was also believed that those infected with this disease were this way because of their sins. Lepers were isolated from the rest of society. This poor man, however, did the unthinkable. He had heard about Jesus and truly believed He could cure him. He approached Jesus saying "If you will it, you can make me clean." Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him. Think about that for a minute. In a society where lepers were totally isolated, they never felt the touch of a human hand as that is how the disease was transmitted. In public, people fled at the very sight of a leper; yet, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper.
The message to us is that sin, like leprosy, disfigures the soul. We need the healing power of Jesus to be cured.
2. The Hemorrhaging Woman (Luke 8:40-56) - There is a large crowd surrounding Jesus and this woman touches one of the tassels on his prayer shawl. She has been hemorrhaging for many years and exhausted all of her finances on trying to find a cure. Like the leper, she believes that IF she touches one of those tassels, she will be cured. In so doing, she is immediately cured. But Jesus asks: "Who touched me?" Peter, confused, says: "Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you." But Jesus said, "Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me." When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Essentially, the woman is unimportant to the crowd but important to Jesus. Like this woman, we too are unimportant in this world but important in the eyes of God.
And so the Sunday Gospels continue with:
The Prodigal Son, Sunday of the Paralytic and Bartimaeus the Blind. The miracle stories culminate on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Shaninin, (Hosanna Sunday) better known to us as Palm Sunday. Be prepared! The church will be packed to overflowing. Notice the children, girls in gowns and little boys in 3 piece suits, all carrying pillar candles decorated with the symbols of the season. It took me a while to comprehend why so many showed up for Palm Sunday in their Easter finery but fewer were present on Easter. Remember that this church originates in the East. On Palm Sunday, the people dressed in their finery to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, waving palm and olive branches. Apparently this tradition has been handed down for 2000 years and families gather in church to welcome Jesus, dressed in their finery.
Holy Week is an experience unlike anything you have ever experienced. On Good Friday, ALL Maronite Churches celebrate the Signing of the Chalice liturgy early in the morning. The Anaphora of the Apostles (also known as III Peter and by the Syriac word Sharrar), which the Maronite Church shares in common with the Church of Edessa, is the oldest Anaphora in the Catholic Church, and is still found in adapted form as the Anaphora of the Signing of the Chalice on Good Friday. Rarely attended by the majority of the community, I would encourage you to do so, if for no other reason than to witness this liturgy that dates back to the first apostles.
On Good Friday, later in the day, it is our practice (so I assume it is true in other Maronite parishes) to gather as a community to celebrate a meatless meal. Everyone contributes food, beverages, plates, etc. Afterwards, we gather again at church for the Good Friday service. This will blow you away. It is a service of the word with readings from all the Gospels. A shroud will be on the floor of the sanctuary and the corpus of Christ is there. The women and children of the parish bring flowers and place them next to the figure. The men of the parish, on the other hand, carry the shroud in procession around the church 3 times, while the priest leads the procession with the thurible.
The Midnight Mass (yes .. it is at midnight) on Saturday, is also an experience. In our parish, there is a hand crafted tomb into which the shroud, corpus and flowers are placed on Good Friday. At the Midnight Mass, the stone has been rolled back and the tomb empty. The flowers brought by the women and children are redistributed as the first gifts of the Risen Christ.
Sorry ... I got carried away :-) If you feel like discussing anything about the Maronite Catholic Church, do not hesitate to freepmail me. They have remained faithful to the Chair of Peter. The Maronite Liturgy is rooted in the Apostolic traditions of Jerusalem and Antioch and originally incorporated the Churchs earliest liturgical forms, which is reflected in the fact that the Maronite Service of the Holy Mysteries contains the Churchs oldest Eucharistic Prayer. Rome sent apostolic visitors to Lebanon between the 15th and 17th centuries to scrutinize Maronite liturgical texts, in the period where they started to Latinize everything. They ordered the Maronites to purge elements from their liturgy that they deemed heretical, and the Maronites complied, even when obliged to burn liturgical books. However, in doing so, some of the Churchs primordial liturgical practices were lost. Thats why, now, in our Mass, we have a lot of similarities with the Latin [Roman Rite] Church. We are Latinized more than the other ones [Eastern Rite Churches], because we searched for it. We wanted to show that now we are one with Rome, one hundred percent; we are with the rock.
Another point of interest is that the pope was so happy to find faithful catholics in the East (following the Crusades), that he sent them many gifts, including mitres for their bishops. Yes, the Maronite bishops wear mitres instead of the crowns worn by other Eastern Catholic bishops.
We discovered a Maronite parish just 5 minutes from our home last December and what a blessing!!! The Liturgy is so beautiful & the musical accompaniment is always a lute and a fiddle. During Consecration I feel like I am in that room in Jerusalem...
Like being at the Last Supper :-)
Read my post at #8.
So how does a Maronite mass differ from another order?
I’d love to attend a Maronite Mass one of these days. Here in South Carolina there is only one Maronite parish in the entire state, and it’s about three hours away from me.
The Catholic Church is comprised of 22 churches - 1 Western (Latin) and 21 Eastern. Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.
To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:
That would be St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church in Greer. Saint Rafka Maronite Church is a Catholic Mission of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church. Geographically, the Mission is under the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, New York. Saint Rafkas Mission was established for the Maronite Catholics living within the state of South Carolina by Bishop Stephen Hector Douehi, now Eparch Emeritus, in 2000.
Father Bartholomew Leon, O.S.B., pastor of Saint Rafka Maronite since 2006, is a native of New Orleans, LA. Ordained as a Benedictine priest in 1985, he has served parishes in Texas, Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Father Bart helped bring a small community of Maronites together in the Upstate of South Carolina into a flourishing parish, with a new church complex, in Greer, SC.
I met Father Bart at the installation of our Bishop Gregory John Mansour. He is an affable individual with a deep love for the Maronite Church. They offer a Sunday evening mass at 7pm and it is entirely in English. Perhaps some day you can make a trip to Greer and experience the beauty of the Maronite liturgy.
St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church - official web site.