Many people forget that the Maronite Church also shares it Divine Liturgy (Qorbono) with the Syriac Orthodox and Catholics. Even though we are the most Latinized of the Eastern Catholic Churches, we are going back to our Holy Traditions. Here is a discription of our Liturgy by Chorbishop Seely Beggiani, who heads our seminary in Washington. This is re-printed with permission of my Eparch since this is for teaching purposes. This can also be read at the Eparchy Of St. Maron's
The center and focus of all the Holy Mysteries is participation in the Eucharist. Baptism and Chrismation initiate us into the community of believers, but it is the Eucharist which is the source and cause of community. While Baptism "grafts" us as members into the Body of Christ, the Eucharist nourishes us with the Body of Christ. We have become adopted children of God the Father, and therefore brothers and sisters of Christ, it is the Eucharsit which enables us to grow in the likeness of Christ. Thus the Eucharist is the Holy Mystery which completes the process of Christian initiation.
The Eucharist, like the other Mysteries, is a communal celebration. Salvation is not an individualistic matter. We are saved through and with others. The community of Christ is mutually supportive of its members. At each celebration of the Eucharist, the joys and sorrows, successes and failures, sufferings and triumphs of our brothers and sisters in Christ are experienced in togetherness. The strong come to assist the weak; the rich seek to help the poor; the joyful strive to comfort the sorrowing. All are impelled by the Word of the Gospel, and all of our sacrifices are united with the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Therefore, attending Sunday Liturgy is not merely a question of obligation, but is the very life and heart of the Christian community.Influences on the Maronite Liturgy
The Maronite Church in its liturgy is fortunate in being the heir of at least two rich traditions, those of Edessa and Antioch. The Church of Edessa traces its origins to the preaching of the liturgical contributors included St. Ephrem and James of Saroug. The first Christian converts to the Church of Edessa included the earliest Jewish-Christians. Therefore, its liturgy is strongly influenced by the world-view of the Bible. As one of the oldest established churches, it developed its prayer forms before being influenced by Greek thought. Our Maronite liturgy today still has many hymns and prayers from St. Ephrem and James of Saroug. 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.
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.Qorbono (Quddas)
It is fitting that the Maronite name for the divine liturgy is Qorbono in Syriac and Quddas in Arabic. The Syriac term refers to the idea of "offering" and focuses on the sacrificial acts of Christ offering himself, and on our own willingness to render our lives as an oblation. The Arabic term refers to the idea of "making holy" and refers to the fact that in the liturgy the gifts, and by analogy the participants, are divinized by the action of the Holy Spirit.Preparation of the Gifts
The Preparation of the Gifts reminds us that the liturgy is an act of offering by the whole community. It is the people that bring their time, treasures, and talents to the Eucharistic celebration. The bread and wine selected from among the gifts are chosen to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Similarly, our gifts and dedication to be of service to Christ are consecrated through the action of the divine liturgy.Lighting of the Church
Light is taken for granted by most people in the twentieth century. Our modern science has demystified the sun, the cycle of the seasons and the solar year. The invention of electricity has given ordinary human creatures power over light and darkness. Earlier generations were in awe of the sun and light. When day came to a close and pitch darkness covered the earth, they prayed that the sun would rise again and that warmth and life would again deliver them from the seemingly endless cold and a dying earth. Our ancestors had a deep awareness of their total dependence on light.
However, modern science can also make us aware of the absolute necessity of light in our lives. Photosynthesis is critical to any life at all on earth. If humans were deprived absolutely of light for even a short time, they would go mad and ultimately die. It is no accident that according to Albert Einstein the speed of light is the absolute for our universe.
Our faith tradition teaches us that primordial light was the first creation of God and thus the very stuff of the universe. God is portrayed as the "Father of Lights" and Christ is the Light of the world. The Bible often teaches us that we ultimately choose to live our lives either according to the Way of Light or the Way of Darkness; and that light leads to life while darkness leads to death. The true nature of Christ was revealed as uncreated light at the transfiguration, and it was the light of Christ at his death that destroyed the darkness of Sheol (the region of the dead). Our immortal destiny is presented as the eighth day of creation where the sun will never set, where we are called to view the shining face of Christ.
It is for all these reasons that the lighting of the Church in preparation for the divine liturgy has such a great significance. In participating in this act we are proclaiming our readiness to be children of the light and to allow our deeds to be judged in the open light of day. The lighting of the candles announces the presence of Christ, the light of the world, whom we welcome among us. In the fully lighted church which represents the universe in miniature, we give thanks for the light and warmth of God's creation.Rite of Preparation
While the Divine Liturgy consists of two parts, the service of the Word and the service of the Eucharist, each part can be further subdivided. The service of the Word begins with a period of preparation, purification and catechizing as a fitting introduction to the reading of Scripture.Opening Hymn and Prayer
The opening hymn is usually a psalm of praise or a hymn commemorating the feast. While being an act of worship, this recitation helps lift our minds and hearts to the contemplation of holy things. Dionysius the Areopagite, a writer of the sixth century, claims that the baptized laity are "an order of contemplation", and considers the mysteries as external signs leading us into mystical power.
The celebrant and servers enter the Sanctuary further symbolizing the presence of Christ in the midst of His community. The celebrant proclaims his unworthiness and asks for prayers that he might obtain forgiveness.
The first prayer of the Liturgy is intended to announce the feast being celebrated or to cite the theme of the day.The Celebrant's Greeting and the Hymn of the Angels
The celebrant greets the church community with a salutation of peace, to which the congregation responds with the angelic hymn of peace. We are reminded that the life of Christ begins with the angel's announcement of peace, and that Christ's appearances after His resurrection always opened with a greeting of peace. Isaiah has prophesied a prince of peace. The angels at the birth of Christ proclaimed a new world order of peace between the heavens and the earth. Christ announces the giving of a peace that is not of this world. The Resurrected Christ offers both peace and the forgiveness of sins. The commitment to peace is reaffirmed later in the liturgy when the gesture of peace is offered to each member of the worshiping community.
It is fitting that the Liturgy begins with the angelic hymn, for in our faith we believe that whenever the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on earth, the boundaries between heaven and earth are removed and earthy worshipers join in the eternal Heavenly Liturgy chanted by the angels. During these moments of earthly adoration, we have the opportunity of being mystically transported to the threshold of Heaven. Being in a holy place and about to participate in holy things, we are aware of our finitude and sinfulness. In this service of the Holy Mysteries, we are about to hear the Sacred Word of God and our bodies and souls await the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare and purify ourselves. Part of our preparation consists in being catechized regarding God's plan of salvation and about the event in the Liturgical Year that we are celebrating. We also seek the words to express sorrow for our sins and to solicit God's mercy. And, at this point near the beginning of the Divine Service, we take the occasion to petition God for our needs.The Prayer of Forgiveness (Hoosoyo)
It is to all these aspects that the "Prayer of Forgiveness" or Hoosoyo seeks to respond. The term Hoosoyo in Syriac has the meaning of atonement or pardon and can also refer to God's mercy seat. Syriac Christians applied the term to Christ Himself.
The Hoosoyo begins with a preamble or proemion which is addressed to God in the person of Christ. The purpose of the proemion is to offer worship by uttering the glorious names of God. In fact, this prayer is reminiscent of the prayer known as the "eighteen benedictions" offered by the Jews in their synagogues service. Such a practice of proclaiming the beautiful names of God as an act of adoration is found in many religions. What is particular to the Maronite tradition is that all names and titles that Scripture applies to God are directed to Christ. For example, in the proemion of the Sunday of the Announcement to the Virgin Mary, we pray: "may we be worthy to praise and confess the God of earth and sky, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Life-Giver. In His love and foreknowledge He decided to return to the heirs of Adam and pitch His tent in their midst. . . . " In the proemion of the Sunday of the Visitation to Elizabeth, we proclaim: "may we be worthy to praise, confess and glorify the Lord of all eternity, who hid himself in the womb of the Virgin; the Ancient of Days, who was concealed in the Virgin's temple...."
Echoing the Council of Nicea that affirmed that the Word of God is of one being with the Father, our Maronite tradition therefore, prays that the Word of God incarnate in Christ is "the Creator, Sustainer, Life-Giver, and Ancient of Days," titles that we often attribute to God the Father. Perhaps, we have here an example of an ancient Christian principle that the "law of faith becomes the law of prayer". We also have examples in church history where the reverse is also true: "the law of prayer becomes the law of faith."
The body of the Hoosoyo or Sedro is divided into two sections. The first section is a prayer of praise of the works of God and His plan of salvation, or an exposition of the meaning of the feast being celebrated. This section often serves a catechetical function. Often in our Maronite tradition the Liturgy was the great teacher of people. It was their theological handbook. By meditating on the whole range of prayers in the Liturgy, the laity were educated in the faith. In fact, our prime source of Maronite theology today remains the prayers of the Holy Mysteries and the Divine Office. For example, a concise presentation of the Maronite understanding of God's revelation is found in the Hoosoyo of the Sunday of the Announcement to Zechariah. It teaches: "O Lord of heaven and earth, in times past you spoke to your chosen ones through messengers and angels. Adam heard you walking through the garden, and Your voice led Abraham to a strange and new land. Moses saw You in a cloud and in a pillar of fire. Your mysterious words appearedon the wall, traced by an unknown hand. Through these means you have prepared a straight and level path for the final revealer of Your mystery. You have spoken, yet You have no mouth. You have no feet, yet you led. You have never known sin, but You are infinite in Your mercy toward sinners."
The last section of the Hoosoyo consists of a series of litany of petitions. In fact, the term Sedro in Syriac means: rank, series, order or phalanx. Since God has accorded to his people graces in the past, we implore Him to continue His generosity. An example of this litany of petitions is found in the Hoosoyo of the Wednesday Memorial of the Virgin Mary. It prays: "O Lord, through the prayers of Your Mother, keep away from the earth and its people the scourge of wrath; eliminate dangers and disturbances; remove war, captivity, hunger and plaque from us. Have compassion on us, we are weak, comfort us, we are sick; assist us, we are in need; deliver us, we are oppressed; grant rest to the faithful departed and enable us to reach a happy death. ... "
During the praying of the Hoosoyo, incense is burned. The celebrant or deacon incenses the people and the interior of the church so that all may be purified in preparation for the reading of the Word of God. The burning of incense is a powerful symbol. Incense represents something precious and sweet smelling that is burnt and therefore consumed. It therefore, represents sacrifice, the act of surrender for the sake of a higher purpose. Thus, Christ, the martyrs and all who lay down their life for another are living incense. The burning of incense at the Hoosoyo sets the tone for our Liturgy. It symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ that liberates us from our sins. In participating in the burning of incense, we seek first of all purification and forgiveness. We also pledge that our lives will be consumed in good works so that we may also become an offering pleasing to God.
The congregation responds to the Hoosoyo by chanting a hymn or psalm (Qolo) appropriate to the theme of the feast being celebrated. The celebrant then summarizes the Hoosoyo by chanting a concluding prayer of incense (Etro).Service of the WordThe Thrice Holy Hymn (Trisagion)
With the congregation purified and in a prayerful state, it is time to welcome the coming of the Word of God. The ancient hymn which praises God as strong and immortal is chanted three times. While other traditions have referred this hymn to the Trinity, the Maronite tradition here again affirms all attributes of God to the Word made flesh in Christ. In its origin this hymn celebrated the procession of the Scriptures in preparation of their being read to the congregation. The prayer that follows the Trisagion petitions God to sanctify and purify the minds and hearts that are about to hear the reading of the Holy Scriptures.The Reading of the Holy Scriptures
The Christian community of faith is founded on the hearing of the Word of God. It was the preaching of Christ that formed the first disciples. It was through the preaching of the apostles that the Christian church came into being and ultimately spread throughout the world. The Holy Scriptures are the continuation of the preaching forming and sustaining new Christian disciples through the ages. The Scriptures are truly the "Living Word of God" among us. During the Liturgical year the whole Bible is read in the service of the Holy Mysteries and in the Divine Office. We have the opportunity to be instructed by our Divine Master and to meditate on His Words of Life.
The congregation introduces and responds to the reading of the Scriptures with psalmic verses (Mazmooro) and by chanting Alleluia.
The celebrant, as the ordained leader of the community, preaches a homily to exhort us, to help us in our understanding of what we have heard and to apply the words of the Gospel to our lives, and to make prophetic judgement on the world and its values.
The faithful conclude the service of the Word offering praise and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ for His Living Word to us.
In ancient times, it was at this point that those who were not ready to celebrate the Service of the Eucharist left the place of worship. These included catechumens and public sinners who had not yet received forgiveness. This practice reminds us of the level of worthiness we should strive for in seeking to participate in the Eucharistic celebration.The Pre-AnaphoraThe Creed
Before beginning the Eucharistic prayer, the assembled community makes a profession of faith. Faith is made up of many elements. At its most fundamental level, faith is a personal encounter with God and our definitive response of mind and heart to God in love. It creates a personal relationship between the believer and God. In faith we choose to view God, the world and ourselves through the eyes of Christ. We choose to make His will, His priorities, and His values our values. In order to come to an understanding of our commitment of faith, to define who we are as a community, and to articulate our faith to ourselves and others, it becomes necessary to express our inner faith externally in a series of beliefs and doctrines.
In the early church, when there were many adult converts, candidates for baptism were called upon to profess their faith publicly. Concise formulas of faith or creeds were developed for this purpose. At the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325, a creed was written to express the major beliefs of the church at that time. In the sixth century, this Nicene Creed was incorporated into the Divine Liturgy.
In reciting the Nicene Creed we affirm that we are a part of the Christian tradition, that we are prepared to integrate that tradition into our lives and actions. We also affirm that the Eucharist in which we are about to participate is a sign of our unity with the faith of the apostles and with our fellow believers.
Since the Creed was inserted in the Divine Liturgy at a late date, its exact place in the pre-anaphora is unclear. The Roman Church places it at the beginning, while the Eastern Churches place it after the offering of the gifts. The Maronite Church has tended to follow the Roman practice.The Procession of the Gifts
The bread and wine are carried in procession to signify that they are the offering of the whole community. They symbolize our readiness to offer all the gifts we have received from God- our wealth, our intelligence, our skills, our talents, our treasure, our life itself- for His service. The collection taken at the Divine Service represents a further giving on our part for the work of the church as it seeks to establish God's kingdom.
The procession of the gifts also reminds us that in biblical days, it was the "first fruits" that were offered to God. In other words, we recognize that all we have comes from God and He has a right to our best accomplishments. We also recognize that the bread and wine carried in procession are soon to contain the very reality of Christ Himself.Acceptance of the Offerings
Representing the Church, the celebrant accepts the gifts of the faithful. Since our offerings signify our desire to reach out to God, and we pray that God will reach out to us in acceptance, they must be sincere and represent our inner intentions. Spiritual writers remind us that in the Bible beginning with the story of Cain and Abel, God has embraced those who come to Him in honesty of intention, and has rejected the offerings of those who are insincere. The prophets constantly caution us that true worship is not a matter of externals, but begins with purity of heart.
The celebrant's prayer of offering also reminds us that our generosity is always exceeded by God's generosity. It concludes by praying: "... in exchange for their perishable gifts, grant them the gift of life and entrance into your kingdom."Commemorations
At every Divine Service, it is the whole church, the mystical Body of Christ that is at worship. In this prayer we recall that our existence as a redeemed community is due to God's plan of salvation achieved in Jesus Christ. Assembled with us is the whole communion of saints from Adam to the present time, and the Blessed Virgin Mary is especially remembered. As we recall those who have gone before us, we petition God to remember our dead and to remember us, the living, those present at this Divine Service and those who were unable to attend.Incensation
With the gifts placed at the altar, the celebrant incenses the gifts, the altar and the faithful again as a symbol of purification. We pray that our gifts and especially we, ourselves be rendered worthy to participate in this sacrifice.Prayers and Exchange of Peace
The work of redemption was to bring about peace. When our human race sinned, division and alienation entered into the world. We alienated ourselves from the love of God, from each other and from the world around us. In a sense we become aliens to our true selves. We live in an atmosphere of discord which ultimately leads to destruction. Christ came to bring peace to the world. The prayer of peace in our ancient Anaphora of III Peter Sharrar says it beautifully:
The luminous peace that the angels of heaven transmitted to men on earth with glorious canticles of thanksgiving and by which the faithful church is enriched and the eyes of conscience of her children have been illumined- the peace which was sent to the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, Mary, by the mediation of the Angel Gabriel who said to her: 'Peace be with you, the Lord is with you, from you shall be born the Savior of the children of Adam' -- the peace which reconciles the higher and lower beings and that the angels came to proclaim on earth saying: glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good hope to men-- the peace laden with life that our Lord gave to his disciples in the Holy Cenacle of Zion in saying to them: 'I leave you peace, I give you my peace, the peace of the Father who sent me, I leave among you:' may the peace which was with and among them, O Lord, be with and among us, all the days of our lives; in your compassion, pardon and erase all the offenses that we have committed voluntarily and involuntarily, consciously and unconsciously, regarding each other, for You alone are just. May your mercies, Lord of concord and peace, be with all of us.
Having been baptized into Christ we must be messengers of peace and restore harmony with God, each other, and in the world. Our Lord also taught us that before we offer our gifts we must make peace with our brothers and sisters. Therefore, at this point in the Divine Service we are called to express our peace and love to all those gathered with us in the assembly. In the gestures of peace the celebrant first touches the altar to symbolize that the source of all peace is Christ Himself.
The second prayer is called the prayer of imposition of hands and the presumption is that at this point there used to be an imposition of hands by the celebrant on the community. This gesture probably signified that the celebrant was petitioning the Holy Spirit to bless the congregation in their desire for purity and peace.
The third prayer is referred to as the prayer of the veil and may point to a time in the past when a veil surrounded the altar in some Syriac churches. During the Service of the Word the veil would have been closed since the liturgical action would be occurring at the place where the Sacred Scriptures would be read. At this point in the Divine Service the veil was opened to enable the congregation to share in the action occurring at the altar. Syriac writers see in the opening of the veil an image of the opening of the heavens, since our divine liturgy on earth is an earthly reflection of the eternal divine liturgy taking place in heaven.
Another interpretation of the prayer of the veil sees it referring to the removal of the chalice veil which had been carried in procession over the gifts as a protection for them.The Anaphora
The Eastern Churches give the name Anaphora to the Eucharistic prayer. The term comes from the Greek and means to lift on high or to elevate. Therefore, it has the meaning of offering, which is the principal action that is taking place. As already noted, during the Eucharistic service we seek to unite ourselves with the sacrificial offering of the Body and Blood of Christ, so as to achieve union with God.In the introductory dialogue to the Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving", the faithful pray: "Let us lift up our thoughts, our minds and our hearts." Thus the spirit of Anaphora should imbue our interior attitudes and dispositions.
The Maronite Church is heir to a large selection of anaphoras. These represent ancient Eucharistic prayers originating from various parts of the Syriac world. Each anaphora provides us with rich spiritual insights into the meaning of the Eucharistic Celebration and the work of salvation. We have already spoken of the Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles which is the most ancient anaphora of the Antiochene tradition and is perpetuated by the Maronite Church. Our present missal features six anaphoras and it is hoped that more will be available in the future.
Noteworthy among our present anaphoras is the majestic Anaphora of Saint James, which the Maronites share with other churches of the Antiochene tradition and with the Byzantine Church.The Pauline Blessing
The Anaphora proper begins with a blessing by the celebrant taken from Saint Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians. He invokes the love and grace of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity and prays that they dwell in the faithful.The Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving
We believe that God created the universe out of love, and that the whole creation responds to God in praise. This hymn of praise is a constant one and extends from the angels and saints in heaven all the way to inanimate creatures. Creatures below the human level offer praise by fulfilling the nature God gave them. Angels and saints are in eternal contemplative union with God. Humans aspire to transform their ordinary lives into a constant awareness of the presence of God. It is the goal of the Divine Liturgy to symbolize this eternal and cosmic worship of the Creator.
As we have already noted, we imagine that our earthly Liturgy mirrors the Divine Liturgy perpetually going on in heaven as described, for example, in the Book of Revelation. At this point in our liturgical celebration, the barriers between earth and heaven are removed and the Liturgy on earth becomes one with the Liturgy in heaven.
The Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving in the various anaphoras usually addresses God the Father as Creator and His work of creation. It goes on to describe how creation is responding in praise. Perhaps the most beautiful description of this symphony of cosmic worship is found in the Anaphora of Saint James which declares:
. . . The heights of Heaven and all its powers exalt You:
the sun, the moon and the whole choir of stars;
the earth, the seas and all that is in them;
the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Church of the firstborn, those whose names are written in Heaven;
the angels, archangels, dominions and thrones. . . ."Holy, Holy, Holy"
It is fitting that the response to the Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving" is the Chant of Angels recorded in the Scriptures. The Liturgy portrays the faithful as singing in unison with the angels in heaven. At this point, the heavenly and earthly choirs are one.Prayer after the Holy
It is our belief that God is deeply concerned and involved with human affairs. To put it better, human history is the working out of God's plan of salvation. One writer has observed that history began with the first sin, and will end when the work of salvation is completed. The Scriptures narrate for us the tragedy of human sinfulness, God's desire to save us out of compassion, and the various stages of our salvation. In the Anaphora, the prayer after the "Holy" serves both a worshipful and catechetical function by recalling for us God's plan of salvation.The Anaphora of Saint James provides a moving narrative of salvation history:
. . . You are our God and Father,
. . . Compassionate to the suffering of Your creation.
You formed us from the earth and conferred on us the joy of Paradise.
When we transgressed Your command and sinned You neither neglected nor rejected us,
but rather, like a merciful Father, You sought us .
By the Law You called us back;
by the prophets You guided us;
and, at last, You sent Your only Son, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, into the world
that He might renew Your image in us.
He came down from Heaven, and, taking flesh from the Holy Spirit and the Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God, He dwelt among us and accomplished everything for the salvation of our race.
You will note that this prayer refers to "the Law" and the "Prophets" which connote the whole of the Old Testament. Reflecting our tradition, the prayer describes the work of salvation as the renewal of God's image in us. In other words, we were created in the image of God. Sin did not bring about a loss of that image, but rather its being tainted and distorted. God, therefore, would not abandon His image, but rather comes to restore it to its original beauty.Institution Narrative
The service of the Eucharist is a re-enactment of the Last Supper. It was Christ himself who called upon His disciples to "Do this in My memory until I return". At the Last Supper Christ had shown His total self-giving to the will of the Father by declaring that the bread and wine were indeed His Body being broken and His Blood shed for our redemption.
Fulfilling the divine mandate to remember and to witness, we gather about the altar as the celebrant repeats the Last Supper narrative. Just as Christ was willing to lay down His life for others, we are called to dedicate ourselves to that same ideal. In imitation of the Sacrifice of Christ, we commit ourselves to unconditional discipleship, and the willingness to pay its price, even to the point of suffering and death.Memorial of the Plan of the Son (Anamnesis)
As disciples of Christ, we not only witness to the events of the Last Supper, but also to the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ's offering of Himself in the bread and wine was confirmed in His death on the Cross. His sacrificial death brought about Resurrection and Life. We are called to witness to the mighty deeds achieved by God in the death and resurrection of Christ.
However, Christ also promised that He would come again. Therefore, we, the Church on earth, await Him in hopeful expectation. We realize that our lives and deeds will face a future reckoning. Thus the second prayer in this series describes the final judgment before the tribunal of Christ, and petitions that He be merciful.Invocation of the Spirit (Epiclesis)
The Holy Scriptures and our own tradition ascribe works of power and creativity to the Holy Spirit. The Book of Genesis describes the Spirit of God on the primordial waters bringing about creation. The Spirit of God descended on the prophets and revealed the Word of God. The Spirit of God overshadowed Mary and she conceived Our Lord. The Spirit of God descended upon Christ in the Jordan River and sanctified the waters of creation. The Spirit of God was breathed by Christ on the disciples, empowering them to forgive sins. The Spirit of God descended upon the disciples at Pentecost and formed the Church. Here in the Liturgy, the celebrant calls on the Spirit to make the gifts the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ. As the separated bread and wine at the Institution Narrative represented the death of Christ, so the power of the Spirit at the Invocation represents the Rising of Christ from the dead in the newness of life.Invocation on the People
Having called the Spirit on the gifts, the celebrant prays that the Spirit of God and its forgiving power dwell in those assembled. He prays that the Spirit pardon their faults and cure their bodies and souls, so that they may live by the Spirit.
We might conclude this section of the Anaphora by noting the Trinitarian nature of the Eucharistic prayer. In the Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving we address God the Father; in the Institution Narrative we commemorate the work of God the Son; and at the Invocation we call upon the power of God the Holy.The Intercessions
In the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, brought about through the actions of the Anaphora, the worshiping community presents its petitions offered through the celebrant and the deacon. This part of the Divine Service is especially meaningful, since one of the main purposes of Liturgy is for the community to express its total reliance on God for all of its needs and its desire to sanctify all aspects of its daily life. We also have here an example of the "communion of saints" in action.
In former times, there were two sets of petitions. The intercessions for the needs of the whole Church were recited by the celebrant, while prayers for the specific needs of the local faithful, known as the dyptichs, were chanted by the deacon. In our present missal the petitions have been combined.
Traditionally, the various anaphoras followed a set order of petition. First, prayers were offered for the living. This also included prayers for the Universal Church, the local community, for blessing on the year and the fruits of the earth. Among living persons, prayers were offered in hierarchical order for the Pope of Rome, for the Patriarch and for the Bishops, the clergy, monks and religious, civil leaders and the laity. There followed prayers for the deceased, where the Blessed Mother is mentioned first, followed by the Apostles and other figures in salvation history, the saints, deceased hierarchy, clergy and laity.The Service of Communion
The Breaking of the Bread and the Signing
The gesture of breaking the bread is reminiscent of the time when the bread used in the liturgy consisted of one large, leavened loaf that was consecrated and then divided for distribution to the celebrant and all the other participants. However, the breaking of the bread also leads to a very ancient practice of signing the chalice with the consecrated bread and signing the bread with the consecrated wine.
Some believe that there are two themes being represented in the Anaphora. In the first phase, we celebrate the sacrificial and salvific work of Christ which is signified by the ritual separation of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine at the "Words of Institution". The second phase begins with the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis), where the oblation is filled with the Holy Spirit, symbolizing both the revivifying resurrection of Christ and the transfiguration of the oblation into divine nourishment. The revivifying action announced at the invocation of the Holy Spirit now finds visible expression in the reunion of the bread and wine by the signing. The physical joining of the bread and wine signifies the resurrected or vivified Christ. The host marked by the blood becomes the figure of the vivified body, and the wine marked and mixed with vivifying bread becomes the figure of the glorious blood.
In being so marked, the bread and wine now symbolize nourishment of immortality. The oblations become divine gifts which are given to us in communion.
The particles of bread were traditionally referred to as "pearls" or "embers". In the Syriac tradition the pearl often symbolized Christ. Legend had it that pearls were conceived virginally in the sea by bolts of lightning. Therefore, the pearl symbolizes both the origin of Christ and Christ as light to the world.
Our missal reads: "We sign this cup of salvation . . . with the purifying ember which glows with heavenly mysteries". The term "ember" recalls the Biblical reference to the lips of Isaiah being purified by a burning coal. Also, the bread now being consecrated by the fiery Spirit of God is seen as symbolically ablaze. The Thanksgiving prayer of the Anaphora of Third Peter says of the Eucharist: "O devouring fire that our fingers have held, and living ember that our lips have kissed". This symbol reinforces the idea that the Eucharist purifies us and is for the forgiveness of sins.
After breaking the bread, the celebrant places a particle in the chalice and recites the following prayer: "You have united, O Lord, Your divinity with our humanity and our humanity with Your divinity; Your (immortal) life with our mortality and our mortality with Your life. You have assumed what is ours and You have given us what is Yours, for the life and salvation of our souls . . . " This prayer offers a concise statement of the Syriac teaching on the Incarnation. God in His generosity and compassion desires that His creation achieve divinization. This divine plan is realized in the Word of God joining with our human nature. In so doing our nature now has the possibility of going beyond itself. However, through sin, death, both physical and spiritual, has entered into our existence. Therefore, God's immortality replaces our mortal destiny. In the Word of God humbling Himself, our humility has been raised to its Creator.The Lord's Prayer
Having mystically recalled the death and resurrection of Christ, we now seek to be nourished by the "tree of Life". To partake of this awesome gift, we must prepare ourselves. We begin with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Befitting its importance, the Lord's Prayer is introduced by a short prayer and is concluded with another. The introductory prayer petitions God to purify our hearts and consciences so that we can pray with confidence that prayer taught us by Christ Himself.
The Lord's Prayer itself declares that God is indeed the Father of each of us. Not only is God's name holy, but all creation is holy because it is made in His image and likeness. Therefore, nature and especially human beings should never be violated. We pray that God's plan of salvation be fulfilled through His kingdom's being established on earth. God's kingdom itself is summarized in God's will being done on earth by all His creatures and, especially by uniting our wills with God's will, just as the heavens do the will of God. We invoke God's unfailing providence in providing for our daily needs. We commit ourselves to forgive others, as God has forgiven us. And we beg that God protect us from all the threats of evil. We conclude the Lord's Prayer with the Biblical affirmation that all kingdom, power, and glory being to God.
Following the Lord's Prayer is a concluding prayer, called an embolism, because it develops the theme of the last petition of the Lord's Prayer, namely, that God deliver us from evil.The Penitential Rite
To render the congregation worthy to receive the Eucharist, the celebrant imposes hands on the people and offers a prayer of absolution. We are reminded that Christ offered the sacrifice of the Eucharist for the forgiveness of sins. The celebrant calls upon the Holy Spirit to make the partakers worthy of communion."Holy Things for the Holy"
Having prayed over the faithful, the celebrant raises the oblations and declares: "Holy Things for the Holy". This declaration can be understood in two ways. First, the celebrant is declaring that the participants have been and will be sanctified by the holy elements of the Eucharist. A second interpretation is that the celebrant is cautioning that the Eucharist should be received only by those who are worthy.
The proclamation by the celebrant of "Holy Things for the Holy" can be seen as the completion of an extended rite of penance taking place within the Eucharistic celebration. As already noted, this rite is based on the affirmation that the Eucharist is a sacrificial act for forgiveness. We recall that the one sacrifice of Christ merits forgiveness for all people for all time. Each individual celebration of the Eucharist is a participation of that one historical sacrifice. The Divine Liturgy reminds us of this reality continuously in many of its prayers, whether during the Anaphora or in the prayers after communion. As we also have noted, the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the oblations signifies the presence of the healing and sanctifying Spirit of God. In the Lord's Prayer, the faithful ask for divine forgiveness, as they forgive those who have sinned against them. The Imposition of hands makes explicit the offer of forgiveness, and finally the proclamation of "Holy Things for the Holy" announces its reality to those who are contrite."Make Us Worthy, O Lord... "
The celebrant and the congregation make their immediate preparation for communion by reciting the prayer "Make us worthy, O Lord..." The prayer begins by implying that we, humans, are unworthy of such an awesome gift and that it is the Lord Himself who renders us worthy. It then, affirms that our sanctification is achieved through our life "in Christ". Christ's human nature became the vehicle of holiness for human beings by force of the Incarnation. Now, we are called to be one body with Christ, and the Eucharist is the eminent means of our union with Christ.
In the Old Testament, the blood shed in sacrifices offered to God was believed to have a purifying power and conveyed divine forgiveness. Receiving the Blood of Christ, who is the "Lamb of God who sacrificed Himself for us," brings about our forgiveness.
The Syriac Fathers develop the theme that the Eucharist is also a pledge or a guarantee of eternal life. The Eucharist being the presence of divinity protects us on the road from death to paradise. By receiving the Eucharist throughout our life, our mortality begins to take on immortality, and this new "mode of existence" survives our death. Finally, our goal in eternity is intimacy with God, which is the fulfillment of what we experience in the Eucharist in preliminary fashion here on earth.
The celebrant presents the gifts to the faithful. In raising the paten, the celebrant and the congregation recall the teaching of Christ in John's Gospel that those who partake of him in faith inherit life. The celebrant raising the chalice reaffirms that Christ's Blood brings forgiveness.Communion Verses
The traditional verses chanted at communion represent the Church's affirmation that she was constituted through the Body and Blood of Christ. The English term "communion", as used by Christians, conveys this extended meaning. On the one hand, we speak of receiving communion to signify our individual partaking of the Eucharist. However, on the other hand, all Christians, as members of Christ, are also called to form a communion. And, it is the Eucharist that brings about this unity. The Second Vatican Council teaches us that the Eucharist is the "sign and cause of unity."
The Communion verses then look to the end of history when the members of the Church face judgement. However, just as the sacrifices of old were used to petition God's mercy, so the Church sees the Eucharist as our intercessor before "God's awesome throne."The Distribution of Communion
In distributing the Eucharist to the congregation, the priests and deacons pray for two effects, namely, that the Eucharist brings the "forgiveness of sins", and be a vehicle for "eternal life".
The present practice of the Maronite Church is to distribute the Eucharist by intinction. In ancient times, communion consisted usually of leavened bread and both the bread and wine were received by the faithful. The practice of giving communion to infants existed in the Maronite Church until the sixteenth or seventeenth century.
Another ancient practice was the custom of receiving the consecrated bread in the hands and touching it to the eyes, and also touching the fingers to one's lips still moist from the consecrated wine and touching the eyes, brows and sense organs. These gestures done with great piety were intended to symbolize the Eucharist purifying the senses. This practice has long since been abandoned, but is sometimes implied in some of the communion prayers in the Liturgy.Communion Hymns
Recalling the "communion of Saints" and also the power of the Eucharist after death, a traditional Maronite communion hymn presents the Church praying for the faithful departed. It also, affirms the efficacy of offering sacrifice for the dead. It speaks of the Eucharist obtaining pardon for the deceased.
The hymn declares that the Christ who had the power and compassion to bring Lazarus and the widow's son back to life, can do the same for the faithful departed. It also recalls that as Christ taught that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live on in God, so also will those deceased who are now being remembered.
The hymn prays that the remembrance made by the earthly church be reflected at the altar of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The Eucharist is described as a bridge and safe passage through the terrors of death, bringing the deceased through the darkness into light. The hymn concludes that the action of the living offering sacrifice for the dead brings joy to the angels and hope to mortals.Blessing with the Gifts
In a natural gesture of benediction, and as a fitting conclusion to the Eucharistic mystery, the celebrant blesses the faithful with the consecrated gifts.Prayers after Communion
The first prayer is normally addressed to God the Father and is a prayer of thanksgiving. The prayer usually develops the theme of our thanking God for making us worthy to partake of the Holy Mysteries, which enable us to persevere in piety, grant forgiveness of sin and life in the world to come. The second prayer is usually addressed to the Son and is known as a prayer of imposition of hands, which is a traditional gesture prior to dismissal. Formerly, it was preceded by the diaconal admonition to the faithful to bow their heads. This prayer often echoes earlier intercessions and exhortations in the Liturgy.
The last blessing and dismissal stresses the theme of peace, the Eucharist is spiritual nourishment, and that the altar of Christ is a "Purifying Altar." The invocation of the Trinity is reminiscent of Christ's final words to the disciples before He ascended into Heaven.The Farewell to the Altar
The Divine Liturgy of the Syriac Churches includes a final prayer where the celebrant privately addresses the altar. This prayer symbolizes in striking manner the intimate bond between the priest and the altar. It implies that the essence of priesthood revolves around the eternal sacrifice of Christ and its inexhaustible graces. The human priest is called to be the steward of these awesome mysteries.
In this prayer the altar is personified and the priest offers a gesture of peace. He expresses the desire to return in peace, which is the hope of all of humanity as it struggles in this unstable world. Realizing his sinfulness, the priest hopes that the Divine Gift that he has offered would obtain his own forgiveness and prepare him for the judgement that all humans must undergo. Again, the priest expresses his anxiety about the uncertainty of the present age and asks Christ, whom the altar symbolizes, to guard him. Since the Church herself is sailing on stormy seas, he asks Christ to protect her as she fulfills her mission to be the "way of salvation" and the "light of the world."