Maronite Vs Latin Rite

About Catholics Magazine

About Catholics magazine was lucky enough to interview Fr Nabil Wehbe from St Rafqa’s Parish so we can get a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the Maronite Rite and Latin Catholic Rites.

Who are the Maronites?

The Maronites are an Eastern Rite Catholic Church and follow the Antiochene Tradition. Maronites are the people that follow and have adopted the way of life from St Maroun. The Maronite Rite is in union with the Pope as it had never separated from Rome like other eastern rites. The cultural origin began in Jerusalem, then it moved to Antioch, Edessa (Eastern Syria) and then finally establishing in Lebanon.

Though their Cultural influences have formed their own individual theology, their law and spirituality has led them to their own identity.

Maronites were more commonly found in Lebanon. Due to popularity they have spread throughout Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Australia.

The Liturgy

Maronite liturgies are comparable with the Byzantine traditions and Latin Church. The common Language used during the liturgy is Aramaic, Arabic and English. And though the Maronites have the same beliefs and sacraments as the Latin Rite, they have some key differences; like the fact that their masses are in Lebanese and unlike other Catholic churches they do not genuflect. The sign of peace is done before the Eucharist (Anaphora). They use a heavy amount of incense during mass. They do not kneel at the words of consecration, but stand. The priest sings in West Syriac (a type of Aramaic) at the words of consecration. Maronites only kneel during Pentecost at a Great Matany, in the kneeling ritual on Great Friday. When the Eucharist is given out, it is dipped in the wine then given to receivers on the tongue only. Finally, some of the wording in the creed is different.

The Sacraments

Another distinct difference between the Latin and Maronite church is the order of the sacraments. When we are infants we go through Baptism then, we have our Reconciliation at roughly 7 years of age, the Eucharist at the age of 7-8 and finally, confirmation at 11-12 years. This is the reception of the sacraments for the Latin church. The Maronites on the other hand have Baptism and Confirmation together in one ceremony as infants. They believe that before the middle ages it began with Baptism and Confirmation being one ceremony and the Maronites have kept it like that though the ritual was lost throughout time to the roman Catholics. Both rites have the anointing of the sick and holy orders. The Latin Church calls The Holy Matrimony- Marriage, the Maronites call it the Mystery of Crowning. In the crowning the bride and groom wear crowns and after the ceremony there is a string attached to both crowns, connecting them as they walk around. The symbolic meaning behind this is that the couple are now binded together and joined as one. The crown the beginning of their ‘new kingdom’ as a king and queen based on their mutual love.

Important Saints

Some of the Latin church’s most important saints are:

  • St Michael the archangel, an honoured patron of grocers, mariners, paratroopers, police and sickness was described as “one of the chief princes” and the “leader of the forces of heaven”.
  • St Patrick, a primary patron of Ireland and the first bishop of Armagh.
  • St Valentine, a patron for love, young people and happy marriage and was a faithful “illustrious martyr”.
  • St Joseph, a humble patron of the universal church, husband of Mary and a “man of faith”

This a brief glimpse of some of the most popular Latin church saints.Each country has their own important saints but, these are well-known international saints. Whereas the Maronites particularly related their beliefs more to the saints such as:

· St Maroun, a Syriac monk who established the first Maronite Patriarch known as the “Father of the spiritual and monastic”.

· St Charbel (Sharbel), a person of endurance, a Lebanese monk who was loved for his heroic virtue

· St Nemetallah Hardini/Kassab, a Lebanese monk and priest scholar of the Maronite church.

· St Rafqa, a Lebanese nun full of “prayer, sacrifice and austerity”.

These saints hold deep meaning to the Maronite people because they belonged to the maronite’s founding coutry of Lebanon and held the same faith and beliefs.