I have often meditated upon the eschatological meaning of John 2: 1-12. My heart resonates with the oft-heard metaphorical connection: the best wine for last and the eternal heavenly wedding banquet. John Paul II said that the Liturgy we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly Liturgy. In my five decades as a Catholic and nearly one as a permanent deacon in the Latin Church, I have tasted many different vintages. It was not until my introduction to the Maronite Divine Liturgy that I truly drank the fullness of the great Mystery. Through this Rite of the West Syriac Antiochene Tradition -- a Tradition that is as ancient as Christianity itself -- Christ speaks to me in a way that I have never before experienced. The poetry of the prayers, the chanted Syriac (dialect of Aramaic) in the Words of Institution and the overall structure of this service (called Quorbono, trans. Offering) with its dynamic movements and its festal observances combine in such a sublimity that my heart and soul cannot but be raised on high.
Across the Mediterranean basin, my Sicilian heritage somehow connects me to the way of the East as if through ancient ancestry. In the Divine Liturgy, I savor each word prayed in Syriac (a language that is very similar to that of Christ’s) as they ring in the depths and connect me with one who is indeed my Father. Since childhood, I have been intrigued by monastic settings. The tender integration of the psalms and the liberal use of incense in the Quorbono create an atmosphere of reverence where I am assured of the Holy Spirit’s presence – the same Spirit that guided the early Maronite monks and ascetics some 1700 years ago.
As my experience with the Quorbono is only five years young, I am yet a neophyte. My kinship with the Maronite Liturgy and tradition – like the story of salvation – is an ever-unfolding love story. I owe many thanks to the Maronite priests who have supported me in my quest. I am very grateful to both my Latin Bishop and the Maronite Bishop for their blessing on my service in the Maronite Church. And all glory and thanks be to God for leading me to the wine that is served last while my feet are still on earth.
(The above reflection is written by Nicholas Mammi, a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, who also generously serves at St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church in Roanoke VA.)