Passion Week in the Maronite Tradition - Explained

(Taken from Aboona Anthony J. Salim's explanation in his parish bulletin of St. Theresa, Brockton MA)

Service (Teshmeshto) of the Coming to the Harbor
This Service and the Wednesday Service (Teshmeshto) of the Lamp are ancient and authentic liturgical services that had fallen into disuse in the last few hundred years. They were revived and published in the US several years ago. Our Great Fast has two parts: the Lenten Fast, from “Ash Monday” to Saturday before Hosanna Sunday, and the Passion Week Fast that begins today and ends on Saturday of the Awaited Light (“Holy Saturday”). The prayers of today’s rich service speak of our pre-Easter journey of fasting, which is now coming to an end as we enter the Fast of Passion Week. We are sailing in the spiritual ship through stormy waters to the “Harbor of Safety,” lighted by the Beacon of the Resurrection, which we will reach in a week, on Pascha-Easter.

This second “new” Service (Tesmeshto) centers on the symbols of light (knowledge and faith) and strength (oil). The prayers reflect the Psalms and there is an anointing of the forehead with the blessed oil. The reminder of the oil may be taken home for use in holiday baking.

Thursday of the Holy Mysteries
Qoorbono (Holy Eucharist) and Ritual of the Washing of the Feet.
This traditional Service (Tesmeshto dQoorbono) commemorates Jesus’ Institution of the Holy Eucharist (in Latin-rite terms, the First Mass) and dramatizes the Gospel of John by the washing of the feet of 12 parishioners representing the Apostles. Jesus’ humble ministering to others is highlighted. This is also a fine day to remember those young children who will receive the Lord on Holy Communion in a few weeks. All parishioners are encouraged to attend, of course, but the families of the First Communicants especially ought to come to this Service.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Holy Eucharist is reserved for adoration and will be used at the Service (Teshmeshto) of the “Signing of the Chalice” on the next day.

Great Friday of the Crucifixion (Obligatory Fast and Abstinence)
12:00 noon: Anaphora (Greek for “Eucharistic Prayer”) of the Signing of the Chalice (“Pre-Sanctified Liturgy”) with Holy Communion.
This service is one of the most ancient in the Church. It is called “Pre-Sanctified” because it uses the Sanctified Host from the night before (Eucharist and Washing of the Feet). There is therefore no consecration of a new host; however, there is an epiklesis (Greek for “calling down”) of the Holy Spirit over the wine, to change it into the Blood of Christ. Into this is dropped a portion of the (Pre-sanctified) Body of Christ. The symbolism here is deep, stemming from ancient Jewish thought. Namely, as body and blood are separated, death occurs. Therefore, when they are reunited, new (Eucharistic), grace-filled life is evident to the eyes of faith as we receive Holy Communion.

Service of the Burial of the Lord
A scriptural and liturgical meditation Service (Teshmeshto) on the Death of the Lord, Eastern-Church style. Flowers, which have been brought by the Faithful will placed into the Shroud for the Burial Procession. These will be seen on Pascha-Easter as symbols of the New Creation in the Risen Lord (see Rev 21:1) As the Faithful pass under the Shroud, we heed the idea of St. Paul and the early Church that “If we die with the Lord, we shall live with the Lord” (see Rom 14:8).

Saturday of the Awaited Light
Service (Tesmeshto) of Forgiveness (Penance Service & Confessions).
This is basically a communal Penance Service (Tesmeshto dHoosoyo) with individual confessions. The Service is timed to end at noon, which signals the end of the Great Fast. In fact, the Service ends with the traditional Pascha greeting: “Christ is risen!” with the faith-filled reply: “He is truly risen!” In Lebanon, the bells of the churches ring joyfully at noon.

Saturday Vigil for Easter Sunday
First Qoorbono (Divine Liturgy) of the Resurrection, with blessing of Easter baskets and distribution of flowers.

Great Sunday of the Resurrection
Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection with the “Ceremony,” or Service (Teshmeshto), or “’Rite’ of Peace, followed by distribution of flowers and egg cracking and sharing