Father Suarez - "the beauty of the Maronite Liturgy"
I was first introduced to the Maronite liturgy during a visit to Most Holy Trinity Monastery in 2000. At the time I was an undergraduate student at Boston University and one of the religious brothers who staffed the Catholic Center brought a group of us to the monastery. That first visit was a profound experience for me, and I’ve continued to be drawn to visit the monastery over the years. There are three things which draw me, the setting, the community of monks, and the liturgy.
For those who aren’t familiar with Most Holy Trinity Monastery, it’s located in a rural part of central Massachusetts, surrounded by woods, and close to the Quabbin Reservoir. The serenity of the land itself is very conducive towards contemplation. There’s also something about the geography which makes it impossible to get cell phone reception near the monastery, and this extra blessing of being technologically disconnected from the outside world, further makes it easy to enter into prayer.
The community of monks that live at Most Holy Trinity Monastery are a great example of the simplicity and joy which are marks of a fruitful Christian life. They’re a constant reminder of how little is necessary for daily living, and of the rich spiritual rewards that come from such material detachment. Although they generally maintain silence, they’re still able to convey a great amount through simple gestures. The general atmosphere of silence also makes the occasional conversations with the monks all the more enjoyable. Spending time living in silence one comes to realize both how much of our daily conversation is superficial, and also how much God has to say to us when we give Him the space to speak.
The third thing which draws me back to Petersham, as opposed to other monasteries or retreat centers, is the beauty of the Maronite liturgy. As a Latin rite Catholic, I have a great appreciation for the liturgy I have grown with and been formed by. However, the Maronite liturgy also strikes a particular chord in my heart. The structure of each liturgical prayer really helps the participant to enter into the mysteries which are being celebrated. Certain parts of the liturgy such as the Qadeeshat in particular are very powerful because I find that the simple repetitive formula, the gestures and postures all help me enter into prayer. I find that the structure of the prayers also makes it easier to enter deeper into them and ponder the meaning of their words.
Of course the Maronite liturgy has the added blessing that when it’s said in Syriac, the words are as close as possible to the words our Lord spoke. This thought had often struck me during the many retreats I’ve made at the monastery, but I felt the full impact when I had the privilege of concelebrating the Divine Liturgy just a few weeks ago. As a priest I’ve said the words of consecration many times in English, and their power is immense, but to say them in Syriac, to come so close to the original words of our Lord, was a great blessing!
My experiences with the Maronite liturgy have helped me understand just how rich and diverse our Catholic Church is. I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to cultivate a knowledge and appreciation of both the Latin rite and the Eastern rites. To live as a Latin rite Catholic without appreciation of the Eastern rites, or to live as an Eastern rite Catholic without appreciation for the Latin rite, is truly to live with an imperfect understanding of the beauty of the universal Church. May each of us continue to come to a richer understanding of the Church and to love her with our whole heart.
(Father Suarez serves at St. Edith Stein parish in Brockton, MA. Father was ordained in May 2011 for the Archdiocese of Boston. Read more about Father Suarez on Cardinal Sean's Blog)