Maronite Servants YouTube Channel

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel at:  MaroniteServants.  Our channel includes videos of previous virtual workshops and information on a vocation as a Maronite Servant of Christ the Light.  Here is one of the post from our channel: Fr. Rudy Wakim shares on three spiritual practices of Great Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.


Great Lent

By Theresa Simon, used with permission from Living Maronite  


Lent in the Maronite Church begins with Cana Sunday, (not Ash Monday). Cana Sunday is a wedding invitation. We are all invited to a wedding feast with Christ.

Cana is the New Eden

In his hymn by Virginity St Ephrem proclaims:

Blessed are you, Cana, for it was the Bridegroom from on high whom your bridegroom invited, whose wine ran out; he invited the Guest who himself invited the Nations to a wedding feast of joy and life in Eden.

There is a parallel between Eden and Cana. The Gospel of John intends this to be the story of a new creation. John’s Gospel on Cana (John 2:1-11) begins with the words “On the third day.” This is a reference to earlier recounts of days in John’s Gospel. The Gospel unfolds like the story in Genesis with reference back to the days. Christ is the new Adam in Cana. The reason we hear this Gospel at the opening of Lent is because it is a reminder that the new Adam, Christ, is coming to undo the damage done by the first Adam. Similarly, in the Cana Gospel Mary is the new Eve. In the creation story in Genesis 2 only God is named. Adam and Eve are only identified as “the man” and “the woman.”

At Cana Jesus (who is God) is referred to by name. We know Mary is Jesus mother, but like Eve she is only referred to as ‘woman. Jesus responds to Mary when she informs him about the shortage of wine:
“woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).
John’s use of the term woman is not intended to disrespect Mary, rather here the use of the word is intended to show that Mary is the new Eve. It has symbolic value to alert the reader and show them that Christ has come as the new Adam and for salvation of all. We continue in John’s Gospel when at the foot of the cross,  Jesus entrusts Mary to John, he saids “Woman, behold your son.” (Jn19:26).

In Genesis, Eve cooperates with Adam to fall into sin. At Cana, the new Eve, Mary,  co-operates with the Christ, the new Adam to perform his first glorious work. Eve encouraged Adam to defy God and eat the fruit. Conversely, Mary is drawing to her son’s attention the needs of the people. She also tells the people (the Church)  “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5).  Eve was the “mother of all living.” (Gen 3:20).  The New Eve becomes the mother of the Church. We hear this Gospel at the opening of Lent as a reminder that we are about to witness what Christ was always sent to do for us. Save humanity from the sin of Adam and save us from our own sins.


Another theme that arises from this Gospel and the liturgy is the theme of transformation. Great Lent is a journey and like the water being transformed into wine we are called to transformation and repentance this Great Lent.

Wine in is a symbol of Jewish Torah. At the Wedding of Cana we see that the Jewish law is not going to be sufficient for the guests. Jesus came to transform the law and eventually he will pour out his own blood to transform us.

“In place of the old Law, you have given us your new Gospel, and instead of the fruit of the vine, you have quenched our thirst with the chalice of your redeeming blood.” (Prayer of Forgiveness)

There is a sacramental image in this Gospel. Jesus asks the servants to get water in the jars kept for the purification rite. The water is then turned to wine and nobody knows how it happens. Jesus asks the servants to serve the wine to the guests. In the Mass the bread turns into the body of Christ and the wine turns into the blood of Christ. It is part of the mystery of the Eucharist. This is a foreshadowing of what we will witness at the end of Great Lent, the pouring out of the cleansing wine on the cross and the glorious resurrection.

The Harbour of Salvation

Finally, tying all these images together is the reference in the Liturgy to the “Harbour of Salvation’. Knowing that the new Adam is here to save us from our sins and transform us, we as a Church are travelling through Lent to the harbour of salvation.

“O Lord, bless our families and our Lenten journey, that we may reach the harbour of salvation, which is the glorious feast of your Resurrection.” (Forgiveness Prayer)

In other parts of the Liturgy we are reminded that Christ is the Promise of true life, the heavenly Physician, and the harbour of rest and salvation. The theme of the Harbour and the nautical journey are an important part of the Syriac tradition and can be seen in Ephrem’s Hymn on Virginity:

O Master Mariner,
Who has conquered the raging sea
Your glorious wood is a sign
It has become the oar of salvation
The wind of mercy blew,
The ship set out on its course
Away from the raging sea to the haven of peace
Blessed is he who has become the mariner of his own soul
And has preserved and unloaded his treasure

At the end of Great Lent we see the distinct Maronite rite of Arrival at Harbour. It is celebrated on the evening of Hosanna Sunday and marks the beginning of Passion Week. We are reminded on that night that our journey which started at Cana Sunday ends with the “ark” which is the Church, arriving safely at the Harbour of Salvation, Christ himself.

The rite begins with the faithful gathering in front of the closed door of the Church with candles as the Wise Virgins (Mt.25 1-13) awaiting the Bridegroom. The Priest then knocks on the Church door three times before it is open to let in the faithful of Christ, who will live the sufferings of Passion Week culminating in the great plan of salvation with Christ’s resurrection.

Now is the time, to recognise God’s love for us, he has come to save us. Are we willing to accept his mercy and transform ourselves this Lent?


The Sunday of Deceased Priests


The Three Weeks of Commemoration

On this Sunday we commemorate our Deceased Priests. We celebrate this liturgy, and continue our remembrance during the following week. After that, we remember the Righteous and the Just, and then all the Faithful Departed. These three weeks comprise a sort of transition from the Season of the Epiphany, to Lent. They are indeed a preparation for the great season of mortification. There are no obligations of fast and abstinence during these three weeks, other than to abstain from flesh meat on Fridays.

The best way to think of these three weeks is to compare them with 1 and 2 November (All Saints and All Souls Days) in the Latin Catholic Church. They have two days, we have three weeks – an echo of the Maronite emphasis on remembering the deceased. The second week of the Maronite commemorations corresponds to the first of the two Latin feasts, All Saints Day. Then, our third week is the equivalent number of the second feast, All Souls. So, why do we have a first week? We do so because this is the theology of the Maronite Church: that the entire calendar begins with the Consecration and the Renewal of the Church. In its wisdom, the Maronite Church paints the background to the liturgical year and to the period of commemoration.

We begin our year with recalling that the Church is the medium through which the Word of God and His healing sacraments have come to us. And we begin this mini-Season by praying for the departed priests, because if they had not passed on the faith and the sacraments, we would not have the faith.

The Commemoration of Deceased Priests

To anticipate, this feast is not only about remembering deceased priests, it is just as much a reminder that the Christian priesthood is a participation in the eternal priesthood of Our Jesus Christ, the High Priest. The work of priests is for our eternal salvation, and although we only see the body of their hieratic work in this world, its roots and its highest fruit are in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our Christian life today is for our Christian life in eternity.

Of this icon, Fr Badwi wrote: “Our fathers, the priests, who preceded us to eternity continue their celebration there and preach the Bible upon the altar of the luminous world, surrounded by worshipping angels. All this happens in an eschatological scene, presenting the All-Powerful with the two eternal suppliants, the Virgin Mary and St John the Forerunner, surrounded by a crowd of saints and angels who carry trumpets and scales.” Let us unpack this.

First of all, we are shown in heaven, and even in that divine world there are levels. Enthroned in glory at the top, is the Lord. To His right is His blessed mother, and to His left, St John the Baptist, His cousin and forerunner. They are interceding for humanity. This is an important detail, because it links their action to the prayers of the faithful at each and every divine liturgy, and in the sacraments. Think of this icon when you next approach the sacrament of confession, and you will make the connection – just as you present your sins to the Lord through the priest, so too in the court of heaven you have powerful advocates joining their prayers to yours.

Next, in the lower level, but still in heaven, there is what Fr Badwi calls a “luminous altar,” perhaps because it is the colour of the evening sky. Standing upright at it, are two deceased priests who have been admitted into heaven (note the haloes around their heads) celebrating the divine liturgy. We know that the liturgy is celebrated in heaven because of the revelation to St John the Divine (see chapter 4 of the Apocalypse). They are concelebrating the service. One has the Gospel before him for the Liturgy of the Word, while the other – who is a bishop as his staff shows – has the chalice and paten for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The bishop may also be a monk, but since all Maronite bishops wear the monastic cowl, one cannot be sure. This bishop and priest stand for all bishops and priests.

The angels who are bending in reverence towards the altar hold the staves of messengers (the word mal’ak or “angel” once denoted “messenger”, being literally “the one who goes.”) They represent the fact that the Divine liturgy is celebrated as a result of and for the Word of God, and that angels are present whenever it is celebrated – even on earth. The default Maronite communion hymn reads: “The hosts of angels have come to stand with us at the holy altar …”

Fr Badwi says that the icon presents an “eschatological scene.” Eschatology is the study of the final days, the end of the world, the judgment, and the eternal life. The angels with the trumpets and scales are angels from the Book of the Apocalypse, heralding the last days with trumpets: they have scales in Revelation 6:5. These old-fashioned scales or balances are unknown today, on one side would be a placed a specific weight, e.g. two ounces, and on the other side, an object (often a precious object such as gold or silver). If the gold weighed less than two ounces, the weight would sink lower than the gold. When the two sides of the scales were balanced, then by measuring the weight, you knew how heavy the gold was. The gold in this case is our souls, and the weight is truth.

The priest is a mediator, a bridge, a channel, a conduit. But, and this is often forgotten, he is specifically a mediator, a bridge, a channel, a conduit for Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and not for some vague heavenly power. From that perspective, the priest is also a representative. This leads to my final point: the upper portion of the picture, at the throne of God, is reflected in the second half: Jesus is present on His throne, Jesus is present under the sacred oblations on His altar; Our Lady and St John intercede for us in heaven, and the bishop and priest do the same at the altar. This is one of the central truths of our faith – and a comforting and consoling one, if we could but meditate upon it.

Note: Sometimes people ask whether these three weeks belong to the Season of the Epiphany. They do not, and cannot: we do not use the Epiphany response to the Qadishat (we say “itra7am 3alayn” rather than “mshee7o det3amed men you7anon, itra7am 3alayn”), and wear different liturgical colours.