Pastoral Introduction of More Traditional Elements

Hello all,
So I’m sure everyone here is aware of the egregious dilution of our various traditions in many regards. I was curious to ask how everyone thinks what the most diplomatic and pastoral ways are to introduce these more traditional elements to parishes who have never seen them before. For instance, a priest attempting to celebrate with a sanctuary veil in a Maronite or ad orientem in a heavily Latinized Byzantine parish.

Has anyone gone to a parish that was progressively transformed from heavily latinized to more traditional? How was it received? How was the pastor pastoral in its implementation and in what ways did he not compromise?

An example that comes to mine is a former bishop mandating the removal of the stations of the cross, which upset many individuals and many priests just did not follow his orders. How did the Melkites achieve this? Thanks.

One little vignette comes to mind about a Maronite priest serving ad orientem. As he told me, one Sunday he decided to try it and gauge the reaction. So he did. The reaction was generally quiet. Of course some of the more rabid complained, but the majority did not. The next week he gave some catechesis as part of the sermon. If what he told me was true, the reaction after that was overwhelmingly favorable. And he continued to use the ad orientem posture until he was transferred. Of course he’s back to versus populum now, but that’s a whole other story.

I believe I know who the bishop referred to is, and quite simply, he is a revisionist. That’s not to say that “Stations of the Cross” are particularly Syro-Maronite – of course they’re not; they are a latinization from the get-go albeit that the devotion was adapted by the Maronites and and did not use the Latin form or text – but what did he demand the devotion be replaced with? Yet another latinization! The problem with that person is that he could have cared less about catechesis. He did what he wanted to further his own agenda. And that agenda, as you know, included a ton and a half of Novus Ordo-inspired neo-latinizations. In such a situation, I actually applaud the priests who defied him. The “stations” had been part of Maronite practice for some 500 years. To tell people “stop it, it’s wrong” without even the courtesy of an explanation is unacceptable. Perhaps that’s why the vast majority of clergy were dancing in the street when that particular person retired. :hmmm:

The key to the whole thing, I think, is a little bit of gentle catechesis. Why are we restoring ad orientem? Why are are we restoring the sanctuary veil? Why are we removing Novus Ordo-inspired neo-latinizations? A little education among the faithful – particularly the Maronites who have been systematically deprived of it – goes a long way. :wink:

I very much agree with Malphono here. Educating and catechizing the Faithful is key to restoring the traditions of our Church(es). I believe this is one of the primary reasons that the Melkites in the U.S. have been so successful with their restorations.

From the beginning with Archbishop Joseph Tawil there has been an ongoing catechesis explaining to the Melkite Faithful why we are putting aside some practices (aka Latinizations) and replacing them with proper traditions. Archbishop Tawil’s letter, The Courage to be Ourselves ( ), was the beginning of that transformation. I would argue that the work of Archbishop Joseph Raya with his translations and writings were a very strong follow-up to the work of restoration begun by Archbishop Tawil. The current Eparch of the Melkites here in the U.S., Bishop Nicholas Samra, is somewhat of a disciple of both Tawil and Raya. He has also been heavily influenced by the work and writings of Archbishop Elias Zoghby.

One of the strong points that I’ve found in the Melkite reforms here in the U.S. is that they’ve provided both a strong catechetical foundation, as well as a strong spiritual foundation for those reforms. The people are prepared for the reforms before they actually take place. Then once they do take place, the reasons for those reforms are reaffirmed and the people are more enthusiastic about reclaiming their identity. Reforms don’t just come from the top down, and they aren’t dumped upon an unsuspecting lay Faithful without reason or explanation.

My suggestions for reforms among the Maronites… Priests have to have the courage to stand up for their authentic heritage. They have to be willing to educate the Faithful on what it means to be Maronite, and what exactly the Maronite tradition is. It isn’t good enough to repeat lines like “We’ve never broken communion with Rome!” or “We use the language Jesus spoke!” We need priests who are steeped in the writings of the Syriac Fathers, particularly Isaac the Syrian, Ephraim the Syrian, and Jacob of Sarug. A catechesis according to this tradition needs to be developed/recovered and passed on. But (and this may be the controversial bit) I believe that the Maronites need to first work with what they currently have before they start to restore things to the way they ought to be. Learn first to celebrate the Qurbono properly, with proper liturgical orientation. Encourage the celebration of Ramsho and Safro in your parishes. In short, encourage a vibrant liturgical life based on the proper use of the current liturgical texts. I believe that from there a proper restoration will follow. Finally, the Maronites need to learn to have the “courage to be themselves.” My impression of mainstream Maronite identity is that they seem so focused on affirming their relation to Rome that they forget who they are. Much like the Ukrainians and Ruthenians at one time, they are so concerned with “proving” that they are Catholic that they forget to be Maronite and think they have to do everything Rome does.

That may sound harsh, but it’s just my opinion. I love the Maronites, and I wish I could get my wife to attend the local Maronite parish with me. I’d love to make my home there since I don’t currently have a Melkite parish anywhere near me. I’m still working on that. Please keep that in your prayers. :slight_smile:

Thank you, Phillip. :slight_smile: One thing I might mention here is that the Melkites, as much as they may perceive having been latinized, were never latinized the way we Maronites have been. (Except, perhaps, in Venezuela and Lebanon with the versus populum and missing iconistsasi are not all that unusual, but I digress.)

Yeah, I’ll agree with the “controversial” part. The problem with the current texts is that they are so severely latinized in the Novus Ordo-inspired way, that they are not representative of any Syro-Maronite tradition. I’d probably pass out if Safro were offered the way it should be. If anything is done before Mass, it’s either the rosary or – worse – benediction. :mad:

I hate to say this but, yes, that’s just about it. Most Maronites (clergy, and even more sadly, bishops, included) are more Latin than the Latins. :frowning:

A bit of a bitter pill, perhaps, for some, but IMO not harsh at all. The truth is the truth. :wink:

I think part of it has to be approaching it with sensitivity. I agree with Molphono (although I have now figured he has me on ignore) I can understand why people would be horrified if all of a sudden you rip out the stations of the cross and tell people they can no longer have them. That is not a devotion that was introduced yesterday. It is something our parents did, our grandparents did and probably our great grandparents did.

I can tell you what does not work. I can think of one particular situation in which a matter was mandated as a new rule. A rule book was put out about it. Priests simply announced it one day at the liturgy and it was included in the parish bulletin. No ground work was laid about the benefit of not having it. No proper explanation was given about why the particular practice had no place in our Liturgy and it had been happening over time and people liked it.

At the end of the day Maronites need to be convinced of the benefits of returning to our tradition. The difficulty is if they don’t know them then it is difficult for them to recognise their beauty immediately. It needs to start from the top. I wonder how many copies of the works of St Ephrem, St John Chrysosotom or St Isaac are lying around our parishes? It is almost impossible to get our hands on things written in English by say Patriarch Estephan Doueihi. Till we get the valuing of the spiritual theology, it will be difficult to get the valuing of the liturgical practice and so in the meantime - we pray.

I completely agree and sympathize with safeguarding one’s spiritual heritage, but your disdain of the Rosary and Benediction of the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord is quite frankly offensive. I don’t think you’re going to get many supporters unless your attitude is that “these Latin traditions are sanctifying, but we have our own things we should be doing.”

Of all things, I would hardly say malphono has a “disdain” for the Rosary or for the Eucharist. I believe he has repeatedly said that he has no problem with the Rosary as a private devotion provided it doesn’t replace an authentic practice - aka Safro or Ramsho or one of our many seasonal liturgies. Also, I wouldn’t ever argue that a Syriac Christian could ever show disdain for the Eucharist considering our entire theology is Eucharistic in one way or another and our own liturgy has a form of “benediction” with the Body and Blood at the end of the liturgy that renders any other extra-liturgical benediction superfluous.

Caring for our authentic practices does not mean we show disdain for things that do not concern us. What a Latin Catholic does or doesn’t do with a monstrance is no concern of ours. Just as what we do or don’t do with a sanctuary veil is of little concen to Latins or Byzantines. :shrug:

I have no problem with such devotions in their proper context, (i.e, in the Latin Church), and a search in this forum will show same. OTOH, neither is traditional to any of the Oriental or Eastern Churches. FWIW, I rail just as loudly when Orientals import Byzantine practices.

Sometimes such Latin devotions have been adopted (and, at least in the case of the Maronites, adapted) by the Orient and East. That’s fine provided they do not supplant our own traditional practices. A serious problem arises, however, when such devotions do supplant, and are used to the exclusion of, our own traditional practices. And that, unfortunately, is all too often the case.

The rosary, for example, as a private devotion is fine, but it shouldn’t be done publicly, (and actually, it’s not a public devotion even in the Latin Church), especially to the exclusion of our own Morning Prayer which traditionally precedes Mass.

it would be extremely unusual to find a byzantine parish which wasn’t doing ad orientem, especially during the height of Latinization (1950’s). (I’ve never EVER seen a photo of a versus populem byzantine DL, even tho’ I’ve seen photos of DL done in hybrid vestments, as in Alb, modified western stole, belt, chasuble, cross, cuffs and maniple - on ONE priest - and the deacon in Alb, western stole, dalmatic, cuffs and maniple), with roman style vessels, on a Romanesque wall-mounted High Altar and without icons.

Still, I’ve seen pastors try to “up the vostochnik quotient” in what is already one of the more vostochnik parishes. When the parish had routine adult religious ed, it was easy. Rev. Fr. explained the reasons for the change, and the history, in class. He then mentioned it in the homily, and in the bulletin. Then, a week later, started doing it. (In the case in question, dropping the filioque, it was accompanied by securing volunteers to go through the books and line it out in the parish’s copies of the pewbooks.) A few months later, he abolished kneeling during the anaphora… same process, but instead of lining through text, he simply removed all the kneelers. Next, he got rid of the pews. (Replaced them with good sturdy chairs. A much more recent pastor went and insisted on pews, even while admitting it was a latinization. I want the much more comfortable, flexible, and movable for doing prostrations, chairs back.)

This example comes to mind:

Of course, I can’t generalize from the Melkite Eparchy of Newton to all situations. For one thing, the Eparchy of Newton is very small (in numbers I mean – geographically it covers the whole USA) and for another, it contains a lot of people who want to be as Byzantine as possible (cf Phillip’s earlier post).

Thank you for the link, Peter. While I’m hesitant to try to use the Melkite restoration as a model for Maronites (for many reasons, primary amongst them they lack the extreme latinizations we’ve willingly imposed on ourselves) valuable lessons can still be learned from them.

That letter you linked is primary amongst my concerns. While Latinizations impede our tradition, I don’t consider them detrimental to spiritual health like the withholding of the Body of Christ from children. Any Eastern Church that restores that is in pretty good shape. I also enjoy that the letter hits a major emphasis for restoration: adult catechesis. Sadly, the Maronite Church is little more than a Lebanese club nowadays. My pastor tries to hold bible studies and catechism lessons but adult nor teenager attends because it isn’t a party with dabkeh. I get particularly disgruntled by this “Lebanese club” mentality because I’m not Lebanese and I know many people who are turned off by this pseudo-racial club (they’re really rude about it too - I’ve gotten so many nasty comments about being an invader because I’m Syrian, i.e. where St. Maron is actually from :rolleyes:).

Glory be to God that you guys are not tested in the same way.

If only all pastoral letters were as educative, succinct and direct as this. It is wonderful. As for infant Communion - I really can not understand why the delay in instituting this is in the Maronite Church. My sister is Antiochan Orthodox and all her children had infant communion and my daughter and I used to watch in great sadness as they received the Eucharist and she couldn’t. My daughter knew what it was from a very early age.

If only the parents would start demanding it of their priests…

We have a number of Melkite, Syriac Orthodox, Roum Orthodox, Ruthenians, and others who go to our parish and they always present their children for Communion with no problems.

So, to make sure I understand the background here, do most Maronite parishes follow the Latin custom of Baptism by itself, with Chrismation and Communion both deferred until mid-to-late childhood?

Not most - All. No infant communion in the Maronite Church…


P.S. I should have also asked, how long ago did this latization start?

I think since the Synod of 1580. I should clarify that Chrismation happens with Baptism…

I suppose I should interject here that the custom of infant communion was to have been reinvigorated with the promulgation of the restored Book of Mysteries (the Sacramental Ritual) in 1942, but Rome intervened directly and refused to allow it.

And now Rome couldn’t give two flying flips and it’s we ourselves who choose to stick with the parties. :frowning:

For one reason: blind subservience to Rome. :mad:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit