Maronite Rite Mass

A few weeks before the end of the school semester, I and several of my friends joined our college chaplain for a field trip into D.C. to participate in a Maronite Rite Mass.  We were warmly welcomed at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church - one of the priests was kind enough to give us a very helpful explanation of the history of the Maronite Rite, and the liturgy itself.  We were then allowed to briefly visit the seminary across the street and see their chapel - which was beautiful!  The seminary trains men both for the United States and for Lebanon.  Some of the men assisting at Mass were from that country, as well. 

The Mass itself was absolutely beautiful!  I love listening to the chant.  It was all so very different, but honestly not hard to follow along.  (The pew missals were very useful too.)  I was especially happy that we went within the Easter season - it is loads easier to follow along when the only word you can really recognize in English and Aramaic and singing is "Alleluia"!  The Alleluias gave me a frame of reference to tell where we were!  Heaven knows what would have happened if we had gone during Lent!

Several points about the Mass struck me most strongly.  The first was that the words of the Consecration were said in Aramaic - the language Christ Himself would have used to speak those most blessed words.  Talk about anamnesis!  As much as I love and still prefer the Extraordinary Form, this was one part that I found I preferred to the Latin words.

The last, and most gripping part of the Mass, was the very last prayer that the priest says before leaving the altar. 
The Farewell to the Altar

Remain in peace, O holy altar of God, I hope to return to you in peace.  May the offering I have received from you forgive my sins and prepare me to stand blameless before the throne of Christ.  I know not whether I will be able to return to you again to offer sacrifice.  Guard me, O Lord, and protect your holy Church, that she may be the way to salvation and the light of the world.  Amen

Think about the situation of Christianity in the Middle East.  How true is this prayer for priests there?  They, and the congregation with them, have no idea if they will attend another Mass.  We in America have no conception of religious persecution.  We don't know what it is like to have the threat of torment and death hanging over our heads just for public proclamation of the Faith, or the possibility that our church (if we even had a church building) would be raided by men with guns during Sunday Mass.  We take our Faith here far too lightly.  What we have to suffer now is only white martyrdom - the red is coming.  No Christian nation can truly be Christian without its martyrs.  The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the Church.  Let us not brush our religious freedom aside lightly - let us realize what a gift it is and fight to save it!