Maronite Catholic Lectionary

By Dr Margaret Ghosn

Seasons in the Church

The Maronite Catholic Lectionary marks various Seasons however these vary and include the Glorious Birth of the Lord, the Epiphany, Great Lent and Passion Week, Glorious Resurrection, Pentecost and ends with the Season of the Glorious Cross. Table 1 sets out the divisions of the Seasons according to the Roman and Maronite Catholic lectionaries.

 

Table 1           The Seasons of the Liturgical Year in both the Roman Catholic and Maronite Catholic Churches.

 

Seasons in the Church

Roman Catholic

Maronite Catholic

 

Sundays of the Church (1-2 weeks)

Advent (4 weeks)

Season of the Glorious Birth of the Lord

(7 weeks, including Christmas)

Christmas and Epiphany (2 weeks)

 
 

Season of Epiphany which includes three commemoration Sundays (1-7 weeks)

Ordinary Time I (6-8 weeks)

 

Lent (6 weeks)

Season of Great Lent (7 weeks)

Triduum (3 days) – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday

Passion week

Easter (8 weeks)

Season of Glorious Resurrection (7 weeks)

Pentecost Sunday (1 week)

Season of Pentecost (Up to 18 weeks)

Ordinary Time II

 
 

Season of the Glorious Cross (7 weeks)

 

 

 

Cycles of the Lectionary

The Maronite Catholic Lectionary cycle affixes texts to seasons and festivals of the church year. The texts speak out of literary and historical contexts in ways appropriate to the season.

From the Crusades through to the 16th century and onwards contact with the Western Church led to Latinisation. However following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s the Maronites were encouraged to reform their Liturgy. The Patriarchal Liturgical Commission and the Institute of Liturgy began reviving the authentic Maronite Liturgy with the revision of the Divine Liturgy in 1992, followed by the Lectionary in 1993.

The Maronite Lectionary is a one year cycle. The Maronite Lectionary presents one Reading taken from a Christian Scripture Epistle, Acts, or the Book of Revelation. This daily reading follows through on a theme throughout Sunday and the ensuing week. This is followed by the reading of a Gospel account which is taken from any of the four evangelists and continues on the same theme as that in the First Reading. Yet little of each of the Gospels are read and the yearly cycle is often described as repetitive, year after year. It was anticipated that at the recent Patriarchal Maronite Synod (2003-2006) that there may be added in the future a second reading, taken from the Hebrew Scriptures, to reflect more deeply the richness of the Word. However this has not become a reality at the present time. Table 2 sets out the Sunday Gospel Readings for the Maronite Catholic yearly cycle.

           

 

Table 2           The Seasons and Gospel Passages used in the Maronite Catholic Lectionary

 

Season

Gospel Passages

Renewal and Consecration of the Church  (1-2 weeks)

Consecration of the Church – Mt 16:13-20

Renewal of the Church – Jn 10:22-42

 

Season of the Glorious Birth of the Lord (7 weeks)

 

Announcement to Zechariah – Lk 1:1-25

Announcement to Mary – Lk 1:26-38

Visitation of Mary – Lk 1:39-45

Birth of John the Baptist – Lk 1:57-66

Revelation to Joseph – Mt 1:18-25

Genealogy of Jesus – Mt 1:1-17

Birth of the Lord – Lk 2:1-20

 

Finding of Jesus in the Temple – Lk 2:41-52

 

Season of Epiphany which concludes with three Commemoration Sundays

 

Weeks of the Epiphany

 

Sunday of the Deceased Priests – Lk 12:42-48

Sunday of the Righteous and Just – Mt 25:31-36

Sunday of the Faithful Departed – Lk 16:19-31

 

Season of Great Lent and Passion Week (7 weeks)

 

Cana Sunday – Jn 2:1-11

Ash Monday

Cure of the Leper – Mk 1:35-45

Cure of the Haemorrhaging Woman – Lk 8:40-56

Parable of the Lost Son – Lk 15:11-32

Cure of the Paralytic – Mk 2:1-12

Cure of the Blind – Mk 10:46-52

Palm Sunday & Passion Week – Jn 12:12-22

 

Season of Glorious Resurrection (7 weeks)

 

Resurrection Sunday – Mk 16:1-8

New Sunday

 

Season of Pentecost (Up to 18 weeks)

 

Sunday of Pentecost – Jn 14:15-20

Holy Trinity Sunday – Mt 28:16-20

Followed by up to 16 weeks focusing on Spirit & Mission

Fifth Sunday – Calling of the Disciples – Mt 10:1-7

Sixth Sunday – Sending of the Disciples – Mt 10:16-25

Seventh Sunday – Sending of the 72 Disciples – Lk 10:1-7

Eighth Sunday – Spirit of the Disciples – Mt 12:14-21

Ninth Sunday –  Mission of the Disciples – Lk 4:14-21

 

Season of the Glorious Cross (7 weeks)

 

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross – Jn 12:20-32

First Sunday after the Feast– Sons of Zebedee Mk 10:35-45

Second Sunday – Persecutions - Mt 24:1-14

Third Sunday – False signs - Mt 24:23-31

Fourth Sunday – Good and bad servants - Mt 24:45-51

Fifth Sunday – Ten Bridesmaids - Mt 25:1-13

Sixth Sunday – The Talents - Mt 25:14-30

Seventh Sunday - Feast of Jesus the King – Mt 25:31-46

 

 

 

Preparation for Christmas

The Maronite Lectionary commences in November and depending on when the first Sunday falls in the month, the Dedication to the Church could be one or two weeks in length. These two Sundays focus on the Consecration and Renewal of the Church. If the first Sunday is early in November then two Sundays are dedicated to the Church. Otherwise, a later date to the first Sunday in November means both the Consecration and Renewal of the Church are celebrated in the first week of November. From there the official Seasons begin. For both the Roman Catholic and the Maronite Catholic Lectionaries, the official start to the Seasons commences with the Season of preparation for Christmas.

In the Maronite Lectionary, the Season of the Glorious Birth of the Lord, commences immediately after the week(s) of Dedication to the Church. The Sunday Gospel passages recount week by week, the announcements leading up to the Birth of Christ. These include the ‘Announcement’ to Zechariah and Mary, as well as the ‘Revelation’ to Joseph. Proceeding Christmas and before entering the Season of the Epiphany, the Sunday focuses on the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.

 

The Season of Epiphany

Following on from the Season of the Glorious Birth, the Maronite Catholic Liturgy celebrates the Season of Epiphany, which falls on the 6th of January. For the Eastern Churches, the Epiphany is the Baptism of Jesus. In contrast the Roman Catholic Liturgy celebrates the Epiphany as the presentation of the Magi and their gifts to the child Jesus, while the Sunday falling after 6 January is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Yet 'Epiphany' as 'Manifestation' is common to both West and East Churches. The Season of Epiphany in the Maronite Lectionary runs for 1-7 weeks, depending on when Easter falls. If Easter is later in the year, then the Epiphany Season is extended.

 

Weeks of Commemoration

Three weeks prior to entering the Lenten Season is three weeks of Commemoration. The first of these Sundays is the commemoration of the Deceased Priests. The Second week of commemoration is given the title of the Righteous and Just, which is equivalent to All Saints day in the Roman Catholic Liturgy that is celebrated on the 1st of November. The Maronite Catholic liturgy celebrates all those who have led lives of righteousness and justice, whether they are named saints or not. This is celebrated throughout the entire week. The proceeding Sunday and the week that ensues, is a commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. This is equivalent to the Roman Catholic Liturgy for All Souls Day, which falls on the 2nd of November. However due to the Latinization of the Maronite Catholic Church over the centuries, and the fact that the Maronite Catholic Church in Australia is surrounded by Roman Catholic Churches, the celebration of the Feast day for saints and for the departed are often recalled and celebrated on both occasions, with distinctions blurred.

 

The Season of Lent

For both the Roman Catholic and Maronite Catholic Churches, Lent is an important time, a type of retreat when the faithful renew their baptism, by associating with Christ’s struggle. In commencing the Seasons on a Sunday, in the Maronite Church, the purpose is to have a tight calendar with no ‘empty’ days. So unlike the Roman Catholic Rite, where Lent commences with Ash Wednesday, for the Maronite Catholic Rite, the Season of Lent begins on the Sunday with the focus on the Gospel passage of the Wedding at Cana. It is followed immediately with Ash Monday, which officially begins the Season of Lent and fasting. However, once again, in Australia, numerous Maronites celebrate Ash Wednesday in their local Roman Catholic Parish rather through attending Maronite services for Ash Monday.

In the Maronite Lectionary, the Sunday Gospel passages throughout Lent focus on the healing and forgiving powers of Jesus, a reminder that Lent is a time to transform one’s life, just as the water was changed to wine in the Sunday Gospel that marks the entry into the Lenten Season. It reminds the faithful of the eternal wedding feast they are called to through Christ’s Resurrection.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday for both Churches. In the Maronite lectionary Great Lent begins with a rigorous fast on Ash Monday while Holy Week provides liturgical experiences of the most sublime poetry, music, art and ritual.

 

The Seasons of Easter and Pentecost

The Season of the Resurrection is seven weeks long in the Maronite Lectionary and the Gospel passages focus on the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. The Eastern Churches celebrate the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord as the main event of the liturgical year. The faithful greet one another with the refrain, ‘Christ is risen!’

This Easter Season is followed by the longest Season in the Maronite Catholic Lectionary, that being Pentecost. This recalls the emphases on the Holy Trinity dominant in Eastern Rites and as evidenced through the repeated invocation to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, throughout the Maronite Divine Liturgy. Many of the Sunday Gospel Readings are selected around the discourses in John’s Gospel concerning the sending of the Paraclete. As one enters deeper into the Pentecost Season, the Sunday Lectionary shifts the focus towards the choosing of the disciples, their sending out, and their mission.  

 

The Seasons of Glorious Cross

Most Seasons begin on a Sunday, while the Feast of the Glorious Cross falls on 14th September, which recalls the event of the Cross revealed to Emperor Constantine. The feast day constitutes the first week in the Season in the Maronite Lectionary. This Season focuses on Judgment Day, with its emphasis on forthcoming persecutions as depicted in Matthew’s Gospel. The Liturgical Year ends on the last week in October, and similar to the Roman Catholic Lectionary, the last Sunday is titled ‘Christ the King.’

 

Table 3 below depicts differences between the two lectionaries. However other feast days are shared, including Holy Trinity which occurs the Sunday after Pentecost, and the Feast of Christ the King which is the Last Sunday of the Liturgical Year.

 

Conclusion

Despite the variations in the Roman Catholic and Maronite Catholic lectionaries, the different Western and Eastern spiritualities, and at times what appear to be limitations of the lectionaries, overall a carefully studied lectionary offers the congregation a well rounded understanding of Jesus’ ministry and the life and mission of the Church. Each Church is unique in the way the Seasons depict the important events in the life of Christ’s earthly ministry, and the early Church.

 

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