Monday, February 08, 2016

Maronite Year XXII

Ash Wednesday is specifically a custom that arose in the Latin Church. While it's common both East and West to have a specially recognized day for starting Lent off on the right foot, the imposition of ashes is a Western idea. The only Eastern churches that regularly do it are the Maronites and the Syro-Malabar, and in both cases it is a latinization. It is a borrowing that fits the Maronite Church very well, though; historically, the Maronites began as an intensive ascetic movement, so in general ascetic practices meld very easily into Maronite life. Obviously, however, it makes no sense to have an Ash Wednesday in the Maronite calendar, because Lent begins on Cana Sunday. So the imposition of ashes is done on Monday. Through much of the world, however, Maronite churches also will recognize and distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday, as part of the Maronite tendency to recognize Latin holidays as well as their own. This is especially true in areas of the world like the United States, where a significant portion of regular parishioners are likely to be Latin rite themselves. However, the ashes distributed on Ash Wednesday have to be ashes that were already blessed on Ash Monday.

Historically the Maronites have tended to have no particular regulations for Great Lent, in part because the centrality of ascetic practices to its life has meant that fasting was a regular and common occurrence, anyway. In more recent times, however, as the Church has expanded, the requirement to fast and abstain on Ash Monday and Good Friday, and to abstain on Fridays of Lent, has been established; this is another imitation of Latin practice. The Maronite rule for abstinence is the same as in the Latin Church (no meat), while the rule for fasting is no food and no drink (except water) from midnight to noon, with food only in moderation afterward. All of this is only a minimum, however. The traditional Maronite practice is to fast and abstain (from both meat and dairy) every weekday of Lent except for the feasts of St. Maron, of the Forty Martyrs, and of St. Joseph.

Ash Monday
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:7; Matthew 6:16-21

By the work of fasting and prayer,
our fathers were given holiness;
they returned to You and were made wise.
By heroic labors they were raised;
fasting and prayer make the heart clean.

We do not work for perishing food,
but for the Bread of Life, Food of Souls;
our treasure is not in worldly things,
but eternal in the vaults of heaven.
Fasting and prayer open bright gates.

The polished mirror reflects splendor;
our souls when polished reflect glory.
From soul to soul the light of Christ shines,
ever greater, never diminished.
Fasting and prayer spread a great light.

By Your prayer You taught us to pray;
by Your prayer You brought hope to us.
By Your fasting You taught us to fast;
by Your fasting You redeemed your Church.
Fasting and prayer give the Kingdom.

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