I love the Syriac tradition of liturgical theology. Often I find it a far more satisfying liturgical tradition than the Latin church craziness I face. It is Semitic, very biblical and rich in humanity. I recommend that you immerse yourself in the poetry of Saint Ephrem, deacon and Doctor of the Church.
The Maronite Church is one of whose heritage is West Syrian theologically; historically it’s rooted in the mountains of Lebanon. Their Advent Season has already begun with what is called the Season of Announcements
(follow this link for more info on the season). This past Sunday was the Announcement to Mary. This coming weekend the Maronites will celebrate the Visitation of Elizabeth.
Father Steven Bonian, SJ, writes frequently on the sacred Liturgy of the West Syrian Church, the Maronites. See how he connects the Creator, creation and the Liturgy; the image of the Garden is key here for us Christians who are seeking salvation, that is, to dwell again in the Garden of Eden.
Father Bonian said about the Sunday of Mary’s Announcement:
Today, the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (3:15-22), reminds us of how the promise made to Abraham is now being fulfilled through those who believe; those who live by the Law and the Torah of the heart through righteousness. To such as these –like Mary– is the gift of God and his promise handed down through his angels. The Gospel of Luke makes it clear that Mary is the righteous one who has gained the favor of God, and thus, inherited this Gift (Christ) and the Promise (Salvation).
In the Gospel-Icon of Mary and the Angel drawn for us by Saint Luke, and framed for us in this Sunday’s prayers –in the context of the relationship of the creator with his creation –the mountains, the earth, the sea, and the waves are rejoicing in God’s Word! Mary herself has become the New Earth (as Saint Ephrem would teach us) and true representative for all of God’s creation. The Son of God comes to dwell in her, and through her God has returned to live –as in Paradise— in the midst of his creation. Now in Mary, the new covenant, and God’s plan of salvation is being fulfilled. She has become the Cloud, the Pure Womb, the Fountain of Life and Blessings!
As we re-visit these Gospel passages through the meditation -prayers of the Hoosoyo [the incense prayer] we contemplate how benevolent God has been to our human nature! How Mary has fulfilled the hope that God had invested in humanity. In the dialogue-meditation of Mary with the Angel we see a reflection not only Mary herself, but also of our humanity, in dialogue with divinity. First, Mary responds with fear and amazement to the divine angel showing her human vulnerability –and also our mortality before God’s divinity –but as she answers the angel of God we also find in her courage, true faith, and wisdom.
Saint Ephrem, the great poet and teacher of our Syriac tradition, speaks of Mary as the New Eve, and yet also the new Garden of Eden and Paradise. God’s dwelling in our human world. In the midst of this Garden of Paradise now stands Christ –the Tree of LIfe in the New Paradise –who gives Life to all who receive him from the hands of Mary. Mary’s acceptance –her fiat–has made us children of God. Now she is both the mother of Christ –and as our representative–our mother as well!
Like Mary, the Church and her children, have become dwelling places for God, form where God’s loving care for humanity reaches out to the world. Now God has come to dwell among us —Emmanuel (God with us). The good news of the Gospel that Mary has received from the angel –is the good news we now have to share with all of humanity through justice and peace. Like Mary, we too, the Church and her children, are called to become both receivers and heralds of God’s great tidings of hope for humanity.