The Maronite Church holds a unique position in Catholic Christianity. As one of the Eastern Rite churches, the Maronites are in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Yet their customs and traditions are in many ways distinct from Western Christianity. This comes, in part, from Maronites' identity as both a religious people and as an ethnic group within the nation of Lebanon.

Traditions Built on History

The customs and traditions of the Maronites flow from their history. The Maronites were founded in the late 400s by a monk from Antioch named Maron. Maron and his followers escaped persecution by an opposing religious group, the Monophysites, by relocating to the mountains of Lebanon. Modern Maronite customs and traditions can be traced back to these early days of the group's history.

Maronite Monasticism

The Maronites began as a monastic community and blossomed into a much larger church in just under two centuries. Yet, monasticism remains a strong tradition in the church. By the early 21st Century the Maronites have 14 monastic orders with nearly 2,000 adherents. Maronite monks and nuns may serve in universities, churches and other ministries in both the Maronite Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Maronite Rite

Some of the most distinct Maronite traditions are contained within their worship or liturgy, often referred to as the Maronite Rite. The Maronite liturgy opens with a call for the mercy of God, compared to the Roman Catholic liturgy which begins with calling to mind sins.

The Eucharist in the Maronite tradition differs from the Western church as well. The bishop, priest or deacon dips the Eucharistic bread into the wine and then places it directly on the communicant's tongue.

A Tradition of Language

Aramaic was the everyday language spoken by many in Israel in the time of Christ, and the Maronite Church has made efforts throughout the centuries to preserve this ancient language. Portions of the Maronite liturgy are sung in Aramaic. Some Maronite communities in modern times still practice Aramaic as their primary language of worship and advocate for its use even outside of worship.