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Melto D’Mororoyo: Marian devotion through Maronite hymns

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Resurrection Sunday. Photo: Maronite Eparchy of Australia/Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral.

By John Paul Laba

“In tradition it is said: The apostles heard a call, to return, from East and West, to the Virgin Mary’s side…” – Qolo Hymn “Mary, Mother of the Lord”, Maronite Book of Offering (The Assumption of the Virgin).

It’s relatively easy for us as Maronites to claim the Blessed Virgin as our own; our own mother, our own patron, our own personal vessel to Christ. We have formed a deep spiritual attachment to the Mother of God, and though we may face criticism from protestant apologetics for this devotion, there is no shame in loving Our Lady, as our love for her will never exceed that of her son’s.

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Our devotion to Mary is brought to the forefront during the feast of her Assumption this month, and it has never been more well-realised than through our plethora of Maronite Marian hymns.

The Ya Oum Allah (O Mother of God) is our Maronite anthem. The melody and lyrics of this processional hymn have been etched into our minds from a young age and this is not by chance. For centuries, Our Lady has sheltered us with her constant prayers and intercession.

During times of Maronite persecution, we turned to our mother for comfort, strength and protection. The Ya Oum Allah was and still is one of our main instruments of intercession. Our continual growth as a Maronite community is a testament to her unfailing assistance throughout the years.

The Ya Oum Allah is both a hymn of thanksgiving and a cry for aid, such is the ethos of our Maronite beliefs: bearing our crosses in humility, but never being shy of asking and waiting for the grace of divine assistance, a notion portrayed in the Hoosoyo (prayer of forgiveness) of the Maronite Mass.

When we turn to our traditional Syriac roots, we see Marian hymns unashamedly glorifying the blessedness of Our Lady. Taw Nimar is a beautiful example of this. The Syriac hymn’s lyrics roughly translate to:

“Come and convey blessedness to Mary … who was enriched with the son of her Lord. Her blessedness is great, and her remembrance is glorified. All peoples magnify their praises! Mary is the one who said: You will call me blessed, for all generations.”

Often, we find ourselves pacifying our love and devotion to Mary, so that we do not appear to be worshipping the Blessed Mother. As Maronites we seem to walk a fine line between veneration and adoration, but our Syriac tradition encourages us not to be afraid of loving and praising her.

An icon of Our Lady of the Harvest. Image: Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral - Sydney Facebook Page
An icon of Our Lady of the Harvest. Image: Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral – Sydney Facebook Page

Our fear is in forgetting our Lord and replacing him for his mother, but this is simply not possible, as every praise, prayer and supplication directed to Our Lady, is delivered straight to the ears of her Beloved Son. A more common Maronite hymn Mother of God, Mother of Life states in its third verse:

“Listen to Him, to Christ my Son! He is the way, the truth and life. I’ll lead you to him, guide you to Heaven…”

Our Lady has no desire for honour or glory. She has already been assumed into heaven and has received her crown. It can be hard for us as sinners to conceptualise the purity and holiness of the saints. They have found favour in God’s eyes for detaching from all earthly things and giving themselves completely to God, by mastering the art of prayer.

The Blessed Virgin takes our flawed prayers and perfects them. She offers to the Trinity a purified rendition of our requests and never ceases in attempting to draw us closer to her Son.

As the apostles ran to Mary’s side at the time of her death, we too are called to run for her protection from evil and be living witnesses to her purity, holiness and intercessory power. At the wedding in Cana, a few words whispered into her son’s ears were enough to change the mind of the Word Incarnate.

Now imagine how quickly Christ will run to our aid when he hears us glorifying his mother with hymns of praise. If singing a hymn to God is the equivalent of praying twice, then singing praise His Blessed Mother is intercession twofold.

“O Bride of the Spirit, O Mother of Empathy, fly across the sky, over a throne of light.” – Min Rooba Loubnan (Arabic Maronite Recessional Hymn)

John Paul Laba is a youth committee leader and pianist/singer at St Raymond’s Maronite Parish in Auburn.

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