The end of our Maronite Lenten journey

One happy part of the conclusion each year of the Maronite Lenten journey, writes Christina Maksisi, is a beloved family and community tradition known as Hosanna Sunday

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The author as a child (centre) with her siblings on Hosanna Sunday in 1994. Photo supplied

My earliest memory of attending church with my family, is the excitement my siblings and I experienced heading into the week of Hosanna Sunday. This was our special day. My mum would always buy us new clothes and my dad would be in charge of our candles for the procession. He would typically decorate the simple white candle with ribbon that matched our outfits and would pick small branches from the olive tree to add to it too. Like in many families, the youngest (me) would have the biggest candle.

This tradition continues today. Children dress in their best outfits, holding candles decorated with ribbon and olive branches. The church is overflowing and the liturgy begins with explaining the typology foretold in Zechariah 9:9.

“Who is the great King who comes, spoken of in prophecy? As he rides a donkey’s colt, crowds spread cloaks along his way. With Palms children go to meet their Lord and King, and they shout with joy” (Maronite Liturgy- Entrance Hymn).

These traditions are passed down from generation to generation and they continue to flourish. It is a special day for children, as they hold the candles and wave the olive branches for Jesus. They dress in their Sunday best and proceed around the church with their decorated candles (symbolising Jesus as the light of the world), waving olive branches and palms.

“They carried palms and olive branches, while shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord to save us and renew us” (Maronite Liturgy- Opening Prayer for Hosanna Sunday).

Five women representing the five wise bridesmaids take part in the Liturgy of the Arrival at the Harbour (see below) at Our Lady of Lourdes co-Cathedral in Harris Park. Photo: Emily Dib

As Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem, we welcome Jesus our King, who has come to be king for all.

“You are honoured by the crowds, the old and the young, infants and children, who spread their cloaks and branches before you” (Maronite Liturgy- Prayer of Forgiveness).

The Maronite Liturgy celebrates this day with many great hymns, explaining the typology and prophecy being fulfilled. The Liturgy ends with a procession around the church or in the streets. Children are held up on shoulders and all sing Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, in the highest. The community comes together to profess its faith, that Jesus has come for all, rich and poor, to fulfil a prophecy and become the sacrificial lamb.

There is a Maronite tradition in the evening known as the Arrival at the Harbour. We end our Lenten journey and are ready to enter Passion Week (Holy Week). The Rite begins outside the church, all the doors are closed, and the community gathers awaiting Jesus the bridegroom, just as the Ten Bridesmaids did when they took their lamps and awaited the bridegroom (Mathew 25:1).

Maronite eparch Bishop Tarabay knocks on the church doors as the Liturgy of the Arrival at the Harbour begins. Photo: Emily Dibb

The priests knock on the church door three times and five women, representing the Five Wise Bridesmaids, enter holding their candles followed by the faithful. All follow them inside and the liturgy continues with hymns and prayers as we enter the final stage of our fasting, ready to endure with Jesus before he is sacrificed for us.

A Maronite icon depicts the Five Wise Bridesmaids standing with Jesus, ready with their lanterns lit. Image: Fr Abdo Badawi

As depicted in the Maronite icon by Fr Abdo Badawi, the Five Wise Bridesmaids stand with Jesus, ready with their lanterns lit. We are ready to enter Passion Week and like the wise women, we have prepared through fasting. We have arrived at the Harbour of Salvation, which is Jesus, we are ready to enter with Him in His passion. In the bottom left is our ship that we have sailed to arrive, the ship or ark is our church, arriving safely after our lentern journey. In the bottom left of the icon is the anchor is symbolising our safe arrival.

May we enter Passion week with an open heart, ready to receive Jesus into our lives. We have fasted during our lentern journey to ready ourselves to receive Christ, he is our salvation. We welcome you Lord, into our lives, we are renewed through our fasting, so that we may be ready to stand beside you as you fulfil your prophecy, to be sacrificed for our sins.

Christina Maksisi is one of the four women behind Living Maronite. For more ideas like this and to learn about the Maronite traditions visit livingmaronite.com.au and @learningtoraisesaints.