Holy Synod of the Syriac Maronite Church gives boost to the Syriac language

BETH KERKE (BKERKI), Lebanon – In their Holy Synod of June 19, 2021, the gathered hierarchs of the Syriac Maronite Church decided to give the Syriac language a more prominent role in spiritual affairs. The synod, held under the spiritual direction of Patriarch Mor Béchara Boutros al-Rai, stated in its closing statement on liturgical reform that, “The Synod Fathers addressed the issue of reconciling tradition and modernization, heritage and contemporary interpretation, in order for our liturgy to align with today’s culture, especially in the countries of the diaspora, and to respect the youth who aspire to preserve the Antiochene Syriac Maronite identity.”

The church fathers focused on current and future challenges manifest in the development of the ecclesiastical body and the acknowledgement and openness to the reality of the youth. The Synod decided to put more weight on teaching and incorporating the Syriac language. The church fathers emphasized formation programs to meet the needs of the Church globally, “to deepen Maronite spirituality, liturgy, and the Syriac Maronite language, and to encourage priests to specialize in areas appropriate to the needs of the Church.”

Syriac Maronite Church school (Left). Syriac Maronite school book from 1913.

The Syriac Maronite Church belongs to the Syriac family of churches, along with the Melkites, the Syriac Catholics and Orthodox, the Chaldean Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East. They all have the Syriac language as the official basis for their liturgy, but unfortunately time, adversity and force majeure have led many of these churches to surrender Syriac to the everyday use of Arabic – in speech and writing. The Melkites, derived from the Syriac word “malko” or those who adhere to the (Byzantine) emperor and dogmas, have done so many centuries ago.

Also readSyriac Identity of Lebanon – part 3: Maronite Patriarchs and the Preservation of Syriac Identity by Dr. Amine Bar-Julius Iskandar

The Syriac Maronite Church mostly uses Arabic for prayers and little Syriac. In 2005, the Syriac Maronite Synod had in its recommendations to preserve and revive the Syriac language and culture in all Syriac Maronite schools and universities and stipulated that; “The synod urges the establishments attached to the Maronite Church to draw up a practical plan to revive this language.” And it specified that; “Universities must work to teach the Syriac language and its intellectual and literary heritage. … They will have to collect, publish, translate this heritage and integrate it into the academic programs.”

This latest decision of the Syriac Maronite Church gives another impetus to the revival of the Syriac language within the Syriac churches. The Syriac Maronite Church, the largest of the Syriac churches, could be a role model for the other Syriac churches to protect and revive their authentic Christianity and the fundamental treasures of the Syriac people.

It would be a great loss to the world if the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus Christ would be lost to the world.