Divine Service of the Holy Mysteries celebrated by bishop



GREER — Bishop Robert J. Baker joined his friend, Msgr. Ronald Beshara, in a Maronite Pontifical Liturgy at Blessed Trinity Church Nov. 4. The two priests first met in Rome 30 years ago while each was pursuing advanced studies.

Bishop Baker wore white Maronite vestments and carried the hand cross. A small image of a cedar of Lebanon was embroidered on the back of the chasuble. The occasion for white vestments was the Maronite celebration of Renewal of the Church.

Bishop Baker said at the beginning of the liturgy, “We are one church with many different rites.” All Catholic rites share the same Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, “who unites us in the Catholic family on earth.”

The Gospel reading came from the 13th chapter of John: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Bishop Baker told the congregation that St. Theresa, the Little Flower, had spent much time meditating on this passage.

Bishop Baker’s homily was about love and reconciliation. He asked the congregation, “Why do we pray? Why are we here today?… We’re wanting to experience God’s love.” He spoke of how Mother Teresa said it was impossible to make it through the day without hearing God say “I love you.”

The bishop emphasized that we cannot change the situation in the Middle East, but we can change the situation in our homes and communities. “The reason there are problems over there is because there are problems here.” We cannot mend these terrible situations “unless we have reconciliation in families.”

Bishop Baker quoted a newspaper column by Dr. Joyce Brothers in which she said not to wait until the other party is dead before trying to reconcile past problems. He said, “the Lord calls us to reconnect” and celebrate reconciliation with God.

Bishop Baker celebrated the Divine Service of the Holy Mysteries, as Mass is known in the Maronite tradition. Msgr. Beshara did not concelebrate the liturgy; he assisted. Msgr. Beshara later explained, “We assist the bishop … because all the mysteries come from our shepherd.”

One of the most noticeable differences between the Maronite rite and the Latin rite is how holy Communion is distributed. In this Eastern Catholic rite, the priest dips the consecrated host into the consecrated wine (intinction) before placing the host on the communicant’s tongue. Only a priest or a deacon can distribute holy Communion.

At the conclusion of the liturgy, Marlene Saad, a leader of the South Carolina Maronite Community, presented Bishop Baker with a signed copy of an icon commissioned by Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi. Bishop Doueihi heads the Eparchy (diocese) of Brooklyn, one of the two Maronite eparchies in the United States.

Before the recessional, Bishop Baker asked the congregation to “pray for unity with our Orthodox brothers and sisters,” a special intention of Pope John Paul II. The bishop stressed that the events of Sept. 11 challenge us to work for unity, harmony, and peace in our world with other Christians and with those of other faiths.

The next Maronite tradition day will be in January.