From Maronite History
Special feasts and rituals during the church year give earthly things spiritual significance. Water, a common object, is blessed in various ways to give it a spiritual meaning. For example:
• At Epiphany water is blessed with a lighted coal to signify the fire of the Spirit who divinized the Jordan waters at Christ's baptism.
• At Pentecost water is blessed with the priest's breath to signify the Divine Breath over the waters at creation.
• At the Holy Cross water is blessed with a hand cross to signify the divine power that flows from the saving cross.
Prayers are addressed to Jesus Christ, the High Priest. The dead enter a dialogue with God and living loved ones to be companions on the journey home. Death is not the end but a passage from life on earth to life in glory. Specific Ginnazat (i.e. hymns) are sung for men, women, adults, children, clergy, religious and laity.
Maronite (Antiochene) Cross
• 3 horizontal bars signify the unity of bishops, patriarch and pope - also unity of the Triune God.
• The leaves signify the life that flows from the saving cross of Christ.
• Syriac poets refer to the cross as the Tree of Life.
The practice of fast and abstinence was regulated by the Maronite synod of 1736.
- Fast: Eating and drinking forbidden until midday.
- Abstinence: abstaining from eating all meat, oil, wine and animal products (eggs, milk, cheese etc.)
- Forbidden food: Like most oriental Christians, the Maronites kept the Mosaic ban on eating blood, suffocated animals and certain animals considered impure; and which Oriental Church Councils have many times renewed.
- Weekly Abstinence: Every Wednesday and Friday except: From Christmas to Epiphany.
- The Friday before Great Lent.
- From Easter to Pentecost.
- June 24th and 29th.
- August 6th and 15th.
- Great Lent: from Quinquagesima to Easter abstinence every day; fasting every day except on Sundays and Saturdays (with the exception of Holy Saturday).
- Apostles Lent: Abstinence four days 25th - 28th June.
- Assumption Lent: Abstinence eight days 7th - 14th August.
- Christmas Lent: Abstinence twelve days 13th - 24th December.
(Cf. Fr. R.. Janin, A.A. Les Eglise orientales et Les Rites orientaux, Paris 1922)