The Prophet Isaiah describes the mission of the Word of God:
“For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth…So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Is 55:10-11)
Early Syriac Christians received this Word and responded generously in their own particular way with a faith that is both Semitic and Biblical. With origins in the first Judeo-Christian proclamation of the Gospel, their patrimony preserves the language and thought-world of the Gospel, and echoes the very words sanctified by the lips of the Lord when he gave life, “Talitha Qumi” (Mk 5:41) and cured the sick “Ephatha” (Mk 7:73). It is the language in which the first generations of believers prayed, “Maranatha!” (Rev 22:20).
Saint Ephrem (+373) articulated this faith with such simplicity and clarity that Pope Benedict XV proclaimed him Doctor of the Universal Church (Principi apostolorum 5 October 1920). In his Commentary on the Gospel he outlines in typical Syriac fashion the profound richness of the Scriptures that bear witness to Christ, Word of the Father:
Who is capable of understanding the full extent of what is to be discovered in a single utterance of Yours, my Lord? Like thirsty people drinking from a fountain, we leave behind far more than we take away… anyone who encounters the scriptures should not think for a moment that the single one of its riches he has discovered is all there is. On the contrary, he should realize that it is he himself who is only capable of discovering this particular one out of the abundant riches that are waiting!
Saint Ephrem likewise observes that in nature the spiritual and material realms work together to bear witness to the Father’s plan of salvation through His eternal Word:
“In his book, Moses described the creation of the natural world, so that nature and scripture together might witness to the Creator: Nature through our use of it, scripture through our reading of it.” (de Paradiso V, 2)
In words that refer to the Holy Eucharist, Saint Ephrem calls attention to the working of the eternal Word to heal and give life through the Mysteries:
“He mixed yeast from his body with the earth and smeared it on the eyes of the blind man. Only the One who created Adam from the earth is able to restore him through his Bread to the fullness of life.” (Sermo de Domino)
From the Syriac tradition it would be presumptuous to think one can adequately describe the mystery of Jesus, the Word of God, consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father. Nature, Scriptures and the Mysteries point to but cannot contain Him. The Church, through Her Ecumenical Councils, protects the mystery by declaring “God with us” to be true God and true man!
Throughout the ages the Maronite Church, Syriac and Antiochene in origin, Semitic and Biblical in culture, and one in communion with the Church Universal by nature and grace has proclaimed the Gospel and prayed:
“Matthew the Apostle, Mark, Luke and John, are like four lighthouses: they illuminate the nations. They are the light on the road to salvation that all people may see in the face of Christ, the splendor of divinity” (Hoosoyo for Thursdays).
At this Extraordinary Synod of Bishops dedicated to the “Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”, the Maronite Church offers Her own unique and Catholic way to respond to the Word Incarnate, “drinking from the fountain” of Sacred Scriptures humbly confessing that we can never “discover all that there is”.
In union with the Successor of Peter, we pray that the Church may continue to proclaim, witness and hope that His Word, Jesus Christ, welcomed by believers of every age and culture, will never “return to (Him) void” but will continue in us to “achieve the end for which (He) sent it”. (Is 55:11)
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)