The Maronite Church traces its origins to the fourth-century hermit, St. Maron, and the fifth-century Monastery of St. Maron, which was founded by his disciples. These Syriac-speaking monks and the laity who gravitated around them eventually succeeded in organizing an independent hierarchy. Located in a region that straddled both Antioch and Edessa, the maronite church was heir of both the liturgical practice of the church of Antioch and of the Semitic liturgical tradition that arose from Edessa and the region to the East.
The earliest extant manuscripts of the Maronite Missal highlight the Anaphora of Third Peter (also known by its Syriac name of Sharar ), which shares a common root with the Chaldean Anaphora of Addai and Mari. The Maronites and chaldeans also share common Edessene elements in other prayers of the Divine Liturgy, in parts of the baptismal rite, and in the hymns of the divine office.
Living within the region of Antioch, the Maronites were also influenced by that tradition. With the establishment of the Maronite Patriarchate in Lebanon at the end of the seventh century, the Maronite Church adopted many Antiochene anaphoras and became a part of the Antiochene liturgical tradition. Besides the Anaphora of Third Peter, the Maronite Church employs the ancient Antiochene Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles, which became the foundation for the Byzantine Anaphora of John Chrysostom.
The first edition of the Maronite Missal was printed at Rome from 1592 to 1594. It contained some significant Latinizations. Instead of preserving the words of institution which differed in the various anaphoras, the words of institution of the Roman Missal were substituted in all the anaphoras of the Maronite Missal. The meaning of the epiklesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit) was changed. Rather than the celebrant invoking the Holy Spirit to transform the gifts into the body and blood of Christ, he prays that the effects of the Eucharist be applied to the faithful.
The most recent edition of the Missal was promulgated in 1992. It bears the title The Book of Offering (Qorbono in Syriac) According to the Tradition of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church. In this new edition all Latinizations and accretions have been removed. It contains six anaphoras. The traditional words of institution of the Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles have replaced those of the Roman rite in all the anaphoras. Also promulgated were a Book of Gospels and a Book of Epistles.
From its life in Lebanon over the centuries, the Maronite Church has also incorporated the poetry, prose, and music of the native culture and produced a rich legacy of festal rites, prayers, music, paraliturgical practices, and pious devotions. Alongside the simple, haunting melodies of Syriac chant are found the more polyphonic tones of Arabic music, and even a borrowing of European chants. The same may be said of religious art and architecture.
Bibliography: w. macomber, "A Theory on the Origins of the Syrian, Maronite, and Chaldean Rites," Orientalia Christiana Periodica 39 (1973) 235–242. b. gemayel, Avant-Messe Maronite Orientalia Christiana Analecta. v. 174 (Rome 1965). m. hayek, Liturgie Maronite (Paris 1964). s. beggiani, The Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Church (New York 1998).