EWTN Catholic Q&A
Which liturgy?
Question from Denise on 08-11-2018:

Dear Mr. Dragani, Having had the opportunity to experience the Latin Mass, I much prefer it to the new one. But I will soon be moving to an area that has no LM, but does have a Byzantine and a Maronite church with the Divine Liturgy. Only having experience an Orthodox liturgy once, I think I'd much prefer one of these. Can you tell me the difference between the Byzantine and Maronite liturgies/cultures? Many thanks!

Answer by Robert Klesko on 08-24-2018:

The Byzantine Liturgy (also the Orthodox Liturgy that you experienced) is the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom stemming from Constantinople in the 5th century. The Maronite Liturgy stems from the Western Syriac tradition, originally stemming from Antioch and having numerous anaphoras (Eucharistic prayers). You would note some minor differences in vestments and architecture, and obvious differences in the words of the prayers to reflect their origins. The Byzantine Divine Liturgy is always celebrated ad orientem behind the iconostasis, while the Maronite Liturgy is celebrated versus populum. The Byzantine tradition utilizes leavened bread for the Eucharist, while the Maronite tradition uses unleavened bread.

If you have both these liturgies available to you, the best thing to do is to attend both, get to know the Liturgy and the community and prayerfully determine where you would like to call home. Also remember that the Eastern Churches are a lot more than just beautiful Liturgy, they are entire treasury of theology and spirituality. For us, the experience of the Divine Liturgy is intimately tied to our theological and spiritual tradition. I would also recommend that when you do attend leave aside the service books for the first few liturgies- use your senses to really take in the action of the Liturgy, instead of flipping around in a service book. Finally, be sure to introduce yourself to the priest/deacon(s) as they can help you to get oriented and answer any questions you may have.

Christ is Among Us! God bless!