Cincinnati, OH | Lenten Retreat & Mammoul Day

Cincinnati, OH | Lenten Retreat & Mammoul Day

Lenten Retreat

by Ashley Farris

On 9 March 2019, St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Church had the privilege of experiencing a glimmer of light during the Lenten season. Fr. Dennis McManus, priest and professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University humbly invited the retreat participants on a journey with Jesus by reminding the listeners there is only one thing that matters: helping each other get to heaven. He began his series of reflections with the familiar gospel story from John 7:53-8:1-11, A Woman Caught in Adultery. He challenged the participants to listen to the story in a way which “opens our heart to Jesus’ message to learn how to be accountable to love rather than to punishment.” He explained that when we are accountable to how people love us, then we are more inclined to love and act differently than when expecting punishment, just as Jesus showed in his response to the woman. How do we open up to Jesus’ message? By recognizing the moments, we have also been that woman or perhaps the scribes and Pharisees. How beautifully challenging to begin the retreat and the Lenten season by placing oneself in the same light as this sinful woman or Pharisees and begin the process of opening one’s heart to a new way of loving. With each reflection from Fr. McManus, there were multiple opportunities to seek one’s own woundedness in the wilderness of one’s soul, so that during these Forty Days one could silently dive into the deep, dark areas one tries to avoid - the places that seem unlovable. In this stillness and silence, one realizes it is in the very woundedness one was trying to avoid is where wholeness and healing begin and where emerges a new way of love, a love more like Jesus. What better way to journey through Lent than to begin to transform one’s heart to beat more with the rhythm of Jesus’ and in doing so one can’t help but focus on one thing: helping each other get to heaven.

Making Maamoul Family Day

Making maamoul with friends or family members is a very rich tradition dear to our culture. In fact, many people of the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Africa) make maamoul. For we as Christians, the maamoul has even deeper meaning as we eat them on Easter. The maamoul is symbolic of following Christ through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The wooden mold that shapes the maamoul symbolizes the wood of Jesus’ Cross. The designs and pattern of the cookies resembles the shape of the sponge with which Jesus was given vinegar to drink as He hung on the Cross. The outside of the dough of the maamoul contains no sugar just as there is no sweetness to Jesus’s brutal death; however, this sweetness lays hidden in the filling of the maamoul just as the sweetness of new life of the Resurrection lays hidden in the Jesus’ tomb. Also, we eat maamoul after the Great Fast of Lent. Like maamoul, the outside of it is bland as fasting, but the core is sweet as our interior spiritual life accepts the joy of living in Christ.

To celebrate Holy Week and prepare for the Resurrection as a family, the Maronite Youth Organization (MYO) at St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Church in Cincinnati, Ohio hosted a Making Maamoul Family Day for the whole parish. On Holy Saturday, 20 April 2019, we began the event with a short talk on the importance of the sacrament of Confession, and then, filled St. Aquilina Chapel to celebrate the Rite of Forgiveness with our pastor, Fr. George Hajj. After praying with each other, we gathered in the hall around several tables and bowls of dough as parishioner Mrs. Cori Seif walked us through the steps on how to make date-filled mammoul! Everyone was given the opportunity shape the mammoul and fill trays of their very own personally designed maamoul to take home with them after they baked in the hall’s kitchen.

At noon, we prayed the Angelus and ate lunch. Thanks to parishioners Vicki Misleh and her family who run the neighboring Skyline Chili Restaurant, we enjoyed a donated lunch of Cincinnati Skyline chili conies (a hotdog on a bun covered in chili and cheese)! Those who came also enjoyed adding design to dyed Easter eggs, filling plastic eggs with toys and candy for the little kids to hunt on Easter the next day, signed cards to those who are in need of prayers in the parish, and finished with an egg-to-egg battle in our Lebanese egg cracking tournament! Special thanks to those of the Maronite Young Adult (MYA) group that also helped make sure the event ran smoothly! The process of making maamoul has a beautiful way of bringing people together to make new connections and share their stories. The MYO of St. Anthony was glad to bring the entire church community and visitors together to experience this Easter tradition! Christ is truly among us, here. Indeed, He is risen!