On this Thursday before Lent, culturally, in many Maronite homes, they celebrate what is often termed the “Thursday of the Drunk”. It is not that we are not against a stiff drink in moderation, but there are some things that culturally we should reflect on and reconsider. Congregating and feasting with families is a great hallmark of our Maronite culture and is to be encouraged. Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine. However the dangers of alcohol when consumed in excess or to the point that one is “drunk’ is widely known and to be condemned. Becoming so intoxicated that we hurt ourselves or others is inconsistent with our Christian values.
The “Thursday of the Drunk” precedes the Entrance into Lent which begins this Cana Sunday. In previous generations, a lamb was slaughtered on this Thursday because meat (and also alcohol) were completely absent from the menu until Easter in Maronites homes. Many Maronites continue to follow that tradition and we very much encourage all of you to follow it.
The term “Thursday of the Drunk” has no liturgical basis that we can find and certainly we can not imagine that the liturgy or theology of the Maronite Church would encourage anyone to get drunk on any day.
A plausible explanation for the genesis of this cultural tradition is that as we know, in the Maronite Liturgical Calendar this week we are remembering the Faithful Departed. “Khamis El Zakara”, means “Thursday of Remembrance”, referring to to the remembrance of the faithful departed. Replacing the “Z” in Zakara in Arabic with with an “S”, changes the word to “Sakara”, which means drunkenness – leading to the play on the words from “Thursday of Remembrance” to “Thursday of the Drunk.”
However perhaps if we can reconsider the matter from a different theological angle. The Syriac fathers often speak of the light and the luminous the eye. The more the eye can see, the greater the faith it can have. In the scriptures we hear that when St Paul is converted “immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored.” (Acts 9)
Perhaps we all need to take this opportunity to recognise that we are all spiritually “blinded”, “impeded” and “drunk” in some way and it is distancing us from God. We should take the opportunity this Thursday to consider those matters which are in our lives, like too much alcohol, impeding our senses and causing us to sin. While we gather with family we can take the opportunity to consider communally and individually what we want to do to bring ourselves and our families closer to God this Lent.
Over the last three weeks we commemorated the departed. Those commemorations were a reminder that we are on a journey that does not end on earth. Our life on earth is a preparation for our life after death. This is a time when we need to reflect on course of our lives and assess ourselves. If we had to face our Maker to be judged today, what could we answer? We have been warned about our judgement. This is the time for us to look inside ourselves and work out what is making us “drunk” and to make the changes necessary which will last beyond the days of Great Lent. What we give up or take up should clear our drunken senses and bring us closer to Christ and his Heavenly Kingdom. You won’t be able to work out what those things are by getting even more “drunk” this Thursday.
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