Tradition: Christianity

Maran ’athâ

Christianity

The words come from the New Testament: ‘If there is anyone who doesn’t love the Lord, may he be accursed. Maranatha. (Cor 16,22)’. Spoken by Saint Paul they may be found in The Didache – The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, short ancient Christian manual of prayer not included in the Biblical canon.

MEANING

Our Lord has come. From the Aramaic: maran ’athâ.
Written as maranâ ‘thâ it means: Come, Our Lord!
It is a combination of two Aramaic words which have never been translated into Greek but only transliterated instead. This is why they have got two different meanings, depending on their form.

MESSAGE

All you need to reach your spiritual awakening is already with you. There is nothing you should look forward to, no waiting and no preparation is needed. The mantra helps you to calm your mind, immerse it in the mindful presence here and now.

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In the Christian music industry, Maranatha is being sung commonly but only as a popular Christian song with its specific phrase: ‘Come, Lord’. However the original message of ‘Maran ’athâ’ is quite different as it contains an unbelievably precious information coming from the times of ancient Christians when ‘Maranatha’ was not only just a song but a kind of mantra. Her origins are in Maran ’athâ – meaning a very deep meditation. These words appear in the New Testament only once, at the end of the ‘First Letter to Corinthians’: ‘If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha!’ (Cor. 16,22). The words used by Saint Paul are supposed to come from ‘The Didache – The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’, a short ancient Christianity manual of worship which has never been included in the New Testament. The very word of ‘Maranatha’ is actually a combination of two Aramaic words that have not been translated from Aramaic to Greek but only transliterated instead. In the process of transliteration the focus is rather on the number of used characters than expressing the exact meaning of the phrase. Going back to its Aramaic origins, we can clearly see that the two words making an original mantra may have two different forms of description. Depending on them the meaning varies significantly. One of these forms, definitely the more popular one, is ‘marana ‘thâ’ understood as ‘come, Lord!’ However there is also another Aramaic form of ‘maran ’athâ’ which should be understood as ‘our Lord has come’. The difference between the versions is crucial. The former one is a prediction, expectation that something is going to happen while the latter means that what we were expecting has already happened. However today we use just one of these meanings: the one pointing at the future, not present reality. Moreover, contemporary footnotes to the New Testament never mention a possibility of understanding Maranatha in its other, ‘current’ meaning. In the footnotes to the Letter to Corinthians we read that: ‘The phrase ‘aram’ means, depending on how we divide the words, that ‘Our Lord is coming’ or ‘Come, our Lord’, which seems to be more probable’. This explanation is clearly misleading for the readers of the New Testament. Using Present Continuous while saying that ‘someone is coming’ does not actually mean talking about present reality. The fact that someone is coming means that this person is in the process of coming but he or she is still not present among us.
There is another figure we should look at as he had put an enormous effort into popularization of the ancient original meaning of Maranatha. The person I mean is a Benedictine monk named John Douglas Main, who has learned meditation from swami Satyananda in Kuala Lumpur. Having come back to Europe he settled in the Ealing Abbey in London and started working on returning meditation to the Christian world. His actions have led already in 1975 to the creation of ecumenic network of Christian meditation groups, later transformed into World Community for Christian Meditation. John Douglas Main (OSB) recommended recitation of maran ’athâ as a perfect Christian mantra. Its original Aramaic harmonic quality contained in the four syllables ‘ma-ra-na-tha’ helps us to calm our mind, immerse it in the full mindful presence, here and now. Interestingly Main is believed to have found out in his research that the ancient Christians used to perform this mantra in a way very similar to how the Hindus do it with ‘So Hum’ mantra, using sounds produced during an inhale. So the mantra is being recited according to the following breathing cycle: ‘ma’ (inhale), ‘ra’ (exhale), ‘na’ (inhale’), ‘tha’ (exhale again’). Leaving out this ancient approach behind us, we should focus on what is the most important in this mantra: its actual meaning. ‘All you need to reach your spiritual awakening is already with you. There is nothing or nobody you should look forward to, no waiting and no preparation is necessary.’
In our interpretation of this mantra we have also used phrases from ‘Gayatri Mantra’, phonetically described as ‘Om Bhur Bhuwah Swah, Tat Savitur Warenjam, Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat.’ The best available translation of the mantra is: ‘O, Creator of the Universe, free from pain and sorrow, you have gifted us the gift of creation of our awareness, let us drop the curtain of illusion, so we could meditate for your glory and receive the light of pure mind leading us to the illumination.’
There is a good reason why we have combined the traditional Hindu ‘Gayatri mantra’ with the ancient Christian ‘Maran ’athâ’. There are many people believing that ‘Gayatri mantra’ is the origin of Christian ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (‘Pater Noster’).