Melkite Greek Catholic Church


The Holy Nativity of Christ 2018
Dear Clergy and Laity across America,
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
“O little Child lying in a manger, by means of a star, heaven has called and led to You the Magi, the first fruits of the Gentiles who were astounded to behold, not scepters and thrones, but extreme poverty. What indeed is lower than a cave? What is humbler than swaddling clothes – and yet the splendor of Your divinity shone forth in them resplendently. O Lord, glory to You!” (Hypacoi of the Nativity)

Scripture scholars tell us the Magi came from far away. They were filled with a desire to find someone for whom their restless hearts and minds yearned. “…the Magi came to Bethlehem, going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His Mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him” (Mt 2:11). They encountered Jesus. They were probably surprised because, instead of a palace, they encountered Jesus, the new-born King, in a poor house, maybe even the cave, enthroned in the arms of a young girl and not surrounded by regal attendants.

Encounter with Jesus: isn’t this the meaning of Christmas? Isn’t this the meaning and reason of our life’s journey? To encounter Jesus more and more, to know Him better, to love Him more, to imitate His example, and to fulfill His will.

Like the Magi we are always seeking Jesus. We find Him in the Church and within each other. God manifests Himself through the Mysteries of the Church – we especially encounter Him in the Eucharist and we become what we eat – the Body of Christ. We fall down like the Magi and worship Him. We become one with Him in adoration, peace, and love.

I offer my prayer for you:
  • With faith, the Magi set out on their journey to seek Jesus. May all in the Church be guided by faith on their journey through life.
  • With courage, the Magi followed the star that pointed out Jesus. May those who labor for peace, justice, and an end to war and terrorism not lose courage in their efforts.
  • With patience, the Magi endured challenges and discomforts on their journey to Jesus. May the sick, the suffering, the grieving and lonely, the poor and the elderly, the marginalized, the addicted, and those out of work be patient and filled with hope in their trials.
  • With longing, the Magi left all to encounter Jesus. May priests and religious and those being called to these vocations be generous in leaving all to serve Him in His Church.
  • With hope, the Magi sought for Jesus. May families find Jesus in one another by their mutual love, understanding, and respect.
  • With awe, the Magi adored Jesus. May we find and worship Him in the manifestations of God in the flesh.
  • With humility, the Magi were blessed by Jesus. May He bless us this Christmas and Theophany with an answer to the needs and intentions we bring before Him.

  • Like the Magi may each and every one of us encounter Jesus as we celebrate His birth each day of our life. I offer my love, prayers, good wishes, and blessings, and my greetings for a blessed and healthy New Year 2019.

    Sincerely yours in Christ God,

    ✠ Nicholas

    The Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra

    Eparchial Bishop of Newton
    Apostolic Administrator of Melkites in Mexico
Christ is among us! He is and always will be!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“Even as you wish men to do to you, so also do you in return.” “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” In these two beautiful commandments of Our Lord in today's Gospel, Christ our God reveals to us the way He wants His disciples to live in this world; He sets out for us the Christian way of living. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and “be merciful, as your Father is merciful.”

To be a follower of Jesus is to imitate our heavenly Father who is rich in mercy--to act even as God acts! Indeed, “Christianity,” in the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “is an imitation of the Divine Nature.” When we received baptism and chrismation, we were renewed and anointed--we were Christened--made into to other “Christs”. We put off the “old man”, and we put on Christ. St. Gregory the Theologian said: “Be as God to the unfortunate, by imitating the mercy of God. For in nothing do we draw so close to God as in doing good to one another.” What a noble and lofty calling we are given in Holy Baptism.

What does it mean to be a merciful person? St. Peter of Damascus offers us the following description: “The merciful man is he who gives to others what he has himself received from God—whether it be money, or food, or strength, a helpful word, a prayer, or anything else that he has through which he can express his compassion...” The merciful man is one who, in the words of today’s Gospel, does good without expecting a reward.

In our secular culture today it is “every man for himself,” and our technology bombards us from morning till night with alluring messages that tell us we deserve the best of everything, that we should get all we can get before some else gets it, and that we constantly need more and better material things in order to be happy. Yet, in the midst of this materialism and consumerism, our Lord sets before us a clear choice: do we live the lifestyle of sinners according to the sensible standards and secular priorities of this world, or do we live according to the commandments of God? Do we love only those who love us; curse those who curse us; and lend only to those from whom we will receive a substantial return? Or, do we love our enemies; give to everyone who asks us; and bless those who curse us?

But perhaps we think this standard is out of our reach or too difficult for us to attain. In today’s Epistle, the Lord reminds us that “My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.” Christ became one of us, so that He could show us how to live a Godly life. He has become the standard by which He calls us to live, and He has sent us His Holy Spirit to become for us strength in our weakness. Jesus is the mercy of our heavenly Father, and He bids us to imitate Him.

And so, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I come to you today, as we begin, once again, our annual Bishop’s Appeal, in the spirit of Jesus’ powerful words—“be merciful even as your Father is merciful”—to plead for your mercy. I appeal to you for your generous, financial support of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church in America. I come to you with gratitude for your past generosity. Last year so many of you responded to our appeal without hesitation and with increased generosity: you gave more than you had ever given before! Thank God, we received over $310,000 in donations to meet the needs of our Melkite Church in America, with only 1,456 of our nearly 12,000 parishioners participating.

Moreover, my heart overflows with gratitude because, in addition to your donations to the Bishop’s Appeal last year, you also responded with generosity to our urgent appeal for aid to our brothers and sisters who are devastated by the civil war in Syria, and you gave almost $120,000 to our Patriarchate for Syrian relief. This is truly a testament to your fidelity to Jesus’ call to give without expecting any return.

Now, as our brothers and sisters, especially in Syria and Egypt, continue to experience the ravages of war, hatred, and persecution, I come again with hand outstretched to ask for your support for the important works of our Church. Because of the grave needs of our people and in response to the call of His Beatitude, our Patriarch Gregorios III, I have decided to send a tithe, or ten percent, of all the funds raised in this year’s Bishop’s Appeal for the relief of the suffering Syrian people. And I ask you to look upon the needs of our Melkite brothers and sisters as your own needs and to respond again with a merciful and generous heart.

Please know that your gifts are used very prudently to support the important works of our Eparchy and to assure its future growth. Last year, donations to the Bishop’s Appeal helped to subsidize the cost of the publication and mailing of SOPHIA magazine; to aid our mission churches in need; and to fund religious education, youth ministry, and deacon formation—all essential works for the future of our Church in America. In addition, because of your generous gifts, we were able to assist our elderly priests, and give assistance to struggling parishes and missions.

My fellow Melkites, it is not an exaggeration to say that without your support of our annual Bishop’s Appeal our Melkite Eparchy would not be able to meet its financial commitments. That is why I appeal to you today, as the Father of our Melkite family in America: we need every member of our family to take financial responsibility for the works of our Eparchy. I ask you to make the support of our Church a priority in your charitable giving. Each year, we ask every Melkite household in America to consider it their duty to give at least $100 annually to the Bishop’s Appeal for the needs of our Church. To each of you, I say with Saint Paul: “give according to your means” (2 Corinthians 8:3), and “glorify God by the generosity of your contribution” (2 Corinthians 9:13).

I am very much aware that these times can be economically challenging and that our economic future may seem uncertain. Yet, I am also very much aware that we, in this great country of ours, enjoy tremendous blessings especially in comparison to so many who suffer in the Middle East and around the world. And so, I humbly ask you not to act like sinners who give only when they are guaranteed a good return on their investment, but to live like Christ, who gives freely, abundantly, without counting the cost. After all, “what have we that we have not received?” What we possess is not ours—it is on loan from God. We are but stewards of God’s gifts.

And so, dear friends in Christ, as you consider your response to my letter of appeal you will receive at home, I ask you to take a few moments in prayer to reflect upon the tremendous mercy our Father has shown to you and your family and to be merciful as He is merciful. Make your financial gift a heartfelt offering of love and mercy to God and to your Melkite brothers and sisters. And our Lord assures you that “your reward shall be great, and you shall be called children of the Most High.”

May Christ our true God bless you and your loved ones, and may He bring peace to our beloved Syria and Egypt and all the peoples of the Middle East.

With my heartfelt prayers and gratitude, I remain

Your devoted father and shepherd
✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
Arabic translation (PDF, 3 pages, 64KB)

Holy and Glorious Pascha 2018
Dear Clergy and Faithful, Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
Now that we have seen the Resurrection of Christ, let us adore the All-holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We bow in worship before Your Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your Resurrection, for You are our God, and we have no other, and we magnify Your name. All you faithful, come, let us adore the holy Resurrection of Christ; for behold, through the Cross joy has come to the world. Let us always bless the Lord, let us sing His Resurrection, for by enduring for us the pain of the Cross, He has crushed Death by His death.

Christ is Risen! He is Truly Risen!

This beautiful hymn is chanted on Pascha and on every Sunday after the Resurrection Gospel of Morning Prayer (Orthros). It is a stark and joyous proclamation that the Resurrection of Christ is absolutely central to the Church, as St. Paul says: “If Christ had not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians. 15:14). Empty! Pascha is the hinge on which the whole Church year swings – the greatest feast, indeed the Feast of feasts!

Although we did not witness the physical resurrection of Jesus two thousand years ago, it still takes place in each one of us who believes. Jesus appeared to His mother and to Mary Magdalene and brought them joy. He appeared to Peter to assure him he was forgiven for his denial. He appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and, in the breaking of the bread, He cleared up their despair and doubt. He appeared to His disciples in the Upper Room, making them stronger and confident in their belief. Miraculous changes occurred because Jesus appeared.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He continues to appear now and to reveal Himself now in order to forgive our sins. He is not dead: He lives! He instills new hope in us. When we fear, He upholds us. As He appeared to Paul on his way to persecute the Christians in Damascus, He continues to appear to us today through the love we share with one another. In our confused times, He is the way; in our despair, He is our hope; in our sins, He is forgiveness and mercy; in our death, He is our life.

I know the tomb is empty because I see the resurrected Jesus in all of you; touching you I have touched Christ, like Thomas the Apostle. I have seen the Resurrection of Christ: He speaks to me in my daily prayers, and I listen to Him in His Holy Bible, and I hear His inner Voice within me, called conscience. And He touches me in the Holy Mysteries or Sacraments of the Church, especially in the Communion of His Precious Body and Blood, where He gives Himself to me entirely!

My prayer for you on this Feast of feasts is that you, too, will experience His living, loving, life-giving Presence, and that He will strengthen you in your weaknesses and sorrows. May He raise you up each time you fall – “for behold through the Cross joy has come to the world… for He has crushed Death by His death.”

My love, prayers, and blessings for a glorious Paschal Season to you all!

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton


Dear Clergy and Faithful,

“Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent in essence, and the earth presents a cave to the Inaccessible. The angels with the shepherds sing His glory and the wise men with the star travel on their way, for to us is born a new child, who is God from all eternity.” (Kontakion of Nativity)

This beautiful hymn composed in the sixth century by St. Romanos the Melodist identifies the “eternal God” as the little child born in Bethlehem’s cave. Those with lukewarm faith and even many unbelievers express joyful excitement when they see a mother holding her child in her arms. The child becomes a center of attraction – who could not fall in love with a little child, innocent and pure.

This is what Christmas is for us believers: a child as God, God as child. The mystery of Jesus’ birth is profound. God in human flesh, and more so in an innocent child who is so easy to be loved. The image of God as a child is powerful: a child has neither authority nor power; a child is without defense and vulnerable, and that is profound power.

The child of Bethlehem enters our hearts without frightening us but by love alone, for God is love. Our world is ruled by authority and power, yet the child God liberates us, desiring our love in return so that we can love Him and others. The Nativity feast is a joyful mystery of love freely given and not imposed. Through this divine child we can see and recognize the loving God and we then become the gift of new life.

Christ comes once again to recreate our broken nature and lead us to being godly, “for He is God from all eternity.”

I offer all of you my loving good wishes for a blessed season of the Lord’s manifestations in the flesh: His birth, His encounter in the temple, His baptism in the Jordan River. May He grant you good health to continue proclaiming His gospel and enlighten you with wisdom.

With my prayers and blessings, I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ God,

✠ The Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

"Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever!"

On this weekend of our national holiday of Thanksgiving when we gather with family and friends, our hearts are filled with gratitude for all the blessings our gracious God has given to us. And, at this time, the Church calls us to turn our minds and hearts to our spiritual preparation for the coming feast of the holy Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ at Christmas.

Lest we get caught up in the secular materialism of our popular culture during this season, our Lord reminds us in the Gospel—both today and last Sunday—of the foolishness of seeking our security in material wealth and prosperity. All our so-called worldly "treasures" will be of no use to us on the day we are called to stand before God face to face. “With what difficulty,” Jesus says, “will they who have riches enter the Kingdom of God.” Indeed, our material blessings, if not used properly, can easily become an obstacle that hinders us from becoming "rich" in the things of God and from living Godly and God-pleasing lives in this world.

The material blessings which Christ gives us in this life are His gifts to us, so that we may care for ourselves and our families, and assist in the building up of God's Kingdom, the Church on earth. St. Paul exhorts us in today's Epistle to the Ephesians “to walk in a manner worthy of the high calling…with all humility and meekness, and patience, bearing with one another in love.” My brothers and sisters, this is our “high calling: as Christ our God poured out the riches of His Divinity in love for us, so too He calls us to pour out in love for others and for His Church the rich blessings He has given to us.

Indeed, our Melkite Church is the means by which our Father in heaven showers us with "every good gift and perfect grace from above", and our Melkite brothers and sisters, with whom, as St. Paul reminds us, we share “one body and one Spirit” are the intended beneficiaries of the gracious gifts God blesses us with, given for the building up of His Kingdom of Love.

It is fitting, then, that at this time of year, I appeal to you, once again, for your generosity and kindness in building up this "household of God" which is our Melkite Church in America. Truly, my heart overflows with gratitude for all your generosity to our Church which enables us to carry out our “high calling” "bearing with one another in love.”

We have so much good news to relate to you about the growth of our Eparchy which has to come to pass, in large measure, due to your generous sharing of the material blessings God has bestowed upon you.

I am happy to relate to you that our Melkite Church is growing on the West Coast. New Melkite communities are being formed in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as in Palm Springs, California. Our parish of St. George in Sacramento, California is growing so rapidly that walls have had to be knocked out between the church and the rectory to accommodate standing room only crowds for Divine Services, and the parish Sunday school now enrolls over 80 children and young people! Just last week, St. George parish made an offer to buy a former Protestant church on 4.5 acres of land!

A new outreach has also begun from our parish of the Holy Cross in Placentia, California in Mission Viejo which has been meeting regularly for the Divine Liturgy. Our Melkite Mission of the Annunciation in Covina, CA, is growing steadily, as are our churches in San Diego and Temecula.

And there is growth in the South, too. Our new mission of St. Barbara in Houston Texas which has been serving the Divine Liturgy in the Ruthenian Church is presently raising money to buy a piece of land for a future church of their own. And this community will be hosting our National Melkite Convention in July 2018.

And there's also growth on the East Coast as well. Our Lady of Mercy Mission in Allentown Pennsylvania, which is only a year and a half old is filling to capacity the Latin church where they continue to hold Divine services. I am happy to be able to spend this Thanksgiving weekend with this community. In addition, I have been approached about starting even more Melkite communities in Toledo, Ohio, Jacksonville, Florida, and Portland, Oregon to name a few.

My brothers and sisters, so many people hunger for the light of the truth and the transcendent beauty of our Divine Liturgy. And we are only able to bring these Divine gifts to people because of your generous response each year to the Bishops Appeal. Any efforts to expand our Church in America and to evangelize our people require your financial support.

This past year, your generous gifts have supported the renewal and expansion of our Deacon Formation Program, which now offers online classes, in addition to its two-week residential program. We are blessed to have eleven men in our Deacon Program. And now lay people may also participate in this program to prepare for roles of evangelization and catechesis in the parishes of our Eparchy.

I am also very pleased to report that, at this time, there are four men at Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh studying for the holy Priesthood for our Eparchy. This is, truly, a great blessing, as there are many large Latin dioceses that do not have as many seminarians as we currently have. This is also a great blessing especially because a number of our current priests, who have served our Church faithfully for so many years, are now nearing retirement age. Just as each of you plans for your own eventual retirement, as Eparchial Bishop, I must make sure that our retired priests are cared for in their "golden years." As we currently have fifteen retired priests in our Eparchy, we must plan for providing additional retirement benefits in the coming years. And it is through your support of the Bishops Appeal that you enable me to take care of these "good and faithful servants" of our Melkite vineyard.

Finally, in addition to funding so many vital works in our Eparchy, we continue to donate a tithe--ten percent--of the total Appeal response to Associated Melkite Charities, of which 40% is sent to the Middle East directly, where, despite recent improvements, the situation remains desperate for many. For example, only six out of twelve Melkite churches in Aleppo Syria are even open. Our Melkite bishops must provide food, rent, medicine, and even home rebuilding for these poor people. Because of your generous response to last year's Bishops Appeal, I was able to send $60,000 to five Melkite bishops in Syria to assist families devastated by the on-going conflict.

My fellow Melkite brothers and sisters, whether it be establishing new communities and missions, supporting our seminarians and deacon candidates, publishing SOPHIA magazine, ensuring our children's and young people's catechesis, or providing for our retired priests, I hope you understand how important your generous financial contribution is to all the critical works of our Melkite "household of God" in America.

Every time I reflect upon the fact that my ancestors walked the same paths and worshipped in the same language as Our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, I feel especially honored and blessed to be Melkite. Yet, realizing that Christ our God has chosen me to shepherd, guard, and promote this magnificent tradition makes me feel extremely humbled, as I am so unworthy of this task. While I rely on your prayers for God's abundant grace upon me, I must also count upon you to make the financial support of your Melkite Church a high priority in your financial planning. And though I count on you, please know that I never take you for granted. Your generous monetary sacrifice made to Christ with a loving heart for the good of His Church on earth is truly a fragrant offering most pleasing in His sight. And I am most grateful for it.

In the coming days, you will receive my Bishops Appeal letter in the mail, or perhaps you have already received it. Before responding to my letter, I would ask you to consider the words of the Psalmist, "How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me!" Then “walk in the manner of your high calling” by being as generous as you possible can.

May God bless you and your families and friends with His abundant graces, and may He prepare your minds and hearts to welcome the most precious gift of His love, His Only-begotten Son, Christ our only Savior.

Your Father and Shepherd,

✠ The Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, is pleased to announce that, in a show of the unity of the Church, His Beatitude Patriarch Joseph (Absi) was elected this morning by the Holy Melkite Synod and was immediately enthroned as Petrarch following the vote. Patriarch Joseph (keeping his own name) was the former Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus. He may now be commemorated in all Divine Liturgies.

Bishop Joseph Absi Elected Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch
by Naharnet Newsdesk

Bishop Joseph Absi was elected on Wednesday the new Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the National News Agency reported.

Absi was elected one month after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch Gregory III Lahham, 82 years.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Synod has been convening since Monday at the Patriarchate's summer seat in Aley.

Absi was born on June 20, 1946 in Damascus, Syria. He obtained the Lebanese nationality. In 1973, he was ordained priest and became Chaplain of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul. On 22 June 2001, he was appointed Titular Archbishop of Tarsus of Greek Melkites and Curial Bishop and Auxiliary Bishop in the Melkite Patriarchate.

Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch Gregory III Laham, BS, was his consecrator and the co-consecrators were Archbishop Jean Mansour, SMSP, titular archbishop of Apamea in Syria dei Greco-Melkiti and Archbishop Joseph Kallas, SMSP, Archeparch of Beirut and Jbeil, on September 2, 2001.

Since 2007, he has served as Patriarchal Vicar in the Archdiocese of Damascus.
Arabic translation (PDF, 3 pages, 64KB)

Holy and Glorious Pascha 2017
My Dear Melkites, Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

These vibrant words we proclaim to announce the resurrection of Christ form the background music of our life. In every parish I visit, especially during the Paschal season, everyone – young and old – chants with gusto “Christ is risen from the dead…” again and again whether in English, Arabic or Greek. The melody is catchy and known by all. But more than just a melody, it is an act of faith announcing that we live eternally, and even though we die, we still live! In baptism, we died with Christ to sin and death, and we were resurrected with Him to the newness of life. We are called by God to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

I remember well as a child, each year before the end of Great Lent, my mother would take me, my sister, and brothers to downtown Paterson to buy a full set of new clothes, the clothes we would wear on Pascha. Everything had to be new, from underwear, socks, shoes, to trousers, shirt and tie, and even a jacket for the boys and a beautiful dress for my sister. Our new clothes were reminiscent of our baptismal garments in infancy since Resurrection Sunday was our renewal of being Christian through baptism. All the clothes had to be new to celebrate this great event, our renewal in Christ.

“We celebrate the very death of Death, the overthrow of Hell, and the beginning of another life which is eternal.”

At every Sunday Orthros (Morning Prayer) and every day during the 40-day Paschal season we chant “Now that we have seen the resurrection of Christ, let us adore that all-holy Lord Jesus … for You are our God and we have no other … for behold through the cross joy has come to the world. Let us always bless the Lord, let us sing his resurrection, for by enduring for us the pain of the cross, He has crushed death by his death.”

Having been saved by the resurrection of Christ, He continues to appear to us daily in his Word – the holy Bible. We receive his body and blood in the Eucharist. He appears in his teachings of love and mercy; He appears to us to comfort us when grieving. He comes to us in our periods of doubt to instill new hope. When we fear, He upholds us. Jesus is not dead; He lives! He is not just a great teacher and beautiful example for us to follow. He is Son of God, the risen Lord of glory. He appears in our confusion to show us the way, in our despair to be our hope, in our sin to be our forgiveness, in our death to be our life.

During this joyful season, we add our prayers for the suffering Christians particularly in the Middle East who are still being bombarded with hatred, persecuted for their faith, and dying daily deaths in despair. We ask God to uphold them in his loving arms and to heal their brokenness in the areas of turmoil. May the risen Christ shine his resurrection on the enemies of our faith and instill within them the peace of our loving God.

Christ is risen from the dead … our background music in life is loud and clear. Sing it loud and clear and proclaim that He is risen, and so are we who live in Him. We are Christ to our world, to our families, friends, and yes, even to our enemies: “Today is the day of Resurrection: let us glory in this feast and embrace one another. O brethren let us say ‘Because of the Resurrection, we forgive all things to those who hate us.’ And let us all sing together: Christ is risen from the dead, and by his death He has trampled upon death, and his given life to those who were in the tombs.”

I greet all of you in the risen Lord, and I ask Him to bless you and your families, preserving you in good health as you bring the good news of salvation to everyone you meet. Proclaim it loud and clear: Christ is risen! He is truly risen! But don’t forget to add: and “So am I” – a new person in Jesus Christ.

With my prayers and blessings, I remain

Sincerely yours in the risen Savior,
✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy in Mexico
My Dear Clergy and Faithful,
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

O Christ, You became a creature made of the clay of the earth; by sharing in our human nature.
You made us share in Your divine nature.
You became a mortal man, but You are still God.
You have lifted us up from our fallen state:
Holy are You, O Christ and Lord! (Nativity Canon of Matins, Ode 3)

In Eden, contrary to the command of God, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thereby creating the brokenness of our human nature. Although "made in the image and likeness of God", Adam and Eve and we their descendants "became subject to corruption and decay through sin. But now the wise Creator re-creates us again, for "He is gloriously triumphant" (Ode 1). God's new plan to redeem those He created included His birth on earth as a human being like us. "When He saw man perishing, whom He had made with His own hands, the Creator bowed the heavens and came down. He took man's nature from the pure Virgin and He truly became a man" (Ode 1). Christ comes to restore the image and likeness. As human beings, we cannot lose being the image of God, but our likeness to God can be harmed and tarnished. Since God is a living God, we are also made to share His life. God is good — we are made to be good. He is wise, peaceful, and joyful; He is kind, compassionate and gentle — we must be the same. His birth in the flesh provides us the opportunity to be renewed. There is another tree in the garden of Eden —the "Tree of Life", (Genesis 2:9). This tree symbolizes communion with God. Christ is born and the tree of life is planted on earth. We may say that this tree is Christ himself, blossoming from the Virgin in the cave of Bethlehem. We, the children of Adam and Eve, are invited to come and eat of its fruit, the fruit of the Spirit given by Jesus in the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God began in Eden, the Garden of Paradise. Disobedience blocked the Tree of Life. The Nativity hymns provide the recreation event of Christ's birth as a "homecoming" "Bethlehem has opened Eden! Come let us see! We have found joy in a secret place hidden from the eyes of the world. We can take possession of Paradise that is within the cave. There the unwatered root has appeared, flowering forth in pardon. There too is the undug well, from which David longed to drink of old. There the Virgin has brought forth a child who will quench the thirst of Adam and all his descendants. Come then, let us hasten in spirit to the place where the newborn Child has come for all mankind, for He is God from all eternity" (Ikos of Matins).
Isaiah the Prophet speaks of the coming of the Savior; "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Emmanuel means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Yes, the Lord is with us and in us. He shares His nature so we may become godly. As we celebrate the birth of Christ — God's manifestation to us in the flesh, we do not merely commemorate history, but rather His rebirth in us, and not just on Christmas, but every day of our life. His birth is the proclamation of joy — we must be joyful and proclaim this joy to everyone. He is the Prince of Peace — we must always be peacemakers. He is God's love for us in our midst, we must love each other. He is God's forgiveness and reconciliation — we must forgive and be reconciled with all. May God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, fill your lives with love, joy, forgiveness, and peace. And may you live this and spread this far and wide. My love, prayers, and blessings for a holy season of rebirth and new life. Sincerely yours in Christ God,
✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra Eparchial Bishop of Newton
Christ is among us! He is and always will be! My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, How great and awesome is the power of God’s grace! What wonders and miracles He can work in our lives. Yet, how often we can fail to trust in God’s miraculous providence for us, and how often we may think that God asks too much of us. Perhaps that is how St. Peter felt in today’s Gospel. He and his company had just returned from fishing all night long, having caught nothing, they were cleaning up and getting ready to go home. Just at this moment, Jesus calls to him: “put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.” We can only imagine St. Peter feeling frustrated, or put upon, or impatient as he recounts to the Lord his long night of futile fishing. Yet, Peter did not give in to these passions; rather he allowed his simple, but obedient, faith to have the upper hand, saying to the Lord simply: “But at Your word, I will lower the net.” And when Peter’s faith met Christ’s will, the power of Divine grace had astonishing effects. They caught so many fish that, not one, but two boats were filled to overflowing, almost to the point of sinking! For the Divine will is all powerful, but it needed the acceptance of St. Peter for it to become effective. Christ willed Peter to catch a superabundance of fish, but unless Peter put out into the deep and lowered his nets, no fish at all would have been caught. This powerful combination—what the Fathers call, synergy—the cooperation of man’s will with Christ’s grace, is the key to understanding the way God’s grace operates in our lives. And by means of this incident, our Lord instructs His Apostles about how His Church will also operate. You see, the Church is a Divine institution—it is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit: the Kingdom of God on earth. Yet, the Church is made up of sinful human beings, who can enter into this Kingdom and receive the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit only by means of personal faith and repentance. And how in need of Christ’s salvation is our world today! I can scarcely think of a time when our world and our society were more in need of the saving message of the Gospel that at this moment in history. Ours is a secular culture that forgets God, and lives as if God does not exist. And everywhere we turn, we see the tragic consequences of this abandonment of God: violence, perversity, greed, dishonesty, corruption, persecution, and chaos on our streets. My brothers and sisters, has there ever been a time when the beautiful and saving treasure of our Melkite Church was more needed than today? Though the world has abandoned Christ, Christ has not abandoned the world: He continues to desire that “all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” Christ continues to offer salvation to every generation in and through His Church. Even if it may seem, at times, like we have fished all night and caught nothing, He continues to call us to “go out into the deep” and cast our nets to gather all into the saving ark of His Holy Church. In our world today, you and I are the guardians of this very special treasure—the most ancient worship on earth of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, which comes from the very place where His followers were first called “Christians”—Antioch. Do we not feel the awesome and transforming power of Christ every time we celebrate this Divine Liturgy? Truly, this is “heaven on earth,” and, to this heaven, Christ calls all people on earth to enter. This is a blessed time for our Melkite Church in America: this is our 50th Jubilee. While there have been Melkite priests here since 1889, we have only had our own bishop in the United States since 1966. During these years, Christ has blessed us, indeed: 50 years ago, we had 23 Melkite parishes. Today, we have 58 priests and 60 deacons serving 43 parishes, missions, and religious institutes...we have doubled in size. And in the time since becoming your Eparchial Bishop, I have ordained 11 priests and 8 deacons: 8 of those priests are married men, continuing our ancestral tradition of married clergy. Now, our Church in America is poised for tremendous growth. We, now, have two cathedrals, one on the East Coast and one on the West. Three men are currently studying for the Priesthood for our Eparchy, and I recently met with four more who show great interest. Next year, we will re-open our Deacon Formation Program, having restructured it to make it more accessible to our faithful around the country, and to incorporate theological studies for the Laity. And I come to you today to ask for your help, because it is only with your generous help that our Eparchy can grow to its full potential. Christ wills our Church to grow exponentially in America, but, as in today’s Gospel, He requires your willing and generous cooperation with His powerful grace. The fish don’t jump into the boat by themselves! And so I come to you. This year, in honor of our 50th Jubilee, my goal for the Bishops Appeal is $500,000. It is a bigger goal than ever before, because our needs are greater than before, and I know I can count on you to be generous. These are some of our most urgent needs: establishing a monastery for women in the US; renewing and expanding of our Deacon Formation Program; continuing to expand of our Office of Evangelization and Catechesis to prepare our youth and adults to be witnesses of our sacred tradition; increasing our mission growth fund; creating an endowment for the needs of families of married priests; expanding of our website; preparing and publishing liturgical and catechetical books; and the continued publication and distribution of SOPHIA magazine. In addition, there are approximately 100,000 Melkites in the US today, but only 30,000 have access to a Melkite church within 50 miles of their home. This is why it is imperative that we grow, and why I am working so hard to start new missions and parishes. Last year, your generous response to the Bishop’s Appeal made it possible for me to establish one new parish and two new outreaches. In the coming year, God willing, I hope to officially establish at least one or two more mission or outreaches so that more Melkites may worship in their own tradition. Finally, with your help, we continue to provide relief to our suffering Melkites in Syria and the Middle East. Since last year, we have provided over $57,000 for relief and aid to our Melkite Eparchies in Syria. In honor of our Jubilee, I have determined that 100% of all gifts over your parish goal will be returned to the parish for the needs of your parish. My beloved Melkite flock, your financial support is absolutely essential! Is it not especially now—at this time in history—that Christ our God speaks these bold words to us: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.” Truly, this is the call our Lord is addressing to our Church, to you and to me! The Lord is calling us today to unite our own personal sacrifice with His powerful grace and He promises a miraculous catch. So, I ask you, please be as generous as you possibly can when you receive my letter of appeal in the mail. Your sacrifice made with a loving heart is indeed a pleasing and fragrant offering in the sight of God. May our heavenly Father reward your generosity. And may the most holy Theotokos, our "watchful Protectress and our unfailing Hope," be close to you, to all your loved ones, and to all those who suffer for their faith in Christ, especially in the ancestral homelands of our Melkite Church. With my prayers and blessing, I remain
Your Father and Shepherd,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
arabic translation

Dearly Beloved Clergy and Faithful, Christ is risen! He is truly risen! “We celebrate the very death of death, and the overthrow of Hades, and the beginning of another life which is eternal. Let us sing in joy to the Author of these marvels: the only blessed and most glorious God of our Fathers!” (Pascha Ode 7) Christ is risen from the dead - this is the proclamation of the good news of our Christian faith! The preaching, worship, and spiritual life of the Church flow abundantly from this event. St. Paul tells us “if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too, your faith” (1 Cor 15:14). The resurrection of Christ is the core and center of our preaching; it is the reason for our preaching, and it is the basic reality of our faith and life. As we profess that Jesus has risen in a new and glorious form, we also profess that our humanity, too, has been raised with Him to a new and glorious form--the heavenly life: from dust of the earth, to people of divinity; from children of Adam, to images of the living God shining forth in Christ Jesus. Some people question what practical effect the Resurrection has on us today. What does it mean for me today? The resurrection of Christ created for us a new mode of living. Today many lives are filled with emptiness, despair and meaninglessness. People are in great need for a new mode of life--not some technological advancement or new gimmick; but rather, the risen life in Christ. The Lord’s resurrection was a victory in the decisive battle against evil and death. While the battle continues today for much of humanity, for those who live in Christ the victory has already been accomplished. In Christ, God entered into death and won. St. John Chrysostom expressed this beautifully in his Paschal Homily:
“Today salvation has come to the world, today forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free. Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice."
So the new mode of life produced by Christ's resurrection is one of victory and triumph – a new era for the human race. It is a victory over sin, a victory over death, a victory over despair. We are filled with hope: our faith tells us that God is in control, and that when we entrust our life to Him, our end will never be crucifixion and death, but resurrection and eternal life. Our resurrection is not only a future promise: it begins now and continues into eternity. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, He gives us a new quality of life now – a power over sin, a new perspective, a new joy, a new peace, a new love. The Lord opens our tombs of sin and lifts us up to live His life. He opens our tombs of death and raises us to a new quality of living here and now, a quality of life that will endure forever! “Shout joyfully to God, all you on earth. Sing praise to the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you’” (Psalm 95). I pray for all of you most especially on this Feast of Feasts and ask the risen Lord to extend His powerful hand to each and every one to raise you to His victory over sin and death and to grant you hope over despair, and the opportunity to love and forgive each other. I ask for your prayers for me. Sincerely in the risen Lord,
✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra Eparchial Bishop of Newton

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