Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
Arabic translation (PDF, 2 pages, 252KB)

Christmas 2020

Dear Clergy and Faithful

 

Bethlehem, make ready,
for Eden has been opened for all.
Ephrata, be alert,
for the Tree of Life has blossomed forth from
the Virgin in a cave.
Her womb has become a spiritual Paradise
wherein the divine Fruit was planted –
And if we eat it, we shall live
and not die like Adam.
Christ is coming to restore the image
that had been lost in the beginning.
Troparion for Forefeast of Christmas

 

The season of God’s manifestations in the flesh is upon us. It is not just his birth in Bethlehem’s cave: He is named and circumcised according to his people’s tradition; He enters the temple after 40 days to encounter his people; He is baptized by John in the midst of his people. All these events proclaim and celebrate the gift of the Word of God who is fully revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. As the Troparion above says: Truly Jesus becomes a human being to restore the image lost in the beginning in Paradise with the sin of Adam and Eve. These feasts reveal to us God’s saving work in the world through his Son. They are not just historical narratives, for Jesus is very much alive today in the world through the proclamation of the Gospel – God’s saving action in our lives.

We refer to this entire forty-day season in a general way as the Christmas season.

Christmas means that “The Word (the Eternal God) became flesh and dwelt among us, full of Grace and Truth” (John 1:14).

Christmas means God is not an impersonal machine or super power who runs the universe by remote control. He is a Person “Emmanuel – God with us.” “And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21).

God is a Person who wants to establish a personal relationship with you. A Person to whom you can pray, a Person who cares for you.

Christmas means that God has visited his people and not just a visit but here to stay. He is with us in joy and sorrow, living and dying, and he will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.

Christmas means that we do not have to be terrorized by the sins of the past. God’s great gift to us is a Savior wrapped in human flesh. He came to wipe out our sins of the past and restore us to holiness.

Christmas means that God cared to give us the Best. “God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).

God did not send an angel or a saint or a prophet – He came HIMSELF IN PERSON.

Christmas means that there are two births of Christ: one in Bethlehem for all; the other in each of us to allow us to be spiritually reborn. He unites our humanity with his divinity – the initial plan for all of us in Paradise. He allows us to be a communicant of the Divine nature through Theosis, becoming GODLY.

He was born in the first Bethlehem so that he might come and be born in the second Bethlehem – your soul and mine!

Our liturgical prayers tell us we “behold a strange and wonderful mystery: The cave is heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, the manger, a noble place where reposes Christ, the uncontainable God.” (9th Ode of Nativity).

Accept Christ in, allow Him space in you, and not just will the “cave be heaven,” your body too will be heaven with Christ reposing in you and restoring you to touch the divinity.

I offer all of you my best wishes during this glorious season, asking you to stay safe during this COVID crisis. Pray for each other, care for each other, love each other, for you have Christ living within you.

With my love and prayers, I remain,

Sincerely in Christ God,

Most Rev. Nicholas Samra

Eparchial Bishop of Newton

 

Original letter (PDF, 3 pages, 114K) [Please click Donate above to use a credit card.]

Oct. 4, 2020

My Dear Melkites Across America,

In today’s Gospel Jesus is telling us what he told us in the Sermon on the Mount: love conquers all: Our enemies, those who hate us, revile us, persecute us, speak evil against us and there is only one way to conquer them. Love them! And that is not impossible because each person gives what he/she has and since we have Christ within us, then we give his love, his care and his forgiveness.

Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful! These words of the Gospel are not impossible to live because the power of God overshadows us and we, having Christ in us, we too can be merciful. Our love needs to spill out.

Today we begin our Annual Bishop’s or Eparchial Appeal and our love for God and the building and growth of his Body, the Church, must spill out of each one of us. The present and the future of our Church are in our hands - all of us together, bishop, priests, deacons, religious and laity. With all of our hands together we can accomplish great things.

You will be receiving a letter from me this week sharing some more information of the “vision” of our Church and your involvement in living this vision. My faith in God is strong and over the many years, 50 as priest and 31 as bishop, I see his guidance in my life, especially the last nine years as your eparchial bishop. I have witnessed your strong faith and commitment to your parish and to the Eparchy. Your involvement in the Body of Christ – the Church is truly a blessing and I thank you sincerely for sharing that blessing by your participation in parish life and your prayerful and financial assistance to the Eparchy. Your assistance is helping us grow our Church, support our seminarians for priesthood and diaconate, develop more resources for our Evangelization and Catechesis, especially on-line, YouTube and family faith celebrations. Your gifts provide us the opportunity to send you Sophia – an award-winning magazine. We have begun to properly develop our archives and digitizing all records along with preserving precious icons, books and memorabilia in an eparchial museum. Even our Annual Calendar that your parish gives you has a catechetical-education approach.

We all need to grow in Christ more and more and your gifts allows me to share this growth and make it possible. I decided to merge the Annual Appeal and the Order of St. Nicholas. At next year’s Convention in Atlanta we will have a luncheon meeting for the Order members – They are those who are able to give $1000 or more each year continuously. We will form a board of directors who will work with the bishop to develop the assistance for mission growth and insurance for the married clergy families. Each Order member will be inducted on the parish level and be given the Cross of St. Nicholas which they wear on special occasions and especially when the bishop makes a parish visitation.

The other donors to the Appeal will be supporting Sophia Magazine, priesthood and deacon formation, charity, religious education, archives, digitizing documents, etc. This year 10% of our Appeal will be sent to our Melkite Metropolitan George Bacouni in Beirut to assist the families hurt severely by the horrific explosion of the 4th of August.

St. Paul in today’s Epistle speaks to us about Giving – God loves the Cheerful Giver. So often people say “money talks.” In a sense it does. If someone glanced at your old checks, they could see the real you, what kind of person you are. They would know if you belonged to a church, how much you gave to God, how much you spent for personal luxuries – so yes, “money talks.” It tells what kind of people we are, what we value most in life, what we love and care for most.

St. Paul says: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”

The important thing about Christian giving is not “how much” we give but rather “how much in comparison to what God gives us. God blesses us abundantly – so we give in proportion to his love, and we give this lovingly.

Paul says “the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly” so let us not err but rather give generously – give abundantly and you will receive abundantly.

Let each family make 2 lists: column 1: “What are we living for? Column 2: What are we spending for.” When you realize what you are living for, give wisely and give gladly – be a cheerful giver.

Years ago I got hooked on “tithing” – 10% for God, 10 cents for every dollar I made. I have never felt a loss, in fact I found I could not win with God – He always out gave me. He gave to me physically, financially and in many other ways. He owns me and my income too, all of it. I learned that tithing is just a symbol of my trust in Him.

Proportionally, lovingly, generously, wisely, gladly – and finally give humbly. When we give a gift to God, we bow in deep humility even on our knees because we bring so little when we think of how much He gave for us on the Cross and still gives.

In giving to God to your parish and to this Annual Bishop’s Appeal and Order of St. Nicholas you are assured that God’s good work in us continues to grow in abundance. God promises, says Paul “to provide you with every blessing in abundance” so that you may share this abundance to build his Body on earth.

If our giving is abundant, God’s giving to us will be even more abundant.

I keep you all in my prayers especially during this COVID-19 crisis, asking God to keep you in good health. I ask also that He open your hearts to keep His good work alive in our Eparchy by a generous gift to the Annual Appeal.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Nicholas Samra

Eparchial Bishop of Newton

 

His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, sends you his YouTube message for

Pascha, courtesy of Father Hezekias and the Office of Evangelization

and Catechesis. Paschal Odes and Stichera (PDF, 6 pages, 64KB)

 
Join us at the Annunciation Cathredral to celebrate the services. The link below is to register. Once registered, you'll get an email with the link to the live-streaming!
Day Time Service Link to register
Wednesday 7:00PM Divine Liturgy Wednesday registration
Saturday 5:00PM Great Vespers Saturday and Sunday registration
Sunday 10:15AM Orthros
Sunday 11:00AM Divine Liturgy
If asked, the password is "Melkite". All times US/EDT.
 

His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, sends you his YouTube message for

Great and Holy Week, courtesy of Father Hezekias and the Office

of Evangelization and Catechesis.

 

Arabic translation (PDF, 2 pages, 76KB)

 

 

 

 

Pascha 2020

Dear Clergy and Faithful,

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

The Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus begins: “Today is the day of the resurrection! 0 nations, let us be joyful.” And yet there is not much joy this year in the nations of the world with the pandemic of COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus attacking thousands and taking many lives. We are faced with a new style of war.

Great Lent and Holy Week were interrupted this year forcing us to keep distances with people, even to the point that most public services and Divine Liturgies became limited to “live streaming” on the internet. The very human need to share lives with others in personal ways is put on hold to protect ourselves and others. I do not need to get into much detail since the news media reports it, sometimes to the point of repetitive exaggeration. But we must heed all the warnings and accept the civil involvement to curb the spreading of this massive problem when it does not conflict with our Christian faith. When Jesus returned to his Father forty-days after his resurrection he left a promise with his disciples, “behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). This is our faith, Jesus says, “I am with you.”

After proclaiming the Resurrection Gospel outside the church, the priest, knocking on the closed doors, announces “The Lord who is strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle… He is the king of glory.” The Lord will be strong and mighty in the COVID-19 battle and we need to remain strong and mighty in our prayers, and with everyone's cooperation during this distressful time we will be victorious and rise with Christ.

We pray especially for our health care workers, doctors, nurses and all the medical staff, grateful for putting themselves in great danger for our protection. We also pray for those in civil service: fire and police departments, and all who are attempting to keep us safe.

We pray for those infected with the virus, asking God to bring them to full recovery in good health.

We pray for those who have died from COVID-19, asking the Lord to welcome them into eternal life. We are reassured in the words of St. John Chrysostom's resurrection homily, “let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free… 0 death, where is your sting? Where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished… for Christ has become the Leader and Reviver of those who have fallen asleep.”

So yes, amid all the difficulties and sorrows created by this pandemic, we who have faith and hope in Christ, can still proclaim “through the cross joy has come to the world… for by enduring for us the pain of the cross, He has crushed death by His death.” (Paschal Orthros). We suffer much pain at this time, but we are assured the Lord will triumph.

I keep you all in my prayers asking God to keep you safe. Even though we are limited in our public celebrations I still proclaim to you the joy of the resurrection. Pray that we may never see these limitations ever again.

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

 

Sincerely yours in Christ God,

✠ Most Rev. Nicholas Samra

Eparchial Bishop of Newton

 

 

 

 

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, 0 Christ,
and we praise and glorify Your Resurrection,
for You are our God and we have no other, and we magnify Your name.
All yyou 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.

 
PDF (2 pages, 676KB)

18 March 2020

Dear Clergy and Laity of the Eparchy of Newton

Christ is among us! He is and always will be!

This greeting at the Kiss of Peace in the Divine Liturgy affirms our strong belief that the Lord is with us always and everywhere; and yes, even during the Coronavirus pandemic. He remains with us, and we are urged to cooperate with our civil officials and the precautionary restrictions they are placing on us during this crisis. We offer our prayers for those who are affected with the virus: may Jesus Christ, the Healer of Soul and Body remain with them and bring them to full recovery. We pray also for those who have died, asking the Lord God to welcome them into the heavenly mansions and number them among the saints.

Since we are a national eparchy, we must be aware of the local restrictions of our government and also of the Roman dioceses in which our churches are located. There are challenges for us, and we need to remain calm and strong in faith and action. After the Boston Marathon bombing several years ago a new slogan appeared here: Boston Strong! So we now add to it Newton (USA) Strong!

Please observe the following guidelines:

  1. Take all precautionary measures according to the directives issued by medical and local authorities.
  2. All Faithful of the Eparchy are dispensed from the obligation of attending Sunday and Holy Day Divine Liturgies.
  3. All Melkite churches must follow the restrictions of the local government and Latin dioceses in which they are located, i.e. if the local Latin diocese has cancelled Mass, then cancel Liturgy, at least until then end of March.
  4. Public Lenten Services and parish dinners are suspended.
  5. Funerals should be served only with the immediate family members of the deceased. A date can be chosen later for a public memorial service when the pandemic subsides.
  6. Each parish may celebrate a Sunday Divine Liturgy with two or three present and live stream it to the parish members. Or, tune into several other Melkite churches who are presently live streaming. Father Hezekias will send out links to our churches that are live streaming the Divine Liturgy.
  7. Lenten week day services (Presanctified, etc.) may also be celebrated in the church with two or three and live streamed.
  8. Parishioners should be sent via email a copy of the Typica Service (it is in the Horologion), and families should be encouraged to pray it at home daily and at least on Sunday.
  9. Churches may be open at designated times after the live streamed Liturgy for those who wish to receive the Eucharist.

These guidelines remain in effect until the end of March. At that time, we will assess what the government officials and other dioceses recommend.

Please, each and every one, be safe. Follow the necessary precautions and remain strong in prayer. With my best wishes and prayers, I remain.

Sincerely yours in Christ God,

The Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra

Bishop of Newton

 

Arabic translation (PDF, 2 pages, 156KB)

 

 

 

 

GREAT LENT 2020

Dear Clergy and Faithful,

A blessed Great Fast!

The season of Great Lent, also called the Great Fast, developed over the centuries. Historically, it was the last forty day of catechesis or religious education for the catechumens or those studying to be incorporated into the Body of Christ through Baptism at the celebration of the Lord's Resurrection at Pascha. During this time of education, they learned how a Christian lives his/her life. The focus was on the necessity of prayer, fasting, and good works.

As it developed and grew, the Church recognized that we fail many times in properly living our Christian life. So, as the catechumens were hearing what Christian life was all about, the existing Christians were asked to refocus and renew their own lives to be more in conformity with Christ.

Contrary to common thinking that Lent was gloomy or morbid, in reality it is a joyful time, a time of purification. Our liturgical prayers remind us: "Let us enter the season of the radiant Fast with joy…let us purify our spirit and cleanse our flesh…let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. Clothed in a garment of light, let us hasten to the holy third-day Resurrection that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life" (Orthros, 1st Monday).

The Great Fast of forty days is a tithe, or one-tenth, of the year in which we return to God our good practice of our faith. In a sense, it is our annual retreat to recall our sins and through repentance "turn toward God and drawing near to Him" (Ode 9, Othros, 1st Monday).

Let us take this opportunity by our focus on the tripod of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer is a dialogue with God--asking, thanking, and praising, a dialogue of silence in the quiet of our hearts. We lift up our mind and heart to God, walking in His presence. We have communion with God to enable us to do His will.

We fast from specific foods, but also "true fasting is to put off all evil, to control the tongue, to forbear from anger, to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood, and perjury" (Vespers, 1st Monday). What we save from our fasting is given to those who lack through The Shepherd's Care, our eparchial charity program.

Almsgiving or good works reminds us that other are important--all of us are made in the image and likeness of God. So we go out of ourselves more to focus on our brothers and sisters who are in need. Possibly choose a shut-in or someone in a hospital or nursing home who has no one around--visit and share Christ's love. And don't forget that everyone around us--we all need kind words and support.

Besides your private prayer life, join your parish community in prayer at the Presancitified Liturgy and Great Compline. The Akathist Hymn is also served in our parishes on Fridays honoring the Mother of God, as we prepare also for the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, falling most of the time during Great Lent.

Don't let this season speed by without notice, get involved. Refocus your Christian living; retreat to your baptismal promise to make Christ your King and God. See others with love and care. Open your Bibles and read God's word. Add more personal prayer to your day, and observe your personal rule of fasting.

I greet you all as we together journey towards Holy Week and the glorious Resurrection of Christ; and I pray for you and yours: be a radiant Christian!

May your observance of the Great Fast be abundantly blessed.

Yours in Christ God,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra

Bishop of Newton

 

Arabic translation (PDF, 2 pages, 520KB)

 

 

 

 

The Holy Nativity of Christ 2019

My Dear Clergy and Laity across America,

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Since you are the God of Peace and the Father all-merciful, O Lover of mankind, you sent us the Messenger of Great Counsel to grant us your peace. Led to the light of your divine knowledge, we keep watch in the night before You, and we sing to you a hymn of glory, O Lover of mankind!
(Ode 5 Canon of Nativity)

Long before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; … and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). When the prophesy came to pass and Jesus was born, the angels declared: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

Even before his resurrection Jesus renewed this promise, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27)

Looking at our world today we see the lack of peace in so many places. Wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and in many African countries and with the involvement of our own country in a number of these areas. A new lack of peace has now escalated in Lebanon with anti-government demonstrations as well as in Palestine and Israel and Iran. Christianity is deteriorating throughout the Middle East, the homeland of our Melkite Church. Our prayers are needed more and more for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

Peace is at the heart of the Christian faith. We can not find it in the pleasure of our war-torn world. The source of perfect peace is only found in the One made flesh &emdash; God and man &emdash; Jesus Christ born in poverty in Bethlehem. He took on our humanity to share with us his divinity. We need to proclaim to our world: Peace comes from Jesus Christ.

St. Paul tells us: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). When I am at peace with God, I am at peace with myself. Peace is not the absence of problems &emph; rather, it is the harmony and peace we enjoy internally. Jesus is Emmanuel &endash; God with us. In turmoil an amid problems his presence brings a sense of peace. He guides, He forgives, He comforts and He grants us confidence to overcome adversities.

Like him we offer forgiveness, guidance and comfort to others. We may not be the ones to change the entire world but we can begin by being people of peace as St. Paul tells us “live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

I am grateful for my clergy: priests, deacons, sub-deacons, readers and to our two sisters for their continual service given so abundantly and peacefully as they assist me in my ministry. I am grateful for all those who extend themselves in each parish to serve in many parish ministries. I am grateful to all the laity &emdash; for your support of your local parish and for this blessed Eparchy uniting all Melkites. May the peace of Christ remain with all of us.

Our God is the God of peace! as fervently the God-man Jesus Christ, reborn daily in our lives, to look on his world and fill the hears and minds of all with his peace.

I greet you in joy an beg you all to be people of peace. I keep you in prayer and ask that the prince of Peace bless you.

With my love and prayers, I remain,

Sincerely in Christ God,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas Samra

Eparchial Bishop of Newton

Apostolic Administrator of Melkites in Mexico

 

Arabic translation (PDF, 2 pages, 240KB)

Holy and Glorious Pascha 2019

My Dear Clergy and Faithful,

“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 trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.’

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

This Hymn is sung at the end of Orthros on Pascha and throughout the forty days thereafter. It is a stark reminder that there are still “those who hate us.” Sadly, our world is filled with hatred among nations, among politicians, among radical religious groups, and even among brothers and sisters in families, and between parents and children. Our Christian faith and beliefs are under attack, particularly regarding the life issues, as well as sexual morality.  So many people have not been touched by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who proclaims, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

Jesus came to “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). He came to remake life and add to it a quality it never had before.  The new life of Jesus is “eternal life”, not just life that lasts forever, but rather eternal life—a participation in the life which God lives. He invites us to enter into the very divine life of God Himself.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proclamation that eternal life exists. Being raised from the dead, Jesus assures us that whoever lives without God EXISTS, but does not truly LIVE.  For we do not know what real life is until we rise with Christ on this great feast and every day of our life.  As St. Paul says: “It is no long I who live, but Christ who LIVES in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The Resurrection of Jesus is not just His personal survival after death; it is that and much more.  His resurrection means the beginning of a new era for the human race. God entered history and acted to defeat and overcome the power of evil.  He healed the sick, released the possessed from bondage, and converted sinners. The Resurrection proclaims new hope for all of us: as Jesus served, we are to serve; as Jesus loved, we are to love; as Jesus forgave, we are to forgive, and, indeed, as the opening hymn says, “we forgive all things even to those who hate us.”

Christ destroys evil and death and is victorious. We too are victorious since He lives in us.  With St. Paul we shout out, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin… but thanks to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)!

Christ offers us victory over self.  For victory to have meaning we must begin with ourselves.  Many church-going Christians are not victorious but defeated – Christians in name only.  They have a form of religion but not its power.  For them life is self-centered, never making a total commitment to Christ.  The resurrection of Christ is our victory, our renewal, our rising from our sins to new life. Our faith in Christ’s resurrection is not an escape from reality, but rather victory. We do not run away from sinfulness, but we conquer it through Christ who said, “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

As your bishop, I exhort you on this Feast of feasts to strengthen your Christian commitment in prayer, in service to each other, and to remain strong witnesses within your parish communities and in the Church in general.  Speak up for human rights from conception to natural death.  Oppose those who uphold evils contrary to our Christian faith.  Be a resurrection person committed to life.

I pray for all of you and most especially during this resurrection season. May you be at peace with each other, and may we all rise from sin and embrace one another in joy as we proclaim: Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra

Eparchial Bishop of Newton

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