Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

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

 

Original letter (PDF, 2 pages, 76K) [Please click Donate above to use a credit card.]

Rabweh, August 10, 2020

To the faithful and friends of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Dear all,

The fourth of August 2020 was a catastrophic day in Lebanon due to the criminal explosion that occurred in the port of Beirut, impacting and shocking the capital and the entire country, which we are all still trying to wake up from. The explosion left behind, as the whole world has witnessed, hundreds of victims and more than five thousand wounded, many of whom are in critical condition. The deadly blast destroyed a large number of buildings (70,000 homes estimated so far), leaving thousands of people in the city with a shattered house or no house at all. All of this came amidst an unprecedented and extreme political, economic and health crisis. On Saturday, the eighth of August, we visited our brother, Metropolitan George Baconi, and we inspected together the damage that affected our children and their properties, as well as the damage to the churches and institutions. We saw with our own eyes the horror of the disaster and heard with our own ears people's screams of pain.

Thanks to God Almighty, many individuals and institutions took the initiate to contact the Patriarchate or the Archdiocese of Beirut to express their solidarity and desire to provide moral and material support. From the first day, the Patriarchate, eparchies, and monastic orders placed all their institutions and monasteries at the service of those affected. But this is not enough. The people of Beirut are going through an extremely difficult period psychologically, physically an financially, and this requires us to offer them everything within our power. Thus, we appeal to all of you to take the initiative of extending helping hand in order to show, during these difficulty times, the unity and strength of our Church in the face of this calamity and to stand with the weak who were victims of the tragic explosion.

We ask that everyone who would like to contribute to contact the Chancellery of our Patriarch in Rabweh at this email Patriarcat@melkitepat.org or to call the following numbers: +96176658803; +96179194306.

We pray to the Lord Jesus that the victims may rest in His peace, and be welcomed into His kingdom. We ask that, by His mercy, He heals the wounded, calms hearts. and comforts all those who are sad with His everlasting joy. We also ask Him to reward everyone who gives of their time or their money a hundredfold in return.

With our prayers and love!

+ Youssef
Melkite Greek catholic Patriarch
Of Antioch and All the East

 
As we know, the Great Fast and the Great Week before Pascha are the most diligently observed fasts in the Church. After that, the most thoroughly kept fast is that before the Dormition, which in our Tradition lasts from August 1 through August 14. Like the Great Fast, the Dormition Fast has special services to set this time apart. In our Church an intercession service to the Mother of God, the Paraclisis, is held nightly. This Fast also includes the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ which is kept from August 6 to 13. This feast celebrates Christ as the radiant Light of the Father’s glory while in the Dormition we see Christ, who trampled down Death by His death, take His Mother into the light of His resurrection. This period is so rich in opportunities for prayer and worship that it has traditionally been called our “Summer Pascha.” From the Office of Educational Services: The Fast of the Theotokos in the Home (PDF, 736KB, 18 pages)
 

Paschal Message of H. B. Youssef
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
April 12, 2020

Christ is risen!

With a heavy heart we cry out the cry of victory - which we await from year to year - in empty churches! We miss you dearly, beloved sons and daughters, wherever you may be.

Christ is risen! It is with a heavy heart indeed that we shout out this exclamation of faith and victory, after fifty days of praying and fasting, without finding faithful in our churches to respond: He is truly risen! How can we sing Christ is risen, ‘Christos anesti’, without hearing your voices repeat it vibrantly and joyfully?

It is sad that you were not able to be anointed with the Oil of repentance, nor able to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in his Pascha, the commemoration of his Passion and Resurrection.

Our Paschal celebrations this year are marred by heartache, as the churches are empty: not only the faithful are missing, but also our cherished children. With their purity, innocence, and smiles, our children are a living sign of hope and joy. They remind us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them; the future too, a future which we hope will be more humane, with more solidarity, more compassion, and more mutual love; a future in which differences between people will diminish or even disappear, and a new world order will arise with justice, equality, peace and joy, for the Earth has enough room and resources for all peoples.

True, children are silent in this year’s paschal solemnities, but the stones will speak: the stones of our churches will echo their voices which are stored there year after year, proclaiming: He is truly risen!

This year we have especially captured the meaning of the Lords’ saving Cross and Resurrection and how they are intimately related. We entered the Holy Week of the Savior’s Passion with inner joy and peace, not with sadness nor fear, because the Divine Master, by his death on the cross and his Resurrection on the third day, conquered death and filled our hearts with faith and the hope that he would always triumph over pain and evil.

How much we need hope and faith in these difficult days as we experience the pain, anxiety and fear of the corona pandemic that sweeps the world?! We now remember Saint Paul’s words to the Romans: “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:3-5). We also remember what he wrote to the Corinthians: “With the trial, God will also provide a way out” (1 Cor 10:13). We believe that God created the world beautiful and good; in no way would He have accepted it otherwise. It’s God’s world before being the world of man; and God loves His world; so how can He let it perish as Evangelist John says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:16-17).

As we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ from the dead, a solemnity so dear to our hearts, the whole world is desperately struggling with a pandemic that befell it, sowing death everywhere, oppressive as a horrible nightmare. People are left confused and helpless. As if for the first time, an enemy called death has suddenly appeared in their homes and invaded factories, schools, hospitals, stores and streets, chasing people from place to place and striking at random. They hurriedly marshalled all their scientific and technological capabilities to contain it for they realized it was a matter of life or death.

Death! People seem to have completely forgotten it in the midst of their preoccupations with the affairs of life, feverishly running after their livelihood, or blindly embracing atheism, materialism, agnosticism, and many other frivolous absurdities. They have closed every window that might let in some light from another world or simply remind them that there is another world.

In the year of the corona, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds us, his followers, that death is not an ordinary matter, nor a natural conclusion for human life followed by nothing. Death is not a futility unworthy of attention and concern, but the archenemy of humankind. Fortunately, Our Lord’s Resurrection comes at the right moment to remind us that by his Resurrection, Christ has totally and completely crushed the power of death which Saint Paul calls the last enemy: “(Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:25-26).

Today’s feast reminds us that the last word is not for death but for life, because Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32). God did not tell man "be" to let him die, but to live forever. And death, no matter how strong is its thorn, is doomed forever: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” exclaims the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:54-55).

By his Resurrection, Our Lord rekindled hope in our hearts and gave us strength to fight death in its various threatening forms. The corona that strikes us these days is not the only, nor the most dangerous epidemic: There is death between individuals, family members, parishioners, societies and nations. Death has infiltrated human relations because they are fatally corrupted by selfishness, individualism, tribalism and hostility. We see in the corona crisis some typical examples: Countries that refrain from helping other countries that are in d+ire need because they disagree with their political line or don’t obey their directives or simply because they are considered without value. We see individuals who hoard vital articles as if other people have no right to life.

The Resurrection of Our Lord calls us to restore these perturbed relationships by building trust among people. The Resurrection invites us to view the other as a brother and friend, not an enemy or an adversary. The Resurrection invites us to love the world as the Divine Master loved it.

That is what distinguishes the children of God as St. Augustine says: “He who does not promote justice and does not love his brother is not from God. Therefore, love alone is the distinctive mark that can tell God’s children from the sons of Satan.” Today more than ever before, we need to restore the due respect to the family, to the school and to the parish. We need to recognize their utmost importance and the primary role they play in our societies. They are the most suitable places for promoting good relations among people.

There is death also in our relationship with God, or rather God’s death in our lives, the death of faith. We have eliminated God and everything that reminds us of him. We have excluded him from our lives, and consequently we have suppressed our spiritual and human dimensions. When the corona epidemic stealthily befell us, we were surprised to find ourselves spiritually unprepared to cope with the new situation. We immediately felt the need to pray and return to God. An invisible virus had disrupted our lives and instilled anxiety in our souls!

Nevertheless, with our Lord’s Resurrection we feel strong, despite all our weakness, and able to renew our faith in God and the power of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead.

However, there are people who question the Resurrection of the Lord; some even categorically deny it or consider it a myth. True, the Resurrection is such an awesome event that it appears too beautiful to be true. In fact, the first to doubt it were the Apostles themselves (Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:11), especially Thomas who declared his doubt and demanded concrete proofs.

The Evangelist Luke says the Apostles considered the story of the women who announced the Resurrection of Jesus to them as "nonsense" (Luke 24:11). Luke adds that “while they were still speaking about this, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Luke 24:36-37)

Only after the Apostles had examined the empty tomb, and seen, heard, and touched their living Master did they believe. They were thus able to proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord with such a profound conviction that they gave their lives for him. If we are unable to perceive supreme beauty, this does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Rather, in order to see it, we need to have a special kind of eyes, the eyes of faith.

The ones who have received the Christian faith from the Apostles possess such eyes. That’s us. We are the ones about whom Jesus aid: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29).

We are the ones whom John meant in today’s gospel when he says “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God” (John 1:12- 13). These faithful to whom we belong have overturned the equation: Reflected in their evangelical life, their faith bears evidence to the Resurrection, not the opposite.

That’s the utmost beauty of the Resurrection which we celebrate today. It’s the faith of which the Apostle Paul spoke when he addressed those who questioned the Resurrection in his time: “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith... If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:13-17).

It means that there is no Christ, no Christian faith, no Christian religion, and no salvation without the Lord’s Resurrection. The Resurrection is the pillar of the Christian faith and the seal of its integrity. It was the main subject of the Gospel preached by the Apostles. We may call it the “Big Bang” that projected Christian life into an endless space and time. That’s precisely what our liturgy of Pasha calls “The day that has no evening,” or also the “Kingdom,” which Our Lord promised the thief and actually inaugurated as he was still on the cross.

Today, the risen Jesus Christ comes to our cities, towns and neighborhoods, accompanying us in the heart of our lives and offering to save us from servitude, evil and sin; from hatred and oppression; from pride and vanity; from darkness and doubt. He can help us make life more humane, and open up to us divine horizons, with a new Earth and new Heavens.

Today, our lord Jesus comes to us, humble in his victory, carrying salvation within His Resurrection. Let’s open our homes to him and spread our hearts before him and cheer for him. Let’s make a place for him in every house so he can shine his Light upon us today and afterwards, whether the churches are closed or open.

But the churches will not remain closed for long, God willing. We will resume meeting in the church because God has chosen it as his dwelling. It’s the place where the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, meets his Bride, the Christian community. The common prayer in the church is a primal and venerable tradition. No other prayer can replace it or abrogate it. Countless sons of ours long to come back to church in these difficult days.

In this salvific season, we pray for each other. We pray that the corona pandemic will not be long; that the Good Lord may heal those who have been affected by it and receive its victims among the Angels and the Saints. We pray for all those who have volunteered to avert the imminent danger: the doctors, the nurses, the scientists, the officials, the technicians, the various governmental and non-governmental institutions, asking God to bless their endeavor for the sake of our country and for the whole world.

We pray God to enable the International Community to overcome the pandemic by setting up a coordinated plan that would be carried out wholeheartedly in a comprehensive act of love beyond all boundaries whatsoever.

We pray the Good Lord to inspire each one of us to do what we can in order to alleviate suffering.

We pray for safety, peace, stability and prosperity in our respective countries. May peace and justice prevail all over the world.

While we pray, we should also sincerely forgive each other. In the paschal service, the Church teaches us that forgiveness gushes from the Lord’s tomb. With the forgiveness coming from the Lord’s tomb, let’s bury our conflicts and differences, our difficulties and problems, our troubles and concerns, our bitterness and disappointments, our sins and weaknesses. Let’s bury death itself! Led by the Church, let’s all join in singing with hope and faith, with joy and exultation, with optimism and determination:

“Today is the day of the Resurrection! Let us glory in the Feast and embrace one another. 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 has given life to those who are in the tomb.’”

 

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.

 

Holy Week and Pascha without being able to go to church??? We are here to help give you ideas and resources for Holy Week and Pascha for your domestic church (the church of your home), because the Resurrection isn’t can- celled! We need to remember now more than ever the hope we have in Christ’s destruction of death and His gift of eternal life. This current crisis is an opportunity to revive our domestic churches and begin to pray (or pray more) as a family/couple and individually. And, when we pray, we must remember that the whole Body of Christ—the Church, is with us.

From the Office of Educational Services: Holy & Great Week in the Domestic Church for Melkites (PDF, 15MB, 11 pages)

 
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

 
O LORD and Master of my life, grant that I may not be afflicted with a spirit of sloth, inquisitiveness, ambition and vain talking. Instead, bestow upon me, Your servant, a spirit of purity, humility, patience and love. Yes, O Lord and King, grant me the grace to see my own sins and not to judge my brethren. For you are blessed forever and ever. Amen. From the Office of Educational Services: Great Lent at Home (PDF, 556KB, 28 pages)
 
The delatinization process was already taking place in some parishes due to individual initiative. Archbishop Joseph had just been installed as exarch previously that year. Prior to this he had been the patriarch's vicar in Damascus, Syria.
The Courage to be Ourselves: Archbishop Joseph Tawil's 1970 Christmas Pastoral Letter النسخة العربية
To our beloved children, the priests and faithful of the Melkite Church in the United States, peace in Christ our Lord, greetings and blessings.

OUR INCOMPARABLE PATRIMONY

The incomparably rich writings of our Fathers are the voice of your own ancestors in the faith. Their names are known throughout the Christian world - Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil the Great, the two Gregories, John Chrisostom, John of Damascus, and the rest. We alone can truly say that they are bones of our bones, flesh of our flesh: ours in the truest sense of the term. They lived in the lands of our origin and the riches of their inheritance is now the treasured possession of the entire Church. Still we are the most rightful heirs of their inestimable treasures, for we are their very descendants, sons of the same soil. However true this may be, we do not live in the past, but in the present. Why must we exert so much energy to preserve the heritage of days long since past, we who are such a minority in American Catholicism? Since we live in the United States now, why do we not simply follow the majority of Catholics and become Latin? These questions are often heard and deserve answers. We can do no better than recall the teaching of Vatican II which declared: “History, tradition, and numerous ecclesiastical institutions manifest luminously how much the universal Church is indebted to the Eastern Churches. Therefore, …all Eastern rite members should know that they can and should always preserve their lawful liturgical rites and their established way of life … and should honor all these things with greatest fidelity.”

OUR MISSION TO ROMAN CATHOLICS

For a long time the principle of the superiority of the Roman rite, which had become general during the Middle Ages, prevailed in the West. The Latin tradition was considered the only true Catholic tradition, and this led to a certain fixedness among Catholics: the Latin way is the only way! Events of the succeeding centuries only served to heighten the feeling among Latin Catholics that to be Catholic one had to be Roman. Vatican II put an end to this provincialist view of the Church once and for all. The Church cannot be identified, it stressed, with any one culture, nation, or form of civilization without contradicting that universality which is of the essence of the Gospel. The existence of Eastern Churches as part of the Catholic family, although they have distinct customs and traditions in all areas of Church life, dramatically shows that to be Catholic one does not have to conform to the Roman model. Indeed, the Roman Church, as the Council affirmed, has learned many lessons of late from the East in the fields of liturgy (use of the vernacular, Communion in both kinds, baptism by immersion), of Church order (collegiality, synodal government, the role of the deacon), and spirituality. In a very real sense, the Western Church “needs” a vibrant Eastern Church to complement its understanding of the Christian message.

ECUMENICAL VOCATION OF EASTERN CATHOLICS

By our fidelity to maintaining our patrimony, by our refusal to be assimilated, the Eastern Churches render a most precious service to Rome in still another area of Church life. Latinizing this small number of Easterners would not be a gain for Rome; rather it would block - perhaps forever - a union of the separated Churches of the East and West. It would be easy then for Orthodoxy to see that union with Rome leads surely to ecclesiastical assimilation. Thus it is for the sake of ecumenism - to create a climate favorable to the union of the Churches - that the Eastern Catholic must remain faithful to his tradition. This providential vocation which is ours opens to the Church an unlimited perspective for preaching the Gospel to all peoples who, while they accept faith in Christ, must still remain themselves in this vast assembly of believers. From what has been said above, it is easy for us to find our place in America's pluralistic societies with its varied Churches and religious groups. In the now famous words of the late Patriarch Maximos IV, “We have, therefore, a two-fold mission to accomplish within the Catholic Church. We must fight to insure that latinism and Catholicism are not synonymous, that Catholicism remains open to every culture, every spirit, and every form of organization compatible with the unity of faith and love. At the same time, by our example, we must enable the Orthodox Church to recognize that a union with the great Church of the West, with the See of Peter, can be achieved without being compelled to give up Orthodoxy or any of the spiritual treasures of the apostolic and patristic East, which is opened toward the future no less to the past.”

A DANGER TO THIS MISSION: THE GHETTO MENTALITY

We have not yet mentioned the principal dangers which threaten our communities and their mission to the Churches: the ghetto mentality and the assimilation process. In a ghetto life is closed in upon itself, operating only within itself, with its own ethnic and social clichés. And the Parish lives upon the ethnic character of the community; when that character disappears, the community dies and the parish dies with it. One day all our ethnic traits - language, folklore, customs - will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, primarily for the service of the immigrant or the ethnically oriented, unless we wish to assure the death of our community. Our Churches are not only for our own people but are also for any of our fellow Americans who are attracted to our traditions which show forth the beauty of the universal Church and the variety of its riches.

A SECOND DANGER: THE ASSIMILATION PROCESS

Without doubt we must be totally devoted to our American national culture. We must have an American life-style. We must be fully American in all things and at the same time we must preserve this authentic form of Christianity which is ours and which is not the Latin form. We must know that we have something to give, otherwise we have no reason to be. We must develop and maintain a religious tradition we know capable of enriching American life. Otherwise we would be unfaithful to our vocation. It is often easier to get lost in the crowd than to affirm one's own personality. It takes more courage, character, and inner strength to lead our traditions to bear fruit than it takes to simply give them up. The obsession to be like everyone else pursues us to the innermost depths of our hearts. We recognize that our greatest temptation is always to slip into anonymity rather than to assume our responsibility within the Church. And so, while we opt for ethnic assimilation, we can never agree to spiritual assimilation. One prime source of spiritual assimilation for Eastern Catholics has been the phenomenon known as 'latinization', the copying by Eastern Catholics of the theology, spiritual practices, and liturgical customs of the Latin Church. Latinization implies either the superiority of the Roman rite -the position denounced by Vatican II - or the desirability of the assimilation process, an opinion with which we cannot agree. Not only is it unnecessary to adopt the customs of the Latin rite to manifest one's Catholicism, it is an offense against the unity of the Church. As we have said above, to do this would be to betray our ecumenical mission and, in a real sense, to betray the Catholic Church. For this reason many parishes are attempting to return to the practice of Eastern traditions in all their purity. This has often entailed redecoration of the churches and elimination of certain devotions on which many of the people had been brought up. In some places, our priests, attempting to follow the decree of the Council in this matter have been opposed by some of their parishioners. Other priests have been reluctant to move in this direction, as they feared that division and conflict would result. We should all know in this regard that a latinized Eastern Church cannot bear anything but false witness, as it seems to be living proof that Latinism and Catholicism are indeed one and the same thing. To be open to others, to be able to take our rightful place on the American Church scene, we must start by being fully ourselves. It is only in our distinctiveness that we can make any kind of contribution to the larger society. It is only by being what we are that we retain a reason for existence at all.

GRATITUDE TO OUR FOREFATHERS

Immigrants from Western Europe to the United States had less to do than our fathers did to adapt themselves to the American life-style. The Easterner, on the other hand, found himself immersed in a far different world than that which he knew. The temptation was great to throw off his entire heritage and become what he was not. And so we remember with gratitude our fathers and grandfathers and the priests who accompanied them from the old country for the foundations we have in this immense continent. Those who followed them have also worked well, often building splendid churches with the assistance of the Latin hierarchy. Now we are in the age of the young, American-born priests. To them especially falls the task of perfecting the work begun before them. They are still too few in number, but we hope with confidence that their number will increase. We cannot be grateful enough to those Roman Catholic bishops of this country who took the steps necessary to preserve our heritage while we had no hierarchy of our own on these shores. We think most of all of the late Cardinal Richard Cushing, undoubtedly the greatest benefactor of our church in the United States. Thanks to his apostolic openness and love, he worked for the establishment of our exarchate and generously endowed it with his psychological and financial support once it had been erected. For this reason we have directed that a solemn Liturgy be celebrated annually in our cathedral to perpetuate his memory.

TOWARD THE FUTURE

This is not the place to describe in detail the projects we are currently working on. We only list some here: a diocesan religious education program for both adults and youth, a unified text and musical setting for the Divine Liturgy to be followed by similar texts for the other services of the Church, such as the sacraments, a diocesan handbook which we will soon be happy to offer to the faithful and to the friends of our Church, a periodical which will also appear before long, and the general sharing with the faithful of our pastoral responsibility, as in parish councils and an active diaconate among other things. Also high on our priority list are the concerns of youth. Without the participation of the young, we can be assured that all our work is in vain and that our communities will disappear. And so we look forward to implementing a diocesan youth program as well before long. We also recognize that we are reaching only a small number of our faithful while the majority of them are unknown to us. Like the Good Shepherd concerned about the lost sheep, we ask ourselves what can be done for them. We are presently in the process of studying these situations and hope to provide for their pastoral care where possible. With what joy, then, was it to hear Bishop Mark Hurley of Santa Rosa, California observe in a recent speech that “in many of our dioceses Eastern Christians are without churches of their own. It is the duty of the Latin bishops to see that the venerable rites of the East are preserved.” The bishop then called on the Eastern Catholic bishops in America to form parishes in these areas so that “the example of the East may continue to instruct Western Catholics and that the true universality of the Catholic Church may be experienced.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Dear faithful, be united to one another in the love of Christ. Form one soul and one heart with your priests and with one another, for it is only by this union in love that God is truly glorified. With these prayers and sentiments, dear faithful, we ask for you and your families the most abundant blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Archbishop Joseph Tawil Christmas, 1970

Papal Views of the Eastern Rites

The Greetings of His Holiness Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II
An Excerpt from His Holiness John Paul II's remarks at the General Audience on Wednesday, August 9, 1995 - as reported by L'Osservatore Romano, August 23, 1995, p.7
I would like to convey a cordial greeting to those Eastern Churches who live in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, while still preserving their ancient liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual traditions. They offer a special witness to that diversity in unity which adds to the beauty of Christ's Church. Today more than ever, the mission entrusted to them is one of service to the unity Christ desired for his Church, by sharing 'in the dialogue of love and in the theological dialogue at both the local and international levels, and those contributing to mutual understanding …' (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 60).

Pope Pius IX, Encyclical: In suprema Petri, January 6, 1848

"We keep altogether intact the Greek Catholic Liturgies which we truly honor, although they differ in some ways from the Liturgy of the Latin Church. These liturgies have been equally honored by our predecessors, as being commendable through their great antiquity, and through the fact that they are written in languages spoken by the Apostles and Fathers, and by their comprising ceremonies of the splendor and incomparable magnificence, suited to sustain the nourish the veneration of the faithful towards the divine mysteries."  

Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical: Orientalium Dignitas, November 30, 1894

"The august age which ennobles these diverse rites is a great glory for all the church, and affirms the divine unity of the Catholic faith. No witness perhaps better brings to light the Catholicity of the Church of God in a more admirable manner than the unique homage which is rendered to it by the differing ceremonies and the noble ancient languages all made more venerable by their use by the Apostles and Fathers."  

Pope Benedict XV, Apost. Decree, July 10, 1918)

"The preservation of the Oriental rites is of greater moment than may believe. The Sacred Congregation has for its office and duty to uphold and foster as much as possible the venerable Oriental liturgies and to preserve them in their integrity and purity."

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