Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE is considered one of the three “synoptic Gospels,” along with Matthew and Mark. They cover much the same ground, in contrast to John’s Gospel which reports actions and teachings not found elsewhere.

There are, however, two important segments in Luke which are not found in the other Gospels. The first is the so-called “Travel Narrative”) (Luke 9:51 to 19:44), Luke depicts the Lord Jesus as resolving to go to Jerusalem, then making that journey which would led to His death and resurrection. In Luke, several passages found elsewhere in Matthew and Mark, are grouped together in Luke, in the context of this journey.

Luke begins this section of the Gospel with these words:” “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). He resolved to do what it takes – facing the Jerusalem authorities who would put Him to death – in order for Him to be “received up.” As St Cyril of Alexandria wrote, “This means that, after He would endure His saving passion for us, the time would come when He should ascend to heaven and dwell with God the Father (Commentary on Luke, Homily 56). Jerusalem was but a stopover on Jesus’ journey to the Father.

This journey has another parallel in the Scriptures. Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt an often-rebellious people into the wilderness at the edge of the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 9 ff. shows their journey continue to the place which God had prepared for them; but they would only enter it after the death of Moses.

Deuteronomy 12-18 (God’s instructions to Moses) climaxes with this messianic prophecy from the mouth of Moses “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15). In his “Travel Narrative,” Luke depicts Jesus as the Prophet like Moses, whose journey leads His followers to salvation in the eternal promised land, the Kingdom of God, which they would enter after the death – and resurrection – of the Lord Jesus.

The Messianic Banquet

A number of times in Luke’s Gospel the Lord Jesus is depicted as communicating His teachings in the context of a meal:

After the Call of Levi/Matthew:Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Luke 5:29-32).

The Scribes and Pharisees saw themselves as “righteous” and thus entitled to eat with Jesus. But the Lord’s Table is not a reward for the “righteous,” but a healing balm for repentant sinners!

Feeding the Five Thousand: At Levi’s house, Jesus was a guest; here (Luke 9:10-17) He is the host, providing bread in a way reminiscent of the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness. Luke’s description also points ahead to the Eucharist: “…looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude” (Luke 9:15). When the Lord feeds us, all are satisfied and then some!

Hospitality at the home of Mary and  Martha: Luke tells us that, during His preaching ministry, the Lord stopped in a certain village and was invited to the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha (Luke 10-38-42). Martha complains when she is left to do all the serving by herself. The “main course” consists, not in the dishes she has prepared, however, but in the Lord Himself, “the one thing needed” (v.42).

Parable of the Great Supper: At a Sabbath meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, the Lord Jesus criticized the practice of entertaining oneself and ones friends in the guise of a religious celebration. Social norms tell us to celebrate these festivals as occasions for celebrating social prominence. In contrast, Jesus teaches that these occasions should be an occasion for celebrating God’s love for all. “But when you give a feast,” He said, “invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” He then described the history of salvation in terms of a banquet to which many are invited (Luke 14:15-24). They all make excuses so the host (the Father) sends a servant (whom St Cyril of Alexandria identified as Christ) to summon “the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind” to take their place (v. 21). The host first honors his commitment to “the invited” (the Jewish elite) but when they decline, he reaches out to the common people and then to the Gentiles.

Institution of Eucharist: Luke offers the longest description of the Last Supper in the New Testament (Luke 22: 14-38). Jesus begins by foretelling His imminent passion and death, which will open the gates to the kingdom of God.: “…for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God [and] I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (vv.16 and 18).

Jesus then gives a new meaning to the Jewish ritual meal. His meal was no longer a memorial of Old Testament events. Instead, He enjoins His disciples to repeat this ritual as a remembrance of Christ Himself: particularly His death, resurrection and second coming which will inaugurate the kingdom. In addition, He proclaims the elements of the ritual meal, the bread and wine, to be His body and blood and declares that partaking of them was to be a sign of the kingdom where the Lord’s disciples would “eat and drink at My table” (v.30). The Covenant with Moses is now replaced: the veil of the temple is “torn in two” (Luke 23:45) and the New Covenant takes effect.

The Meal at Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35): Luke’s series of sacred meals climaxes, not in the upper room but in the inn at Emmaus where the risen Christ makes Himself known to the disciples “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). Mentioned but briefly in Mark 16:12 and 13, this resurrection appearance is cast here in a form which Luke’s audience – a Church in Asia Minor, perhaps Antioch itself – would recognize as their own.

It begins with an “entrance procession” as the disciples, joined by the risen Christ, walk to Emmaus. After Jesus greets them, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

After hearing the Scriptures, “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24: 30, 31). Returning to the company of believers in Jerusalem, “they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (v. 35).

Luke concludes his series of sacred meals by presenting the Emmaus appearance in the form of a Eucharistic Liturgy – the place where his initial audience – and readers ever since – have heard the Scriptures expounded to them and recognized their risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.
 

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MOST CHRISTIANS KNOW that the books of the New Testament — the Gospels, the Epistles and the rest — were written in the first century ad. Some know that these books were compiled as the New Testament sometime in the next three centuries. Few know that the form of the New Testament which we use in our Church — the “Byzantine text” — is largely the work of St Lucian of Antioch, whom our Church remembers on October 15.

Who Was Lucian of Antioch?

Born in c. 240, Lucian was the son of Christian parents in a Syriac-speaking area in eastern Syria. Some say his hometown was Samosata (now Samsat, Turkey). His family was probably not poor as Lucian was educated in Edessa, tutored by Macarios the Confessor.

Early in life Lucian moved Antioch, Syria’s principal city, where Paul of Samosata was then the bishop. Lucian was ordained a presbyter and attached to the Antiochian Church’s theological school where he soon became its leading figure.

Lucian’s patron, Paul of Samosata, was a controversial figure who divided the Church at Antioch for a number of years. It seems that Paul, of humble origins, was ambitious and somewhat worldly. He took on a civil post in addition to being bishop of Antioch and was accused of spending more energy on his secular post than on serving the Church. The fourth-century historian Eusebius of Caesarea claimed that Paul conducted himself “more like a rhetorician or a mountebank than of a bishop.”

Paul’s love for luxury was not his most serious failure in the eyes of his peers. His critics also accused him of such serious theological errors that the bishops of the province deposed him at a local council in 269, less than ten years after his election. He was accused of teaching that Christ was of purely human origin and that He was Son of God by grace, not by nature. The bishops elected a certain Dominus to succeed him.

Paul had acquired a degree of power, however, and he did not accept their deposition. The Church of Antioch was divided between the supporters of Paul and those who accepted Dominus as the legitimate bishop. Paul remained in possession of the see until 272 when the Emperor Aurelian intervened in the interests of good order and recognized Paul’s deposition.

Many of Paul’s followers, including Lucian, continued to reject the authority of Dominus and his successors. His scholarship and deep piety were never in question and his work was widely received. Finally, in about 285, Lucian was reconciled with the current bishop, Cyril, the third successor of Paul.

The School of Antioch

St Lucian is credited with being an important proponent of biblical interpretation in the tradition known as the “School of Antioch.” While in the main center of biblical study, Alexandria, allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures was promoted, Antiochian writers stressed a more literal interpretation of sacred texts. They also employed typology to root later texts in continuity with earlier revelation. This style would come to dominate biblical study until the modern age. Fourth-century proponents of this school included Diodoros of Tarsus, John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia.

The Antiochians also emphasized the distinction between the human and divine in the person of Christ while the Alexandrians stressed the union of the human and divine in Him. In the following century extremes of these views would be described as Nestorian (Antioch) or as Monophysite (Alexandria) and become the defining positions of the Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Churches respectively.

Lucian’s Bible

Both Old Testament and New Testament studies occupied most of Lucian’s career in Antioch. Proficient in Hebrew as well as Greek, Lucian produced an edition of the Septuagint in which he used the Hebrew text to correct copyists’ errors and other mistakes which had crept in over the centuries. His version was highly esteemed by St Jerome, the greatest Latin biblical authority of the age. It became the preferred text used in the Antiochian and Byzantine Churches.

Lucian also produced an edition of the (Greek) New Testament which came to be known as the “Byzantine text” used liturgically throughout the Greek-speaking Churches of the East. Centuries later it would be at the basis of the edition made by the sixteenth-century Dutch scholar, Desiderius Erasmus. This version was generally accepted in the West as the “received text,” and used as the basis for many modern translations.

Lucian the Martyr

The greatest and last Roman persecution of Christians began in the year 303 under the Emperor Diocletian. Lucian was arrested in Antioch and transported to the imperial city of Nicomedia, where the emperors often held court. Eusebius recorded that, “…in the presence of the emperor, he proclaimed the heavenly kingdom of Christ, first in an oral defense, and afterwards by deeds as well” (Ecclesiastical History, 13, 2).

Lucian was imprisoned for nine years, during which he encouraged the other Christians with him to remain steadfast in their confession of Christ. He suffered both torture and starvation, because he refused the only food given to him, meat that had been offered to Roman idols.

The fourth-century history by Philostorgios of Cappadocia relates that, when bound and chained down on his back in prison, Lucian consecrated the divine mysteries upon his own breast, and communicated the faithful that were present.

Lucian died on January 7, 312, towards the end of the last great persecution of Christians by Roman authorities. His body was taken to Drepanum (later renamed Helenopolis by Constantine in memory of his mother) and was immediately revered by the Church of Antioch and elsewhere. In a homily preached on his feastday in 387 St John Chrysostom urged Christians to follow his example: “He scorned hunger. Let us also scorn luxury and destroy the lordship of the stomach; that we may, when the time comes for us to meet such torture, be prepared beforehand, by the help of a lesser ascesis, to show ourselves worthy of glory in the hour of battle.”

St Lucian of Antioch is celebrated in the West on the day of his death, January 7. When the feast of the Theophany was extended in the Eastern Churches by the commemoration of St John the Baptist on that day his feast was moved to October 15.

Vesper Hymns to This Holy Martyr

You made the faithful steadfast, enriching them by your faith and the discourse of knowledge of God, so that they might boldly endure the rage of the tyrant for the sake of the incorruptible life which is to come. Wherefore, we call you blessed, O right glorious Lucian, and we celebrate your divine solemnity today.

Lengthy imprisonment and a most violent death did you endure, O venerable one, bound with bonds, lacerated with sharp-edged shards, O blessed one, weakened by cruel starvation and by long thirst. Wherefore, you manifestly received heavenly food becoming an invincible martyr, O valiant athlete.

 

Prot. 346/2013R

Dear Muslim Fellow-Citizens!

I send you cordial good wishes for Eid ul Fitr. We rejoice with you as we reflect on this festival’s sublime, spiritual values, especially that of surrender to God’s will.

We are suffering with you and with all our Muslim brothers and sisters, especially those of the Arab world, in the face of those tragic situations that have made all our hearts bleed, since any Arab blood shed is blood of sons and daughters of the same family.

We are praying for peace and security and especially for unity of the Arab and Muslim world.

We believe that this unity is the foundation for peace and prosperity in the Arab and Muslim world, and the purity of authentic Islam, alongside which we have lived for 1434 [Islamic] years. Together we have built a common Arab Muslim-Christian humane, open society.

Dear brethren,

We believe that division of the Muslim Arab world is the real danger for Muslim and Christian Arabs and for Islam and Christianity. That is the real danger for our living together, civilisation, tradition, future, mission and role in our Arab East and throughout the world.

We congratulate you with all our heart. We pray for the fulfilment of a shared Muslim-Christian Arab vision, for a better future for our rising generations, and to meet the aspirations, shouts and slogans of the real Arab revolution that spring from a desire to seek to ensure a worthy, better life for the sons and daughters of this East that is so dear to us all.

Our best wishes for a happy feast, our affection and sincere good wishes for peace to return to the land of peace!

+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
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