Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
from.our.bishop

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

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

How great and awesome is the power of God’s grace! What wonders and miracles He can work in our lives. Yet, how often we can fail to trust in God’s miraculous providence for us, and how often we may think that God asks too much of us.

Perhaps that is how St. Peter felt in today’s Gospel. He and his company had just returned from fishing all night long, having caught nothing, they were cleaning up and getting ready to go home. Just at this moment, Jesus calls to him: “put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.” We can only imagine St. Peter feeling frustrated, or put upon, or impatient as he recounts to the Lord his long night of futile fishing. Yet, Peter did not give in to these passions; rather he allowed his simple, but obedient, faith to have the upper hand, saying to the Lord simply: “But at Your word, I will lower the net.”

And when Peter’s faith met Christ’s will, the power of Divine grace had astonishing effects. They caught so many fish that, not one, but two boats were filled to overflowing, almost to the point of sinking! For the Divine will is all powerful, but it needed the acceptance of St. Peter for it to become effective. Christ willed Peter to catch a superabundance of fish, but unless Peter put out into the deep and lowered his nets, no fish at all would have been caught.

This powerful combination—what the Fathers call, synergy—the cooperation of man’s will with Christ’s grace, is the key to understanding the way God’s grace operates in our lives. And by means of this incident, our Lord instructs His Apostles about how His Church will also operate. You see, the Church is a Divine institution—it is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit: the Kingdom of God on earth. Yet, the Church is made up of sinful human beings, who can enter into this Kingdom and receive the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit only by means of personal faith and repentance.

And how in need of Christ’s salvation is our world today! I can scarcely think of a time when our world and our society were more in need of the saving message of the Gospel that at this moment in history. Ours is a secular culture that forgets God, and lives as if God does not exist. And everywhere we turn, we see the tragic consequences of this abandonment of God: violence, perversity, greed, dishonesty, corruption, persecution, and chaos on our streets.

My brothers and sisters, has there ever been a time when the beautiful and saving treasure of our Melkite Church was more needed than today? Though the world has abandoned Christ, Christ has not abandoned the world: He continues to desire that “all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” Christ continues to offer salvation to every generation in and through His Church. Even if it may seem, at times, like we have fished all night and caught nothing, He continues to call us to “go out into the deep” and cast our nets to gather all into the saving ark of His Holy Church.

In our world today, you and I are the guardians of this very special treasure—the most ancient worship on earth of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, which comes from the very place where His followers were first called “Christians”—Antioch. Do we not feel the awesome and transforming power of Christ every time we celebrate this Divine Liturgy? Truly, this is “heaven on earth,” and, to this heaven, Christ calls all people on earth to enter.

This is a blessed time for our Melkite Church in America: this is our 50th Jubilee. While there have been Melkite priests here since 1889, we have only had our own bishop in the United States since 1966. During these years, Christ has blessed us, indeed: 50 years ago, we had 23 Melkite parishes. Today, we have 58 priests and 60 deacons serving 43 parishes, missions, and religious institutes…we have doubled in size. And in the time since becoming your Eparchial Bishop, I have ordained 11 priests and 8 deacons: 8 of those priests are married men, continuing our ancestral tradition of married clergy.

Now, our Church in America is poised for tremendous growth. We, now, have two cathedrals, one on the East Coast and one on the West. Three men are currently studying for the Priesthood for our Eparchy, and I recently met with four more who show great interest. Next year, we will re-open our Deacon Formation Program, having restructured it to make it more accessible to our faithful around the country, and to incorporate theological studies for the Laity.

And I come to you today to ask for your help, because it is only with your generous help that our Eparchy can grow to its full potential. Christ wills our Church to grow exponentially in America, but, as in today’s Gospel, He requires your willing and generous cooperation with His powerful grace. The fish don’t jump into the boat by themselves!

And so I come to you. This year, in honor of our 50th Jubilee, my goal for the Bishops Appeal is $500,000. It is a bigger goal than ever before, because our needs are greater than before, and I know I can count on you to be generous.

These are some of our most urgent needs: establishing a monastery for women in the US; renewing and expanding of our Deacon Formation Program; continuing to expand of our Office of Evangelization and Catechesis to prepare our youth and adults to be witnesses of our sacred tradition; increasing our mission growth fund; creating an endowment for the needs of families of married priests; expanding of our website; preparing and publishing liturgical and catechetical books; and the continued publication and distribution of SOPHIA magazine.

In addition, there are approximately 100,000 Melkites in the US today, but only 30,000 have access to a Melkite church within 50 miles of their home. This is why it is imperative that we grow, and why I am working so hard to start new missions and parishes. Last year, your generous response to the Bishop’s Appeal made it possible for me to establish one new parish and two new outreaches. In the coming year, God willing, I hope to officially establish at least one or two more mission or outreaches so that more Melkites may worship in their own tradition.

Finally, with your help, we continue to provide relief to our suffering Melkites in Syria and the Middle East. Since last year, we have provided over $57,000 for relief and aid to our Melkite Eparchies in Syria.

In honor of our Jubilee, I have determined that 100% of all gifts over your parish goal will be returned to the parish for the needs of your parish.

My beloved Melkite flock, your financial support is absolutely essential! Is it not especially now—at this time in history—that Christ our God speaks these bold words to us: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.” Truly, this is the call our Lord is addressing to our Church, to you and to me! The Lord is calling us today to unite our own personal sacrifice with His powerful grace and He promises a miraculous catch.

So, I ask you, please be as generous as you possibly can when you receive my letter of appeal in the mail. Your sacrifice made with a loving heart is indeed a pleasing and fragrant offering in the sight of God.

May our heavenly Father reward your generosity. And may the most holy Theotokos, our “watchful Protectress and our unfailing Hope,” be close to you, to all your loved ones, and to all those who suffer for their faith in Christ, especially in the ancestral homelands of our Melkite Church. With my prayers and blessing, I remain

Your Father and Shepherd,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
 
from.our.bishop

arabic translation

Dearly Beloved Clergy and Faithful,

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

“We celebrate the very death of death, and the overthrow of Hades, and the beginning of another life which is eternal. Let us sing in joy to the Author of these marvels: the only blessed and most glorious God of our Fathers!” (Pascha Ode 7)

Christ is risen from the dead – this is the proclamation of the good news of our Christian faith! The preaching, worship, and spiritual life of the Church flow abundantly from this event. St. Paul tells us “if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too, your faith” (1 Cor 15:14). The resurrection of Christ is the core and center of our preaching; it is the reason for our preaching, and it is the basic reality of our faith and life.

As we profess that Jesus has risen in a new and glorious form, we also profess that our humanity, too, has been raised with Him to a new and glorious form–the heavenly life: from dust of the earth, to people of divinity; from children of Adam, to images of the living God shining forth in Christ Jesus.

Some people question what practical effect the Resurrection has on us today. What does it mean for me today? The resurrection of Christ created for us a new mode of living. Today many lives are filled with emptiness, despair and meaninglessness. People are in great need for a new mode of life–not some technological advancement or new gimmick; but rather, the risen life in Christ.

The Lord’s resurrection was a victory in the decisive battle against evil and death. While the battle continues today for much of humanity, for those who live in Christ the victory has already been accomplished. In Christ, God entered into death and won. St. John Chrysostom expressed this beautifully in his Paschal Homily:

“Today salvation has come to the world, today forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.
Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down.
Christ is risen and the angels rejoice.”

So the new mode of life produced by Christ’s resurrection is one of victory and triumph – a new era for the human race. It is a victory over sin, a victory over death, a victory over despair. We are filled with hope: our faith tells us that God is in control, and that when we entrust our life to Him, our end will never be crucifixion and death, but resurrection and eternal life.

Our resurrection is not only a future promise: it begins now and continues into eternity. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, He gives us a new quality of life now – a power over sin, a new perspective, a new joy, a new peace, a new love. The Lord opens our tombs of sin and lifts us up to live His life. He opens our tombs of death and raises us to a new quality of living here and now, a quality of life that will endure forever!

“Shout joyfully to God, all you on earth. Sing praise to the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you’” (Psalm 95).

I pray for all of you most especially on this Feast of Feasts and ask the risen Lord to extend His powerful hand to each and every one to raise you to His victory over sin and death and to grant you hope over despair, and the opportunity to love and forgive each other. I ask for your prayers for me.

Sincerely in the risen Lord,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
 

Among the various disciplines and customs associated with Great Lent, there are three which are inter-connected, often called the “pillars” or “hinges” of Lent. These are prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. In our eparchy there is a communal emphasis on alms-giving called “Shepherd’s Care.”

Each one of the faithful, and each family, is asked to make a real effort towards feeding the hungry, relieving those who are suffering, clothing the naked, etc. In parishes special offering boxes are distributed when we begin the Great Fast, and in our homes we strive to connect our fasting and abstinence with care for the poor, by a daily offering. At the end of the Fast all of the offerings are collected at church and the proceeds are then sent to the Eparchy to be distributed by our Bishop to the needy both at home and abroad.

It is a powerful means of allowing our other practices – prayer and fasting – to bear fruit. Whatever our humble efforts may be, we are able to unite them as a Church, family to family, parish to parish, and share in the work of God’s mercy to the “least of our brethren” wherever they are.

Here is a full color tri-fold brochure with more information on the Shepherd’s Care program.

Here is a 28-page handbook explaining how to celebrate Great and Holy Lent at home.

 
from.our.bishop

Dear Clergy and Faithful,

The Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis coincides with our Melkite Jubilee – our 50th anniversary of the presence of our own Melkite bishop in the United States. In a symbolic manner, Pope Francis inaugurated the Holy Year of Mercy by opening the Holy Door and entering prayerfully into St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He emphasized that the symbolic opening to the divine life is the same gift of life that made Mary “worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ.” He performed this act on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of St. Ann attesting to the fact that this event changed the course of human history, making a way for the coming of Christ – the greatest Mercy of God.

During the Jubilee of Mercy, as well as the Melkite Jubilee, we are called to experience the joy of encountering the transforming power of the Godly life and to rediscover God’s infinite mercy to all of us. Pope Francis tells us “to put mercy before judgment.” Like Mary, he calls us “to become bearers of Christ and let ourselves be embraced by the mercy of God who waits for us and forgives everything.”

The fundamental theme is return – return to the loving and merciful God. We extend this same theme of renewal and return to our Melkite Jubilee – to call back to their spiritual home all Melkites who have strayed.

I have decided that the door to every parish church or mission is to be considered a holy door. What is very necessary for all to receive God’s blessings: each person must actively accept God’s mercy through participation in the Holy Mystery of Repentance or Confession. This is to be followed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – caring for and serving one another. We recognize our brokenness, and like the Prodigal Son, we return to our loving Father. Like the Good Samaritan, we are called to show mercy: we need to look for those who have strayed, those who are lost, those who are hurt, those who suffer – and lift them on our shoulders to return them to the merciful Father in our church communities.

We open wide the doors of all of our churches, for everyone to enter with a renewed spirit – every church door is a door of mercy, and each time we enter, we receive God’s grace to live our Christian life in a more active and focused way. Each time we enter we are reminded to shed our past and move from sin to grace – the Godly life.

Last week, we sent to all parishes monthly themes and activities for the Year of Mercy and our Melkite Jubilee. I ask that you follow them as much as possible. Each and every one of us needs to renew our personal life through the Holy Mystery of Confession. Then we can begin to develop more activities in our parish in order to welcome home those who have strayed and are in need of God’s mercy.

Each day we should add a special prayer to our family meals or prayers before our home icon corner. Two are included here and can be alternated each day. Psalm 135 (136) is chanted at Orthros or Morning Prayer on feasts. It is ideal for this Year of Mercy, known as the Polyeleos, meaning “abundant mercy.” A second prayer is given to us by Pope Francis. See the attached prayer sheets.

Please use these prayers daily.

Open your hearts. Open your church doors. Welcome those who seek the mercy of God. Be merciful like the Father!

With my prayers, good wishes, and blessings for a double jubilee celebration – Jubilee of Mercy and Jubilee of a Melkite Bishop in the USA, I remain,

Sincerely yours in the merciful Savior,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
 
from.our.bishop

Dear Clergy and Faithful of the Eparchy of Newton,

Christ is born! Glorify him!

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be Emmanuel, which means God is with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23).

We often think of Jesus in the past tense – born in Bethlehem so long ago. We need to see him in the present tense – God with us. He is not far away in the heavens, but rather among us now sharing our sorrows, healing our pain, showing us that life has eternal value. He is Emmanuel – God with us!

The beautiful Hymn of Light from Christmas Matins refreshes us and renews our belief that God is merciful and loves us, and that his greatest gift was his Son born in the flesh to save us:

“From on high our Savior came, the rising Sun who shone from the East, to visit us in his mercy – we who sat in darkness and gloom. But now we see the Light of Truth for the Lord Jesus is born of the pure Virgin Mother.”

Do not leave Jesus in the past. See and recognize him today in each and every person you encounter. Reach out to the lonely, call someone in need, forgive a broken relationship, share the joy of God’s presence with others. Pope Francis reminds us for the Jubilee of Mercy: “Be merciful like the Father.” Experience the joyful presence of God in your heart as you celebrate his birth this Christmas: then share him and let others know how Jesus has touched you. Make God’s presence – God with us – a joyful “now.”

God’s great gift to us at Christmas is more than a code of ethics or philosophy; it is more than a series of commandments. It is a Presence – Jesus in our flesh, God with us. He is with us in trouble and in pain, and He is with us in sorrow. He wipes away our tears, in weakness and makes us strong. He gives us joy, and we share him with each other.

But most importantly, not just on Christmas day do we experience God’s great gift of Jesus. Continue Christmas even after the trees and decorations come down. We sing with the angels, we adore with the shepherds and magi. We rejoice with Mary and we must find Bethlehem each day of our life. The decorations can return to the attic or basement but Christ is meant for the living room of your heart and mine all year round. If we allow him to dwell in our life, there is no let-down feeling after the feast. His presence will make all the “days after” warm with His power, His forgiveness, His grace, His love.

My sincere thanks to all of you for your love and support. My prayers and blessings for a blessed season and a healthy New Year 2016.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
 
from.our.bishop

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Often we ask: what must we do to follow Christ? Last Sunday, Christ told us: “If anyone wishes to follow me he must deny himself and take up his cross.” Today our Lord tells us: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets.” These two commands show us the path to true discipleship.

Peter, James, and John encounter our Lord Jesus and everything in their lives changed…everything. After their encounter with the Lord, they are new men, experiencing Our Lord’s miraculous power. Peter fell down upon his knees and begged Him: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Our Lord tells Peter not to fear and that henceforth he shall catch—not fish, but—men.

Then, the most astonishing thing happens: in stunning simplicity “they left all and followed Him!” In an instant, Jesus came into their lives with His power, and their lives were changed. They became different men; their concerns and priorities were transformed; they encountered Christ and could not resist Him. They left all and followed Him.

In this Gospel passage, we see the true encounter with Our Lord Jesus, repeated again and again through the centuries in various settings and circumstances—even today. An encounter with Christ our God always produces the certain realization of one’s own sinful unworthiness—“Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” At the same time, Christ’s presence radiates a powerful magnetism that pulls us to Him in faith.

My dear friends, our Lord Jesus desires to encounter each one of us in the depths of our hearts. His Holy Spirit dwells within us through baptism as His power in our lives. Just as He called the Apostles, He calls each us to leave ALL to follow Him, so that He may fill us with all Godliness. We encounter Christ within the Church. In the Sacred Mysteries, He comes to us personally with His power and glory to fill our hearts. Yet, Christ’s power and glory can only be effective in our lives if we, like Simon Peter, fall to our knees in humility and experience our own unworthiness. For the miraculous catch of today’s Gospel occurs only when Peter is willing to give up his own ego, and does Christ’s bidding. For, on his own, with all his sweat and toil, Peter caught nothing…nothing!

How often do we experience this in our lives? Many times our own self-centered efforts often hit dead-ends, and leave us unsatisfied. But when we give our will over to do Christ’s bidding, miracles can happen in our lives. And then Our Lord speaks this command to each of us: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets!” He bids us not to fear, our mission is the same as St. Peter’s, to gather souls for the Lord in the nets of the Church. This is the mission of every disciple of Christ. This is the mission of our Melkite Church. This is the mission of you and of me.

My brothers and sisters, in January our Melkite Church will begin our Jubilee Year—celebrating the 50th anniversary of the official establishment of our Melkite jurisdiction in America in 1966, with the appointment of our first Melkite bishop and the naming of our eparchial cathedral of the Annunciation. This historic moment marks a significant milestone in the life of our Melkite Church, and it reminds us that our Church in America has always been a refuge for the suffering and persecuted who came to our shores in search of the freedom to practice their faith and to make a better life for their families. Our ancestors came to America from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt to escape situations similar to those which endure today in the homelands of our Church. Thank God for our Church! Now, once again, the Lord is calling us to put out into the deep of our secular culture and lower our nets for the catch.

Fifty years ago when our Melkite jurisdiction was established we had 23 parishes, today we have some 45 parishes and missions—almost double. But now, as we prepare to begin our second fifty years in America, Christ is calling our Church to begin a new dynamic impetus of growth and increase. We are no longer an immigrant Church, or an ethnic club, dependent upon the “old country” for our sustenance and survival. No, we are an evangelizing Church! We are called to proclaim our beautiful, ancient Faith here in the USA—to reach out in hospitality to welcome all who desire to follow the Lord Jesus “in spirit and in truth” and to live our life-giving tradition. We must continue to grow!

Now, the harassed churches of our homelands are coming to depend upon us! It was very moving for me to receive the humble gratitude of His Beatitude, our Holy Patriarch Gregorios, and so many of our Melkite Bishops at our Melkite Synod last June when I gave them the relief funds to support their suffering faithful which came from you and your generous donations to last year’s Bishop’s Appeal. These funds continue to be needed now as the evils of war and persecution continue unabated. But this is only one of the compelling reasons why the annual Bishop’s Appeal is so very important for our Church.

Just last month, we had the honor of inaugurating the Church of St. Anne in North Hollywood, California, as our West Coast Cathedral. May God grant that in ten years’ time this Co-Cathedral may become the cathedral of a new and thriving Eparchy of the West–a second Melkite eparchy in the USA! I will be looking toward the possibility of creating future missions in the West that can one day become parishes of a new eparchy. At the same time, we must continue to increase and grow in the southern regions of the USA, as well as in the Northeast and the Mid-West, adding new missions and parishes.

Especially in this day and time, when our society is so ego-centric and materialistic, our Church and your parish must cast its nets into these depths and fill our churches with people seeking Christ. We must help them to come to know the power and glory of Our Lord through the sacred and ancient beauty of our Divine Liturgy properly celebrated. By receiving the Precious and Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord we become one body with our all-powerful Lord! Truly, this is what the human heart yearns for; this is what Christ wants us to bring to our world.

And so, dear friends in Christ, as we begin the annual Bishop’s Appeal this year, I ask you to reflect upon the great mission Christ gave to our Melkite Church in America in 1966, namely to implant our ancient faith in American soil. Now that our Eparchy has taken root here for fifty years, let us heed the urgent mission Christ is giving us today, namely, go out into the depths of this culture that does not know God and that lives as if God does not exist and cast our nets far and wide–to bring in all those who need the riches of Christ’s love and mercy. Let our parishes show the vitality of truly Christian family life, especially now in this time when the family is under attack in our society. This is the mission the Lord gives us today, and this mission requires ever increasing financial support.

I thank you for the generosity you have shown in the past. By the grace of God and the generosity of so many of you, the Bishop’s Appeal has become somewhat of a “miraculous catch” in its own right. Last year alone, we raised over $351,000 to meet the vital needs of our Church in America and to assist our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Thank God!

This money is used very carefully and prudently: it supports the publication and distribution of SOPHIA magazine; it funds the training for religious education for our children and adults; it makes possible that our candidates for the Diaconate and Priesthood pursue their studies so that we will have clergy to serve our people. And when there are needs in our struggling missions, your gifts provide for them, and also help to support our elderly priest in their golden years. Plus, last year, over $66,000 was returned to 18 parishes who surpassed their Appeal goals. Finally, please know that, again this year, we will tithe, or give ten percent, of all monies collected in the Bishop’s Appeal to our associated Melkite Charities, with 40% of these funds going to our churches and people in the Middle East and outside the USA who endure dire hardship.

Yet, while we are tremendously grateful and rejoice with all our benefactors, we also realize that only about fourteen percent (14%) of our Melkite families in the USA participate in the support of our Church. This is very sad. What wonders we could accomplish if one hundred percent of Melkites in America would join in the duty of supporting our Church financially!

My brothers and sisters, I come to you, today, as your Father and Shepherd to ask for your generous support of our Church. We need every member of our Church family to take financial responsibility for the works of our Church. If you have not given in the past, I ask you: please, please give this year. We need you.

When you receive my appeal letter at home, please be as generous as you possibly can. I ask that every Melkite household in America contribute at least $100-$200 to the Bishop’s Appeal for the needs of our Church. I understand that for some on fixed incomes this may require a sacrifice; however, I know that many of you are able to contribute much more. All I ask is that you give back to the Lord as the Lord has given to you.

Let us do the bidding of Christ, put out into the deep, and lower our nets. Then, trusting in the Lord Jesus, He will bring our unworthy efforts to miraculous fruition, and we will be amazed at what Christ our God can do in our lives!

With my gratitude, prayers, and blessing for you and for our entire Melkite family in America, I remain,

Your Father and Shepherd,
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
 

To begin the Protecting God’s Children training online, all participants must first register with VIRTUS Online. Once registered, an email will be sent with instructions to begin the training program.

To do so, either click the link above, or follow the detailed registration instructions here.

May the Holy and All-Pure Mother of God protect, guide and guard all our children and families.

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

At the request of His Grace, The Most Revered NICHOLAS J. Samra, Eparchial Bishop of Newton, His Holiness, Pope Francis, has named Saint Anne Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, as Co-Cathedral of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton. The Divine Liturgy for the Solemn Inauguration of the Cathedral of Saint Anne will be celebrated by His Grace, Bishop NICHOLAS, on Saturday, 1 August 2015, at 4:00 P.M. His Eminence, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in Rome, will preside at the Divine Liturgy and will read the decree of Pope Francis elevating the Church as a Cathedral for the Eparchy of Newton. A grand Banquet will follow the Divine Liturgy at the Hilton Hotel in Studio City, CA.

Saint Anne Cathedral was founded in 1909 when Father Gerasimos Sawaya, the first Melkite missionary priest, traversed the west coast visiting and ministering to the Melkites in the Western United States. The present church building is 51 years old and is quite unique in the United States for its modern Byzantine architecture. The church is a jewel of iconography with mosaic and painted icons decorating the entire interior, featuring the Great Feasts of the Byzantine calendar and related accounts of the New Testament Gospel periscopes, as well as many saints. Its semi-circular exterior arcade features icon scenes from the Old Testament.

St. Anne Cathedral was the Mother Church of the following Melkite communities founded from it: Holy Cross Church in Placentia, CA; Virgin Mary Mission in Temecula, CA; St. Jacob Mission in San Diego, CA; St. Philip Mission in San Bernardino, CA; St. Paul Mission in West Los Angeles, CA; and Annunciation Mission in Covina, CA. In addition, St. Anne Church was also involved with the foundation of the following communities: St. George Church in Sacramento, CA; St. Elias the Prophet Church in San Jose, CA; and St. John of the Desert Church in Phoenix, AZ; and St. Joseph Mission in Seattle, WA.

The Eparchy of Newton has jurisdiction over all the Melkites in the entire United States. The seat of the Eparchy is in Boston (Newton) Massachusetts, where its Eparchial Cathedral of the Annunciation is located. Because of the vast extent of the Eparchy, Bishop NICHOLAS requested the naming of a Co-Cathedral on the West Coast in order to express to the Melkite faithful there the unity of the Church and the solicitude of it bishop. The Eparchy of Newton presently has 45 parishes and missions, sixty active and retired priests, and sixty-two deacons, with several priests and deacons on special assignment outside the Eparchy.

 
Bishop Nicholas J. Samara – Bishop of Newton

Major Catechetical Teaching Points

  1. Cultural development sometimes veers away from Christian thinking: Funerals are not about memories and reminiscences of the departed, but rather focus on the reality of their present life in Christ and prayers for their “good defense before the awesome Judgment Seat of Christ.”
  2. Encourage the faithful to notify clergy of someone’s illness so that prayers for the sick may be offered. The mystery of Holy Unction is not just for one who is dying, but a healing remedy for the living.
  3. Funeral Services: Trisagion at the Funeral Home, Funeral in church, Graveside Prayers.
  4. Respect at the Funeral Home for the departed and the family. Offering condolences should not turn into a “free- for-all” visit with friend and acquaintances. Instead encourage the reading of the Psalms or Gospels throughout the viewing.
  5. If viewing is at Church: no pictures or slide shows of the departed are permitted. An atmosphere of prayer is to be maintained in the church. The church is not a place for social gatherings but a house of prayer. Psalms and/or Gospels must be read during the entire duration of the viewing. No piped in music, please!
  6. The Possibility of evening Funerals and morning Trisagion at the church or directly at the grave without the procession of cars.
  7. No eulogies by laity or clergy are permitted. The homily should focus on the “end” of earthly life and the beginning of the new life to which we are all called, being restored through the resurrections of Christ.
  8. If family members wish to speak, the ideal time is at the mercy meal, not at the funeral service or Trisagion.
  9. No music other than funeral chants is permitted; nor are any services by fraternal organizations permitted in church.
  10. Simple mercy meals, not extravagant dinners.
  11. Memorials with Kolyva (sweetened boiled wheat) or sweetened bread.
  12. Development of Bereavement Ministry among the parish laity to assist with service and even mercy meals.
  13. Simpler caskets–no need for outrageous costs, which can be a sign of vanity. These are of no avail for the deceased.
  14. Cremation: the Church upholds the ideal of burial as the traditional, preferred practice. If cremation is chosen and is not motivated by reasons opposed to Christian faith, we still recommend that it is done after the funeral. Cremated ashes may never be scattered or taken home; they must be buried or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.
  15. Donations to the church or charities can be recommended. If flowers are given, they can be used in front of the icons after the funeral.
  16. The Funeral Service with open coffin is our traditional rite, so that the body may be anointed with oil and sprinkled with ashes; and the custom of the last kiss may be observed at the conclusion of the service.
 
from.our.bishop

My Beloved Clergy and Faithful,

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

Pascha is our celebration of Faith and Hope, our belief and trust in God’s promise that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Indeed, our yearning for abundant life is fulfilled by the Resurrection that gives promise for our future.

Without hope life can be very sad and painful, and we can become disillusioned in relationships, in shattered dreams, in family problems, in illness, and of course, in death. Yet Pascha proclaims an undying hope–the risen Christ comes today to bring hope and victory. He comes to bring resurrection and new life.

On Holy Friday, we heard the reading of Ezekiel’s vision of an entire valley filled with dead men’s bones. The Lord who is ever faithful breathes over the bones and brings His people back from death and captivity. This vision is fulfilled by the risen Christ who even today calls us back to life and clothes our dry, dead bones with purpose, hope, and eternal life!

On the night of His Resurrection, Jesus walks to Emmaus with two of his disciples who do not recognize Him immediately (Luke 24:13-35). In their sadness they tell Him: “We hoped that He was the one who would redeem Israel.” They mention the women, and some other disciples, finding the empty tomb, “but Him they did not see.” Jesus then interprets for them the Scriptures concerning Himself, and He opens their eyes in the “breaking of the bread.” Immediately, He brings them from the darkness of despair to the joyful light of hope in Him.

Our life, too, is often filled with shattered dreams and broken hopes. Truly, our world is still filled with problems: wars, killings, injustice, hatred, and the like. So many people lose themselves in despair. But if Christ is risen, then hope is risen! If Christ is risen, death is conquered, and we live in the everlasting arms of our beloved Savior who died so we may live. In Him “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

The risen Christ liberates us from all negativity and pessimism. Our lighted candles on Pascha remind us that we sing with full and joyful hope as we proclaim with St. John Chrysostom: “Christ is risen, and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen, and the tombs have been emptied of their dead. Christ is risen, and life is set freed” (Paschal Homily)!

Sartre speaks of the silence of God.

Heidegger speaks of the absence of God.

Jaspers speaks of the concealment of God.

Bultmann of the hiddenness of God.

Buber of the eclipse of God.

Tillich of the nonbeing of God.

Altizer of the death of God.

However, the New Testament writers–eyewitnesses–speak of the hope of the Risen and Living Lord! To Him be glory, honor, and worship, praise and thanksgiving for all ages. Amen.

My sincere and prayerful wishes that you will find your Hope in the risen Lord, and that your Paschal celebration and its forty-day festal season be filled with great joy. I offer all of you my prayers, blessing, and love.

Sincerely yours in the risen Christ,

✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton

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