On the Occasion of the Closure of the Year of Saint Paul

Patriarch Gregory sitting in a chair on a porch

Patriarchal Letter of His Beatitude Gregory III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem

On the Occasion of the Closure of the Year of Saint Paul

Damascus 2009

“I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace.” (Acts of the Apostles 20: 32)

From Gregorios III, servant of Jesus Christ, by the grace of God Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem , to their most Reverend Excellencies the Hierarchs, members of our venerable Holy Synod, and to all the sons and daughters in Christ of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, clergy and people, who are “called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord…, grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1: 2-3)

On the occasion of the closure of this jubilee year celebrating two thousand years since the Apostle Paul’s birth, a year dedicated to knowing and venerating him, he is not bidding us farewell, because he is always among us while we hear his voice, especially on Sundays and indeed during every Divine Liturgy.

“I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace.” Saint Paul is not saying good-bye, but thanking us for having venerated him over the course of this year. He commends his call and Gospel and God’s word of grace, that our faith be not shallow or vain, nor this jubilee year without fruit in our Church.

What Saint Paul said to his collaborators and to the first Christian community, I am passing on to you, sons and daughters of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and to all those who will read this letter, to all who have been celebrating this Pauline Year, meditating on his Epistles or presenting them in their sermons to the people. I would like to mention here especially my brother bishops, priests, monks, nuns, catechists, leaders of brotherhoods, scouts, youth and other movements, who really decided to celebrate this year with a great deal of love, renewing their faith and the faith of God’s dear people, who made the spiritual pilgrimage to Damascus and other places which keep the Apostle Paul’s memory alive.


The Year of Saint Paul

The Holy Father wanted the Year of Saint Paul to be a celebration that would make our faith live. Yet this celebration is an event in itself. We celebrated this event in a splendid way in Damascus .

I would like to include here, among the collaborators of Saint Paul , those who worked to animate this jubilee especially in Syria , and to mention here in first place His Excellency the President of the Syrian Arab Republic , Doctor Bashar al-Assad, who, with several of his ministers, decided to give this year a special impetus. Also meriting thanks are all the various commissions, which went into action here during this Year of Saint Paul. To all, Paul’s blessing and love.

This jubilee is a departure point for Saint Paul and his mission in the third millennium. He has left us his Epistles as a reliquary and he wishes to count us among his collaborators in bearing the Gospel message, just like those who worked with and alongside him. We all – or an elite among us – wish to be numbered with those who have deserved to be called by the beautiful names that Saint Paul gave to his collaborators.

In this fourth letter on Saint Paul in this Pauline Year, I would like to show how Saint Paul enabled the new faithful, whether Jews or Gentiles, to share in the Gospel’s message. Although Saint Paul likes to speak of himself always as an “Apostle, called” by Christ Jesus himself, he nevertheless calls the faithful to work with him, at his side and following his guidance.

That is what we shall see in the Acts of the Apostles, which recount the life of Saint Paul in detail, and later in his Epistles.

The Collaborators of Saint Paul in the Acts of the Apostles

The first Christians of Damascus saved Saint Paul from death and enabled him to flee from the walls (Bab Kisan) of their city (Acts 9:25) and escape the King of the Nabateans, Aretas IV, on whom the city’s governor depended. (II Corinthians 11:32-33)

In Tarsus , Paul and Barnabas met and both went to Antioch and there collected relief offerings for the new faithful of Jerusalem . (Acts 11:30)

Barnabas remained at Paul’s side, thereafter, in many of his missionary journeys. Together, they founded the first Christian communities and “ordained elders in every church.” (Acts 14: 23)

Among the Apostle’s early collaborators, we find the names of Judas and Silas. (Acts 15: 27) After a while, Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. (ibid. 15: 39) Later, Paul chose Silas to accompany him. (ibid. 15: 40) Then, in Derbe and Lystra, Paul took Timothy with him. (ibid. 16:1-3)

Near the city of Philippi , Paul and Silas were invited to the home of the seller of purple, Lydia , “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us saying, ‘If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.’ And she constrained us.” (Acts 16: 14-15 and 40)

In Corinth , Saint Paul met Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.” (Acts 18:1-3) Still in Corinth , Paul “entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue…. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (ibid. 18: 7, 11)

From Corinth , Paul “sailed thence into Syria , and with him Priscilla and Aquila,” (Acts 18: 18) then stopped at Ephesus . There, Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos with them, “an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures,” who “was instructed in the way of the Lord” to some degree, “and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (ibid. 18:24-26) Then, Apollos went into Achaia, where he “helped them much which had believed through grace.” (ibid. 18: 27)

Then in Ephesus , Saint Paul taught for two years in the school of one Tyrannus. (Acts 19: 9-10) A little later, from Ephesus , Paul “sent into Macedonia , two of them that ministered unto him, Timothy and Erastus” to preach there. (ibid. 19: 22)

Still in Ephesus we find “Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia , Paul’s companions in travel.” (Acts 19: 29)

It is noteworthy that many of Saint Paul ‘s collaborators have been counted by the Church as disciples and Saints. (For their Feasts and Commemorations according to the Synaxarion of the Churches of Byzantine tradition and according to the Roman Martyrology, see the Appendix.)

In Paul’s journey from Ephesus to Macedonia , “there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia , Tychicus and Trophimus.” (Acts 20: 4)

Before leaving again for Jerusalem , “from Miletus he sent to Ephesus , and called the elders of the church,” (Acts 20: 17) and after their arrival, bade them adieu in a very moving speech. (ibid. 20: 18-35) In it we read, “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God , shall see my face no more.” (ibid. 20: 25) “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God , which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (ibid. 20: 28) “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (ibid. 20: 31-32)

“And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38)

The Acts of the Apostles gives us another picture of that profound, spiritual friendship during the crossing of Paul and his companions to Tyre . (Acts 21: 3-5)

In Ptolemais (the present day city of Acre, see of our Melkite Greek Catholic eparchy of Galilee in Palestine), there took place another meeting of Paul with the first Christians of that town: “We…saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.” (Acts 21: 7) At Caesarea of Palestine, we find a new companion of Paul: “We entered into the house of Philip, the evangelist, which was one of the seven (first deacons).” (Acts 21: 8) On the way from Caesarea to Jerusalem , Paul and his companions lodge with a disciple called Mnason, of Cyprus . (Acts 21: 16)

In the life of Paul there appears just one of his relatives, whose name is not given: his nephew, his sister’s son, who saves him from the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem . (Acts 23: 16-22)

In his journey to Rome to be judged by Caesar, his companions are Aristarchus, a Macedonian, and Luke. At the first stop, in Sidon (Saida), Paul meets friends of his from that city and obtains refreshment from them. (Acts 27: 3)

On his arrival in Rome , the brethren welcome Paul at the entrance to the city, which encourages the Apostle in his last trial. (Acts 28: 15)

The Collaborators of Paul in the Epistles

Epistle to the Romans

In this Epistle, Paul is speaking “to all that be in Rome , beloved of God, called to be saints.” (Romans 1: 7)

He tells them that he is praying, “if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Romans 1:10-12) Here Paul’s friendship is expressed, primarily as a friendship in shared faith, expressed in very human yet sublime terms.

Saint Paul alludes, in this Epistle, to a commission of faithful from Macedonia and Achaia who have collected money for distribution to “the poor saints which are at Jerusalem .” (Romans 15: 26-27) In chapter sixteen, the last of this Epistle, there is a long string of greetings and recommendations to do with this group of collaborators dear to Paul, whom he describes in glowing terms:

“I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the first-fruits of Achaia unto Christ.

Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16: 1-16)

Then Saint Paul passes on the greetings of his collaborators who are with him,

“Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, saluteth you, and Quartus, a brother.” (Romans 16: 21-23)

First Epistle to the Corinthians

This Epistle begins with the greeting of “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” and of a disciple, Sosthenes, of whom we know only the name. (I Corinthians 1: 1)

Further on, we find the names of those whom Paul himself baptised: Crispus, Gaius and “the household of Stephanas.” (I Corinthians 1: 14, 16)

We find again the name of Barnabas. (I Corinthians 9: 6) Then there is a whole group of collaborators: Timotheus, who “worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do,” (I Corinthians 16:10) Apollos, (ibid. 16: 12) the house of Stephanas, which is “the first-fruits of Achaia, and that (whose members) have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.…Submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.” (ibid. 15-17)

Paul then mentions Fortunatus and Achaicus (I Corinthians 16: 17) and adds, “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” (ibid. 16: 19) He concludes in these affectionate terms, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (ibid. 16: 24)

Second Epistle to the Corinthians

The beginning of this Epistle alludes to the very close collaboration between Paul and his “brother” Timotheus. (II Corinthians 1: 1) Later, we read, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus …” (ibid. 1: 19) Then he mentions several times his “brother” Titus. (ibid. 2:13; 7: 6-7; 8: 6, 16-20 and 23: 12, 18)

In chapter eight, there are very plain allusions to a group from the Church of Macedonia who form, apparently, a committee to collect support for the Christians of Jerusalem. (II Corinthians 8: 1-5) In Corinth itself, there is a similar committee, about which Paul says, “And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.” (ibid. 8:10-11)

It seems that the co-ordinator of this committee for the task of collecting the gifts ear-marked for the faithful of Jerusalem , was Titus. (II Corinthians 8: 16, 23)

There is another record of Titus with two other collaborators, which clearly shows that there were committees at work, with or without Paul. In fact, Saint Paul was of course busy preaching the Gospel, but also taking care of material assistance to the poor of Jerusalem .

“But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. And we have sent with him the brother [perhaps Luke], whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; and not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.” (II Corinthians 8: 16-24)

Saint Paul speaks again of these committees in the following chapter,

“For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: for I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.” (II Corinthians 9: 1-5)

Later, Saint Paul observes that he and his collaborators have been trustworthy in the distribution of the gifts,

“But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?” (II Corinthians 12: 16-18)

Epistle to the Galatians

At the start of this Epistle, Saint Paul writes, “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) and all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia .” (Galatians 1: 1-2)

Epistle to the Ephesians

In this Epistle we find mention of another fellow-worker, “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.” (Ephesians 6: 21-22)

Epistle to the Philippians

In this Epistle, which begins with the greeting from “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi,” (Philippians 1:1) there is the mention of a group of faithful, “with bishops and deacons,” who are Saint Paul ‘s collaborators,

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1: 3-11)

Again, Saint Paul recalls the work of Timotheus,

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.” (Philippians 2: 19-23)

Then Saint Paul mentions his “brother” Epaphroditus, with details about his life and health,

“Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” (Philippians 2: 25-30)

Saint Paul then expresses his wishes concerning certain collaborators of his,

“I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4: 2-3)

At the end of the Epistle, there is a sign of the presence of a committee helping the “saints” and Paul himself,

“But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 18-19)

The Epistle ends with greetings from the Apostle’s fellow-labourers,

“Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4: 21-22)

Epistle to the Colossians

Like the Epistle to the Philippians, this letter starts with the greeting of Paul and his “brother” Timotheus. (Colossians 1: 1) A little further on, Paul mentions another fellow-worker who taught the Colossians, “Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” (Colossians 1: 7-8)

The Epistle ends with greetings and mentions of those working alongside the Apostle, with praise and Paul’s testimony on behalf of each of them,

“All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.

Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God , which have been a comfort unto me.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea , and them in Hierapolis . Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea , and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea . And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” (Colossians 4: 7-17)

First Epistle to the Thessalonians

This Epistle starts with greetings, not only from Paul and Timothy, but also from Silvanus, another fellow-worker of the Apostle’s. (I Thessalonians 1: 1) Timothy, however, receives special mention in chapter three, when Paul sends him from Athens to Thessalonica,

“Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto…But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you.” (I Thessalonians 3:1-3, 6)

In this Epistle, there is another mention of a committee working in Thessalonica for material concerns and for spiritual guidance, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” (I Thessalonians 5: 12-13)

Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

This Epistle starts, like the First to the Thessalonians, with a greeting from “Paul, and Silvanus and Timotheus.”

First Epistle to Timothy

This Epistle, which Saint Paul addresses to the one he calls “my own son in the faith,” (I Timothy 1: 1), contains a whole series of pieces of guidance and advice. Saint Paul has complete trust in Timothy and gives him various responsibilities for the service of the community with its different groups.

Second Epistle to Timothy

In this Epistle, which he addresses to the one he calls “my dearly beloved son” (II Timothy 1: 1) and “my son” (ibid. 2:1), Saint Paul praises Timothy for his faith, transmitted from that of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. (ibid. 1: 5) He expresses his longing to see him (ibid. 1: 4) and assures him of his prayers (ibid. 1: 3)

Further on, Saint Paul mentions with deep gratitude his disciple Onesiphorus,

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome , he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus , thou knowest very well.” (II Timothy 1: 16-18)

Saint Paul asks Timothy to organise the co-ordination of apostolic work,

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2: 1-2)

In chapter four, Saint Paul mentions several of his fellow-workers, describing their situations and making new recommendations,

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia , Titus unto Dalmatia . Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus . The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” (II Timothy 4: 9-13)

Finally, Saint Paul sends his personal greetings,

“Salute Prisca and Aquila , and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus abode at Corinth : but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” (II Timothy 4: 19-21)

Epistle to Titus

In this Epistle, Saint Paul calls his addressee, “Titus, mine own son after the common faith.” (Titus 1: 4)

At the end of the Epistle, Saint Paul mentions some of his collaborators,

“When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.” (Titus 3: 12-13)

Epistle to Philemon

In this Epistle, there is a whole group of names of Saint Paul ‘s collaborators (Philemon 1: 1-7):

“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”

Saint Paul then asks Philemon to receive Onesimus (Philemon 1: 10-19):

“I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.”

At the close, Saint Paul passes on the greetings of his co-workers (Philemon 1: 23-24): “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow-labourers.”

Epistle to the Hebrews

At the end of this Epistle, Saint Paul mentions the leaders of the Hebrew Christians (Hebrews 13: 7, 17) and gives them notice of Timothy’s being freed (Hebrews 13: 23-24):

“Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.”

Attributes and Responsibilities of Saint Paul’s Co-workers

Saint Paul describes his co-workers in glowing terms, using touching and affectionate expressions, but assigns them well-defined responsibilities, with precise guidance that is often harsh and demanding.

In his Epistles, his fellow-workers are “brethren,” “dear,” “sisters,” “parents,” “fellow-labourers in Christ Jesus,” “beloved,” “first-fruits” of those risen in Christ and elect of Christ, especially in the Epistle to the Romans. (16: 1-16) They give hospitality, scribe the Apostle’s letters, share in preaching the Gospel and are collaborators of grace.

They are the Apostle’s joy and crown, being sent by him, as faithful servants, slaves of God with Paul, striving for the Gospel, laborers in preaching the Kingdom, zealous in service.

They are given apostolic, spiritual and material responsibilities, to do with founding, organizing and guiding new communities. Some also offer hospitality to Paul and his companions, putting a school at his disposal; others preach, explaining the new way founded on the teachings of the Gospel; guide new groups of faithful; preside at liturgical celebrations; co-ordinate the work of committees for collecting and distributing aid to the faithful of Jerusalem; choose presbyters; carry letters, messages and news of the Church’s life; and are asked by Paul to console and strengthen the faith of those who are suffering or persecuted.

So, Saint Paul has recourse to his collaborators; he asks even those who are new in the way of the Gospel, to help him carry the message. This is due to Paul’s ardor, as he writes, “Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel,” (I Corinthians 9:16) and tells his disciple Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season.” (II Timothy 4: 2) Paul wants every baptized person to be a bearer of the message with him, giving him or her the same recommendation as he had to his disciple Timothy. That explains why we find such a large number of co-workers with Paul on his apostolic missions and travels, so that no Epistle is without mention of the Apostle’s co-workers; there is not a single town where Paul preached that he did not leave fellow-workers or found committees designed to continue the work of Jesus and the Gospel. (Cf. The Catecheses of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI on Paul and His Collaborators in the general audiences of 31 January and 7 and 14 February, 2007.)

It is really amazing to see how many co-workers are gathered around Paul, receiving from him very specific apostolic, sacramental and organizational responsibilities.

The Laity according to Vatican II

In the Decree Apostolicam actuositatem on the Apostolate of the Laity, of 18 November 1965, the Second Vatican Council alludes several times to the collaborators of Saint Paul mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles and points out that the mission of lay-people in the Church is based on their Christian vocation and baptism. That mission relates to various aspects of life, Saint Paul had already described in his Epistles, as we have seen above.

That was emphasized in the decree of Vatican II. In fact, there is not one of the sixteen conciliar documents which, in one way or another, does not allude to the importance of the lay vocation in the Church and in society.

The Conciliar decree on the laity says verbatim (numbers 2 and 3):

In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.

They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ….

One engages in the apostolate through the faith, hope, and charity which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church.

Furthermore, the Conciliar decree speaks of the family in these terms:

“Christian husbands and wives are co-operators in grace and witnesses of faith for each other, their children, and all others in their household. They are the first to communicate the faith to their children and to educate them by word and example for the Christian and apostolic life. They prudently help them in the choice of their vocation and carefully promote any sacred vocation which they may discern in them….This mission – to be the first and vital cell of society – the family has received from God. It will fulfil this mission if it appears as the domestic sanctuary of the Church.” (number11)

So lay-persons, especially in the context of the believing family, become witnesses of the Gospel and Christ. Hence, every faithful person is an apostle.

Let us also note the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988) which contains the charter of the vocation and mission of the faithful in the Church in the steps of Saint Paul .

In fact faithful lay-persons are in a continuous relationship with the world, society and the daily social, political, moral, economic and ecological reality. They are the ones who are putting into practice Jesus’ mission and true Gospel values and living them out in the everyday reality of their society.

Canon law underlines the importance of the apostolate of the laity in canon 381 § 3 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEC):

“Clerics are to recognize and promote the dignity of the laity and the particular part that they have in the mission of the Church, especially by testing the multiform gifts of the laity, and also by channeling the experience of these lay-people for the good of the Church, especially in ways provided by the law.”

The Mission of Lay-people in our Church

After Vatican II, the mission of lay-people was developed and many apostolic movements were renewed, which had to do with different aspects of the Church’s life. Such was the case with the former brotherhoods, which had existed for a long time in our Church, especially those of Our Lady of the Annunciation, founded by Patriarch Maximos III (Mazloum) and by Patriarch Gregorios II (Youssef-Sayyour) and movements of young workers and students, originating in the West, but adapted to Eastern, especially liturgical, spirituality. Thank God, there is a goodly number of these activities in the context of our eparchies, parishes and male and female religious congregations.

These movements are real schools of faith and spiritual life for young people; they are the pillars of parish life and of all liturgical, spiritual, pastoral, social and charitable activities. It should be noted that, among those involved in these movements, are persons called to the consecrated religious life and to the priesthood. We have mentioned several of these movements in the Assembly of the Patriarchal Eparchy in Damascus in 2003, and in the Patriarchal Assembly held in Rabweh in 2007; we noted about a hundred such movements.

We would like here to recommend and encourage most enthusiastically the different activities of these brotherhoods and movements in our eparchies and parishes.

Thus imitating the great Apostle Paul as far as the mission of the laity in the Church is concerned, we call upon the lay-people of our parishes to help us in our pastoral work, alongside priests and consecrated persons, monastic and other, to direct our concern to the needs of all the faithful

It is very important to train in every parish, lay leaders capable of carrying the Church’s values into our society, and of being the leaven and the salt in the dough of that society.

Collaborators and Colleagues

A word now to the bishops and priests who pastor our churches and whose experience of collaborating in pastoral service would fill volumes! We exhort them to intensify their relations with all the faithful in their respective communities, to gather around them keen and enthusiastic collaborators who bear with them and under their guidance the burden of the apostolate and message, and who can organise different services needed by the pastoral ministry.

We ask God, at the intercession of Saint Paul , for there to be in our Church between priest and all the faithful, such relations as obtained between the Apostle and his collaborators.

Following Saint Paul ‘s example, the pastor must not only be father, guide, educator and counsellor, but also vigilant brother and close friend, whilst maintaining the distance that enables him to fulfil his spiritual and pastoral role. The pastor must rely on the lay-people, giving them well-defined roles, remaining always the guide and leader, adjusting the pace and being the watchful companion. He must have the mind of Christ, his teachings and his love for the sons and daughters of his community, especially for his collaborators and colleagues.

May this relationship be also inspired by the liturgical greeting which is exchanged by the concelebrants (and by the faithful among themselves), “Christ is among us. He is and always will be!” Let us be inspired by this final petition from the litany, “Let us entrust ourselves and each other and our whole life unto Christ our God.”

Such pastoral guidance is given in Paul’s two Epistles to Timothy and in the one to Titus.


We are speaking to our children, in all eparchies and parishes of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church to invite them to listen to the call of Jesus, of Saint Paul , of their pastors and spiritual fathers and to be generous in voluntary service and work alongside the priest and under his direction and guidance.

We tell them, Jesus needs you! Paul is calling you, as he called the faithful of the first Christian communities. The Church is calling you. Your Patriarch, bishops and all your pastors need you.

Today more than ever, we need collaborators, lay-people who are faithful, keen, courageous, active, strong, who are highly capable, be it in business, politics or higher education, who are influential, prudent, wise, loving and selfless, experienced and, as the Psalmist says, “as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man.” (Psalm 127: 4)

We pastors need you faithful lay-people. You are our apostles and the apostles of Jesus for the world. You really make up the community, you carry the teachings, guidance and preaching of Jesus, the apostles, saints and monastics out into the world, into your society, among your work-mates and your fellow-citizens (whether or not of your religion.)

Saint Paul said, “We are the ambassadors of Christ.” And we say to you, that you are the ambassadors of Christ, our ambassadors as servants of Christ: we entrust you with the mission of carrying the Gospel into your society.

In writing this letter, I remembered a story about the costly struggle over the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, south of Rome , during the Second World War. The Allies had to overcome prolonged resistance following the aerial bombardment that reduced the abbey to rubble. A writer summed up this furious combat in these terms, “Great battles are won by little soldiers.” We too need each Christian, every believer, every convinced, courageous and enthusiastic person; the world needs children of faith.

I also remembered another story. In July 1987, I took part in the great, biennial festival of German Catholics (Katholikentag) in Dresden , a city that had been completely destroyed towards the end of the Second World War. After a big celebration on the banks of the Elbe, that had lasted till midnight, I was going back alone to my hotel; on the way, I came across a group of young people, sitting on the ground, singing at the tops of their voices, “The Jesus business needs enthusiasm!”

We need young people, those who are ever young in their love of Christ and their zeal to spread the sacred teachings and show the love of God for mankind.

“Ye shall be my witnesses[1]

Jesus entrusts his apostolate, his mission, to us. Saint Paul calls us today, at this closure of the celebration of his birth in Tarsus , as he once called his numerous fellow-workers, to continue the mission of Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus calls us, entrusting to each one of us the same mission that he confided to Paul on the road to Damascus, ordaining Saint Ananias, first Bishop of Damascus, to baptize Saul the persecutor, who would change into Paul and be the chosen vessel of God.”He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel : for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9: 15-16)

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, Saint Paul recommends his Epistles to us, as he did to the hearts, souls and minds of the faithful of the first Christian communities, so that his teaching may remain in your hearts. He speaks to us as he did to the faithful of Corinth when he wrote,

“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (II Corinthians 3: 2-3)

With the Apostle, we speak to you, at the end of this Year of Saint Paul as we conclude our spiritual letters, in which we set out the theology of Saint Paul , who had Jesus’ heart, as Saint John Chrysostom said. Again with the Apostle, we say to you, (Philippians 4: 7-9)

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

And also:

“Greet one another with an holy kiss. All the saints salute you.” (II Corinthians 13: 12-13)

And finally,

“The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (I Corinthians 16: 21-24)

With my affection and blessing,

+ Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem Damascus, 29 June 2009

Translation from the French V. Chamberlain


Table of Saint Paul ‘s Collaborators,

Showing for the majority their Feasts and commemorations in the Churches of East (Synaxarion and Menaion) and West (Roman Martyrology, 1749 and 2001)



4 January


8 April

8 April

Amplias (Ampliatus)

31 October

31 October (1749)


1 October

25 January


17 May; 30 July

Apelles of Heraklion

31 October

Apelles of Smyrna

10 September

22 April (1749)


8 December


22 November;

19 February


13 February; 14 July

8 July


15 June


22 November;

19 February

20 March


22 September; 14 April

4 August


31 October; 15 March

15 March (1749)


30 October


8 April

8 April


11 June

11 June

Caius (see Gaius)


26 May

Cephas of Iconium

8 December



10 September


30 July


4 January

4 October (1749)


2 October



the Areopagite

3 October

3 October


30 July


4 January

19 July


8 December

22 March


10 November

26 July


22 February


Euodias of Antioch

7 September


15 June; 4 January

Gaius (Caius)

5 November

4 October (1749)


5 November

9 May


8 April


8 April

8 April


28 April

12 July (1749)

John of Cyprus

Jesus, called Justus

Judas of Damascus

Judas Barsabbas



17 May


30 October


5 November

23 September


Luke the Evangelist

18 October

18 October

Lucius of Cyrene

Lucius of Laodicea

4 January

22 April (1749)


20 May

20 May

Manaon (Menahem)

24 May (1749)


27 September

(John) Mark

the Evangelist

25 April

25 April


23 March

29 June (1749)


18 October


31 October

31 October (1749)



28 February


10 November


22 November;

15 February

15 February


7 September

6 September


5 November

4 November (1749)

Persis the deaconess


22 November

22 November

Philip the deacon

11 October

11 October


5 November

4 November (1749)


8 April

8 April


3 September

3 September


14 July

8 July


13 February

8 July

Prochorus the deacon

28 July


14 April


10 November

3 November (1749)


8 April

21 November



30 July

13 July


30 July

Simeon Niger



10 November; 28 April

25 June (1749)


8 December

28 November (1749)


31 October

31 October


4 January


22 July (1749)


10 November

Tertius of Iconium

30 October


Equal to the Apostles

24 September

23 September (1749)

Timotheus (Timothy)

22 January

26 January


25 August

26 January

Titus Justus


14 April

29 December (1749)

Tryphena the deaconess

10 November (1749)

Tryphosa the deaconess

10 November (1749)


8 December

29 April



31 October

31 October (1749)


4 January

Synaxis of the Seventy Holy Apostles

Icon of the Synaxis of the Seventy Holy Apostles

On 4 January, Churches of the Byzantine tradition celebrate a Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles (Disciples) of Christ. In the lamp-lighting hymns of Vespers of that Synaxis, are to be found most of the names of Saint Paul ‘s collaborators, elsewhere called, “luminaries of our holy faith.”

“Cleopas, Andronicus, Silvanus, Agabus, Ananias, Philip, Prochorus and Nicanor, Sosthenes and Rufus, with Stachys and Linus, Stephen, Timon, Hermes and Phlegon,

Mark and Luke, Sosipater, Tychicus and Philemon, Gaius and Jason, through sacred hymns, we faithful call you blessed.

“Let Narcissus and Trophimus, Caesarius and Zenas, Aristarchus, Silas, with Mark and Gaius, Hermes and Asyncritus, Cephas, Apollos, Clement and Justus, with Erastes and Quartus, Luke, Onesiphorus, Euodias and Carpus, James and Matthias, Aristobulus and Urbane, with Aristarchus and Tychicus, be worthily venerated!

“Pudens, Herodion, Philologus, Artemas, Rodion, Olympas, Apelles, Amplias, Patrobas and Titus, Tertius and Thaddaeus, remarkable Epaenetus, Achaicus, Aquila, Lucius, Barnabas, Fortunatus, Crescens and Apollos, most worthy of our hymns, sacred heralds of our God, we seek to honor you.”

[1] Acts 1:8