4.11.2014

Lazarus Saturday

Synaxarion – Lazarus Saturday
(Taken from the Maronite Divine Praises)

As the season of Great Lent draws to a close the Church turns to the person of Lazarus and the story of his resurrection from the dead. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha and lived in the town of Bethany. Lazarus and his sisters were friends of Jesus and always offered him hospitality when he was in the area.
The sickness and death of Lazarus is the occasion for Christ to perform a miracle which would clearly show his messianic power. As a result of this miracle God’s son would be glorified and his power over death would be manifested.
This miracle is a crowning of all the other miracles of Christ for it reminds us as we prepare to follow Christ up to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and be crucified, that death has no power over him, the Lord and giver and life. Lazarus Saturday is thus clearly meant to console and strengthen us and arouse in us the same faith that Jesus called forth from Martha:
                  “I am the resurrection and the life;
                  whoever believes in me,
                  though he should die, will come to life;
                  and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.
                  Do you believe this?”
Even as we face the death of Christ on the cross we are asked to profess our faith in him who will rise to glory on Easter morning.
Lazarus is also a reminder for us that we will not suffer eternal death if we are faithful to him, but rather, we will rise to eternal life in the Lord. Death, for Christ’s faithful, no longer is to be feared, it has no power over us.



4.03.2014

Children’s Catechesis - Worcester, M.A.

By Natalie Salameh 



On Saturday, March 29, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light offered a retreat day for the children of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Worcester, M.A. The focus of the day’s retreat was on the sacrificial love of God as seen in Passion Week, beginning with Hosanna Sunday, Thursday of the Mysteries, Great Friday and culminating on the Glorious Resurrection. 

The children were shown an animated version of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, beginning with Jesus washing the feet of his apostles. Later on in a small group bible catechesis, they learned our Maronite tradition of the priest washing the feet on the Thursday of the Mysteries as a reminder to us of Jesus’ lesson to His apostles – that we must serve one another with love.

The Sisters explained to the children that the Friday of Passion Week is called Great Friday of the Crucifixion and how much Jesus endured to set us free from the darkness of sin and selfishness. It was the greatest act of sacrificial love! The children were then asked by the Sisters to reflect on how they can best imitate Jesus in His sacrificial love for us.

Of course, to see Jesus suffer so much for our sake is sad, and the children were definitely moved by this part of Jesus’ passion, but we are always hopeful! After the scorn of Great Friday, comes the glorious morn of Resurrection Sunday. The Sisters explained to the children that by Jesus’ resurrection, He triumphed over sin and death forever, and so have we. As Jesus rose from the dead, so too will we rise with Him.

The children were able to meditate more on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, as
Fr. Gaby Hoyek, pastor, led the children in a prayerful meditation on the Stations of the Cross.
The children were then able to enjoy craft time, where they all decorated their own crosses to remind them of God’s great love for them.

The day finished with Fr. Gaby celebrating the Saturday Vigil Liturgy during which the children participated and assisted as altar servers, transferring the gifts, singing and reading the intercessions. Fr. Gaby and Fr. David George blessed the crosses that the children decorated at the end of the Liturgy.

For those interested in holding a similar retreat day at their Maronite Parish, please contact the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light by email sister@maroniteservants.org.

3.28.2014

Lent Retreat - Maine

By Natalie Salameh
On Saturday, March 22, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light offered a retreat for the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Maronite Church in Waterville, Maine. The focus of the retreat was the gospel parable of the Prodigal Son emphasizing the theme of repentance and coming home to the love and security of our Father’s tender care.

The morning opened with a meet and greet of the retreat participants, followed by the praying of our Maronite Morning Prayer (Safro) led by Father Larry Jensen, pastor.  Mother Marla Marie began the day’s first reflection followed by a Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) on the parable.  She explained that the younger prodigal son and the self-righteous elder brother both lived in the same house with a compassionate and loving father, but neither of them really knew their father. Both brothers were too closed in on themselves which prevented them from having a meaningful relationship with the father.

The parable of the Prodigal Son calls us all to a deeper conversion.  Mother Marla Marie was able to assist the retreat participants in applying the parable to their own personal spiritual journey. How many of us go to Church every Sunday because we are “simply doing the right thing” or “fulfilling our obligations”, but not really experiencing the tender embrace and mercy of our heavenly Father?

The afternoon of the retreat included an hour of adoration before the Holy Mysteries, with a deeply prayerful and meditative reflection on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. The retreat participants were also able to celebrate in Saturday’s Vigil Liturgy of the Prodigal Son, followed by a lentil supper with lots of sharing on the day’s thoughts and reflections.

Here are some thoughts from some retreat participants:

 “We had such an enriching day! The talks led to a very deep scrutiny of the Prodigal Son parable. This was richly enhanced by the quiet personal meditations throughout the day and in our Rosary prayer which made it truly a retreat in all our senses. I am positively changed and more closely bonded through this experience with my parish family”. - Lyn Rowden

 “The Sisters’ presentation opened up more dialogue among the Lebanese and non-Lebanese attendees which led to sharing questions and answers among the participants”. -Joe Rowden

 “It was a very valuable retreat; it helped us as individuals and as a parish to develop a greater understanding of our Lenten practices and sacrifices”. -Emily Fournier

A big thankyou to all retreat participants for their efforts and contribution on the day, especially to Fr. Larry for his warm welcome and hospitality. We truly felt at home.

For those interested in holding a similar retreat for their parishes, please contact the Maronite Servants of Christ: sister@maroniteservants.org. 


3.21.2014

REDISCOVERING THE 10 COMMANDMENTS AS ADULTS: Commandments 5 & 6

Source: Captivated by Your Teachings: a Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics
by Father Anthony J. Salim

5. You shall not murder. (NRSV)

The Church has traditionally restricted to the absolute minimum the instances when life may be taken: legitimate defense of self and of society. Recently, John Paul II has stated that the circumstances under which the State may take a life in capital punishment are “...very rare, if non-existent.” The other arena in which killing was more traditionally seen as permitted but that is seriously questioned today by the Church is war and the so-called just war theory. Nuclear holocaust, made possible by the unchecked arms race, as well as the technologizing of the means of war, render medieval images of hand-to-hand combat ludicrous and unconscionable. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Because of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it (CCC 2327).The Church and human reason assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflicts. Practices deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes (CCC 2328).The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured (CCC 2329).

            No matter how it is rationalized, abortion remains in the Church’s teaching an act of murder against defenseless life. This crime against life carries with it a penalty of excommunication. In vitro fertilization is not permitted by the Church because in the process of fertilizing the eggs in a petri dish, more than one egg successfully treated become zygotes and capable of growing into viable embryos. Hence, when they are discarded human life is too. Biogenetics is a new and largely uncontrolled area. While scientists possess an increasing capability for good through better technology, the question still remains: how is this to be monitored and by what moral and ethical standards?
            Euthanasia is often whitewashed as “mercy-killing”; it is prohibited here as is suicide “with the intention of setting an example” (CCC 2282). However, in very many cases, other circumstances—such as psychological or emotional—come into play.
            This commandment also forbids the abuse of the body, mind and spirit and safety. Included are abuses of alcohol and drugs. The public sector has finally caught up to the moral wisdom of avoiding smoking, which has been proven to harm one’s own health and the health of others (in secondary smoke). Any reckless, irresponsible behavior is forbidden as contrary to the service of life.
            Since the opposite of death is life, we recognize here that the Catholic Church is a Church which respects life, from beginning to end, in the words of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a “seamless garment.”
            Here we must also consider non-physical violence as well. Thus anything which degrades or diminishes the dignity of another is forbidden. This includes prejudice of any sort, notably, racism and sexism. Scandal, which leads another to do evil, is also forbidden. In short, any kind of violence is forbidden by the 5th Commandment.
            As usual, Jesus pushes the point to its extreme, to an ideal that always challenges:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mt 5:38-45). He also said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God.”

6. You shall not commit adultery.


Adultery violates the trust that stands at the heart of the marriage commitment. When this Commandment was given, it was to protect the sacredness of family life, which included the love and respect spouses were to have for one another. When one of the parties committing adultery is married, it is bad; if both are married (not to each other), it is double jeopardy. Divorce is forbidden, because by it the bond between spouses and society’s bonds of family life are broken. Pre- and extra-marital sexual relations, however sincere, do not express the full commitment called for by truly Christian marriage. Of particular concern is the growing acceptance of unmarried Christian people cohabitating. It is widely but wrongly assumed today that engaged persons may live together and carry on an active sexual life without sin. It is claimed that doing so enables people to get to know each other better and thus the couple will have a better marriage. The realities point to the opposite. Couples often break up bitterly when they really learn truths about themselves that they don’t like; yet the emotional scars of undisciplined sex remain. In addition, cohabitating sends the wrong message to the very young that promiscuity is acceptable. The Church teaches that the gift of sex is to be used within the context of a committed, Christian marriage; and anything outside of that context is forbidden. This includes: fornication, masturbation, polygamy, the use of pornography, prostitution, rape (actually a sin of violence), incest and any abuse by adults perpetrated on children. While the Church condemns the use of artificial contraception, including sterilization and vasectomy, it does not prohibit the regulation of procreation by natural methods, such as natural family planning. The reliability of natural family planning methods has improved greatly. Considered under this Commandment are the virtues of chastity and temperance, which help us to control our strong sexual drives toward improper use of them and towards impurity. By this Commandment Christians are urged to use modesty, patience and discretion in dress and speech, for modesty protects the person’s intimate center (CCC 2533).