11.17.2017

The Gift of Perpetual Profession of Vows


by Sister Therese Maria Touma, MSCL
 
“To do your will, O my God is my delight and your law is in my heart.” (Ps 30:8-9)

As I am preparing for my Perpetual Profession of Vows as a Maronite Servant of Christ the Light, I was grateful to receive a letter from a monk and friend of our community. In these encouraging words I was given the opportunity to further reflect on the gift of my religious profession. I read these words with joy and gratitude and saw them as a sign of God’s benevolent providence and love. In particular, I was sent three insightful words to ponder that are signified by the letters of the word vow:

V= Vision

As a religious I am reminded that I need vision not just to see the world from my eyes but “the ability to seek and look upon things that others don’t see, things that God reveals to us, and to see differently.” In order to see as God sees with his merciful eyes, I need to gaze upon Jesus, the lover of all people. In continuously contemplating and seeking Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrew 12:2), I will find all the virtues and graces I need to love like Jesus and live religious life in union with God.

O= Openness

If I am not open to listen and to be obedient, to receive the word of God and live it, to sacrifice my own will, I cannot truly imitate the obedient Christ, who humbled himself and personified obedience to the Father unto his death (Phil 2:8). As our friend wrote “Obedience resides not chiefly in the ears of our body but in the “ears” of our minds and hearts.” The key for true openness lies in opening the ears of my mind and heart to hear God’s voice, and to grow in interior freedom in order to completely offer myself, my entire will, as a “holocaust” of love to God. Our Maronite Servants’ Typicon #17 affirms: “Religious obedience is the fruit of love, and of an interior freedom borne of our divine relationship in following Jesus.”

W= Whole

In surrendering myself with confidence in his mercy, I am called to offer my whole self, body and soul, and all else to God. A beautiful excerpt that stood out to me from the letter on the significance of perpetual profession: “Thus you entered the state of perfection, when you made the offering and sacrifice of your whole self: the good of your body, by chastity; the goods outside your body, by poverty; and the good of your soul, by obedience. Your perpetual profession seals that offering for good. And by this, you will undo the damage of sin in a remarkable way.”

I am humbled by God’s invitation and in awe of this call to offer myself completely to God in religious profession as a Maronite Servant. In my spousal union with Christ, and through living out my vows in service to the Church, I am continuing the work of salvation in bringing souls to Jesus. This gift of consecrated life is a needed witness in our wounded world!


Join the sisters in giving thanks to God for the awesome gift of consecrated life in our Maronite Church! Please pray with us for an increase of vocations to our community and that young women will open their hearts to generously accept the invitation to follow Jesus as a religious sister. The Church needs more consecrated sisters to serve alongside our priests, and to share the healing light and love of Christ. We appreciate you sharing about our community especially with young women who are searching for their calling in life. For those ladies (ages 18 to 35) who are reading this and are interested in taking time away to discover God’s will for your life we invite you to consider joining us for a Discernment Retreat on April 6-8, 2018 at our Mother of the Light Convent in Dartmouth, MA. Please contact Sister Marla Marie for more information 508-996-1753 or sister@maroniteservants.org.  To learn more about our community and mission visit www.maroniteservants.org.

11.10.2017

LEBANESE CITIZENSHIP AND CHRISTIANITY IN LEBANON


 LEBANESE CITIZENSHIP AND CHRISTIANITY IN LEBANON 
As many of you know, at this moment in history the status of Christians and the very presence of Christianity in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East is under great pressure. It is important for Lebanon, with the largest percentage of Christians of any country in the Middle East, to maintain a vibrant and significant Christian presence and witness. Our Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, is asking those in a position to do so, to step forward and make a difference by helping to secure the role that Christians can play. 
On 24 November 2015, the Lebanese Parliament ratified the Lebanese Nationality Law which gives descendants of Lebanese immigrants the right to acquire or reacquire their Lebanese citizenship. “The Lebanese Nationality Program” is an initiative launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants for people of Lebanese heritage around the world in order to apply for Lebanese Citizenship and to benefit from their business, financial, consular, personal, social and political rights as Lebanese, wherever they are. In particular, this initiative is relevant for the large Lebanese communities in different countries all over the world. Through this law you can now find your story, connect to your roots, and claim you Lebanese citizenship. 
Among other advantages of acquiring or reacquiring your Lebanese citizenship and registering marriages and births in Lebanon, you will be able to vote for your preferred Lebanese politician, inherit property, reclaim any inheritances due you, and be exempt from the payment of taxes to Lebanon. More importantly, by obtaining your Lebanese citizenship, you will be helping to preserve both Christianity in Lebanon and the true cultural diversity that has always been a source Lebanese pride. Obtaining your Lebanese citizenship will not compromise or jeopardize in any way your American citizenship. 
This law is in effect for only 10 years and expires in 2025. 
You are eligible to participate in this program if your name or the name of any of your male ancestors is registered on the 1921-1924 emigrants’ or residents’ census or on the 1932 emigrants’ census. The 
application process has been simplified and can be started by checking your eligibility and completing and submitting the form found at the link, http://lebanity.gov.lb. To apply and check your eligibility, start by filling in the online application. A professional team will review your application and will notify you within 5 business day of your eligibility. Once you are considered eligible for Lebanese citizenship you will be asked to submit supporting documents such as Lebanese civil registry extract of your ancestors and marriage and birth certificates. Once your application is submitted you will be able to track your application through a mobile app. You will be notified about the status of your application at each step of the process. The process is free of charge and requires 6 to 12 months to be finalized. 
If you need assistance in applying and completing the forms, contact your pastor or the Project Roots coordinator in your parish or contact the Christian Lebanese Foundation in the World/Project Roots through their email, info@projectroots.net, or via telephone 917-755-0499. Help with applying for citizenship can be obtained through the following site, http://www.projectroots.net/registration-requests.html. 
As descendants of Lebanese immigrants, it is your right to claim your Lebanese citizenship and we encourage you to do so. We must work hand-in-hand to connect with our homeland and preserve our heritage. Let us step forward and make a difference. 
Sincerely yours in Christ, 
+ Gregory Mansour 
Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn 
+ A. Elias Zaidan 

Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles 

11.09.2017

We are Temples of God through Baptism


I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts.
Since the time of the Apostles, places, by some called oratories and by others churches, were dedicated to God, and in them on the Sabbath, Christians congregated to pray, to hear the word of God, and to receive the Holy Eucharist. However, there was no solemn rite of consecration; nor were the altars, which symbolize our Lord Jesus Christ as the altar, the victim and priest, anointed with chrism (myron).

When the Emperor Constantine (in the 4th century) received health and salvation through baptism, he promulgated an edict making it legal for the first time for Christians throughout the world to build churches. He encouraged this holy work by example as well as decree. In his Lateran palace, he dedicated a church of the Savior and next to it a basilica to Saint John the Baptist.

Tradition tells us that this was the site where Constantine was baptized by Pope Saint Sylvester. On the ninth November, for the first time in history, a church was publicly consecrated for Christian worship. The anniversary of this day of dedication which at first had been observed only in Rome was extended throughout the entire Latin church since the 12th century.

Today (November 9) my fellow Christians, we keep this anniversary as an occasion for celebration and rejoicing. We, however ought to realize that through baptism we have been made the true and living temples of God. Christians, rightly commemorate this feast of the Church as mother, for they know that through her they were reborn in the spirit. At our first birth, we are vessels of God‘s wrath; reborn, we become vessels of his mercy. Our first birth brought death to us, but our second restored us to life.

Before our baptism we were sanctuaries of the devil; but after our baptism we merited the privilege of being temples of Christ. And if we think more carefully about the meaning of our salvation, we shall realize that we are indeed living and true temples of God. God does not dwell only in structures fashioned by human hands, in homes of wood and stone, but rather he dwells principally in the soul made according to his own image and fashioned by His own hand.

When the blessed Pope, Sylvester I was consecrating the altar in honor of his predecessor Saint Peter, he decreed that from this time forward all altars should be built of stone, in order to be permanent. It is not surprising if you consider that in the time of Peter down to that of Sylvester, persecution had prevented having any fixed abode. The holy sacrifice had to be offered in crypts, in cemeteries and in the houses of the faithful wherever necessity compelled it.

Therefore the Apostle, Paul, says: the Temple of God is holy and you are that temple. When Christ came He banished the devil from our hearts, in order to build in them a temple for himself. Let us therefore do what we can with his help, so that out evil deeds will not deface that temple. Whoever does evil does injury to Christ. As I said earlier, before Christ redeemed us, we were the house of the devil, but afterward we merited the privilege of being the house of God. God Himself in his loving mercy saw fit to make of us His own home.

My fellow Christians, do we wish to celebrate joyfully the birth of this temple? Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by works of evil. I shall speak clearly so that all of you can understand. Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be.

Do we wish to find this building immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too, wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that He who dwells in the heavens may be glorified. Just as you enter this church building so God wishes to enter into your soul yourself for he promised: I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts.
 (in part, from a Sermon from St Caesariur of Arles, Bishop)


This is a Homily given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on November 9th at the Mother of the Light Convent

11.03.2017

A Weekend of Blessings Our Patriarch

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light spent three joy-filled days (Friday, October 27 – 29th) in attendance at the pastoral visits of His Eminence and Beatitude, Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, head of the Maronite Church. 
His Eminence came to visit Our Lady of the Cedars Church in Boston on Friday, October 27, following his participation in Washington D.C in the 4th Annual Summit of “In Defence of Christians (IDC)”. During his homily on Friday’s Divine Liturgy in Boston, the Patriarch informed the congregation of the progress and deliberations of the three-day IDC Summit.
His Eminence mentioned that the Church leaders are looking to the U.S. for leadership to obtain peace in the Middle East, especially to help Lebanon in its current humanitarian crisis. The small country of Lebanon now holds 1.7 million Syrian refugees, almost half the size of its own population, not to mention half a million Palestinian refugees, and many Iraqi refugees, which are putting a severe strain on the country’s already unstable economy and tenuous demographic balance. Patriarch Rai is calling for their peaceful and dignified re-establishment back in those areas of their own homes where peace now resides again.
On Saturday, October 28, a historic event took place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  Patriarch Rai inaugurated, blessed and dedicated a new chapel in honor of St. Charbel at the Cathedral, in the presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and many dignitaries, bishops, and clergy. The chapel is the first of its kind outside of Lebanon, made with stunning Italian mosaics, generously donated by the Shnaoui family.
“St. Charbel is a sign of hope for Christianity and for all the people of the Middle East who suffer in difficult circumstances,” Cardinal Rai said in his homily during the prayer service at the Cathedral. 
The artistic mosaic sanctuary depicts St. Charbel wrapped in a luminous halo in the Lebanese mountain, near the St. Maron monastery in Annaya, Lebanon, where his tomb is located. The saint is surrounded by flourishing cedars and crystalline waters of the Mediterranean.
We were blessed to participate in this event, and to pray before this beautiful shrine with our Maronite faithful, who filled St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the brim.
On Sunday, October 29, Patriarch Rai celebrated the Pontifical Divine Liturgy at our Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon in Brooklyn, after which he met and greeted the faithful (including the Maronite Servants) at the Brooklyn Historical Museum.
In the afternoon, we were blessed to participate in a historic meeting between, Patriarch Rai and His Beatitude, Patriarch John X, head of the Orthodox Antiochene Church. This was a beautiful day of ecumenism where Catholic East shared an unbelievable sense of camaraderie and fellowship with Orthodox East. These two Patriarchs spoke before dignitaries, bishops, clergy, and faithful of both Churches. They reaffirmed their commitment to work together to bring about sustained peace in the Middle East. 
The Patriarch, now back in Lebanon, his Patriarchal See, continues his efforts on the home front, having voiced his approval and approbation of all his pastoral visits in the U.S. God be with you Sayedna, our prayers are with you!