Cana Sunday – Entrance into Great Lent

 In the Maronite Church this Sunday, February 7, we celebrate the Wedding of Cana and the entrance into the next Liturgical Season, Great Lent.

Why is the Wedding of Cana chosen as the Gospel in the Maronite Church for the beginning of Great Lent? What is its significance?

The theme of the Wedding of Cana is transformation. The Evangelist John records that at this event, Jesus performs his first public “sign”, or miracle by changing water into wine, thus making known the beginning of his “hour” of glorification (cf John 2:11). Our Church uses this sign of transformation to begin a series of Lenten Sunday celebrations that highlight other transformations, both physical and spiritual. This series culminates in the greatest miracle story: the Resurrection, the sign of the new Earth and the New Heaven, the New Creation. This focus on change should lead us to make the changes necessary in our own spiritual lives. We move from an earthly wedding story to considering our life at the eternal Wedding Banquet.

(The above is a summary from “Captivated By Your Teachings: A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics” written by Rev. Anthony J. Salim, pp. 136 – 137, 182).

Just a reminder that for Maronites, Ash Monday, is a day of fasting and abstinence. The Maronite Servants join you in prayer and fasting during this time of Great Lent. As they say in Arabic, “Sowm Mubarak”.


My First “March for Life” 2016

By Natalie Salameh
On Friday, January 22, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were in Washington D.C. for the 2016 March for Life joining with our Maronite faithful and Bishop, His Excellency Gregory J. Mansour. This was my first experience of the “March for Life”, and I absolutely loved it.
What is the March for Life?
The March for Life began in Washington, D.C., as a small demonstration and rapidly grew to be the largest pro-life event in the world. The peaceful demonstration that has followed on the somber anniversary of Roe v. Wade every year since 1973 is a witness to the truth concerning the greatest human rights violation of our time, legalized abortion on demand.[1]  
The overall goal of the March for Life is to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision and prohibit access to the procedure of abortion.

March for Life 2016
As we tuned into all the weather and news channels in Washington D.C. we knew that a blizzard was on the way on Friday afternoon, the actual day of the March. Despite the warnings of very bad weather, 250,000 people gathered at Washington Monument (including the Maronite Servants) and prepared to march up Constitution Avenue towards the U.S. Supreme Court in witness to the dignity of the unborn, and to peacefully protest the moral evil of abortion.
Personally, I was so proud to see people of other faiths and other Christian denominations marching against abortion, in an attempt to safeguard everybody’s right to life. It just made me think that at the core of every human being is a desire and yearning to exist, to live a full life and to be respected.
As we began to march up Constitution Avenue, it began to snow, true to their weather predictions, but we soldiered on.

As we were marching we encountered many other religious communities including the Sisters of Life, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and a hosts of seminarians and priests who were happy to be out despite the weather. We also encountered women who were marching because they had regretted their abortion and were deeply wounded by the experience, and also young people who had been conceived through the crime of rape. I truly felt that I was part of something very sacred and special in upholding my belief that God loves each human life from the instant of his or her conception.
For me, the March was confronting at times, and I can recall two occasions where it was particularly confronting. We were at about the halfway point in our March when a number of warnings were posted that up ahead would be some footage of abortion victims, that is, little babies that had died by abortion. It just reminded me that we were all marching for the innocent, unborn, because they cannot march for themselves or speak for themselves to tell their parents that they too have a right to be heard, and have a right to exist.
The other confronting part of the March was right at the very end when we had reached the U.S. Supreme Court. To the side of the U.S. Supreme Court, behind a barricade of police officers, was a group of pro-abortionists who were trying ever so hard to drown out our pro-life message on the steps of the Supreme Court. The slogans they were shouting were troubling and so sad, “Abortion is our cry, we don’t care that women die”, “we are the liberation generation”. Well, we, the pro-lifers, sent a clear message that we do care about the gift of every single human life, by the mere fact that come rain, hail or shine (or blizzard!) we will be there to march and pray for the protection of human life.
It was an absolute privilege to participate in this event, and to walk alongside those who uphold the value and dignity of human life from conception. Many people were concerned that we would get stuck in the blizzard. But thank God, we were able to march and make it safely back to our accommodations before it really came down on Friday evening. The blizzard did not stop until about 11pm on Saturday night, which meant that our flights were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday. Finally, we were able to return safely to the Mother of Light Convent on Monday, January 25. I certainly look forward to participating in the many more marches to come, and ask you to please join us in praying for an end to abortion.
[1] http://marchforlife.org/mfl-2016/faqs/


Three Sundays of Commemoration

“There are three special Sunday commemorations which are made at the end of Epiphany time: for Deceased Priests, for the Righteous and Just (All Saints), and for the Faithful Departed (All souls) in general.

These commemorations of the Departed are to be seen in the context of the Epiphany emphasis on the charismational mission of all Christians, and on the destiny of those faithful to their baptismal calling. Those who have died to this life are on the next stage of their journey to the Kingdom. If they have died faithful to the Gospel commandment to love, they will one day be called to the Eternal Light by Christ, the “True Hope who never fails’.”

(The above are excerpts from “Captivated By Your Teachings: A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics” written by Rev. Anthony J. Salim).

(From Prayer of the Faithful According to the Maronite Liturgical Year)

In the Maronite Church, this year, January 24th  is the Sunday of the Righteous and Just. This is actually the traditional Maronite feast in honor of all saints. Whereas the Latin Church celebrates the feast of All Saints November 1st, the Maronite Church, following its ancient tradition dedicates this Sunday to their memory.

On this day we call to mind all the men and women, children of the Church, who have followed the path of justice and righteousness. We remember the prophets, apostles and martyrs, the hermits, ascetics, men and women religious, as well as all Christians who have lead holy lives. As our liturgy so often reminds us, they are just in the sight of God because they have patterned their lives on Jesus Christ, the Just One. The saints are our models; their prayers and fasting have taught us to fight against sin and temptation and so gain the reward of righteousness. The saints are our intercessors; by their prayers we obtain the pardon of our sins and are strengthened in the Christian virtues. They were the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they call us to follow their path. Through their intercession may we one day merit eternal life with God. 


The Season of Epiphany (Theophany; Syriac: Denho)

“O Christ, baptized by John, have mercy on us”
“Mshee-ho det-‘a-med men you-ha-non, it-ra-ham ‘a-lain”

The Eastern Churches in general begin the post-Christmas Season of Epiphany with the
commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River on January 6. (The West celebrates the Baptism slightly later). At one time this feast was not separate from Christmas but became distinct when the Church began to celebrate the Birth of the Messiah on 25 December.

The Maronite Church values the Epiphany Gospel truth so much that a whole liturgical season is built around it. It is a time when the Maronite Church takes between two to six Sundays (depending on how early or late Great Lent begins) to reflect upon the consequences of Initiation for the Christian. During the first three days of the Sixth Week of Epiphany (Monday – Wednesday), the Maronite Church observes “Nineveh Days”. These three days are penitential and serve to anticipate the Season of Great Lent. The last three weeks of Epiphany focus on the destiny of those faithful to their Baptismal calling. These are the three Sundays of the Departed: Priests, Righteous and Just (the Saints), and the Faithful Departed.

Jesus did not need John’s Baptism, which was for the forgiveness of sins. He comes to John to signal the end of John’s ministry and the beginning of His own. Like the Resurrection above all, Jesus’ Baptism is a revelation of His divinity, of His being the Messiah and of His being One of the Trinity.

During the Epiphany Service water is blessed. Burning charcoal, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, is placed into the water. With this the pastor will go to the homes of the faithful to bless them; or at least the faithful may take containers of holy water to their homes from the Church.

Maronites traditionally make a pastry called zlaabyeh, dough fried in oil, popularly associated with Jesus’
descent into the Jordan River.

“O Christ, baptized by John, have mercy on us”
“Mshee-ho det-‘a-med men you-ha-non, it-ra-ham ‘a-lain”

(The above are excerpts from “Captivated By Your Teachings: A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics” written by Rev. Anthony J. Salim).