3.27.2013

Inspirations from our Maronite Liturgy

Below are prayer excerpts taken from the opening prayer and prayer of forgiveness in Maronite Liturgy for Thursday of the Mysteries (Holy Thursday) and Sunday of the Glorious Resurrection (Easter Sunday).

Thursday of the Mysteries
O Christ, you are the Word of the Eternal Father, and you became man to save us. You fulfilled the laws of the old covenant to lead us to worship in spirit and in truth. You washed the feet of your apostles to teach us humility and love. You ate the Passover lamb with them, so that you yourself might become our Passover and our Lamb.

We glorify and thank you because you offered yourself for us as an eternal Pascal Sacrifice. You gave us the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist as a pledge of the resurrection and new life.
O Priest and Sacrifice, O Host and Banquet, accept our prayers at this Pascal feast in which you have allowed us to participate, by giving us your Body and your Blood to drink. May we also share in your passion, death, and resurrection, that we may one day meet you at your heavenly banquet.

Sunday of the Glorious Resurrection
Lord Jesus, make us worthy, in the abundance of your grace and mercy, to glorify your resurrection with pure hearts, to celebrate your victory with holy hymns, and to proclaim your might with pure tongues. We thank you for your love and worship you, crying out: “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!”
Let us raise glory, honor and praise to the Living and Immortal One, who gave life to his people by his cross, and salvation to his Church and happiness to his flock by his resurrection…
We worship and praise you. O only-begotten Son. You descended into the darkness of the tombs and worked wonders in the realm of the dead. By your resurrection you freed captives, and by your voice you awakened the righteous and the just who had gone to their rest in the sleep of death. You gathered the nations to worship you and to proclaim your salvation. They rejoice and cry out:
On Friday the King endured pain and was crucified, and today victory has been achieved by his resurrection!
On Friday a lance pierced his side, and today in his compassion the waters of Baptism flow!
On Friday he was crowned with thorns, and today he has crowned his Church with a crown of splendor!
Today is a day of rejoicing in the resurrection.
…O Creator of Life, you have saved us by your passion and have given us life by your resurrection. Now renew our image by your grace. Clothe our bodies with the power of the Spirit, so that we may shine in the robe of glory and in its light see you, the true Bridegroom.

3.21.2013

Sharing the Faith in the Year of Faith



We participated in the Chrism Liturgy, Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, Brooklyn NY on March 20, 2013.  Bishop Gregory J. Mansour is assisted by Chorbishop Michael Thomas, Vicar General.




Catechesis at St. Anthony of the Desert, Fall River,  Faith Formation on Sunday, March 17.
Sr. Therese Maria is catechizing on the gift of Holy Communion.
Mother Marla Marie presenting a Lenten reflection to the Daughter of the Cedars from the Maronite parish, Boston.

3.19.2013

Pope Francis - a letter from Bishop Gregory


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
What a surprise! What a joy! The Holy Spirit knows how to help guide us, and never leave us orphans.  The past few weeks the Church has shined brightly, even with age old ceremonies, she knows how to live her calling with love and serenity, and how to carefully and respectfully choose a leader in the footsteps of Saint Peter.
The popes that I remember, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis, are all so very different in personality, in leadership style and in thinking, yet they are all the same in that they are all faithful and obedient to Christ and His Church.  What an inspiration to all of us.  We can truly be ourselves, yet at the same time, be faithful.
It was a particular joy for me to see Pope Francis with his hands at his side looking out at the 150,000 plus people in Saint Peter’s Square. All I could imagine was that here was a man that realized he does not have to impress anyone, all he needs to do is to be faithful to his calling and obedient to the Holy Spirit.  This in itself is enough to inspire all of us.  Let us pray for Pope Francis, the Universal Church, and the world that we too be truly ourselves, and at the same time faithful and obedient to our heavenlycall.
 Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour

3.15.2013

MYA Lenten Reflection

On Sunday afternoon, March 10, we hosted a Lenten reflection on the Prodigal Son with young adults from the Boston and Brockton Maronite parishes. Mother Marla Marie shared on the importance of the homecoming of the Prodigal Son and his journey of conversion back to the Father. She challenged the group to examine their own lives to see where they have left home and how they can return back to the loving mercy of God’s embrace.

The young men and women joined us for our monthly Ramsho and supper evening at 5:00PM. In addition, guests from the community attended the prayer gathering, including the City Council President of New Bedford, Bruce Duarte. Our next Ramsho and Supper gathering will be Sunday April 14 at 5:00PM. Please RSVP by April 12 via email sister@maroniteservants.org or phone (508) 996-1753.

Year of Faith Program – for Your Parish



“The Year of Faith is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.” 
(Porta Fidei)

In response to this call to share the beauty and richness of our Catholic Faith, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light have a Year of Faith program, to inspire people (all ages) in the Maronite Church to grow in the knowledge of their faith and rediscover its transformative power of love.
Our engaging presentations include: Sacred Scripture, Maronite traditions, prayer, videos, ice-breakers, hymns, theology, the Creed, interactive discussions and spiritual reflections. We endeavor, by God’s grace, to radiate Christ’s joy and merciful love in sharing the good news of our faith and to deepen in each person their call to be holy and joy-filled witnesses of the risen Lord.
If you are interested in bringing a group from your parish to our convent in Dartmouth or having us come to your parish please contact Sister Marla Marie at 508/996-1753 or email. Our presentations can be adapted to the age level and needs of your group.

May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love.” (Porta Fidei)

3.06.2013

Fasting for Spiritual Strength



Fasting is not an end in itself: it is a means to an end. The end is holiness.

Fasting helps us to come to holiness because it is a form of penance, and it develops strength of will and self-understanding. But holiness never comes automatically. We need a complete Christian discipline for life, and fasting is part of that. It can have no supernatural results unless it is undertaken in a spirit of prayer. God works small miracles for those who pray and fast. The diligent person can exercise an unprecedented control over carnal appetites and desires. Many grateful souls will testify to that.

“Fasting” is restricting our intake of food and drink. We distinguish fasting from abstinence. The law of abstinence restricts not the amount but the type of food one eats,: when abstaining one cannot eat meat and sweets. The Maronite law of fasting allows no food between midnight and noon. Food and water are always permitted when needed to take medicines or prevent collapse and illness. A person who can suffer illness when they fast should not take the risk, they should find another form of penance, e.g. donating money to the poor, attending an extra Mass, saying the divine office, etc. So if, for example, you can get migraines if you fast, don’t try it. Choose another penance with the aid of your pastor. Receiving the Eucharist never breaks the fast.

For the other half of the day, that is, between 12 noon and midnight, there is no strict legal restriction, but the fast is based on the implicit understanding that the portions one consumes for lunch and supper will be the usual size. The result should be that one eats one meal less, not that one distributes that meal between two others.

In fasting, we follow the example of Our Lord, who fasted for forty days (Mt. 4:2), and expected that we Christians would fast when He was no longer with us (Mt. 9:14-5; Lk. 5:33-5). In Mt. 6:16-8, Our Lord teaches us to fast for spiritual purposes only, and not to try to impress others with our discipline. Vanity is a poison. In Australia, for 2013, the Bishop has followed the Latin Church and requires fasting only on Ash Monday and Good Friday, and abstinence on those two days and on each Friday of Lent. One can, however, fast or abstain more often. Or, one can, for example, eat only a third as much for breakfast or lunch on days when there is no compulsory fast. We can even, if we wish, use the ancient tradition of also abstaining from animal products such as milk, cheese and eggs, as these were believed to make one more inclined to bodily temptations.
gluttony, lust and worldly desires which prayerful
Why Fast?

First, there are physical reasons to fast prudently. Many studies have shown that if one fasts without then indulging in gluttony, substantial health benefits accrue. It is good to look after the body, which is, after all, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). But even this is to serve our supernatural aim –
holiness.

Second, fasting is a powerful means of mortification. One feels in one’s very body that one has struggled to make sincere atonement.

Third, fasting strengthens the will. Our Lord said that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mt. 26:41). Fasting enables the spirit to exercise its will over the flesh.

Further, fasting facilitates self-examination, because under the influence of the fast we see ourselves quite differently. Our sense of ourselves is conditioned how we eat and drink. Changing our intake of food and drink immediately upsets our conditioned patterns of reaction. We acquire new perceptions and feelings through the unaccustomed sense of hunger, and the unaccustomed impression of depriving oneself of food and flavoured drink. Self-examination, of course, enables us to make better confessions – but we shall deal with this vital topic in a future broadsheet.

Many find that fasting brings a welcome sense of freedom, not only physically, but in the feeling and
the intellect, too. More than we know, we are slaves to our appetites. Fasting helps break this slavery. When we fast, we find that we don’t need as much food as we thought that we did. Further, what we crave is very often more the experience of eating than the food. Being hungry is not so bad as we imagine: it is the anticipation of eating something delightful which makes fasting seem intolerable. Fasting shows what a large part eating and drooling over the prospect plays in our lives. When food and consumption are put into their proper places, there is more room in our minds and hearts for the spiritual life.

This connection of fasting and the life of virtue is also made by St Thalassios the Libyan, who taught: “To fast well is to enjoy simple food in small amounts and to shun other people’s esteem.” (On Love, in The Philokalia, vol.4, p.327). In the same volume, we find St Maximos the Confessor’s Four Hundred Texts on Love, wherein he tells us, at III 86, p.97: “Food was created for nourishment and healing. Those who eat food for purposes other than these two are therefore to be condemned as self-indulgent, because they misuse the gifts God has given us for our use. In all things misuse is a sin.”

This does not mean that one can take no pleasure at all in food, for “appetites and pleasures which are in accordance with nature are not reprehensible,” since they are a natural consequence of our human nature. Thus, satisfying hunger or thirst will naturally produce a legitimate pleasure, but it will be a purer and less selfish pleasure than that of gluttony. Through fasting and discipline, our reason will control our pleasures and lusts, not the other way around (Various Texts on Theology II 90, The Philokalia IV p.206).

Finally, now we have discovered the true importance of food, let us aim to pay more attention to how we eat and drink. A true Christian would not eat on automatic pilot, but rather, giving thanks to God. By His grace, we have the nourishment we need. We could repay Him by living better lives, and feeding those without food. One last word of warning: if intending to fast for more than two days, see a doctor first.

St John Cassian, in On the Eight Vices, reprinted in The Philokalia, vol. 1, warned that one should not fast to the point of hurting the body, and that we should not do without food for days on end, because those who eat nothing for too long often end up by eating too much. May it be granted to us to fast in such a way that we acquire the virtue of temperance.

- A priest of the Maronite Catholic Church
© Fr Y.A. for the Maronite Eparchy of Australia, 20 February 2013

3.02.2013

Prayer for a New Pope


O Lord Jesus Christ,
Supreme Pastor of Your Church,
we thank you for the ministry
of Pope Benedict XVI
and the selfless care with which he has led us as Successor of Peter, and Your Vicar on earth.

Good Shepherd, who founded Your Church on the rock
of Peter’s faith and have never left
Your flock untended, look with love upon us
now,
and sustain Your Church in faith, hope,

and charity.
Grant, Lord Jesus,
in Your boundless love for us,
a new Pope for Your Church
who will please You by his holiness
and lead us faithfully to You,
who are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

©February 2013, Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore 

3.01.2013

"Slowing down for the Great Fast.


By: Father Fran├žois Beyrouti.
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church. Placentia, CA.

The death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the key event of our Christian faith. Therefore, we not only celebrate it on one day, but spend forty days, plus holy week preparing ourselves to experience more fully the mystery of God’s great love. Although this love is beyond the ability of any human to fully understand, this period of the Great Fast helps us to grow in our appreciation of our identity as sons and daughters of the Risen Christ.

In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul speaks about the Christian journey of better understanding the Risen Christ. He says: “... For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as nothing, in order that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him, ...  [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (3:8-11)

Yes we as Christians must daily want to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection in order that we too may rise with Him. However, we will not discover this in passing or by accident, but will only draw closer to the Risen Christ if we take time to look for Him and also to walk with Him first on the road to His death before continuing on to the road of the Resurrection.

Tomorrow we begin the period of the Great Fast where traditionally people ate no meat, fish, or dairy products. In this traditional fast only shrimp, clam seafood were permitted as these could easily be gathered and cooked quickly. The purpose of this strictness was to focus on simplifying life as much as possible so that we may be able to focus on things that are more important than eating and drinking such as: prayer, helping the needy, growing in holiness, and moderation in eating and other matters.

These goals may seem contrary to all the values of our modern culture, but this time of the Great Fast is an opportunity for all of us to grow in these basic Christian virtues. Fasting may not be popular, but ironically the word “fast” is the one word that best describes how most of us live and the world that surrounds us. We want fast downloads, fast computers, fast games, fast flights and fast cars on fast roads. We want fast interactions in fast banks and we want fast food in fast restaurants. Unfortunately we sometimes want fast services in a fast Church and increasingly more we want fast relationships that are so fast that they naturally end up being over really fast.

However, some things are so important they cannot be fast. This is what makes the “Great Fast” great because it c-h-a-l-e-n-g-e-s  u-s  t-o  r-e-a-l-l-y  s-l-o-w  d-o-w-n. The word “fast” in the “Great Fast” is not synonymous with things that happen quickly, but it is the other meaning of the word ‘fast’ which has to do with us holding firm to the things that we believe are essential in life. For example, when we get in a car we “fasten” the seat belt because we want to protect that which is most precious. This is the meaning of the word fast in “the Great Fast.”

Our precious faith cannot be lived in the fast lane, but can only be lived by slowing down in order to see Christ in our lives. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans (13:12-13) which we read today “Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; [13] let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.”

If you are having problems slowing down, note how God Himself though by His nature is very fast, decided to slow down for us. If He did not slow down He would have never been able to be with us in the way that He is today.

Throughout the Bible people experienced the fullness of God’s power in things and moments that were slow. Slowing down became a sign of His power, not of His weakness. In the book of Job we read: “By his power he stilled the sea;” (26:12)

And in many other instances God slowed down and made Himself known in this way. In the first book of Kings we read: “behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD,             but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; [12] and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

From that “still, small, voice” God spoke to Elijah and it is from this s-t-i-l-l, s-m-a-l-l, v-o-i-c-e that God speaks to anyone who slows down and is willing to listen. We see and experience the fullness of God’s glory and power, not in the thunders and clouds that may impress us, nor in the speed of life that we keep getting progressively addicted to, but in the moments when we agree to slow down and appreciate all that He has given us.

Ironically, the fullness of His power was only able to be revealed to us when He became incarnate of the womb of the Virgin Mary. At this moment, God not only slowed things down, but He became slow for our salvation. St. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

He slowed down to the extent that it became a scandal and a hindrance for the belief of some. When He slowed down to wash the feet of His disciples Peter was scandalized. Yet Jesus made this a very important lesson for His disciples when He told them: “Do you know what I have done to you? [13] You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. [14] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15)

However, even this was not enough, Jesus slowed down further by dying on the cross and was willing to be mocked in the process. Those around Him said: “let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” (Matthew 27:42) But he did not need to respond, because in His slowing down even to death, He became the first dead man to continue to work after He died. In fact, Jesus spoke most clearly and convincingly through what He did in the days that followed. He appeared to his disciples and said to them “I will be with you till the end of time.” But Jesus who slowed down, cannot be with us if we don’t slow down and agree to be with Him?

If we don’t slow down we will never know what we are missing in our relationship with God and in our relationship with others. This is what we prepare ourselves to experience more fully by living the Great Fast. By simplifying what we eat and by simplifying our lifestyle we are able to focus more intensely on the paradise of blessings that surrounds us. Ironically, by slowing down we end up seeing more of life.

Try this either today or sometime this week. If you are used to going somewhere by car, try taking your bicycle instead. Then notice the things that you have missed while driving the same route by car. Next time try walking there and notice the things that you’ve missed while riding a bicycle. You could have taken the same road for five years, but it is only when you slowdown that you will notice things that you have never seen or appreciated before. Unfortunately, we often rush through life and miss so many things that were intended to bring us the greatest joy.

However, it is not enough to just slow down. In order for the “Great Fast” to be truly great we have to slow down and focus on the face of the Crucified and Risen Lord who through His death and resurrection not only conquered death, but promised to conquer all that may be dead in our lives. During this time of the “Great Fast” let us slow down and see what these things may be. This is our true and great “Fast” which focusses on going very slow in order to hold “fast” to our faith in the crucified and risen Christ. Unfortunately, the more we hold on to what we want to eat, to what we want to say, to what we want others to think of us, to what we want others to do for us, and to any other human attachment that may be controlling us, we are not walking in the right direction. But, when we realize that we do not need to be faster than others and even God, then we can slow down and better see his face and the face and needs of all those around us.