1.29.2016

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/





1.15.2016

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. 

1.08.2016

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).


1.01.2016

Christmas Has Only Begun

By Father Fran├žois Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
Visiting with our Maronite Monks of Adoration, Petersham MA
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA     92870-4537

Happy two days after Christmas. If you say to someone “Merry Christmas” they will most likely tell you “Christmas was two days ago. It’s over.” However, for us Christmas has only begun. As the famous song indicates there are 12 days of Christmas.

In the Church we prepare to celebrate the major feast days, and depending on the event, we either spend a day or a few weeks celebrating the special day. So the way the liturgical services are set up, we begin preparing for Christmas with a 40 day fast on November 15 and we continue to celebrate Christmas until January 6, which is the feast of the Theophany, the baptism of our Lord. During this time we do not fast on Fridays and we continue to celebrate that Jesus appeared in our midst.

So from now until January 6, we greet each other by saying: “Christ is Born. Glorify Him.” “Almaseeh wulidah. Famijodoo.” Not: “Christ is Born. He is truly born.” “Almaseeh wulida. Haqqan wulidah.”

The birth of Jesus always marks a new beginning for us because it is the good news of God’s love. This enormous love requires us to take on a new perspective in life. Love is always beautiful but as everyone knows for love to be authentic and lasting it has to have an element of humility, sacrifice, and obedience. No couple who has been happily married for 10, 20, or 50 years can say that they still love each other if humility, sacrifice, and obedience, are not part of their life. If we truly want to show God how much we love Him, humility, sacrifice, and obedience, have to also be part of our spiritual life and our relationship with Him.

But how do we express these in our friendship with God? Before I answer this question let us look a little closer at today’s Gospel reading. After Jesus was born, the angel said to Joseph “ ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ [14] And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14) Then: “When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, [20] ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.’” (Matthew 2:19-20)

We do not know very much about Saint Joseph but what we have in today’s Gospel shows us how he was a man who was ready to practice humility, sacrifice, and obedience to God. Saint Joseph was always humble. Throughout the whole Gospels he does not say a word, but Saint Joseph was always ready to sacrifice His own plans for the good of others and Saint Joseph was always obedient to the word of God by responding immediately to what he needed to do.

These qualities are an essential aspect of the Christmas spirit. God showed His love for us by being born in the flesh. We show our love for God by responding in a real way to His love. We cannot do this if we do not take time out of our busy schedules to pray. The more time we spend praying, the more we learn how to be humble, how to sacrifice, and how to be obedient. We simply cannot survive spiritually without prayer.

There is a man who was walking in the forest and a bear started chasing him. When the bear got closer the man began to pray: “God help me. I need to be able to run faster than the bear.” Immediately God gave him strength to run faster than the bear. Then he prayed again: “God help me. I’m getting tired.” God immediately gave him extra strength and he was no longer tired. Then finally he said: “God. Thank you so much for helping me but can you stop also helping the bear?”

God wants to help all of us, but we need to pray not only when we are being chased by a bear. Prayer is not an emergency call for help when we are desperate because God is not a soda machine where we go to get goodies when we need them.

Prayer is about slowing down our life so that we can think about how we can be more humble before God, how we can sacrifice for others, and how we can be obedient to the direction that God wants us to move in.

We are all legitimately busy. We have so many responsibilities and so many challenges in life, but we should never be too busy for God. We need to reflect on the love of the Christ child and perhaps busy ourselves with loving Him more.

On this last Sunday of the year, commit to set aside at least 10 minutes a day to read the Bible and ten minutes a day to pray. Thank God, learn to love God, and open your heart honestly before God by presenting him your deepest needs. This is true prayer.

God has humbled Himself before us and God has sacrificed Himself for us as proof of His enormous love. During this Christmas season which we continue to celebrate until the feast of the Theophany on January 6, we have a chance to reciprocate God’s love by setting aside a few minutes a day to humble ourselves before Him in prayer so that we can receive the greatest gifts of humility, sacrifice, and obedience.

Christmas is indeed not over. When we continue to receive these gifts every day through prayer we will realize that Christmas has only begun.

Christ is Born. Glorify Him.