Patriarch's Easter Message

The Easter Message 2011
Of His Beatitude Bechara Peter RAI
Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole East

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep”
(1Cor. 15: 20)

1.The resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead opened, in the history of humanity, a new page that will never be turned over. For, it has changed the face of Man and the face of the World. Christ , the Son of God, who redeemed the whole humanity by his death on the cross, rose from the dead so that we obtain the fruits of redemption, which is the pardon of sins and the new life in the Holy Spirit. His resurrection has become a state of resurrection which he opened before every believer in the mystery of his death and resurrection. This made the Apostle Paul assure that “Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep” (1Cor.15: 20).

2.I am glad, at the start of my patriarchal service to address the first Easter message to the Bishops of our Maronite Church, its priests, monks, nuns and all its sons and daughters living in Lebanon, the countries of the East and throughout the world. I include in it the greeting of love, my apostolic blessing, communion with all of them and best wishes for the glorious Easter. I also present these greetings to our beloved brothers of the various churches, to our dear Moslem co-citizens and all others throughout all countries. I wish to all to enjoy the peace descending from God and carrying all the graces of Heaven and its spiritual and worldly blessings.

3. “Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep”. The resurrection of Christ is not a past event which can be overlooked, be indifferent towards it or ignore it with all its dimensions and meanings. The resurrection of the Lord is a guaranty of the human nature of the human being for, he recovers the beauty of his human nature which is created to God’s image and adorned by innocence. The blood of Christ, which has been shed on the cross, has cleaned Man from sins and offenses by forgiveness and blew in him a new life through the Holy Spirit, by the force of his resurrection. Here is the Lord, raised from the dead, continuing, through the sacerdotal service in the Church, what he had done the day of his resurrection, when he entered the closed place where his disciples, priests of the New Testament, were meeting that Sunday evening. He showed them his hands with on them the traces of crucifixion and his side with the trace of the spearhead. All these show the source of the forgiveness flowing from his wounds throughout the times. He said to them “ Peace be with you … as the Father has sent me, so I send you ” he breathed on them and said to them: “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins are retained are retained” ( Jn 20: 19 – 23). It’s an act of a new creation. On the creation of the first Man, God blew in him life from his spirit, Man was created to God’s image and was in a state of innocence. After having distorted this picture and lost innocence by his sins and evil doings, God created him anew blowing into him the Holy Spirit, thanks to the blood of redemption which incarnate God shed on the cross of salvation. Thus, Christ, risen from the dead with the brightness of human nature, is the first-fruits of those who rise to a new Man.

4.The manifestations of the resurrection show in human life in many ways: in the sinners who renew themselves by repentance and reconciliation, the grieved who find solace in God’s mercy, the suffering, oppressed and prisoners who become open to Divine hope, the sick, handicapped and neglected who see in their suffering as extension of Christ’s redemptive sufferings. All these obtain by their merits God’s graces, his contentment and his peace to the whole world.

Among the manifestations of the resurrection are reconciliations which take place among people, the fraternal encounters, understanding and dialogue, the initiatives of social love and self denial in giving, to alleviate pain, deliver from need, relieve from despair, sow joy in hearts, develop the human person and raise society.

From among the manifestations of the resurrection , are also the saints the Church raised upon the altars as witnesses of the resurrection which has embellished them by the resurrection of hearts in their historic life, adorned them with the heroism of divine, human and ethical virtues which raised them, following their death, to the glory of Heaven around the throne of the Lamb. There they are shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father and the heaven of the Church. We mention among them in our present time, successively the martyrs, blessed Masabki brothers, the saints Sharbel, Neemtallah and Rafka, the blessed Father Yacoub Haddad the Capucin, Mother Mary Alphonsine and Brother Stephan Neemeh, the two honored Patriarch Stephan Doueihy and Father Bechara Abou Mrad. Besides, the Universal Church is preparing to celebrate , in a week’s time, the beatification of the great Pope John Paul II .

5. We look forward to the manifestations of resurrection in our national life, hoping that Lebanon rises, thanks to the good will, from the crisis of forming the government, the worsening situation which the citizens have to bear its economic, social and living difficulties , and from the bleeding of emigration and the despair of our rising generations to have a better future. We also wish that the dawn of the resurrection of peace, stability and understanding break forth in the Holy Land and the Arab countries which are suffering from troubles.

O Christ, the risen from among the dead, You who are the first-fruits of those who died, raise us with you for a new life. Raise our minds to the light of faith ! Raise our will to the way of good in hope ! Raise our hearts to communion and love ! Make us among the first-fruits of those who rose from the dead.

Christ rose from the dead, he indeed did !

Bkerkeh, 22 April 2011 .


Hooked on the Maronite Church

Joan Hanley & George Campbell with Sister Marla Marie.

By Joan Hanley, at Our Lady of Mercy in Worcester MA

After attending our first Maronite Mass, I was hooked. I felt like I was home. With every fibre in my body resonating with the Maronite tradition, it felt like I had changed religions and was finally where I had longed to be.
For many, many years, ever since I was a child really, I felt like something was missing in our Roman Catholic religion. For whatever reason, I could never understand why if God was a Jew, why we weren't Jewish. It just never seemed to make sense to me. In attending Jewish ceremonies of friends, I always felt comfortable in their temples or homes and was surprised to observe how much their religion, I felt, mirrored ours.
When we attended our first Maronite mass at Our Lady of Mercy Maronite Catholic Church in Worcester, MA, Father Paul Mooradd mentioned that the Maronite religion was the closest religion there was to the Jewish religion. He also said that the presentation of the body and blood of Christ was still spoken not only in Jesus' words but also in the language Jesus used at the last supper. All I could say to myself was this religion just keeps getting better and better. Here I was, exactly where I have always felt I belonged.
From the first day we entered the Maronite church we were embraced and enveloped with love. If you have never been in a Maronite church, you probably wouldn't know what we were talking about. For those of you who have attended Maronite services, you know of what I speak. When arriving in Florida for the winter, our first mission was to locate a Maronite church. We joined Mary Mother of Light Maronite Catholic Church in Greenacres, FL and immediately felt at home. We also felt all the love and warmth in Florida, just like we did back in Massachusetts.
Meeting the nuns this weekend who are Maronite Servants of Christ the Light was rather timely. After coming home this week from our Maronite women's group meeting, I said to George "You know, I don't think the Maronite church could operate without the women." In both Florida and Massachusetts it is apparent that the women are the true movers and shakers of the church. I have never seen more dedication of women anywhere than in the Maronite church. These women are so truly loving and kind that they not only want to help their parish; but they want to help everyone in it. They are all true servants of God. I can't leave the men out. Once it is decided what types of events are to be held, the men jump in to help. The children of our Maronite churches also are great and can always be seen selling raffle tickets, assisting on the altar, or helping out in some way. Those of us who have discovered the Maronite religion are truly blessed to have it in our lives.
Thank you Sisters for dedicating your lives to the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. May you always feel the love surrounding you of the Maronite family. Thank you Bishop Gregory also, for recognizing the women in our church and for beginning this ministry.


Sunday of the Glorious Resurrection

Al Masseeh.. [q]aam! Ha[qq]an [q]aam!
Maronites, as all Eastern Christians, greet one another all through the six weeks of Easter with "Christ is risen!" and the reply, "He is truly risen!"
"Today the Church and her children rejoice for our Lord and Savior has risen from the dead. The resurrection of the Lord is the central event of our salvation, the one that gives meaning to who we are and what we do. Every celebration of the Eucharist and the other mysteries refers to it as the source of inspiration and meaning.

The resurrection is the feast of feasts, the queen of all feasts. Originally the Church celebrated only one feast, the resurrection itself, which was recalled and renewed each Sunday at the celebration of the Divine Mysteries. Soon, however, it began to recall the Passover of the Lord and his victorious resurrection in a special way once a year, in addition to the weekly commemoration of the resurrection. Eventually this annual celebration of the Lord's resurrection was prepared for by a season of prayer, fasting and penance - Lent, and the feast itself was extended for fifty days.

Today's feast is one of joy and peace; the joy and peace that flow from the Lord's resurrection are expressed today by the rite of peace which follows the gospel in the Divine Mysteries. The cross is removed from the tomb where it has rested since Great Friday and is draped in white. It is carried through the Church accompanied by hymns of praise and joy. The priest solemnly blesses the congregation with the glorious cross and then presents it to them that they might adore it.

By his living cross Christ has saved us from going astray and given us a way to heaven. Through the cross peace and harmony reign among God's people and we are led to perfection. And so filled with peace and with joyful hearts we proclaim:

'A glorious morning has dawned, and night has fled Light has conquered, and night has been destroyed.'

Season of the Glorious Resurrection: The Church celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord as the feast of feasts. After being plunged into the darkness of the crucifixion and death of Jesus we are now filled with the light of the resurrection. The cross which was the instrument of death has now become the glorious beacon which enlightens the world.

In order to express its joy the Church extends the celebration of the resurrection for a week of weeks, that is, for fifty days. The Sundays of the Season of Resurrection are as follows: Resurrection of the Lord- New Sunday: First Sunday of Resurrection- Second Sunday of Resurrection- Third Sunday of Resurrection- Fourth Sunday of Resurrection- Fifth Sunday of Resurrection- Sixth Sunday of Resurrection: Sunday after the Ascension- Pentecost.

The Season of Resurrection begins with the feast of the Resurrection and ends with the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. On the fortieth day of this season (the Thursday after the Fifth Sunday of Resurrection) the feast of the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated."
(From “Prayer of the Faithful According to the Maronite Liturgical Year”).


Passion Play - Danbury CT

By Sister Therese Maria
On Hosanna Sunday, April 17, the Maronite Servants visited St. Anthony’s Church in Danbury Connecticut. We attended morning Divine Liturgy, celebrated by Father Jean Younes,pastor, and then joined the congregation in the procession outside the Church. That evening at 8:00PM we participated in the MYO Passion Play. It was spiritually moving and much creative effort was put into the costuming, design and overall production. This play was to help the parishioners 
enter more deeply into the passion of Christ. The MYO will also perfom this play  at St. Anthony’s on Great Friday. 


Watch this short video on Confession done by one our Maronite youth in the Westchester Mission parish, Hameed Mourani.  A good reminder in these holy days to seek the Lord's healing and forgiveness.


See below for photos of our visit to Worcester, MA.

Passion Week in the Maronite Tradition - Explained

(Taken from Aboona Anthony J. Salim's explanation in his parish bulletin of St. Theresa, Brockton MA)

Service (Teshmeshto) of the Coming to the Harbor
This Service and the Wednesday Service (Teshmeshto) of the Lamp are ancient and authentic liturgical services that had fallen into disuse in the last few hundred years. They were revived and published in the US several years ago. Our Great Fast has two parts: the Lenten Fast, from “Ash Monday” to Saturday before Hosanna Sunday, and the Passion Week Fast that begins today and ends on Saturday of the Awaited Light (“Holy Saturday”). The prayers of today’s rich service speak of our pre-Easter journey of fasting, which is now coming to an end as we enter the Fast of Passion Week. We are sailing in the spiritual ship through stormy waters to the “Harbor of Safety,” lighted by the Beacon of the Resurrection, which we will reach in a week, on Pascha-Easter.

This second “new” Service (Tesmeshto) centers on the symbols of light (knowledge and faith) and strength (oil). The prayers reflect the Psalms and there is an anointing of the forehead with the blessed oil. The reminder of the oil may be taken home for use in holiday baking.

Thursday of the Holy Mysteries
Qoorbono (Holy Eucharist) and Ritual of the Washing of the Feet.
This traditional Service (Tesmeshto dQoorbono) commemorates Jesus’ Institution of the Holy Eucharist (in Latin-rite terms, the First Mass) and dramatizes the Gospel of John by the washing of the feet of 12 parishioners representing the Apostles. Jesus’ humble ministering to others is highlighted. This is also a fine day to remember those young children who will receive the Lord on Holy Communion in a few weeks. All parishioners are encouraged to attend, of course, but the families of the First Communicants especially ought to come to this Service.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Holy Eucharist is reserved for adoration and will be used at the Service (Teshmeshto) of the “Signing of the Chalice” on the next day.

Great Friday of the Crucifixion (Obligatory Fast and Abstinence)
12:00 noon: Anaphora (Greek for “Eucharistic Prayer”) of the Signing of the Chalice (“Pre-Sanctified Liturgy”) with Holy Communion.
This service is one of the most ancient in the Church. It is called “Pre-Sanctified” because it uses the Sanctified Host from the night before (Eucharist and Washing of the Feet). There is therefore no consecration of a new host; however, there is an epiklesis (Greek for “calling down”) of the Holy Spirit over the wine, to change it into the Blood of Christ. Into this is dropped a portion of the (Pre-sanctified) Body of Christ. The symbolism here is deep, stemming from ancient Jewish thought. Namely, as body and blood are separated, death occurs. Therefore, when they are reunited, new (Eucharistic), grace-filled life is evident to the eyes of faith as we receive Holy Communion.

Service of the Burial of the Lord
A scriptural and liturgical meditation Service (Teshmeshto) on the Death of the Lord, Eastern-Church style. Flowers, which have been brought by the Faithful will placed into the Shroud for the Burial Procession. These will be seen on Pascha-Easter as symbols of the New Creation in the Risen Lord (see Rev 21:1) As the Faithful pass under the Shroud, we heed the idea of St. Paul and the early Church that “If we die with the Lord, we shall live with the Lord” (see Rom 14:8).

Saturday of the Awaited Light
Service (Tesmeshto) of Forgiveness (Penance Service & Confessions).
This is basically a communal Penance Service (Tesmeshto dHoosoyo) with individual confessions. The Service is timed to end at noon, which signals the end of the Great Fast. In fact, the Service ends with the traditional Pascha greeting: “Christ is risen!” with the faith-filled reply: “He is truly risen!” In Lebanon, the bells of the churches ring joyfully at noon.

Saturday Vigil for Easter Sunday
First Qoorbono (Divine Liturgy) of the Resurrection, with blessing of Easter baskets and distribution of flowers.

Great Sunday of the Resurrection
Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection with the “Ceremony,” or Service (Teshmeshto), or “’Rite’ of Peace, followed by distribution of flowers and egg cracking and sharing

Visiting Worcester - MA

By Sister Therese Maria

On April 10th, the Maronite Servants had a blessed visit at Our Lady of Mercy parish in Worcester, Massachusetts. Mother Marla Marie spoke at the conclusion of the Liturgy about our mission as Maronite Servants and the important need of praying for and supporting religious and priestly vocations among our Church family. Father Paul Mooradd, pastor of the Worcester parish, graciously welcomed us and invited us to share in the lenten lunch which followed the Liturgy in the parish hall. All the proceeds from the lunch were generously donated to our mission. We are grateful to Fr. Paul and the parishioners for their goodness, generous hospitality and support of our mission.


Latest Events

Blessing of the Oils - Brooklyn

On Monday 4th April, we joined our Maronite faithful at the noon Liturgy of the Blessing of the Oils at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, Brooklyn. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Gregory Mansour and concelebrated by Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi, Chorbishop Michael, Chorbishop Beggiani, Chorbishop Kaddo, Chorbishop Peter Azar, Fr. Jim Root (Rector of the Cathedral) and about twenty priests from the Eparchy.
The Sisters join with the parish of St. Anthony/St. George from Wilkes Barre
where Father Karam is the pastor (pictured right).
Ordination to the Subdiaconate

The Sisters pictured with Subdeacon Camille Jean Atallah.

On April 3rd, we attended the ordination to the  Subdiaconate of Camille Jean Atallah  at Our Lady of Lebanon, Waterbury, CT. The ordination was conferred by Chorbishop Seely Beggiani, rector at the Maronite Seminary in Washington DC., and concelebrated by Fr. Jack Morrison, Fr. Naji Kiwan, pastor, Fr. David George and other priests from the area.


Foster Vocations in the Parish

By Sister Marla Marie Lucas

"Proposing Vocations in the Local Church" is the theme of a letter written by Pope Benedict XVI for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations to be celebrated on May 15, 2011. The Holy Father calls on parishes and the wider community to make it a priority to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He writes, “It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish and associations – as Jesus did with his disciples.”

Abouna Anthony Salim, pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Brockton with
youth at the Valentine Breakfast hosted by the parish MYO.

He also calls on the Christian community to assist men and women who are being called to serve the Church, especially since they face struggles and resistance in our secularized society. “Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by ‘other voices’ and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations.”

The Holy Father, first and foremost, urges that parishes and families pray for vocations. “Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the ‘Lord of the harvest’, whether in parish communities, in Christian families or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.”

In addition, he stresses the need to embrace those who have recognized the “call” with the embrace of the parish family. “It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable them to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond ‘yes’ to God and the Church.”

Perhaps your parish can highlight this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations by offering at least one opportunity to respond to the Holy Father’s teaching. Here in the US, our young Maronites have the opportunity to offer their lives in service to the Church as a priest or consecrated religious nun or monk. Prayers for vocations are available on our US Maronite Vocations website, www.vineyardofthelord.com. Also available on this website are video and print resources promoting vocations.