By Natalie Salameh
We enjoyed several days of prayer and visiting with friends at the National Shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon, North Jackson, Ohio in celebration of the Dormition of the Mother of God.
The pilgrimage began on Wednesday evening, August 13, with a Divine Liturgy of the Roman Church celebrated by His Excellency, Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, followed by a candlelit procession and blessing with the Icon of Our Lady of Lebanon.
On both Wednesday and Thursday nights, we spent time in prayer, adoration and fellowship with the MYO of the parish with their Excellencies, Bishop Elias Zaidan and Bishop Gregory Mansour also in attendance. Both Bishops spoke to the teens on the role of Our Blessed Mother in our everyday lives and they emphasized that we should never be afraid of loving Mary too much because she is our mother, given to us by Jesus as he was suffering on the cross. Like a good mother, she is always there to nurture, guide and support us, her beloved children.
On Thursday, August 14, we were blessed to hear a number of conferences and to celebrate a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, offered by His Excellency, Bishop John Bura, Bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy of St. Josaphat Parma, Ohio. Following Divine Liturgy, the Byzantine Tradition has a very beautiful ritual of burying the Mother of God on the vigil of her Dormition, a ritual they call the “Funeral of the Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin Mary”. We processed behind the tomb and shroud of the Virgin Mary, which was later placed in the chapel for all to venerate.
On the day of the Feast of the Assumption, Friday August 15, we celebrated the Maronite Pontifical Liturgy outside beside the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. The Liturgy was followed by a huge candlelit procession around the entire shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, with a great number in attendance. The procession concluded with a beautiful display of fireworks above the shrine, and festivities in the Cedars Hall.
We remembered you in our prayers during these holy days of pilgrimage at the Shrine and we especially remembered our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Our Lady of Lebanon, pray for us.