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Nuncio reports starvation in Damascus

CWN - Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio to Syria, has told Vatican Radio that people are starving in his neighborhood in Damascus.

“This is something the international community cannot accept,” he said. “Aid is ready: [it is] there at the gates of these villages and neighborhoods, and because of a lack of security, humanitarian agencies are unable to enter.”

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Patriarch Bartholomew's Paschal Encyclical 2014

Prot. No. 425

† BARTHOLOMEW

By the mercy of God

Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch

to the plenitude of the Church

Grace, Peace and Mercy from Christ risen in glory

Christ is Risen!

Come,brethren and children in the Lord,receive the light from the unwaning Lightof the Phanar, the Holy Center of the Orthodox, and let us all together and jointly glorify “Christ, Who is risen from the dead.”

           

The emotional state of the Lord’s disciples was grim after His Crucifixion, because by the Lord’s death on the Cross the hopes of His disciples were dispersed that He and they would one day prevail as political power. They had perceived the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, following the resurrection of Lazarus and the miraculous feeding of five thousand men, with additional women and children, by five loaves of bread and two fish, as a prelude of their conquering of secular authority. The mother of two of them moreover requested that her two sons sit by each side of the Lord, when He came to power. All these, however, dissipated aschildish imaginationson account of the awful execution of Jesus Christ.

           

But, one Saturday morning, the Myrrh Bearers found the tomb empty and heard from an Angel that Jesuswas risen from the dead.Shortly after, they saw Him in a different state not allowing the Myrrh Bearers to touch Him. This unexpecteddevelopmentof the situation caused the people close to Jesus towonderabout what was to happen next. They did not receive the answer right away. They were told to wait with patience and endurance until they receivedstrength from above.Obeying the command, they waited until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down and revealed to them, in fullness, their newmission.This mission did not call for the liberation of one nation from its slavery bondages by another nation; instead it called for theliberationof all humanity from its enslavement by the master of evil and evil itself. This was another great mission and different from the one they had dreamt about.

           

The inconceivable commandment calling for the preaching of the message of man’s deliverance from the slavery of death took them by surprise; nevertheless they undertook it with zeal and preached the message everywhere and saved and continue to save many from death. There is the first among the dead, the risen Jesus, Who offers to all the gift ofresurrectionandeternal life, a life that is not subjected any longer to corruptibility, because man in the resurrected state is like an angel of God in heaven who no longer has a fleshly body but a spiritual one.

           

We experience already the foretaste of this blessed resurrected state when we carry our fleshly garment in a way by which we do not taste the substance of death, that is the distancing from God’s love, but feel that we transition from the natural death of our fleshly body to the higher life of our spiritual body through the loving knowledge of thePerson of the Lord, a knowledge which equals towardseternal life.

           

Therefore, we are not simply in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead as an event that will take place in the distant future, but we partake in it now, and are jubilant and cry out along with Saint John Chrysostom:Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?We were resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and experience the end of times as present reality and present reality as the end of times. The resurrection permeates our being and fills us with joy. Exactly like the joy the disciples felt when they were saying that the Lord was risen.

           

We continue the work of the Apostles. We convey to the world the message of the resurrection. We preach knowingly that death must not have a place in our life for it offers no benefit to humanity. The ones who seek to improve social life by killing fellow humans do not offer good service to the living. They rather serve the proliferation of death and prepare their own devouring by death.

           

In our times, the drums of death and darkness beat frantically. Some fellow men believe that the eradication of other fellow men is a praiseworthy and beneficial act, but they are seriously mistaken. Unfortunately, the annihilation and suppression of the weakest by the strongest dominates in the secular pyramid of today’s reality. Often we are shocked by the cruelty and lack of compassion exhibited by the powerful that hold the reins of the world, believing that they are actually the ones ruling it.

           

However, Christ, by His death on the Cross, reversed this secular pyramid and placed on top of it His Cross. He sits atop, because He suffered most than any man. There was no man in the world who suffered as much as God-Man Christ did:And being founding appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross. Therefore God, the Father, also has given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth(Philippians 2:8-11).

           

Oftentimes in the history of humanity we see as prevailing forces the darkness of death, injustice over justice, hatred and envy over love, and we see that man chooses the infernal hatred over the light of the Resurrection. Despite the apparent technological progress of human societies, despite the declarations of human rights and religious freedom, racial and religious hatred swells universally and causes dangerous tensions, which exacerbate the dominion of the kingdom of death, Hades, and evil. Unfortunately, people can not tolerate diversity in their fellow human beings. They can not tolerate the different racial origin of other men, the different perceptions and beliefs of them, be it political, religious or social.

           

History, though, has proven that real progress can not exist without God. Not one society can be truly progressive and happy if there is no freedom. True freedom though is acquired only with our staying close to God. The history of the 20thC. tragically confirms this truth. Humanity experienced a horror that originated from Central Europe and produced millions of victims during WWII and racial persecutions. At the same time, it also experienced the horror that was sown by these so called progressive forces, which committed crimes of equal magnitude and cruelty in Eastern Europe in the name of freedom. Therefore, totalitarianism as an offspring of a humanity without Christ, does not recognize political parties and its natural conclusion becomes destruction and death. All of the above confirm that every attempt to reach freedom without God shall be doomed to tragedy.

           

To this dominance of the forces of darkness, the Church responds with the grace and power of the Risen Christ. He, Who took upon Himself the afflictions and infirmities of each man, offers to the world through His Resurrection also the certainty thatdeath is vexed.

           

Resurrection and life arethegifts and the lightof Jesus Christ, which“shines upon all.”Let us all honor thisgift. Let us all thank theGiverWho by His flesh shone in the world like in a mirror, and has presented the light of the resurrection to the world. Let usthen receive the light from the unwaning Light of Life. Let us receive and welcome thegiftof the resurrection and cry out from the bottom of our hearts:

           

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death, and to those in the grave bestowing Life! Rejoice nations and be happy!

                                                                                               

Holy Pascha 2014

† Bartholomew of Constantinople

Your fervent supplicant before God

Paschal Message of Patriarch Sviatoslav

Christ is risen!

Yesterday we were buried with Thee, O Christ, -
Get up now risen with thee,
Because yesterday we were crucified with You.
Therefore, glorify us, our Saviour, In Thy Kingdom
(Song 3 Canon, Resurrection Matins).

Beloved in Christ!

Despite this year's trial and uncertainty, Easter - "the day which the Lord hath made" (Ps. 117, 24) - is the time for us of unspeakable joy and hope. In the light of the Resurrection Feast the holy Church sings the mystery of the combination of opposites: burial and resurrection, death and life, crucifixion and glory, sorrow and joy. In that lies the great Paschal mystery that the Son of God became one of us, dies, just like us, that we may rise again, as He has! Christ is passing his Way of the Cross for us and for our benefit, giving us His bright resurrection and new life in God. Thus, the cross and resurrection are inseparable. They relate not only to Christ: in the sacramental way affect all the humanity and all of us in particular. The event, which took place in the life of Jesus Christ - His death and resurrection - has incorporated the history of mankind, all the suffering, both past and future, and transfigures them into a new life, a new joy. The Risen Christ enters the heart of the personal history of each of us, He, can say, going through our suffering and humiliation: we also crucified with Him and convicted, and with him mount out of the tomb and resurrect. Yesterday we were buried with Him, and today - we get up with him, resurrected.

Yesterday we were buried with Thee, O Christ... yesterday we were crucified with You.

Jesus Christ is the power and action of the Holy Spirit is present in the history of our Church and our nation. We know that is His and our Way of the Cross. In the recent past, our church and our people were tortured and crucified, falsely testified against, we were shot and thrown into prison. But we all survived and, thank God, reborn to a new life of the community of Christ's disciples. Just this year, is passing the 25th anniversary of the legalization and the revival of the Church in its native land. So we send prayers to the throne of the Almighty, thanking Him for the grace and strength that has helped our people to stand among the awful trials and suffering. This victory – is a sign of the effective presence of the risen Saviour among us in the distant and recent past, and at the same time is the guarantee of the invincibility of our people in the future.

Today Christ is with us! He takes our pain as though He was personally wounded. It was He, despised by youth beating on Maidan ... It's He - the first victim of Heavenly Hundred

Today again we are threatened and intimidated by weapons, the separation of the country and the seizure of churches. But Christ today is with us! He takes our pain as though He was personally wounded. It was He, despised by youth beating on Maidan ... He was made needy when the people’s property was looted by the corrupted government. He was imprisoned and unjustly condemned, exposed naked in the cold and tortured stolen. It is He - the first victim of Heavenly Hundred. His words on the cross, that sound today in the conscience of Ukrainian believers - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23,34) - especially relating to those government and church leaders, ours and neighbouring, which incite people to hatred and blind aggression, "Crucify him, crucify him" (Luke 23,21). However, the power of human malice, lies and violence is nothing compared to the power of God's truth and love. It is Christ, who raises us today, and as a church and as a people. Like good overcomes evil in the Resurrection, and in our history love will win malice and hatred, and peace - all sorts of threatening by war.

Get up now risen with You.
Power arms droop before the honour of Risen, because "we now stand up with thee risen". We all feel it on our native land and in the settlings. The power of Christ's resurrection is our hope today in church, social and personal life. We have no more certain and more powerful help - in international diplomacy or military force, in human powers or agreements that are ready for thirty pieces of silver to put a price for Invaluable. In his resurrection, Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit has united people who once opposed each other: "There is neither Jew nor Greek..., neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3, 28).

Let’s respect and love a person that is different from us: thinks differently, follows other customs or speak a different language - that it is a testament to the glory of the Risen!

A sign of our "rising" with the risen Saviour who brings us out of the "grave" sin, let become our renewed with God's love attitude to all people without exception. Let’s love and embrace everyone who is near in our village, town, city, and our region and throughout our Earth. Let’s respect and love a person that is different from us: thinks differently, follows other customs or speak a different language - that it is a testament to the glory of the Risen! All people, even those with malice in their heart and those who unjustly accuse us, today we proclaim the good news of the Resurrection. For the sign of resurrection is to conquer the forces of evil and hatred with God's love and mercy.

Therefore, glorify us, our Saviour, in Thy Kingdom

According to ancient church retelling, St.Andrew, standing on the hills of Kyiv, predicted great glory of God for our country: "Do you see those mountains? The grace of God will shine on them, there will be a large city, there will be many buildings and the God will raise many churches". The radiance of the grace of God, which is mentioned by our apostle, is the light of Christ's resurrection, which never ceased to shine over our land, even in the darkest periods of our national and church life. We were filled with evangelical words that we hear in the Paschal Liturgy: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it" (cf. Jn. 1, 5). The reflection of the heavenly glory of the risen Saviour is our Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, which we have blessed the last year. It is for us the living testimony of Christ's victory, the key to immortality of our people and a sign of unity of all the children of the Church - in Ukraine and the settlings.

Wherever we were - whether in Ukraine or in the settlements - remember our calling, stemming from our Christian and national experience, namely, to indicate the irresistible power of Christ's resurrection, the inevitable triumph of truth over falsehood.

Today, on this joyous day of Resurrection, let’s beseech our Saviour, so that the light of his resurrection with a new force shine over our land, overcome the darkness of sin, disagreement, fear, discouragement and strengthen all of us with the power of the Holy Spirit to build a truly free and blessed by God state. Let us pray especially for the gift of unity and unanimity for our people. And this spiritual unity will allow us to restore and update all state institutions on the basis of God's truth and God's law. Wherever we were - whether in Ukraine or in the settlements - remember our calling, stemming from our Christian and national experience, namely, to indicate the irresistible power of Christ's resurrection, the inevitable triumph of truth over falsehood, love over hate, good over evil, life over death.

With such thoughts I unite with you in prayer and Easter joy, love and hope, wishing all of you a peaceful and blessed Resurrection. With Easter greeting I hug you all! Let this upset day be glad, alarmed feel certainty of Christian hope. With the prayer I flow to the wounded and pained, imprisoned and expelled from their native homes, our soldiers and all who are on the lookout of the dignity of the human person in Ukraine. I wish all of you generously presented by Lord Easter gifts.

Let the grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the Eucharist of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Christ is risen! - He is risen indeed!

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kiev
At the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ
The feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
April 7, AD 2014

Source: ugcc.org.ua

Syrian Patriarch Ignace Joseph III (Ephrem)'s 2014 Paschal Message

"In this blessed Easter season, we extend to you all, our heartfelt prayerful wishes of Peace and joy as we renew our hope and confidence in the One who conquered death, overcoming the sin and reconciled our humanity with His heavenly Father, One God, Creator of all," Patriarch Ignace Joseph III (Ephrem) Younan, the head of the Syrian Catholic Church, said in his Easter message.

"The Lord’s Resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week, is the ultimate sign of victory of Love over death, Grace over sin, Life over nothingness. It is the Hope rebirth of our humanity for a better world."

[click link below for full text]

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The Nativity Fast

St. John Chrysostom on the True Nature of Fasting 

St. John ChrysostomOn November 15, we began the preparation for the feast of re-creation, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ by engaging in the struggle of the forty day Fast of St. Philip.

The following are the words of our holy father, John Chrysostom:

"Let us not speak, indeed of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not mere abstinence from meats - but from sins, too. For the nature of a fast is such that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it unless it be done according to a suitable law.

To the end, then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner it is necessary to conduct this business; since the Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards went down empty and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted.

Since, then, the danger of fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not `run uncertainly' nor `beat the air' nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow. Fasting is a medicine. It is necessary to know the time when it should be applied and the requisite quantity.

The honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawal from sinful practices. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. What kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see an enemy, be reconciled to him. If you see a friend gaining honor, envy him not.

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the foot, and the hands, and all members of the body. Let the hands fast from being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run to unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast from such as is unlawful or forbidden. Let the ear fast, also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to listen to evil speech and calumnies. Let the mouth, too, fast from disgraceful speeches and railings.

Do you wish to correct a brother? Weep; pray to God; taking him aside, admonish, entreat, counsel him! Show your charity toward the sinner. Persuade him that it is from care and anxiety for his welfare, and not from a wish to expose him, that you put him in mind of his sin.

Take hold of his feet; embrace him; be not ashamed, if you truly desire to cure him. Speak evil of no one; hold no one for an enemy; expel from your mouth altogether the evil custom of swearing.

If we use these three precepts during the present Lent (the Nativity fast) and make them a good habit, we shall proceed easier to the end. We shall both reap the fruit of a favorable hope in the present life; and in the life to come we shall stand before Christ with great confidence and enjoy His unspeakable blessings, which God grant that we may be found worthy of, through the grace and love for mankind of Jesus Christ our Lord, with Whom be glory to the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto ages of ages. Amen."

Peace and Resurrection are Yours!

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life! (Troparion)

You descended into the tomb, O Immortal. You destroyed the power of Death. You arose as a victor, O Christ God. You announced to the women bearing ointment: “Rejoice!” You gave peace to Your apostles and resurrection to the Fallen. (Kontakion)