Prot. 358/2012 Damascus, 27 July 2012

To our brother bishops, members of our Holy Synod in the Middle East and throughout the whole world!
To our sons and daughters: priests, monks, nuns, and Greek Catholic faithful!
May "the Peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus!" (Philippians 4: 7)

Dear brothers and sisters!

Once again Christians and Muslims are fasting and praying at the same time. That is one of the most beautiful marks and signs of their living together in solidarity.

So Muslims have begun the fast of the honourable month of Ramadan (that lasts this year from 20 July to 18 August.)

In a few days, Christians will begin the fast or abstinence of the Dormition of the Mother of God, from 1 until 15 August. This fast is a summer fast. There is first the autumn fast that precedes the Nativity (40 days). Then follows Great Lent or the winter fast (40 to 50 days), before the Feast of the Resurrection or Great Feast, and the spring or Apostles' fast (20 to 25 days), in June.

The fast or abstinence of Our Lady is very popular and loved by Christian families. During these 15 days we celebrate the consolation or invocation service called Paraklesis in Greek. It is a very popular service that fills our hearts with hope, consolation and joy. It is celebrated for various intentions, especially for the sick, injured, travellers, mourners, orphans, refugees, exiled, departed...

We call upon our faithful, especially in our patriarchal eparchy in Damascus, to participate in these services, with fasting, prayer and repentance.

So the sounds of services in churches and mosques will be simultaneously united, as will be the prayers, fasting and devotions of Muslims and Christians both in places of worship and homes! What beautiful harmony of faith!

Together we shall be praying especially for the safety of all Syrians and for the cessation of the violence that sows fear in quiet districts and has caused the displacement and flight of thousands who have left their homes and properties! We pray too during this period for the return of charity, friendship, fellowship and compassion among all citizens. Syrians are still capable of loving and forgiving each other, being reconciled and showing tolerance to one another. Together they can rebuild a renewed, free, secure, conciliatory Syria, in which citizens regardless of group, party, religion or affiliation can enjoy freedom, dignity, employment and education ... United together, they can rebuild what has been destroyed and work for development and prosperity, for a better future for all citizens.

Together we pray: "O Lord, save thy people and bless thine inheritance. Grant peace to thy world! Grant peace to Syria! By thy Cross, preserve thy people!"

We ask everyone to add special litanies for peace and reconciliation to services.

To everyone, a holy fast!

With my affection!
United in prayer!

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and Jerusalem


Teachings of Christ

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7,8 ESV)

Exaltation of the Cross

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance; * grant victory to Your Church over her enemies * and protect Your commonwealth by Your Cross. (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Willingly lifted up on the Cross, O Christ God, * bestow Your compassions upon the new commonwealth that bears Your name. * By your power grant joy to Your Church, * granting her victory over her enemies. * May she have your Cross as the weapon of peace * and the invincible ensign of victory. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th.

Random Proverb

"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10,11 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Guard thyself then, O man; thou hast the signs of Antichrist; and remember them not only thyself, but impart them also freely to all. If thou hast a child according to the flesh, admonish him of this now; if thou hast begotten one through catechizing, put him also on his guard, test he receive the false one as the True. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. I fear these wars of the nations; I fear the schisms of the Churches; I fear the mutual hatred of the brethren. But enough on this subject; only God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our days; nevertheless, let us be on our guard. And thus much concerning Antichrist.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture XV