Prot. N° 123 /2014D
Damascus’ suffering Church celebrated the start of Great and Holy Lent, with the first day, known as Monks’ Monday, since in days gone by Christians bade farewell to the monastics among them who would leave the villages for the deserts and caves of the region, only to return on Lazarus Saturday to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Several parishes commemorated Monks’ Monday around midday, by eating the popular dish called Mujadara (lentils and rice) cooked in huge tureens.
His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, celebrated Monks’ Monday in the village of Jdeidet Artuz near Damascus, where people from several Syrian regions, including many of his own relatives from Daraya, have taken refuge. The parish priest, Father Shehadeh Abbud, invited his parishioners to welcome the Patriarch, who presided at the celebration of the Sixth Hour commemorating Christ’s Passion, which continues in the suffering of Syrian people.
In his sermon, the Patriarch presented his Lent Letter, called “The Grace of Fasting.” Then His Beatitude visited the parish kindergarten and shared in the traditional Lenten meal of Mujadara and salad with the parishioners.
Many parishes celebrated Monks’ Monday in this way, giving Mujadara to some five thousand people.
At the Patriarchate, Archbishop Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar, presided at a short service and the Mujadara meal offered by MIDADE, headed by Mr Ghassan Talab, to some five hundred children and young people.
The giant tureens contained the following ingredients: fifty kilos of lentils, forty-five of rice, forty of cabbage, twenty of onions and twenty of lemons cooked in sixteen litres of olive oil and sixteen of sunflower oil.
On Monday evening, our parishes began celebrating the beautiful Lenten service of Great Compline, known by the name of one of its invocations: “Lord of Hosts, be with us.”
We thank the Lord that Damascus’ suffering Church has become the Church at prayer for forty days, rounded off by Holy Week. We are proud that the Church of Damascus is well-known for the keenness with which the services are celebrated during Great Lent: almost every day, almost all our churches are completely full.
Damascus’ suffering Church turns into thousands of hands uplifted in prayer, calling upon the Lord for the victims of war, violence and terror and beseeching peace, security, reconciliation, love, stability and an end to the suffering of millions of displaced, handicapped, wounded and grieving persons.
So the Church of Damascus and the Church of all Syria continues its way of the cross, without allowing the flame of hope to die out in the hearts and minds of the faithful, as His Holiness Pope Francis recommended to us, calling upon us to keep “the courage of prayer.”
The Church of Damascus and all Syria goes forward with courage, faith, hope and love on its way of the cross during Great Lent, in the hope that shines out upon all its fellow-citizens in all regions, the dawn of peace and Resurrection, and wishing to everyone a good Holy Fast.
Furthermore, His Beatitude plans to visit the parishes of the Patriarchal Eparchy of Damascus during the Lenten season, to meet priests and faithful. On each visit, the Patriarch will preach a sermon on Lent.
Reports and photographs of these Lenten visits will be published to accompany parishioners in their hopes and sufferings, and in their hopes for peace in our beloved Syria, the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world.