Pascha 20 April 2014

Damascus

After the liberation of Ma’alula from occupation by terrorist groups on Monday, 14 April 2014, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III and Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari, together with a Syriac Orthodox bishop representing his Patriarch,  Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Greek Orthodox bishops, a church choir from Damascus, the Minister of Tourism, the Governor of Damascus Countryside, local shaykhs and members of the Syrian People’s Army and journalists visited the historic town of Ma’alula on the day of this year’s common celebration of the Paschal Feast, to view the state of the holy places after some seven months of occupancy by Islamist fighters. Their Beatitudes together with the above-mentioned bishops visited four Christian holy places: the Greek Catholic church of St. George, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Elias, the Greek Orthodox Convent and shrine of St. Thekla and the Greek Catholic Monastery and shrine of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus.

A scene of devastation met their eyes at every turn. The shrine of St. Thekla was blackened and the relics preserved for centuries by Orthodox nuns had disappeared. (The twelve sisters of the convent had been kidnapped by rebels on December 2 2013 and only released on March 10 2014.) The iconostasis of St. George had been totally burned, and the sanctuaries of St. George and St. Elias had been plundered, their windows smashed, the marble altars broken and icons and furnishings burnt. The acrid stench from the charred ruins made a long stay on the sites unbearable. The worst devastation was at the monastery of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, a shrine dating back to the fourth century. Two cupolas were open to the sky and one wall of the sanctuary so severely damaged as to be on the point of collapse. The monks’ rooms were also partially destroyed. The historic icons, painted between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, have disappeared.

The people of Ma’alula, who sought shelter and refuge in Damascus over recent months, are unable to return to their homes, which have been damaged and looted so as to be uninhabitable. The Syrian Government is now restoring electricity and sanitation to the town as a first step towards facilitating the return of its inhabitants, who are famously Aramaic-speaking and predominantly Christian.

Notes from the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate


Teachings of Christ

“Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33 ESV)

Encounter

Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (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.

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold." (Proverbs 3:13,14 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Christ is Risen! 
O the marvel! the forbearance! the immeasurable meekness! 
The Untouched is felt; the Master is held by a servant, 
And He reveals His wounds to one of His inner circle. 
Seeing these wounds, the whole Creation was shaken at the time. 
Thomas, when he was considered worthy of such gifts, 
Lifted up a prayer to the One Who deemed him worthy, 
Saying, "Bear my rashness with patience, 
Have pity on my unworthiness and lighten the burden 
Of my lack of faith, so that I may sing and cry, 
`Thou art our Lord and God.'" 


Kontakia of Romanos, V. 1, On Doubting Thomas