Deisis (Novogorod)

Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs visit Ma’alula

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

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Annunciation

Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, * and the revelation of an eternal mystery: * The Son of God becomes the Son of a Virgin, * and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. * Therefore, let us also cry with him to the Mother of God: * "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion, Tone 4)

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

To you, O Mother of God, our leader and defender, * we, your servants, delivered from calamity, offer hymns of victory and thanksgiving. * So you, who have invincible might, * set us free from every peril * that we may cry to you: * "Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!" (Kontakion, Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11,12 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

It was said about John the Little that one day he said to his older brother: "I want to be free from care and not to work but to worship God without interruption." And he took his robe off, and went into the desert. After staying there one week, he returned to his brother. And when he knocked at the door, his brother asked without opening it: "Who is it?" He replied: "It's John, your brother." The brother said: "John has become an angel and is not among people anymore." Then he begged and said: "It's me!" But his brother did not open the door and left him there in distress until the next morning. And he finally opened the door and said: "If you are a human being, you have to work again in order to live." Then John repented, saying: "Forgive me, brother, for I was wrong."

Sayings of the Desert Fathers