A solemn group of Christians held their first prayer service in years on Saturday in the ravaged church of St. Mary in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor city.

Stones, strips of wire, papers and remnants of rockets were strewn across the church floor, and bright sunlight streamed in from the blown-out windows. Holding thin white candles under pockmarked archways, the congregation of less than two dozen worshippers relished their first service in nearly six years. Fighting has gripped Deir Ezzor since rebels captured part of the city in 2012, and grew worse when the Islamic State jihadist group shot to prominence there in 2014. Syrian troops recaptured the entire city in November and residents have slowly begun to trickle back. Saturday's service -- which was also attended by Muslim clerics -- was led by the silver-haired Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II. He presided over the service from behind a small table draped in a white cloth, as the church's altar had been badly damaged.


Teachings of Christ

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 ESV)

Ascension

You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, * granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit; * through this blessing they were assured * that You are the Son of God * the Redeemer of the world! (Troparion)

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

When You fulfilled the divine plan for us * and united things on earth with things in heaven, * You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, * in no way departing from us but remaining inseparable, * and crying out to those who love You: “I am with you, and no one is against you.” (Kontakion)

Random Proverb

"Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:28 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

In two things then was Abraham victorious: that he killed his son although he did not kill him and that he believed that after Isaac died he would be raised up again and would go back down with him. For Abraham was firmly convinced that He Who said to him, 'through Isaac shall your descendants be named,' was not lying.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis