Gregorios III: The Melkite Family in Europe under the Spirit’s breath

His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem concluded the first assembly of European Melkites  which was held from 1st to 3rd November 2012 in Saint Stephen’s convent at Aubazine in Corrèze (France) owned by the Patriarchate.

If the main theme of the meeting that drew the representatives of the parishes of Paris, Marseilles, Aubazine, Vienna, Brussels, Stockholm, Rome,… without forgetting those who came from Spain or elsewhere was “Being Melkite in Europe: being rooted in Faith and Tradition” the discussions were noteworthy for their continual concern for Melkite Christian identity in the context of secularised societies that leave no room for Christian faith and values. Right from the early meetings the emphasis of each of the presentations made by the parishes was the place held by the Divine Liturgy in parish and community life.

The Divine Liturgy feeds.
The Divine Liturgy teaches.
The Divine Liturgy brings together.

A common point of all Melkite Greek Catholic communities in Europe is territorial dispersal. All priests present - Fr. Charbel Maalouf B.C. (Paris), Fr. Antoine Forget (Marseilles), Fr. Miled Jawich B.S. (Brussels), Fr. Hanna Ghnaim (Vienna), Fr. Ghattas (Stockholm), Fr. Fadi Rahi (representing the parish of Rome), Hieromonk Elisée (Aubazine) - emphasised and repeated that the parish is only rarely the territorial parish of the faithful. It is a personal parish and it is quite common to have parishioners who do not shrink from driving for over an hour to attend the Divine Liturgy.

So the Sunday Divine Liturgy becomes the means of gathering the parishioners who meet after the service over coffee and drinks. Often a picnic snack can bring the faithful together around their pastor.

Gregorios III emphasised the obligation of keeping strictly to the rite and respecting the translations, into English, French and Spanish of the Divine Liturgy, approved by the commission that emerged from the meeting of bishops of the diaspora.

The wide scattering of the faithful was the starting point for one of the main resolutions of the Assembly: drawing up files on parishioners in order to remain in constant contact by mailings, so that, for example, parish leaflets could reach everyone who had not been able to come to the Sunday service.

The second assembly of European Melkites will be held in Paris in 2014 on the theme of “Emigration and Melkite Identity” which follows on naturally from the discussions of the Aubazine assembly. Archimandrite Sharbel Maalouf B.C., priest of Saint Julien-le-Pauvre, was given the responsibility for setting up a committee to follow up on the resolutions of the first assembly and organising that of 2014.

On the day after the Aubazine meeting, His Beatitude Gregorios III arrived in Paris for the blessing of the icons of the restored iconostasis of the Melkite Greek Catholic Parish of Paris, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre. On this occasion, Mister Gabriel Bittar, the generous patron who made this restoration possible, was decorated with the Patriarchal Order of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem. Gregorios III hailed Mr Bittar’s act of generosity and filial piety, recalling the original donation of the iconostasis, created by his grandfather Gergis Gabriel Bittar, an artist and craftsman in woodwork, who was called father of the poor and Damascus’ Saint Vincent de Paul.

Furthermore, Gregorios III announced the nomination of Archimandrite Sharbel Maalouf B.C., as Patriarchal Exarch in France.

In his sermon, the Patriarch emphasised “the glory of being Christian” recalling the words of the old hymn well-known to French people and French-speaking Christians and repeated what had become the leitmotiv of the Aubazine gathering “Fear not.” The little flock must not be afraid… It is salt, light and leaven. That is its mission, its great mission, for the big flock, wherever it may be. In the East for Islam; in the West for a totally secularised society that has lost its values. Wherever God has placed it, it is in communion and witness of faith in Jesus Christ, in order to walk along a road of faith with everyone.

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Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 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.

Nativity of the Mother of God

Your nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, * heralded joy to all the world; * for from you has dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * and, having annulled the curse, He gave the blessing * and by destroying Death He granted us eternal life. (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.

Through your holy nativity, O Immaculate One, * Joachim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness, * and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. * Delivered from the guilt of sin, your people celebrate this as they cry out to you: * "The barren woman gives birth to the Mother of God, the Nourisher of our Life." (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8th.

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

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honor your patience.

St. John of the Ladder