15 August 2015

To my dear children and beloved young people,
Cordial greetings with my love, blessing and prayers!

Dear young people,

I am sending you affectionate, hearty greetings by way of this brotherly and fatherly letter addressed to you, which is rather a conversation with you, as I am in daily conversation with you in prayers, meditations, thoughts, trips and travels here and there, and in conferences, talks and meetings the world over, both at home and abroad.

Beloved,

When I talk to youth groups in our parishes I often repeat my slogan:

           A Church without young people is a Church without a future.
           Young people without a Church are young people without a future.

Now I add:

           A homeland without young people is a homeland without a future.
           Young people without a homeland are young people without a future.

The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria (but also in Lebanon and Iraq) breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow. Given this tsunami of emigration, the above-quoted motto becomes meaningless. What future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?

Of course, I understand the many reasons that incite you young people to emigrate. Despite all that, I implore you to remain, arming yourselves with resolution, patience, endurance, strength and good courage.
       
Our fathers and mothers suffered much. Many died in the frequent turmoil in our countries, especially Syria. We all know about the revolution of 1860, when thousands of Christians were killed, and the churches of Damascus Old City were burnt down, from Bab Tuma to Bab Sharki. Our Cathedral of the Dormition, which had been built in 1835 by Patriarch Maximos III (Mazlum), was destroyed. My predecessor Patriarch Gregorios II (Sayyur) had it rebuilt and enlarged in 1865, and we have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of its reconstruction. Then, in 1860 there was just the cathedral, but now we have nine churches in Damascus.

My dear young people,

Our forebears underwent great difficulties, but they exercised patience and so the Church remained, Christianity remained and the number of Christians even grew after 1860.       

That is why I say again, despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay!       
I conclude this brotherly and fatherly letter by reminding you again of my love and esteem.

You are the future of the Church and your country. I shall go on praying for you every day,        for Jesus, the Saviour to keep you and give you the grace of patience in the current, tragic circumstances.

Be sure that the Church, with all its capabilities, is accompanying you. Our Lord Jesus, friend of young people, speaks to you, telling you, as he often did his disciples according to the Gospel, “Be not afraid. I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Ye will be my witnesses.”

       My dear young people, I love you,

                                   + Gregorios III
                                    Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
                                    Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem


Teachings of Christ

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Theophany

At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (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.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * “You have come, and You have appeared , O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (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.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself." (Proverbs 6:32 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