Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord,
I hope that every one of you is staying well this winter. I always notice that neither cold nor snow nor ice prevent you from coming to church and attending Divine Liturgy and all our various activities for children, youth, adults or elderly. Physical attendance at Church is back to normal and all parishioners are encouraged to return to attending Sunday liturgy and respecting the day of the Lord, that is one of Ten Commandments. It is also a way to teach our children and younger generation to embrace the faith, culture and traditions handed down to us by our parents and ancestors. Out of respect and concern for the elderly, sick, vulnerable, and those living out of town, we continue to broadcast the Sunday liturgies so they can attend remotely.
The month of February will be marked by some major events:
The first event is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Thursday, February 2. Liturgy will be at 9 AM, with the ritual of the Blessing of the Candles, allowing the faithful take a blessed candle for their homes, according to an important title of Jesus being the Light of the World.
The second is Saint Maron’s Feast Day which is celebrated Thursday, February 9 at 6 PM. Saint Maron (350-410 AD) is the Patron of the Maronite Catholic Church, which took structure at the time of the First Maronite Patriarch, Saint John Maron, approximately 686 AD and has been in full unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
The third event is Saint Valentine’s Feast Day on February 14. He is the patron saint of the Christian, intimate love between a man and a woman who seek to form a new Christian family committed to the Catholic Faith, since the fundamental definition of marriage in the Bible and Holy Scripture and in the Catholic Church doctrine is a sacred union between male and female as husband and wife per the example of Adam and Eve, and the Holy Family. All other forms, such as same sex marriage, are not compatible with the Catholic faith and Christ’s teachings.
The fourth event is the beginning of Lent on Monday, February 20. We will have liturgy and blessing of the ashes at both 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Why Ash Monday? The Roman Catholic tradition starts the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday two days later, right after the Carnival days which are from Thursday, February 16 until Tuesday, February 21. I know that this raises some questions in your mind. As I have explained in previous years, although the Maronite Church is part of the Roman Catholic Church and our patriarch is a Cardinal, we still have our own traditions and calculations that sometimes differ. In this case, the Roman Catholic tradition calculates the Lenten Season to be exactly 40 days, ending on Palm Sunday. , the 40th day ahead of Palm Sunday must be the Wednesday of the 6th week ahead. The Maronite liturgical calendar is based on a weekly cycle. So like every season, Maronite Lent includes Holy Week, too, which makes the duration of Lent to be approximately 50 days. The Maronite Lenten tradition invites the faithful to fast at least on Ash Monday and Holy Week especially Holy Friday and abstain from eating meat Wednesdays and Fridays. Fasting and avoiding meat except fish, signifies solidarity with the needy and the poor and share their conditions of life, and also share with them some of the food we deprive ourselves of, like the cost of a meal or two a week through the Church or directly. It is also an act of depravation and sacrifice to share with the Lord His fasting in preparation for His plan of salvation for us. We share the vision of St. Paul the Apostle who says that we share with the Lord some suffering so we can feel the merit of sharing with Him in His Eternal Glory, in the life eternal to come. Plus, fasting helps people move toward humility and repentance and purification in preparation for the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus. This is the principal that leads the hermits and religious monks and nuns in their lives to reach sanctity. This is the life of the saints we have heard of: Saint Sharbel, Saint Rafka, Saint Hardini, and many others in the Catholic Church. The Lenten Season is the perfect time and opportunity to prepare ourselves to repent from our sins and embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation and confess at least once a year. Confessions will be available before or after Masses and during Holy Week, especially Holy Thursday, Great Friday and the Saturday of Lights.
I continue to urge parents to encourage their children to participate in three principle church activities: altar serving, faith formation and MYO programs, which can involve volunteering in various church events. This is a great opportunity for our children to have a spiritual experience and associate with all other children. They can raise money to offset the costs to support their participation and commitment in various activities locally or at national retreats and conventions .
Holy Family appreciates and thanks all parishioners and friends for their constant support and dedication through donations and participation in various church causes, missions and activities. Your commitment has kept the Church going, including its social and economic effects on our society and community. Despite all the challenges, your trust and support has kept the Church finances increasing, coming closer to the future expansion plans of the Church. If you are looking for additional ways to support the church, the classical one is to offer one hour of income every Sunday or every month from their work to the church. Your generosity is highly appreciated. Thank you all for your support and dedication.
Abouna Emmanuel Nakhle-Ghorr +
Copyright (c) 2023 Holy Family Maronite Church, St Paul. (v2303.03)