Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus our Lord,
I hope you are all keeping safe with your families at home. A year ago, our April bulletin was the first bulletin issued after the eruption of the pandemic. Churches and institutions were closing, becoming virtual, affecting church life, but thank God, our community stayed attached to the Church. Our families who watched Mass remotely are now starting come back to Church. Our kids and youth programs survived and were unstoppable despite uncertainty and fear. Nobody, a year ago would have imagined this situation, not even close. Cancelling masses, Faith Formation classes, choir practice, MYO youth meetings, Lenten Dinners, Bible Studies, Ladies Society meeting and Men’s Club, was a painful decision. But we were strictly ordered to comply with the decisions of the Saint Paul Diocese and our Eparchy, because safety comes first for you, your families, children and elderly. Some parish activities became strictly online virtual services via Facebook and the church website. Masses continued to be celebrated but with no or limited physical attendance and live-streamed, which kept us connected with over 570 followers on Facebook, all thanks to the upgrades to the church’s technology, that has allowed us to implement and continue live-streaming of all of our services when necessary, to better serve the parishioners and friends of Holy Family. (Remember, this is being done temporarily, during this time of the inability or concern of attending Mass in person.) This difficult period had some positive side: it united families, parents, children and grandchildren united at home, all day and all night, enjoying being together at home, praying, eating, playing. No nights out, no eating out. Nobody likes to be in this situation of coronavirus, but I want to focus on the positive side of it, since it was not us who decided to experience it, but we had to live through it and survive it. Some our families transformed a corner in their house to a small chapel where they gathered for daily prayers. I know how frustrated our parishioners and friends were feeling, not being able to attend church in person. It was a beautiful action from them to dedicate a few minutes every day for short prayers morning, noon and night, and an hour of their time per week to pray and attend Mass via the Church’s Facebook, with an act of Spiritual Communion. Thank you to all of the parishioners who continue to donate by mail, in person, or online. We thank you all for your thoughts, dedication and prayers. Your generosity will keep the church able to pay bills and save for projects for your children, youth and elderly.
Our Faith Formation activities converted to online as did our Bible Study sessions. MYO gatherings remained in person every week without break. Thank God it all worked. The church Lenten food drive which was held by the MYO this year was a huge success, thanks to the hard work of the MYO and its leaders and despite the Coronavirus emergency. A big thank you to all those who donated so generously to the food drive for those in need. This makes us feel less selfish, not thinking only about ourselves but others, too. Through your giving and sacrifice may God listen to the cries of humanity and help in curing it from spiritual sins and physical sickness and affliction. We thank the Lord Jesus for keeping us all safe, and we have all faith in Him that with the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and all the Saints and Angels, he will transform our miserable conditions of hopeless sickness and viruses to a bridge to salvation.
Our Holy Family Lenten Dinners this year, like all of our social events, switched to drive-up and take-out style, reached an average of 250 meals sold per week compared to almost 400 meals per week, pre-pandemic, thank God. I thank the ladies and men, including the MYO members, this wonderful and spectacular team, for this very successful event although we hugely miss the indoor dinners. The Holy Family Lenten dinners were designated to be the 2nd best Lenten dinners in the Twin Cities last year. The interruption and transformation due to the virus caused some loss in needed revenues for the church but your generosity minimizes this loss. In this spirit, we thank all Holy Family parishioners, supporters and volunteers for their dedication and commitment.
Holy Week started with Palm Sunday, March 28, right after Saturday of the Resurrection of Lazarus in Bet Anya, a few miles from Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is a meditation on the humbleness and simplicity of the Lord. Although He raised Lazarus from the dead revealing His great glory and divinity as the Son of God, He was so happy and moved by the simple and sincere praises of the children of Jerusalem who were shouting Hosanna in the Highest (Houshaana fil aali, or in Aramaic Hoosha’no bamrowmeh), holding palm and olive branches walking with the Lord who was entering the city of Jerusalem as King of their hearts. The church placed blessed Palm branches at the church door ready for faithful who drove by after watching 10 AM Mass from home or in the church parking lot from their mobiles, to pick up and take home.
On Holy Wednesday, March 31, at 6 PM we celebrated the ritual of the Lamp and blessing of the oils Mass.
On Holy Thursday April 1, at 6 PM, we will celebrate the Last Supper and Washing of the Feet Ritual. The ritual followed the safety measures determined by the bishops. It will be followed by 2 hours of Adoration of the Holy Sacrament. Church parking lot drive through confessions will be held from 7 PM to 9 PM. The Adoration will be concluded by Benediction with the Holy Sacrament at 9 PM.
The Great Holy Friday of the Crucifixion of the Lord will be at 6 PM April 2.
Easter Sunday Masses will be live streamed Saturday April 3 at 4 PM and Sunday April 4 at 10 AM. In Lebanon and the Holy Land they name this feast as the big (the Major) feast "Heed-el-kbeer". You will notice that even our liturgy in Easter season, when we chant the Aramaic Syriac Maronite Trisagion, the Qadeeshat Aloho, we answer: “MsheeHo d Qom Men Beit Meeteh, Etraham "Alain", which means "O Christ who rose from among the dead, have mercy on us". This reminds us of the thief crucified at the right side of Jesus on the cross, saying to the Jesus: "Lord, remember me in your Kingdom" (Luke 23, 42). In the old authentic Maronite traditional Divine Liturgy and just before the communion the celebrant used to say: "Remember us Oh Lord in your Kingdom, Holy Gifts for the holy (Saints), in perfection, purity and Sanctity". And this is awesome because it is a Gospel text like many others contained in the Maronite Divine Liturgy. It is as the same as in the Roman Catholic Liturgy that was also part of the Maronite Liturgy where just before the Communion where the celebrant announces: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World" (John 1:29). And the faithful answer a Scripture based phrase: “Lord I am not worthy that you enter under my roof but say a word and my soul shall be healed" (Mt 8:8 and Luke 7:6).
The Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord on April 4, is the culmination of Holy Week and starts the liturgical Season of Easter.
I take this opportunity to wish you all a blessed spring season.
God bless you all.
Copyright (c) 2021 Holy Family Maronite Church, St Paul. (v2104.02)