and grow like a cedar of Lebanon
الصديق كالنخل يزهر، ومثل أرز لبنان ينمي
Brothers and Sisters,
Our Liturgy guides and reveals our Maronite Identity and Charism. The next three weeks of Commemorations in our Maronite Liturgy prepare us for Great Lent. This Sunday we remember our Priests, next Sunday we remember the Righteous and Just and during the final week of the Commemorations Tridium we remember all of the Faithful Departed.
These threeSundays reflect how we as Maronites piously remember and never forget our deceased and pray for them to a significant extent. During this Season the priests start wearing and decorating the altars with the colour purple. Purple symbolises pain, suffering, and therefore mourning and penitence. It is the liturgical colour for the Season of Great Lent.
During this week of the Priests, all the priests of our Eparchy together with His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay will attend the annual clergy retreat. This will give us time away from our parishes to renew ourselves both spiritually and pastorally through prayer, reflection, rest and appraisal. It will help us to focus on our mission as priests and discern the theme of the retreat and of this Jubilee Year of Mercy: “Merciful like the Father.” It will hopefully give us time to start anew and renew our priestly journey in vigour, strength and fervor. During this week, there will be only one daily Mass celebrated at 6pm by Father Charles Sleiman who is visiting from Lebanon. I ask you to remember us in your prayers this week and always.
On the last day of the retreat on 22 January, Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral will present three of its own sons to be ordained as Sub-deacons for the Maronite Eparchy of Australia. They are Joe Maroon, Danny Nouh and Nehme Khattar. I ask you to pray for them as they receive the first order on their journey in the service of the Maronite Church.
I also ask you to pray that the Lord of the harvest may grant us “wise and prudent” labourers to continue this important ministry in our parish, our eparchy and in the world because the “harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.” Today is also the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great and the anniversary of the passing of a priest who is very dear to our hearts and who served this parish for many years – Father Elias Ayoub. Please join me in praying for everyone whose name is Anthony, Antoine, Tony, Antonious, etc. and for the soul of Father Elias and all the deceased priests.
Fr Tony Sarkis
Brothers and Sisters,
The Glorious Season of the Epiphany is truly upon us! Although it will be short lived, lasting for eleven days before we start preparing for lent through the commemoration weeks, it will hopefully be a very meaningful station in our spiritual and liturgical Christian life this year. Through the Epiphany, the Holy Trinity is revealed to us in the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River at the hands of John the Baptist, his forerunner. In order for the Trinity to be truly manifested, Jesus’ divinity and his humanity is revealed at his baptism. For this reason this feast is called the Epiphany because it is the revelation of two foundational doctrines of our faith. In Syriac it is called Dinho and in Arabic Zoohoor. The mystery of the Trinity is beyond our human understanding; however the grace that we receive through the sacraments and especially the sacrament of Baptism helps us to grow in faith so that we can truly believe.
The Trinity is represented through many aspects of our Christian life. The sign of the cross is a very important one which is modelled on the Trinity. The family which consists of a father, a mother and children is also a representation of the Trinity. Saint John speaks of the spirit, the water and the blood (1 John 5:6-8) and Jesus Christ, the Church and the Holy Spirit are also models and images of the Trinity. All these images and representations are good, but how are we as Christians representing the Holy Trinity in our lives? Whether at home or at work or on holidays or in society in general, how are we revealing the Holy Trinity to those that we come into contact with? If we believe in something we must truly live it and exemplify it in everything that we do and everything that we say. There is no point confessing our faith through the creed and consuming the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and then cursing and slandering our brother or our sister. If we believe then we must truly manifest our belief in our lives.
On a parish note, I would like to thank the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception, the Seniors Committee and the Ladies of our parish who truly helped us to live our Maronite traditions through the making of the traditional sweets and savouries. It is through your work and dedication that our Maronite heritage is kept alive. Further, a very special thank you to the Sodality for donating 14 new stoles for the priests and the Antoun family for donating the candles and the linen. In working together as one, we all manifest the unity of the Trinity in our parish. May the Holy Trinity be Deyim Deyim in your lives.
Brothers and Sisters,
Christmas is truly a glorious occasion when everyone is filled with so much joy in welcoming our Lord and Saviour into our hearts. As the joy of this Season continues to penetrate our hearts and minds, it is also an opportune time to reflect on the year that has just passed and start planning for the year ahead.
In reflecting on 2015, I cannot help but reflect on the people that have influenced my life in one way or another and the relationships that have added so much value to me personally and to the parish as a whole. Although we sometimes get caught up in everything that takes place here at the Cathedral, it is very timely that we take a moment to share our gratitude and appreciation for all the hard work that everyone does. For this reason, I would like to dedicate this Shepherd’s Corner to say “Thank you”.
Firstly, I would like to thank my brother priests for all their hard work and support in helping me in the administration of this parish. I have learnt so much from you and continue to learn. I appreciate your dedication to the parish and pray that each of you continues to be a beacon in transmitting the love of Christ in everything that you do. Secondly, I would like to thank all the staff members. It is not easy working for a Church and staff members are usually working long hours behind the scenes to ensure that everything is planned well and runs smoothly. I thank you for your commitment and enthusiasm. Next I would like to thank all our committees, volunteers, choirs, traffic controllers, altar servers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, altar decorators and all who work tirelessly plan, prepare, organise and run every aspect of our parish. Without you we cannot exist! Thank you for your generosity and your love in serving the needs of every generation that exists in our parish. You are the underpinning strength that keeps the foundations of this parish so strong and so alive. Further, I would like to thank the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family for their support and presence beside and among us always. Finally, thank you to all our parishioners. Thank you one and all for everything that you do and for everything that you give. Most of all thank you for all your prayers. Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral is truly the nurturing and compassionate mother who supports all Parishes within our Eparchy. This is because of the love and support of each one of you – the children of Our Lady of Lebanon.
In our Pastoral Council Committee we have taken up the following motto for all that we do during this Jubilee Year of Mercy: “Unified in Christ, we will be Merciful like the Father through the Grace of the Holy Spirit.” As we look forward to the year that has just begun, I ask you all also to take this motto as a resolution that you can live by so that together we can continue our journey towards the Kingdom of God. I wish you all a blessed 2016.
Fr Tony Sarkis