Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week we begin a new a new Season in our Liturgical journey through the year. This season, which is the final season of the Liturgical year, is the Season of the Exaltation of the Glorious Cross. It begins on 14 September and lasts for seven weeks ending the liturgical calendar in our Maronite Church. This feast is one of the greatest feasts of the Eastern Churches. It is frequently mentioned in the ecclesiastical writing and always has as its object the triumph of Christ, his resurrection, and the veneration of the holy cross, the sign of his victory over death. The feast of the Exaltation of the Glorious Cross was first instituted in order to commemorate the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem on September 13, 335.
The second historical event which is the source of our present feast was the return of the holy cross to Jerusalem under Emperor Heraclius. The wood of the cross had been preserved in the church of the Resurrection until May 4, 614 when the Persians captured Jerusalem, burned the church of the resurrection and carried off the cross. After the victory of the Emperor Heraclius over the Persians, the cross was returned to Jerusalem on September 14 628. It is said that the Emperor, dressed in his royal vestments, carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem. He was stopped by the Patriarch who demanded that he remove his vestments in order to become more like the scorned Christ. The Emperor agreed and walked through the streets barefooted. A crowd of the faithful accompanied him and prostrated before the holy cross.
This season is directed towards the second coming of our Lord. The Gospel readings and prayers are focused on the eschatological aspect of our faith. I pray that you will be able to join the priests and parishioners on Tuesday night, the eve of the feast, for Mass and then a procession with the cross on the church grounds.
Last Wednesday our parish thanked all the volunteers that helped us with Feast Week. Father Raphael offered the 7pm Mass for the volunteers and their families and everyone was invited to dinner in the recreation room. Although I could not be with you due to my presence in Lebanon with my family, I would like to thank each and everyone one of you for all that you did during feast week and all that you continually do.
It is with a joy filled heart that I welcome you to the 15th Sunday of Pentecost after having celebrated the feast of the Assumption of our blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lebanon, who is truly an icon of the Father’s Mercy. Mary teaches us how to be merciful to one another. This stems from her own faith and trust in God the Father, who chose her from amoung all to carry in her womb Mercy itself.
In this parish, Mary also carries us, her children, in her womb. She caresses us, embraces us, guides us and prays with us and for us. When we are down, she holds us in her arms and sings us a lullaby of love so that we can rest and find peace in her lap. We draw beauty from her beauty, strength from her strength, patience from her patience and love from her love. She unites us under her mantle so that we can work together for the Glory of God and the good of his people.
My beloved family and friends, we have been preparing for the Feast of the Assumption since April. Over these past few months I have watched how you have all worked together in the spirit that is only befitting of servants who are honouring their eternal Queen. In a spirit that truly activates the love and mercy of the Father as exemplified by Mary. I saw the passion and zeal in your service. I felt the great pride that you have in working together for your parish. I heard the respect in which you dealt with each other. You all, so generously give of your time, talents and finances. You spare no expense in honouring your Mother. Because not only does she deserve it, but because simply ibyilbaqla…..
To our Gold Sponsors, Rockform, Dyldam and Bank of Sydney….. Thank you.
To our Silver Sponsors, Navara Venues, Western Union and Dial before you dig….Thank you.
To our Bronze Sponsors, North Rock Auto Care, Nutriscript and Montessori Academy….Thank you.
To all those who have helped preparing for the Feast of the Assumption in whichever way….Thank you.
To our 22 committees who work tirelessly in this parish not only during feast week but during every week of the year….Thank you.
To the staff of Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral who work behind the scenes….Thank you.
To my brother priests who serve this parish with all their heart….Thank you.
To our beloved Bishop who has put his unwavering trust and confidence in us, his children……We thank you with all our heart.
Thank you to every one of you for all that you do. You are the pride of your Mother, you are the pride of your Church. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asks us to “Be Merciful, like the Father” and I say to you, be icons of the Father’s Mercy, just like your Mother.
Brothers and Sisters,
After months of preparation and anticipation, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has dawned upon us bringing with it the graces of community and holiness. Our journey began last Friday with our Opening Mass and a beautiful procession in the streets of Harris Park in honour of Our Lady. On Saturday night we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and the sense of community was transfigured in our parish through the Souk Festival night. Our youth on Sunday night celebrated the feast in prayer and celebration and on Monday night we paid tribute to the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception on their 40th Anniversary through a beautiful Mass which was celebrated by His Excellency Antoine-Charbel followed by dinner in the Cathedral Hall. On Tuesday night we were absolutely enthralled by the music and reflections of the children of our parish who truly captivated us with the “My Church” concert. On Wednesday night, Bishop Bosco Puthur inspired us with his talk on the devotion to Our Lady in the Syro-Malabar tradition. Thursday we worshiped and adored Our Lord in the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist as we prepared for his Mother’s Feast. Throughout Feast Week we have been praying the Rosary and Novena of Our Lady of Lebanon for all your intentions. And ofcourse we continue our festivities with the Parish BBQ and the pinnacle of our celebrations through the Solemn Divine Liturgy on the day of the Feast.
From generation to generation Feast week continues to grow in our parish bringing together the different generations in both prayer and community. The parish has truly been buzzing with activity with all the priests, subdeacon, sisters, over 22 committees and groups and all our volunteers working together in a spirit of love and unity for over three months to ensure its success. We have prayed together, worked together, sung together, clapped and laughed together and at times we have cried together. Through all of this, we have tried to be icons of the Father’s Mercy, in the same way that Mary teaches us. This is what the Feast of the Assumption is all about! Mary’s example is the key that will open the door of mercy, the door that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary who is the Mother of mercy, the Mother of prayer and the Mother of hope is the radiant icon that is sculpted in love and humility. Mary praises and magnifies the Merciful Father through her work and example in the history of salvation. Through our work as a community, we also praise and magnify the Lord through her example. On behalf of my brother priests and subdeacon and all our committees, I would like to thank you all for celebrating this glorious feast with us. Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers, all the hard working men and women who have worked tirelessly cooking, cleaning, organising and preparing. In the words of Mary, his mercy is for YOU, each one of YOU, who fear him from generation to generation.