Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, one God in three divine persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is very fitting that we celebrate this feast one week after the feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, because as I said last week, the Holy Spirit is fully revealed through our understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ at Pentecost and as such, the complete mystery of the Holy Trinity is also revealed.
If we pay attention to the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Church we will immediately recognise the Trinitarian dimension in our prayers. For instance, every Liturgy begins with the same basic Doxology: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever.” Every prayer ends with a Doxology also, “and we raise glory to you, to your Father and to you living Holy Spirit, for ever.” Further, the recitation of this Doxology is only carried out by the celebrating priest or Bishop, signifying the importance and sacredness. For example, if a Subdeacon or Deacon are chanting the Prayer of Forgiveness, when they arrive at the Doxology, they will say “with your blessing Father” or “barwkhmor aboun” and the celebrating priest or bishop will continue the Doxology.
Although the mystery of the Trinity is difficult to fathom for our human minds, it is only through the lens of faith expressed in the teaching of our Lord that we can understand it. In his prayer and teaching, Jesus revealed the Father and the Holy Spirit and he promised that the believers would experience the reality of this gracious, Three-fold Divine One in their lives. As Maronite Catholics the Holy Trinity is in fact the centre of our life.
Due to the high demand, the Month of May home visits were extended to last Tuesday. I would like to thank the Sodality for all their efforts in in bringing Our Lady into the homes of so many parishioners. Thank you also to their chaplain Father Youwakim and to all the priests and subdeacons who visited the homes of the faithful.
Our pastoral council met this week to discuss the preparations for the Feast of the Assumption which will take place from Friday 4 August to Tuesday 15 August this year. As usual the feast will be marked with many spiritual and social events.
On a final note, we will be saying farewell to one of our beloved priests this week. After seven years of service at Our Lady of Lebanon, Father Raphael will be leaving us to pursue his priestly vocation as a full-time chaplain in the Air Force. Father Raphael who is a unique individual is loved by all. His positive outlook, charisma and youthful stamina have added a beautiful dimension to our parish that will truly be missed. On behalf of all the clergy, staff, committees and parishioners, I take this opportunity to thank Father Raphael for everything that he has achieved and for his wonderful service during his time here. May Our Lady of Lebanon take your hand and guide you on this new journey and may the Most Holy Trinity bless you as you embark on a new chapter in your vocation.
On Thursday 15 June, the Feast of Corpus Christi, we will be offering the Divine Liturgy (Mass) in thanksgiving for Father Raphael at 6pm. This will be followed at 7pm by Adoration and procession of the blessed sacrament on the church grounds. We will then have a farewell cocktail for Father Raphael in the recreation room of the CYPC.
Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the baptism of the Church. With this feast, we begin a new liturgical season in our Maronite calendar, the Glorious Season of Pentecost which is also the longest season in the liturgical year. On this feast, we commemorate the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the upper room. Offcourse there are many references to the Holy Spirit in both the Old and the New Testaments, so have you ever asked yourself about the difference between the Holy Spirit referred to then and the Holy Spirit which appears at Pentecost?
When we think about the Holy Trinity, we find that first two out of the three persons are easier to understand than the third. God is easy to understand as the creator of all things. Jesus is also easy to understand because we distinctly know who he is and what he has done in and for the history of salvation. The Holy Spirit on the other hand is a little bit harder to grasp. What was the difference between the Holy Spirit before and after Pentecost? I can assure you that there is no difference before and after, however it is our understanding of Jesus; his life, death and resurrection that has changed things. As such, the Holy Spirit is now revealed in a different manner because of what Christ did for us. What has changed dramatically is our relationship to God and to each other which is now fulfilled when we know Christ and love him and attach ourselves to him. Therefore, everything is changed, everything is "new"! Pentecost brings a new beginning.
Liturgically, we celebrate this new beginning in two ways. The first is through the Rite of Adoration of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We kneel on the left knee to adore the Father, on the right knee to adore the Son and on both knees to adore the Holy Spirit which completes the Most Holy Trinity. The second is through the blessing and sprinkling with holy water. The holy water is a symbol that we use for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, just like it descended on the apostles two thousand years ago.
The question for us today is: are we ready to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to witness to Jesus Christ in our lives through everything that we do and say, through our personal, family, work and social life? If you haven’t already started, let this season of Pentecost be a time when you start. If you have fallen, then call on the Holy Spirit to help you to get up and start again. Don’t let the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon you go to waste.
Last Friday we had a very successful Gala Dinner. Our thanks again goes to everyone who organised and supported this event. We look forward to hopefully starting the work on the project very soon. The work never ends in our vibrant parish, as we complete one event, we now embark on the biggest event in our parish calendar, Feast Week. Our pastoral council will begin planning for this on Wednesday. Also a big thank you to Father Youwakim Noujaim and everyone who helped prepare the end of May procession. It was a beautiful prayerful night as always.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I was privileged and honoured on Friday night to host with my brother priests and all of our parish family our Annual Gala Dinner. Our Lady of Lebanon has been home for me for seven years and I know that it has been home to many of you for much more. As you know, a home is a place for which we have great affection, a place where we feel loved, a place that loves us and welcomes us. How beautiful is this home when it is in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What makes our home even more special, is that our Lord resided in the womb of his mother, the womb of our home.
We all gathered together on Friday so that hand in hand we can work for a wonderful cause. Our home is in need of some care. The statue is corroding and causing much damage to the roof of the cathedral, the shelter is falling apart and has become a safety hazard to our children and the grotto has become very fragile and desperately needs repair.
The statue of Our Lady of Lebanon which is visible and stands tall in the skies of Western Sydney is the face of our Parish, the face of our Maronite Church in Australia. It has become a shrine for thousands of faithful people of different rites and faiths who come seeking the intercession of the Mother of God. Yes, people from all over the world come to find Jesus residing in the womb of his mother. Our Lady of Lebanon is the meeting place for young and old. Not only do people seek Jesus here, but they also seek each other. How many relationships have evolved from our parish family?
The grotto and shelter are the face of our parish on a ground level. As the faithful enter they cannot but be captivated by the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Many of our sons have proposed to their brides at the grotto. Thousands of our families have farewelled their loved ones into eternal life in front of this grotto. Millions of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s have been prayed here. It is a place where billions of tears have flowed, some of them out of sadness or sorrow and some of them out of joy. If we could capture all the tears, the Nile of love will flow. And how beautiful is this Nile when it flows from the bosom of Our Lady. If we can compare these prayers and these tears with any earthly value, then these prayers and tears are the diamonds and pearls that flow from the heart of Our Lady.
I would like to thank Father Raphael Abboud and the Executive Committee who has worked with great determination over the past few months to organize this great event. Of course, this night could not have been as successful without the support of our wonderful Sponsors.
Finally, I would like to thank all our beloved parishioners. You are the diamonds and you are the pearls, without you our home would not exist.