CWN - The Middle East’s Christians continue to suffer from severe persecution, the region’s Eastern Catholic patriarchs said in separate Christmas messages.

Maronite Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi warned that terrorists are “killing and displacing families and depriving them of their rights and dignities,” according to a CNS report. He called upon the UN to secure peace in the region and work for the return of Christian refugees to their homelands.

Because of their “faithfulness to Jesus the Savior,” Syrian and Iraqi Christians “endured the horrible consequences of war, violence, and all kind of persecutions,” said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Yonan. “We have to keep hoping that the local government and international leaders will expel the terrorists and restore peace and security.”

The patriarch cited Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) by name as he praised the “many Catholic politicians in the West who would disagree with the official policy of their government in dealing with the plight of Christians in the Middle East.”

It is “quite evident that our people have been persecuted because of religious hatred and forgotten because of the political opportunism of the powerful of this world,” Patriarch Yonan added.

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham warned that “today in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, the Christian presence is threatened ... by wars that have given rise to this terrifying exodus, especially of Christians.”


Teachings of Christ

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)


Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, * and the revelation of an eternal mystery: * The Son of God becomes the Son of a Virgin, * and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. * Therefore, let us also cry with him to the Mother of God: * "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

To you, O Mother of God, our leader and defender, * we, your servants, delivered from calamity, offer hymns of victory and thanksgiving. * So you, who have invincible might, * set us free from every peril * that we may cry to you: * "Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!" (Kontakion, Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, not outside it. And when you find Him, stand with fear and trembling, like the Cherubim and Seraphim, for your heart has become a throne of God. But in order to find God, become humble as dust before the Lord, for the Lord abhors the proud; whereas He visits those that are humble in heart, wherefore He says: “To whom will I look, but to the one who is meek and humble in heart?”

St. Nectarius of Aegina