CWN - In a January 27 message to a joint commission of Catholic and Oriental Orthodox theologians, Pope Francis offered the hope that the suffering of believers in the Middle East today will bring Christians closer to full unity.

The Oriental Orthodox churches are the ancient Christian communities that broke with Rome in the 5th century, after the Council of Chalcedon. They are based mostly in the Middle East, and Pope Francis remarked that many of their communities “witness daily the spread of violence and acts of brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism.” Without explicitly mentioning the influence of radical Islamic ideology, the Pope said that such extremism can “more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice, and social exclusion,” and said that foreign interests aggravate the problem.

The Pope said that his “heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage, or enslaved.” He went on to say that the faithful can take courage from the knowledge that the blood of martyrs has always enriched the Church. He prayed: “in our day may the blood of so many martyrs be a seed of unity between believers.” The witness of martyrs, he said, could spur the faithful toward “that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s sacrifice at the same altar, as a sign of fully restored ecclesial communion.”

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Teachings of Christ

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (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.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

“We firmly believe that the Church will never fall, will never waiver and will not be destroyed. For this is what Christ taught, by Whom the heavens were established and the earth was founded, and stands firmly as the Holy Spirit says”. (Ps. 32:6) The Antichrist will lure to himself “those who have a weak and feeble mind, will seduce and will tear them away from the living God.”

St. John of Damascus, Oration on the Transfiguration of the Lord