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

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

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

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Random Proverb

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

The Holy Eucharist is the first, most important, and greatest miracle of Christ. All the other Gospel miracles are secondary. How could we not call the greatest miracle the fact that simple bread and wine were once transformed by the Lord into His very Body and His very Blood, and then have continued to be transformed for nearly two thousand years by the prayers of priests, who are but simple human beings? And what is more, this mystery has continued to effect a miraculous change in those people who communicate of the Divine Mysteries with faith and humility. 

St. Ambrose of Optina