By Maria Lozano

THE RE-CONSECRATION of the altar in the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of Peace (Dec. 1, 2017) was a new milestone on the journey back to normalcy in Homs, Syria. For three long years, 2011-2014—the city split between rebels and the Syrian regime—it was the setting for some of the fiercest fighting of the civil war. By the time the government took full control of Homs again, the city was left in ruins.

In his emotional homily for the occasion, Melkite Patriarch Youssef Absi said, addressing an audience of more than a thousand: “Many have fallen as martyrs, your homes were destroyed; you were displaced and you lost your belongings and money; nevertheless, you did not allow these hardships to overcome you and defeat your spirit. You came back, with your strong will, to rebuild what has been destroyed; and here, today, you, with your presence, bring life back to this cathedral.”

 

The Melkite Catholic cathedral was the most extensively damaged church building in Homs. Our Lady Queen of Peace and all the property of the local diocese were in rebel hands until May 9, 2014. Many of the icons and statues were stolen or disfigured. There was widespread damage from bombings and bullets, as well as fire; in the crypt, tombs of priests were profaned.

To make matters worse, said Melkite Archbishop Jean-Abdo Arbach of Homs, “two days after the liberation of Homs, there was an enormous explosion inside the cathedral, causing damage that was ten times worse. The cupola, the roof and two entire walls collapsed. The rebels had hidden explosives beneath the bishop’s cathedra, the bishop’s throne.”

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Teachings of Christ

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." (Matthew 5:11 ESV)

Encounter

Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (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.

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

"Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:28 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

"In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do not devote themselves to it. Yet, when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy, soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition which is reasonable, mild, kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice. Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all."

St. John Chrysostom