custodia.org - After welcoming Orthodox Church leaders for greetings on the occasion of the Catholic Christmas celebrations in December, the Franciscan friars of the Custody visited the Orthodox Church communities for Christmas according to the Julian calendar. On the morning of January 9. the sound of the Kawas’ sticks were heard several times to announce the arrival of the Franciscan delegation. The honorary guards of the Custody, in fact, precede the friars’ procession every time they go somewhere for an official visit.

As is customary, in addition to the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Patton, and the Vicar of the Custody, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, there were other friars, including several seminarians from St. Savior international Seminary. For all of them, every year, exchanging greetings with their brothers in the Orthodox churches is a unique experience of sharing that unites them as Christians, despite their many differences.

The visit to the Greek Orthodox in the early hours of the morning was accompanied by a cordial and fraternal atmosphere. The Custos of the Holy Land expressed his feelings of gratitude for the mutual cooperation that allows them to work together in the most important shrines, such as the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Fr. Patton also spoke about the event that during the first days of January, involved the Greek Patriarch Theophilus III, who was harshly protested by a group of Greek-Orthodox Palestinian Christians, during his entrance into Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations. “I want to express my closeness and solidarity to His Beatitude, Patriarch Theophilus,” said Br. Patton. “We reject, condemn and cannot accept any kind of violence against his person.” Patriarch Theophilus III thanked [them] for the solidarity shown to him and he spoke about other positive opportunities for the two communities to come together in the course of the year.

With the friars of the Coptic Church, the Franciscan friars shared a beautiful moment by exchanging their well wishes and listening to stories from Egypt, of which the Coptic Church is the official church. Mons. Anba Antonius, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, spoke about the persecutions of Christians in Egypt, thanks to the translation by Br. Ibrahim Faltas, the head of the Terra Santa Schools. The Patriarch also spoke about the meaning of Christmas and the new year that just began, hoping that it will be “a year of good and peace for humanity.” The Vicar of the Custody, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, brought the wishes of the Franciscans and also those of the Custos, who could not be present at the gathering: “These visits are not part of the protocol, but the result of the desire to share what we believe together.”

During the visit to the Syriac community, the Custodial Vicar recalled the tensions in the Middle East and expressed his closeness to the large community of Syriacs who are still suffering today in Syria. This was echoed by the Syrian Patriarch, Mons. Swerios Malki Mourad, who said he was happy to be able to share the joy of Christmas with the Franciscans. He also expressed solidarity with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch for the protests, because he claimed to have been in a similar situation in the past: “We must pray for the faithful to listen to the heads of the Churches.” With the representatives of the Ethiopian Church, the Franciscans exchanged Christmas greetings immediately after leaving the Syriacs. Fr. Dobromir reiterated that what drives these visits is the desire to share the joy of Christmas. In his speech, Mons. Aba Embakob, of the Orthodox Ethiopian Patriarchate, highlighted the beauty of Jesus’ humble birth and thanked the Franciscan friars for their visit.

Coffee, liqueurs and chocolates followed each meeting, in the spirit of sharing that unites the friars in faith for this celebration.

Beatrice Guarrera

http://www.custodia.org/default.asp?id=779&id_n=34380


Teachings of Christ

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 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

"The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing." (Proverbs 9:13 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

The purpose of the advent of the Saviour, when He gave us His life-giving commandments as purifying remedies in our passionate state, was to cleanse the soul from the damage done by the first transgression and bring it back to its original state. What medicines are for a sick body, that the commandments are for the passionate soul.

St. Isaac of Syria