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

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 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)

Random Proverb

"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10,11 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that "the eyes of the Lord are looking on the good and the evil in every place." But we should believe this especially without any doubt when we are assisting at the Work of God. To that end let us be mindful always of the Prophet's words, "Serve the Lord in fear" and again, "Sing praises wisely" and "In the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to Thee." Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in the sight of the Godhead and of His Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that our mind may be in harmony with our voice. 

St. Benedict