20-25 June 2011
Divine Liturgy of the Close of the Synod
A solemn Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Saturday, 25 June 2011 for the close of the Holy Synod, which had begun its work at the Patriarchal Residence of Ain Traz on 20 June, presided over by H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III. Participating with the Patriarch were eighteen bishops. The others had had to leave already on Friday, 24 for various reasons, as the Holy Synod ended at 7p.m. that day.
Features of that Liturgy
The Liturgy began on the solea (in front of the iconostasis) around the Patriarch.
The multilingual service was celebrated in eight languages, Arabic, Greek, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, the languages of our liturgy in the Middle East of and the countries to which our faithful have spread.
It was also the Liturgy of the Feast of the Divine Body.
The Patriarch’s sermoncentred on the words, “Take.., eat.., drink...”
Priests say it in the name of Christ, but in doing so they put themselves at the disposition of the faithful, “Eat me, I am yours.” As Father Antoine Chevrier said, “The priest is a man consumed.”
The Patriarch told his bishops that they celebrated the Synod, so as to be closer to their faithful.
The Synod was in the line of the motto of the Synod of the Assembly of Bishops for the Middle East: Communion and Witness.
Communion ad intra
· From or of the Church, the parish
· With other Churches
· With every citizen
· Our identity
Witness ad extra
· Witnessing, being martyrs
· There is no Church that is without its martyrdom of blood and witness of life
· Witness of our Church with fidelity to our tradition
· Witness in the world: the multilingual liturgy bore witness and invited to openness
The Patriarch took pleasure in greeting his brother bishops from all eparchies. He named each bishop present, inviting the camera from Télélumière to focus on each, so that the faithful could recognize their pastor.
Concerning solidarity, His Beatitude cited the words of the Apostle Paul, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 26)
Or, as the Fathers of Vatican II said in Gaudium et Spes, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
“That is the programme for our solidarity with our world, our eparchy, our parishes, our priests, monks and nuns and laypeople; but also with our world, especially our suffering Arab world, and Syria,” His Beatitude emphasised.
On the Feast of the Ascension, 23 June, in Damascus, and elsewhere in Syria, and in the Holy Synod, His Beatitude asked for prayers to be held, for a peaceful future, with stability, understanding and prosperity.
Invitation to our faithful
“Courage! Be not afraid!” His Beatitude concluded. “Do what Jesus calls you to do: be the light, salt and leaven in the lump.”
The Patriarch gave greetings to each and all through Télélumière, saying, “We love you: I love you. Love us: love your pastors.”
Kiss of Peace
The Patriarch kissed the holy gifts and the holy table. Then he took his seat on the solea, in front of the iconostasis.
The bishops followed suit and came to greet the Patriarch and sit beside him. So a big circle was formed in the body of the church. Meanwhile the choir sang the hymn for the kiss of peace, “Iwill love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firm support, my refuge, and my deliverer.”(Psalm 17: 1 LXX)
With everyone forming the big circle, the Creed was recited in the nave. Then the Liturgy continued.
The Anaphorawas carried out in Greek and Arabic and Portuguese.
At the end, the Polychronion was sung.
After the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, during a press conference, in the presence of the Patriarch and other members of the Holy Synod, H. E. Michel Abrass, Bishop of the Patriarchal Curia and Secretary General of the Holy Synod, presented the final report of the Holy Synod.
The report gave a brief summary of the Patriarch’s opening address.
To begin with, the Patriarch had invited those present to read a Gospel verse that they loved.
He had then presented the five-year plan, to follow up the Synod for the Middle East (October 2010): each eparchy would try to hold an eparchial synod inspired by the Synod according to the plan put forward in Synod by the Patriarch.
The report also mentioned the projected Patriarchal Academy aimed at training a select leadership team in our Church: bishops, priests, monks, nuns and faithful.
His Beatitude and the new Archbishop of Furzol and Zahleh, H. E. Issam John Darwish were mandated to develop this project and lead it to completion.
The Patriarch presented his recently published Letter on the topic of the Liturgy (7 March 2011.)
The Lineamenta of the 2012 Synod on The New Evangelisation were reviewed. It is up to the bishops to follow up and respond to the questionnaire before 1 November, 2011.
Presenting the Fathers of the Synod to the Press
After the reading of the final report, the Patriarch decided to present each of the Fathers of the Synod present to the press. He read their names, their sees, and the television showed each bishop.
Afterwards, the Patriarch answered questions from the press and gave an interview, mainly about the tragic current situation of Arab countries, especially Syria, and our duty of solidarity with this suffering world and of the future of Christians in this context.
Translation from the French V. Chamberlain