Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

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The Great Lent (Sawmo Rabo) Sunday, March 1 - Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Maranatha,The Lord came (is coming). 1 Cor. 16:22

“And those who were ready went in with him to the wedding” (Mat. 25:10).

It is the heavenly wedding through which the victorious holy church is wedded to her Bridegroom and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the end of time. Blessed are those who will have a part of this heavenly wedding. Yea, for in His first advent, our Lord Jesus did establish His kingdom on earth, calling it the Holy Church. He entrusted His pure Disciples, the Holy Apostles, to shepherd it, on His behalf. And He gave them authority to teach, to sanctify and to instruct the children of condemnation to become children of the kingdom; to be living members in His Holy church which our Lord had established on the rock of faith that He is “The Christ, Son of the Everlasting God” (Mat. 16:16). “the desire of all ages” “the second person of the Holy Trinity, Who came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Virgin Mary” “Who saved us from our three enemies: death, sin and Satan” "He also initiated His public divine dispensation in the flesh, inviting all humanity, saying: " “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat.4:17). Thus, the Lord did invite all peoples to this kingdom.

He gave us many parables about this kingdom. For the kingdom of God is a net that captured many a fish, large and small, good and bad. Moreover, the kingdom of God includes the good and the bad of this earth. For the Lord typified the farmer who planted a good seed but was informed that with the plants there grew weeds. O beloved, we learn from this, that, in the Holy church, there are believers who uphold the orthodox faith, the doctrine of faith and the noble tenets along with the good deeds practiced by the believer. And there are, also, those who do not deserve to be called Christians; considered not to be good disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they are weeds: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, (Mat. 13:24-30). Thus, we find, in the church, good believers and bad ones too; both, belong to the church as members till the day on which the Lord Jesus comes again in the glory of His Father along with His angels to judge the world. Then, He will send His angels to separate the good from the bad ones; the good ones, to inherit His heavenly kingdom; and the evil ones, will be expelled out, into the outside darkness, to inherit hell, where there will be crying and gnashing of teeth.

In the parable of the ten wise and foolish virgins, we learn that, though the foolish virgins were believers in the Lord Jesus, Savior of the World, awaiting His second coming just as the wise ones did. However, the foolish did not keep in their lamps the oil of mercy, love and good deeds. Hence, when their lamps went dark, due to lack of oil, and not having any spare oil, they could not buy oil from the merchants because the stores were closed at that late hour of the night. The ready five wise virgins did go into the wedding feast, while the foolish ones stood outside the door, knocking in sorrow and lamentation. Yet the door did not open for them, but instead, they heard the voice of the Bridegroom, saying to them: “I do not know you”. Thus, the door was shut, and there were no more opportunity for man to repent after leaving this worldly life. For the Bridegroom would have entered the banqueting place and those who were ready entered with Him to the banquet. How terrible it would be for those, though they were counted among the believers of God’s kingdom on earth, within the holy church; though their lamps were lit with outward faith, not coupled with good works, the deeds of mercy which St. James describes, saying: " Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). And the Lord Jesus, adds saying: “I desire mercy, not a sacrifice” (Mat. 12:7). St. James, also says: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? …… faith without works is dead? (James 2:14;20).

To teach us how to have mercy upon those who need mercy, the Lord Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan. For the good Samaritan, who heard the grounings of that who fell among thieves , did not fear anyone, rather, he risked his life and treated the victim with the wine of his heart, and the oil of his soul; he carried him upon his donkey and took him to the inn, payind two dinarii, saying to the inn keeper: "take care of him, and whatever you spend, I will repay you when I return. (Luke 10:35). Thus, the Good Samaritan did receive praise from Jesus, our Lord, Who taught us that mercy is better than a sacrifice. Yea, according to this parable, the Lord Jesus did condemn the priest who passed by the fallen victim, of the of the thieves, but did not respond to the his cries for help. He also condemned the Levite (or deacon) who used to serve in the temple of the Lord, because he also heard the victim’s moans for help, and he looked but did not help him. However, the Lord Jesus did praise the Good Samaritan, a strange foreigner, who cared for the injured one, thus proving, that we would please God whenever we join our good deeds with faith. If we have mercy in our hearts, we prove it by serving needy people no matter what their religion or faith or race. For who are we to judge anyone, but rather, we ought to be merciful as long as someone is in need of us.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus, in His kingdom on earth, gave us an important opportunity. That we should believe in Him and to abide by His commandments in order to inherit His heavenly kingdom. For, into His wedding feast, all humanity has been invited. This divine wedding starts buy the belief in Him; that He is the Only-begotten Son of God; and that we may prove this faith by adhering into all that His noble commandments, while trusting that our lives on this earth, no matter how long, yet it is short, that someday we will depart through death which, decreed upon all mankind, or, our lives, on this earth, will be terminated by the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in an hour which we do not know, as He said: Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour[a] your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect, (Mat. 24:42-44). This watch, is like the vigilance of the five wise virgins, that produces good works along with the visible faith, hence, our lives on this earth will be as witnesses for Him. For He is the Good Samaritan Who came from heaven, and saved us, we who fell among thieves, that is the demons who always try to befell us in tribulations. Now, if we believe them as our first parents did believe Satan, then we will waist our divine gifts, and will end up have dead half alive, just like the one who fell among thieves, resulting in the need for Jesus, the Good Samaritan, to save us and treat us with medicines in order to carry us into His holy church.

Beloved, when the Lord Jesus, in the flesh, departed our earth, after fulfilling the Salvation plan, to return to His heavenly Father, and sit at His right hand, He bid His holy disciples farewell, He lifted His hands up and blessed them, on Mount Olive, He ascended upward into heaven in His glorified body. The Disciples were looking up at Him until a cloud hid Him from their sights. St. Luke, describing this scene, tells us, that the two angels, appearing as two young men clad in white, told the apostles: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven, (Acts 1:11).” This pleased the disciples by hearing about the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Moreover, they also worshipped Jesus, thus confessing that He is truly “God appeared in the flesh” and they returned to Jerusalem happy. Since then, the church, through the apostles, the fathers, and all the believers, are anxiously awaiting, with eyes affixed unto heaven, awaiting His second coming.

At His first coming, Jesus, did fulfill the salvation plan and was victorious over our enemies: death, Satan and sin. He gave us the gift to become the children of God, by grace. Children of heaven. However, in his Second Coming, He will come according to what we declare in the Nicene-Constantinople confession which we recite at the beginning of every holy liturgy celebration, and at the conclusion of every morning and evening prayers “The Lord Jesus, will come again to judge both the living and the dead”. Similarly, St. Paul believes in this noble truth of faith which he declared, just as it was given to the holy disciples by our Lord Jesus. Who, in turn, did hand it to us that, every time we celebrate the holy liturgy, we should announce, saying through the voice of a deacon, “O Lord Jesus”, “we remember Your death, confess You resurrection, and we look for Your Second Coming, and have mercy upon us.”

During the apostles’ times, and their disciples, believers were accustomed to greet each other, saying in Syriac-Aramaic, this expression: “Maranatha” meaning: the Lord is coming. Yea, we too await the Second Coming of our Lord, faithfully. Though we are alive, in the body, upon Jesus’ second coming, St. Paul, informs us: "We will be raptured to be with Him in the air, following the glorified transformation of our bodies into spiritual ones. Moreover, if we were dead in Christ, having eternal living spirits, we would hear the voice of the Lord, and we will be resurrected alive, where our souls will be united with our bodies to inherit he kingdom of heaven and be with Him.

How blessed we are if we emulate the five wise virgins who were vigilant. Let us then await with them, watching, for the Second appearing of the Lord. May our lamps be lit with good works which people will see and praise our Father in heaven. Then we will be worthy to joyfully welcome the Lord and to enter with Him into His kingdom. We will have a part in the celebrations of His heavenly wedding feast, where we will be transformed from the earthly kingdom of God, that is the industrious church, to join the kingdom of God in heaven, the victorious church, the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven, according to the Holy Bible. There, we will celebrate happily, in the wedding of Jesus Christ, with His Bride, the Holy Church, which is comprised of all the Righeous, the God-fearing, and the holy martyrs.

How pleasing it would be for us if we are counted among the righteous people on the day of the Lord’s second coming, when the trumpet shall sound; and when certain signs will be seen according to His predictions.
Noah, believed the word of God, and, for an hundred years, he worked on building the ark, because the Lord told him so. Meanwhile, during all that period, he used to warn the people, but they refused to believe him. Then Noah and hid family: his wife, children and their wives. He also brought in: clean animals along with a limited number of all beasts according to God’s instructions to bring into the ark. And when the flood came, all mankind drowned except for Noah and seven others: his wife, his sons with their wives. They were saved alive along with animals which God chose. Likewise, just as the flood came and destroyed all, So will Jesus come again, regardless if we believe these truths of faith or not. On that day, if we were good vigilant believers, then we will end up with the five wise virgins to inherit the eternal bliss. But if we were not righteous, then we will be counted among those who lived in the time of Lot. Lot was told by God to warn the people who strayed from God’s commandments. The Bible shows us how Lot was ridiculed even by his own son-in-laws. However, when God destroyed that generation with fire and brimstone, Lot was saved with his company. Yet, those who desired to look back, into sin, were punished like Lot’s wife, who looked backwards and was turned into a pillar of salt.

My Beloved, the Lord’s Second Coming is a fact. He is coming to judge the world. Hence, if we believe this, and remain vigilant, as in the Parable of the virgins, Jesus says: “But the vigilant ones, entered with Him into the wedding feast”. Therefore, if were are watchfull to welcome Him, just as the five wise virgins, having spare oil for our lamps; the oil which represents deeds of charity and love; the oil of pure faith accompanied with good works, then our lamps shall remail lit till we enter with Him into the heavenly wedding chamber to inherit His heavenly kingdom with Him; on that Day, The righteous Judge, the Lord, will call the good ones who stand on His right hand, saying: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world……Then he will say to those on his left, ’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. …….Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.(Mat. 25:34;41;46)”.
Dearly beloved, let us learn from the vigilant wise virgins; may we uphold our noble tenets of faith and the light of Christ, filled with zeal of our faith; may our Visible faith be coupled with a living faith, meaning good works. May we be alive in Christ, so that whenever He comes, and finds us vigilant to welcome Him with lit lamps and abundant oil, He will invite us to enter with Him into the wedding feast with the five wise virgins, to celebrate with Him at His heavenly feast for ever.
May God accept your fast, prayers and alms. May He have mercy on your faithful departed loved ones. May He make you worthy to celebrate the Holy Day of His Resurrection in a spiritual bliss, good health and success. May His grace be with you.

Our Father Who art in Heaven…

Issued at our Patriarchal Headquarters in Damascus, Syria, the 21th day of January in the year of our Lord of 2006, the 26th year of our Patriarchal reign.

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