Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

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The First Sunday of the Liturgical Year

May the Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

The island of Haiti has been wrecked by a strong Earthquake. Almost everything is destroyed, and there is no way they can stand up again without the help of others. The catastrophe is devastating to all of the residents of the Island. Help and aid flew from all across the country. We, as Christians, were ordered by the Lord to take care of the needy, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Many of the churches in America responded to this call.

Every period is a cycle of eight Sundays except for the Easter Season which is composed of three cycles of eight Sundays leading up to the Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross which falls on the 14th of September. The Sundays which fall between the Feast of the Cross and the beginning of the liturgical year (14 September – end of October) are called General Sundays.

Advent Season (Mawlodo) is composed of eight Sundays: the Sanctification of the Church the Renewal of the Church, the Annunciation of Zachariah the Priest, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the Revelation of St. Joseph (the Husband of the Virgin Mary) and the Sunday before the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas).

The Sunday of the Sanctification of the Church (Qoodosh ‘Ito)
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Church Fathers chose to begin the new liturgical year by celebrating the sanctification of the church. The Church, in our understanding, is not formed on the day of Pentecost. It is rather conceived in God’s mind before the beginning of the world. The Church exits in heaven through the heavenly creatures, the Angels. With the creation of Adam and Eve the Church is realized on earth too. They are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) to worship Him. Through Adam and Eve the whole of humanity becomes the Church. After the fall of humanity through Adam’s transgression, the Church goes through different stages of its existence until it’s finally restored to her initial state of grace and perfection through the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Sunday of the Sanctification of the Church constitutes an invitation to the Church to prepare for a great event, which is the encounter with the Lord. The Bride (Church) is called to sanctify herself, be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27) in order to meet her Bridegroom, The Lord, who is Holy and the source of all holiness. Members of the Church, therefore, are called upon to sanctify themselves and head the calling to be holy like the Holy One who called them. (1 Peter 1:15)
Holiness is a mark of the Church (we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church). Each member, therefore, is called to be holy by virtue of his or her baptism. However, the way to holiness is the way of the Cross. To be holy requires us to be in total obedience to the Lord. We have to submit to Him in everything and lead a life which befits our calling as Christians. Holiness is the ultimate goal of Christ’s calling and His redemptive death and resurrection. We all are called to be holy people, but based on our dedication and faithfulness we attain different degrees of holiness. We all are given the chance to be holy. Some of us, however, walk in the path of holiness farther than others. Those who reach higher degrees o f holiness, through sacrifices and suffering for the sake of the Lord, are called saints. They become intercessors for us that we may complete our race and attain our salvation by being faithful to the Lord.

The fact that Lord is Holy and He wants us too to be like Him should not discourage us my brothers and sisters. He knows our weaknesses and He is able and willing to help our lack of faith and sympathize with us. (Hebrews 4:15).

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