'With Palm Sunday, we begin the Holy Week' by Patriarch Michel Sabbah

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Sunday, 14/4/2019

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday.

Jesus, Who taught and healed the sick, passed by doing good to all. He is the one who said: Love your enemies, and blessed are the merciful, the poor, the pure in their hearts, and the peace makers. Jesus Who said, "I and the Father are one" and therefore, the heads of the people and the scholars of the Law said: "He is blaspheming." Jesus, on this day, Palm Sunday, allowed the crowds to accompany Him on His way from the Mount of Olives to the temple amidst cheers by the people. He entered Jerusalem in triumph (Luke 19: 28-48).

When He entered the holy city, He wept upon her because He saw and predicted her near destruction and the destruction of the temple. When He entered the temple, He drove away the merchants because the place was holy, a place of prayer and not commerce.

Like this day, on Palm Sunday, Jesus entered-Jerusalem triumphant and with power.
Few days later in this same week, these crowds or others will turn and scream in front of the Roman governor: Crucify Him, crucify Him. Why did Jesus allow the multitudes to accompany him triumphantly during His entry to Jerusalem, knowing what was hidden in the coming few days?

Saint John says in his Gospel: “During His stay in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover many believed in His name when they saw the signs that he did, but Jesus knew all people and did not trust Himself to them; He never needed evidence about anyone; He could tell what someone had within” (Jn 2: 23-25).

With Palm Sunday, we begin the Holy Week which invites us to reflect on the mystery of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, the mystery and the meaning of His love for each one of us. We also reflect on the mystery of human life in all people: How do some love and others hate and kill? Why do some speak peace and some make war.

In this Holy Week, we will accompany Jesus in His suffering, and try to find in Him the source of love, life, and truth, and the meaning of sufferings in our life.

Monday 15.4.2019

Passion Week, Holy Week

“Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end”.

With this verse of St. John, begins the narration of the Passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not the beginning. The real beginning is the Eternal love of God. The beginning is the Word who is God (John 1: 1) since eternity, His love for humankind and the divine plan to save humankind from eternity. Then, there was human history, the fathers and the prophets since Abraham until John the Baptist. Then came the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in Nazareth and the Incarnation of the Eternal Word (John 1:14) followed by the birth in Bethlehem, and Jesus' public life with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

That was the beginning, the eternal love of God. Now, this week, we celebrate the memory of the achievement in time of God’s eternal love: Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, true man and true God, offering Himself to redeem humankind. God’s eternal love has chosen death on the Cross in order to give back life to humankind. His death is the source of my life.

God’s love for me, for you and for all is part of our humanity, is part of our personal identity. We are not only human beings with a set of relations and actions bad or good. We are more than that: God's love for us is part of our being, of our personality.

Tuesday 16/4/2019

Holy Week

Our full identity is both on Earth and Heaven. It is the love of God for us. It is us and the mystery we celebrate in this Holy Week in which we reflect on the way God showed His love for us through death on the Cross.

You and I, and all of humanity are loved by God. In our life sin and evil exist, in ourselves, and the sin of others harming us. Until today, all these evils need healing in ourselves and in others.

In this Holy Week, we meditate on God's eternal love expressed in time by Lord Jesus Christ in His sacrifice on the Cross. This is a mystery and part of our human and personal reality. In it we find the source of our strength and triumph over every kind of evil. The wholeness of our life is God and us.

In the depths of our soul, we find ourselves and God, our Creator. We keep looking in the depths until we see in ourselves more than ourselves, until we see ourselves and God our Creator.

Wednesday 17/4/2019

Holy Week

“I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.” (John 13: 34)

At the beginning of our meditation in this Holy Week, it is good to meditate on the commandment of love. Jesus has repeatedly commanded it. He wanted to make it His last will for us. On the night of His death, He said again: “I give you a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you”. Love is our identity, by which we are known: “It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.”

We love God and the neighbor because the love of the neighbor is the love of God, as Jesus said: "Whatever you have done or neglected to do to any one, it is to me that you did it” (cf. Matthew 25:31).

Because God is love and He has given us the ability to love, because what is lacking in our societies is love, and the lack of love is the root of evil in relations between individuals and between peoples. This week a believer is invited to look into this primary commandment which responds to an essential need in society, because our societies thirst for love since we live in a desert where the human beings are used to kill their brethren. We help our world rediscover that love and not war is part of our humanity.

Jesus Christ says it is a new commandment, a new way of building. It is a new paradigm of relations between people. He said: "Love as I loved you". His love was sincere, a love which gives, and the giver will be repaid with abundant life. Moreover, the love of Jesus has no limits and no conditions. He went to the most extreme: he gave His own life. Human beings are humans when they give without limits even their life for those whom they love.

“Having loved those who were his in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13: 1).

Thursday 18/4/2019

On this day we remember the institution of two sacraments: The Eucharist and priesthood. The Eucharist is the new sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross in the form of bread and wine offered to God for the expiation of sins. Priesthood is first and foremost the offering of sacrifice to God. Priest is doing again what Jesus had done, from the time of the Apostles until today when he offers “Mass”, as Jesus commanded: "Do this in memory of me”

Following are two texts from the Scriptures narrating the institution of the two sacraments, the Eucharist and Priesthood:

From the Gospel of Saint Matthew:

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples. 'Take it and eat,' he said, 'this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them saying, 'Drink from this, all of you,
for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26: 26-28).
From the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians:

“The tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you is that on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and after he had given thanks, he broke it, and he said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' And in the same way, with the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.' (1 Cor 11: 23-25).

Friday 19.4.2019

Holy week

On this day, we remember the death on the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He accepted death willingly. He said: “I lay down my life for my sheep…. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10: 15.18).

Now let us meditate on some texts about the death and the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ:

1. “Carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: 'Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.'' (Jn 19L 17-19)

2. "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother: woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said: this is your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." (Jo 19: 25-27).

3. On the Cross Jesus said:
"Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." (Lk 23: 34).

4. Jesus seeing that everything had now been completed, and so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: I am thirsty. A jar full of sour wine stood there, so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the wine he said: It is fulfilled, and bowing his head, he gave up his spirit" (Jo 19: 28-30).

5. "It was now about the sixth hour and the sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Sanctuary was torn right down the middle, Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying: Father into your hands I commit my spirit. With these words he breathed his last" (Lk 23: 44-46).

Saturday 20.4.2019

Holy Saturday

From an ancient homily of the 2nd century

Something strange is happening.There is great silence on Earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole Earth is silent because the King is asleep. The Earth has trembled and is still doing so because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At his sight Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake has become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants, by my own authority I now command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son. I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the Heavens, descended to Earth and beneath the Earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became a man without help, free among the dead. For your sake who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to recreate your deformed nature in my image. See the marks on my back of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will arouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise but I will enthrone you in Heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you with its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

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