Saint Simeon the Younger

A Stylite is a Christian ascetic who lives on top of a pillar or column, they spent their time standing, exposed to rain, wind and any other natural weather. They stood preaching to those who come to seek their wisdom. The first Stylite to climb a pillar to remain in seclusion from the rest of the world was Saint Simeon, the elder whose feast is September 1. Saint Simeon the elder should not be confused with Saint Simeon, the younger, whose feast is celebrated on May 24.

Saint Simeon the Younger was attracted to the community of ascetics and sought spiritual direction from a pillar hermit named John. From a young age, Simeon had a pillar built where he would stand to pray and fast, he remained there for more than 68 years. Simeon was ordained a priest and would conduct mass from the pillar and his disciples would climb up a ladder to receive communion. There were a large number of miracles attributed to Saint Simeon, the younger. During the last years of his life he spent his time on a column near Antioch on a mountain named “Hill of Wonders” because of his miracles, and this is where he died.

We learn from the Stylite’s that prayer and fasting is crucial for us to grow spiritually in our faith. We pray that we learn from the Ascetic’s and integrate prayer and fasting into our lives more often.

Christina Maksisi

Read about what a Stylite is here.

https://livingmaronite.com/resources/what-is-a-stylite/

 

 

 

Why Trust Jesus? The testimony of a victim of Domestic Violence

WARNING: This article deals with difficult issues concerning domestic violence.  Some readers may have experienced or witnessed domestic violence and reading this may vividly bring back buried memories.  If this applies to you, please consider your own wellbeing and whether you should continue reading.  If you are in an abusive situation or know someone who is, (Australia) call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Domestic Violence Help Line (1800 656 463). (USA) – 1−800−799−7233. (Canada) http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/

I interviewed a victim of Domestic Violence and how she still trusts Jesus, despite the evil she has been through. Without further ado, here is her testimony. Her identity will remain anonymous.

Mum and dad were always fighting. He would hit her. I got caught in the crossfire. I would become bruised and I covered it with makeup.

I started to cut myself. I became depressed. My family stopped talking to each other. I felt like I needed punishment for making my family fight. But the cutting didn’t last long. I realised it was wrong.

When I tried to get advice from other people, they would say ‘that’s your parents business, don’t get involved, this is very common, everyone does this’. I was repeatedly told to pray on it. I did.

I felt that it did not help, I found that people didn’t like to talk about it, it was taboo. I needed to let it out, I needed someone to talk to. Everyone kept silencing me. I felt like no one could ever understand what I was going through.

We went to Lebanon. There was 1 priest who kept watching me. He called me over. I said cheerfully ‘Hi Abouna (Father)’. He looked at me and asked why he can feel waves of anger coming out like heat from me. I burst into tears. He told me I needed to forgive. I needed to be like Christ and forgive. The priest said I should never force someone to love me. Jesus never forced anyone. He only gave the opportunity for people to love him. This day I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.

I went to Adoration back home. I felt calm, safe. Adoration built my trust in Christ and his will. I was in the dark all those years.

Dad recently flipped it over virtually nothing. He held my mum to the wall. He raised his hand to hit her. I got in between them. He started to choke me. He dragged me to the balcony and nearly threw me over. I screamed, and my sibling pushed him off me. My life and my mum’s life were in danger. This is when we took action. We became fed up with the abuse. He is gone now.

My family started talking to each other about our experiences. We started to open up about our wounds. My mum said she wished she did this sooner. I wished we never put up with the abuse.

It helped us heal and grow together. We are closer than ever.

I realised that talking about it with people who had gone through the same thing helped me a lot.

I trust Christ to lead us out of this. I tried my way (give him space and let him come back to us), the hard way (forcing him to be good), but the only way that worked was God’s way, leaving it in God’s hands. We have moved on from him. My way and the hard way did not work. Christ is the only hope I have.

I was asked how can I still trust Jesus after all of this? I thought of when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wanted his Father to take the cup of suffering from him. Then he trusted God in his will and accepted the cup. If Christ can trust God in his grand plan, then I can trust God in his plan for me. I accept the cup offered to me.

– Emily Dib

I will be your voice

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Copyright Shaun Yeo

I am presently blissfully on spiritual retreat and on a social media ban for Lent. As the horror in New Zealand was unfolding, I was very grateful that I was not on social media. It was going to be easy to ignore it and the vitriol that came with it. Then, after midnight, I received an open letter from a Muslim friend.

She asked me to keep her identity anonymous and I will respect that because I know what she has been through. We met while we were studying. I am a Christian and she is a Muslim and we immediately connected. It was like we had lived the same life. We were wives and mothers. We had pursued education and we had achieved in our careers. We were both women of faith who worked within our own communities. We immediately understood each other’s experiences without the need for any explanation. We knew what it was like to be marginalised by society based on our ethnicity and what it was like to be marginalised by some from within our own community because we were women who had an opinion.  We both knew what it was like to be ridiculed by some in secular society for being women of faith.

Then one morning it became clear that her burden, as a Muslim woman in Australia, was much heavier than mine could ever be. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and her face popped up. It was odd, why was her face on my feed? I clicked on the post and my gentle, kind, intelligent and caring friend was being vilified as a Muslim extremist who was allegedly inciting all sorts of ridiculous things.  What was worse was that it was coming from someone within my own community. I was mortified. I had read her work, the work they were speaking of. She was no terrorist, in fact her work was considered, loving and important. I wrote to the author of the post and told him she was my friend and this was not true and asked him to take the post down. He was surprised she was my friend and said he himself did not know her and had not read her book, but that was what he had ‘heard’. I wrote to her to check she was ok. In the following months it became clearer to me she was not ok. Previously she would write and speak openly in the Australian media and she was now silenced in fear. She could no longer take the violence and hate that would be aimed at her young family and at her whenever she wrote something. It was not going to matter what she wrote, she had been targeted. You cannot dialogue with hate and you cannot dialogue with trolls.

Even as I am writing this, I know the vitriol that will follow. What about Christian lives? Don’t they matter? What about all the times they have hurt “us”. Labels will be thrown at me with an expectation that I defend myself publicly and deny them – you are a leftist, feminist, heretic and whatever else.

Over the following months I continued to watch horrified as my Muslim friend was vilified, including by some in my own community. I sometimes sent her messages to check on her, but I also retreated into silence and avoided a defence of her. It was easier.

This morning I have decided that today is not a day for retreat and today is not a day for silence. I ask you to read my friends own words of how she is feeling. For all those who have ever had a view about how evil Islam is or how evil Muslims are, either on social media or in the secrecy of the walls of your own home, this is a reminder that your views and words have wider consequences. Hate breeds hate, fear breeds fear and today as individuals and as a nation we must take a collective responsibility for our words, for every time we have vilified the ‘other’, for every time we have failed to speak up for those who have been silenced and for all those times we have remained silent in the face of wrong. To my friend, I will lament with you like the Kiwi in that cartoon and in all this grief, brokenness and hurt there is hope. I was so proud to see my own Bishop standing with Muslim religious at Lakemba Mosque last night. Today, I will stand with you also and share your voice with the world, because I know you can’t.

Dear Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten

I am an Australian Muslim woman.  I am highly educated and hold a professional job. I spend a great deal of my time working with the Australian legal system. I am a wife.  I am a mother.  And tonight, I am frightened, anxious and so very sad.

The tragedy that has occurred in Christchurch has pierced a hole in my heart that I cannot actually close.  The grief is deep. These innocent people were simply praying when massacred by a man that had a deep disdain and hatred for them, not because they said or did anything but simply because they were Muslim.

Watching the images and hearing the eyewitness accounts are beyond traumatic.  We have shed tears and expressed our hurt but most of us have something in common. As hard as it is to say this we are not surprised or shocked.

Why?

Because we have lived with this fear for a long time now.  Genuine fear that our lives are at risk simply because we are Muslim.  I am someone who has received death threats, been vilified through the tabloids, subject to petitions to remove me from my employment and regularly receive hate mail because I am Muslim. So perhaps the threats hit close to home.  I also have had the opportunity to research and present about Islamophobia in Australia and know full well the experiences of many Muslims who are attacked and vilified because of their faith.

Our fear does not exist in a vacuum.  It resides and is increased in a society where our leaders sit in a parliament where it is ok to call Islam a “disease”, where it is ok to refer to a ‘final solution’ when talking about Muslim presence in society, where it is ok to wear and ridicule our religious attire as if it is nothing more than scrap material, where it is ok to say that we made a ‘mistake’ to let Muslims come to this country in the 1970’s, where it is ok to say that Muslims don’t condemn terrorism even though Muslim leaders have issued more statements condemning terrorism than they have on any other topic.  Where it is ok to make Muslims feel that they do not belong!

Our fear is not created because we ask for it. Many say if you wear hijab or write about Muslim issues then this is all part of the territory – well is it?

Toughen up they say, be resilient, this happens to all new migrants and soon it will be another group that gets picked on.  Those comments don’t reflect our society they say, Australia is not a racist country and after all you can’t be racist towards Muslims because Islam is not a race.

I don’t care what you call it – racism, islamophobia or xenophobia – tonight these terms are meaningless to me! They don’t help me talk to my teenage children about these attacks, they don’t help me to stop their pain as they try to make sense of why the country they are born in sometimes doesn’t feel like home.  They also don’t help me explain how after today’s events a Senator can use an Australian parliamentary letterhead to blame Muslims for being killed!

Prime Minister and Mr Shorten, it was great to see you say the right things today but also very painful.  So many people today genuinely seemed shocked. How do you deal with a situation where the attacks were clearly anti-Islamic and not even the media outlets could mask it? This was a terrorist attack from a right-wing extremist.

Why couldn’t you realise that when you failed to call out the attacks on Muslims, when you used dog whistling rants to fuel your election prospects and when you failed to show courage in the face of shock jocks who demonise Islam that this is where we would end up! Let me clearly say that I am not laying the blame for the attacks at anyone’s feet other the perpetrators, but that does not mean that I cannot call out the context that allows such views to flourish. A context in which we dehumanise Muslims simply because of their faith.

Isn’t it time that we realised that we cannot continue with divisive politics?  Isn’t it time our leaders showed some moral courage and recognised that ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence’ is not a “Muslim” thing but something that will come from a society that lacks understanding and compassion?  Extremism in all its forms needs to be called out.  We need to ensure that we create a society where we all belong, one in which we see past our differences and see our common humanity.

No doubt coming days will see the best of our society come forward and stand in solidarity with Muslims. I have no doubt that we live in the best country on earth. Shoulder to shoulder we will stand strong and not let this tragedy define our society.

But tonight, please understand we are grieving.  Tonight, we cannot stop crying and nothing will ease our pain. Tonight, Prime Minister Morrison and Mr Shorten as you place your heads on your pillow please remember the pain that we are going through. Believe us when we say that we are scared and most importantly please have the moral courage to go beyond the grand statements that are about gaining votes and make a commitment to create a cohesive society where we all feel that we can belong.

Anonymous Friend


Theresa Simon

The thirst is real

The topic I have for us this week is ‘Being Thirsty to the Word of God’, and yes, the thirst is very real. 

Everyone, no matter who you come across is thirsty for something that seems to be unquenchable. I don’t mean the type of thirst you feel when you’re done with your 12 sets after leg day, the type where you’re scrolling through insta and see bae’s beach day post or the thirst to keep that iPhone updated with every release. 

I mean the type of thirst you feel when you want the truth. The truth of Christ, the words that God spoke when on earth. We weren’t there when Jesus came down to earth. We didn’t camp out with him and his mates having a fish and bread BBQ. We didn’t get to travel around and witness him roasting pharisees and performing mind boggling miracles. 

It’s hard for us. How do we know what we’re doing now is right? Is whatever we are doing what God wanted? We are always asking these questions because we’re thirsty for that deeper connection, that deeper understanding of God. 

One thing you can do is quite obvious. Go to mass. Seriously. Go in (not late, make some effort) and actually concentrate on the words in the liturgy. One of the liturgies have this sentence in it: ‘Living without you is death, and dying with you is eternal life’…. someone upload that to Pinterest right now. (heart eyes emoji). Our Maronite Liturgy is such a tall glass of water for us. Our chants and hymns, if engaged in properly will get you on some great vibes. What I mean by ‘engaged in properly’ is by us singing it, understanding the words and learning the tunes here. Thank you for such a great resource, Fr Geoffrey Abdallah. These hymns have been carried through the ages to us today. They connect us right to the start of our Maronite Faith. 

Another way to quench your thirst is to read the bible. WARNING – start with the New Testament and go slow. Don’t rush it, you will have to google some parables. You will be surprised as to how much it actually relates to us today. There are parts that make you think to no end and that is exactly what God designed it to do. It forces you to look deep inside of yourself and ask ‘Wait, I do that.. Jesus just said that’s wrong…’. This helps you understand what God wants from us. It also helps you understand Christ and what he went through. Your questions and answers in searching for the truth lie in the pages of the New Testament. There are so many records of Jesus saying that he can quench our thirst with something more than earthly water. It takes faith and a trusting heart.

Prayer is also something that quenches that thirst too. If you don’t know how, feel free to join rosary sessions at church. They have booklets for you to follow along to so you’re not out there like a roo in headlights. If you aren’t confident yet, just go solo, with our guide here, find a quiet spot and either pray it or just talk to God. If you’re expecting someone to whisper an answer in your ear, it’s not going to happen, unless your little sibling is hiding there trolling you. Sometimes God gives us an answer 1 hour or 1 year later. Sometimes it never comes. If it doesn’t come then God never wanted you to have that Shadow Black 2019 Ford Mustang. Maybe God wanted you to go on a pilgrimage to Israel instead, to walk where God walked. (Life changing trip by the way). Another form of prayer is the Jesus prayer. This is a very ancient prayer from the East where you focus on saying just 1 sentence: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’. Fr Yuhanna Azize did a talk on this prayer. It is lengthy so sit back and relax. Get rid of the naughty siblings or invite them to listen too.

You can take it a step further and study theology. Study can get you far, it’s true, but don’t forget that there are many holy people who didn’t need to be ‘smart’, witty or book savvy to be saints. Many reached sainthood through simplicity and works. 

So maybe God wants you to truly quench that thirst by getting to know Christ more rather than getting to know things that distance you from God. See Sr Margaret’s short excerpt on things that distance us. Our thirst won’t be quenched until we meet God. But we can have those sips that lessen the thirst. Go to mass, pray and read some good books. St Ephrem’s ‘Hymns on Paradise’ is a perfect book to start with. Happy sipping. 

– Emily Dib