St Hilarion – 21 October

St Hilarion was a hermit that spent most of his life in the desert, taking from the example of St Anthony the Great. St Hilarion is considered to be the founder of Palestinian monasticism.

He was born in 291AD in Tabatha, South of Gaza in Palestine to pagan parents. He studied in Alexandria, Egypt and it was there he was converted to Christianity. After his conversion he rejected all worldly pleasures of the day and spent all his time at church.

He heard of St Anthony and at only age 15, Hilarion went to live with him in the desert but returned after 2 months since the hermitage was preoccupied with healing visitors who were sick. Hilarion returned to find his parents had died. He gave his inheritance to his brothers and the poor. He left for the wilderness. He took a shirt of coarse linen, a cloak of skins given to him by St Anthony and a coarse blanket.

He led a nomadic life, fasting and only eating a prudent meal after sundown. He lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert where he also experienced many temptations and desolation.

He became well known in Palestine after 22 years of living in the wilderness, the sick came and asked him for help. This drove Hilarion to retreat to more remote locations, but people still trekked out to see him. He went to St Anthony’s retreat in Egypt, Sicily, Dalmatia and then to Cyprus where he died in 371.

Miracles that he is associated with are curing a barren woman in Palestine, he cured 3 children of a fatal illness, he healed a paralysed charioteer and expelled many demons.

St Hilarion by Basil II c.1000 Vatican Library

The Sinful woman, a Church of action

On this fifteenth week of Pentecost, we hear of yet another woman as part of the collection of Pentecost Gospel’s.  She is the sinful woman who found repentance through Christ. (Luke 7:36-50).

As we highlighted last week, the Maronite Pentecost lectionary gives as a typology of women, Brides of the Groom, to inspire us to the Church we are called to be. A Church on a missionary journey who is accompanied and healed by Christ himself. 

The sinful woman came to Christ begging for his forgiveness. One of the most beautiful literary techniques used in Syriac literature is that of dialogue. The dialogues usually draws on a moment of tension from the Gospel and then two speakers conduct an argument in alternating verses. One of these is between Satan and the Sinful women. In this stunning dialogue the author draws out, through Satan, the tension he imagined would have been going through the sinful women’s mind in approaching Jesus.

The poem starts with a beautiful introduction in which we are told that God sent his Son clothed in his humanity as the Compassionate doctor who could heal. The Sinful Woman had heard of his healing and knew he was at Simeon the Pharisees house, she had resolved to go to him for forgiveness of her sins. As witness that the early Syriac writers saw this woman as the Church, the woman states to Satan:

I am indeed brazen and impudent,
And debauched men have loved me
But Christ the Bridegroom has betrothed me,
And he has made me holy, to be with Himself

We hear this theme of the Church being the Bride of Christ throughout the Maronite Pentecost liturgy:

Jesus is the faithful Groom
and we are the Church, his Bride.

In the poem, Satan is an externalization of what the writer imagines are the sinful women’s innermost thoughts. The poem highlights the sinful women’s struggles in detaching from her former life and gate crashing the party to meet Jesus. Her worst self and all that is bad about her is being portrayed by Satan who gives her all the reasons to stay away from Jesus, including:

SATAN: I can see that you’ve gone out of your mind,
You don’t know what you are saying.
You’ve never read the Scriptures,
And yet here you are expounding their words!
WOMAN: I can see that you are ashamed,
For the Son of God has condemned you.
Up to today I belonged to you,
But from now on I reject you and your friends.
SATAN: You’d be better off, my girl, if you stayed back
And didn’t go off to Mary’s son.
Perhaps, unbeknown to you, he’s already scowling at you,
And if he sees you he will be angry.
WOMAN: What could be happier than today
If I go and approach Mary’s Son?
I be better off even if HE killed me,
For I’d escape from you, the enemy of everyone.

The Gospel also highlights Simon the Pharisee was outraged that the Sinful woman touched Jesus and we hear Jesus say to him:

Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Our faith is demonstrated by our actions and not our condemnation. Here we would like to address something relevant to our times. 

Social media can be used as a wonderful resource for evangelisation, however used incorrectly, it can also drive people away from the Church. Our Maronite Church can reach out in a very unique way to those who may not know Christ. People are not going to be attracted to a negative Church, one that is unhappy and focused on consistently debating and judging. People are not going to be attracted to an angry mob.  The Church is not going to be attractive if the people in it are morally outraged, full of self-righteousness or judgemental like Simon was.

Before you share, post or comment, think about the overall objective and whether it will bring those in need of God’s mercy to the Church. The dialogue between Satan and the Sinful woman highlights the voices that might drive people away. The need to win an unnecessary argument or correct in the short-term can drive others away. People are looking for something that gives them peace, not a fight.  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1Co 14:33

Observers seeing people confusion and chaos will not find the Church attractive. A discussion that descends into argument, heated debate and attacks will not bring anyone to Christ. There are times when it is actually prudent to say nothing. 

Collectively we are part of the Church. How one of us behaves can have an impact on the Church as a whole. People who may be seeking Christ could be watching. The faith is not an ideology, it is a living example and we are witnesses to it.

Do not share things you can not verify yourself or believe them just because a ‘friend’ told you so. Next time you want to post, comment or share, think about the bigger picture. Think about whether it is necessary and whether it will bring you or others closer to Christ.

We shall conclude with the same prayer of the dialogue between the Sinful woman and Satan.

‘O Son of God, who opened Your mouth
And forgave the Sinful woman her sins
Forgive us our sins too, just as you did her
For we have sinned just as she did.
And as the Sinful Woman was forgiven
Because she kissed your feet in Simeon’s house
So you forgive Your Church
Which, at the altar consumes Your Body and Blood.’

Amen

13 July- The Prophet Joel

Joel was a prophet of Israel, believed to have lived in the 9th Century BCE. He was the second of the twelve minor prophets and is the author of the Book of Joel in the Old Testament.

He is mentioned only once as the son of Pethuel (Joel 1:1).

Joel was from Judea and is known to have preached there. He is linked to the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Joel’s book in the Old Testament focuses on Judah and Zion with themes of judgement and hope for repentance in a time of disaster. At the time, there were locust plagues that destroyed wine and grain, both offerings to the temple.

Joel does write that the Lord’s kingdom will be fruitful and void of suffering, which is why he focused on repentance.

The following prophesy by Joel was used by Saint Peter in his homily on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:


17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

St Peter was preaching to the crowd that the 11 were not drunk after the tongues of fire came upon them. Instead he quoted Joel in the hope of warning them about Gods wrath if they don’t accept Jesus as Lord and repent. St Peter does not forget the good news, he includes it at the end of the prophesy.

St Paul also uses Joel’s prophesy in Romans 10:11 – 13.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved

Sorry Day

We feel deep gratitude and blessings that our young sisters and neighbours are proud Australian Indigenous women of the Wiradjuri Nation. They also share with us as sisters in the Maronite Church and are part of our Maronite Parish community. Today in Australia is Sorry Day and they share this lovely reflection with us. 

‘I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;

    I will guide them and restore comfort’ Isaiah 57:18

National Sorry Day has been held every 26 May since 1998. This day acknowledges the many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their families due to the policies of past governments and the step towards reconciliation for our First Nations’ people. 

These children, who are known as the Stolen Generations, have suffered untold hardship. The past still impacts us today, in the continuing devastation of the lives of Indigenous Australians due to the permanent scarring of these policies. Although we can’t change the past, we can address the past by listening as a community with open minds, to commemorate those affected and listen to their stories in order to reconcile.

As Catholics and as Maronite’s we are called to share in the process of Reconciliation in accordance with the values and mission of the Church. In the Social Justice Statement for 2006 “The Heart of our Country: Dignity and Justice for our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters”, the Australian Bishops identified the areas where Australian Catholics are called to reach out to the Indigenous community. They call us to ensure the preservation of Indigenous cultures and to keep working for an inclusive multicultural Australia. To accept the rich Indigenous culture, traditions and values that align with those of Jesus and all his people. To learn to restore and care for the environment through the Indigenous knowledge.

Today on 26 May we ask you join with us to pray as a Maronite and Catholic community in Australia for the continued path of Reconciliation and for all indigenous communities throughout the world :

Holy Father, God of Love 

We thank you for the survival of Indigenous cultures. 

Our hope is in you because your son Jesus Christ came to reconcile the world to you. 

Teach us to respect all cultures. 

Help us to bring about spiritual and social change.

Amen


Written by Kristen and Paige

A Night in Gethsemane with Jesus

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 22,1-23. 

The festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near.
The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve;
he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them.
They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money.
So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’
They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’
‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters
and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ “
He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’
So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’
Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves;
for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.
For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’
Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

Reflection:

Jesus you knew your fate, you sat with your disciples and taught them humility and how to spread the Gospel when you were gone. 

You introduced a new Passover, replacing it with the Mystery of the Eucharist, so that it is not a lamb that is sacrificed as was done for Passover but now, Jesus is the new lamb, sacrificed for our sins.

You ate the Passover lamb with them, so that you yourself might become our Passover and our Lamb.” (Prayer of forgiveness)-

 “Let us raise glory, honour, and praise to the Lamb of God, who voluntarily became the Paschal Lamb and offered himself as a redeeming sacrifice. He truly gave us his Body as food and his Blood as drink, as a pledge of eternal life.” (Prayer of Forgiveness)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

The Passover Lamb and the Exodus (Exodus 12,14) Ephrem, Hymns on Unleavened Bread

  1. In Egypt the Passover lamb was slain;
    in Sion the True Lamb was slaughtered. (Exodus 12:6)

    Refrain: (repeat after every verse) Praise to the Son, the Lord of symbols who fulfilled every symbol at His crucifixion.

  2. My brethren, let us consider the two lambs,
    Let us see where they bear resemblance and where they differ.
  3. Let us weigh and compare their achievements:
    of the lamb that was the symbol, and the Lamb that is the Truth.
  4. Let us look upon the symbol as a shadow, 
    let us look upon the Truth as the fulfilment.
  5. Listen to the simple symbols that concern that Passover,
    And to the double achievements of this our Passover. 
  6. So with the True Lamb there took place for the Gentiles
    An Exodus from error, and not an entry.
  7. With the Living Lamb there was a further Exodus, too,
    For the dead from the Sheol, as from Egypt.
  8. For in Egypt a pair of Symbols are depicted, since it reflects both Sheol and Error.
  9. With the Passover lamb, Egypt’s greed
    learnt to give back, against its wont;
  10. With the Living Lamb, Sheol’s hunger
    disgorged and gave over the dead, against its nature\
  11. With the true Lamb, greedy Error
    Rejected and cast up the Gentiles who were saved;
  12. With that Passover lamb, pharaoh returned the Jewish people,
    Whom, like death, he had held back.

With the Living Lamb, Death has returned
The just who left their graves.  (Matthew 27:52)

With the Passover Lamb, Egypt was breached,
And a path stretched out before the Hebrews.

Meditation:

Spend time thinking about what you just read, think about the two lambs and the typology you noticed. 

Read the Hymn a second time and highlight anything that stands out to you

Spend time reflecting on what stood out to you, and why you think it stood out for you.

Matthew 26:36-46

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Spend time in prayer with Jesus as he faces his destiny. Thank him for becoming the new Lamb, and becoming a sacrifice for our sins.

Has there been a time when you have been fearful? Ask Jesus to assist you to ‘drink from your cup’.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be


 

Christina Maksisi

Activities for Hosanna Sunday

Download these activities for the family on Hosanna Sunday.

Responding to Institutional Abuse

Certain allegations have emerged about abuse within Mission De Vie which is under the auspice of the Maronite Church in Lebanon. We are in no position to know the truth of any of those allegations and can’t comment on them.  However, experiences from around the world have demonstrated how sinister abuse in institutions can be.  In many parts of the world the Catholic Church is still dealing with the devastation amongst many of the religious orders and institutions in which these crimes have been committed. There have been a number of important lessons that have been learnt from situations in other countries which have uncovered institutional abuse against children and others forms of abuse around the world that we think are useful to be reminded about now.

  1. As a Church we must demand the highest standards of ourselves, especially when it comes to child protection. We must take complaints seriously and ensure the highest regulations of ourselves. We must also submit to the independent regulations which have been put in place for the protection of children in the civil societies we live in. Abuse does happen in the Church and it is unacceptable
  2. Voices calling out abuse must be supported, and we must demand they be heard. Natural justice, investigation and transparency are essential to uncovering the truth. Political interference in the judicial process and trial by media must be avoided. The media in particular must be careful in reporting witness testimony before it has been given in court and before investigations are concluded so as not to taint evidence or cause the victim further pain. We must remember that everyone deserves the right to due process and natural justice, including those accused. That is fundamental to uncovering the truth and protecting victims, and potential victims. Due process also requires that the judiciary is free from political and other influences and corruption. We accept that things become difficult when the allegations involve people of high profile and when the media and others are ready to decide cases even before the law has. Legislators must refrain from interfering with any process before investigations are concluded.
  1. What matters is the truth and it matters beyond reputations, including the reputation of the Church. Investigations of institutionalised abuse have revealed that so often the abuse continued because victims, especially children were not heard, because those that knew about the abuse remained silent, because those who reported it were not believed or because complaints were never investigated. Even more often, it was because people in power were more concerned about their own reputation and the reputation of the institution or the Church, than concerned with doing what was right and protecting children or victims.
  1. Abuse, especially at the hands of those in positions in power is nothing new and is not confined to the walls of the Church. Institutions are susceptible to it for all sorts of reasons which we are now learning about. It is made even worse in those developing countries that lack regulations or where there is lack of enforcement or where institutions are closely aligned to the political or judicial system and can influence it. It is also shocking, for some beyond belief and it challenges everything they have ever trusted. For the faithful, it is a huge betrayal and it takes time to process. Education is key.
  1. We must avoid defensiveness and the rhetoric of defensiveness. To the amazement of many, sometimes even ourselves, we stay in our Church, even when we are surrounded by the stench that is overwhelming us. We believe the Church and our spiritual lives transcend beyond the stench and beyond the actions of individuals. The collateral damage is the people who leave the Church because of the deep sense of disgust and betrayal they feel and we don’t judge them for that. But for those of us that remain in the Church, this is no time to remain silent. Avoid seeing things as an attack or a persecution of the Church. Rather anything that reveals the truth in fairness and in process must be welcomed. We must demand it before anyone, because that is what Christ demands of us – to protect those who cannot protect themselves and be a voice for those who are not heard and are hurt or marginalised.
  1. Today we pray for all those who have experienced sexual abuse, especially by those in positions of power in our own Church. We pray for all those who have to endure the consequences of it in fear and we pray, in this season of the Birth of Our Lord, we pray that the infant babe will protect all children.

Amen


Warning:

We understand that some readers may themselves have experienced sexual assault.
Be careful about disclosing your experience on social media. Others may not understand the issue causing you further distress. If this article causes you distress seek help from a rape or abuse service provider in your area.