Tag Archives: Syriac tradition

Christ’s victory in the Cross

Crucifixion Georges RouaultIn the Syriac Christian tradition the Cross of Jesus is known as a bridge that connects us to new life and the promise, the glory of the kingdom. The Lord Himself is the gate that let’s us into our eternal home. The gate is also the saving wood of his cross. This is part of His I AM –the personal mission given to Him by God the Father. Those who live and pray in the Syriac theological tradition (the Syriac Church or the Maronite Church) know that after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross the Church’s Liturgy counts the Sundays in this manner: “3rd Sunday after the Holy Cross.” It is an acknowledgement of this pivotal feast of the Paschal Mystery. The Church keeps us focussed on the beauty and victory of the Cross of Jesus. What does divine revelation and the teaching of the Fathers reveal to us? The Victorious and Life-giving sacrifice of the Cross “is the sign of all that is good, coming from Christ the Lord: the gospel, the sacraments, new life, his shield of protection, as well as the sign of his final victory.”

The sainted deacon and hymn-writer Saint Ephrem (fourth century) speaks of “the Cross as the new Tree of Life, mystically describes the branches of the Tree of the Cross as the arms of a mother who picks-up her children to nourish them with the fruits – the sacraments – from the bosom of her branches. Christ himself, through his saving cross has become for us this Tree of Life; the Luminous Sign of our victory over death through the life-giving graces of the Father’s nurturing Spirit.”

Paolo Dall’Oglio reported killed by Islamic rebels in Syria

The Reuters news agency, and several other agencies are reporting, though not the Holy See as yet, that Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria killed Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, 59, who was kidnapped on 29 July.

Pope Francis mentioned his name at Mass on the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola on 31 July.

For the past 30 thirty years Father Dall’Oglio has been leading a religious and cultural life at the Monastery of Saint Moses (Deir Mar Musa). The Monastery and its community was known to be an interfaith center devoted to Muslim-Christian friendship. Rebuilding this 6th century but abandoned monastery was Father’s and his small community’s attempt at preserving Syrian Christian establishments. One of the stunning pieces of Syrian religious patrimony Dall’Oglio preserved was an 11th century fresco of the Last Judgment.

Father Dall’Oglio was ordained as a Syrian Catholic priest; he spoke Arabic and studied Islamic theology and philosophy. His doctoral studies and writing at the Gregorian University concentrated on the virtue of hope in Islam.

Father was expelled from Syria in 2012, though he would sneak back into the country from time-to-time.

More recently his voice has been heard in calling for the deposition of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and some Islamist rebel groups.

Eternal memory.

Father Franҫois Mourad, Syrian monk, killed

Fr Franҫois Mourad.JPG

Father Franҫois Mourad, 49, a Syrian monk, was killed on June 23, during a raid on the Franciscan monastery of Saint Anthony of Padua in Ghassanieh, a predominantly Christian village in the district of Jisr al-Shughur in the province of Idlib, near the border with Turkey.

Father Mourad was trained by the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land Custody before joining the Trappists for a period of time. His formation as monk with the Trappists eventually led him to be ordained a priest in the Syrian Catholic Church of Al-Hasakah. Following the teaching of Saint Simon, Father Mourad founded a monastic community in Hwar, in the Aleppo Province.

Vatican Radio has a story here and there is another news report here.

May Father Franҫois Mourad’s memory be eternal.

Why Christians need Antioch

These weeks we are hearing the narrative of the very early followers of The Way, that is, those who adhere to the Good News taught by Jesus, the crucified and risen one.


With the killing of the deacon while kidnapping the two bishops in Syria has me concerned about Christians losing the sensitivity to the importance of Syria as a key Christian center. Most Western Christians forget that our Christians origins in the West  was first formed in the East. Recall from Acts that “it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” It was in Antioch, not in Rome, not in Moscow, not in Constantinople, that the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were first generated by the Holy Spirit, they were called by name. It’s not West OR East, but West AND East when comes to Christian faith. Does Antioch have any resonance with you Christians? Do you have any concern for our Christian heritage in Syria? What’s our concern for those being killed for being Christian today? Do we even care? Remember: God has created each of us to do Him some definite service; let us live and work in charity for our neighbor.

A famous Antiochian saint, the bishop Ignatius said this in his letter to the Magnesians, “It is right, therefore, that we not just be called Christians, but that we actually be Christians” (4.1).

Too often do I hear that it was much easier to be a Christian of the early years following the Ascension of the Lord and the Pentecost than today. That’s a crazy idea! First of all, no one who knows history can hold that idea as valid. Those who really and truly followed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Messiah and Word made flesh, were harassed and/or killed. The Acts of the Apostles testifies to the fact that Jesus’ followers were killed. There is little difference with state of Christianity in AD 13 than in 2013. So what happened to the Christians in the 1st century is no different than what the dictatorship in Syria is doing now.

So, we can’t allow Syria to further unravel and act contrary to faith and reason. We need to remember that Antioch is crucial to our Christian identity today because our faith in the Lord is no less real, no less beautiful, no less controversial today than in previous eras. It is in Antioch (Syria) that we our Christian identity (belief, liturgy, church tradition, music, science and culture) was formed. Antioch (that is, Syria in general) and the people who live there  is the place where and the community where we’ve learned the horizons of our Hope in what Jesus promised.

A preacher whom I like very much is the Very Reverend Denis Robinson, OSB, the president-rector of Saint Meinrad School of Theology. Dom Denis is a  Benedictine monk and priest who teaches systematic theology. In 2007, he earned a doctorate in theology specially in the work of Blessed John Henry Newman from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. Recently, he said,

As long as we keep stored up in ourselves the well-rehearsed scripts of indifference, ineptitude, pain, doubt, self-loathing. As long as we think we know the answers, after all that’s what mamma said, until we see that the world is more complicated than the truth we learned at our mother’s knee Brothers and sisters, there is one thing and one thing only that we need. We need Antioch. We need that identity. We need Antioch because we must learn to call ourselves something other than forsaken. We need Antioch. We need to learn to love rather than judge, to give rather than take, to provide for one another rather than constantly seeking the self, the damn self that will be truly damned if we cannot give ourselves over to Christ, all to Christ, fully to Christ, forever to Christ. Where will it be? Where will it be then? If not in Antioch, where will it be? Brothers and sisters we continue to revel in this Easter season knowing I hope full well that the complex completeness of Easter did not come on that solemn night of proclamation. Antioch beckons us in the name of towns and places as yet unseen, unknown, unexplored. And we respond full of hope that the fullness of Easter is still rushing in.

The Syriac Catholic Church in North America

Referring to the Catholic Church as missionary may seem odd to some people. We don’t think of the Church in terms of being missionary, yet we are. To refer to a Catholic diocese in North America as a “mission diocese” may even rest uneasily on some ears. But both statements are true: the Catholic Church is missionary and there are some dioceses in North America that are mission dioceses. The Church always proposes the eternal truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that the Church He founded is His extension of love and mercy in history.

The presence of the Syriac Catholic Church in North America is a mission diocese (eparchy in church-speak when referencing an Eastern Catholic jurisdiction). The headquarters here is the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark.

Eastern Catholic bishops USA 2012.jpg

NJ.com carried a story by Father Alexander Santora today, “Syriac Catholic bishop is a very busy man,” covers a lot of ground in acquainting us with this particular Church which is not a mere rite, but fully in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI.
As a Catholic jurisdiction established by Pope John Paul II in 1995, with Bishop Joseph Younan as the first eparch –who has since 2009 been the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church– and now governed by Bishop Joseph Habash, 61, as the second bishop.
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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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