Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas in Damascus: a Parish is Born

We did a little something different this year in our Christmas concerts. Every three songs or so, one of the sisters gave a short reflection, told a story, introduced the song in a unique way. My turn came between "Carol of the Bells" and "There is Born a Child." I started by saying that the birth of every child is a sign of hope for the world; a sign that life is stronger than death; that no matter what we see or undergo, life wins in the end. Of course, the Child whose birth we celebrate this week was more than a simple "sign" of the power of life: He is LIFE itself ("In him was LIFE and the life was the light of all people"), and he did, in his own flesh, accomplish the definitive victory of life over the power of death.

In a way that is being experienced by our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria. In the very midst of destruction and death, life refuses to back down. Here is the Christmas message from the Maronite bishop of Damascus:

Most of our Maronite families of Damascus live away from the Cathedral in Bab Touma, the only Maronite church in Damascus. Since 2007 we have celebrated Liturgy with Syriac Catholics in Douwaylaa Jaramana and Greek Catholics in Kachkoul.

Coming together for an hour and a half a week is sufficient to form a parish. Despite the war, economic and social problems, our priests and faithful have launched three projects to develop three chapels in the three aforementioned areas. This is in order to better connect the community, to organize catechesis and Bible evenings, and for the catechumenate. Christ continues to allure and attract people to him.

The name of the first of these three Maronite churches is Church of the Blessed Brothers Massabki, Martyrs of Damascus (1860). It will be inaugurated at Kachkoul, in the eastern suburb of Damascus, on January 8, 2016 at 4 P. M.

In the middle of destruction this new chapel appears like the Star of the magi which leads to the Divine Child.  It is a true Christmas present; an oasis of prayer and a sign of joy and of hope in the middle of a world of violence, of intolerance, anguish, fear and death.

To build a Church in times of war and desolation expresses the will to overcome death and the courage of living the Faith. Our modest faithful choose to row against the current and to renew their confidence in Jesus Christ in this dark night. This year Christmas in Damascus merges with the Resurrection.

                                                   +Samir NASSAR

                                         Archev√™que Maronite de Damas 

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