Praying and fasting for Syria
|Praying for Syria and the countries of the Middle East, |
Syriac Catholic Church, Ottawa
This text paved the way for pilgrims throughout the world to carry out the invitation of Pope Francis to pray and fast this day for peace in Syria and the countries of the Middle East. The last time a Pope called for a similar day of prayer and fasting was in 2003, when Pope John Paul II did the same before the Iraq war. The Vatican strongly opposed the US-led military actions in Iraq, and now, a decade later, Pope Francis continues to speak out against a potential military strike in the war-torn region. But why fast and pray? When we fast, we are suddenly aware once again of what is good and evil. We have a heightened awareness not only of God's goodness and of God's commandments, but of the evil that abounds in the world around us. Fasting calls us to redivert our attention back to the things of God and His commandments.
Yes, evil presents itself in so many ways and one of them is in seeping into the minds and hearts of people to convince them that war is the answer. As a sign of solidarity with the Syrian people and especially with one of our Canon Law classmates who is from Syria and ministers here in Ottawa, this evening some of us from Deschatelets went along to a time of prayer which was organised at Saint Paul Apostle Syriac Catholic Church. The Syriac Catholic Church follows a similar tradition to other Eastern Catholic Churches who use the West Syrian Rite, such as the Maronites and Syro-Malankara Christians. This rite is clearly distinct from the Greek Byzantine rite of Antioch of the Melkite Catholics and their Orthodox counterparts. It was such a blessing to be there present with our brothers and sisters from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other countries of the Middle East.
Before the celebration of the Divine Liturgy we prayed the decades of the Rosary in various Middle East languages as well as in English. We stayed on then for the celebration of Qurbana Qadisha ,also known as the “Holy Offering" or "Holy Sacrifice", referring to the Eucharist as celebrated according to the East Syrian and West Syrian traditions of Syriac Christianity. It was evident that the community appreciated our presence and made us feel very welcome, inviting us to join them afterwards for some refreshments which included lovely homemade Middle East snacks and desserts. Speaking to some of the parishioners after Divine Liturgy, I was struck with how many prevailed from Iraq and had to flee their country because of the war back in the 90’s. Their solidarity with their Syrian brothers and sisters was all the more genuine because, in the words of one man, ‘they are going through hell, and we as Iraqi people, know what that is like’.
|Pope Francis at prayer during the Vigil this evening|
The Holy Father continues: “Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also “violence, division, disagreement, war”. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness. When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict.” Sometimes we need to take time out to see the world in black and white, to see the parameters between good and evil very clearly. It is also a transition from that which lies on the surface to that which is more profound. As social media continues to advance at a rapid speed, often our maturity of our conscience does not keep pace. We are slow to express our condemnation of war, terrorism, to stand up in the name of truth and justice. It is not easy but neither was the Cross. To finish with the words of Pope Francis: “On the Cross, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.” Let us look to the Cross and keep praying that peace will be the gift given to so many peoples who long for it.