For the New Year 2021 from the Patriarchal…
For the New Year 2021 from the Patriarchal Cathedral “Maryamiyya” in Damascus
January 1, 2021
Dear beloved ones,
With supplicant eyes that implore the child of the cave, "the God of Peace and Father of Mercies," as He lies in a manger, we enter this new year asking for God's help and mercy. With eyes that seek the light of Jesus' face amid the darkness of the cave of this world, we contemplate Christ God and say to Him, "My Lord, take the lead in our lives and guide them in joy. Help us sail in this world and anchor our hearts in your peaceful haven, to contemplate You, our Lord and God, and to sing the praises of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men."
We open the New Year with prayer to remind ourselves, first, that we are the companions of the Holy One Who created the world with the word of His command and created humans with the breath of His Spirit. We open it with prayer in the hope that the Most High instilled in each of us. Hope stems first and foremost from within, despite all the cruelty it faces. As Antiochian Christians, since the dawn of history, we have been fixed in hope, and nail down by hope all the hardships, plagues, troubles, and wars of the world, because we are from the same dough as those who were first called by the name of Christ in Antioch two-thousand years ago.
We begin the New Year while the pandemic strikes from one end of the world to the other. As it witnesses the horrible scenery, the bleeding humanity bows its heart and being, supplicating the Lord of life and death to have compassion on His creation. Humanity bows down its heart before the present pandemic that came about to confirm that all humans are equal despite differences of religion, civilization, nationality, language, geography, gender, race, and color. Mankind is reeling before the pandemic that has passed, despite its bitterness, to say that we humans are all passengers of one boat, which God has placed amid the waves of the blue planet.
The present pandemic has come to shake the conscience of those who forget, or try to forget, that we share somehow a single destiny on the globe.
The pandemic came to remind us, despite all bitterness, that human beings are called to compete in facing dangers of all kinds with solidarity, not to take arms, fight bitterly, or spread violence and terrorism.
Mankind has packed the bellies of the earth with weapons of every kind, and at times has mastered the craft of hiding behind ideologies to protect itself, and has interpreted all this into wars, strife, and conflicts that decay it.
We pray to God and ask Him to take pity on His creation and speedily remove the pandemic. We pray that it might be, at least, a positive shock to humanity. To turn hostility into solidarity. Confrontation to meeting. Tyranny towards others to solidarity. The idolizing of our intellect, which desires to dominate everything, to understanding that we are creatures standing before the majesty of the Creator. Instead of taking up arms for the destruction of “the other,” to accept “the other” as a weapon of solidarity. To confront the sweet and bitter moments of the world with the peace of God and the sweetness of His goodness.
On New Year’s Day, we pray for peace in Syria. We pray for Syria, which has been suffering from war, the harshness of displacement, terrorism, and violence. We pray for this country that is beset by others’ interests and pays through the lives of its children in poverty, misery, and economic blockade. We pray for the bereaved mother, for the brother and the father distressed by losing their loved ones, who are overwhelmed by the cruelty of the present time. We pray the unity and integrity of the Syrian territories. We pray and work to alleviate the impact of the devastation that has led to bitter emigration. Syria longs for its days of peace. It is her right and the right of the Syrian people to live safely in the land of their ancestors. We pray for Syria to return, and by God’s will, it shall return to its previous peaceful times. We call upon the international community to immediately cease the economic sanctions and the sinful economic blockade that only targets a people who wants to live in dignity.
On New Year’s Day, we pray for Lebanon and its stability. We pray for our people in Lebanon who are overcome by the financial crisis and the weight of the Beirut port explosion. We call for the formation of the Lebanese government expediently, as stipulated in the constitution, not by resorting to the usual dividing of positions of power and influence, at least out of compassion for the people who are crushed by the collapsing national currency. People, especially the families and relatives of the deceased and afflicted victims of the explosion of the Beirut port and the economic crisis are impatiently and justifiably waiting for the results of the investigations. The courts and other authorities play an essential role, aside from politicization and retaliation, in revealing the truth of what happened in the port and the public funds, and enforcing accountability.
As Christians of the East, we never sought as a solution emigration or living in ghettos. Our contributions in the East are historical and crucial. We say this with consideration towards our children who emigrated throughout the world, as well as our children whom remain with us in the East. We offer the entire world, the governments and embassies, a solution that is more cost effective to their economies and the pockets of their taxpayers. The cost of wars, conflicts, and settling accounts on the lands of the Middle East, as well as receiving our emigrating children and the associated cost of integrating them into societies alien to them, is much more expensive than investing in peace in our lands. This is what we hope for.
Today we celebrate the Nativity of Christ in the flesh with heartache because of all those kidnapped, especially our brothers, the Archbishops of Aleppo, JOHN (Ibrahim) and PAUL (Yazigi), who have been kidnapped since April 2013, amid a condemnable and inacceptable international silence. We all pray that this tragedy may be resolved and reach its desired results. We join our hearts to the beloved faithful of Aleppo, as it awaits a word of hope regarding its two bishops, who were embodiments of peace and reconciliation in the midst of enmities and wars.
Our prayers today go out to the kind people who are steadfast in the occupied Golan Heights. We pray for our courageous people in every occupied land. We pray for Palestine and its people. We pray for Bethlehem, which received Jesus in the flesh. We pray for the Holy City, that witnessed Him suffering and resurrected from the dead. She is and remains the capital of Palestine and the pilgrimage of hearts to the mercies of God, the Father of lights, Lord of heaven and earth.
Our prayers are lifted for wounded Iraq and every part of this East. We pray for peace in the whole world.
I would like to thank the audio and visual team for broadcasting this liturgy. I especially thank Radio Damascus, which, for more than fifty years now, transmits this liturgy from the Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus. I also thank the Voice of Grace for transmitting the voice of our peace from Damascus that praises the Lord of the Heavens, and pouring it into the ears and hearts of those who joined us for this Liturgy all over the world.
To our children in the Antiochian See in the homeland and abroad, we send the fragrance of love, which comes from the manger of our incarnate loving God and an apostolic blessing of the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the founders of the Apostolic See of Antioch. May God bless you all and bestow upon you a multitude of His heavenly blessings.
At the beginning of the New Year, we approach the new born God, Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and death, the Source of hope and love, and ask Him to have mercy upon His world.
We ask Him for divine mercy and the heavenly kingdom for everyone who left us this past year and stand before His holy glory.
We ask Him to lift the present pandemic from His world and grant His solace and cure the sick and injured.
We pray for the unknown soldiers, the medical staff and front-line workers.
We pray to You, O Lord of mercy and compassion, to set our hope on You as a guide for our lives. May Your Gospel guide our path, that You may be born in the cave of our hearts and that we may chant to you from our hearts and lips:
"The Sun of perfection shone, so give thanks to the faithful Redeemer
He has wiped out the delusion, so thank Him at all times."
(A hymn of the late Metropolitan ATHANASIUS Atallah of Homs)
We hope that the New Year will grant to all goodness and the love of Christ. Amen.