Dear Clergy and Faithful,
The Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis coincides with our Melkite Jubilee – our 50th anniversary of the presence of our own Melkite bishop in the United States. In a symbolic manner, Pope Francis inaugurated the Holy Year of Mercy by opening the Holy Door and entering prayerfully into St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He emphasized that the symbolic opening to the divine life is the same gift of life that made Mary “worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ.” He performed this act on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of St. Ann attesting to the fact that this event changed the course of human history, making a way for the coming of Christ – the greatest Mercy of God.
During the Jubilee of Mercy, as well as the Melkite Jubilee, we are called to experience the joy of encountering the transforming power of the Godly life and to rediscover God’s infinite mercy to all of us. Pope Francis tells us “to put mercy before judgment.” Like Mary, he calls us “to become bearers of Christ and let ourselves be embraced by the mercy of God who waits for us and forgives everything.”
The fundamental theme is return – return to the loving and merciful God. We extend this same theme of renewal and return to our Melkite Jubilee – to call back to their spiritual home all Melkites who have strayed.
I have decided that the door to every parish church or mission is to be considered a holy door. What is very necessary for all to receive God’s blessings: each person must actively accept God’s mercy through participation in the Holy Mystery of Repentance or Confession. This is to be followed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – caring for and serving one another. We recognize our brokenness, and like the Prodigal Son, we return to our loving Father. Like the Good Samaritan, we are called to show mercy: we need to look for those who have strayed, those who are lost, those who are hurt, those who suffer – and lift them on our shoulders to return them to the merciful Father in our church communities.
We open wide the doors of all of our churches, for everyone to enter with a renewed spirit – every church door is a door of mercy, and each time we enter, we receive God’s grace to live our Christian life in a more active and focused way. Each time we enter we are reminded to shed our past and move from sin to grace – the Godly life.
Last week, we sent to all parishes monthly themes and activities for the Year of Mercy and our Melkite Jubilee. I ask that you follow them as much as possible. Each and every one of us needs to renew our personal life through the Holy Mystery of Confession. Then we can begin to develop more activities in our parish in order to welcome home those who have strayed and are in need of God’s mercy.
Each day we should add a special prayer to our family meals or prayers before our home icon corner. Two are included here and can be alternated each day. Psalm 135 (136) is chanted at Orthros or Morning Prayer on feasts. It is ideal for this Year of Mercy, known as the Polyeleos, meaning “abundant mercy.” A second prayer is given to us by Pope Francis. See the attached prayer sheets.
Please use these prayers daily.
Open your hearts. Open your church doors. Welcome those who seek the mercy of God. Be merciful like the Father!
With my prayers, good wishes, and blessings for a double jubilee celebration – Jubilee of Mercy and Jubilee of a Melkite Bishop in the USA, I remain,
✠ Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton