From the Rector’s Desk—March 2015

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Photo Credit: Tony Rezk

Icon of the 21 New Martyrs of Libya courtesy of Tony Rezk.

Nothing Compares to Martyrdom

I can’t tell you how much a difference my vacation made. Now, I am sorry if sharing stories of balmy weather stirs the passions of jealousy, envy, covetousness or whatever, as we begin Lent: I truly have a renewed sense of compassion for all of those who are suffering during this winter’s frigid blasts.

But our suffering—our momentary weather woes—is nothing compared to the suffering of the Christian faithful of the Middle East. They aren’t worrying about the weather this Lent. Theirs is a real spiritual struggle simply to stay alive, and not for want of food.

While we have been praying regularly for those persecuted there for over a year, the martyrdom of 21 young men in Libya on February 15 graphically demonstrates the perilous times in which the Church finds herself. We normally emphasize many of the (ancient) martyrs’ heroic deeds in our Lenten services, but this year their heroism is being shown on the evening news.

Even more telling, and omitted from the television accounts, as far as I can tell, was not only the fact that the martyrs’ last words were literally “Jesus Christ” but that one man—a native of Chad—was not technically Coptic Orthodox at all. He was, according to reports, a non-believer, so moved by the Christians’ resolve not to renounce Christ, that he willingly joined them in martyrdom and confessed Christ as he was put to death. He received what the Church calls the “baptism of blood.”

This radically changes everything for me. I went on vacation to get the rest I needed to do Lenten services. But these young martyrs went to heaven.  My concerns now seem rather paltry and I begin Lent chastened by their witness.

May the new-martyrs’ memory be eternal. May they intercede in glory for us. And please forgive me my sins against you during this past year.

God forgives. I forgive. Blessings for a good Lent!     — Fr . John

Also From Father’s Desk…

  • Pope Tawadros II announced last month the inclusion of the 21 New Martyrs of Libya in
    the Synaxarium (official list of saints) of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Milad, Abanub, Maged, Youssef, Kirollos, Bishoy, Samuel, Malak, Tawadros, Gerges, Mina, Hany, Samuel, Ezzat, Luka, Gaber, Essam, Malak, Sameh, Gerges, and Mathew (formerly the unknown worker from Awr Village) will be commemorated for 40 days and then each year on February 15.
  • The Parish Council anticipates approving both a final design for the Chapel of the Holy Spirit this month, as well as letting a bid for the renovations to Trinity House. I want to thank each and every one of you for your prayers in both regards. Dirt will truly be flying a lot this year (the good kind!). Abp. Melchisedek will join the Council in person to discuss these projects and more on Thursday, March 12 at 7 p.m.