Lent in the Greek-Melkite Church

Letter to the Faithful of the Patriarch of Antioch, Gregorios III Laham

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ROME, FEB. 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- "Open to me the doors of repentance, Lord, source of life, my spirit watches in your holy temple, bearing the very impure temple of my body, but in your goodness purify me, in your great tenderness and your compassionate love."

Taking up the orthros (morning) prayer that the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church sings from the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican to Palm Sunday, His Beatitude Gregorios III proposes to each one of the sons and daughters of his Church the invitation of Jesus Christ: "when you pray, go into your room and shut the door" (Matthew 6:6).

Gregorios III's Lenten Letter is an invitation to fasting, penance and prayer to draw benefit from the "time of salvation" to "deepen our spiritual life," giving Mary to us as a guide who "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

The Patriarch asks each one to take time for a retreat, for recollection to rediscover God in the silence of their hearts, recalling how the Divine Liturgy invites us to silence and recollection: "Silence all mortal flesh" (Holy Saturday, Tropario sung instead of the Kherouvikon), "Let Us Be Vigilant" (Introduction to the anaphora).

Gregorios III also invites the faithful "during the great season of Lent to intensify the lectio divina of the Word of God, in private or in groups, during several pastoral meetings, and the sharing of the Gospel after the reading. This is the object of Propositions 2 and 3 of the Special Assembly on the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops."

The letter also says that "it is important to educate young people, to invite them to silence, to calm, especially during free time and youthful activities. To reduce the number of songs during parish meetings and activities."

Finally, His Beatitude says that prayers during the Lenten season are our guide "on the paths of corporal penance through fasting, abstinence and mortification, and on the paths of spiritual penance (metanoia), according to what our conscience inspires us illumined by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. These practices are directed to the sanctification of our souls with prayer, purification, penance, confession, spiritual elevation to God and union with Him, with his love, with love and service of our neighbor, with the reception of the holy mysteries (sacraments), with the practice of the virtues of faith, hope and charity, with almsgiving and acts of spiritual and corporal mercy, as a spiritual ladder to ascend to the Resurrection."

Patriarch Gregorios III ends his Letter with an invitation to make Lent 2012 a "time of prayer and of intercessions." "In the present tragic situations of our Arab countries, especially in Syria, we invite our priests and faithful to transform this Lent into a time of prayer and intercessions, of penance, of the intention for peace, solidarity, unity, concord, dialogue and respect among all citizens. May God protect our Arab countries, especially Syria! May it please the Lord that this season of Lent may lead us on the true paths of resurrection and peace!"

With the Church, we sing: "Brothers, do not pray in the way of the Pharisee, because he who exalts himself shall be abased. Let us, rather, abase ourselves before God, as the Publican, and say as he did: Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!"