by Michael Daoud
APRIL 8, 2021: H.H. the Pope Celebrates the Liturgy on the Anniversary of the Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Mostafa Kamel, Alexandria
H.H. Pope Tawadros II celebrated the divine liturgy this morning at the Church of Archangel Michael in Mostafa Kamel, Alexandria – marking 50 years passing since the first divine liturgy was celebrated in the church (April 8, 1971 – April 8, 2021).
Among the members of clergy present were the General Bishops responsible for the pastoral districts in Alexandria: Their Graces Bishop Pavly (El-Montazah District), Bishop Illarion (Western District), and Bishop Hermina (Eastern District). Heg. Fr. Abraam Emil (the Patriarchal Vicar in Alexandria), a number of priests who serve the church, and a limited number of members of the congregation were also present during the liturgy, while proper safety measures were implemented.
H.H. bestowed the rank of “Archdeacon” on Deacon Mikhail – most senior deacon of the Church of Archangel Michael in Mostafa Kamel, Alexandria.
The Pope’s Liturgical Sermon on the Anniversary of the Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria:
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen. May His grace, mercy and blessing be upon us, both now and ever, Amen.
On this blessed morning, my beloved, and in the Gospel Reading, Jesus performed a miracle on the Sabbath to a woman crippled by infirmity for 18 years and was suffering. From the miracle we know that it was the devil who possessed her soul, and Christ our Master came and healed her. The Scriptures say, “immediately she was made straight” and many glorified God.
On the other side, however, were those who objected to this and the ruler of the synagogue who rebuked the crowd and said, “there are six days on which men ought to work; therefore, come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The word ‘Sabbath’ in the Old Testament means rest, and as it is written, “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”: make it a day for the glorification of God and in the praising His Name. Nevertheless, when we read the Gospel, we find in the numerous miracles two kinds of people – ones with:
- Hearts full of stones
- Hearts full of mercy
“Go into your room, and when you have shut your door…” [Matthew 6: 6] April 8, 2021 Pope Tawadros’ Liturgical Sermon | Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria
If you pay careful attention to the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will find that He was in constant battle with those whose hearts were filled with mercilessness (cruelty). And how Christ our Master transformed their hearts into hearts full of mercy – a conflict between cruelty and mercy. When a person commits sin, he darkens and hardens his heart, and out of him comes all kinds of cruelty.
This was the real battle and which Christ our Master intended, through the great acts of mercy and the miracles He performed on the Sabbath day like the healing of the Paralytic, to purposely uproot this very cruelty from the people. We live these periods of Great Lent each year, to remove this very cruelty from within.
This is the purpose of fasting, for the person’s heart to be transformed from stone, mercilessness, the uncaring and inconsideration of others, into a heart full of mercy – a heart participating in and thriving on mercy. Christ our Master came to transform this mercilessness into mercy. During the Pre-Lent Week, we read in the Gospel, “go into your room, and when you have shut your door…” (Matthew 6: 6).
The room here is the heart of the person. Enter into your heart and discover its true nature. If throughout the year you were preoccupied with the affairs of others, then during the period of fasting: preoccupy your heart and “shut your door”. The door is the mouth: shut it in the face of words and food.
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst,” [John 4:13-14] April 8, 2021 Pope Tawadros’ Liturgical Sermon | Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria
On the Sunday preceding the Pre-Lentern Sunday, the Church teaches us through the Gospel reading that “the lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6: 22-23). The lamp of the body is the eye.
Does your eye lead your body in an appropriate manner? The Church cautious us to remain watchful over our eyes because it is the very entrance to the heart. Sin causes the heart to become hardened and cruel, fleeing from it all kinds of feelings, and those of repentance primarily.
In the beginning of the fasting journey, we examine our hearts, and mid-fast we hear, “whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst,” (John 4:13-14) that is to say he who drinks from the letter of the law; for legalism kills. He who fills his heart with mercilessness will remain thirsty, hungry and without rest. That is to mean spiritual thirst, and he who drinks from the waters of this world will remain thirsty, without rest and incapable of mercy.
“The Church teaches us “Blessed are those who have mercy, who give to the poor…” April 8, 2021 Pope Tawadros’ Liturgical Sermon | Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria
In His dialogue with the Samaritan woman, our Lord Jesus Christ was precise in His choice of words and praised her, with the woman eventually leaving her waterpot behind, that which was most important to her, and went to evangelize the people of Samaria. The waterpot is made of earth and clay, and when she forsook the waterpot she forsook mercilessness. Mid-fast, the Samaritan woman represents the spirit of humanity, the person must forsake the cruelty which causes him to judge others.
The fast is a journey consisting of ridding oneself from this mercilessness of the heart. The Church teaches us “Blessed are those who have mercy, who give to the poor…” not just those who give to the poor but those who fill their hearts with mercy as well. The most repeated words prayed in our Church are, “Kyrie Eleison/Lord Have Mercy”.
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” [Luke 5:32] April 8, 2021 Pope Tawadros’ Liturgical Sermon | Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria
It is shocking how hardened and cold a person’s heart can become like those in the miracle narrative who saw the woman suffering for 18 years, and after she was healed, criticized the situation. On the last Friday of Great Lent, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ concerning Jerusalem are repeated, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!
How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). Christ wills to gather your virtues, talents and abilities, and to transform them towards the path of mercy but you are not willing!! The judgement of Christ was very harsh as a consequence, “See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Luke 13:35). The house of the merciless person brings about destruction – the outcome of cruelty.
On the Eve of Great Saturday and during our reading of the Book of Revelation, we receive a strange command, “He who has ears, hear!” Therefore, pay attention to every meaning experienced in the life of the Church and what the Gospel teaches. “When the Lord was confronted this battle, how did He perform mercy? “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we find the father receiving his son into his bosom – a sign of mercy. Likewise, with the Samaritan woman, the paralytic and the man born blind – our Lord Jesus Christ wills to transform the person’s mercilessness that sin causes, into a heart capable of performing mercy.
We find in the world conflicts, wars and the controlling ego both at the level of individuals and nations – the result of sin. For this reason, beloved, and while we are before Christ our Master during this liturgy praying for our hearts to be lifted: ask him to uproot from you this mercilessness and cruelty of the heart. Ask God to grant you this heart.
In the Midnight Hour we pray and say, “for judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” Great Lent is a golden opportunity each year for one to become filled with the mercy of God, becoming himself merciful. Abide by the commandment to “be merciful,” always taking the side of service unto others rather than the side which serves cruelty and the letter of the law.
“It is a festive day celebrating 50 years of great work and we remember all those who laboured, served, struggled, as well as those who repented under the ministry of this church and those who have entered into a covenant with God through the Holy Mysteries.” April 8, 2021 Pope Tawadros’ Liturgical Sermon | Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria
On this joyous day, we celebrate the passing of 50 years since the first liturgy was celebrated in this holy church. We remember in good memory Fr. Kyrillos and his hard work, our beloved fathers the priests who serve this church, all the archdeacons and deacons as well as this congregation known for its service, work, and good spirit and people. Also joining me are the beloved bishops and the Patriarchal Vicar in Alexandria.
It is a festive day celebrating 50 years of great work and we remember all those who laboured, served, struggled, as well as those who repented under the ministry of this church and those who have entered into a covenant with God through the Holy Mysteries. When we celebrate joyous events such as this, we are to remember the departed as well. Reverence for the departed is a noble human value, and it is an honour to be made responsible for a place you once learned at.
As such, we are joyful to join you in celebrating this blessed memory in the service of this church which was once visited by the departed Pope Shenouda as well as being the location of the first church council under the orders of Pope Kyrillos. We remember all our fathers the metropolitans, bishops and all those who visited this church and all the fathers the priests of Alexandria and outside it.
May God make us joyful, and we offer on this day honour and righteous memory of all those who lived and laboured in this church. May you always be glad and joyful, and may God increase more of these festive occasions.
“It is of benefit to teach our young children and youth the value of reverence for the departed, and that we have entered into the labour and love of our forefathers.” April 8, 2021 Pope Tawadros’ Liturgical Sermon | Golden Jubilee of the Church of Archangel Michael in Alexandria
I also learned that the first liturgy was celebrated by the departed Bishop Maximos of Al-Qalyubia in the year 1971, and this is a beautiful memory. It is of benefit to teach our young children and youth the value of reverence for the departed, and that we have entered into the labour and love of our forefathers.
May those who have departed to Heaven pray and intercede for us, and may God reward all those who served and toiled in this place with all goodness and bless them in their lives, work, and protect them from all evil. We also pray that God lifts this pandemic from us.
I plead with you to continue in your strict observance of the safety measures in place and may God have compassion on us and lift this pandemic. To our God be all the glory and honour, both now and ever. Amen
Reported by Michael Daoud. Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2021-04-08 from Toronto. Canada
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