CHRISTMAS 2017

Message of His Excellency
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
to the People of the
Maronite Church in Australia

GOD SPEAKS TO US BY HIS SON

 

Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters of our Maronite Eparchy,
1. The greatness of the divine mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas flows from God's love reflected in his plan of salvation. After the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God did not leave man, created in His image and likeness, to remain subject to evil and sin, but he promised him a Saviour. Since the beginning of times, God has tried to draw closer to us and speak with us in various different ways. On multiple occasions, He called to our fathers through prophets and messengers. In the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), God spoke to us by his Son Jesus, who became man, and dwelt among us and was like us in all things except sin. The most beautiful thing at Christmas is that God no longer communicates with us through indirect means, but meets us face to face, enters into a direct dialogue with us, and speaks to us in a language we understand about the kingdom of heaven, revealing to us that we are called to become his adopted children.
2. Our annual celebration of Christmas is an occasion to listen to the words of God whispering in our hearts, telling us that "Emmanuel" is a renewed and clear reality, because our God is with us today, every day and forever. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. We can always meet him and receive him as the shepherds and the Magi did, to transform our lives from anxiety and sorrow to true peace and constant joy.
3. When we contemplate the Nativity scene, let us see that God humbled himself and became a little child in a poor manger. Then we can understand that the secret of love between God and man passes through both the manger of Bethlehem and the burial tomb of Jerusalem. Therefore, at this joyous time, it is important that we are not preoccupied with only external and secondary matters, such as gifts and decorations, and that we do not allow Christmas to become just a holiday for leisure and enjoyment. Rather, we should not forget that Christmas is first and foremost a spiritual celebration, during which we are called to a renewal of our faith and love to God by practicing the sacrament of reconciliation and confession, and by dedicating time for personal prayer and the holy Mass. In this way, the joy of this feast may reach the depth of our hearts and our lives and not remain superficial and external.
4. Christmas is a feast and a season for the whole family, from which stems our Christian understanding of the sanctity of marriage. However, the moral and faith challenges we have recently faced, in our Australian society, and the misleading campaigns and new legislation have unfortunately enshrined the division of society about the concept of marriage. It is regrettable that traditional human concepts are attacked and basic freedoms are restricted. The bigger concern is that this is done in the name of new freedoms that carry strange opinions and concepts. We certainly cannot establish solid foundations on these proposals for our nation and society. These changes do not guarantee the future of either the family or the person. This is the reason why many people are concerned for the future of their children and families and for their moral values. On this holy feast, we place before the child in the manger, his mother Mary and Saint Joseph, our concerns and challenges, and we raise our prayer, with all people of good will, for unity within our diverse society. We ask the divine Child to enlighten the minds of our political leaders so they realise the need to review the laws on marriage and amend them to restore and secure religious and public freedoms, for cohesion and harmony between all Australians.
5. On this feast, we also pray to the Virgin Mary, asking her to be the companion of our journey and the patron of our first Maronite Synod, under the theme: Strong in Faith, Growing in Love. The preparatory session held on the 25th of November 2017 was a good start in preparation for the main session from the 12th to the 14th of April 2018. With all of you, dearly beloved, I ask the Virgin Mary to lead us to her son Jesus and ask Him to bless our Eparchy and the work of our Synod. We are hopeful that this Synod will bear the good fruits of a true spiritual, pastoral and apostolic renewal for all the children of the Maronite Church in Australia.
6. Finally, we ask our heavenly Father for a joyous and successful celebration of the feast of St. Maroun on the 9th of February 2018, when we will welcome to our Eparchy, for the first time, the relics of our father St. Maroun. May this be an occasion for us to meet with each other and to live in true Maronite spirituality, which stems from the mystery of the incarnation and redemption. As Maronites, may holiness be our true source of pride and the most precious and beautiful gift that we give to our community and the world at Christmas.
Christ is born… Alleluia!

Sydney, 24 December 2017.

+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia

Message of
His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
to the Faithful
on the occasion of Easter 2017

We are Witnesses to His Resurrection (Acts 2:32)

Beloved Children of our Maronite Eparchy,

1. "He is Risen... and we are witnesses to that" (Acts 2:32; 10:38-40). The Easter journey is a journey from the darkness of the tomb to the light of the Resurrection; a journey from the suffering of the Cross and the sorrow of death to the joy and glory of victory over pain and bereavement. The purpose of this journey is the attainment of eternal life. This great hope flowing from the historic event of Easter, is a witness to the death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This hope has endured through the centuries and reaches us today, for each one of us was in the mind and heart of Christ on the day of his crucifixion and also on the day of his Resurrection. As such, every person is invited to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and to proclaim the Paschal mystery, which is the passage of man, through the grace of Jesus, from death to life.

2. The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is a truth, as bright as the sun. In the Gospels, we find the witnesses to this truth. Their testimonies complement one another and they are beyond any reasonable doubt. The first witness to his death and Resurrection is Jesus himself, who prophesied this several times. The Evangelist Matthew records Jesus speaking about his death and Resurrection on six different occasions. (12:38, 16:21 , 17:9, 17:22-23, 20:19, 26: 31-32)

3. Before I come to the witnesses of Christ's Resurrection, let us consider the testimonies to his death:

a. The first testimony of Jesus' death on the Cross was by the centurion who was responsible for the crucifixion (Matthew 27:45-65; Mark 15:33-41, 45).
b. The second testimony records that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph asked for the body of Jesus to be taken down from the Cross. He wrapped it in linen and had it placed in a new tomb. A large rock was rolled before the door of the tomb. It was sealed by orders of King Herod and watched over by guards. (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:46; John 19:39-40; Luke 23:50-56)

4. The testimonies in the Bible to the Resurrection of Christ from the dead are many:

a. First, the narrative of the empty tomb and the angel's statement to the women, saying: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” The angel also told them to proclaim the good news to the apostles. (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:6)

b. The second testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is from the disciples Peter and John, who after hearing the news, came quickly to the place where Jesus was buried. They found the empty tomb, and the linen strips and handkerchief on the ground and believed that He had truly risen (John 20: 3-8).

c. The third witness came from the guards at the tomb who felt the earthquake. They witnessed the stone roll from the door of the grave and were surprised to see the angel of the Lord sitting on it. His face was like the lightning, and his garments white as snow. The guards went into the city and reported to the elders and chief priests everything that had happened. But the chief priests devised a plan and gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them to say that Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole him away while they were asleep. (Matthew 28: 2-4,11-15). This raises the question, how could the guards see the apostles steal the body of Jesus if they were asleep?

d. The final proof of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus is his several apparitions after the Resurrection: first to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18), then to Peter (Luke 24:34) and then to the disciples of Emmaus with whom He walked and to whom he revealed Himself with the breaking of the bread (Luke 24: 13-35). All these appearances to the apostles were to strengthen their faith. However, the appearance of Jesus to Thomas, who was not with the apostles on the previous occasions, with its clear and tangible proofs, is the most beautiful and strongest testimony of his Resurrection. Today, we renew our faith in the death and Resurrection of Christ, despite the many attempts to discount and distort this truth in today's world, and we utter a cry of faith with the Apostle Thomas saying: “My Lord and my God!”

Dearly Beloved,

5. Christian life is built on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and on constant witness to his Resurrection from the dead. This is the truth that our Maronite Church has lived and experienced generation after generation, and in defence of which it gave the blood of its martyrs. We are today called to renew our faith in this truth. With this belief, our Patriarch, His Beatitude and Eminence Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, along with the Maronite Synod of Bishops, declared a year for martyrdom and the witness of the martyrs, starting on the Feast of Saint Maroun on 9 February 2017 and concluding on the Feast of St. John Maroun on 2 March 2018. This also marks the passing of 1500 years from the martyrdom of the 350 monks of the Monastery of Saint Maroun in the year 517.

6. In order to be witnesses to the Resurrection of the Lord in today's society, we must be spiritually renewed by practicing the sacrament of reconciliation, participating in the Holy Mass, and receiving the body and blood of Jesus every Sunday, and even every day if we can. This is the best way to renew and strengthen our faith in Jesus, risen from the dead. We live this faith in our church through the intercession of the Saints. If our Church is to bear a better and broader Christian witness in Australia, we need to meet and put together spiritual and pastoral plans. We need to discuss the social problems and challenges that face us, especially the challenge of passing on the faith, the faith of our forefathers, to new generations.

7. With the aim of improving our Christian witness and strengthening the family and defending marriage, we launched, three years ago, plans to hold a Diocesan Assembly for our Maronite Eparchy in Australia. The good news today is that the Assembly will hold its first general meeting from the 24th to the 26th of November 2017 in Sydney, with the participation of parish and ecclesial representatives and Maronite organisations from all over the country.

8. Finally, with St Augustine we repeat: “It’s no great thing to believe that Christ died; even pagans and Jews and wicked people believe that. They all believe that he died. The faith of Christians is Christ’s resurrection. This is the great thing: we believe that he rose from the dead.” As such, we understand that it is not possible to be true Christians unless we believe in the Resurrection of Christ. Jesus risen from the tomb and victorious over evil, sin and death, is ever present in the heart of the world, present through his Holy Spirit, through His living word, and in His body and blood in the Eucharist. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we then call to mind the truth of his suffering, death and Resurrection and his constant living presence with us. He is closer to us than ourselves because Jesus is the same: yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We live in hope of the revelation of his Glory in the second coming.

9. On this Holy Day, we all turn to Jesus and cry out with one voice and in one faith: "Come, O Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20). Come and seal our hearts with the seal of your glorious Resurrection. Strengthen our faith that we may witness to you and boldly declare the truth of your Resurrection saying:

“Christ is Risen, Truly Risen… and we are witnesses to that.”

+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia
Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017

Message of
His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
to the Faithful
on the occasion of Easter 2016
“He is not here… He is Risen!” (Luke 24:6)


Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Children of our Maronite Eparchy,


The truth of the Resurrection that was revealed by the angels on the morning of the third day to the Marys, and through them to the apostles and from them to all of us, is a truth that shines as clear as the sun. The Church is an oasis of hope and salvation for the world, based on this truth. The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead is the essence of our faith, and the source of our joy. It is the greatest event in human history. It is of everlasting importance to us. It is the cornerstone of the building of the Church. It constitutes the faith of its children. “And if Christ has not been raised,” Paul the Apostle writes, “then your faith is for nothing; you are still guilty of your sins” (1 Cor 15:17).


"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (Lk 24: 5) This quintessential and pivotal question was asked on Easter morning, and has echoed from generation to generation, carrying the good news of joy and peace of the Resurrection of our Lord. He is not here ... death can no longer contain him and he cannot remain in the grave. He came to us and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of God the Father. He completed his journey on earth as a full human being, subjecting himself to the power of death and the grave! But through the power of a love stronger than death, he rose and triumphed over death. He is Risen ... truly he is risen and his Resurrection has opened for us the path leading from earth to heaven and has lifted our humanity from death to life.


Our celebration of Easter this year occurs in the heart of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, announced by His Holiness Pope Francis as a starting point in the renewal of our faith through repentance. It calls for real openness to others. It is an open invitation to heed our marginalised brothers and sisters, the poor and the disadvantaged. Let us hasten to assist them, and to be for them oases of hope and charity bringing to them God's mercy through Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the poor and the sick, the persecuted and the stranger.


We, in our Eparchy, strive to live the joy of the Resurrection in our families and our parishes every day. We work together, armed with a strong will and determination to achieve our pastoral projects. We are serving the spiritual needs of our Maronite children, dispersed as they are all over this beloved country, Australia. We are establishing new parishes in new areas. Our pastoral work is complemented by our apostolic work through MaroniteCare, which is our Eparchial agency to support our Eparchy’s humanitarian projects, especially in the areas of marriage, the family, the elderly, drug addiction and the relief of refugees and the poor. In all these, we seek the inspiration of the Divine Providence and rely on your constant prayer, your loving cooperation and your generous support, as loyal children of St Maroun.


The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is bigger than any event, beyond any celebration, and more than just a memory, it is the spring of new life for each one of us, and the source of hope, converting the journey from mortality to immortality, a goal beyond the reach of death.


Led by the light of the Resurrection, we beseech our Lord Jesus, to illuminate the darkened minds of those individuals who plot terror, murder and war, especially in the long-suffering Middle East. May they heed the voice of their conscience, and immediately stop the war, so that the journey towards peace may commence. Let the persecution of Christians cease, so that those who suffer be shown mercy, and the oppressed find compassion. May the light of the Resurrection shine on the entire world so that peace may reign, and real joy replace sadness and gloom.


Dearly Beloved,


For you all, I pray on this glorious feast, and with you, I glorify the Risen Lord. I kneel down and worship his eternal presence with us in the Eucharist. May our celebration of Easter this year be an incentive to renew the spiritual life of our families, and a new beginning to the practice of mercy in our lives. May this Easter radiate new hope in our church that we may all rejoice, crying out with one voice saying:
Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!


Sydney, 27 March 2016


+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia


CHRISTMAS 2016

Message of His Excellency
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
to the People of the
Maronite Church in Australia

THE HOPE OF OUR FATHERS
AND THE EXPECTATION OF THE NATIONS

Dearly Beloved,

1. At the Birth of our Lord Jesus, we celebrate a feast of hope, for in him were fulfilled what the prophets and messengers foretold, and the long wait of our fathers and the nations reached its desired goal. The promised saviour was born, Emmanuel, “God with us"; the dream came true and Good Hope was revealed to all humanity.

2. The Birth of our Lord Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, manifested the love of God the Father in the Son made man, and Christ the Lord was glorified in the child born from the Virgin Mary, the daughter of David. The Word of God has become flesh to give the whole of humanity a new life for a new covenant in which the Word incarnate would be revealed. This Word is light itself. It is the sun of righteousness that shines on all the darkness of history, to illuminate it with the light of hope of the new era, because "separated from Christ .... we are without hope "(Eph 2/12).

3. We celebrate Christmas this year, when the glimmer of hope is about to expire in the hearts of many. The hope in our souls is threatened by the spread of religious fundamentalism that chooses the language of murder, darkness and intimidation towards others. The recent terrorist attack at St. Peter's Church, attached to St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, was the worst in a series of attacks and persecution against the Christian minority in Egypt. This violence has the sinister goal of igniting a religious war. The attack which killed over 25 people, mostly women and children, and injured many more, leads us first to condemn terrorism and to reject it. We question the state of the world's conscience about the fate of minorities, especially Christians in the Middle East. We also question the Egyptian people about Egypt, for it was a refuge for the holy family of Nazareth who fled there to escape from the threats of Herod. Is this tradition still alive?

4. The luminous, indisputable truth is that Christmas preaches hope in the midst of suffering, pain and adversity. The Christmas star is the Star of Hope, which made the people walking in darkness see a great light (Is 9:2). Our hope does not come from other people, but from God, from whom and through whom comes healing to the world. Hope, which is at the foundation of a renewed world, helps us to alleviate the pain and resist evil, but we cannot eradicate them, until God becomes all in all.

5. It is therefore imperative that we ask today: What can we hope for? And what must we have the courage and wisdom to simply accept?
Above all, we hope in Christ’s promise to us of salvation and eternal life, not only as a reality to come, but as a present fact. The frustration and despair felt by man today as a result of the failure of scientific progress and development to bring him happiness renders the mission of the Church and its people an urgent and difficult one at the same time. Our world desperately needs a Hope that can bring a real joy to the heart. The revolution of science and technology that we are witnessing may contribute to the building of human society, but it could also potentially destroy humanity, if it is not related to forces beyond it and stronger than it. What ultimately saves man and grants him true happiness is neither science, nor the speed of social communication, nor the digital media and electronic games which have entered our homes, and taken a prime place in our daily lives, and the lives of our children, as a daily bread that we cannot dispense with. Technology does not intend to leave us any time soon, but rather the opposite for it has ascended an imaginary throne in our lives. The least we can say is that this is robbing us of our children and the human dimension of lovingly interacting with others.

6. It is only the true love that gives of itself, and not modern science or technology, that can save man and bring hope to his heart. When man experiences a great love, he truly enters into an oasis of redemption and salvation, giving new meaning to his life. Those touched by true love can sail in the mystery of life and as they delve deeper, they find hope emanating from the mystery of the divine incarnation, for it is truly the hope of our fathers and the expectation of the nations.

7. Dearly Beloved,
Reflecting on the great event of Christmas, we become aware of the importance of renewing our faith in a society that is suffering a crisis of faith in God, failing to realise that a world without God is a world without hope. Hope is a holy virtue that results from our Christian faith and invigorates it. There is no hope without faith, and no faith without hope. They go together and they both flow from the love of God and lead the journey of God's people towards the joy of Heaven.

8. We experience this journey of hope in a particular way in our Eparchy especially as we launch the work for the Diocesan Synod with the first general assembly to be held in the last week of November 2017. The assembly will address the seven pastoral priorities announced in 2013, and consider ways to activate the role of the laity in our Church, in addition to various pastoral, apostolic and spiritual matters in our Eparchy.

9. The mission of our Maronite Church in our multicultural Australian society is to spread the message of hope, not only for our sake as Maronite Christians, but for others so that we may be, for them, messengers of the good news of the Gospel. May we help others to walk under the guidance of the Christmas star, the Star of Hope, to the manger of Bethlehem, to worship the Divine Child. From thereon commences the journey of formation in faith, hope and love.

10. Prayer is essential to grow in hope. When no one else hears or listens to me, God still listens to my pleas. And when I can no longer speak with anyone, I can speak with God. It is beautiful when families come together to pray and praise the Divine Child at Christmas, this Child who has entered the history of each and every one of us and become closer to us than ourselves.

11. The good news for us today is that "God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety." (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 31). Let us therefore rejoice and chant:


"Christ is born ... Alleluia"

Sydney, 24 December 2016.

+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia

Message of His Excellency
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
to the People of the
Maronite Church in Australia
for Christmas 2015

At Christmas, God’s Mercy is Incarnated

1. This year, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ occurs in the course of the "Jubilee Year of Mercy" declared by Pope Francis. This commences on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the eighth of December, and ends in 2016 on the Feast of Christ the King, the twentieth of November.

2. The mercy of God was first revealed in His creation of man: "in the image of himself … male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). This mercy has accompanied man despite his sinning and going astray. It was evident in various stages of the history of the people of God in the Old Testament, but manifested itself in a unique way in the New Testament, when God revealed himself to us through his incarnate Son. This mercy, which appeared in history as an oasis of repentance and reconciliation, in fact transcends all time and space. It endures forever. As the Psalmist says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

3. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of mercy itself into our world as a perfect expression of God's love for humanity. The most beautiful thing we can contemplate at Christmas is the incarnation of God’s mercy. This not only reveals to us the greatness of his boundless love and pity for those who sin and have gone astray, but also that the mercy which flows from the heart of God has now, through the Divine Incarnation, entered the human heart, making us more merciful to our brothers and sisters.

4. Today's world is suffering tremendously from violence and hatred. This is often joined to a hardness of heart and hostility that leads to torture and murder justified on religious or ideological grounds. More than ever, there is an urgent need now to experience that mercy of God which leads man to practice compassion and sympathy when dealing with others. From merciful God to merciful humanity, we journey in contemplation in the words of our Lord Jesus: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

5. Our celebration of the incarnation of mercy at Christmas must not be limited to words and theories that hold us prisoners of the letter and the law. We are called, in this Year of Mercy, to courageously and confidently leave our comfort zones, and to practice compassion and forgiveness in response to Our Lord’s call to us to repent. Jesus met with sinners and evil-doers, and changed their lives and their hearts, not through the force of law or the threat of justice, but by mercy and love, proclaiming: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

6. One of the main characteristics of God’s mercy, revealing his omnipotence, is that it knows no bounds. The Lord Jesus explained this in the parable of the Good Samaritan where a man fell victim to thieves, who left him beaten and half dead along the side of the road. The Good Samaritan, overcoming the ancient animosity between Jews and Samaritans, and transcending religious and ethnic barriers, treated the man with mercy. This reveals to us how God's mercy knows no bounds. As such, the mercy of each of us towards our brothers and sisters must overcome every barrier and border, and necessarily be put into practice, not remaining a fleeting emotion.

7. On this occasion, I invite you, dear sons and daughters of our Eparchy, to work together and extend a helping hand to the deprived and vulnerable, especially to the refugees in Lebanon and the Middle East. Let us also bear in mind the poor and the marginalised in many parts of the world, where they have been pushed to the outskirts of big cities, where they live in extreme poverty and suffer deprivation and injustice.

8. Every work of mercy which we perform for one of our brethren, we do also for the person of Jesus himself, who is concealed behind the hungry and the thirsty, the sick and the stranger, the marginalised and the prisoner, whether we know this or not.

9. Dearly beloved,
This Year of Mercy is a voice calling our political leaders in the wilderness of today's world, to truthfully and honestly work for peace and bring to an end the wars throughout the world, especially in Syria and Iraq. It is also a call to all those who, to achieve their hidden agendas, employ the name of religion to justify killing and hatred, to listen to the voice of their humanity and their consciences, and to realise that every person is precious, and that life is a gift from God. This should lead them to respect it, and cease their deadly schemes and operations which each and every day claim the lives of innocent souls.

10. The Door of Mercy is Jesus Christ himself. He has opened this door for us through the Church and the Sacraments, especially through the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. In this Holy Jubilee Year, we have dedicated Doors of Mercy in three churches of our Eparchy. These are: St Maroun’s Cathedral in Redfern, Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral in Harris Park, and Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Melbourne. The passage of believers through the Door of Mercy has the symbolic and mystical meaning that we pass with the Lord Jesus from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, and from sin to grace. May our celebration of Christmas this year truly be an occasion to renew the birth of mercy in our hearts, in our communities, and in our world.

Christ is Born! Alleluia!

Sydney, 24 December 2015.

+ Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia