Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

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This year the Service of Pardon, which is celebrated on the first day of the Great Lent, was held at St. Mark’s Cathedral with His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim officiating. The Archbishop was assisted by Rev. Fr. Joseph Chamoun, Very Rev. Fr. Shamoun Asmar, Rev. Fr. Aziz Hadodo, and Rev. Fr. Alan Shaltan. The evening service was well attended by congregants from the four local parishes with deacons from the same serving the altar.

The powerful combined chanting voices of the clergy and deacons resonated in the Cathedral as the congregation listened attentively to the hymns and readings. The first reading taken from 1 Corinthians 13:4-10 was very familiar to many and spoke about love. It read; “Love is long-suffering and kind; love does not envy; love does not make a vain display of itself and does not boast, does not behave itself in an unseemly way, seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not over iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is imperfect shall come to an end”.

In his sermon, His Eminence Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim emphasized the importance of love and forgiveness reconfirming that this is what being a Christian is all about. If you cannot love and forgive a friend, neighbor or a family member than you are not a true Christian. The Archbishop made reference to the First Epistle of John 4:7, Knowing God through Love: It read; “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The Archbishop continued saying that lent is not just obtaining from certain foods and animal products, it is much more than that. He said refrain from all types of injustices such as gossiping and putting your fellow man down. Be kind in your temperament and fair in your actions. His Eminence continued saying during this Lenten season, seize the opportunity to cleanse your heart and mind by doing good deeds of charity and giving alms to the needy. This is what we are called upon to do as Christians. His Eminence explained that the Service of Pardon is unique to our Syriac Orthodox Church and is very much part of our church tradition.

In this moving ceremony, the Archbishop stood at the center of the altar with the clergy at his side, proceeded to prostrate himself three times and begged for forgiveness. The congregation, in turn, knelt and asked his forgiveness. At the conclusion, all those present asked for pardon and forgiveness from one another.

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