From the Office of the Metropolitan
For our pilgrimages during this Year of Mercy, we receive special blessings by passing through the designated places of the Doors of Mercy. We will have this opportunity both during the Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Uniontown over Labor Day weekend and during the Pilgrimage for the Holy Year of Mercy to Rome in October.
The journey of the pilgrimage is always an adventure. The way of the pilgrim deepens our prayer life. The way is never easy or without cost. Weather or other easier paths can direct us away, but the call to begin the journey continues.
The feast in the Eastern Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God, or as it is also known in the Church of the West as the Assumption of Mary, is one of the most ancient Holy Days celebrated. It marks the passing of Mary the Mother of God into heaven. In Eastern European countries, the most important date for the remembrance of a Christian is the day of passing into heaven. It is remembered and celebrated as the birthday into eternal life.
The reading from the gospel of Saint Luke is used for many feasts of Mary in the Byzantine Tradition. In the ending verses 11:27-28, we hear a woman cry out “Blest is the womb that bore you and the breast that nursed you!” “Rather,” Jesus replied, “blest are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
Through Mary’s giving birth and raising Jesus, the Lord blessed her in a special way. The Lord revealed to her alone special knowledge and blessings by her contact and relationship with Jesus. It is a role which is shared by all women who have the special role to bring new life into the world. We are all blest by Jesus if we hear the Word of God and keep it.
During this Year of Mercy we ask that the Lord’s blessing and mercy be upon all the Pilgrims who venture out despite distance and the difficulties of the trip. Further we ask that the Lord rain his mercy upon the suffering Eastern Catholic Churches in the Middle East and Eastern Europe which are suffering persecution and violence during this time of war. The stories of persecution and martyrdom are broadcast to the world, but our government does little to help Eastern Catholics or the other Christian Churches.
The history of our Byzantine Catholic Church and that of the other Eastern Christians tells us that we have always had to maintain an identity under the domination of other governments and other religious majorities. Much of what we believe has been strengthened by the opposition of the larger culture in which we have struggled to endure.
We are beginning to feel the pressure from our government which has drifted from the divinely revealed teachings which were a part of our lives since the founding of this country. We are reminded, however, that to be blest we must follow the word of God and keep it, even if following the Word and teachings of the Lord is not popular.