In the Maronite liturgical calendar, we are now in the Season of the Nativity, otherwise referred to as the Season of Announcements, preparing the church for the birth of the Messiah.
It is a season full of miracles—not symbolic but actual miracles, where God sends forth the powers of heaven to work his wonders on earth.
The feasts we celebrate on each Sunday of this season are also observed on each day of the week which follows them. They are the path that will lead us on our Christmas journey.
There are nine such feasts: The Announcement to Zechariah, The Announcement to Mary, The Visitation of the Virgin to Elizabeth, The Birth of John the Baptist, The Revelation to St Joseph, Genealogy Sunday, Christmas, Sunday of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, The Circumcision of Our Lord, New Year’s Day.
Each week of announcements reveals to us how God plans all things according to his divine will, completely independent of our own limitations or expectations.
Take for example the response given by Zechariah to the Angel Gabriel. Zechariah is seen to doubt the power of God, despite having prayed for years that he and his wife (considered to be barren and too old to conceive) would be blessed with a child.
When the Archangel Gabriel appeared before him and declared that his wife would bear him a son, he reacted in disbelief.
Yet, the mercy of God prevailed and his word was fulfilled in the birth of John the Baptist, just as it was in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Announcement (the Annunciation) and Conception.
Throughout this Season of the Nativity, we hear stories of birth and renewal. Today we still hear of miracles relating to impossible cases relating to couples who cannot conceive.
Through the intercession of patron saints, many families have been blessed with children under these circumstances, by the grace of God.
St Charbel, being the most renowned in our Maronite hagiography, is not the only intercessor for childless couples, amongst other supplications.
St Gerard Majella and St Gianna Molla are also well known for their patronage and intercession for expectant mothers and those hoping to conceive.
The people of Lebanon, wherever they may be located across the globe, are deeply conscious of the powerful intercession of the saints, especially during times of discord and uncertainty.
The soil of Lebanon has been nourished by the blood of martyrs, the unnamed saints of our ancestors, but it doesn’t prevent the Cedars of God from growing in this holy land. So it is with all people of faith.
For Maronites in Australia, and around the world, nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, as we continue to grow and prosper.
It is in the Announcements, mentioned mostly in the Gospel of Luke’s first chapter, where our faith in miracles has been confirmed and our trust in the Lord reaffirmed.
Every Sunday’s Liturgy, from now until Christmas, will reveal to us the variety of ways in which God answers prayer. Our reaction depends on our state of life combined with our sacramental life, which in turn depends upon our earthly or material attachments.
Jesus reminds us that the greatest of the three theological virtues is charity, and this means detaching from everything apart from God alone.
This Season of Announcements is fortunately a good time to work towards being more charitable toward our neighbour in need.
Thankfully our Maronite Eparchy has exemplified this virtue by assisting those in Lebanon who desperately need financial assistance. I pray we can continue to support these initiatives so that Christmas brings some hope to others who are feeling “hopeless.”
The Maronite Eparchy is this Christmas raising funds to go toward the school fees of students in schools in Lebanon. Visit: www.maronite.org.au/appeals