Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Patriarch ALEXANDER III: Pray for Us

His Holiness Patriarch ALEXANDER III (Tahan) was translated to eternal life 50 years ago today. As noted, on May 31, 1958, His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch authorized the celebration of the Western Rite throughout his patriarchate.

The 167th patriarch of Antioch became only the third Antiochian patriarch of Arabic descent in the last several centuries before his time. His Holiness ALEXANDER III served from 1928 to 1958. During that time he "enthusiastically set about to revitalize the parishes, monasteries and the theological seminary at Balamand. Perhaps the most important factor to consider in this spiritual renaissance is the Orthodox Youth Movement, which was founded in 1942 by a group of dedicated laymen."

His Holiness named the young deacon Philip Saliba his secretary; that deacon would go on to become Met. PHILIP of North America. (He also ordained another deacon, whom we now know as Bp. ANTOUN.) And just weeks before his death, he authorized the reintroduction of Western Rite liturgical worship into the Orthodox Church.

In both these ways, his glorious tradition continues and abides within the Antiochian Church today.

Patriarch Alexander III, pray for us!

From the Divine Office:

Antiphon at Vespers: Ecce sacérdos magnus, * qui in diébus suis plácuit Deo, et invéntus est justus. ("Behold a great priest * who in his days pleased the Lord, and was found righteous.")

The Hymn

This the Confessor of the Lord, whose triumph
Now through the wide world celebrate the faithful,
At his departure entered with rejoicing
Heavenly mansions.

Fervent and holy, prudent in his converse,
Humbly and chastely here on earth he sojourned,
Curbing all passions, and in peace and meekness,
Constant abiding.

What though the grave now hold his hallowed relicks?
He, ever living, ever interceding,
Reigns with the Blessed, nor from us his brethren
Is he divided.

Whence we in chorus gladly do him honour,
Chanting his praises with devout affection,
That in his merits we may have our portion,
Ever and ever.

Glory and virtue, honour and salvation,
Be unto him that, sitting in the highest,
Governeth all things, Lord and God Almighty,
Trinity blessed. Amen.

The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Maximus, the Bishop of Turin
It is idle to strive to add anything to the praise of our holy and most blessed Father His Holiness Patriarch ALEXANDER III, whose Feast is this day kept. For verily, the beauty of his godliness must needs be set forth in our lives rather than on our lips. Now the Scripture saith : A wise son maketh a glad father. Thus, if very many do make glad this Saint by the wisdom and devotion wherewith they follow his example, how great will be his glory! For in Christ Jesus he will have begotten us through the Gospel.

Whatsoever, therefore, of virtue and grace there may be in this holy people, all the bright streams thereof do flow from him, as from a most clear fountain. By his manly chastity, by his sternly noble temperance, by the graceful courtesy which marked him, he drew all men's love to God : and by him eminent ministry in his bishoprick he hath left behind him in his disciples many heirs of his priesthood.

Very meet and right it is on this day which hath been made a holy day for us by the passage to paradise of our blessed Father, His Holiness Patriarch ALEXANDER III, that we should sing this verse of the Psalms : The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. Right worthy is he to be had in remembrance amongst men who is at this present keeping holy-day amongst Angels. The word of God saith : Judge none blessed before his death, as though to say Judge a man blessed only when his life is ended ; praise him only when he is made perfect. For there is a two-fold reason why it is better to praise a dead man than a living ; to call a man holy and worthy after his death can never be participation in the sin of flattery on the part of him that praiseth, nor of vanity on the part of him that receiveth the praise.
Response to the First Lesson of Matins: Euge, serve bone * et fidélis, quia in pauca fuísti fidélis, supra multa te constítuam * Intra in gáudium Dómini tui. ("Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things : * Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.")

Response to the Sixth Lesson of Matins: Iste est, qui ante Deum magnas virtútes operátus est, et omnis terra doctrína ejus repléta est : * Ipse intercédat pro peccátis ómnium populórum.("This is he who wrought mighty deeds and valiant in the sight of God, and all the earth is filled with his doctrine: * May his intercession avail for the sins of all the people.")

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