“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
BETHLEHEM/ RAMALLAH- To begin the Advent Season of 2019 in a special and spiritual way; the Catechetical Office of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem invited Christian teachers in all the Christian Schools for a spiritual gathering. About 20 teachers who come from the Bethlehem and Jerusalem area gathered on Thursday, November 28 at The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary residence in Bethlehem. And about 27 teachers who come from the Ramallah area gathered on November 30 at Greek Melkite Catholic Church ‘Our Lady of Annunciation’ in Ramallah.
The main purpose of this gathering was to help the teachers start this blessed Advent season with new and faithful hearts. This two-hour spiritual gathering has focused on giving the teachers time to reflect and meditate in the Word of God. In both locations the teachers started with praying the Lord’s Prayer as they proceeded to thier first Biblical reflection text Luke 1:26-38.
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38; was the focus of this first reflection that was prepared and presented by Ms. Nadine Bitar. In this visual reflection “We live the true faith when the unexpected happens!” Ms. Bitar has focused on the Will of God as it comes without any set time or preparation. Looking at the Annunciation text in a new spiritual way; we see the Virgin Mary whom had her own life plan as she was preparing herself to start a new future with her fiancé Joseph. But the Will of God has showed up and interrupted her planning and twisted everything around.
Mary’s response that came out of her knowledge and belief that God will always bring her the best; she answered His calling with a heart full of faith without giving an opportunity for fear and shame overcome her. Mary knew the prophecies that said the Messiah would be born of the Virgin. But she never expected that she would be that Virgin. Mary gave up everything and a new, unique joy has entered her heart. She felt great honor and grace that God had spoken to her and chose her among all the women of the world. Ms. Bitar has linked this text with our lives as many of us ask for the Will of God to be in our lives but when that will come, and it is against our planning we rejected. We live the true faith when we look around and see the graces that God has given us even in the most unexpected situations. Using soft Christmas musical background and hymns, the teachers have entered a time of reflection and meditation as they were given time to reflect on their lives and to relive the unexpected in order to discover the Grace of God in their lives and the lives of the others around them.
The second part of the gathering was prepared and presented by Ms. Mariana Kanzoua. ‘Advent is our way to Christmas’; its focus was on the Biblical texts from the Old and New Testaments and the four advent candles; which help us prepare ourselves to welcome baby Jesus in our lives. Ms. Kanzoua started with including the teachers in the readings of the Biblical texts which focused on the book of Isiah and Luke along with some texts from the Church Fathers writings. For each candle there was a reading from both testaments followed by a short prayer and a hymn that was applicable to the meaning of each candle.
Ms. Kanzoua explained the Advent candles as follows; on the first Sunday, we light up the purple candle of hope, the candle of prophecy, which tells the prophecies that have spoken about the coming of the Messiah. The second candle is also purple, the candle of peace, the Bethlehem candle, to remind us that Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem. The third candle which is pink, the candle of joy, the angel candle, reminds us of the heavenly host who proclaimed the coming of Christ in the skies of Bethlehem by singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”. The fourth candle is the purple candle of love; the candle of the shepherds and Elizabeth as they were waiting for Christ; and they also invited us to prepare our hearts to welcome the king of kings. Ms. Kanzoua concluded with a short story about the importance of change from within to enter this blessed season of waiting and repentance.
In conclusion, Ms. Bitar and Ms. Kanzoua have invited the teachers to search for God’s graces in the unexpected situations that suddenly show up because His graces are around us and within us. We just need to open our hearts, eyes and minds to see them and accept them in order to change from within.