You can read the Arabic version here
The Most Reverend
Robert Rabbat, DD
by the Mercy of God
Melkite Catholic Eparch of Australia and New Zealand
the Clergy, the Religious & All the Faithful of our Holy Eparchy
which is most beloved of Christ.
A Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel,
Raphael, and All the Bodiless Powers of Heaven,
8 November 2020.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Grace and mercy and peace from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus, our Lord, be with you” (2 Tim 1:2)
In the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, the sacred author advises us to “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” (16:3) However, the same author also reminds us that “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (19:21)
As we celebrate on this Sunday November 8, the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael we are especially conscious of both the necessity of preparing for the future, and at the same time, the uncertainty in doing so. This year marks the one hundred and twenty-fifth year since the dedication of the first Melkite Catholic church in Australia, the Old St Michael’s at Waterloo (Sydney, NSW). It was our intention that the Patronal Feast of our Cathedral Church was to have been celebrated with His Beatitude, our Patriarch Joseph, during his first apostolic journey to Australia and New Zealand.
However, we must now reconsider all things as we continue to find our way through the present universal pandemic. The difficulties of international travel have rendered it all but impossible for His Beatitude to travel from the Middle East; and, of course, we can never predict the restrictions that could be imposed on future large gatherings.
Whilst we feel much disappointment at the cancellation of His Beatitude’s visit, it is good for us to consider it a postponement. And as we do so, we should renew and intensify our pandemic prayer campaign and place all these matters before the Good Lord, seeking that “His will be done.” (Matt 6:10)
The often-heard word insh’allah (Arabic for God willing) should not be for us a cliché, simply used as a conversation filler. “God willing” for those of faith should be a heartfelt declaration of our absolute reliance on the Unfailing Kindness of God, the Philanthropy of our Heavenly Father. (Jas 4:13-15)
The Blessed Archbishop of Constantinople writes, “Therefore, you too, O Man, especially do not be inquisitive about the common Master of us all. But if you are so contentious and daring, … then wait for the outcome of events.” (St John Chrysostom, AD 347-407) And so, as the truly faith-full we say, “next year, insha’allah”.
As one looks at the various migrations of Eastern Christians, Catholic and Orthodox, throughout the world, one finds many churches dedicated to St Michael and the Holy Angels. It is touching to consider that after a long and often perilous journey, so far from home, these first pioneers were intensely aware that in all the privations they had endured they had been Heaven guided and Angel guarded.
Perhaps, that is one of the reasons why our earliest Australian Melkites, when seeking an appropriate patronal saint placed their Community and their future, under the patronage of St Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven. Each year on 8th November we do well to do the same.
It has become commonplace to part company by saying “stay safe.” That is my prayer for each one of you that midst the many present challenges we face you will remain in good health both of body and of soul. And I would hope that each one of us keeps an eye on those who may need extra care. We should never forget that there is always someone who would be grateful for a friend near at hand because their sister or brother is far away.
In conclusion, I am happy to inform our Melkite Community, and our many friends, that the construction of a new St Elias Church in Guildford, NSW, is back on tracks and, God-willing, will be well advanced during the coming year.
May this feast of the Archangel Michael, “the Great Prince who stands guard over the People of God” (Dan 12:1), be for all the Clergy and Faithful of our Holy Eparchy, a time of much joy and a source of many Good Gifts from Above.
With my paternal blessing and with prayers assured,
X Robert Rabbat, DD