Friday, September 6, 2013

A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria

A Syrian Christian church attacked in the civil war

Pope Francis has invited all Christians to join the Roman Catholic Church for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Saturday, September 7, 2013. This is a very important expression not only of intercessory prayer, but of Christian unity in our divided and violent world. Given the possibility of military intervention by the U.S., and the extraordinarily complex situation surrounding the Syrian issue (for Christians and non-Christians alike), this is a very important opportunity.

How to Observe this Day

For those Christians able to do so, only one full meal should be taken during such a fast day. 

Time spent in reading Scripture, praying before the Holy Sacrament, saying the rosary (either the Roman Catholic or Anglican form), and offering the Great Litany together with the Supplication, or simple supplication in silence, are all ways to consecrate this day to God.

Here are some passages from Sacred Scripture to consider:

The Two Greatest Commandments
Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:3, Luke 6:27-31

We are all made in the Image of God
Genesis 1:26

God’s special concern for those who are oppressed and suffering
Isaiah 61:1-2, Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 4:18-21

We are agents of reconciliation by being Christ’s followers
2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Our God loves justice, and so must we…as well as doing something about it
Isaiah 30:18 & 61:8, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Micah 6:8, Amos 5:22-24, Luke 11:42

We must remember those in need and act on their behalf
Matthew 25:31-46

It is up to us to speak with persistence for those without a voice
Proverbs 31, Luke 18:1-8, Matthew 15:22-28, 1 Peter 4:10-11

We need to pray for our leaders, as well as remind them of their duties to those in need, exercising our citizenship properly as Christians
Romans 13

This day is meant also as a day of repentance (a good form for this would be the Litany of Penitence from the Ash Wednesday Service, reprinted below). We have all been part of structures of injustice or benefited from economic systems that have contributed to these events, no matter how distant they may seem. There is also the matter of indifference: we may think such horrors as the Syrian civil war are none of our business, but as Christians, we have no such luxury. We need to repent of all such sinful benefit or denial in order for this day to be complete, and as a preparation to receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ tomorrow in the Eucharist.

Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

*Here is a link to an article about the Christian Communities of the Middle East (and especially Syria) involved in this crisis, the source of the photo at the top of this post

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