July 2014 Letter
On July the 12th (5 Abib) the church celebrates the Apostles’ feast, in commemoration of the martyrdom of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. On this occasion, we would like to contemplate on some of the attributes of the first Church, as explained in the Book of Acts:
1) The act of Holy Spirit: when studying the Book of Acts we regularly see the Holy Spirit acting strongly with the apostles, according to Christ’s promise: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1: 8). Many times the apostles would speak about the Holy Spirit as a person present with them: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us …” (Acts 15: 28), “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said …” (Acts 13: 2).
2) The Bible: it’s clear from sermons of the apostles; such as Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and that of St. Stephen upon his arrest, that they were excellent readers of the Bible, knowing the history of the people of Israel and the prophecies that pointed to Christ.
3) Caring to teach: from the beginning of the Apostles’ church “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2: 42).
4) Living as one person: they felt and acted as members of one body of Christ, and when the Holy Spirit descended on them on the day of Pentecost “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication …” (Acts 1: 14).
5) Breaking of bread: that is eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ (Eucharist), by which they united with Christ the head of the church, and other members of the body.
6) Life of fellowship: these are encounters of love that bring believers as members of one body in the church and Christ the head. The apostles were keen to meet for dinner the night of the breaking of bread (Eucharist) and to eat together in joy and simplicity of heart after communion.
7) Prayers: they prayed continually the hourly prayers. We hear about St. Peter that “Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour” (Acts 10: 9). Also they faced tribulations and persecution with prayer, for when the chiefs of the Jews detained St. Peter and St. John in prison, the apostles prayed for them “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4: 31).
May the blessing of Saint Mary, the holy apostles, and Saint Mercurius be with us all.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, July 1, 2014