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For the first time in the history of the Assyrian Church of the East, the traditional Monday of the Thief service has been commemorated in the English language as part of a full order of Holy Week services by Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, in the Metropolitan See of Sydney.

English Parish Builds on Holy Week Services

For the first time in the history of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, the traditional Monday of the Thief service has been commemorated in the English language as part of a full order of Holy Week services by Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, in the Metropolitan See of Sydney.

Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, the English parish of the Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon, commenced Holy Week with an evening service on the Sunday of Hosanna.

Attracting a large congregation of faithful, the Holy Eucharist was offered by Reverend John Kushaba, parish priest of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, following the highlight of the service: A traditional walk around St Mary Church grounds, commemorating Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem as recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John.

Led by the clergy, the ceremony included the traditional song of praise inspired by Psalm 118, which was chanted by the entire congregation, including Sunday school children and church members carrying candles as well as branches symbolising palms laid at the Lord’s feet.

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The Thursday of the Passover was commemorated by Ss. Peter and Paul Parish with a prayer service and ‘washing of the feet’ ceremony held at St Johns Park High School in western Sydney.

Parishioners, including the community’s families and youth members, gathered for the evening vigil, where Rev. Kushaba explained the significance of the service.

“The spiritual significance of the Passover is an essential building block of our faith in Jesus Christ. For just as the judgment of the LORD ‘passed over’ those, who by faith, anointed their doorposts with the blood of a male, unblemished lamb; we Christians are anointed with the Blood of the Spiritual and unblemished Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and we know full well that the wrath of God will ‘pass over’ us on the day of Judgment,” said Rev. Kushaba.

Depicting the events of the Last Supper, during which Christ washed the feet of His 12 disciples, Rev. Kushaba proceeded to wash the feet of 12 parishioners.

Following the washing of the feet, Rev. Kushaba read from the Gospel of Matthew, recounting Christ’s final hours.

The Ss. Peter and Paul Parish Choir marked Christ’s journey on earth through the presentation of hymns in both English and the traditional Aramaic language.

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Faithful gathered at St Mary Church on the evening of Good Friday to mourn the crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and witness the covering of crosses with black cloth.

Rev. Kushaba delivered a powerful sermon, giving parishioners a visual understanding of Christ’s pain and suffering on the cross; a necessary sacrifice for the ultimate salvation of God’s children.

Hymns and songs were played while remembering the crucifixion of the Lord, including the traditional Friday of Sorrow (Roota’d Khisha) in Aramaic, and Lo The Blood and Above All in the English language.

Following the evening service, faithful members from all parishes of the Metropolitan See of Sydney were invited to St Mary Church Hall to view the motion picture The Passion of the Christ.

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The Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord was commemorated by Ss. Peter and Paul Parish with hundreds of parishioners attending Midnight Mass (shaharta) on 23 April at St Johns Park High School.

The night vigil commenced with prayers at 8pm, followed by the offering of the Holy Eucharist at 10pm, led by Rev. Kushaba.

The 2011 Patriarchal Epistle of the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch, was read by Rev. Kushaba, who expressed his joy at seeing the parish grow in faith and numbers every year. Rev. Kushaba followed the Epistle with a sermon encouraging faithful to “step up” and help their parish in any and all areas.

“Ss. Peter and Paul Parish has reached a vital stage in our growth and it’s now time to ‘work the harvest’,” explained Rev. Kushaba.

“Therefore, the time has come for each and every one of us to ‘step up’ and use our God-given gifts of the Spirit in this field. Our outreach and evangelical ministries are about to commence, according to Christ’s will, and we need all the help we can get. I pray that someone out there reading this will be inspired and compelled to approach me with the intention of serving together.”

Following the service, fellowship was made possible by the will of God and His servants, with the Ss. Peter and Paul Parish hospitality team organising a light meal as well as beautifully dyed Easter Eggs donated by faithful for traditional egg-cracking games.

Before the festivities ended in the early morning, the Ss. Peter and Paul Parish committee presented Rev. Kushaba with a cake celebrating the first year anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

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Ss. Peter and Paul Parish’s Holy Week services came to a close with yet another first for the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East.

The Parish, which has been offering the Holy Eucharist and liturgy for six years, commemorated the first Monday of the Thief (Gayasa) service in the English language.

Held on 25 April, the service featured the full dialogue between the Cherub and the Thief who was crucified, crying out “Remember me, Lord, on the day when You come to that Kingdom which does not pass away” (Luke 23:43) as he suffered on a cross positioned to the right of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. Kushaba and Deacon Shayne McDonald presented the dialogue, holding between them a symbolic representation of the Cherub’s spear.

The text used in the service, written by the 5th Century Assyrian saint, Mar Narsai, was inspired by the Holy Spirit and translated from ancient Aramaic to the English language.

Parishioners both young and old were eager to hear the service and its explanation in English, as evidenced by the number of attendees, which once again showed the power of the Word of God to reach the communities of the Assyrian Church of the East.

“Focusing on outreach and evangelism is vital, but so is ‘tapping’ into our spiritually pure well of Aramaic liturgical treasures in the hope of translating many more significant feast and commemoration days, which will encourage and inspire our parishioners,” added Rev. Kushaba.

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