MY SATURDAY TIME IN THE UPPER ROOM
AKATHISTOS AND JASNA GÓRA PRAYER FOR PEACE IN THE WORLD
ELŻBIETA JASTRZĘBSKA DSSH
Members of the Knights’ Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in which I am a lady, has had its retreats for five years in the first week of the Lent. On Saturday 8 March 2014, after the retreats at Jasna Góra, I went to the Chapel of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady at 8 p. m. in order to pray with others to Our Lady with the old hymn of Byzantine liturgy, sung while standing and called Akathistos. Because it was not my first time I had been participating in this divine service, I knew exactly, how wonderfully it is to praise Mary with a song and rosary prayer at that time. But that time it was different. In the Chapel of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady, on the left side, there were special guests – two monks wearing black robes, from the Syrian Orthodox Church. Whereas, on the right side there was a big icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa. The divine service started and the celebrant - Fr. Roman Majewski OSPPE, the prior of Jasna Góra, introduced the guests. It was a delegation of the monastery of St. Gabriel in Turynga in Germany, which was represented by bishop Mor Severius Moses, the primate of Autocephalous Syrian-Orthodox Church of Europe. We also learnt about the reason of their presence, that is, their desire to take the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa from the Chapel of the Miraculous Image that evening to their monastery in Germany. A cantor started singing of Orthodox Church songs, later the singing was joined by a choir with believers, repeating ‘Hail Mary’ to the Virgin Bride. After each verse, the celebrant was announcing intentions of prayer with the rosary mysteries. Now it was a prayer for peace in the world. The celebrant suggested raising hands upwards in a gesture of repentance and repeating several times: ‘Hail Mary’. Above heads of believers, there were many hands and ‘Angelic Greeting’ started. Later the chapel was filled in with incense, ‘helping’ our prayers rise to Heaven; during the incense of the altar one could hear some unusual sounds – little balls had been placed on the incense. In our prayer we reached the last part of the rosary prayer, the fifth mystery and the celebrant announced a prayer for Syria, whose representatives were among us and which is suffering because of the war. This prayer for peace for the Syrian nation, which is the heir of the oldest Christian tradition (Saul was going to Damascus in order to fight that Christian group), was being said by us while we were kneeling and raising our hands, and the prayer was presided over by the bishop of the Syrian Church. And then that monk stood up, holding the crucifix turned towards people and started saying the prayer ‘Our Father’ in the Aramaic language – in which Jesus and Apostles spoke, and later ‘Hail Mary’ 10 times.
At that moment I realized the fact that something unusual was happening – I was in the centre of the congregation in which Mary, the successor of the Apostles was present and we were praying in the language of the old Semitic peoples! ‘Miriam’ and ‘Jeszua’, heard many times helped me realized a bigger significance of the situation, but also continuance of the Tradition. Being engrossed in the prayer, to my grief I noticed that it was the end of the Rosary prayer. Next, the primate Mor Severius Moses started speaking. He told us about how the event had happened on that day. When two years ago he was here, at Jasna Góra, he felt a special closeness and relationship with Mary of Częstochowa and he wanted to take Her Jasna Góra Image to his church in Altenbergen in Thuringia for which he had received a permission. Thuringia is former NRD, at present 80 percent its inhabitants are non-believers. It is a painful fact for those who are responsible for the Church, so, we would like to find a solution to it. But – as the bishop said – they will not be able to do it themselves, so they want Mary – our and God’s Mother- to bring people to the Church. Therefore, this expedition was undertaken and on the same day, in the evening, Mary was to go to help the Eastern Church, which is the second lung of one organism, as it was said years ago to the youth by blessed John Paul II at Jasna Góra. As an expression of gratitude and love to Mary of Częstochowa, the primate of the Autocephalous Syrian-Orthodox Church of Europe gave his bishopric ring to Our Lady at Jasna Góra.
Having sung the Akathistos, the Appeal Prayer of Jasna Góra started, during which we were praying with tourist guides being on their pilgrimage. However, it was difficult for me to leave the Chapel because ‘I was in the Upper Room’.
I quickly remembered news heard during the pilgrimage to Turkey, following St. Paul, that the Syrian Orthodox Church has its beginnings described in the Acts of the Apostles. We read about Syrian Antioch and about the first community composed of people not being of the Jewish origin, who were called the Christians for the same time. The Antioch Church became one of big centres of the Christian of the first centuries after Christ. So, we, as contemporary Christians, somehow derive from this community! And there is one more remembrance. During the pilgrimage, a visit in the previous Iconium was planned and a sister serving in the church of St. Paul was informed about the time of the Holy Mass. How surprised we were to see when ‘our’ Holy Mass was attended also by other believers, as it turned out – the Christians who had escaped from Iraq because of persecutions. When they found out that the Holy Mass would be celebrated, they arrived for it because they had had such a possibility a few months before. They joined the liturgy through Mass readings and songs, and we were enriched with their presence and were emotionally agitated with the problem of the Christians in Islamized Turkey, which involves such significant treasures connected with the beginning of Christianity and the teaching of Paul the Apostle.
When I went outside, I saw a few people standing next to a car, into which the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa was being put, and which had been in the Chapel during the Akathistos. And then I had an occasion to hear about a small community of the Assyrians again, living on our western border. The bishop was very warm-hearted and slightly surprised by the attention – he was asked what the place is called where the image was going to, when the church would be ready, etc.; we were even invited on 31 August 2014 – for a ceremony of installing the image in the church. I understand German language quite well, so, using the occasion, I joined the talk and thanked for the prayer in the Aramaic language and I dared to ask for a signature in this language into a little book with the text of Akathistos. And this is my special souvenir.
Finally, I was blessed in the Aramaic language which composed this special, unexpected evening full of prayer. And the image set off to the community in Germany. Surely, there are prayers for peace in the world and returning faith in Germany. Such prayer intentions of the guests were presented in the interview with ‘Niedziela’ by Fr. Marek Dzodz OSPPE who was a guide during the stay of a delegation from Germany at Jasna Góra.