Faithful from different Christian rites gathered at the Conventual Franciscan parish of St. Anthony of Padua in Beirut, Lebanon, on the evening of December 8 to venerate the Virgin Mary and celebrate her Immaculate Conception. More than 100 worshippers, an unusually large number for a weekday evening, gathered on Thursday night to attend mass with the Franciscan community of the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land.
The Friars put heart and soul into celebrating the solemnity with great dignity. Through musical animation and the homily they took the opportunity to remind the faithful that Mary’s Immaculate Conception, while unique, is a sign of the transformation that God desires to bring about in each person’s life. After mass, the assembly formed a procession that, following various Marian hymns and readings from the Franciscan sources, made its way out onto the plaza in front of the church where the evening concluded with a solemn blessing.
The diverse group of the evening’s participants represents the unusual make-up of the Latin-rite parish community, which often serves Maronite, Syriac and Greek Catholic Christians, to mention just a few of the groups that attend. The evening mass was the third of three solemn parish masses (one in the morning and one the previous evening) celebrated in honor of God’s work in bringing about the Immaculate Conception.
Throughout its history the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, known as “Franciscans”, has sought to deepen and defend the Church’s understanding of the Immaculate Conception, ultimately founding it in the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection.
fra Andrew Jeylan Hochstedler