My name is Nihal Nasser. I am from the village of Yafa-An Nasirat in Lower Galilee, a village located near Nazareth, where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah.
I belong to the Latin Church (Latin = Western Roman Catholic as opposed to other Eastern Catholic traditions.) and I am a parishioner in my village church. The history of the parish goes back to 1862. The construction of the parish building began in 1868 and it was completed in 1986. Today, the parish consists of approximately 360 Latin-rite families, with approximately 50 of these families living outside the village boundaries. We have 1,150 parishioners. There is also a parish school in our village, which was founded in 1868 and serves townspeople from many different Christian churches and non-Christians as well. In it, five hundred and forty students are receiving their education today.
There are many active and lively groups in this parish such as Scouts since 2016, the Legion of Mary, the Marian Confraternity, Saint Anthony’s Confraternity, and since 2000, the Neo-Catechumenal communities, plus other groups.
The townspeople from all denominations participate in these groups and their activities. During the Easter/Pascha celebrations, parishioners of different communions exchange greetings following the Easter liturgical celebrations, with Latin parishioners greeting Greek Orthodox parishioners and vice versa.
I grew up in this parish and always had the desire to search for True Love. In 2014, I participated in the Life in the Spirit Seminar, with the Jesus Is Alive ecumenical community in Amman. I returned from this seminar with a desire to join a community with the conviction that I must belong to a community in order to grow in my spiritual life. Since that day I have belonged to the Jesus Is Alive community.
For a while, during my university studies, I was not participating in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday in my parish. By committing to the Jesus Is Alive community, however, I was also committing myself to my church, this being one of the elements of the commitment to Jesus Is Alive. As a result, this brought me back to my village parish, to participate in the Divine Liturgy weekly and join in the feasts and religious ceremonies. This commitment reinforced my sense of belonging to the one Church, rather than being a member of a community which is separate from my parish.
The participation by various Christians (Latin or otherwise) in the various events and activities of the parish enhances the sense of ecumenism and of unity, such that we know that we are the children of One Father and that we are one church despite our different Church traditions.
This article is excerpted from The Sword of the Spirit reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18 – 25 2022
Top image: Cross on mountain with dramatic sunset, from bigstock.com, © by ragsac, Stock Photo ID: 3872872, quote from John 17 added.
Nihal Nasser is a Catholic Christian from the village of Yafa-An Nasirat in Lower Galilee.