Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek Catholic Church: Changing our Culture with Faith, Food and Festivity
The savory scent of roasting kabobs and the aromatic smell of Arabic coffee and baklava will greet the hungry festival goers, but the many volunteers hope to feed their guests with something much more satisfying
On Labor Day weekend parishioners at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church host the Annual Middle Eastern Food Festival. While visitors come for the wonderful Middle Eastern foods, they receive more."They come for food, and we fill them with the faith. They reach out their hand for their dinner, and we give them the hand of Jesus Christ."
Holy Transfiguration Greek Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia
McLEAN, VA (Catholic Online) - While the rest of our nation is preparing to leave town for Labor Day weekend, Catholics in one Washington, D.C.-based church are preparing to welcome thousands of hungry souls to their unique parish home.
For the past nineteen years on Labor Day weekend, parishioners at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church host what has become a Washington D.C. sensation, the Annual Middle Eastern Food Festival. And while most visitors come to experience the wonderful Middle Eastern foods, members of Holy Transfiguration Church are preparing to give their guests something more.
The savory scent of roasting kabobs and the aromatic smell of Arabic coffee and baklava will greet the hungry festival goers, but the many volunteers hope to feed their guests with something much more satisfying. Samira Bailey, a life-long parishioner at Holy Transfiguration, will personally manage the sales of thousands of specialty Middle Eastern desserts.
However, for Bailey, the most important thing she will be giving her customers will not be her homemade sweets; it will be the gift of Jesus Christ. "They come for food, and we fill them with the faith. They reach out their hand for their dinner, and we give them the hand of Jesus Christ," explains a very energized Bailey.
Surrounded by the moral degradation which has become commonplace in the political atmosphere of our nation's capital, this parish seems to get it right. Father Joseph Francavilla, pastor of Holy Transfiguration for the past forty years, explains that although the festival is a needed fundraiser for this small Middle Eastern Catholic parish, more importantly, the festival is designed to "build bridges of understanding between our Middle Eastern Catholic parish and our local community."
"Through service to our neighbor," Francavilla explains, "we learn to serve God." And "service" doesn't even begin to reveal the love with which Fr. Francavilla's parishioners respond to their pastor's encouragement. Many work tirelessly in the months leading up to this annual event, improving the parish grounds, cleaning the gold encrusted icons which ornament the beautiful byzantine church, and of course, baking, baking, and baking some more.
During the festival, tours of the church will be offered each hour on the hour, "and this is where the festival becomes an opportunity for faith," explains Fr. Francavilla. "People come to our small parish home expecting to fill themselves with food, and they do, but once they have eaten, we offer them something much more filling.
I know of a number of people who have converted to Christ through their experience on one of our Church tours or through their surprise at the joy and love with which the faithful serve..It is truly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, seeing my spiritual family grow in their love for Christ through loving their neighbor."
Knowing that earthly food is not enough to satisfy their guest's true desires, a candle-lit Solemn Vespers service is celebrated on Saturday evening at 5:00 pm. "Just when the dinner crowds begin to arrive for dinner," Fr. Francavilla explains, "we turn off the festival music and invite our guests to join us for evening prayer."
Sung in haunting Middle Eastern melodies from beginning to end, the service of Byzantine Vespers is truly an experience to remember. "And then," once the Vespers service is complete, Francavilla concludes, "the people return to the festivities, having experienced the true meaning of life and an invitation to become a friend of Jesus."
Certainly, Holy Transfiguration's Middle Eastern Food Festival is a creative answer to the Church's call for a new evangelization and should be a model for other Catholic Churches looking to invite their local community to a deeper relationship with Christ.
If you live in the Washington D.C. area or plan to travel to our nation's capital for Labor Day weekend, you will want to make every effort to experience this unique parish and this special effort to spread the message of Christ. And make sure to come hungry!
For more information about Holy Transfiguration's 19th Annual Middle Eastern Food Festival, visit www.MiddleEasternFoodFestival.com. Festival hours are Saturday, September 1 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, September 2 from noon to 6 p.m.. Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek Catholic Church is located at 8501 Lewinsville Road, McLean, Virginia, 22102.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Melkite, melkite Greek Catholic, Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, Annual Middle Eastern Food Festival
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