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The Opening Ceremonies of the New Academic Year at Balamand

The second of October 2013 was another exceptional day in the life of the Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology, for the opening ceremonies of the Academic Year 2013-2014 took place with the blessings of His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X of Antioch and All the East, and under His High Patronage.
The new academic year was launched by a Blessing of Waters service, which was held at Institute. His Grace Bishop Constantine Kayal, the Abbot of Saint Elias Shuwaya Patriarchal Monastery and professor of Liturgics at the Institute, presided over the service in the presence of all faculty, staff and students.  
After this prayer service, the Dean, Deacon Porphyrios Georgi, addressed the Balamand family. He first remembered Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Thrice Blessed Memory, "whose presence in last year's opening ceremony was a blessing to all of us. It was his last visit to the Institute. We felt as if His Beatitude was paternally bidding us farewell, before entrusting the deposit to his trustworthy successor and wise arch-pastor, Patriarch JOHN X."  The Dean also defined the concept of "theologizing," saying that "Theology is the art of arts and the science of sciences. Its origins started on the shore of Lake of Tiberias, where Christ the Teacher used to converse with his fishermen-disciples, sharing meals with them. From the Teacher's way, we learn how to philosophize, "in a fisherman's, and not in an Aristotelian's, manner," as explained by St. Gregory the Theologian. Fr. Porphyrios emphasized that "the Church is Apostolic as much as She is Biblical. Moreover, right Theology is Biblical, Apostolic, and Patristic at the same. If any of these pillars of theology is missing, then believers will be led astray, to the content of those with arrogant minds." Then, Fr. Porphyrios stressed the importance of scientific research and study, “in order to deal with the skeptics in a keen, systematic, and sensible way.” Finally, the Dean pointed out the central role of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the life of the Institute. He asked each of the Balamand family members to remember him always in their prayers, so that he may, "with the help of the Grace of God, fulfill in a proper and complete way, the ministry entrusted by the Church to him." Classes began after the Dean's speech.
In the evening of that day, the opening ceremonies continued by a Hierarchical Vespers at the Church of the Patriarchal Monastery of our Lady of Balamand. His Eminence Metropolitan Ephrem (Kyriakos) presided over the service, in the presence of several bishops, clergy and faithful from the region. Metropolitan Ephrem encouraged the students to use their time diligently and carry their responsibility to lead the faithful to the safe harbor. He spoke about how knowledge is learned through the mind and the heart, in a personal and prayerful way.
After Vespers, everyone gathered in the Church Hall to joyfully greet each other, hoping for a fruitful Academic Year.


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