By Salma T. Vahdat With Msgr. James Root and Lydia Gordon, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral
A delegation of faithful parishioners from Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral made its annual pilgrimage to the Blessed Mother’s Shrine in North Jackson, Ohio, near Youngstown.
With Msgr. James Root, rector of the cathedral, at the helm, the enthusiastic group wheeled its way westward to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption with the expected crowds from all over the country. Although the Feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15) occurred midweek this year — which normally would keep crowds thinner — attendance was actually larger than in previous years.
Celebration of the Melkite/Byzantine Liturgy took place on Tuesday evening (Vigil of the Assumption), with priests and deacons wearing stunningly beautiful vestments. Surprisingly, on this eve of the Feast, attendees filled the church completely.
On Assumption Day itself (Wednesday) the Liturgy of Healing of the Sick was held midday and, later, the Divine Liturgy celebrated at 7 p.m. Bishop Gregory Mansour, leading the Brooklyn delegation, concelebrated this Mass with Bishop Robert Shaheen of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, Bishop Emeritus Massoud from Syria, and 15 from various locales. Msgr. Root led the Cathedral Choir in chanting the Liturgy and as the Litany to the Blessed Mother. Members from St. Maron of Youngstown, St. John the Baptist Choir of New Castle, Pennsylvania, and St. Raymond’s Cathedral of St. Louis, Missouri, joined the Mass choir, which included the Cathedral Choir from Brooklyn. The Antonine Sisters and the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light lent their beautiful voices in worship.
As the sun set and the candle lights glittered in the dusk from the procession, the participants processed and responded to the litany, again with Msgr. Root leading. The procession ended at the shrine, with the altar servers carrying the cross to the top of the shrine. The bishops concluded the liturgy with prayers at the shrine, and a colorful display of fireworks took place.