Balamand, Lebanon, October 20, 2023
Sts. Nicholas and Habib Khasha. Photo: orthodoxianewsagency.gr The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch canonized two new saints—a father and son—and added two more feasts to its liturgical calendar in the first day of its fall session yesterday.
After years of deliberation and research, His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, along with the metropolitans of the Holy Synod, canonized two priests, Fr. Nicholas Khasha and Fr. Habib Khasha, who were martyred for the sake of the Orthodox Faith in 1917 and 1948, respectively.
Commenting a week ago on the Synod’s upcoming deliberation on the matter, Pat. John said:
Our Church of Antioch is this glorious, great Apostolic Church. It is this Church that has been bearing witness and has been martyred at the same time throughout history, from the early days, with all the great fathers and holy ones, the Apostle Peter who founded this church with the Apostle Paul.
This Church did not stop having saints among its people, whether monks or married, as evidenced by the Synod’s decision to canonize these fathers. Therefore, the holiness of the Church of Antioch has never been interrupted and the Khasha Fathers were married priests. They had a family, and the Church will declare their holiness.
The service of their glorification will be celebrated this coming Saturday. Then they will be commemorated annually on July 16.
Further, at the request of His Eminence Metropolitan Saba, head of the North American Archdiocese, St. Raphael of Brooklyn was added to the calendar of the Patriarchate of Antioch. He was canonized by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America in 2000, but had not been officially added to the Antiochian calendar.
Finally, the Synod announced the establishment of All Saints of Antioch Sunday, which will be celebrated on the Second Sunday after Pentecost, one week after All Saints Sunday.
Photo: antiochian.org Notes on Arab Orthodoxy earlier wrote about the hieromartyrs Fr. Nicholas and Fr. Habib:
As a layman, Fr. Nicholas was an activist for returning the Patriarchate of Antioch, which had been under Greek domination since the Melkite Catholic schism, to Arab control and was active in establishing and developing schools for the community. He was then ordained to the priesthood, where he served the Archdiocese of Damascus. Patriarch Meletios (al-Doumani) then delegated him as his vicar for the Diocese of Mersin, whose bishop, Alexander (Tahhan) had abandoned it because of its poverty and the disturbances it was experiencing. In Mersin, Fr. Nicholas succeeded in reuniting its dispersed flock and caring for and strengthening the faithful, who were subjected to various forms of persecution and ethnic cleansing. The Turkish authorities grew frustrated with Fr. Nicholas and arrested him on the basis of slander against him, then tortured him until he was martyred.
Habib, the eldest son of Fr. Nicholas, followed in his father’s footsteps. Despite his success in business, he decided to be ordained to the priesthood and served as a priest in Damascus and Cairo. His service was distinguished by a life of prayer, devotion to shepherding the faithful with love and self-sacrifice, and his closeness to the poor, who he cared for like he cared for his own family, feeding them with their food and the money that his brothers sent to help them because of his poverty. His life was crowned with a martyric death on Mount Hermon, where smugglers beat him to death because he was a Christian priest, fulfilling his desire to imitate his father.
The faithful have passed down the stories of these two priests and they remain alive in the memory of Antioch because “their blood has attested that the Holy Spirit is in them and because though love they have transcended the barrier of the earthly body and become figures of light.” Today, if the Holy Synod decides to declare their sainthood, it is “in obedience to the One of whom they have become worthy.”