Our mission

Once upon a time there was a beautiful monastery in the Syrian desert, 90 km north of Damascus, in a village called Qara. The monastery dates back to the 6th century and is dedicated to the great martyr St. James the Persian. Of its glorious past only ruins remained. Before this place was a monastery, it was a Roman stronghold, and before that a pagan temple. The Lord touched the heart of Mother Agnes Mariam with compassion and she wanted to restore it. The aim was to establish the Eastern monastic life there, rooting it in a new way in the local Church, dedicated to the unity of Christians, with a spirit of hospitality. The following are the first part of our Constitutions of a canonical character, with articles belonging to the particular law and spirituality proper to our Order.




1.  The Monastery of St. James the Persian (or the Intercis) is an ancient site dating back to the 6th century. In 1993, during a providential visit, Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross, an exclaustrated Carmelite, decided to found the first Antiochian monastery there. After its rehabilitation, the site became an independent monastery under the vigilance of the local bishop (sui iuris eparchialis) according to the canons of the Eastern Catholic Churches N° 410-572. H.E. Abraham Nehmeh, Greek-Melkite Catholic Metropolitan of Homs, Hama and Yabroud, promulgated an Episcopal Decree [1] on 14 September 2000 erecting both a monastery and a female monastic community under the title : "Nuns of the Unity of Antioch" having as its mother house the said Monastery of St. James the Persian and whose supreme aim is to "serve the Unity among the Patriarchal Antiochian Churches" by renewing the common Antiochian cultural heritage at the spiritual, theological, patristic, liturgical and artistic levels." [2]


2.  Bishop Nehmeh expanded the foundation to include a male monastic branch on the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, August 15, 2004. On March 25, 2005, he promulgated the code of formation for the aspirants to the foundation of this branch.


The characteristics of the new foundation


 3. The Antiochian Order of Unity is a federation of Oriental Monasteries with a cenobitic character and an anachoretic vocation. It is inserted into the local Churches for a prophetic intercession for the eschatological Unity of the Church, the Bride of Christ, and for a service of charity to heal the wounds of the great distress of the last times. It is characterized by:

  • Insertion in the local Church, i.e. Antioch, the Great Church of God, to dedicate itself to the service of Antiochian unity and to filially venerate all the Patriarchs of Antioch, especially our Holy Father the Patriarch of our Greek-Melkite Catholic Church, in full communion with Our Holy Father the Roman Pontiff and from there to reach out to the ecumenical horizons by lovingly opening up to all Churches and religions.
  • A return to the sources of Eastern monastic life, in particular the ways of union with God through prayer of the heart and idorythmy [3] under the movement of the Spirit of God;
  • To spread the Gospel of Life and the teachings of the Fathers, especially the ancient ways of thought combat, spiritual healing and union and transformation in God;
  • To help contemporary man, especially young people, to build their humanity on the rock of the spiritual life without detracting from the life of prayer and intimacy with God;
  • To contribute to the preservation of the heritage of the Churches of Antioch and to seek to restore human culture from the Gospel, following the example of the ancient monasteries which were able to safeguard civilization and transmit it to all mankind;
  • The monastery is a place of holy philoxenia: it welcomes retreatants and residents without infringing the rules of monastic life;

Our vocation in the local church


4.  The Order of the Unity of Antioch (OUA) was founded in the Monastery of St. James the Persian as an act of faith in the saving Providence of the Father, an act of hope in the Second Coming of Christ, and an act of charity towards the local Church in the Communion of the Holy Spirit.


5.  The local Church, that of Antioch, the Great City of God, revealed herself before our eyes with her glorious and painful reality, in the mystery of the Beauty of the living God, hidden as in His Temple. She called us to come to her aid, consecrating and sanctifying our souls through the monastic way and in the transformation of the Image of God within us into a true likeness in Christ, the New Adam. But also through the discovery of its lost heritage and the remembrance of its Fathers, Saints and venerable Doctors.


6. The local Church is the permanence of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in the time and space of daily reality. It is the Church that makes us listen to, see and touch the Word of God, as in His Mystical Body (cf. John 1). She is the way to the Communion of the Holy Spirit, the pledge of Unity in heaven and on earth.


7. Without the local Church, there are no roots in time and space for the universal Church which remains faceless, without incarnation - and thus no incarnate identity for the Christian. It is through this local Church that we understand the total harmony between the mystery of creation, the mystery of the salvific Incarnation and the mystery of sanctification. It is the spatio-temporal reality of divine Revelation and the place of the unlimited encounter between God and man, here and now.


8.  The local Church is our mother, as the Virgin Mary is our mother. She nourishes us with her milk, which blends, in the spirit of the Gospel, the mystery of our history, the quintessence of our heritage, the truth of our identity. She is the hope of the human inheritance because she announces her visit from the Most High. In her shines the luminous tomorrow of Salvation.  Many forget the local Church, their mother, and in so doing they distance themselves from their identity and lose the meaning of their existence and the substance of their vocation. They abandon their land, forget the heritage of their Fathers, abandon their traditions and lose the link between fathers and sons, between the past and the future. Those who are struck by amnesia lose their identity and wander aimlessly across the face of the earth.


9. Where is the local Church? It is the extension of the Body of Christ that passes through me, if I accept His Faith. She is the present of God's saving Economy that reaches my present, the East of Jesus Christ that reaches my humanity and the breeze of the Holy Spirit that reveals to me the mystery of God's Eternal Love for me. I hear it when I pray her Liturgy. I see it in my fathers and brothers. I touch her every time I contemplate a sign of God's intervention in my life through the Faith she transmits to me.


10. The Lord willed that during the day of Pentecost the nations heard the proclamation of the first Apostolic Kerygma in different languages and not only in Aramaic. This teaches us the method of the Spirit who renews with His light and fire the historical and cultural belonging to make it an inseparable part of the treasures of the Christian inheritance (cf. Ac 2: 8).


11.  The local Church is the saved humanity in the Church of the East in general and in Antioch in particular. It is part of the diversity of the multi-colored and seamless tunic of Christ. As for its local aspect, it owes it to a divine gift of the Holy Trinity which enriches with the treasures of Creation, Salvation and Sanctification, the children of this particular human family that we form (cf. Ps. 45: 11-15).


12. The Order of the Unity of Antioch adopts as its own emblem the cry of Psalm 69 which John the Evangelist attributes to the Lord Jesus: "The zeal of Your house consumes me". We seek to follow in the footsteps of our Lord who offered His life for the Church, His Bride, the House of the Living God.


13. The Order of the Unity of Antioch expresses its belonging to the local Church by bearing, through prayer, the joys and sorrows of the parishes around it, according to the way of the Sons of the Covenant or Bnay Qiyomo of which Aphraates, the Persian Sage, speaks.


14. The Order of the Unity of Antioch seeks, wherever it is, to revive the Antiochian heritage, whether spiritual or cultural. In doing so, the Church manifests its glorious face and we connect with the faith of the ancestors. The Mother Abbess, together with her Council, will have to define the framework of collaboration with the House of Antioch as an institution belonging to the OAU, whose objective is the safeguarding of the Antiochian heritage.


15. The Order of the Unity of Antioch seeks perfect and public belonging to the local Church through the local Bishop. This Order is, according to the CEO n° 413-414, an Order of independent eparchial right, whose superior is the General Superior.


16. It is desirable that the OAU expresses its belonging to the Church of Antioch, in the diversity of its heritage, by symbolically planting all the patriarchal crosses on its mother monastery, while safeguarding the right of vigilance to the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church, in the person of the local Ordinary.


17. The Apostles founded the Church of Antioch and St. Peter was its first Bishop. It experienced the first apostolic mission ad gentes (cf. Acts chapters 11-14). From her the universal apostolic expeditions were launched. She is also the only Church to have experienced the fullness of unity between the essential components of the early Church, namely the Jews and the Gentiles. Therefore, the founding history of the Church of Antioch is an example for us in our desire to restore the Unity of the Catholic Church.


18. Any division in the One Church disfigures the revelation of its mystery. She is ONE, wherever she is. If, therefore, the local Church is the manifestation, here and now, of the Universal Church, division obscures its universality and weakens the members of the same body, the dynamism of Communion and the transmission of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the greatest danger to the local Church is division, and the greatest service to her is full consecration to renew the mystery of her unity, that is, her local and universal cohesion.


19. Various factors have caused division, whether historical or geographical. However, the main reason for division is sin, which works in the heart of man[1] and from there, in the heart of the community; it deviates the ways of the Lord. Therefore, he who has dedicated himself to the cause of unity must fight sin and its traces in his heart.


20. The servants of Unity walk behind the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world wherever He goes (Ap. 14: 4) carrying His infamy, that is, the Cross, and following the example of the Master who washed the feet of His disciples in the immensity of His tenderness, asking them to do the same and to love one another as He loved them. There is no greater love than the love of the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ who offered His life for us because He loved us.


21. Unity begins within the community that forms a small domestic church. The communion we cultivate and care for becomes like a seedling that can be transplanted into the mother church. Our community is a laboratory of communion and a guarantee of the unity of hearts in Jesus.


22. The intercessory prayer of the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, after his restoration of the altar on behalf of the twelve tribes of Israel, symbolizing the unity of the scattered children of God, is a source of inspiration for the intercessory service that is at the heart of the OUA's vocation.


23. Our Order considers that its service of intercession in favour of Unity has as its axis in the priestly prayer of the Lord in the Gospel according to Saint John, chapter 17.


24. The members of the OUA take the three religious vows of obedience, virginity and poverty which are simple when they take the Small Angelic Scheme. These vows take on a solemn character when the Great Angelic Scheme is granted, according to the CEO Law.


25.  In fidelity to their vocation, the Church allows them to make a fourth vow, which is that of serving the Communion among the members of the Body of Christ, in response to the priestly prayer of the Messiah.


26. The members of the OAU profess the greatest love for all persons belonging to another local Church. Our communities welcome vocations from all Churches provided that the aspirant remains, in spite of his monastic affiliation, faithful to his Church, enriching our religious community with his richness.


27.  We adopt the liturgy of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church but it is desirable to celebrate in other rites to which the members of the monastic federation belong. It is also possible to embrace one of these rites as the principal rite according to what the local community decides with the local Ordinary and according to concrete pastoral needs.


The prophetic service of the second coming of Christ


28.  The call of the OAU to serve the Ecclesial Communion unfolds within the framework of Faith and Hope in the Second Coming of Christ, for which the Bride is preparing and adorning herself with the Glory of God (cf. Ap. 21: 10). As for the sons of the Church, they must prepare themselves prophetically and lovingly for this coming, for we are invited to the Wedding of the Lamb (cf. Ap 19: 9). With the Spirit and the Bride, we in the Church of Antioch proclaim: "Morân Atha", that is, Come Lord Jesus (cf. Ap 22: 20).


29.   Our community wants to prepare for this event with the duplicate spirit of the prophet Elijah, falling on John the Baptist. This will be done by preparing the ways of the Lord, by bringing the hearts of fathers to their sons and the hearts of sons to their fathers (cf. Lc 1: 17).  Therefore, following the Word made man, nothing human is foreign to us. We do not want to be exiled from human reality but only to distance ourselves from the spirit of the world (cf. Jn 16, 17). As for the spirit of the world, it is a will within man that resists the Kingdom and appropriates the goods of creation for an individualistic project, foreign to the saving will of God. Jesus, on the other hand, did not come to judge the world but to save it (cf. Jn 12: 47). The world's plan is to subject to the Prince of this world, that is to say, the devil who feeds the old man with the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life which are not of the Father but of the world (cf. 1 Jn 2: 16).


30.   We want to help the Lord to bind up the wounds of the Great Tribulation which is taking hold of every human person (cf. Mt 24: 21-22.)   Therefore, we welcome every soul in search of consolation, accompaniment or rectification. This welcome is subject to the discernment of the Mother Abbess with her Council as to the details of the stay, the spiritual or moral help to be given. We are also ready to open the doors of our monasteries to any homeless child, according to local laws and customs.


31. The OAU opens the doors of its monasteries to every human being who seeks to build his or her humanity on the rock that is Christ, with a spiritual and solid construction, so that it becomes a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Thus we invite anyone who wishes to do so to share in the course of community life and the teachings given to the community, provided that the visitor never enters the enclosure and does not interfere in the interior affairs of the community life.


32.  Every visitor or resident must comply with a charter which he/she will draw up and sign and to which he/she must be faithful.



33. In the course of prophetic preparation to appear before the Lord, the community seeks to be the voice that cries out in the desert (cf. Lc 3: 4) for witness and admonition without this activity of teaching and evangelization threatening the specificities of community anchorite life. 


[1] Réf. 914/2000-VIII,  14/9/2000, after the CEO n°435

[2] Ibidem

[3] Idiorythmy is the daily rithm in which the monk organizes his day under the blessing of his superior. Off course common moments of prayer, work and recreation have to be respected. This ancient principle is to avoid a too rigid program and to stimulate a free donation form the heart.