Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Carol Saba on the Current Situation in the Orthodox World

 Arabic original, originally published in an-Nahar, here.

What is happening in an Orthodoxy that is oscillating between geopolitical axes on a line of fire and steel?

The whole world is holding its breath. The geopolitical and military situation in Ukraine is heating up. Friction between Russia and NATO could develop into a military confrontation. A fire is likewise blazing in Ukraine, which sits upon geopolitical fault lines. The snowball of schism, which we have repeatedly warned about, is gathering speed, between the Orthodox churches which, whether they like it or not, have been cast into the competing camps of east and west. The Patriarchate of Moscow accuses the Patriarchate of Constantinople of igniting the spark of division by unilaterally granting, on January 6, 2019, without Orthodox consensus, autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatic groups at the expense of the legitimate, autonomous Ukrainian church connected to the Church of Moscow since the time of the historic agreement signed in 1686 by Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV and members of his holy synod and sent to the tsar of Russia as "protector of Orthodoxy" at the time. Constantinople responds by saying that Moscow is responsible for the division since, when it boycotted the Council of Crete of June 2016, it rejected the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and encouraged other Orthodox churches (Antioch, Bulgaria and Georgia) to boycott the council. Of course, Antioch had its own reasons not to participate in the Council of Crete, for which it had dedicatedly prepared in good faith until the last moment, the first of which being the disregard for and lack of a solution to the issue of the invasion of its historical ecclesiastical territory in Qatar by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, even though Antioch was the first to warn of the ramifications of this attack for the unity of all Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, by the eve of the Council of Crete, this canonical issue had not been dealt with as it should have been.
Thus, since 2019 there has been a split between the two poles of Orthodoxy, Moscow and Constantinople, and each of them has tried to draw the other churches into its camp. Of course, international politics have not been far from this situation. In a tweet in early 2021, the former American Secretary of State Pompeo stated explicitly that the United States supported the establishment of the autocephalous Ukrainian church, strove to win international recognition for it, and helped to free it of Russian influence. It has come to be known that the geopolitical and ecclesial factors have overlapped over the course of the twentieth century and until today, something we have confirmed in our five-part study published in an-Nahar in September 2019 under the title "Orthodoxy at the Crossroads: The Crises and Ways Out of It". This is also confirmed, for example, by recently-declassified CIA documents indicating the relationship and cooperation between the American government and the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the Truman Administration in order to limit Soviet influence and how Patriarch Maximus V, Patriarch Athenegoras' predecessor, was removed to the benefit of the latter, who was in America and was connected to President Truman, all despite the young age of Patriarch Maximus', who at the time was said to have been removed due to his mental health. These documents, which received attention due to two recently-published articles on the American website Orthodox History, also indicate Patriarch Athenagoras' cooperation at the beginning of his reign with the American government with regard to religious freedom. Many reports and articles also show how these practices continue until today. On the other hand, much is said by critics of Moscow, yesterday and today, who insist on the necessity of preventing the expansion of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the most numerous and is accused of ambitions of "Third Rome" and of being in lockstep with the Kremlin.


In the current crisis, which is the most dangerous because it harms all of Orthodoxy, much is said and written about the immense pressures that have been put on the Orthodox Churches, especially that of Greece, to recognize the new Ukrainian ecclesial entity headed by Epifany Dumenko, whose priesthood has not been recognized by the churches. The Orthodox Church of Poland, for example, continues to consider him to be a layman. Up to today, he has only obtained recognition from the Churches of Greece, Alexandria and Cyprus, despite serious objections within the holy synods of these churches. The Archbishop Anastasius of Albania, a Greek by origin who is greatly respected for his broad theological knowledge and his lengthy ecclesiastical experience on account of his missionary work in Africa followed by his role in the restoration and resurrection of the Church of Albania, objects to the canonical pretext for Constantinople's decision and continues to demand that a meeting of all the Orthodox patriarchs be convened to prevent the schism from widening. Likewise, in addition to Russia, the Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic and Slovakia have not recognized the Ukrainian ecclesial entity.


The schism train is gathering steam now and the mutual estrangement between the churches is becoming deeper. At a time when there is talk of impending decisions from Constantinople to grant autocephaly to the church of Montenegro and  to the schismatic church in Northern Macedonia at the request of political authorities in both countries, something that puts Constantinople in direct confrontation with the Patriarchate of Serbia because Montenegro and Macedonia historically belong to it, the Russian Church has decided to establish establish a pair of exarchates in Africa on the historical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in order to receive priests and parishes from that patriarchate. This disintegration and departure from the paths of unity and true conciliarity are unfortunate. All the calls to hold a synaxis of the patriarchs and leaders of the Orthodox churches to set things right-- including from the Patriarchate of Antioch, which is in danger because it sits on the line of contact in this hot-cold war-- have come to naught.


Where are we today? The Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodorus, regrets and admits, publicly and belatedly, that he did harm to Orthodox unity, as though he were saying that he had been forced to recognize the schismatics without Orthodox consensus. Would it not have been better for him, as someone who had lived and served in Ukraine alongside the legitimate church and is known for his closeness to the Russians, if he had remained a bridge of communication and dialogue between Constantinople and Moscow, fending off mutual estrangement and schism? As for the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, a figure whom we have loved and still love, who had been promising with his mastery of several languages, who had studied at Chalki in Turkey, Germany and Rome, who knows both the West and the East, who has an excellent mastery of canon law, who set the Orthodox world in motion at his election on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the early 1990s through his calls for Orthodox unity and joint Orthodox activity, several times convening the Synaxis, summits between the patriarchs and heads of the Orthodox churches as a modern and necessary mechanism for mutual understanding, keeping track of things, and joint activity, today stands obstinate in defending and insisting on an erroneous decision about Ukraine and is being pushed more and more to focus on a dodgy theory that transforms the primacy of honor that the Ecumenical Patriarchate enjoys in the Orthodox world, which is indisputable and entails the primate having rights and responsibilities for coordination as first among equals, into the canonical primacy of a first without equals-- that is, a superior, quasi-papal canonical primacy that imposes itself vertically upon the other Orthodox churches, doing away with the Orthodox tradition since the Apostles, which is the conciliar tradition, the tradition of consultation, discussion and horizontal decision-making. As for Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, whose eyes gleam with intelligence, a servant of the Church in difficult times, who was not afraid during the Soviet period to the media to bear witness to the Gospel, who constantly preached to the youth and accompanied them, who rose up with the Church after the fall of the Soviet Union-- and how not, when he was a disciple of Metropolitan Nikodim, his predecessor as Metropolitan of Smolensk in Russia and his predecessor in the Patriarchate's Department of External Relations at the height of the Soviet Union, a renowned man of ecclesial diplomacy for the Russian Church, who knew how to escape the grip of the Soviet communist authorities, who was close to the Vatican, which worked with him to defend the underground Church, who constantly connected the dots and dodged traps to stitch together international support for the underground Christian resistance in Russia that struggled and prepared for the fall of the bastion of communism and atheism, today we see him also trying to cure matters by means of what was itself the illness. Is it possible to treat poison with poison? As we wrote in an-Nahar on August 7, 2018, let us once more lift up a thunderous voice: who will stop this dangerous slide that is threatening the unity of the Orthodox Church? Have the patriarchs lost the ability and boldness necessary to take initiative? Let us pray to the Lord!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Joshua Mugler: The Life of Christopher

 Joshua Mugler, "The Life of Christopher," Al-ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā 29 (2021), 112-180.

 Abstract:

Christopher, a native of Baghdad who became patriarch of Antioch in about 349/960, was assassinated by Muslim rebels in 356/967 because of his loyalty to their Muslim ruler. When the Byzantines conquered Antioch two years later, his story was told in a variety of ways by those with different and competing interests. Christopher was mentioned in Byzantine histories and in Antiochian liturgies. However, by far the most extensive and detailed version of the story comes to us in the Life of Christopher, written by Ibrāhīm b. Yūḥannā, a Byzantine bureaucrat and translator who grew up in Antioch and knew Christopher when he, Ibrāhīm, was a young boy. The hagiography was originally composed in Greek and translated by its author into Arabic, but only the Arabic survives. Here I provide, for the first time, both a critical edition of the two known Arabic manuscripts and a full English translation. This text is a valuable testimony to Christian life in Antioch under both the Ḥamdānids and the Byzantines, and to the difficulties of life along the constantly shifting frontier of medieval northern Syria.


This is one of the most important texts for our knowledge of the city and Patriarchate of Antioch immediately before and after the Byzantine reconquest of the city in 969. Download the entire article here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Yulia Petrova: The Development of the Orthodox Christian Vocabulary in Arabic

 

 Yulia Petrova, "The Development of the Orthodox Christian Vocabulary in Arabic"

in Romano-Arabica 20 (2020), 259-271


Abstract:

The beginnings of Christian literature in Arabic and the use of Arabic in a liturgical setting go back
to the early 8th century. During its history, the Arabic Christian vocabulary underwent several stages of
formation. The earliest common Christian vocabulary was much influenced by Aramaic, which co-existed with Arabic in the region for centuries. In addition, different lexical peculiarities developed within the vocabulary specific for each Middle Eastern Christian community (Melkites, Copts, Jacobites, Nestorians, Maronites), reflecting their religious traditions and their cultural history. The Arabic Christian Orthodox vocabulary developed under the strong influence of Byzantine tradition. As the manuscript sources witness, in the 17th - 18th centuries a large number of Church terms (especially from the liturgical domain) were Greek loanwords that circulated widely and were in common use among the Melkites. If compared with the contemporary texts, it can be observed that many original Greek terms became archaisms and were replaced with Arabic equivalents. At the same time, the majority of the terms used since the Ottoman epoch coincide with the contemporary variants. It can be concluded that the bulk of Arabic Christian Orthodox terminology was formed in the 17th century, in the period of the “Melkite Renaissance”. 

A pdf of the article is can be downloaded here or, if that doesn't work, here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Martin Lüstraeten: Arabic Typicon Translations and Byzantinization

 Martin Lüstraeten

The Source Value of Arabic Typikon‑Manuscripts as Testimonials for the Byzantinization of the Melkites

Abstract

With the expansion of Islam, the patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria were divided from the Byzantine Empire. The Orthodox Christians there still defined themselves as Byzantine Orthodox and began to adapt their liturgical customs by adopting Byzantine liturgical books. When Greek was not understood any longer, they began to translate and copy their liturgical books, thereby creating their own branch of tradition, which is marked by multilingualism, reception of their own Bible tradition as well as the exclusion of “neo‑martyrs” from their calendar of saints.

Read the entire article, open-access here.


I think that the evidence Lüstraeten presents, and even his own analysis of it, points to a shift to a stronger identification of the Melkites with Byzantium in the Mamluk period (during which Melkite ecclesiastical institutions suffered a near-fatal decline) than had existed previously, certainly than had existed prior to the Crusades. Likewise, he mentions but does not explore in detail the fact that these Typica may well have been translated from earlier Syriac translations, something that also complicates any account of  Byzantinization as simply a matter of performing a Byzantine cultural identity. A detail in support of this might be the fact that during Byzantine rule in 11th century Antioch, Nikon of the Black Mountain  promoted the Palestinian Sabaite Typikon in Antiochian monasteries rather than the more properly 'Byzantine' Studite one. So the choice of the Typikon that was translated likely was motivated both by the prestige of its association with the most important Palestinian Orthodox institution (especially among the Sinaite monks who promoted the translated Typicon) in addition to any desire to move towards more mainstream Byzantine practice, something that took over entirely with Meletius Karma and the introduction of printing.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Free to Download: Robert Haddad's Syrian Christians in a Muslim Society

While this monograph is in some respects quite dated, especially as regards its account of the millet system and the place of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in it, Robert Haddad's monograph Syrian Christians in a Muslim Society: An Interpretation remains essential reading for understanding the Patriarchate of Antioch during the Ottoman period and the social and ecclesiastical circumstances that led to the schism of 1724. It should, however, be read alongside Constantin Panchenko's Arab Orthodox Christians under the Ottomans and Hasan Colak's The Orthodox Church in the Early Modern Middle East, which both make extensive use manuscripts and archival materials not available to Haddad.

It can be downloaded freely (and, it seems, legally) here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Christian Marriage

 Arabic original here.


Christian Marriage

 

In Christian marriage, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, the man is an image of Christ and the woman is an image of the Church.

Saint John Chrysostom says, "Christ, the head of the Church has died living for our sake." And in the Epistle reading for the wedding service (Ephesians 5:20-33), the Apostle Paul says: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord...  just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22 and 24).

The Apostle continues and says: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies" (Ephesians 5:28). Love is death for the sake of the other. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Love does not wait for reciprocity: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" (Luke 6:31). 

This is the sort of love that is expected of the man, just as it is of the woman.

Therefore, as it is said it in the Epistle to the Ephesians: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28).

The conclusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians is the following: a man's relationship to his wife is according to the model of Christ's relationship to the Church, so if God's commandment to the Christian believer is to love others as he loves himself (Matthew 22:39), how can we not begin by applying this first in our own homes? All of this "to keep the good wine until the end" (John 2:10).

This is the mystery of Christ and the Church. This is the perfect union of man and woman. Every virtue, and especially the virtue of love, is demanded of believers whom the Lord has redeemed by His precious blood. Amen.

+ Ephrem

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Jad Ganem: The Picture Speaks

 

 Arab original here.

The Picture Speaks


Recently, the world followed on television and online the celebrations of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the Vatican in the presence of His Beatitude John X and an accompanying Antiochian delegation and with the participation of a delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon.


Observers of events in the Orthodox Church have commented on a number of images that appeared during this celebration, including:


- That the Patriarch of Antioch was dressed in the clerical robes that he wears outside the liturgy.


- That the Metropolitan of Chalcedon was wearing the robes that bishops wear during the liturgy, with a priest walking behind him holding up the edge of his mantiya. 


- That the delegations from Constantinople and Antioch did not sit in the same place inside Saint Peter's Basilica.


In addition to the images that have appeared on social media, the Phanar's news website and Greek news sites close to the Phanar reported the event in the following manner: "During the Divine Liturgy that took place today, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, at the Basilica of St. Peter of Rome, by Pope Francis, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate led by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, along with Patriarch John X of Antioch, attended the service."


These observations lead to a number of questions:


- Does ecclesiastical etiquette not require Constantinople's representative, Metropolitan Emmanuel, to follow the example of the Patriarch of Antioch and to be content to wear clerical dress and not liturgical vestments?


- Is it appropriate for there to be two delegations representing the one Orthodox Church taking part, as though they were two churches unconnected to each other?


- What is the sense in giving the impression in news reports that Constantinople's representative has precedence over the Patriarch of Antioch?


Of course, no one either in or outside the Orthodox world is ignorant of the fact that Constantinople wants to give the impression that the Patriarch of Constantinople is "first without equals" and that his position in the Orthodox world is different from that of the other churches. This is something alien to tradition and is a contentious issue within the family of Orthodox Churches. Perhaps this frantic quest to establish this differentiation is causing the Phanariots to become estranged from reality and to live in their own imaginary world.


If it were the case that any one of Constantinople's bishops takes precedence before the patriarchs of the local churches, then does this mean, for example, that any one of the bishops of Alexandria or Antioch takes precedence over the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Romania or Serbia?


The pictures have spoken on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome and they have revealed the Church of Antioch's fidelity to tradition and the crisis that is sweeping the Orthodox world on account of the deep-seated superiority complex of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its representatives, manifest in the unparalleled peacockery of its representative, cast into sharp relief by the simplicity of his host, the Pope, and the reserve of the Patriarch of Antioch.


The picture has spoken more and has vindicated what Orthodox have been saying for years about Constantinople's effort to practice an eastern papism. Will the leaders of the Orthodox world rise up before it's too late?