Friday, October 30, 2009

The Antioch Centre

Although I've had a link to it on this blog for some time, it's probably worthwhile to draw more attention to the work of the Antioch Centre. Based in Oxford, the Antioch Centre is essentially the work of a single monk, Fr. Elia Khalifeh.

Fr. Elia is working to catelogue all extant manuscripts written or copied by Orthodox Christians of the Patriarchate of Antioch. This is an immense task, but one that is also immensely valuable. These largely unstudied documents provide information for the history of the Church in the Near East, both in their contents and in the colophons where copyists often recorded information about themselves and their times. Fr. Elia is often quick to point out how these colophons make manuscripts different from printed books because they are a personal document-- Orthodox copyists routinely ended works by signing their name and asking for the prayers of their readers and for readers' help in correcting slips of the pen. The beauty and humility in how Fr. Elia talks about working with these manuscripts show that he is a man of prayer as much as he is a scholar.

Another important aspect of his work is uncovering more information about how long the Syriac language remained in use Orthodox Christians in Syria and Lebanon-- in some regions, the lectionary readings were only translated from Syriac into Arabic in the 17th century! Orthodox Antioch's Syriac heritage has long been sadly neglected, but this is now starting to change...

The Antioch Centre produces a newsletter, the most recent issue of which can be found here. It includes information about some of Fr. Elia's most recent findings.

Also, a really beautiful interview with him can be found here.

The Antioch Centre's website contains much more information about the project, a few downloadable articles, and information about how you can help to financially support its work.

Please keep Fr. Elia in your prayers!


Pintradex said...

Inquirers may ask if anyone still prays in the language of Jesus Himself, and their options would largely include the non-Chalcedonians, Catholic uniates, and a variety of new age and syncretists. Therefore I feel Fr. Elia's work is an important step for Antioch.

It was the Russian Church that translated Syriac spiritual writings and made them available to the faithful during the years of Antioch's political turmoil. Even today, it is the Russian priest in Jerusalem who sometimes uses Aramaic in liturgical worship alongside Hebrew and Russian.

The more Eastern Orthodox Antioch can remember its Syriac heritage, its people will hopefully gain a clearer perspective and quests for unification with the Oriental churches can proceed in a more deliberate and sober manner.

Pintradex said...

... and by deliberate and sober I mean it is unnecessary for those quests to assume the inevitability of union.

Unknown said...

امشب دلم می خواست که یک متن بخونم ولی هیچی نبود. بنویس دیگه . باشه؟

Fr. Andrew said...

Only somewhat related, but:

Would you be willing to do a post on the history of the Arabic Orthodox Christian use of Allah to refer to the One True God? When was that word first used by Arabic-speaking Orthodox? What is its pre-Christian and pre-Muslim history?

Thanks for your consideration!

Samn! said...

Fr. Andrew,

Yes, I could certainly do this if you think this would be helpful.



Fr. Andrew said...

The issue came up recently on an email list I'm on—a poster claimed that Allah as a word was somehow tainted due to its association with Islam and pre-Christian, pre-Islamic Arabic paganism.

I'd very much be interested in the real history behind this.

Anonymous said...

Please check this new post on NOCTOC Blog :

Pintradex said...

To both Fr. Andrew and Samn!, please forgive me if I speak out of place.

So faith in Jesus Christ is not enough to dispel the taint of ancient religions for those of us who use "Allah" when praying in Arabic? That makes Jesus Chris Lord in theory, but not in an absolute, historic sense. Singling out one language while ignoring all others seems to reveal a political motivation.