Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Carol Saba on the Holy Synod of Antioch

For the full essay in the original Arabic, published in an-Nahar, go here. I don't have time this morning to translate the whole thing... The two paragraphs I left out are a summary of events in the Orthodox world that are well-covered in other English-langauge sources. The pivotal decisions being alluded to here have to do with the two most significant matters that are presumably under discussion today: how to resolve the conflict between the Orthodox Youth Movement and Met. Paul of Aleppo and what to do about the Archdiocese in North America....

The Holy Synod of Antioch meets on the seventeenth of this month at the Patriarchal Monastery of Saydnayya. Active since 547 AD, the monastery is on a hill 25km from Damascus. Many papers seem to be on the table at this ‘pivotal synod’. Issues, concerns and challenges must be met with courage and vision by Church that have always been the basic centers of Antiochian Orthodox witness in the East and in the world.
[He then discusses various developments in the Orthodox world relating to increased cooperation and communication between the local churches, as well as the prospects of increased cooperation with the Catholic Church in Europe.]
As for Antioch, all eyes look with hope to the fathers of the Orthodox Holy Synod of Antioch in which will participate bishops from the diaspora and the Mother Church. The synod looks to me to be pivotal on a number of levels. Serious challenges face the Church, internally and externally. Effort must be made at awareness and discernment so that the Church does not deviate and become “one of the sects”, subject to various squabbles. These challenges are pivotal to our ecclesial life in the East and to our witness to the Nazarene risen from the dead. It is necessary to develop “ecclesiologies of cooperation” in the management of the Church on all levels, canonically and in practice, through constructive cooperation between the priesthood of service and the royal priesthood in order to take the Church from a state of preserving existence to a state of bold witness and in order to develop new frameworks for pastoral care, diakonia, and various gifts in order to address the world boldly and with discernment, whether in politics, media, and economics, or culture and social affairs, etc… This is not according to a principle of being colored by the world, but according to the principle of “you are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.” The Antiochian Orthodox Church bears a great heritage, a diverse patrimony, a living apostolic tradition and theological thought. The Church’s rich gifts make the Antiochian witness a witness of linkage, of connection, of continuity. These are her pivotal gifts in the Church, for the sake of the transfiguration of the whole world. There remains the serious question of how to deal with the current squabbles that rise up from here and there and how to tie together this great diversity and valuable capabilities and many rich gifts that the Church of Antioch possesses to push them forward together. Here is the central role of the Synod, to inspire and to take initiative, to set forth extensive and programmatic frameworks for cooperation between clergy and laity, to gather the gifts and capacities of both, to study different challenges and to face them in an Orthodox manner, to endorse a roadmap for an active and effective Orthodox witness in today’s world. The Church of Antioch will either be a church giving true witness to Jesus Christ or she will not exist. Her witness must either be based on the Middle Eastern, Antiochian tradition, distinguished by its firmness of faith and constant defense of right belief in the face of change, or she will not exist. The gift of Antioch within the universal Church is that it is founded upon Christians’ awareness of their identity in Christ, “they were called there Christians”, that is their awareness that they are Christ’s and His alone. Thus Antioch must be Orthodox, and must say and do no more and no less!

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