Friday, November 19, 2010

Met. Ephrem's Sermon to the Priests of Tripoli

This sermon was given at the regular meeting of the priests of the Archdiocese of Tripoli, Nov. 13, 2010. The Arabic original can be found here.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Today, beloved, we celebrate the great feast of Saint John Chrysostom who is considered the hierarch par excellence. On this occasion, and on the occasion of every feast of a hierarch, the gospel passage is read to us from the Evangelist John where he says "I am the Good Shepherd."
In the Gospel of John, as you notice in a number of places in it, Jesus says "I am the Light", "I am the Vineyard", "I am the door", "I am the Good Shepherd". We notice in these expressions the centrality of the "I". This is to emphasize that the axis, the pillar, the center is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the door. You know that in ancient times doors were not made of wood or of iron. Usually, a door is like what you see with the royal doors, something that you can push open and then freely enter. This means that the Lord Jesus is the passageway, He is the straight path, the true path that we Christians follow. We must follow Him so that we do not go astray, so that we will arrive at the desired destination.

He also says "I am the Good Shepherd" and this reminds us of the beautiful song in the Psalms: "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want, he has settled me in green pastures." The Lord Jesus is the pasture and He leads us to the good pasture, the place where the sheep find good food, true, nourishing food. This pasture is Himself, where we find nourishment and we also find in Him our rest. We find in Him our true life,true happiness because He says in the same passage of the Gospel, "I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." We Christians must take pride in the fact that we have the best path, the best happiness, the best joy. We often forget this and we enter through other paths.

So that He may give us life, and give it more abundantly, He says that "the Good Shepherd sacrifices himself for the sake of the sheep." This is the new thing that was not mentioned in the Old Testament, where the prophets talked about shepherd as we find, for example, in Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others. However, these prophets did not mention that this Good Shepherd sacrifices Himself for the sheep! This is the distinguishing sign that He is liberator and that he is the center of our life.

This is what our holy fathers affirm when they say that human life is Christocentric. If a Christian knows this key, he will not go astray in his life, in any aspect of his life, but rather will return to this center and will once more find his rest.

This is what is mentioned in the Epistle for today, from the Book of Hebrews, which is read on the feasts of hierarchs, where its author talks about the new high priest who offered Himself one time upon the cross in order to give us this eternal life.

Let us learn and let us remember throughout our life that the Lord Jesus Christ is the center of our life and of our happiness, amen.

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