The 42nd installment of Carol Saba's essential Chroniques Antiochiennes came out today. In it are two editorials by Mr. Saba that are must-reads. One, translated below, is a discussion of the need for a long-term vision for the Church of Antioch, occasioned by the upcoming meeting of the Holy Synod. Read it below. The second, which I will translate as soon as I can, is a discussion of wider issues facing the Christians of the Middle East, bringing into account issues that might be new for Anglophone readers. Read all the new issue of Chroniques Antiochiennes in French here.
The coming meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch!
Hopes are high. So are the expectations and aspirations. Let us, all together, give an Antiochian ecclesial response to current and future challenges and starting today, let us chart tomorrow’s actions.
1. Our Lady of Balamand. North Lebanon. The monastery awaits the master of the house, Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch, and the metropolitans coming from dioceses throughout the world. Next week, His Beatitude will preside over the ordinary spring session of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Antioch. An ordinary session in an extraordinary climate! A climate of great regional tensions. Of worries. Of uncertainties about the future. A word from the Synod is expected. A necessary word to recall what is essential. Our level of hope and our mission as Antiochians in these ancestral lands of the East and in the world.
2. Several projects of the Church remain essential for the present and the future of our Antiochian ecclesial life in Christ on account of the challenges of today and those to come. At stake are the vitality of our Church and the sustainability of her mission here and now. More than ever, today a roadmap is needed from the Synod. More than ever, initiative is needed from the Synod to bring together an expanded consultative body for our Church, an assembly of clergy and laity, for reflection at once looking back and looking forward, and to put into action the decisions of the assembly. A task of taking stock of our strengths and weaknesses. Of discerning dangers and opportunities. Of gathering together our means and resources. And then to examine the future and to bring into being a vision of the entirety of our mission, of the forms of our witness here and now and of planned actions that need to be made concrete! At stake is our witness as a living Church that faces her future in Christ and builds it without anxieties or worries! Four projects seem vital to me:
First of all, the governance of the Church and her institutions. Institutionalizing our action is not a goal in itself, but it is a means so that the Antiochian mission will not depend only on individual people, but also on a well-ordered body that carries it along and continues it. And there, only conciliarity and a good application of the ecclesiology of communion allow the mystery of unity in diversity to be realized. Thus it is indispensible to extend and multiply the spheres of communion between the different members of the Antiochian ecclesial body. It is indispensible to give responsibility to and to associate all the priesthoods and charisms, clergy and lay, in building up the Church and in the dynamic of her development.
Second, the ministry of the Church. There too, there is need for a pastoral vision that is ceaselessly renewed and re-adapted to the pastoral needs of liturgical and spiritual life today.
Third, the Church’s expression and mission in the world. At stake is the Church’s influence in the world. At this level, there is need for an ecclesial expression of otherness that forms engaged Christians, Christian elites who project themselves into the world and bear witness at the heart of the city to a Christian vision of ethics, to respect for the dignity of the person, to a Christian development of scientific research, and to a bioethics that takes into account the dignity of the human person, to the construction of responsible and civil political behavior, to a responsible society, to an ethical and solidary economy, to a willingness to live in common among communities and religions founded upon brotherhood, mutual respect, and equality of rights and responsibilities, to charitable activity to develop solidarities and to struggle against exclusion and poverty, to the preservation of the environment and natural resources, etc. If Christians are no longer one of the driving forces in the city and in our societies that anticipates, organizes, and develops, then they are no longer the leaven in the bread or the salt of the earth or the light of the world of which the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks. If our parishes are closed communities turned inward on themselves, functioning self-sufficiently and in closed circles within the boundaries of their identity, within a life that is more communal than ecclesial, then they are no longer the Church, the Body of Christ. To be a Christian is to be called to bear witness with audacity, intelligence, and tact in order to transfigure the world. Otherwise, it is a cultural and ritual expression like so many others.
And, last of all, a dynamic and audacious communication of the Church. A visible, aesthetic, and intelligent reinterpretation of the Gospel’s “Come and See.”
3. In a word, we need to reconnect with the Church in mission and more and more come out of the Church in management. The Church in mission privileges movement and tension over stagnation. Vision over management. Talents and charisms over expertises. A Church that puts herself in motion, people and institutions, not only in her monuments but also and especially in her movement toward the Kingdom, here and now. A Church that is fully citizen, without an identity complex but also without aggressiveness, since Christians are men and women of peace the peace that comes from above! Let us abandon a certain “pyramidal” ecclesiology that makes false the true conciliar sense of the Church and her identity that is founded on communion. Impetus and example certainly should come from above. The times require it. But the People of God—all the People of God—should feel themselves invested in the building up of the Church at all times and in every place, as a single body, the body of Christ, for the Church is not a democracy torn between majorities and minorities, but rather a fullness in Christ!