Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Patriarch Ignatius IV's Easter Sermon, 2012

Arabic original here.

“Christ is risen!” Beloved, before all else, I would like to send my congratulations and my regards to everyone in Syria and in Lebanon, wishing that in their days they will rejoice in the Lord, especially because we in this region of the world take joy in the fact that the Lord came from among us. I would like to turn my attention to those of us in Jerusalem and in Palestine, where the Resurrection of the Lord occurred after His birth there and after he spent the years of His life preaching the Good News here, and not in any other region. It is good for me to mention that our Lord trod the soil of Lebanon, as the Bible says that He went to Tyre and Sidon.

It is worth remembering that the Apostle Paul , here in Damascus, was guided to the Christian faith. It was here that he heard the heavenly voice: stop persecuting the gatherings here! Stop resisting Christ and trying to prevent Him from entering the hearts of the people! Stop insulting those who confess Christ as their Lord and God!

Before you were guided to the truth, you used to say, “The God whom you confess is not my God because your God speaks in love and my God says to me, ‘Go and kill and sacrifice all who do not believe in your faith.’” The reversal and what followed it happened in Damascus, just as the divine birth happened in Bethlehem and the crucifixion happened in Jerusalem or nearby. Likewise, the tongue of the Apostle Paul was changed from being a tongue that preached killing, that preached barbaric violence, that preached incitement of people against other people on account of their beliefs. It was here that that tongue changed into a tongue that spoke of love and said that it is impermissible for any human to be a stranger to another.

As you heard in the hymn “Today is the Day of Resurrection,” we must—as the hymn says—learn today to address others, however they may be, by saying “my brother” and we must begin to think of the brotherhood of people and not of their antagonisms. We have said on very important occasions that anyone who uses religion to acquire honor from people or to benefit their families or their children, anyone who does this in the name of religion does the greatest harm to religion, whatever his religion may be.

We here have learned that our God is one and unique. Do not think that we say anything other than that “No one has seen God.” You have heard this statement in our Holy Gospel. God is one and unique and is not three gods, as some think. When we talk about hypostases, we say that the substance is one. The hypostases are undivided. When you separate one hypostases from another, in doing so you divide God. Our God is not a collection of parts. He is one. “I believe in one God.” “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God.” If we leave out any part of this phrase, we have divided the truth in which we believe.

This, beloved, is what we say in order to arrive at the fact that God is one, the one, unique Creator. This means that every person is a creature of God and there is no person on the face of the earth, great or small, learned or illiterate, who is not a creature of the one, unique God. This is why you have one duty toward every person, without exception. One who denies people their dignity denies the fact that God created a person for dignity, and not so that they will not be honored. Why do we complain about ourselves and our sins? Precisely because they are against human dignity and because they are against love for humans. Why do we complain about what happens in Palestine when we see a youth dying, a woman killed, a child martyred? It is because we have a deeply rooted belief that that youth, that woman, that child, were created for a life of dignity and not in order to die at the hands of another human. We do not appoint one person to be a god over another, even if one of them is weak and powerless, fated to fight and struggle while the other possesses all the powers of the earth. We do not bow down to him and we do not worship him.

Beloved, some people criticize us for always being with the weak and the oppressed, the weak in struggles and not the weak in virtue. We believe that the strong do not possess truth, do not possess justice, do not have respect for others.  The one who is strong is weak, weak to the greatest possible degree. They say to us, “Why are others strong in a way different from our own strength?” We say: has it become blameworthy for a person to not want to be a predator, for a person to not want to hatefully, forcefully, oppress others?  We believe that blame goes to one who is not willing to talk to another except in the language of power, compulsion, revenge, killing, and mockery. When we turn our attention during this feast to our brothers in Palestine, we think of this and we ask our questions that we have heart to the world, that perhaps the world may understand. On this morning, I also turn my attention to our brother bishops who guide our people, and how dear is our people to our hearts—I turn my attention to them because on this day they say to our people, “Christ is risen!” and they repeat this wherever they are found. They are present here and at the ends of the earth: in America, in Europe, in Australia, wherever your brothers are found, today they say, “Christ is risen!”

I know that today we might forget those who have died as martyrs. Beloved! All of us will die, but there are those who die for the sake of something that is special to you. They know very well that they must pay the price, without receiving any profit from their work. Many of them are among us.   

Our religions in this region are based on people who died for the sake of true faith. Likewise we say: They die for the sake of Christ and they die indeed, as they say to us that they reject evil in any place and in any form. Beloved! May God almighty have mercy on us in a world in which we do not deserve more than what we do. May God help us to change our world into a world worthy that humans live in it. May this be with one voice: “Christ is risen!”

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