Monday, September 17, 2012

Fr. Georges Massouh on Emigration and the Cross

Arabic original here.

Our Cross

The day after tomorrow, September 14, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Elevation of the Honorable Cross. The best honor for the cross, according to the Gospel, is to take it as a path and a model for the life of those who believe in Christ as savior and redeemer.

Jesus says to His followers,  “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:34-36)

Christ was not content to inform His disciples about what would happen with Him. He also called on them to partake of the very same fate if they desired to be His followers. Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407) comments on this passage from the Gospel that it is impossible for the disciples to be saved if they are not continuously prepared for death.

After citing Christ's saying "unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain" (John 12:24), he continues, "Christ not only prepares them for His death, but also for their own death."

There is no doubt that Jesus' logic differs from the logic of this world and of those who live by its rules. Origen (d. 245), one of the teachers of the Church, says about this, "One who loves the present life, thinking it to be good and living the life of the flesh, fearing death, in doing so loses the life that he wishes to save...

However, if a person abstains in his life, denies himself, bears his cross, and follows Christ out of desire for the salvation of his soul, it seems to the world that he loses his life. However, by losing his life for the sake of Christ and His teaching, he gains salvation."

Christ directs these words to His disciples in every time and place, in various circumstances and contexts. This is why Christian Arabs, cast into the furnace along with the Muslim fellow-citizens, are not exempt from this commandment which is based on love and sacrifice up to the ultimate martyrdom. The cross which they are called to bear, which they cannot reject if they wish to be followers of the Nazarene, is commitment to human and national issues, and to realize the values of peace, love, and equality.

This requires them to remain in their land or to return to it, in order to bear witness to the Lord in the place where He wanted them to live and bear witness. Emigration for the sake of saving one's life does not save anything, but perhaps these words of Christ's are true about it: "whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it." Emigration denies love, that single commandment that summarizes the entire Gospel. It is a denial of the love that is required towards our brothers in faith and in the nation, and especially towards the poor and those without means.

Our words are not meant to judge anyone. God alone is the judge. However, they are a call to bear witness to the truth. Arab Christianity will not last through talking about the glories of the past or about Christianity having started in our lands or by changing churches into monuments and museums, or for us to remember our villages only on the occasion of funerals... "What use is it for a person if he gains the whole world but loses his life?" What if we gain the whole world but lose our love for each other?

1 comment:

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I wouldn't know what to say to Christians seeing their family members targeted for kidnapping and watching their homelands fill up with Salafist fighters bankrolled by sheikhs with seemingly endless oil money.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.