Friday, December 21, 2012

Fr Georges Massouh on Patriarch John X

Arabic original here.

Patriarch John of Antioch

"Feed my sheep." "Watch over my flock." "Feed my sheep." Three expressions taken from the Gospel of John the Theologian that the Lord said to the Apostle Peter after His resurrection. They are the last commandment that He gave to the shepherds of His Church. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who sacrifices Himself for His flock. Through their struggle and and their complete self-dedication, those shepherds who are established by Him strive to achieve the Good Shepherd's example.

Patriarch John X (Yazigi) of Antioch, "the Shepherds of Shepherds" and "the Father of Fathers", as the Church calls him, is the shepherd who fits the word of the Lord, "I know my flock and my flock knows me." Yes, the new patriarch knows well the flock of Christ, their concerns and their needs. The children of the Church know him as a shepherd, a vigilant father, and a leader who is capable, with God's help, of leading them to a safe harbor.

John X, "the Thirteenth Apostle", successor to the Apostles, successor of Saints Peter and Paul over the Great City of God, Antioch, "where the disciples were first called Christians," is the scion of the tree of Antioch that has born fruit in many fathers of the Church, martyrs, righteous ones, ascetics, and theologians... who left their mark on the Church of Christ with their holiness and their good memory. He is the son of this great heritage that stretches from the holy martyr Ignatius of Antioch, the direct disciple of the apostles, to the current era.

The living heritage of Antioch is based on the realized hope that the Lord cannot abandon His Church as long as there are laborers prepared to volunteer and work in His field. The Antiochian Church has passed through difficult circumstances, painful events, wars and invasions from the East just as much as from the West. She and her children were almost wiped out, if not for the hope that is in her, almost wiping out Christianity from her. But she persevered, by virtue of her belief that her witness requires her to cling to her home and persist in gratuitous love toward those who dwell in her historical land, Christians and non-Christians.

Without a doubt, the patriarch who comes from this heritage realizes that the primary concern expected of him is to exhort Antiochians-- Lebanese, Syrian, and Iraqi-- is to believe in the possibility of remaining in their cities and villages despite the savagery and barbarity that is going on. These countries are their countries and they are responsible for their resurrection and revival. Just as their ancestors were a good leaven in days gone by, they too can be this leaven in our own day. This requires complete commitment on the part of the Church to social issues, especially with regard to housing refugees and ensuring the minimum elements of decent living for them.

Patriarch John X is the model of the Antiochian with no guile in him. He is the upright theologian in whom is the spirit of John of Damascus. He is the teacher, preacher and man of prayer in whom is the spirit of John Chrysostom. He is the hesychast ascetic in whom is the spirit of John Climacus. He is the chanter in whom is the spirit of Romanos the Melodist. He loves peace according to the example of most of the patriarchs who preceded him upon the see of Antioch. We are not exaggerating if we say that in him is the spirit of that martyr to speaking the truth, Saint John the Baptist and the spirit of that soaring eagle, Saint John the Evangelist.

The Orthodox Church believes the the Holy Spirit is the one who grants gifts. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Himself, she has decided that Patriarch John is the one who possesses the gift of leadership-- here and now. May God make sure your steps, my patriarch, in every good work for the benefit of the Church, the people, and the country.


NOCTOC said...

I am very happy that John Yazigi was elected as the new Partiarch of the Church of Antioch.


Samn! said...

Just about everyone is!

Presbyter Alexander Haig said...

Not quite everyone; it is with bitter sweet joy I see him elected: sweet in that we have a true man of prayer as patriarch, bitter as we will lose him as metropolitan and having what will possibly be another long period without a bishop - the second within five years.