Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Patriarch John X's Sermon at Prayers Held in Damascus for the Return of the Kidnapped Bishops

This sermon was given on the occasion of prayers for the release of the kidnapped bishops held at Holy Cross Church in Damascus, Monday May 20, 2013, in the presence of the papal nuncio to Syria and representatives of all Christian confessions in Syria. As I haven't found an Arabic copy of the sermon yet, below is my translation of Carol Saba's French translation, available in pdf here.

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Beloved, we have now gone with you along our Savior's way of the Cross. We have seen Him in the tomb after His crucifixion, and then risen from the dead, raising us with Him. So let us take Him as the example for each one of us and draw from His glorious life among us a nectar and a perfume that anoint our wounds. Our Lord followed the way of the Cross and the Passion, this way that leads to the Resurrection. The Lord's resurrection is the end of His way of the Cross. The Lord's resurrection is the light that illumines every human person's heart and makes it into a dwelling-place for Christ. Christ's resurrection is that flash of light that disperses the ashes of complacency and discouragement from the embers of our souls. Your resurrection, Lord, is the source of hope in hearts ravaged by despair and in souls left to despondency. The Lord's resurrection is not recognized in souls that ruminate on pains and sorrows. The Lord's resurrection dwells in the souls of those who aspire, out of the bowels of suffering and the shadows of tragedy, to hope. Happy is the rock that concealed the Lord's body. Happy is the tomb that could contain the dead Lord! The Lord's body made its home in the tomb, making it into a heaven, just as it makes its home and dwells in each of us in the Eucharist and brings us up to heaven, making us into the temples of His Holy Spirit. Our hope in this paschal season is that each one of us can follow the example of Christ's tomb, this tomb that welcomed death and brought forth Life, which was in shadows and darkness and became a niche of light. May our spirits follow its example, whatever evils they face, so that the hope of these souls will be placed in the Lord risen from the tomb, who brought forth light for us and for all creation. Let us proclaim with Chrysostom:

Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are annihilated. Christ is risen and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and now life reigns. Christ is risen and the tomb is empty of its dead.

I speak to you, with my brothers their beatitudes the patriarchs and the reverend bishops, as reasons for sorrow surround us on all sides. In our beloved country of Syria, dangers threaten our homes and menace human beings in their daily bread, their livelihood, in their dwelling-place and in their life. Every day we are put to the test by murder, by abduction, and by every sort of destruction. Once more, we deplore and denounce the abduction of our two brothers, bishop Paul, Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo and Alexandretta, and Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo, as well as the murder of the driver who accompanied them. We condemn their not having been freed up to now, despite all the efforts expended for this.

I share with you the pain that all of us feel. But we affirm and state that we are not willing to accept the situation that we are living here and now. We are working to make our refusal of this reality the mirror of our faith. We reject this reality and we condemn it. We are not afraid of those who adopt violence as their way, as we are children of the Resurrection. That we may be killed, that we may be kidnapped, that our homes may be destroyed, all of this will neither affect nor reduce our determination to cling to our citizenship and to coexistence, to cling to our land, and to demand rights and justice in our countries. Thus, each of us, whether in the Antiochian lands or in the diaspora, is called to express his concern, his rejection of the course of events, apart from any political orientation. Christianity's cause is the cause of the human being, for our Savior became incarnate for his salvation.

I will use this occasion to address, in your name-- you who are in the homeland or the diaspora-- an appeal to the international community to encourage it to make every possible effort to bring about the liberation of these captives, whose absence wounds us. Quickly turning this page is extremely important in order to prevent the serious consequences that may result. Our appeal also insists on working to find a rapid solution to the prevailing situation in our beloved country of Syria, out of mercy for this people who bear witness to a civilization coming from thousands of years of human presence, and to prevent effects and reactions that could effect the entire region.

Beloved children, even as we receive the blessings of the glorious Resurrection, let us multiply our prayers and supplications, so that they might be a way of living witness, by which we that God will cast injustice away from all, that the captives may return to their loved ones, that the bereaved may be consoled, and that the heard of heart will be inspired to stop harming their fellow humans.

I ask for constant prayer with a contrite heart, aware that if we are brought into temptation by these trials, we have in God a place of refuge, and also aware that God does not turn away from us. May love, may service, may courage, be an introduction to the joy of the Resurrection, that joy that will not be removed from us. Christ is risen!

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