Monday, July 22, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh: Syria of Mary and the Saints

Arabic original here.

Syria of Mary and the Saints

They cut the head off of the statute of Mary, “Chief of the Women of the Universe.”* They cut it off in the area of Jisr el-Shughur in Syria. The statue did not bleed. It did not feel pain. It did not shed a tear. It did not fear them. It did not bat an eyelid. It did not cry out for help. Its pulse did not race. It did not plead with them to not cut its head off of its body. It did not resist them. It did not try to flee. It met its fate with eloquent silence.

Cutting  the head off of a statue of Mary or of any of the holy ones of God is better, if it is possible to make such a comparison, than for them to slaughter a human being. The statue can be replaced with another or with more. But as for a human being, who can give a widow back her husband, an orphan back his father, or the bereaved back her child…? Mary will not be sorrowed by the destruction of her statue. But she will inevitably grieve until the end for every human who kills his fellow human.

Their cutting the head off of a statue of Mary will not hurt her in any way and will not reduce her place by even the breadth of a hair. No doubt, Mary will weep for their sins and ask her Lord to pardon them and forgive them for the harm they did to themselves. The harm will not reach Mary, whom God “chose and purified over all the women of the universe.” She will not be tarnished by their filthy hands but rather those who seek to insult her will be the only ones to be insulted.

Mary, whom God “chose and purified over all the women of the universe,” the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an, Our Lady the Virgin, chaste and pure, “whom no human has touched,” the mother of Isa ibn Maryam, whom God made “a sign to people and a mercy from Us”—they dare to tarnish and desecrate! But they were driven off and their deeds will perish in this world and the next.

It was not Muslims who destroyed the statue of Mary, even if they had Islamic names and followed some of the precepts of Islam. Destroying the statue is explicitly contrary to the exemplary ethical behavior of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, who distinguished between the idols of the polytheists and the images of the Christians. He commanded the former to be destroyed and the latter to be preserved because he realized that the Christians do not worship images but rather through them honor those that they depict.

It is important to mention here that in the book “Akhbar Makka” by Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Ahmad al-Azraqi it states that on the pillars of the Kaaba there were “images of the prophets, images of the Tree, images of angels, an image of Abraham the Friend of God, and an image of Isa ibn Maryam.” Then al-Azraqi mentions that on the day Muhammad conquered Mecca, he “ordered these images to be effaced, and they were effaced. But he put his hands over the image of Isa ibn Maryam and his mother—peace be upon them, and said, ‘Erase all the images except for what is under my hands’ and he lifted his hands to reveal Isa ibn Maryam and his mother.” The image remained for more than sixty years after the conquest of Mecca, until al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the Umayyad governor of Iraq, bombarded Mecca with catapults, destroying the Kaaba and burning everything in it.

And so if the purpose of attacking the statue of Mary was to terrorize Christians, we say that the Syria of Paul, of Ananias, of Symeon Stylites of Aleppo, of Elian of Homs, of Sergius and Bacchus of Rusafa, of Chrysostom of Antioch, of Maron of Hama, of Maximus of the Golan, of John of Damascus, the Syria of the martyrs, the saints, the ascetics and the righteous, the Syria whose every speck of dust bears witness to her Christianity, shall continue to have within her Christians as witnesses of love and peace, witnesses of Christ’s constant presence in them and in Syria.

*This title is often applied to Fatima, Muhammad's daughter, in Islam.

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