Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Between Pageantry and Bearing Witness

Arabic original here.

Between Pageantry and Bearing Witness

Christianity believes that Jesus Christ is the eternal God who became human in history and not a created human who was lifted up to divinity by God. God became human, indeed, a servant. God did not choose to become a king, a prince, a general, a rich man, or someone of stature. He chose to be a poor servant who did not possess anything of the dust of this world. God who holds the world in His power became a servant led to the cross, an obedient servant accepting slaps, blows, stabbing, and insults...

Christianity is also a total imitation of Jesus, His words and His deeds. Thus the great Apostle Paul says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

The Gospel affirms in several places that imitating Jesus requires the Christian to follow the path of the slave serving his brothers, not the path of the master, even if he is the master of his nation according to the standards of the present time. Christ, the Mighty Lord, after he washed the feet of His diciples on the night when He was given up for crucifixion, addressed them and said, "You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15).

Leadership in Christianity is not for authority, power, or money. Leadership is not realized through anything other than love, humility and obedience to the word of God. A summary of all of this is gratuitous service to the point of self-sacrifice. The true master is the one who chooses to be a servant of the poor, the wretched, displaced persons, the homeless refugees and all who are tormented. Christ Himself says, " But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

These words appear as Jesus' response to the two disciples who sought worldly glory when they asked Him that one sit at His right and the other at His left in His glory. All of the disciples thought that Jesus had come to return earthly rule to Israel and so they competed among themselves over who would hold greater authority than the others in the coming state. Competition over authority caused the disciples to "be angry" (Mark 10:41) with one another and it caused them to deny Christ on the night He was arrested. It caused one of them to accept payment for betraying Him... Authority divided them, but service unto death brought them together and made them one heart.

The Church uses the services and hymns as symbols by which she passes into daily life. The Church does not stop at ritual pageantry and its aesthetics, but rather makes it a gateway into the service that must be carried out toward our weak brethren who await God's mercy. Just as Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407) speaks of a "liturgy after the liturgy", there is a "foot-washing after the foot-washing", there is a "cross after the cross", and there is a "resurrection after the resurrection"... Those who are content with scenery and do not arrive at bearing witness are still drowning in fantasy. Those who remain in the "before" and do not life in the "after" have not yet attained their Christianity.

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