Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Carol Saba: We Need a Prophetic Antiochian Patriarch

Arabic original here.

We Need a Prophetic Antiochian Patriarch who will cry out in the Wilderness of this World in Crisis: Enough!

Until when some Christians celebrate with Christ Palm Sunday, while others celebrate already His resurrection. Who today has the courage for Antiochian Christian unity as a prelude to a united overall Christian witness, since the world today is in dire need of this? Has the time not come for Middle Eastern Christianity to discern the signs of the times, the eschatological meanings of their current suffering and what is needed of them? Two events of late have spoken to us of unity: Patriarch John X's receiving the medal of "Unity of the Orthodox Peoples" from the Patriarch of Moscow in Russia on February 20 of this year and the joint Paschal letter of the Patriarchs of Antioch. Russia's choice of John X, who bears the suffering of wounded Antioch, is appropriate, as he is patiently working to preserve Orthodox unity despite the blows dealt against it. This does not eliminate the question of what Orthodox unity means today. Is it only a unity of faith without a unity of condition and fate requiring unlimited solidarity among all ̄Orthodox? Is it a verbal unity that appears only in photographs of events and then disappears on the ground of reality and hopes? Where are the Orthodox churches when it comes to the fire that is ravaging the body of the Church of Antioch? Where are these Churches of the words of Paul, "If one member suffers, all suffer together"? What have these churches done about the decision of the Church of Jerusalem in 2013 to consecrate its own bishop for Qatar on territory belonging to the Church of Antioch, since this is an attack on Orthodox unity and the canons of the councils on which it is based? What have the churches done-- apart from issuing statements-- to move vigorously globally to end the suffering of Christians in the Middle East? What have they done about the kidnapping of Metropolitans Paul and Yuhanna of Aleppo? Have they called each other to hold open, extraordinary summits or to go to the United Nations to protest and sound a world-wide alarm? Have they set up crisis centers to follow events and raise awareness? What events would be more critical so as to require extraordinary actions? The Orthodox churches are in a crisis. They live as "churches" and not as one Church. This reminds me of the image of Nikos Kazantzakis in his book Christ Recrucified which recounts the struggle among Orthodox who have been expelled from their village in Asia Minor by the Turks and have entered another Orthodox village subject to the authority of a different Turkish agha, which enjoys prosperity and a dignified life. This village that is bloated with worldly acquisitions and whose priest is bloated with authority and worldly interests treats the foreign brothers and their homeless upright, spiritual priest as foreigners and not as brothers in Christ who are suffering, homeless and exhausted. The "bloated" church has only expressed verbal solidarity with the “suffering” church without sharing in her pain and giving her shelter and clothing. It has pushed her out into the outdoors, into distant wilderness.

The situation of the Orthodox Church today is not surprising. There is no critical, spiritual assessment in the Church of purity and holiness. There is no prospective reading of the modernity of today's world and of the requirements of an intelligent witness to the Gospel in it. The logic of maintaining existence overshadows the logic of proclaiming the Good News, of bearing witness and of giving. As for our ecclesiology that supposes communion and the participation of all talents, lay and clerical, in the Church's decision-making process through wider institutionalized consultation, it is not put into practice in the Church. Instead, the Church's governance today is based on a vertical hierarchy of authority that accumulates a great deal of spiritual and professional experience that is not put into use and that is not put to the benefit of the mother churches. Effective unity cannot be based on the churches constantly living "in parallel" nor on their living in the past, where there is a great deal of maintaining a museum but very little intelligent motion for interacting with today's world, a world of networks and interconnectivity. Unity will come down to us if we strive to be engaged together-- without eliminating diversity-- in a plan for a united Christian witness, in which there is tradition and modernity, that will shorten history and hasten the Second Coming.

In the West there is a bold pope who is trying to condense history and expel the money-changers from the Lord's temple. He dealt out harsh words for them when he spoke to the Catholic bishops who "have become administrators with no evangelical joy within them, who are not moved by the Holy Spirit." Is there a patriarch, an Antiochian prophet, who has the courage for Antiochian Christian unity as a prelude to a united Christian witness? I have trust in the youthfulness of John X, who took the first step of holding the Antiochian Unity Conference in June 2014. But terrible breaks were put on the conference by the conservative church, weighed down by accumulations, that has been deserted by pastoral care concerns. The conference and its recommendations came and went and were entered into the archives rather than bringing into our church a program of unity and modernity for shaping the future of the Church of Antioch. Striving for unity requires bearing witness unto death, the death of the cross. There is no resurrection and no role for Antioch in the process of Christian unity unless Antioch is renewed without modernizing. Does Antioch, which has always been at the forefront of pointing the way to what is essential in the universal Church, hear the voice of the Lord who stands knocking at the door? Is John X the prophetic patriarch needed here and now to cry out in the wilderness of this world in crisis with the boldness of John the Forerunner and like him say, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said"?

1 comment:

Fr Michael Laffoon said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.