Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: Syrians and the Joy of the Resurrection

Arabic original here.

Syrians and the Joy of the Resurrection

"Christ is risen, my joy." This expression never left Saint Seraphim of Sarov. It was his only greeting for the people he would meet day and night.

"Christ is risen, my joy." Where did Seraphim's joy come from? From the hope that Christ's resurrection was meaningless unless its purpose was the resurrection of all people. He was immersed in joy because he realized that he was risen, without a doubt, not only on the last day but from right now. " I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).

"Christ is risen, my joy" is our only weapon in the face of oppressors. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we shall have risen and stand upright" (Psalm 20:7-8). Yes, some trust in airplanes, tanks, missiles, machetes and knives... but we shall rise and stand upright. 

We do not know what kind of weapon Cain used to kill his brother Abel. Whatever kind it was, it was ineffective. Abel's blood continued to cry out from the earth. His blood remained alive, crying out. Since Abel, blood has never ceased being shed. But all the murdered and murderers have died. Death is just and is not afraid of any human. Even those who slake their thirst with death will be eaten by death.

However, the Lord of Life does not let His saints see corruption. Life cannot coexist with death. He who has abided in  God from today will not be abandoned by God at the moment of death. He will give him life. He will not leave him in hell. Rather, the death of a righteous person is transport from the earthly hell to eternal joy. These words do not mean that we call for craving death. That is a sin. We must love life and work for the reign of peace, love, gentleness and kindness. However, not remembering death is the beginning of falling into sin and transgression. For someone to think that he is eternal on this earth is shirk [i.e., believing that not-God is God] itself.

"Christ is risen, my joy," we say to all who are tormented on the earth and especially to all Syrians, even if this expression is hard on their ears. What does it mean for us to say these words to those who want salvation from the evil surrounding them from every direction? How do we say this to those who want an imminent salvation, a loaf of bread for their children, a roof to shelter them and their family? In reality, we cannot say these words if we do not love them, honor them, and strive to meet their needs-- that is, to bear their cross, the cross of joy that leads to the resurrection.

Syrians are called to hold firm to hope. Despair is a death that is even more bitter than bodily death. Nothing angers the Adversary more than to see those under attack standing courageous, holding to their principles, clinging to hope, unbowed. There is nothing that angers him more than to see them rising from the dead before they die.

"Christ is risen, my joy." The greeting of Seraphim of Sarov is, without a doubt, the greeting of the bishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Yuhanna Ibrahim. They are crying out, wherever they are, along with the Holy Apostle Paul, to all Syrians, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:4). 

No one will snatch this joy away from us. Whether we are in this world or the next, our mark is joy. And by their sign you will know them. Christ is risen, my joy. 

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