Monday, September 4, 2017

Fr Georges Massouh: Eid al-Adha and the Cross

Arabic original here.

Eid al-Adha and the Cross

Eid al-Adha contains numerous symbols that our peoples continue to live. When Ibrahim al-Khalil intended to sacrifice his son-- Isaac for Jews and Christians and Ismail for Muslims-- God stayed his hand and substituted a ram for the sacrificial son. God redeemed the boy, making the point through this religious event that people should no longer make human sacrifices and that they should substitute animal sacrifices for them. Then Christ came and ended animal sacrifice, offering Himself as a sacrifice once and for all for the salvation of humankind.

But bloodthirsty human sacrifices are still practiced here and there. God's intervention with Abraham was of no use because humankind did not want to learn the lesson from it. It is enough for us to observe what is going on around us in order to realize the enormity of what is happening. Sacrifices and human victims are offered on the altar of the ruler or the leader of a group who has taken the place of God for people. They are convinced that they are nothing but sheep prepared for slaughter for the sake of the ruler's life and continued preservation. It is no wonder, then, that we are witnessing a return to the barbarism of sacrifice and useless killing. Those performing the slaughter are the results of our societies overburdened with prejudice and hatred, the results of the religious backwardness that has led us away from the weightiest thing to which God has called us: mercy.

The problem lies at root in religious education that makes children into followers of a god manufactured by the lusts and hatreds of their fathers. So we can say that children have not been liberated from the perversions of their fathers, but rather have become overjoyed at being prisoners and slaves to them. The fathers feast on their thrones, fashioning from their followers the plans of butchers and suicide-bombers.

Solely with regard to Christianity, the symbolism is not limited to violent bloodshed, after having been so over the course of history. Rather, it includes every sort of spiritual, moral and verbal violence. This spiritual violence, even if it does not include bloodshed, perhaps has a result similar to murder, murder of the spirit, which Christ said is more serious than the death of the body. What can we call a spiritual son who has done away with his freedom and his intellect, handing himself over to a father who has not attained, nor will attain, perfect immunity from sin. "For no man lives and does not sin." He receives all his directions from him without discussion, as though they were the orders of Christ Himself.

If the relationships stays between the father and his son, then the situation is better than if the son wields over society and people his father's absolute authority over him. I once heard, when I was a theology student, a heated debate between two of my colleagues over whose spiritual father was better. Belonging to a spiritual father, then, becomes an affiliation with a party that promotes its president into the image of God. The father does not hesitate to sacrifice his children in order to defend himself, even at the expense of the Gospel's teachings. True spiritual fatherhood is for the father to sacrifice himself for his children even to the point of death, not for him to sacrifice his children.

The Lord said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." The cross, for Christians, is the most sublime sacrifice [Arabic: adha], and Christ Himself is the sacrificial victim. For someone to deny himself means that he does not believe that he is indispensable and that he imitates Christ, satisfied to be crucified like his Teacher. So if someone wants to follow Christ, he must sacrifice himself in order to become another Christ.

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