Friday, April 13, 2018

Fr Georges Massouh: The Holy Light and the True Miracle

Arabic original, first published on April 18, 2010, here.

The Holy Light and the True Miracle

When the Pharisees asked Christ the Lord to perform a miracle in front of them, He answered them rebukingly, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-41). In this response of His, Christ meant to indicate the prophecies pertaining to His resurrection from the dead after His crucifixion and burial. We find an echo of this rebuke in what the Apostle Paul wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, "Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). Here the Apostle chastises those who still, after Christ's resurrection, ask for a miracle, a sign, or a word of wisdom. The resurrection is the miracle of miracles. It is not in need of additional proofs so that people might believe in it, especially after the multiple testimonies transmitted by witnesses of the resurrection that are found in the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles.

Nevertheless, some people are still waiting for an inevitable "miracle" to occur, as the believe, every year on Holy Saturday right before Pascha. On the morning of that Saturday, the Orthodox patriarch enters into the Holy Sepulcher, where the candles that he is holding light spontaneously, in a "miraculous" way. Those who believe in this miraculous phenomenon, the "Holy Light", resort to attempting to prove the historicity of this miracle by taking it back to the first Christian century, but the proofs that they rely on are weak and borrowed from secondary sources. Either they lack objectivity or they cite texts whose meaning is not clear or which do not confirm the miracle, as in the diary attributed to the pilgrim Egeria during her travels in Palestine.

This phenomenon has become prevalent in Lebanon recently and a crowd of people eagerly awaits it. What we fear in this context is that this acceptance has become popular amidst the growth of popular religion at the expense of theology and correct ecclesial thinking. By popular religion, what we mean is religion that stirs people's feelings with sensual and exotic things that have the feel of magic and often rouse buried impulses. We also fear that the phenomenon of the Holy Light might be placed within the framework of confirming religious identity by reassuring those who believe in the truth of their faith, their superiority over everyone in other churches, the validity of their timing of Pascha and the error of the rest of the Christians, something that strengthens feelings of superiority and arrogance. "Know O you nations and be defeated, for God is with us!", with the decisive proof shining forth from the Holy Sepulchre!

On the other hand, those who believe in this "miracle" forget that God is not the god of a tribe and that He has proven false the belief that He is the god of one nation and not of others. They forget that this "miracle" legitimizes a patriarchal leadership in the hands of a junta of Greek nationalists who exclude Arabs, the people of Palestine, from church leadership. How can God leave  Jewish exclusivism only to enter into Greek exclusivism? That the Holy Light only descends on the Greek patriarch and not other patriarchs, as the Greeks claim, limits God's activity in the universe to them. Is this our holy, living God?

At a time when Arab Christians in Palestine are suffering from the impact of the Israeli occupation and from emigration that has reached the point of the ctotal elimination of their presence in the land of their fathers and forefathers, we find ourselves supplicating God to send down to them what will benefit them and to establish them where they were born, spent their youth and middle age, and grew old. What use is the Holy Light if the land of Christ is emptied of those who believe in Him? Did Jesus not have pity on the widow of Nain and raise her only son from the dead, bringing life back to her? If we want a miracle that truly bears fruit, let us implore Him to raise the victims of the occupation from the dead, especially the children, so that they may bear stones to pelt the army of occupation, that the shameful wall separating members of  the same family may collapse, that He may bring life back to the olive and orange trees that the soldiers cut down, that Palestine may return to her children.

Some people busy themselves with things that don't deserve attention. "Martha, Martha, you worry about many things but one thing is needful." The one thing needful is man. Everything apart from that is vain. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.skarlakidis.gr/en/book-deskription.html

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QixmmUAlCY8&feature=youtu.be