Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Met Antonius (el-Souri): Why the Cross?

Arabic original here.

Why the Cross?

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12)

Our God came to us humbly, knowing that He would be slaughtered for our sins. He came knowing that we would crucify Him. Nevertheless, He did not refuse to die for us because He loves us. "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9).

God, who is glorified in Himself, was brought low to the point of death, the death of the cross, so the cross became the throne of His glory. God does not need us to glorify Him: He is glorified in Himself. He does not need us to love because He is love lived in the unity of the Trinity.

It adds nothing and takes nothing away if we exist or do not exist. He does not need us for anything, but rather we need Him in order to exist and despite that, He made Himself into a "beggar" out of love for us:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20). The Lord knocks on the door of our heart. If we open it to Him, He enters and if we do not open it, He continues to stand and knock. This is infinite love and ultimate humility, God seeks us in His mad love, and what do we give in return? This is the cross in God's heart, the lamb slaughtered from the foundation of the world.

"My people, what have I done to you..." In this way the Church expresses the pain of the Lord who sacrificed Himself for His own, who did not know Him (cf. John 1:10-11). Love is crucified in this world because because humankind does not know how to love. Love for them is possession, domination, consumption. This is not how God loves us. He reaches out to us and we refuse Him. He sacrifices Himself for us and we flee from Him. He gives us Himself and we turn away from Him... What is this man, who has in this way become subject to his passions, enslaved by imaginary pleasures?

God's love accepted nothing less than to save man. Therefore, the cross of Christ became a victory for divine love over the hatred, enmity and jealousy of the devil and those who follow him. The cross snapped the thorn of the death of sin and enslavement to the passions. He who desires to live in love-- that is, to follow Christ-- must bear the cross.

This is not a question of masochism, but rather one of walking in the path of pure love-- that is, love which has no ulterior interests in the other, but rather is realized in the live-giving reaching out, which generates joy in the soul on account of building up a real relationship and connection with the other because this other is loved on account of himself, since man is a being created to realize unity in distinction with God and with every human.

This is what Christ God realized in Himself and granted for us humans to participate in through our union with Him or rather, His union with us. Christ on the cross united earth to heaven and mankind to each other in Himself.

He who follows Him out of love upon the cross is worthy of glory.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

+Antonius
Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

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