Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Christian Marriage

 Arabic original here.


Christian Marriage

 

In Christian marriage, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, the man is an image of Christ and the woman is an image of the Church.

Saint John Chrysostom says, "Christ, the head of the Church has died living for our sake." And in the Epistle reading for the wedding service (Ephesians 5:20-33), the Apostle Paul says: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord...  just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22 and 24).

The Apostle continues and says: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies" (Ephesians 5:28). Love is death for the sake of the other. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Love does not wait for reciprocity: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" (Luke 6:31). 

This is the sort of love that is expected of the man, just as it is of the woman.

Therefore, as it is said it in the Epistle to the Ephesians: "Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28).

The conclusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians is the following: a man's relationship to his wife is according to the model of Christ's relationship to the Church, so if God's commandment to the Christian believer is to love others as he loves himself (Matthew 22:39), how can we not begin by applying this first in our own homes? All of this "to keep the good wine until the end" (John 2:10).

This is the mystery of Christ and the Church. This is the perfect union of man and woman. Every virtue, and especially the virtue of love, is demanded of believers whom the Lord has redeemed by His precious blood. Amen.

+ Ephrem

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Jad Ganem: The Picture Speaks

 

 Arab original here.

The Picture Speaks


Recently, the world followed on television and online the celebrations of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the Vatican in the presence of His Beatitude John X and an accompanying Antiochian delegation and with the participation of a delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon.


Observers of events in the Orthodox Church have commented on a number of images that appeared during this celebration, including:


- That the Patriarch of Antioch was dressed in the clerical robes that he wears outside the liturgy.


- That the Metropolitan of Chalcedon was wearing the robes that bishops wear during the liturgy, with a priest walking behind him holding up the edge of his mantiya. 


- That the delegations from Constantinople and Antioch did not sit in the same place inside Saint Peter's Basilica.


In addition to the images that have appeared on social media, the Phanar's news website and Greek news sites close to the Phanar reported the event in the following manner: "During the Divine Liturgy that took place today, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, at the Basilica of St. Peter of Rome, by Pope Francis, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate led by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, along with Patriarch John X of Antioch, attended the service."


These observations lead to a number of questions:


- Does ecclesiastical etiquette not require Constantinople's representative, Metropolitan Emmanuel, to follow the example of the Patriarch of Antioch and to be content to wear clerical dress and not liturgical vestments?


- Is it appropriate for there to be two delegations representing the one Orthodox Church taking part, as though they were two churches unconnected to each other?


- What is the sense in giving the impression in news reports that Constantinople's representative has precedence over the Patriarch of Antioch?


Of course, no one either in or outside the Orthodox world is ignorant of the fact that Constantinople wants to give the impression that the Patriarch of Constantinople is "first without equals" and that his position in the Orthodox world is different from that of the other churches. This is something alien to tradition and is a contentious issue within the family of Orthodox Churches. Perhaps this frantic quest to establish this differentiation is causing the Phanariots to become estranged from reality and to live in their own imaginary world.


If it were the case that any one of Constantinople's bishops takes precedence before the patriarchs of the local churches, then does this mean, for example, that any one of the bishops of Alexandria or Antioch takes precedence over the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Romania or Serbia?


The pictures have spoken on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome and they have revealed the Church of Antioch's fidelity to tradition and the crisis that is sweeping the Orthodox world on account of the deep-seated superiority complex of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its representatives, manifest in the unparalleled peacockery of its representative, cast into sharp relief by the simplicity of his host, the Pope, and the reserve of the Patriarch of Antioch.


The picture has spoken more and has vindicated what Orthodox have been saying for years about Constantinople's effort to practice an eastern papism. Will the leaders of the Orthodox world rise up before it's too late?

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos) on Almsgiving

Arabic original here.

 

Almsgiving:

The Third Pillar of Orthodox Spirituality


The Orthodox Church views prayer, fasting and almsgiving as the three pillars of Orthodox spirituality. In these difficult days, almsgiving has taken on greater and greater importance throughout the world. We hope that it will be practiced more and more spiritually, maintaining our concern for prayer and fasting.

The world today is in dire need of the living-out of Orthodox spirituality filled with the Holy Spirit. Civilization is thirsty for such a practice in a world that has become more and more secular and materialist.

 

How to Look at Money according to the Teachings of the Lord Jesus

Jesus discussed money in a spiritual way that differs from how we usually look at it. He regarded almsgiving as a fundamental part of God's salvific dispensation. Money is not limited pastorally to fundraising. It is considered in the Bible and the Church from a spiritual perspective.

This view must be incorporated into the training of priests and theology students. The Lord Jesus considered teaching about money to be one of his most profound spiritual teachings. In Matthew 6 He presented the three spiritual pillars and placed a special emphasis on money and almsgiving, or charity, just as He typically emphasizes love, obedience and forgiveness. He says, for example, "No one can serve two masters: God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

With regard to almsgiving, He says, "When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," (Matthew 6:3). And also, "
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19 and 21).

Once more, we say: Jesus doesn't just talk about money as we are accustomed to do ourselves, in terms of aiding the poor or supporting the parish's annual budget.

The Lord Jesus had a very different, spiritual view of money. For example, He didn't just ask the rich young man to distribute his wealth to the poor. The goal was to eliminate the material impediment that was preventing him from enjoying eternal life (cf. Matthew 19:21).

The topic of almsgiving not only covers giving to the poor. The word 'almsgiving' or 'charity' in Greek, ἐλεημοσύνη, also indicates works of mercy, which means that almsgiving is merciful giving: "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy."

Saint John Chrysostom says: "The rich exist for the sake of the poor and the poor exist for the salvation of the rich." Saint Gregory of Nyssa says in his homily On Love for the Poor: "Mercy and love of almsgiving are works that God loves. They deify those who practice them and imprint upon them the likeness of the Good so that they become the image of the Divine Being."

The Apostle Paul says of Jesus' giving: "Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

He adds: "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body [a]to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). So let giving be motivated by love and not for selfish reasons.


+Ephrem

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Friday, July 2, 2021

Orthodox History: The End of the “Greek Captivity” of Antioch

 Matthew Namee, at the excellent blog Orthodox History, has posted an excellent summary of the process by which the Patriarchate of Antioch rid itself of the Greek xenocracy that had controlled it, much to its detriment, during most of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

 

For most of the 18th and 19th century, the Patriarchate of Antioch was controlled by ethnic Greeks rather than the local Arabic-speaking people. The Patriarch was always a Greek, a member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, which controlled not only Antioch but also Alexandria and Jerusalem. (Today, Jerusalem remains under the control of the Brotherhood.) As the 19th century wore on, the native Antiochians chafed under the rule of what they viewed as Greek interlopers.

In 1885, the Greek Patriarch Hierotheos of Antioch died at the age of 85. He had served as Patriarch for 34 years, and the historian Derek Hopwood wrote that Hierotheos “continued to reign until he was overtaken by senility, which in Arab opinion saved the Church from ‘utter destruction’.” The local Orthodox population of the Patriarchate clamored for a Patriarch of their own people to succeed Hierotheos, but, according to Hopwood, the ruling Greek minority “argued (and bolstered their argument with considerable sums of money), that there was no Arab fit to assume the office of patriarch and that the Arabs as a whole were under Russian influence.” The Ottoman government duly approved Gerasimos, a Greek member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, as the next Patriarch of Antioch.

In 1890, the Brotherhood elected Gerasimos to be the next Patriarch of Jerusalem. although technically lower in the diptychs, Jerusalem was a far wealthier see than Antioch, and Gerasimos agreed to the switch. With the throne of Antioch vacant, the local Orthodox hoped that one of their own might finally become Patriarch. But the Syrians were not themselves unified: a faction of Orthodox elites in Damascus was actually opposed to a native Patriarch, fearing that the election of a Syrian would reduce their own influence. The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre proposed a Greek candidate, Spyridon, who is said to have offered a large bribe to the elites of Damascus to support his election. Thus Spyridon was elected, and from the beginning, there was discontent. Patriarch Spyridon proved to be a capricious leader, moving clergy around and dispensing discipline arbitrarily, closing schools, and hiding the Patriarchate’s finances from the rest of the Holy Synod. He was so hated that, according to Hopwood, “the Arabs refused to have anything to do with him, holding their services in graveyards and burying their dead unblessed.”

 [...]

 Read the rest here.

 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Jad Ganem: Patriarch Bartholomew's Criticism of Predecessors

 Arabic original here.

Criticism of Predecessors

On June 11, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople celebrated the feast of his patron saint with the participation of an official delegation from the Church of Cyprus, another from the entity that Constantinople created for the schismatics in Ukraine, and a number of bishops from the Churches of Constantinople and Greece.


During the Divine Liturgy, His Holiness gave a speech in which he stressed the role and privileges of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in which he said:


"We have, and we recognize that we have a singular responsibility among the Orthodox as Archbishop of Constantinople. There are those who consider these as privileges, which is why they envy the apparent glory of the resurrection, while overlooking the Golgotha of serving the Truth at any cost. We do not enter into dialogue about that which is self-evident and handed down to us by our forefathers. The responsibilities of our Throne are not negotiable. They cannot be surrendered. And they cannot be disposed. 


We will not allow any alienation from the blessed ecclesiology as clearly described in the documents of our history. We will not permit condescension, economia, courtesy, certain friendly concessions and actions of the previous century, initiated by some of our predecessors in the hope of unity, but unfortunately far removed from the authentic and ancient ecclesiology.


We will not allow them to overturn everything sacred that God’s providence has erected for the Throne of Constantinople. Constantinople is tantamount to sacrifice, responsibility, unceasing self-offering. But it does not amount to a chess-piece in the passing interests and opportunistic intentions of every historical circumstance."


All of this raises a number of questions:


What is the historical responsibility that has been placed upon the shoulders of the Patriarch of Constantinople? Is it a responsibility to coordinate between the local churches? Or is it a responsibility to lead or govern these churches unilaterally according to his personal view of things?
Who defines what Constantinople's historical responsibility is? Is it the Patriarch of Constantinople himself, with his group? Or is it the universal Orthodox Church?


If Patriarch Bartholomew himself has admitted that those who preceded him departed from "the ancient and original ecclesiology", then how do we know that he has not himself departed from this ecclesiology today?


If Constantinople's role is centered on a historical reading of events according to Patriarch Bartholomew, then which historical period should be the point of reference? The era of the Ecumenical Councils? The era of union with Rome? Or the Ottoman era?


Perhaps everything above confirms, now more than at any time in the past, that Constantinople's role in the Orthodox world has become a problem that must be solved in a conciliar manner, through a council that includes all Orthodox bishops, especially follwing Patriarch Bartholomew's having accused his predecessors of departing from ecclesiology in order to justify his current deviation from it and effort to apply the theory of "first without equals" which no one had previously claimed?


Is the universal Church going to take the patriarch's words seriously?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Jad Ganem: Our Forgotten Saints

 Arabic original here.


Our Forgotten Saints

On June 6, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America celebrated, along with all Orthodox in the United States, the naming of the city block where St Nicholas Cathedral is located in New York after Saint Raphael Hawaweeny, who established that church at the beginning of the last century.

Saint Raphael was born in Damascus and raised in Beirut. He studied theology at the Chalki Seminary and at the theological academy in Kiev. The Russian tsar then sent him, at the request of the Russian bishop in the United States, to provide pastoral care for Arab immigrants in particular. He was elected as an auxiliary bishop to Bishop Tikhon who later became the first Patriarch of Russia after the restoration of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He undertook the organization of the Antiochian parishes in the United States which later formed the foundation of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Bishop Raphael is regarded as the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in the Americas and he is called the "Evangelist of America" because of his evangelical work among the Arab, Greek and Russian diasporas, whose languages he mastered. The Orthodox Church in America declared his sainthood in 2000 and his feast is celebrated on February 27, while his relics were transferred to Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania.

The Holy Synod of Antioch has not yet made a decision to include him on the list of Antiochian saints and he is regarded as one of the unknown saints compared to the new saints that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has recently declared and in whose name new churches have been built in Antioch and whose stories, teachings and sayings have spread among the people.

This might perhaps raise a number of questions:

* Why, despite the promises it made at the expanded synod in 1993, when the sainthood of Joseph of Damascus was declared, has the Church of Antioch not continued to uncover Antiochian saints and work to inform the faithful about their stories and then to celebrate the sainthood of the confessors, martyrs, monks and teachers who have shone forth in her over the past centuries?

* Why do Antiochians seem to be estranged from the saints who have shone forth within their own church, while they flock to honor the saints who have shone forth in the Greek world? And what are the reasons preventing the spread of veneration for saints who have shone forth in the other local churches in Antiochian circles?

* Why has the Church of Antioch not yet come up with a synodal mechanism for including the veneration of saints who have shone forth in the other local churches on her calendar? Is it possible to arrange this at a time when we see churches being built in the names of new saints who have not been included in the Antiochian Synaxarion?

Perhaps the most important question remains: Has the time not yet come to initiate an Antiochian project to discover the forgotten saints in the history of this church and to declare the sainthood of those whose holiness shined forth in these lands, thus giving consolation to the faithful in these difficult times?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Video: Eastern Christianity in Syria and Palestine and European Cultural Diplomacy (1860-1948)

 


19 May 2021 | A Christian ‘Oriental question’ or an ‘Orient belonging only to Easterners’? 

In this webinar, the panelists will discuss European cultural diplomacy in Ottoman and Mandate Syria and Palestine, how it impacted the cultural identification of indigenous Christians, and the variety of Christian Arab agendas towards such policies, relying predominantly on unpublished sources. They will present some of the conceptual and archival challenges, and link the study of the micro-scale level of everyday cultural and religious life to the macro-narratives of global change affecting Christian communities, in a connected perspective.