Sunday, December 9, 2018

Patriarch Ignatius IV on Antiochian Identity

Arabic original here, with thanks to Jad Ganem.

Antiochian Identity

In his response to those who think that "If we speak as Orthodox, then we must be like each other," Patriarch Ignatius IV of thrice-blessed memory rejects the opinion that all the world's Orthodox must say the same thing about everything and stresses that Orthodoxy as a faith is one, but the Orthodox are not one. He sharply criticizes those who "believe that if you are different from them, you are not Orthodox enough," regarding this as "evidence that they themselves are not Orthodox enough. People are different and each expresses the one faith in a different way." He pauses on Antiochian identity and opines,

"From the age of the Apostles, Antioch was a bastion of Christians' encounter with peoples of different origins. Our church grew using the Greek language for a long time in an Aramaic and Syriac, then Arabic cultural environment. This multicultural context, alongside the fact that we have never been the church of a state or an empire, helped to form our identity, which is characterized by our deep conviction that the Gospel stands above every racial barrier and our unshaking attachment to Orthodoxy which, with its deep respect for the special gifts of every culture, should not discriminate between Greek, Russian and Arab, but rather just the opposite: it should believe that "Christ is all in all" (Colossians 3:11). Our identity is a loving openness toward the other churches and denominations, in constantly-renewed hope that we are working as servants of reconciliation. Due to historical contingencies, we have become 'the Church of the Arabs'. We have learned to always live face-to-face with believers of other religions and especially with Muslims. Although we have a long list of martyrs, we have chosen by our own free and resolute will to coexist and engage in profound dialogue without hatred, without compromises and without fear. On numerous occasions, when we were confronted with the spirituality of the Crusades and holy war, we chose firmly and without hesitation to commit to the spirit of the Cross. Our mission today is to continue to bear witness to all who speak Arabic in the Antiochian space and the western world, just as our vocation is to perfect this witness through full communion with the other concerned Orthodox Churches and cooperation with all."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Orthodox Synaxis on the Problem of Romiosyne

The must-read blog Orthodox Synaxis has posted a translation of a speech by Patriarch Bartholomew where he speaks of the "precedence" of his people in Orthodoxy and as the center of "Romiosyne". Because this ideology lies at the heart of the Greek occupation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, readers of this blog should take note of how His Holiness speaks off cuff on such issues.

 The introduction states:

In addressing the ongoing political and ecclesiastical conflict in Ukraine, many have rightly brought up the Russkiy Mir (“Russian world”) ideology promoted by many in the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. This ideology, concocted as a reaction to the loss of Russian control over Ukraine and Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union, seeks to assert a spiritual and cultural unity of the peoples descended from the Kievan Rus, presumably under Russian leadership. Perhaps not totally unexpectedly, there has been much less analysis of the dominant ideology of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the concept of Romiosyne. This culturally and ecclesiastically irredentist ideology seeks to regain the preeminence in the Orthodox world that the Greeks of Constantinople enjoyed under the Ottomans, just as the Russkiy Mir attempts to regain the preeminence that Russia held under the Soviets.

The 75-year period of Soviet rule left an inescapable mark on the leadership of the Church in Russia, Ukraine and the other former-Soviet states and similarly the 500 years of Ottoman rule inevitably left its enduring mark on the worldview of the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We can see this in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s reliance on Ottoman-era documents to assert territorial claims in Ukraine and the way that recent statements (e.g., Patriarch Bartholomew’s 1 September address) borrow from the rhetoric of this period to speak of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as the “source” and “beginning” of the Orthodox churches.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ideology of Romiosyne is a no less desperate attempt to cling to a bygone empire than Russia’s Russkiy Mir ideology even if, in the absence of military strength to back it up, its field of action is largely ecclesiastical. This can be seen on display in a recent speech by Patriarch Bartholomew to an audience of parishioners from Istanbul. In it, he speaks of the preeminence of their common genos in the Orthodox Church and triumphalistically mocks “Slavic” attempts at usurping it. The language that Patriarch Bartholomew uses is somewhat difficult to translate into English precisely because his is a post-imperial ideology rather than a nationalist one of the sort that we are more familiar with. That is, where one might use Hellenismos to describe the nationalism of the Greek nation-state (ethnos), Romiosyne describes a concept of Greekness that transcends nation-states and is centered more on the role of Greeks in the Orthodox Church than in worldly politics. The key term in this speech is the word genos, which is the origin of the word ‘genus’ and could be translated as ‘race’, ‘kind’, ‘sort’ or, as we’ve chosen to translate it below, ‘people’, though it is noteworthy (not to say alarming) that in this speech Patriarch Bartholomew uses the term phyle (‘tribe’ or ‘race’) as a synonym of genos.

Read the speech itself here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Fr Touma (Bitar): For Those Who Want to See

Arabic original here.

For Those Who Want to See

Today is what is known as the Sunday of the Blind Man. This is the blind man of Jericho. In ancient history, when Joshua led the Hebrew people to the Promised Land, Jericho was a symbol of sin. For this reason, it was completely destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah. There are cities and towns which, in the Old Testament, came to have the meaning of sin, such as Jericho, Egypt, Babylon... This blind man was sitting on the road by the entrance to Jericho, as though he were representing, historically, the spiritual reality of that city.

It is true that this man was blind with his sensory eyes, but the discussion is, deep down, about blindness of the heart, which is the blindness of sin. Of course, the Lord raised the dead, healed the sick, returned sight to the blind and cleansed the lepers. His primary intention was not, however, to be a physician of bodies. His profound intention is to be a physician of souls. He healed the sick and raised the dead in order to give proof that he is capable of healing souls. The Lord's primary work is the forgiveness of sins. Absolutely nothing else is more important. If the one who was blind in the body was suffering to this degree, then how much more are we supposed to realize that inner blindness, which is sin, is painful, very painful? Sin is the pain hidden behind all human suffering. So the Lord God came first of all to forgive sins, to wash humanity which was defiled from within. As the Prophet David says in Psalm 50, "Cleanse me from my sin." Man primarily needs to be purified from his sin, to be washed on the level of the heart. On the level of the body, if we are not washed, a stench wafts from us, little by little. If it is not possible for us to bear bodily uncleanliness, then it is supposed that all the more so we will not be able to bear defilements of the heart, which are sin. The odor of sin is like hatred. The man who hates suffers from mold in his heart. The filthy heart hates. The filthy heart fornicates. The filthy heart judges. The filthy heart lies. All of this horrible stenches waft out from the heart. Man is in dire need of being cleansed, of being purified, in the heart, more than of being purified in the body, even if he doesn't know it.

Here in the Gospel, sin is equivalent to blindness and blindness must be healed so that man may see. Man needs to have his sin erased so that he may see in the heart, so that he may see the light. If sin remains, tyrannizing us, then the inner eye does not see. Man needs to be released from his sin so that he may see God's light, and then so that he may see God's light in others. For example, someone who only sees bad things in people is, without a doubt, blind. Of course there are bad things in people. Each of us has his bad things. But there rarely exists a person devoid of good. If the Lord did not find a little bit of good in him, He would not keep him alive. It is very important to see the heart, for one to see the good in others, not just sin. We are always ready to accuse others of being behind not only our personal worries, but also of being behind the world's worries. We rarely see someone blame himself. I remember during the events of 1975, there was an enlightened priest. Once we were talking. He suddenly opened his eyes and said of the civil war, "All this that is happening is my own fault." For him, he was a participant in the suffering happening to others. Let us never imagine that we are cleansing society when we accuse such-and-such and such-and-such of being wicked and it being necessary to get rid of them, at which point society will be made right. This is empty talk! In order for society to be made right, I must learn to see my sin and, at the same time, to see the good in others. When we reach that level of dealing with things, we have really started to be purified. When someone starts to be purified from within, society starts to really be purified because what happens in society is nothing other than the result of what occurs in the heart of man. As we clean the heart, society is cleansed. And as we keep the heart filthy, we find defilement in society to increase.

Let's return to the blind man of Jericho. "He was sitting in the road begging." I would like to linger a bit on the word "begging." He asks for charity. He does this because he is handicapped. He can't work. Perhaps he has a wife and children. In any case, he lives from the charity of others. One who is immersed in his sin lives from begging! In other words, there is no blessing in his life. He toils very much and receives little, like the disciples. Before the Lord Jesus came to them, the said to Him, "We have toiled the whole night and caught nothing." They were talking about fishing. Everyone's sin worries its owner and, in the end, only gives very little. It is as though he is begging, as though he is poor, while the Lord makes man the son of the king! He says, "Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and everything else will be added unto you." In other words, man's concern must be to sit at the right hand of God the Father. This is the concern. The concern is to be with the king, to be in the royal palace, in the presence of God the king. This is the concern and there is no other concern worthy of man. Everything else is given to us by the Lord from Himself and in abundance: "Everything else is added unto you." What do we need? Anything we may need, the Lord provides us with, in one way or another. Perhaps some of you remember this story: There was an ascetic monk sitting in his cell and he prayed day and night. He prayed and worked and during his work he prayed. Then he prayed and made prostrations and lifted his heart upward. He had only one job: delighting in God. That is, he constantly occupied his heart with the remembrance of God. This was his concern. This was his work. And because this was his work, he didn't work to earn money and eat from his toil. His entire concern was, as I said, delighting in God, praying to God, glorifying God, giving praise. When it was time to eat-- and monks in ancient times would only eat once, after the ninth hour, that is, after three in the afternoon, the time for vespers-- he looked out the window and found that the Lord had given him a loaf of bread. He took it, gave thanks and ate. That would happen every day! Once, he thought in himself about working and earning some money. Of course, the evil one wanted to turn him away from his prayer, so he accepted the idea and started to make baskets to sell and save up money for times of need, doubting in God's care for him. On that very day, he prayed and worked. When it was three in the afternoon, he prayed vespers and then looked out the window, but he did not find any loaf. He was surprised and disturbed and started to cry and say to the Lord, "Why have you deprived me of your grace?!" A voice came to him and said, "When you worked with Me, I sustained you. And now, you work for yourself, so eat from your toil." This is to say that God wanted us to be children of the king. We bear absolutely no concern, so that we may not beg, because we have no need for that. The Lord sends us, in ways that He knows, what we need. Whenever we complete His work as is fitting, whenever we walk in the divine commandment as is necessary, if we delight in God, if we praise, glorify, thank and put all our trust in God, then the Lord takes care of us in hidden ways we don't know. He provides what we need completely. One who works with the Lord is one hundred percent ensured. There is a monk who died in 2006. They asked him, "When you pray, does God answer?" He looked at those asking him with surprise and said, "If the Lord didn't answer, then why would I have anything to do with the Gospel? Of course the Lord answers!" If we do not reach profound conviction that God is alive and that He is in complete control, then what faith do we have? Faith is total surrender to God. If someone does not know how to hand his affairs over to the Lord God completely, let him learn. Such a person cannot truly be a believer. For someone to be a believer in his mind, convinced that there is someone who created the world, this has no value. The faith that we are talking about is surrender: total surrender, total trust in God, in the image of what the Lord Jesus said on the cross, "Into Your hands I commend My spirit." The believer commends his spirit to God every day, every moment. Of course, no one reaches this point without toil. One must toil. He must exercise. He must learn how to walk in the divine things as is proper. Do you believe that those saints are necessarily of better stuff than we are? No. We and they are of the same stuff. Many of them were wicked sinners, sometimes even more than us! But they realized at one point that sin leads them to the abyss. If man does not work to purify his heart, then he lives like an animal and dies like an animal. Those saints realized their true condition and endeavored to change. Then the Lord God saw their good intention and He started to open their hearts for them and clean them. They started to see more and seek Him more. They started to seek more and the Lord gave them more. And thus they grew until they became great saints, like Saint John Chrysostom. Don't think that a saint is someone who has no sin. Never! No one is without sin. A saint is a person who realizes that he is a sinner and is aware of his sin to the degree that he can no longer see any other sin. Indeed, his sin is so that he may say with the Apostle Paul, "Christ came to save sinners of whom I am first." If one does not feel his sin like a knife in his heart, he does not truly know his sin. Does a person know his sin with words? That is never enough. He must know it in his being, in his heart. He must feel it. If one of us gets a tiny splinter two millimeters long in his finger, he can no longer sleep at night because he feels it. We can't know our sin if we don't feel it. Those saints are a bundle of feeling. A saint is a bundle of feeling sin, and at the same time, a bundle of feeling that he is a handful of dust, no more and no less. A bundle of feeling that if the Lord did not build this house-- which is me-- then it will not be built; the builders toil in vain. His entire concern comes to be with what is above: "Help me, O Lord. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." His entire mind and heart come to be above, because he senses death every day. He feels that he is dust every day. He feels that he is nothing. Inasmuch as a person cannot bear something like this, the saint's sense of nothingness is transformed into a sense of the Lord God's greatness. Therefore he magnifies the Lord, glorifies Him, praises Him, remembers Him wherever he goes: "Lord have mercy on me a sinner! O Lord, help me! O Lord, come to my aid!" In this way one grows in grace.

What is man? If we want to define what man is in himself, then in himself he is a handful of dust! But the Lord God was pleased in His great love for His light to dwell in this dust. We are a little bit of clay and light. This is man, if we want to boil him down, and no more. All that you see, after a hundred years, will be dust. All of us will become a bit of bone that gradually disintegrates. In the end, in human terms, we are a handful of dust, but nevertheless the Lord was pleased to dwell within us! Therefore our entire concern, if our path is straight, must be to say and repeat, to pray: "Come and abide in us, cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, O Good One." The Lord gives us salvation for free! The Lord granted that we become children of the king! What are we worried about? Everything that we see around us, if the Lord did not give it to us, then it would vanish. If the Lord did not give us rain, then people would die of hunger. If He gives us two hours of rain, then we live for the entire year off these two hours. All of this is to show that we live by God's grace, by God's mercy and nothing more. Someone who does not see, whose mind does not go in this orientation, has something deviant in his heart. Sin is truly the distortion of man. For this reason, we do not need to trade the simplest commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ for anything in the world. We hold to the simplest of the commandments completely so that if we die of hunger, since only the Lord can snatch us away, at a time that He knows, and fill us with His heavenly manna, from His body which He gave us, so that it may be heavenly food for us. For this reason, it is not fitting for a believer, if he is a believer in spirit and in truth, to live with worry. What do we worry about if the Lord has provided everything for us, if He has given us everything now, later and forever? He has given us eternal life! We must worry about one thing: how to stay attached to the Lord. This is the only concern and we may have no other concern. This is how one is supposed to live: staying attached to the Lord. So we say to Him, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Have mercy on me. That is, I ask Him to take me so that I may remain attached to Him. What is the deep meaning of "have mercy on me"? Does this mean that He gives me sight? No, for there is much more than that! When I say to the Lord, "have mercy on me, O Lord," I am asking for Him Himself, His Spirit. I am asking for Him! I am not asking for what belongs to God, but rather I am asking for God. When I say, "have mercy on me," I am saying to Him, "take me and place me inside you, in your bosom, in Your womb." The word "mercy" [ra7ma] comes from "womb" [ra7im], the woman's womb, where man comes together. This is his fundamental home, from which he goes out. When I say to Him, "have mercy on me," I say to Him, "Place me in Your bosom! I want to remain attached to You!" I want to be close to His heart just as John the Beloved was close to God's heart, to the heart of Jesus Christ.

So the one thing for which I must toil day and night is to remain enveloped in God's mercy. I must avoid anything that separates me from the Lord's mercy. At that point, I no longer need to worry about anything else at all. So the primary task of the believer in his life in the world is to seek God's mercy in every moment of his life. To strive for God's mercy by keeping the commandment in every moment of his life. To refuse to be separated from God's mercy at every moment of his life. One who proceeds in this manner never has a problem. Wherever he goes, the grace of the Lord precedes him. The grace of the Lord preserves him, carries him. The Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount: "Why do you worry? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Therefore, seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and everything else shall be added unto you!" This blind man, it is true that he became seeing, but more important than that is that his heart became seeing. This is expressed in the text that was read to you today because the Lord said to him first, "Your faith has saved you." He didn't just open his external eyes. The Lord God opened the eyes of his heart. That is, He cleansed him of his sin. He forgave him his sins and saved him. This is truly salvation. The result was, as the text says at the end, "Immediately, he could see." His heart was opened and he followed Him. He went after Him. He ran after Him! He no longer had anything else to follow. He no longer needed to beg. He found the precious treasure. He no longer needed to have any worry. "He followed Him." He followed Him, giving glory to God. "When they saw this, all the people praised God." God is so sweet He makes you cry. Anyone who doesn't see the beauty of the Lord lives and dies without meaning. The important thing is that we behold God in His mercy, in His love, in His light. Glory to God for all He has given us!

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Silouan-- Douma, Lebanon
Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Divine Wisdom

Arabic original here.

Divine Wisdom

"Happy is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding" (Proverbs 3:13). The wisdom here is not philosophical wisdom; it is divine wisdom. It is not only intellectual understanding, but rather it is also an understanding that comes from God. It comes from the nearness of the breath of the Spirit who is from God: "the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of wisdom."

What is the spiritual life, other than that which is according to the Spirit of God and not according to the spirit of the world? The Apostle and Evangelist John says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world... For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life... the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

The Evangelist John himself says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). And so divine wisdom came into the world to reconcile love for the sinful world with lack of love for its sin. It came to set this balance, this condescension between the world of God and the world of man.

Divine wisdom, the Wisdom of Solomon the Wise, says, "All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them. They are all plain to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. I will teach you what is true so that you may rely upon the Lord and be filled with spirit."
As for the divine wisdom of Solomon regarding the righteous one who departs this earthly life suddenly, "The righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest.There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up. He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul... Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years... the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones."

Finally, he says in the Book of Wisdom of Solomon the Wise, "Against wisdom evil does not prevail and so I loved her and sought her from my youth, and I desired to take her for my bride, and I became enamored of her beauty...  her labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage... so I appealed to the Lord and besought him, and with my whole heart I said: 'Give me the wisdom that sits on Your throne... that I may learn what is pleasing to You. For she knows and understands all things, and she will guide me wisely in my actions and guard me with her glory...'"
Here wisdom is nothing other than the living word of God found in the Gospel: the Good News is a rational, verbal icon.

The Apostle Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). With it, God's power becomes my power; His wisdom, my wisdom; His word, my word; and His love, my love.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Friday, November 30, 2018

Carol Saba: Speak Now... Or Forever Hold Your Peace!

French original below the jump.

Speak Now... Or Forever Hold Your Peace!

"You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

The Orthodox Church, which is the Body of Christ, shall never be defeated by the gates of hell. We should, however, admit that the state of world Orthodoxy, which is supposed to reflect the condition and manner of divine life, is badly damaged. A sort of generalized chaos seems to be establishing itself under the cover of the "canonical" theses of some and the "canonical" antitheses of others. They invoke the spirit of unity, while their actions here and there betray and dismantle the Church's witness, discrediting it. The Orthodox Church has certainly experienced better and worse since the glorious resurrection of the Lord, which we tend to box off, at the risk of losing all the meaning and power of the Savior's life-giving Cross.

The Orthodox Church, which has experienced in history worse moments than today, appears to be badly damaged, from the inside out. At the moment when the accelerations of globalization, of the digital revolution and of communication should have appeared to her as a vast field of mission and as manna fallen from heaven, a divine opportunity to bear witness to her unity, Orthodoxy seems to give itself over to the spirit of this world and every form of internal competition, offering itself to every form of political instrumentalization by the powers of this world and every possible form of wrangling, which risk causing schisms and tears within it.

A deleterious showdown from another era appears to be establishing itself between Orthodoxy's poles of "communion", transforming them into poles of "competition" and even of clashes. A warlike language appears to have replaced that of the Gospel. The logic of trench warfare appears to have the upper hand over the dynamic of conciliarity and that of the mutual responsibility of all the autocephalous Churches, a subject dear to the heart of Patriarch Daniel of Romania, of which he recently reminded Patriarch Bartholomew during the consecration of the "national cathedral." 
We build enormous stone churches, but we forget Christ, who suffers from out internal quarrels, as if Orthodoxy were a "game of thrones". A christ of this world appears to overshadow our Lord and our God, who rose from the dead for the life of the world. A ball of fire appears to tumble along at lunatic speed, burning everything in its path. Instead of raising up, it crushes. Instead of enlightening the world with the unfading light of Christ, it worries the little flock...

Should we keep silent and let the leaders on all sides of this descent into hell act? Or should we proclaim to the primates loud and clear their responsibility, regardless of what might otherwise be the validity of their pretexts for justifying their deleterious enterprises when they desire good but do evil?

I am certain that if discernment is set in motion, if the audacity of those in charge of the Lord's flock today was on display for bearing witness to what is essential, to the one thing needful, for mutually correcting and considering each other-- truly and not just in the nice words of nice speeches pronounced in beautiful cathedrals-- as members of one Body, then we shall see the beautiful Face of faces of Christ the Savior and the Cross of the Lord who has already triumphed and shall triumph once more!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Jad Ganem: When Silence is Golden

Arabic original here.

When Silence is Golden

I read an interview with a bishop whom the Ecumenical Patriarchate had imposed on a diocese in Western Europe from outside the list of candidates presented to it by the diocese's nominating conference. At the time, many likened the behavior accompanying his selection-- the deletion of the names of candidates and the addition of his name, followed by his election-- to the behavior of the Ottomans against the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the days of persecution. Perhaps Constantinople took this step out of faith in this person's capabilities and talents. But after some time, it went back and realized it had made the wrong choice, after the aforementioned bishop became an adversary of most elements of his diocese and after his being its head started to threaten the departure of its faithful and the closure of its longstanding institutions, especially given that they had been established and developed in the most dire circumstances and, with the passing of time, were able to make their glory.  The Patriarchate of Constantinople's response to the complaints of the faithful and its taking the decision to transfer him to an administrative job where he would have no direct contact with clergy or ordinary believers came as a tacit admission of his inability to function as a pastor.

Today, in the context of the crisis facing the Orthodox Church, the aforementioned bishop has become a spokesman for the Phanar and has given a television interview in which he expresses severe and irresponsible positions, positions based on legalistic approaches to relationships within the Church that run contrary to her nature, deepen the estrangement between members of the one body, and lack any pastoral sensitivity. I do not know if they express the position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but I do know that it is not possible to trust someone who failed in administering a small diocese and led it to the brink of breaking apart with issues that have serious repercussions for the unity of the universal Orthodox Church. In these circumstances, we need the pastoral guidance of experienced men who know that their fundamental role is to preserve the unity of the Church and who work to dress her wounds with the boldness of physicians, the wisdom of saints and the determination of apostles. These difficult times do not call for lawyers who justify schism and glorify unilateral action or juveniles who think that altering reality takes place at the stroke of a pen or through imperious decisions. The faith of millions is in the balance, so enough with irresponsible talk! Enough with scandalizing the faithful! At a time when unity is in danger, "Silence is golden, since there's no danger in it."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jad Ganem: The Silence of Mount Athos

Arabic original here.

The Silence of Mount Athos

The voice of the Holy Mountain has long resounded at every important and fateful juncture in the Orthodox Church. The monks of Mount Athos have long addressed the Church's leaders every time they sensed a deviation in practices, a departure from the faith or a threat to unity. Today, in light of the current crisis that the Orthodox Church is experiencing, the faithful are missing the voice of the fathers of the Holy Mountain and are wondering about the reason for their silence. They are missing their voice with regard to what has been said about the papism that is filtering into Orthodox theology and practice. They await their word related to the way of accepting schismatics into the Church, the validity of the ordinations that took place during the schism, the Church's position with regard to a married patriarch and bishops being returned to communion with the Church, and the relationship between Church and state and everything that is being said about the right of presidents, politicians and parliamentarians to impose their agenda on the Church. They await their word on this mess we have gotten ourselves into. They wonder why the monks of the Holy Mountain have refrained from playing this role today. Is it  because their position is different from that of the ecclesiastical authorities on which they depend? Is it because of a difference of opinion about these issues also exists among them? Or is it because they are waiting for the anger of the Lord to pass and for souls to be calm in order to speak their mind?

No matter the reasons, the eyes of the faithful, which are wounded by what is happening today in Christ's Church, look to the holy Mountain. Their prayers embrace its monks' unceasing prayers, that God may keep troubles and schisms away from His Church and that He may send a voice to "rightly divide the word of truth" and bring us from Babel of politics and legalism that is dividing our church to the holy Pentecost.