Monday, December 29, 2014

Met Elias Audi's Christmas Sermon

Arabic original here.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut and its Dependencies Elias Audi presided at the Christmas liturgy at the Cathedral of Saint George in central Beirut. After the reading from the Holy Gospel, Audi gave a sermon in which he said:

[...] More than two thousand years ago, God became incarnate to save man. What has man done? Has he understood this salvific message and accepted it or is he still languishing in disobedience and wallowing in sins? On a day such as this in a previous year, I said that Lebanon has become a house without doors and I am afraid that it will also be without a roof. Its children are close brothers who prey on each other instead of joining hands to fend off winds and adversities. Has anything changed in Lebanon and its surroundings? Perhaps, but only for the worse, because the winds have strengthened and are almost destroying everything. Hatred and blind prejudice have become more vicious and extremism captures weak souls and reaps the innocent with kidnapping, slaughter, abuse and torture. The things we have witnessed in the past year cause us sorrow: rampant terrorism in Lebanon and the region, the loss of innocent lives for no reason, unjustified assaults on people's dignity and unchecked disregard for the lives of citizens. Add to this the assaults on holy places, the destruction of churches and monasteries, the erasing of heritage and memory, the elimination of those who are different, the imposition of a single kind and a single religion, mass expulsion of people who have committed no crime other than being different, to the point that some people rival beasts in their violent tendencies and the destruction that they wreak. In the 21st century, very far from ages of ignorance and backwardness, is it reasonable for a man to kill his brother only because he disagrees with his opinion or has a different religious or political affiliation? It is very saddening that there is silence about the brutality of the killers and the barbarism of the extremist groups, as though those who kill, torture, oppress and expel were insignificant flies or insects. Even if we have heard a voice from some quarters in the world, it is a very timid voice and almost inaudible.

[...] In Lebanon, the country still has no head or it now has twenty-one heads. Regional and international rivalries are still reflected in the Lebanese parties, which prevent the election of a president for the republic. The president of the republic is a symbol of national unity who ensures respect for the constitution and preserves the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon. This is what is stipulated by Article 49 of the constitution. Now, eight years later, the unity of the nation has no symbol and there is no president to ensure respect for the constitution and preserve independence. Does this situation not impede the work of the state? Does this not detract from its reputation abroad? Does it not pose a threat at home? The Lebanese are in a strange situation. When presidential elections took place through intervention by foreign countries, they were restive. When they had an opportunity to elect a president of their own because other countries were occupied with other priorities, they missed the opportunity on account of excuses by which they camouflage their sins and private interests." [...] "Is the agreement that some call for democracy? Is the obstruction practiced by some democracy? Is clinging to a position without regard for the interest of the nation the behavior of adults?"

[...] The vacancy of the position affects all of Lebanon without exception. The Lebanese have the right to a republic with all its parts that is respected, capable and effective.

Do Lebanon and the Lebanese not deserve to be free from those who demand leadership out of private interests and minor considerations and to transcend their ego and sacrifice it for the sake of the public interest, the interest of all. We need a little humility, a lot of love, feelings of responsibility and self-renunciation on the part of those who are responsible so that the nation will be saved. Lebanon has not run out of men who are competent, patriotic, wise and capable. They are many. So why do deputies not agree on an issue that lies at the heart of their duties: gathering to elect a president from among this number of qualified men? Is this not the democracy of which they sing? Since they met to extend their term of office (and it is strange how the quorum was ensured), why did they not undertake this heroic deed once more, setting their interests and calculations aside and only looking out for the interest of Lebanon and its people, who are also their people? Here it must be stated that being a deputy is a mandate granted by the people for a specified period of time and that extending this mandate is to appropriate a decision that belongs to the people and to violate their right to elect their representatives. Did the deputies not wonder when they left the session for extension, why people were protesting in various ways? Did they not wonder why they were being called various names? Were they not affected by these protestors, despite their small number? Did they not read what was written in social media? Is disrupting the work of parliament and preventing a session to elect a president one of their rights or duties as representatives of the people that they have a duty to perform to the fullest? Is an employee in public administration or the private sector not punished if he neglects to do his duty or is absent from his job? So why do the representatives of the people disdain citizens and their rights?

[...] Here must be repeated what we always say. The people must also be aware of their responsibility and to hold their leaders to account, not be led along behind them unthinkingly. The people must know their interest because this land that is their nation is a gift to them from God and they must preserve it and not squander a single inch of it. They must choose their representatives well to govern this land that through the people becomes a nation and through its strong institutions becomes a state. If one of them fails, they should hold him to account and if one of them performs his duty completely, they should thank him. But the problem is that we are living in a state of political and social decay and general indifference. Even the laws in Lebanon have to be formulated for officials, even if it comes at the expense of citizens. [...] For example, we have been hearing about the food safety law for more than ten years, but it is still shelved because ministers cling to their powers. What about the health of citizens? Must politics corrupt everything in Lebanon, even that which pertains to citizens' health? Can you believe that the ministers still differ over the necessity of passing a law concerned with food safety? A minister's power cannot be touched, but there is no problem if citizens' health is affected, their dignity is trampled and their lives are threatened. Yesterday, we saw in the  Beirut airport storage rotten foods and medicines that one of the officials called garbage. Of course, we must thank every official who conscientiously bears his responsibility and exposes every violation of the law and public safety. We hope that all officials will have zero tolerance for anything that harms public welfare and will cooperate together for the common good. Having clean food doesn't matter. Having clean hands doesn't. Having a clean conscious doesn't matter. Having a clean environment doesn't matter. It seems that there is an ancient enmity between the Lebanese and cleanliness. In the context of talking about responsibility, I would like to draw the attention of the Lebanese media to the need to be faithful to the mission that they have chosen and that this faithfulness is reflected in telling the truth and nothing but the truth. Media is a two-edged sword. If they do good, they contribute to building up humanity and the nation and if they do wrong, their wrongdoing is devastating. So they must always search for the truth and express it in a constructive manner. The responsibility of members of the media is great because media enters into every home, so it must not be a vehicle for one person, a mouthpiece for one person, a means for violating privacy, or wantonly insulting dignity for no reason.

[...] The season of Christmas is a season of reconciliation between God and man and between man and all creation. Through Christ's incarnation, our nature is no longer the prisoner of evil, but rather the path to divinization has been opened before it. God's will is that no one remains outside the path of salvation. The incarnate God has prepared everything for our salvation. It remains for us to accept the call. Let us cast aside our old man with all his sins and failings and let us raise our eyes to Christ who bowed the heavens and came down to us to lift us out of the abyss of death and bring us into the life of the kingdom. Let us empty ourselves of our selfishness, our affiliations, and our interests and extend our hand to others and work together for our nation and its people. May God return this blessed season to you in wellness, health, peace and stability. May He return to us our bishops Yuhanna and Paul safe and sound, just as we ask Him to return all those who have been kidnapped to their families and all those who have been displaced to their homes, to heal the hearts of those sorrowing, to strengthen the resolve of the oppressed, and to accept into His kingdom the spirits of those who fell defending this nation, especially those from the army and all the security forces who were struck by the hand of evil and deprived of the breath of life.

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