Friday, April 24, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: The Ongoing Genocide

Arabic original here.

The Ongoing Genocide

The first centennial of the Armenian Genocide is of paramount importance this year, not only because it is the hundredth anniversary of the event, but because it comes amidst the oppressive circumstances when we are witnessing the continuous decline of the Christian presence in their historical homelands, or most of these homelands.

During the past hundred years, the Christian presence in Turkey has declined to almost nothing. Turkey, which had a diversity of Christians including Greeks, Syriacs and Armenians living in its most important regions-- Cappadocia, Anatolia, Cilicia, Constantinople, Antioch, Smyrna, Diyarbakr, Mardin, Edessa-- has seen its Christian presence reduced to ruins.

In Palestine, the cradle of Christianity, the land where Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate God of the Christians, the Zionists came to annihilate those who believe in Him as Lord and Redeemer and to crucify those who believe in His crucifixion and resurrection. Almost a century after the Balfour Declaration (1917) of evil memory, the number of Christians in historic Palestine has fallen from around 20% to less than 1%.

In Iraq, Iraq of the Mundhirids and Hira, of Mosul and Baghdad, of Nineveh, of the Tigress and Euphrates, Iraq of Arab, Syriac and Assyrian Christianity, the presence of Christians has been coming to an end over the past century, amidst a suspicious silence on the part of those near and far.

The reasons behind this steady decline in the number of Christians varies by time, country, circumstances and context. There are international interests, a policy of "divide and rule", nationalist intolerance, exploitation of the religious and sectarian factor in political struggles, religious extremism, political and military alliances, economic factors and Zionist hatred...

These reasons, however, do not exculpate Christians from responsibility-- or at least from partial responsibility-- from their fate on account of certain decisions that they made and certain paths they took over the course of the past century. Likewise, when we talk about the suffering and decline of Christians, this does not mean that we deny the suffering of their partners in these lands, Muslim and non-Muslim. Each of us is paying the price and we are all victims of ourselves.

The Armenian Genocide, whose victims include Syriacs and other Christians, remains the greatest symbol of Christian martyrdom in the 20th century. Thus it must be recognized so that it will not be repeated in one form or another and so that its crucified and slaughtered victims will cease weeping and crying out for justice and peace.

In this context, it must be stated that diverse factors led them to commit the Armenian Genocide. There is no doubt that a mixture of nationalist feelings of a racist character and extremist religious feelings on the one hand and the interest of the powerful European states along with an Ottoman Empire in flames all joined together against the Armenians and members of other minorities.

The Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish state that was built on its ruins are both responsible, one after the other, for the Armenian Genocide. The direct causes that led to the Genocide are not important. Are they religious or nationalist motives that led to the Genocide? That is not the salient question today. What must be declared today is an affirmation that the state that was ruling at the time, whatever its identity, is responsible.

The issue, then, is not merely commemoration of a genocide that took place a century ago. The issue is that the genocide has been continuing for a century and has succeeded in uprooting the majority of Christians from the countries that witnessed the first green shoots of Christianity. The beginning of recognition of the genocide and apology for its infamy should be refraining from supporting the terrorists who continue to exterminate the grandchildren of the Armenians, Syriacs and Christian Arabs and to return right to those to whom it belongs.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Met Siluan Muci's Message in Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide and Sayfo

Spanish original here.

Sacrificing and Sacrificed for the Faith

"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks." (Hebrews 11:4)

The Christian East continues in the footsteps of its Master, sacrificing and in turn being sacrificed upon the altar of martyrdom, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master" (Matthew 10:24). This offering-martyrdom is the cup from which many of our brothers have drank and currently drink, confirming the words of the Lord to James and John on the threshold of His passion, "You will indeed drink My cup" (Matthew 20:23).

It is clear that the history of the Christians in the Middle East is at once painful and glorious. It is painful on account of the great pain and suffering that they experience on earth and glorious on account of the dignity and grace that they receive in heaven. It is a story whose roots go back to creation, to the account in the Book of Genesis about the first crime committed in history, Cain's murder of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). From his point of view, Cain sacrifices on the altar of his degeneracy God and his brother. Thus, Cain irremediably attacks both existential dimensions of his life, the vertical and horizontal when he attacks true worship and brotherhood. On the other hand, in his person Abel saves, "offering up and offered by faith", true worship and sacrifice to God. Furthermore, God accepts Abel's offering and receives him as a sacrifice. Later, when he recalls this episode, the Apostle Paul highlights Abel's faith and its impact even until today: "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks." (Hebrews 11:4)

Today the voice of Abel echoes loudly as the Christians of the East in general and the Middle East in particular commemorate the atrocities perpetrated against their communities at the end of the Ottoman Empire, from 1915 onward. According to historians, a policy of methodical extermination, without precedent in history, was carried out at the hands of the Turks, causing the martyrdom of some five million Christians-- Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Armenians and Orthodox: men, women and children. Thus this week the Armenian Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church are commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the Sayfo on April 24 and April 19, respectively. While our Patriarchate has not declared a hundredth anniversary-- although doing so would be justified by the more than two million Orthodox martyrs (Syrians, Lebanese and Greeks)-- we stand united with all Christians in this expression of faith and memory, as it is the same scenario that is repeating itself and occurring today to the Christians in the Middle East.

For these reasons, our Patriarch His Beatitude John X of Antioch along with his brothers His Beatitude Ephrem II, patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church; His Beatitude Theodoros II, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church; and His Beatitude Cardinal Bishara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Church; among others, are participating in the commemorations being held in Armenia to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

We are convinced that, without recognition of what happened in 1915 and its traits which continue until today, and without a clear, concrete and genuine commitment on the part of the great and regional powers, to prioritize and adopt the voice of Abel over that of Cain and to work effectively in this direction, it is impossible to prevent the altar of Cain from once more being filled with other sacrifices. No one is convinced by this abomination of humanity or the absence at the global level of political ability and determination to put an end to this disastrous, inhuman escalation that goes against all reason and logic, as well as against basic human rights.

Therefore, today the 22nd of April, the point between both anniversaries, the date on which we remember the two archbishops of Aleppo, His Eminence Archbishop Youhanna (Ibrahim) and His Eminence Paul (Yazigi), who were kidnapped in Syria on April 22, 2013, we struggle so that such atrocities will never happen again because we are seriously worried by the silent and progressive extermination of the Christian presence in the Middle East, an act accompanied by political indifference, hypocracy and a complicit international silence.

In the light of the Paschal season that we are experiencing, we understand that in all of this the attitude of everyone is critical: "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:19-21).

Therefore, we raise our prayer for peace and for peaceful and harmonious coexistence between all who have lived in that land for centuries, praying that the Lord will illumine the conscience and actions of all those who can bring a light of His resurrection to this frenzied situation in order to put a stop to it and to restore all for the benefit of humanity above any interest or material benefit.

† Metropolitan Siluan
Archbishop of Buenos Aires and All Argentina

Patriarch John X Heads to Yerevan

Arabic original here.

Yazigi Meets with Ibrahim and Leaves for Yerevan to Participate in the Genocide Commemoration

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East John Yazigi left Beirut this evening heading to the Armenian capital Yerevan  in order to participate in the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Shortly before leaving Rafic Hariri International Airport, Yazigi met with the director of General Security, Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and discussed the latest developments, especially the issue of the two kidnapped bishops.

At the airport, Yazigi stated, "We leave today for Armenia to be at the side of our Armenian brothers and all those who are participating in this commemoration. We are all one family and we want to be hand in hand together especially during these difficult circumstances to send a message of peace to the world, that we are all created by the Lord to be children in His image and likeness, a message of peace and light, and not for any evil deeds."

Asked, "What do you demand of those who perpetrated these massacres?"

He replied, "We ask everyone to be aware that each person is created in the image and likeness of God, whoever that person may be. Consequently, all people must respect others and accept to live with them, whoever those others may be. We proclaim this not only for the past, but also for the present, for the sake of our societies, our homes, our countries and our region. What is happening in these days pushes us to make the same cry, which is for accepting coexistence and respect for the other as he is and not as I want him to be, accepting others as they are, dialoguing with them. This is what brings us together and makes us one family living in one country with the same rights and responsibilities."

Asked about the nature of his meeting with Ibrahim at the airport, he said, "Gen Ibrahim is a dear friend and we are constantly meeting at all occasions and places. He even visits me at Balamand. On the occasion of this visit, he expressed his desire for us to meet and talk about issues concerning us, so the discussion was about the issues that I always raise, our situation in the region, the situation of our kidnapping victims and the two kidnapped bishops."

Asked, "The media has mentioned that  the two kidnapped bishops are still alive. Did Gen Ibrahim give you any information about this?"

He replied, "We always remain hopeful. Our inner feeling and our hope is that the bishops are still alive in the body. This is feeling and hope. There are many reports that are written in newspapers but unfortunately they have no evidence. We hope that these reports have evidence. Here I will take the occasion to raise my voice also once more and say that this is one of the strangest incidents of kidnapping in the world insofar as these two bishops were kidnapped and it is as though the earth split open and swallowed them up. There is no information about them from any party, whether official, from intelligence services, or from any state. No one knows anything. There is no communication with the kidnappers. That is, they have not contacted anyone with any sort of demand for something or a ransom. Until now this has not happened."

Regarding the situation in Lebanon and the region, particularly in light of the continued presidential vacuum, he said, "This is a painful matter. We are still experiencing a vacuum in the position of president of Lebanon. With all love, we ask all those responsible, especially the members of parliament, to end this affair and elect a president as soon as possible because this is very important for Lebanon's stability and the peace of mind of our Lebanese children and the region. This is the demand of all of us."

Yazigi regretted what ISIS committed against the Ethiopian Christians in Libya and said, "Without a doubt, all of these events are painful and of course we denounce them. Unfortunately, at different times and places we hear about the same events being repeated. It is very unfortunate that such things are happening under the pretext of religion. We affirm to everyone in this country of all sects, especially Muslims and Christians, that we are one family and nothing divides us. We all have one God, the one sole God to whom we all offer honor and worship. This intolerance-- and especially the use of the religious element in order to divide brother from brother, to kill and slaughter, is rejected by Islam, Christianity and all religions. Any person with a  conscience or sense of humanity rejects it."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Alexander Treiger on Arabic Translations of Greek Church Fathers

Read or download the entire article here.

Christian Graeco-Arabica: 
Prolegomena to a History of the Arabic Translations of the Greek Church Fathers


Whereas Graeco-Arabic Translations of philosophical and scientific literature, centered in Baghdad, have been the focus of sufficient scholarly effort for over a century and a half, Arabic translations of the Greek Church Fathers, carried out by Arabic-speaking Christians for their ecclesiastical needs, have received very limited attention. This contribution attempts to chart a history of the Arabic versions of the Greek Church Fathers from the eighth century to the present, with emphasis on the translations produced in the monasteries of Palestine in the eighth, ninth, and early tenth centuries and in Antioch during the period of Byzantine rule. It shows how philological methods of Graeco-Arabic Studies can be successfully applied to these unduly neglected Arabic translations of Patristic works.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Met Georges Khodr's Sermon for Thomas Sunday

Arabic original below the jump.

The Day of Prayer for the Kidnapped Bishops of Aleppo-- April 19, 2015, Balamand

Once when I was a theology student in Paris I went to my spiritual father and complained to him about my burdens. He said to me, "Why are you sad? Have you forgotten that Christ is risen?"

The meaning of this is that Christ is master over all our personal life and our life in the world and that we do not keep His resurrection in the church, limited by its stones. Christ is alive: He gives us life. He raises each of us from our misery and our grief. Christ enters into the sorrowing heart and not only inside the walls of the church.

If we truly have the conviction that Jesus is all of life, we will not sorrow. I will dare to say that you will not die. You will die outwardly in the body, but you will live forever because He is alive.

The philosopher Nietzsche said, "Show me that you are alive so that I might believe in your Christ. Show me that you are saved so that I might believe in your savior." You do not need to evangelize with words. This is a duty, but what is required of us that we evangelize through the new life that is in each one of us. One who is weighed down under the pressure of our sorrows cannot evangelize. One who abides in sin does not evangelize. Only the repentant evangelizes because he is alive.

I hope that my Orthodox brothers will not limit their joy to their liturgical services. They do not own these services. If they do not transform within us into a new life for each one of us and through us renew all people, then we are nothing.

It sometimes annoys me that members of our church extoll the beauty of their services even though some of them are not alive. Only chants.  If they do not transform into a new life that raises each of us from our burdens, they are nothing. Let us all go to a new life that triumphs over our sorrows in the family, in the nation, and in our private affairs. Those who do not believe that Christ is alive now, and not just two thousand years ago, and who do not believe that He gives them life personally, with their families and children, have said that Christ is mentioned in books. Christ is not in books. He is in your actions, in your hearts, in your eyes. If you do not accept this, then He is a person who died two thousand years ago. Christ is alive. Understand this. Think about this deeply. Live on the basis of this. You will have life.

It is my firm conviction that Christians are not sufficiently active in this country because they do not believe. They chant. The Orthodox especially love chant. Do you want chant? You want chant in order to enjoy it. But you should want chant in order to live by your deeds and not by your thinking, in all your life in all your faith. If we do not attain this, then we are nothing. We are a sect that sings its hymns. But this is not enough. Christ must be alive in each of us, changing our deeds and our thoughts, renewing us.

If we do not make Christ our entire life, we are nothing and the country will not live. It first of all lives in those who believe in Jesus. You are nothing if you do not give Jesus to people. This is in your life, in your behavior, in your purity. I have not seen many Christians who believe in true, perfect purity that governs their behavior. They only speak of lofty principles.

When Christianity arose and spread among the pagan world, Christians were few and the pagans said "see how they love one another." If someone came to this country from the outside and saw the Christians, would he be able to say these words: "Look how much those people love one another." If we do not act in this way, then we remain a sect, not a church. A sect means a sociological group that is counted within the Lebanese system. If we do not truly become the Church of God, an illuminating beacon that conquers history, from which people benefit and go mad with Christianity, then we are only a sect in the census. However, the call to each one of us is to become great in Christ Jesus.

Balamand Monastery
April 19, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Christ the Stranger

Arabic original here.

Christ the Stranger

The text of the Gospel contents itself with a brief indication that Joseph of Aramathea asked Pilate for Jesus' body in order to bury it after His death on the cross and his request was granted... However, the author of the hymn "Give me this stranger" which is chanted on Good Friday during the service of Christ's burial places on the lips of Joseph words that give the best expression of the person of Jesus Christ and His teachings. Joseph of Aramathea says, according to the hymn, "Give me this stranger who from His youth has wandered like a stranger. Give me this stranger at whom I wonder, beholding him as a guest of death. Give me this stranger, who knows how to take in the poor and strangers... who insofar as He is a stranger has nowhere to lay His head."

There is no doubt that in composing the hymn, its author relied on the tradition of the Gospel, which places on the lips of Jesus the following words: "I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me" (Matthew 25:35-36). Here we can also use the opening of the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ blesses the poor in spirit, the meek, the sorrowing, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for righteousness' sake (cf. Matthew 5:1-12) to affirm that in the two texts together, Christ spoke of the importance of gratuitous service, love, and mercy among humankind in order to attain salvation.

Christ equated Himself with the vulnerable among all the nations, and clearly stated that those who work mercy toward them did as though they worked mercy toward the Lord Himself. The text at hand does not point to the requirement of faith as a gateway to salvation, while there are other texts that affirm the requirement of faith as a gateway to eternal life. Therefore, the text does not point to identity based on faith, religion or sect for those who work mercy "when the Son of Man sits upon the throne of His glory and gathers unto Himself all the nations"... What is meant by "the nations" is the Jews and all the other religions that exist in the world. "Nation" at that time meant religious community and the Jews rejected any times between themselves and the nations, so Jesus came and lifted the barriers between the nations and called upon all to accept salvation... He also intended to say to the Jews, the people of His nation, that there are good people in other nations upon whom God will look with compassion.

In this very context, the Gospel shows us that the stranger may be closer to fulfilling the commandment of mercy and love than any of those who see themselves as close to God. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we have we have the best example of what we are saying, when when the Lord confirmed that closeness between one person and another does not come from family, national or sectarian affiliation or from any other prejudice, but rather from emergency conditions, when we encounter those who are in need of our love and mercy. This is precisely what the Samaritan did for the one who fell into the hands of the thieves. The Samaritan did not continue along his way. He stopped and put off all his plans when he saw the Jew-- who considered him to be an enemy and a heretic--  close to death.

The Christian tradition considered the Good Samaritan to not only be Christ Himself, but Christ is the perfect neighbor who the Father sent to heal our wounds and to save us from the grip of the evil one and the darkness of death. By analogy, we can see Christ Himself in everyone who feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked, gives shelter to the stranger, and visits those who are sick and in prison. On the basis of the words of the Apostle Paul, "I urge you to imitate me as I imitate Christ", Origen of Alexandria (d. 235) calls us to imitate the Samaritan who is the image of Christ. He says, "We can imitate Christ and have mercy on those who have fallen into the hands of thieves, and go to them and treat their wounds, pour on them oil and wine, put them on our donkey and carry their burden."

Christ is the stranger and at the same time He is the one who works mercy towards the stranger. When we work mercy toward the vulnerable, we do it toward Christ Himself. At the same time, we can say that everyone who works mercy imitates Christ Himself and comes to be in the image and likeness of Christ. In this regard, Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus (d. 403) says in his exegesis of this statement, "Does our Lord thirst and hunger? Is He naked, He who does not change in His nature, who created everything in heaven and on earth, who nourishes the angels in heaven and every nation and race on earth? It is not reasonable to think this. The Lord does not hunger in His nature, but rather in His saints. He does not thirst in His nature, but in the poor."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Met Elias Audi's Easter Sermon

Arabic original here.

On this blessed occasion during this season of joy, let each one of us return to himself, ask the question and respond truthfully to it. If his answer is affirmative, let him ask himself, if I truly believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God risen from the dead, am I following the path that He laid out? Am I acting according to His commandments? Am I truly wearing Christ, whom I accepted at baptism? Does His light flow forth from my words, my deeds and my life so that the world may know that I am His disciple? I pose this question now to you and to all who call themselves Christians in this country because our nation is at an impasse and the only ones who can pull it out of this impasse are people who truly believe in God and act according to His will. The Apostle Paul tells the Colossians, "Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another... As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another... put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called..." (Colossians 3:8-15).

Do the people of this country, the Christians among them especially, behave with humility, kindness, love, meekness, peace, long-suffering and temperance, all of which are fruits of the Holy Spirit? Do they cast off their hatred, anger, jealousy, lying and self-serving, all of which prevent their encounter with the other? Do they do this for the sake of their nation, for the sake of their children and grandchildren who will inherit this nation? We need to be conscious of the dangerousness of the situation in which we're living and we need to make the interest of the nation triumph over every other interest. Flames are blazing all around us and it behooves us to ward off the danger from our Lebanon by uniting. Our standing together is a shield that will save our country from the fire. What is needed of us as believers-- and by this I mean all who believe in God, the Creator-- is to draw inspiration from our faith to be good citizens in the beautiful country that the Creator has given us and entrusted us with. It is needed of us to act not as believers in religions or sects but as citizens living in a stable state with laws that apply to everyone. Our religions and sects are the motivation for us to be good citizens who are loyal to their nation, faithful trustees of its land and its constitution, sincerely devoted to it and to its people.

True faith cannot be a cause for discord and hypocrisy. The true believer cannot live in a sectarian bubble because true faith is openness to the other (whoever this other may be) in whose face we see the face of God. Around us we are witnessing massacres and crimes against humanity in the name of religion. Civilizations are being wiped out and peoples are being threatened with extinction because of intolerance, violence, terrorism and rejection of the other. Do these barbaric acts have any connection to religions? Is the destruction of historical monuments, places of worship and the treasures of history part of religion? Is the rejection of anything pertaining to civilizations part of faith? Is it not incumbent upon people of the 21st century to preserve humanity's heritage rather than eliminate history, thought and art? Religion is not a political ideology. It is faith in God and behaving according to values, principles and morals. Religion is tolerance, open-mindedness and a loving heart. Do we not all believe that there is no compulsion in religion, that man was created free and responsible for his words and deeds? If God, the Lord of heaven and earth, created man free and left him the freedom to choose, who are you, O wretched human, to compel your brother to do something that he does not want?

Extremism, intolerance and the rejection and uprooting of the other are acts that destroy the other and the self. Therefore, I turn to my Muslim brothers and fellow citizens and ask them to stand firm in the face of extremism, takfirism and the destruction of the diverse face of this Middle East. If Christians go extinct in this region because of their being persecuted and uprooted successively from the countries of the Middle East, how will this Middle East be without them? Christianity is deeply rooted in this region. Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth and wandered throughout Palestine and Lebanon, teaching people, healing their sick and raising their dead, until he accepted suffering, was crucified, died and rose on the third day according to the prophecies. Is a Middle East without diversity, without tolerance and without interaction between religions and cultures capable of life? Is it capable of interacting with Europe and other continents and of advancing and developing if it is not able to have interaction between its own people?

It is very good for a person to believe in God, but it is necessary for us to hold firm to freedom of religion and belief, to respect and preserve the freedom of others, and to not make religion into a vehicle for political interests and narrow affiliations. All of us are created in the image and likeness of God and He causes the sun to shine upon the wicked and the good and causes it to rain upon the righteous and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). He redeemed all with His precious blood. Here I will say to my Christian brothers in the region: do not allow hardships, however great, political and sectarian conflicts, and power struggles to frustrate you and to cause to to emigrate. Do not seek a visa for your passport that will pluck you from your countries from your land that you have watered with sweat and blood since ancient times. You are rooted in this land, the land of your fathers and grandfathers and the land of your children and grandchildren. Do not leave it, even if circumstances are difficult. Believe that our God has conquered death and that in Him we are called to triumph and to true life "because all who are born in God overcome the world" (1 John 5:4). We affirm that you are in our hearts and our thoughts and that we raise up constant prayer to the Lord God that He may preserve you by His grace, keep from you every evil, wrath danger and hardship, and bring you out of this ordeal unharmed.

What applies to the region as a whole applies to Lebanon, whose children have lost a happy life under a strong, just, united state and laws that apply to everyone. This is because of the extremism of some and the intransigence of others or their hatred, their connections, the advancement of their interests, or their clinging to their acquisitions and the list goes on... We all know that the reason for where we are now is the fact that there has not been an election of a  president who would keep things under control, ensure the implementation of the constitution, and protect the nation. Therefore I will turn to our beloved members of parliament, the representatives of the people, and address their consciences, reminding them that history is not merciful and that they have the sacred duty to elect a president as soon as possible so that he can take the reins. Is electing a president so difficult that in twenty-one sessions of parliament and almost a year, it has not been possible to for the representatives of the people to elect a president, even as the people who delegated them cry out in suffering and the country gradually collapses. Are there no longer people in Lebanon capable of taking responsibility and who have the necessary votes to be elected? Do not let lust for power cause you to lose the nation. The nation is more precious than positions and benefits and the destructive ego. The nation is more precious than ambitions, desires, greed, personal interest, and dependence on anything else other than the nation.

Have we come to the point of living off of memories of a nation, the nation of the great men of the past who, because of their knowledge and culture, had high morals and and clean hands, who did not bequeath things to their sons or relatives, and who did not exploit authority for personal interest or to make a fortune, but were only loyal to Lebanon, its people and army. Have such men dissapeared? I do not believe so. Therefore, on the blessed day of the resurrection, I call upon everyone to rebel against this situation and reject it. I call for rebellion against political, financial, and intellectual feudalism, against the moth of corruption, dullness of intellects and ignorance. I call for a return to conscience and the fulfillment of the duty to overcome political decadence, moral obscenity, economic decline and social complacency. We need a peaceful revolution that will eliminate neglect, improvisation, the lack of planning, and the lack of respect for constitutional limits and national duties. I call for a cry for knowledge in the face of ignorance and faith in the face of extremism, a cry for truth in the face of falsehood, for light in the face of darkness, for honesty in the face of lies, a cry for democracy in the face of political vacuum, a cry for morals and conscience that will judge all immoral actions against humanity, nature, the environment and history. Remember the Lord's question to Cain: "Where is Abel your brother?" (Genesis 4:9). On the day of judgment, the Lord will not ask us about ourselves but about what we have done to our brothers and about what we have done with the graces that God has given us. He who buries his share will be punished and he who makes it bear fruit will be rewarded many times over.

Lebanon is a precious gift from God and it is the duty of every one of us to preserve it to the best of the ability God has granted us. The greatest responsibility of members of parliament, as our constitution stipulates, is to elect a president. So do not fail, do not make exucuses of sins and do not look beyond the borders. Are you not worthy of the responsibility and of making a decision? Lock yourself in parliament and do not leave until the task is achieved. Redeem the nation. Live up to the responsibility and to the hopes of those who elected  you, not of those whom you are eager to please. Here I must express my sorrow and regret when I here some of those who claim to be Lebanese defend the president of this or that state and the interests of this or that state, acting proudly and cursing on television those who do not agree with them. Where is their nation in all of the shouting and insults that we see? Do they not have shame, those who defend a country that is not their own, an army that is not their own, a flag that is not their own, those who do not respect their country, their president and their army? Can they honestly respect others?

On this  day of the resurrection, our prayer is that our Lord who is risen from the dead will inspire the children of this country, officials and citizens, to come together and work honestly and sincerely for the rebirth of Lebanon. We ask Him to protect our army and security forces, to strengthen the resolve of the vulnerable, to balm the hears of the sorrowful, to return all the displaced to their homes, and all those who have been kidnapped safely to their families. We likewise ask Him to return to us our brothers Metropolitans Paul and Yuhanna, to spread His peace in our region and the world and spread the light of His resurrection in the hearts of all humankind.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Met Georges Khodr: Pascha

Arabic original here.


Pascha means passage. The Pascha of the Jews is their passage from Egypt, the land of slavery, to the Promised Land. Christian Pascha is people's passage from sin to righteousness through the death and resurrection of Christ. That is, through your faith in this death and its efficacy. In our liturgical life, we do not make a distinction between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is three mutually-completing parts. You transcend the duality between Christ's death and resurrection in the services because you do not recall the death and linger there. You constantly leap from the Savior's crucifixion to his resurrection. It is worth pointing out that if Eastern Christians mention the death of the Teacher in prayer, they immediately speak of the resurrection. Hear the tones and words of the resurrection in the prayer of Good Friday.

Some say that the Western Church focuses on the Lord's passion and the Eastern Church on the resurrection. This is not true. In both churches there is a complete balance between the two events for the simple reason that the resurrection is also present in the passion. Therefore believers who examine the texts of the passion and the resurrection agree that there is no difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church in this, even if Christians in the West pay more attention to the Lord's passion in popular practice.

In our liturgical practices, Pascha is from Good Friday to Sunday and if "Pascha" means passage, then all of it is the passage of the Lord from death to life. It is striking to me that, in the Orthodox Church, if you are a practicing believer you greet your friend with "Christ is risen" and he responds "indeed He is risen" for the fifty days after Pascha. Every practicing Orthodox child knows to greet his friends from Pascha until the Thursday of the Ascension by saying "Christ is risen." If an Orthodox person dies between Pascha and Ascension, a paschal funeral is held, with chants and praises of the resurrection. The priests do not wear black robes in the prayer and in the text and music you can't distinguish the funeral prayers from wedding prayers. All of us, in life and death, are brides of Christ.

Do you truly believe on account of this that you are risen from the dead? Have you believed that partaking of the Lord's body every Sunday is your resurrection or do you still feel that sin keeps you in death? Is the resurrection only a commemoration of the Savior or has it become  your true life? Is Pascha a feast or the reality of your soul? Are you a person of Pascha? The unbeliever Nietzsche wrote, "Show me Christians risen from the dead and I will believe in their Savior." Do you not wish to challenge Nietzsche and demonstrate to the fullest that even as you are alive, you have been enlightened by the light of Christ?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Our Resurrection is the Point

Arabic original here.

Our Resurrection is the Point

"But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (1 Corinthians 15:13-14). Christianity, as summarized by Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, in these two verses, is the faith that Christ rose from the dead and rose the dead up with Him. One aspect of celebrating Pascha is this faith that the feast spreads in the heart of all who believe in the risen Christ, the hope that their own resurrection is certainly coming. If you pay close attention to the icon of the feast in the Orthodox Church, you will notice that Christ, who is trampling the gates of hell, is lifting up with Himself two elderly people, symbolizing Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, who at the same time symbolize sinfuly humanity.

The purpose of Christ's resurrection, then, is the general resurrection of all people. This hoped-for resurrection-- and the resurrection is certain in Christianity-- was the major factor in causing Christians to not fear death. They went and preached the Good News throughout the inhabited world. They courageously faced the terror of persecutions and threats. They accepted to be martyred, refusing to deny their God or to deny their faith that He is the Savior of their life. After we saw the weakness and cowardice of the diciples and their fleeing from the Jews after their Teacher was arrested, we find them, after their encounter with the One risen from the dead, we find them without fear for any threat to their life. Indeed, their resolved was strengthened the greater the hardship and the pressure on them.

Eternal Life
This unconquerable resolve continued in the first generations of Christianity. Saint Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. 107) writes to the Romans when he was being taken in chains to be martyred "nothing keeps me from Christ"-- no pleasures, no temptations, no kings, and no authority. "I seek Christ who died for our sake and also rose for our sake. The hour has drawn near when I will be born." He himself affirms the centrality of the resurrection in his steadfastness in faith and his acceptance of martyrdom with exceptional heroism. In his Letter to the Trallians, he says, "If Christ suffered outwardly, as some impious people say, then what meaning have the chains that I bear? In such a case, my death is in vain and what I say about the Savior is superstition. Christ died for our sake to preserve us from death."

Faith in eternal life is how the first Christians faced the persecutions that lasted from the time of Nero (64 AD) until the end of the reign of Diocletian (311). If not for this enormous faith, Christianity would have ended with Christ's ascension to heaven. During this period, apologies for Christianity flourished and all of them include abstention from this world and its strife and exhortations to accept the worst fate in order to preserve the lofty principles and teachings brought by Christ. This renunciation, however, did not prevent Christians from involvement in the public affairs of the countries in which they lived.

Citizens of Heaven
In this context, the author of the Epistle to Diognetus (an anonymous author of the second century) says that Christians "are not distinguished from other people by country, by language or by dress. They practice local customs in clothing, food and way of life." As regards their relationship to their countries, the Epistle says that "each resides in his country, but as wayfaring strangers. They perform all their duties as citizens do and bear all burdens as strangers. Every foreign land is a nation for them and every nation a foreign land for them. They are in the body, but they do not live according to the body. They spend their life on the earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They love all people and all people persecute them." It would be wonderful if Christians in general and the Christians of the Arab Middle East in particular recovered this glorious image held by the early Christians. If they want this world and their rights in it, then they must not forget their name, which in the beginning was enough to send those who bore it to martyrdom. They must not forget that they are first of all the people of the resurrection, the people of Christ risen from the dead.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Between Pageantry and Bearing Witness

Arabic original here.

Between Pageantry and Bearing Witness

Christianity believes that Jesus Christ is the eternal God who became human in history and not a created human who was lifted up to divinity by God. God became human, indeed, a servant. God did not choose to become a king, a prince, a general, a rich man, or someone of stature. He chose to be a poor servant who did not possess anything of the dust of this world. God who holds the world in His power became a servant led to the cross, an obedient servant accepting slaps, blows, stabbing, and insults...

Christianity is also a total imitation of Jesus, His words and His deeds. Thus the great Apostle Paul says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

The Gospel affirms in several places that imitating Jesus requires the Christian to follow the path of the slave serving his brothers, not the path of the master, even if he is the master of his nation according to the standards of the present time. Christ, the Mighty Lord, after he washed the feet of His diciples on the night when He was given up for crucifixion, addressed them and said, "You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15).

Leadership in Christianity is not for authority, power, or money. Leadership is not realized through anything other than love, humility and obedience to the word of God. A summary of all of this is gratuitous service to the point of self-sacrifice. The true master is the one who chooses to be a servant of the poor, the wretched, displaced persons, the homeless refugees and all who are tormented. Christ Himself says, " But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

These words appear as Jesus' response to the two disciples who sought worldly glory when they asked Him that one sit at His right and the other at His left in His glory. All of the disciples thought that Jesus had come to return earthly rule to Israel and so they competed among themselves over who would hold greater authority than the others in the coming state. Competition over authority caused the disciples to "be angry" (Mark 10:41) with one another and it caused them to deny Christ on the night He was arrested. It caused one of them to accept payment for betraying Him... Authority divided them, but service unto death brought them together and made them one heart.

The Church uses the services and hymns as symbols by which she passes into daily life. The Church does not stop at ritual pageantry and its aesthetics, but rather makes it a gateway into the service that must be carried out toward our weak brethren who await God's mercy. Just as Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407) speaks of a "liturgy after the liturgy", there is a "foot-washing after the foot-washing", there is a "cross after the cross", and there is a "resurrection after the resurrection"... Those who are content with scenery and do not arrive at bearing witness are still drowning in fantasy. Those who remain in the "before" and do not life in the "after" have not yet attained their Christianity.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Met Georges Khodr on Holy Week

Arabic original here.

Holy Week

God has blessed us with the Passion Week that shines upon us so that we may witness His suffering and His resurrection from the dead. But we must contemplate some of the meanings that are poured out upon us by the great events that have brought us salvation.

Today, on Palm Sunday, after the Lord entered Jerusalem, He cleansed its temple and drove out the vendors and money-changers, so that the house of God might be pure from all commerce. We are children of the Holy Church, whom God wants to be unmercenary in religion, unmercenary in morals, and unmercenary with our children. If we do not preserve them with a good upbringing, we will be like the merchants in the temple. We must preserve them with true purity and careful attention-- attention to what we say, to what we do, to what we see-- attention to our words, so that they might be upright and truthful.

God speaks the truth to every person and He wants us to speak the truth. Through this, the temple of the soul is purified. The important thing is for us to want to belong to Christ in truth, not in imagination. So let us not believe that we belong to Him merely because we have come to church during Passion Week. This is good, but it is not enough. The important thing is for us to be partners of Christ in our behavior every day, so that we might participate completely in this Holy Week.

On Thursday, we are called to partake with the Lord in his Mystical Supper. He who wants to be saved, let him eat this bread and drink of this cup because the Lord said, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him" (John 6:56). The important thing is for Christ to be established within us, not for Him to pass by. The important thing is for Him to be established in the soul, in the heart, for us to be established upon Him such that we are inspired by Him at every moment.

How can we behave as Christians if Christ is not established within us? That is, for Christ to spring forth from the soul to the mouth, to the tongue-- because the tongue speaks from the heart. Therefore, if we want to purify the heart, we must place Christ in it and for Christ to come into the heart, we need constant prayer that we mean and to which we pay attention. We will come to church a lot in the coming week, but it does not mean anything if our bodies are in church. The important thing is for our spirits to be bound to Christ and for us to know that He is the Savior whom we call upon to save us, like a drowning man calls for help. Every one of us is drowning in a problem, in a sin or has in front of him a temptation or a lure to evil or is being assaulted by evil thoughts. The believer defies them all, praying and calling upon the help of the Savior.

Therefore, we must pay attention when we receive the body and blood of the Lord. We must pay attention to how we are partners of Christ. Christ is pure and so his partner must be pure. He cleanses his soul with repentance. Each one of us must test himself, admit his sin and reveal it to the priest in confession, so that Christ may purify him and have mercy on him. Then, let him recline at the table of the Lord and receive the cup of the Lord unto salvation.

In this way, we move from the Lord's Supper to seeing Him hung upon the cross on Friday, lifted upon the tree for our salvation. Christ's death saves us because He brought God's life into us when He died upon the cross. Therefore, he who looks upon Christ and believes in Him is saved. He is saved from every evil. He  embraces Christ and sin melts away. Each person who believes in Him is saved. He partakes of Gods life, holy life comes to him and he is with the Lord.

He who acts in this way is able to participate in the resurrection of the Lord and will rise from the dead. The meaning of the resurrection is not only that we will rise on the last day. The resurrection is that we will rise now from sin, from evil and from our bad habits. He who does not rise from them does not know the feast and has no Great Feast.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Met Georges Khodr on Suffering

Arabic original here.

Palm Sunday

"Say to the daughter of Zion: Behold, your king comes to you lowly, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Is this not for us to say to them that You possess nothing of power and that You have no part in politics? That You come to it so that it might kill You? Who apart from You goes to death willingly? Why did You choose death as a path to our life? Why did You volunteer for it and not conquer without death? Why did You choose to be oppressed in order to gain victory over Satan? Was it because You know that it is our constant natural state and that in it you would encounter all of humanity? Why did You have to come down for all of this misery? Is it because You know that misery is our fundamental and predominant situation? Is it because You wanted to encounter us in our sins? Is it because You know that we normally make our home there?

Who enters into a place in order to die there? Others have accepted death without seizing it by force. Was it in order to teach us that we have no life except through death, through the death of the passions and sin? I think that Your challenge to us is in Your telling us that our path to life is death. After this, we understood that Your death-- not our death-- is our resurrection. How can a person willingly go to his death? Through Your life, You teach us that our death in love is our path to the resurrection and that we must not love death, but rather the resurrection from the dead. Death is a punishment, useful only for those who have before them a path to life in God. We do not seek to suffer. This is an erroneous interpretation of the necessity of drawing near to Christ. Christianity is not the religion of pain. It is in us. We did not invent it. However through it you go there, and upwards.

Christ did not call for pain. It is in you. It comes to you and you accept it for a time, then transcend it through the joy of the resurrection coming to your heart. It is a false teaching that gives the impression that you must enjoy pain. At first you receive it, but you do this in order to transcend it and it will be accounted to you as righteousness. The situation brings it to you, but your Lord does not want it to remain. You accept it, not with patience for it but unto your Lord and through this you will end it. God does not want to make it active within you. If it comes to you, He will educate you through it. He liberates all in eternal life and spiritual experience tells us that God educates us in it through pain.

The Lord does not want pain to be active in you, but it comes. You do not welcome it, but if it comes, allow it to educate you. Why must you go through pain? Jesus did not answer this question, but when He accepted his suffering, we understood that this is what we must do.

It is not true that Christianity is the religion of pain. It is acceptance of pain about which no one consulted us because acceptance is being pleased with what comes to us after it: the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Why is the world based on the fact that resurrection-- the resurrection of each person-- is preceded by pain? I think that this is a matter of fact, but it is a matter of faith that accepting suffering in obedience to God is our path to the resurrection-- not only the resurrection to come, but also the one that takes place within us through love.

Until God raises us from the dead, we are in His grasp. Our home is the mercy of each one of us toward others. Whether we live or die, we are with Him, hoping every day for His loving kindness. Compassion surrounds us and we are consoled until He comes down.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Met. Ephrem (Kyriakos) on Palm Sunday

Arabic original here.

Palm Sunday
The Entrance into Jerusalem
Suffering and Joyful Sorrow

On the first day of Holy Week, the Lord Jesus enters in splendor, riding on the colt of a donkey.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was only an image of the resurrection of Christ, just as His entrance into Jerusalem was only an image of His passion and resurrection.

Let us pose the main question on this feast: why is there this overwhelming joy on Palm Sunday when the Lord Jesus is entering Jerusalem in order to suffer?! There is a terrible contradiction, sorrow and joy, the pomp of the triumphant and crushing humility. "Behold your king comes to you, (O Jerusalem), riding on a donkey's colt" (cf. John 12:15 and Zacharia 9:9).

The children carry palm leaves and olive branches-- a sign of victory and peace-- and candles decorated with flowers-- a sign of light and joy. These are the virtues that we have acquired after fasting...

On the feast of Palm Sunday, we chant: "God the Lord has appeared to us, blessed is He who come in the name of the Lord. Save us, O Son of God, who rode upon a donkey's colt", "today the grace of the  Holy Spirit has gathered us."

On Palm Sunday, we declare Jesus to be our King, our Lord and our God.

* * *
We return to the first question  and recall what the Lord said to His disciples in his farewell sermon before going to the passion:

"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy" (John 16:20). 

Here is the great mystery. Here is the secret action of divine grace at work in the heart of every Christian who is committed in his life in Christ: the mystery of our participation in Christ's suffering, death and resurrection. This is what the Orthodox Church calls "joyful sorrow" (χαρμολύπη).

In our church, we do not call the final week of the fast "sorrowful week", but rather we call it Great Week or Passion Week, in which pain and joy mix. 

On Palm Sunday, the Church celebrates Christ's entrance into suffering with great joy. The song of victory is itself the song of the suffering by which Christ enters into the Jerusalem on high and brings us with Him.

Beloved, let us become like those children who went to meet Christ, crying out "Hosanna! (That is, Save us!) Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Remember how the Jewish priests and scribes were surprised by all this and how the Lord replied to them:

"Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?" (Matthew 21:16)

Metropolitan of Tripoli, Koura and Their Dependencies