Friday, September 16, 2016

Met Saba (Esber): Maxims on the Cross

Arabic original here.

+ The cross is my life and there is no life except through the cross.

+ Jesus will continually look down with open arms because He wants my soul, for which He died, in order to embrace it.

+ The cross is not only a place of divine justice; it is also a place for love to the point of death.

+ The cross is not a fixed point upon which Jesus was hanged on a certain day. Rather, it is the basis for the movement of the Lord's heart towards all humanity.

+ In its outward appearance, the cross was an expression of the injustice of the world, but inwardly the cross is all joy, love and surrender to the Father for the salvation of the world.

+ The cross is the place of the soul's conforming to God: "with Christ you were crucified."

+ The cross is the beacon upon which Christ places the light of the world, by which we become a light for the world.

+ Fleeing the cross is equivalent to fleeing from the glory of God.

+ The cross is a school.... to flee from it is to lose the future.

+ The cross is the sole path to the resurrection... to flee from it is to enter into eternal death.

+ He who loses his cross loses his Christianity.

+ He who loses his cross has lost his path to God.

+ If one loses his cross, his life becomes cold and tepid, without cooperation with God.

+ Constant meditation on the cross of our Lord gains for the soul freedom, peace, power and forgiveness.

+ By its nature, the cross is the strongest and deepest degree of love.

+ Inasmuch as our contemplation of the cross increases, so deepens our communion and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

+ The cross is the path of freedom from the bonds of the world and the lust of the body.

+ If one is trained to taste sweetness in the word of God and the cross, He will make the soul resent every bodily pleasure.

+ The cross is the means of liberation from the self and its crucifixion.

+ The cross is not merely a sort of beautiful spiritual meditation. It is also enduring suffering in order to stand against the sinful world.

+ The cross is our weapon during spiritual warfare.

+ Every struggle against sin in order to preserve my freedom is bearing the cross.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: Christ and Him Crucified

Arabic original here.

Christ and Him Crucified

The Apostle Paul does not know Jesus Christ except crucified and hanging on the wood of the cross. For him there is an identity between Christ "and Him crucified." Thus we see him making a digression in order to state this unambiguous, unblemished truth. Even when he presents a hymn about Jesus' work in the world (Philippians 2:6-11), we notice that he breaks the meter in order to add the expression "the death of the cross," affirming that Christ died upon the cross and not in any other way.

Saint Paul expresses this identity in his First Epistle to the Corinthians where he says, "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is also noteworthy here that Paul does not point to the power of Christ that lies in His divinity and His being the only-begotten Son of God. Rather, His power lies in the cross upon which He died out of love for the world: "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

In this context, St John Chrysostom says (d. 407) says, "The Greeks ask us for eloquence of speech and the precision of sophistry. But we proclaim to them the cross, which appears as weakness to the Jews and to the Greeks foolishness. We do not offer what they seek, but rather we offer the opposite of what they seek. The cross does not appear to be proof of power, but rather condemnation for weakness. It is not subject to wisdom, but rather evidence of foolishness." Indeed, the cross is proof of power, not of weakness. The courageous person is the one who accepts to bear his cross just as Christ bore His cross. The quivering coward is the one who refuses his cross. Oppressors are cowards. Martyrs, according to the Christian faith, are heroes.

There is no doubt that the entire tradition of the Church is unanimous in saying that Christianity cannot be reduced to practice of the law alone, just as it cannot be reduced to philosophical or intellectual theories alone. Christianity is either the putting into practice of the commandment of love or it does not exist. Therefore, the true Christian is the one who loves freely, just as Christ loved the world freely. Indeed, He paid with His blood upon the cross as the price for this love. This does not mean that Christianity despises the law or philosophy, but rather that it regards them as secondary next to the practice of love.

In what, then, should Christians boast? If they want to imitate the Apostle Paul who said, "Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ," then they have what the Apostle himself declares openly, "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). Paul did not boast of Christ's divinity or of the miracles that Jesus and His disciples worked... He boasted of the cross and the One placed upon it, and that alone.

Christians are called to imitate Paul as Paul imitated the Lord... so they must not boast of the cross-- made out of gold, silver, or even wood-- adorning their chest or lifted meters high upon mountains or on the domes of churches... To boast of the cross is to "bear in the body the marks of the Lord Jesus" according to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:17). To boast of the cross is to love the world as Christ loved it, He who gave Himself for the life of the world.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Met Antonios (el-Souri) on the Cross

Arabic original here.

On the Cross

People free from the cross in their life, thinking that it is a brutal pain. Not every pain is a cross. People err when they think that way. There is no cross outside of the relationship with Christ, because He is the one who says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).

The cross comes from denying the self, from one's effort to return to worshiping God from worshiping oneself. Renouncing love of the self is the greatest pain. All other pains are easy compared to it.

The practical question is, how does one worship himself?

Perhaps most people don't see this within themselves. But the question is simple, because every action by which a person strives to affirm himself outside of God is worship of the self. This is what leads to people's struggles among themselves because they cannot accept each other. Indeed, each one wants to dominate the other in thought, in word or in deed.

So long as the other constitutes a threat to my existence, I follow the passion of my ego. When the other becomes my life and my joy, I have become a slave to God because I have been liberated from my ego. Can you love the other? Accept him? Tolerate him? Not judge him? Excuse his failings? Rejoice in sacrifice for his sake? Be broken in order to gain him? Share in his sufferings? See your failings that hurt him and try by the grace of God to change for his sake...?

The transparent answers to all these questions and more is your honest mirror which tells you whether you worship yourself or God. And so the true cross is the path of repentance and the true resurrection comes to you by way of this cross and in it because, if you truly choose your cross, it becomes the path of your salvation. He who has ears to her, let him hear.

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Met Georges Khodr: Mercy and Love

Arabic original here.

Mercy and Love

Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of heaven and the first thing that He proclaimed, like John the Baptist before Him, was "repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near." What is the meaning of the kingdom of God? What does it mean for God to be a king over people?

The Lord said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). That is, it is not in a specific place and you do not have to go far to find it. Enter into yourselves and you will find the Lord there. Jesus started to speak in parables about the kingdom and to give analogies for it.

In today's Gospel reading, the Lord told the story of a servant who owed his master ten thousand talents. He went to him pleading for mercy and his master forgave his debt. When he went away happy, he came across another servant who owed him a small amount. He pleaded with him for mercy, but he did not have mercy and instead sent him to jail to pay off the debt. When the man's master learned of this, he was angry at his servant and said to him, "Should you not have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?"

Every person is our fellow servant, and every debtor is also our fellow servant. Jesus wanted there to be no relationship of master and servant between people. "There is neither slave nor free... for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Of course, there are people who owe other people money or other things. Jesus wants our relations to be based not only on the law, but on mercy. By the law, one person imprisons another person. By mercy, one person forgives another.

In the Old Testament, there was the law "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" and courts undertook to apply this law. But our Master said that that there is no need for courts among you, since His disciple Paul said in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, "Seat the wretched in the Church as judges" (1 Corinthians 6:4) so that none of the faithful will go to the pagans for judgment.

God treats us how we treat people. He has mercy on us if we are merciful and He punishes us if we lord over people and oppress them. If we gossip about a person, we murder him. All gossip is murder. All revealing a person's faults is murder. He who sins separates himself from people. Don't say within yourself that he has sinned, since there is someone who will hold him to account. If you love him, he will come back to God.

Each of us needs one thing in this world: for people to love us, for at least one person to love us. If there is not one person who loves us, then we are in a state of suffocation. For this reason, you who have been wronged, who have been attacked, are the one who forgives. The one who loves who is wronged might not find anyone else in the universe who loves him other than the one who wronged him.

Why do we not forgive? Because we were not expecting to be wronged by that particular person. But we must know that each person is capable of every sin. The one from whom we expected  good may disappoint us. Disappointment may come from any person, distant or close. We must understand that the people dearest to us may sin. Only ask that the Lord love them and ask for healing for them, that they may return, not to you but to their Lord.

If we are merciful in this way, then people will remain at peace. People live in peace if they are with their Lord, if others love them.