Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bishop Constantine Kayyal on Joy and the Sanctification of Time

Arabic original here.

How do we Relate to the Joy of Christ?

The word 'joy' (in Greek, χαρά) is derived from the verb χαίρω and various philosophers have attempted to define it. Some of them completely distinguished it from what is known as pleasure (ἡδονή) and others regarded it at a type of pleasure. There is, however, a consensus, if one can say that, among the philosophical definitions that joy is merely a phenomenon.

In both testaments of the Holy Bible, the word 'joy (χαρά) is connected to the word 'grace' (χάρις).

This connection becomes clear through the use of the word 'grace' (χάρις) to indicate the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד). This connection is made manifest in the angel's good tidings to the Mother of God, "Rejoice O full of grace!" (Luke 1:28).

Starting from this simple linguistic description, we see that in our Orthodox Church joy is not a mere phenomenon with this emotional and affective dimension. Our true joy is that which comes from God. It is the result of the work of divine, uncreated grace within us.

The work of divine grace within us occurs in the Church and through the holy mysteries which are, in other words, the channels of uncreated grace which sanctifies us and sanctifies our time. For this reason we find in our Church what is known as the liturgical new year, which is a wonderful expression of the purpose of our creation. That is, the sanctification of our time.

On September first, this liturgical year begins in order to transport us within the vastness of the holy liturgy to the first object our desire, which we lost as the result of our selfishness, leading to our fall from the world of grace to the world of chaos and corruption.

God, however, in His love for humankind, desired to send His only Son, the eternal Word, into the midst of this chaos in which we live, to prepare a way for us that would bring us back to what is loftier and more sublime, that would bring us back to the state of grace from which we had expelled ourselves.

We follow this way sacramentally in our liturgical life, which is nothing other than that path arranged for giving praise to God.

Through the incarnation of God the Son on earth, He restored holiness to our time. He sanctified it simply by dwelling within it. The Creator unites with creation to prepare it, sanctifying it. We came to know the Lord Jesus as perfect man and perfect God. He lived among us and interacted with us, all of this out of love for us, seeking our salvation. So how do we relate to that love? Do we interact with it?

Or does it remain for us merely the commemoration of something that has passed? Our life with Christ is a life renewed by grace, a life whose foundation is prayer and whose goal is ascent and joy at beholding the glory of the Trinity.

Wherever Christ is found, there is true joy and true consolation. If we want to enjoy this joy, then let us seek Him and know that He is present, springing forth from the holy mysteries to permeate our depths. So let us enjoy God's richness and let us become constantly joyful, so long as we seek to be close to Him. "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). Our refraining from participation in the mysteries of the Church is a separation from grace and an abandonment of Christ. It is a rejection of true happiness. Every joy ends after a few moments. Material happiness is for what is material and the material has no life within it. But our joy with Christ remains as long as Christ remains within us. Our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

It is not enough for us to have superficial, intellectual knowledge of Christ in order to obtain true grace. If we do not strive in our effort for purification and the support of uncreated divine grace, our joy will not be perfect. When Christ is firmly fixed within us and in our minds, we will hear His voice saying, "Come, blessed ones of My Father, inherit the eternal kingdom." Then the Good News of the kingdom will spring forth from us because through baptism we have been made worthy to be called children of the Most High and temples of the Holy Spirit. This intimate bond between us and the Lord Jesus becomes manifest and grows within the prayer that we lift up like incense before the throne of the eternal God and which Christ personally offered us. So let us walk with Him toward His great and holy Pascha which is the perfection of the liturgical year, the perfection of the feasts, and the perfection of joy.

Bishop Constantine Kayyal
Abbot of the Patriarchal Monastery of Mar Elias, Shwayya

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