Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Met Georges Khodr's Eulogy for Fr Georges Massouh

Arabic original here. A video of it is available here.

The eulogy of Met Georges Khodr at the funeral for Fr Georges Massouh on Monday, March 26, 2018 at the Church of Saint George in Aley, Lebanon

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O tiller of the earth!

This is what the name "Georges" means in Greek.

You cultivated this vineyard of Christ in this town and elsewhere and you were faithful to the inheritance that you received from the saints, and you only knew the saints.

We brought you to this good parish so that you might cultivate it and you did. You walked before them, as sheep blessing Christ the Lord. You walked before them in righteousness. This is the life of a priest, to be righteous first of all and then after that to serve and chant and so forth.

But the fundamental task is to be righteous and pure for Jesus Christ.

You were righteous and the many discussions we had, you and I, focused only on righteousness, on the purity with which we pastors must be garbed and which we must give to the faithful. We both understood this, until the blessed Lord allowed you to be brought to Him. This is His will. May His will be blessed.

Go then and pray there above, where you watch over us, along with the angels.

Go and tell the Lord: those over whom I was entrusted, I tried to raise, for them to be Yours and for You to know if they are Yours.

Our task, O Georges, is to be a flock of Christ's. He knows if we attain this or not. But we will also try to imitate you, so may the priests and laypeople all know that you were a leader on this good journey in the Holy Spirit and that you brought us to the port, to the good haven after you nourished us with things divine.

You are above!

We are here!

Remember us because we are weak.

Remember us, until God removes each one of us from this earth on the day of His choosing.

Georges Massouh is a rare man!

You think that you are sitting with a human like yourself, then you see yourself sitting with an angel in the flesh.

Georges Massouh soared in heaven, in the presence of God constantly, by the power of the blessings that he received from this anointment [misha, a play on the name Massouh]. He lived by the holy anointment.  He went with us behind him, following him in his virtues and trying to get him to stay here with his virtues.

He went, leaving us a great inheritance, with his good example, so that we may not fall behind or grow weary, so that we may be patient and walk behind the saints.

May God alone be in all of this, as He supports you all, as you are with each other on the journey to God's face.

May God be with you in your holy experience, as all of us together pray that the Lord God may accept the priest Georges Massouh in His greatness, His righteousness and His holiness.

May God be with him and with us unto the ages. Amen.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fr Georges Massouh (1962-2018): Memory Eternal!

Fr Georges Massouh, professor of Islamic Studies at Balamand University and parish priest in Aley, Lebanon fell asleep in the Lord early this morning. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. May his memory be eternal!

Christ is risen!
Indeed He is risen!

An archive of his writings that I've translated over the years can be found here. Below I'm re-posting an essay of his from 2017, Love is Stronger than Death.

Arabic original here.

Love is Stronger than Death

He who loves God sacrifices his entire life, consecrating it to Him. He who loves God strives to constantly abide with Him. He who loves God loves life and does not seek his own death or attempt to hasten it. But he must accept death one day because man cannot live forever. Death becomes for him a transition from life to life. Life on earth becomes a passage to where there is true life. Life on earth becomes a short time in which one is prepared at every moment to face his inevitable destiny. The best preparation is repentance and love for one's neighbor, without which one cannot love God.

It is true that death entered human nature as a punishment from God because of man's fall into sin, but it still contradicts this nature that inclines toward life. So God gave man a covenant and a promise that man would live forever, if he so desired for himself. This human will, whose possessor must refine it so that it will draw closer to God's will, is what made this possible. This correspondence between the two wills, resulting from man's free will, is what makes the encounter between God and man an encounter between lovers who cannot bear to wait for each other.

In this context, we will cite the words of Simeon when he the forty-day old child Jesus in his arms, when Joseph and Mary brought Him to the temple and the Holy Spirit inspired him that he would not taste death before seeing the Lord's Messiah. Simeon said, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-30).

When Simeon saw Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah he had been promised, he became ready to depart for the next life with great joy. He who loves Jesus does not fear death. In the holy martyrs, we have the best examples of this. Their love for Him made them brave enough to face death with great steadfastness and hope. Their love for Him caused them to not betray His Gospel and His teachings. They did not abandon their principles for the sake of this fleeting life, but rather accepted to abandon this fleeting life even if it cost them their life.

The Islamic tradition also takes this approach. There is a story of the Prophet Ibrahim al-Khalil not mentioned in the Torah that is given by al-Ghazali in his Ihya Ulum al-Din in the chapter "On the Servant's Love for God" which goes as follows: 

Ibrahim (peace be upon him) said to the Angel of Death when he came to him to take his soul, "Have you seen a friend kill his friend?"

God (may He be exalted) inspired [the angel] to say, "Have you seen a lover hate his beloved?"

So Ibrahim said, "O Angel of Death, take me now."

We find a similar saying from the famous sufi Sufyan al-Thawri: "Only the doubter hates death, because in no case does the beloved hate to meet his lover."

The struggle between life and death continues and it will go on so long as this world exists. But life is stronger than death because love is stronger than it. Let us love man and sacrifice ourselves for his sake because whether we are believers, atheists or agnostics, in this way, knowing or unknowing, we are loving God.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Theosis

Arabic original here.


The purpose of the Christian's life on earth is theosis.

Theosis is our participation in the very life of God. This is accomplished through the divine grace that is active within us after we are purified from passions and lusts: "those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24). According to Saint Maximus the Confessor, God made us in order for us to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The sin of contemporary man is that he wants to be self-sufficient without any relationship with God his creator. In the end, this constitutes his real death. Here we recall the words of Saint Irenaeus, "God became man so that man might become a god" (through the uncreated divine grace).

This patristic issue stands against the challenges of rationalist thought. The true challenge lies in the Christian experience that desires a true renewal of man from within. Of course, man's participation in the life of God is possible for human creation. But this human mind, with the struggles of body and soul, is closely linked to the work of divine grace. This leads to the descent of the mind into the heart and to the enlightenment of the mind and the heart through prayer and fasting. That is, through the uncreated divine energies.

This communion with God through divine grace-- that is, theosis-- preserves God's absolute transcendence, something that is called apophatic theology. When we say that God is good, merciful, just... this does not reveal God's true nature. That is, His essence. Rather, it expresses what is around this nature and the positive attributes that come forth from it, in which man participates, but it does not touch upon God's ineffable essence. Participation in what comes forth from God is possible, but God's essence or His true nature completely transcends our perception: this is apophatic truth.

This explanation does not quench the thirst of the human soul that longs for God. It is merely an intellectual preamble, encouragement for the practice of the ascetic spiritual life in this blessed Lenten season, that we may touch God's hand in our life and have a foretaste of the joy of the kingdom.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Met Georges Khodr Resigns as Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon

This translation is unofficial.

Statement issued from the Antiochian Orthodox Media Center
In the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Balamand, March 3, 2018

His Beatitude Patriarch John X honored His Eminence Metropolitan Georges Khodr, Metropolitan of Jbeil, Batroun and their Dependencies at the metropolitan's residence in Broumana on March 3, 2018, bestowing him with the Order of Saints Peter and Paul with the rank of great commander (the highest honor in the Patriarchate of Antioch, in appreciation for the great efforts that he made in service of the aforementioned archdiocese and the Church in general for nearly half a century. This honor came after Metropolitan Georges offered his letter of resignation from his responsibilities and his resignation from his responsibilities as metropolitan of the archdiocese. Consequently, His Beatitude will appoint a patriarchal vicar in accordance with ecclesiastical and canonical principles.

Met Georges Khodr on St Gregory Palamas

Arabic original here.

The Divine Light

The fast becomes more severe and we try to mobilize for Christ as though we are crucified with Him. Because of this suffering, the Church increasingly mentions light in our prayers. The word "light" appears frequently during this period. Next Sunday, we venerate the Holy Cross and we offer flowers which say that we rejoice in the cross. For us, adversity is a path to triumph, not as it is known among the people of the world, in pressure and fear, but rather it is the triumph of the humble who have known the path of Christ.

Today, the second Sunday of the fast, because of long debates that took place in the fourteenth century about the place of the divine light, the Holy Church commemorates Saint Gregory Palamas, bishop of Thessalonica.

Gregory was a monk on Mount Athos when a person called Barlaam came from Italy, saying that divine grace is something created. Gregory answered him and said that divine grace is from God Himself and so is uncreated and eternal. The conflict intensified until the Church was forced to hold great councils that are known under the name of Saint Gregory Palamas because they revealed and confirmed his teaching.

Why was this conflict intense? Why was it important? And why did the Church take this position? It is because each of us must receive all of God in himself. God is not only in heaven. All of God is within you, in your heart. He comes down completely into you and this is the meaning of the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas, whom we commemorate today.

Therefore let us not think that we are only earthly. Rather, from this moment we are heavenly because God dwells within us and makes of our hearts and our souls a divine spirit. Do we appreciate this or do we know ourselves only as creatures of dust? We are all creatures of dust, since God formed us from this earth, but in Christ we have become heavenly. There are dark things within us, but if the grace of Christ comes, it dispels the darkness, forgives sin, and shapes us, not with dust and water, but with light.

This is something very great, which we do not seem to appreciate and we do not seem to perceive. Each of us defines himself as being of flesh and blood and in this way gives himself an excuse to do whatever he likes, while if he were to say, "I am of light. I came from God and I go to God. I am nominated to be a god, as the Bible says," this person would not give himself an excuse, but rather would be demanding with himself, taking account of himself every day in order to be in the image of God.

Our task is not to be good people who don't go to jail. This is the least that is demanded, that one must keep the commandments and not steal, not commit adultery, etc. But one is required to reach higher, to the ceiling, or if there is no ceiling above him, to draw near to heaven, by which he becomes a son of God. You are children of God, just as the Lord was a Son of God from eternity, in his essential nature. Thus He invites us, through good works, upright faith and constant purification, to become, like Him, participants in the divine nature.

This is something unique to Christianity, that we do not remain distant from God, but rather are brought near to God's heart and remain there, within the Lord. Thus, as we move from Sunday to Sunday in this blessed fast, from mention of light to mention of light, from transformation to transformation, we know that we are carried upon divine light to divine light.