Sunday, April 28, 2019

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos)'s Paschal Message for 2019

Arabic original here.

Bearing Witness in Today's World

"And you shall be witnesses to Me" (Acts 1:8).

For us to be witnesses to Christ today is for us to remind the secularized children of the world of Christ's resurrection from the dead. As for wretched me, I stand before the cross of Christ, before the misery of the world, holding a flame of sincere love.

Salvation does not lie in being freed of the toils of the world, but in the very salvation of the world itself.

Salvation lies first of all in embodying God's word, embodying the words of the Gospel lived out in this world. The meaning of this is serving man by inspiration from God. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

As for Christ, "He answered and said to them, 'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it'" (Luke 8:21).

The commandment of the Lord Jesus, after His resurrection and before departing from His disciples in the flesh, was as follows: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Today our path, our way of life, our prayer, are relationship with others are all much more important than our theoretical knowledge. They are more useful to us for the salvation of the world than abstract theological propositions.

This is what the Starets Sophrony of Essex tells us: our relationship with the community is more important than sociological details. The community is an expression of a family built upon our love for each other. The rule is based on bearing one another, on mutual love, on patience and sacrifice. This is the Paschal Church that is victorious over death, the passage from the suffering of this age to the joy of the Lord trampling down death.

Love in the Lord is effective. It is not authoritarian commands. Activity in secret to console and assist one's neighbor, not pretending, showing off and being puffed up. Your true banner is before God who sees in secret.

I advise you to avoid images and Facebook. They are a vice in many cases, because the devil exploits them for evil. Media kills the truth in many cases. It is only a means for sordid personal materialist and lustful use.

What do you think is the mystery of Christ's resurrection? Saint Symeon the New Theologian says, "Christ's resurrection is our resurrection from the tomb of humility and repentance. This is the mystery that we desire to be completed within us."

The Lord said, "I am the Truth." The Christian's life is saturated with constant inspiration in the Holy Spirit. It is a path from glory to glory. It is a new divine disclosure at every moment.

The life of the Church is replete with joy. It is true life.

It is more sublime than rules and canons. Here lies the profundity of Christianity taken as a unique way of life inspired by God.

It is a spring whose outpouring never repeats itself. A constant miracle, the miracle of creation, the kingdom that is to come the constantly-awaited resurrection.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Met Silouan (Muci) on the 6th Anniversary of the Kidnapping of Met Paul (Yazigi)

Pastoral Letter of
Metropolitan Silouan of Byblos, Botrys and dependencies
on the 6th Anniversary of the Kidnapping of
His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo
April 22, 2013-2019

The "Master of Eloquence and Silence"
Between the Silence of Man and the Silence of God
“God finished on the seventh day His work, which He had done:
and He rested on the seventh day of all His work, which He had made”
(Genesis 2:2)

“Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo is on an ecclesiastical mission.” This is an expression that occurred to me in the first days after Monday, April 22, 2013 (the day he was kidnapped), an expression that opened a window through which I have tried to explore the mystery of that great day, a day of God's work in the history of humanity.
Arriving at the threshold of the seventh year of this invisible “ecclesiastical mission,” we notice that infertility and drying up are encircling us; the infertility of hope and the drying up of inspiration.  Consequently, you believe that time is uprooting hope from you, while you have no inspiration regarding how to defend the work of God within us and in us. In that case, how can you possibly defend your hope and your faith, and what may you say regarding this matter? An answer comes to you: “Keep silence!” But how could you manage, with silence, to defend your hope and your faith in this “ecclesiastical mission?”
In seeking a satisfactory answer to this question, you rejoice that the Bible reveals to you the work of God the Creator, when, at the end of the six-day work of creation, It tells us, with majesty and modesty, that “on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made” (Genesis 2:2). This fact makes you dive into the work of God the Creator, as we are on the threshold of the seventh year of that great day, while contemplating, with reverence and perspicacity, the mystery of the work of God Himself in us, since He says, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17) -- and how this work has manifested itself in a paradoxical way, both in expression and in the absence of expression; both in revelation and in the absence of revelation. It is, in fact, the secret of “silence” that appeared on the seventh day, when God the Creator rested from all His works, a silence that the author could not express -- and how could he? Indeed, the expression, “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4; 10; 12; 18; 21; 25) accompanies us from the first days of creation, as well as the expression, “that [it] was very good” (Genesis 1:31) at the end of these days.  However, the sacred “silence” of God is present on the seventh day as a blessed seal appended on His words of the previous days.
This biblical reality introduces you to the dynamic of the Bible where the “silence” of God confrontsthe man who meanders in the paths of life, so as to provide him with hope, abundant hope. In this regard, man´s difficulty resides in his lack of forbearance towards such a silence, especially if this silence is prolonged in our eyes, and if we are not sufficiently imbued with the Holy Spirit.  God be praised that His silence is not sterile. Likewise, he who is filled with the Spirit, his silence is not sterile either.  It is clear that the source of this silence is the same one of which the Sacred Scripture spoke to us at the beginning of creation, when It revealed to us the presence of the “Master of Silence,” if it is permissible to speak like that.  This is the Holy Spirit.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). And we realized that He is also the “Master of Eloquence” because He is the one who inspires and gives the speech, as the Lord, in circumstances similar to those we are talking about, explained to us: “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).
Is it possible that you are angry and disgusted with silence, the silence of the sterile man, a silence that we are accustomed to describe as the “silence of the grave,” when we refer to this great day? Or is it possible that you rejoice in the silence of God, a silence that turns out to be most eloquent, a silence that is the “language of the age to come,” according to Saint Ephraim the Syriac, a language that comes to you from the age to come, from the One who is Himself “the Master of Silence,” who was hovering over all creation since the dawn of its creation, and which feeds its existence and gives him the ability to speak, to listen and to understand His work in this creation so far?
In fact, on the threshold of this “seventh day,” or rather of the seventh year, you must behold yourself in reverence before the work of God the Creator during these past six years, and watch the manifestation of His work in His repose of all works, which took place in a remarkable silence that cannot be decoded by any word we may say. It is rather a silence that speaks in the hearts of those who accept the “Master of Eloquence and Silence” within them, in an act of prayer, faith or service; in a situation of life or death; in a state of suffering or liberation; in a desperate wait or a quick response; in an absence cruelly felt but that is counterbalanced by a stronger and more eloquent presence than the absence itself.
The difficulty of the seventh day is the “silence” that surrounds it and the length of the duration that accompanies it.  In this case, we cannot do better than rely on the one who became the “master of eloquence and silence” to guide us in our passage through the silence of man and this silence of God concerning this “ecclesiastical mission,” invisible to men's eyes, but alive in the spirit of God and His providence for us.
I thank the Lord for allowing me to write these lines, which I wrote “from here,” “from very near” (for some people), while in the past I have written them from “there,” “from far” (for some others), while praying to the Lord to confirm us all together in the work of the Spirit who unites us in times of adversity and trials, so that He may be glorified in us, and that, consequently, the one who became the master of eloquence and silence” is present among us.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Metropolitan Silouan (Muci)'s Paschal Message for 2019

Paschal Message
of His Eminence, Metropolitan Silouan
of Byblos, Botrys and dependencies

The Ministry of Our Crossing to the Resurrection

The Lord rises from the tomb inviting us to cross from the shore of the old man, well rooted in us, to the shore of our liberation from it, thanks to our constant effort of renewal and regeneration of ourselves. It is a reality that He has sown in the body, of which we are members, a seed that is called to grow in all humanity, as the leaven within the dough (Mt 16:33).
The Lord wants us to be ministers, collaborators and servants of this "Passover" among our brothers and peers. Hopefully, when the body of the Lord, full of sores, is transfigured in the faces of those whose testimonies reflect the light of the resurrection, then, we might receive the reward of the "faithful servants" (Lk 19:11-27). Such a light shines upon us when, in witnessing the members of His body, prevails union (Jn 17:22), fraternal love (Lk 6:35), synergy (Acts 20:35), forgiveness (Mt 6:14), repentance (Lk 15:10) and service according to His commandment: “Freely you have received; freely give” (Mt 10:8). this paschal "adventure," the joy of the servant manifests itself when his brothers and peers receive their reward from the Lord, such as the reward that the publican received, when He justified and exalted him (Lk 18:10-14), or  the reward that the prodigal son received, when He gave him the best robe, the ring and the sandals, giving him back the dignity of a son (Lk 15:11-32), or the reward that the sheep who served "the least of them" received when He gathered them on His right hand (Mt 25:31-46), or, finally, the reward of those who forgave others, prayed in secret, and fasted happily, when He gave them that "treasure" that does not perish (Mt 6:14-21), that is, the fatherhood of God towards them and their acceptance of the grace of sonship with Him.
Undoubtedly, the joy of this servant -- for the sake of others and not so much for himself and for his own achievements -- is magnified when he remembers the humility of Him who said, "For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father who sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak" (Jn 12:49), as well as His commandment, "You also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’"(Lk 17:10). Certainly, this servant has only to follow the steps of his Master, crucified and then resurrected. In this regard, he will live some of His experiences without departing from Him, whatever the circumstance is, while having in view His promise, "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me" (Jn 12:26).
Every servant, whatever may be the level of his responsibility or the degree of his effort and dedication, can make mistakes, as well as achieve successes while trying to incarnate the will of God in his service and ministry, investing his talents in the real context of his life. Such a servant is preserved in his service thanks to the prayer of the struggling and victorious Church; thanks to the love of his small and of his greater family, the patience of its members, the demonstration of their solidarity and the exercise of forgiveness among them; and, finally, thanks to his own effort so that his service may be carried out with faith, trust in God and discernment of His will. In this atmosphere, the resurrection may grow among the members of the body of Christ, so that it may overcome in each one every weakness they suffered, heal all boasting, arrogance, haughtiness or despair into which they may have fallen, and keep away any division or evil that may have affected their communion.
In the resurrection, let us keep the ardent hope that the Lord will not stop inspiring the members of His body which serve Him in ministering to our crossing to the resurrection. Such a hope nourishes the faith in Him who produces "the willingness and the doing" (Phil 2:13) in those who thrive to do any work of justice, goodness, good, edification, consolation, education and salvation. No doubt, such a witness is a candle lit in the path of our resurrection, as well as in that of our peers in the countries and societies where we serve and give our testimony.
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!