Friday, May 24, 2019

Met Silouan (Muci): The Good Leaven from Outside the Supposed Goodness

Arabic original here

The Good Leaven from Outside the Supposed Goodness

The believer never stops drawing near the Resurrection until the Resurrection itself snatches him from the way he is approaching it. Furthermore, it drives him towards its true approach to man, whoever he may be, under the light of the dispensation that Christ inaugurated amidst our sinfulness which is still deeply rooted within us. There is no more obvious example than what happened before the eyes of the Apostles themselves when they came across Christ's encounter with the Samaritan woman and there are no more effective words, until our present day, than those uttered then by Christ unto them!
None of the Evangelists records any conversation of Christ longer than the one that brought Him together with the Samaritan woman. It seems "it was necessary" for Christ to pass through Samaria, where there was Jacob's Well in Sychar. It is a sort of necessity for which we find no need at all because nothing can-- or rather, nothing must-- happen there. Such an encounter was, in fact, the fruit of fervent prayer or a desire extended and poured out in service to the salvific divine dispensation for the sake of "that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). That verse does not apply to us (because we think that we are not one of those), but rather to the Samaritan woman because the Gospel must be "useful" for someone, especially "this" sort of person (that is, those to whom can apply our standards in classifying those whom we consider that are lost).
Jesus found in the Samaritan woman the good leaven in order to tell us about those who are worthy of resurrection and how their resurrection comes about. She is a leaven that transformed from the old man to the new man, a leaven that leavened the dough of all Samaria through the testimony of her confessing what she did-- not for cheap publicity for herself, but in order to present the person who revealed her deeds to her without any human foreknowledge and who raised her up from them. Her joy at the One who loved her inundated her and she, in turn, poured Him out upon those who had not hesitated to roll their eyes at her immoral life, forcing her to go out to the well at midday in order to fulfil her need for water.
The rising of the Samaritan woman to the light of Christ has as a consequence the rising of the Samaritans to the very same light. You find yourself before a rolling snowball that grows bigger the more it rolls downhill-- that is, the more the Samaritan woman humbled herself before her folk. A small hope was transformed into a great hope: a living, experienced, accepted and transmitted hope. It is a hope that is remarkably contagious, to the point that we wonder today why we are not feeling the same thing. Perhaps we have gotten used to the Feast of the Resurrection to such a degree that we have become emptied of it without being aware. We give thanks to God as we notice that today there are many who are still echoing that great hope that has shaken Samaria, the one which was eagerly cried out by those Samaritans converted to Christ: "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world" (John 4:42).
You are surprised, amidst this overwhelming joy the one that you notice in Christ's heart as well as in the heart of the Samaritan woman and her Samaritan folk, by what the apostles themselves (and we too) were immersed in and concerned of. Perhaps they were right, (and we too, like them), when their minds were on a matter other than what was on Christ's mind and heart and was the core of His mission, so they said to Him, "Master, eat" (John 4:31). The Master could not but teach them: "I have food to eat of which you do not know... My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4: 32, 34). By uttering these words, the Master generates in you a sort of "shame" that strips you of your cares (while at the same time He discloses them) and that purify you by replacing them with your love for and willingness to do the will of His Father. In that way, He make you worthy of becoming His dinner guest at His table, eating the same food He showed to His disciples.
Then you rejoice wholeheartedly when you notice that the Teacher is constantly saving us from our comprehension of the resurrection and discipleship that are keeping us, indeed, distant from Him. Instead, He reveals to us the true meaning of the resurrection and discipleship, thus introducing us into His purpose for the salvation of mankind. Your joy is increased when you realize that He is able to find good leaven from outside what we supposed to be goodness, i.e. from outside the standards that we set for goodness and by which we judge others. In this context, the Resurrection becomes a natural gift that can be the “good part” of our brothers and brethren in any place we are settled. How great is the favor of this Samaritan woman, in that the disciples ate of the Teacher's true food, as it has been the same for us, after them! In fact, she was a good leaven, from nowhere and without we be aware of! How great was her favor, because she put the Resurrection within reach of those who are near and those who are far, as both of them are within the scope of the hope that the Resurrection has sown within us for all time!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Jad Ganem: Crucial Questions

Arabic original here.

Crucial Questions

If the message should be read on the basis of its title, then the speech that His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople to the archbishop-elect of the Archdiocese of America portends the challenges awaiting the Orthodox presence in that country in the near future. His Holiness addressed the new archbishop in a speech in which he advised him to pay special attention to:

-- reorganizing Holy Cross School of Theology, which is experiencing an acute crisis that threatens to close it;

-- cooperating with universities located in the United States to strengthen education and spead cultural heritage;

-- organizing pilgrimages to Constantinople and visiting this center to foster spirituality and cooperation with the synodal committees concerned with matters pertaining to the Archdiocese of America;

-- establishing better relations with our non-Orthodox brothers and engaging in ecumenical activity;

-- establishing better relations with members of other religions, especially Islam and Judaism, with whom Constantinople has conducted a scholarly dialogue for years.

If one looks at this speech carefully, one will observe that in it His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew dealt with the priorities for the new archbishop's service within his archdiocese and limited them to matters related to the internal life of the archdiocese and relations with society and other religions. He omitted any engagement with or even any sort of hint of the issue of joint Orthodox cooperation within the Assembley of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States and of the issue of common Orthodox witness.

It appears noteworthy, in turn, that the new archbishop did not mention this issue either in his speech in response or in the message he sent to members of his new archdiocese.

Given that its purpose was to send a message to Orthodox in America, perhaps all the above means specifically:

-- that Constantinople no longer cares about the issue of Orthodoxy unity and joint Orthodox witness in the world and that it considers that strengthening its own house, opening channels of dialogue with American society and other religions should be the ultimate priority for new pastors, regarding them as the legitimate representatives of Orthodoxy in the diaspora;

-- that Constantinople still considers the Orthodox diaspora in America to be within its canonical territory on the basis of its interpretation of Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, and so consequently avoids talking about any cooperation among Orthodox in that country, lest such talk be regarded as an admission of the canonical existence of these churches and an acceptance of the status quo.

In a talk he gave at Holy Cross in Boston in 2009 while still an archimandrite in response to the metropolitan of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America and Metropolitan Philip Saliba, who had refuted Constantinople's interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon, the new archbishop stated, "With regards to the United States, the submission to the First Throne of the Church, that is, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not only fitting with the American society and mentality but also it opens up the horizons of possibilities for this much-promising region, which is capable of becoming an example of Pan-Orthodox unity and witness." Constantinople chose the advocate of unifying Orthodoxy in the United States within the archdiocese belonging to Constantinople at a time when that archdiocese is suffering from decay and fragmentation. Will it be possible for the premier ideologue of the Phanar's authority to preserve the unity of his archdiocese and regain its former glory? What are the means that he will use to put his old ideology into practice? How will  this ideology be expressed within the the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States? What will be the consequences  of moving forward with this ideology for global Orthodoxy?

These are crucial questions and challenges confronting a global Orthodoxy that is being debilitated by authoritarianism.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Intercession

Arabic original here.


Intercession is supplication on behalf of others or prayer on behalf of others. The attitude of intercession is an attitude of love. Love is manifested in our praying for each other. The Lord prayed for those who believe in Him that they all may be one (John 17:11).

When the Apostle Paul says that "there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5), this is true and it does not contradict the principle of intercession. Here 'Mediator' means the one who accomplished redemption.

Anyone who does not believe in intercession is very far from a profound understanding of catholic love between members of the body of Christ.

As for the claim that the intercession of the saints is worthless because they are dead (as the Jehovah's Witnesses claim), this is refuted by when the Lord says, "the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him" (Luke 20:37-38).

The saints-- including and greatest among them the Mother of God-- are not worshiped. We direct veneration and supplication to them. They are rays of Christ's glory. They are His loved ones and they have the power of intercession in heaven on behalf of the people of earth. Out of their great love for us, the saints pray for us, whether we're living or dead.

On account of her love, the Virgin Mary interceded with her Son when the wine was empty at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

The mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:3-5)

And so, when the Apostle Paul says, "for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5), this does not mean that the Virgin Mary and the saints are no longer intercessors for us, since the Lord Jesus remains the only savior and the saints-- first among them the Virgin Mary-- have liberty of 'provision' with the Lord God Jesus in mediation and prayer for any person who needs God's help.

This is the Church's understanding, the tenacity of the Virgin and the saints who pray and supplicate for the salvation of believers and all people, this salvation that springs forth from the Lord Jesus Christ who alone redeemed the world with His blood upon the cross.

He who does not believe in the intercession of the saints is, I know not from where, a stranger to the concept of divine love. Most likely this position arose out of a rationalistic logic.

But he who lives a spiritual life knows the truth of intercession and its value in his life.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Monday, May 13, 2019

Jad Ganem: An Election Resembling an Appointment

Arabic original here.

An Election Resembling an Appointment

This past Saturday, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople elected Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa, abbot of the Monastery of Chalki, as archbishop of Constantinople's Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America. This comes after accepting the resignation of Archbishop Demetrios, who had been elected to the position almost twenty years ago to succeed Archbishop Spiridon, who had been imposed on this archdiocese by Constantinople after the resignation of Archbishop Iakovos, and who resigned after disagreements and a crisis of trust between him and members of this archdiocese.

Metropolitan Elpidophoros' election confirms the information circulated by sources close to the Patriarchate of Constantinople in recent years, which indicated His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew's desire to see this metropolitan at the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople's largest and richest diocese.

What was noteworthy in this election, however, is the Synod of Constantinople's total inattention to the opinion of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council, which requested in an official letter following its recent meeting, that Patriarch Bartholomew:

    --delay the election until the next meeting of the Synod, which would give the archdiocese the opportunity, over a period of thirty days, to conduct the necessary consultations in order to provide the Holy Synod of Constantinople with a list of five candidates, as stipulated by the charter in force in the archdiocese.

    -- appoint during this period the most senior bishop according to ordination on the Holy Eparchial Synod as locum tenens for the archdiocese.

    -- that the Holy Synod of Constantinople give the list of five candidates that the archdiocese provides the importance that it merits in the process of election.

    -- that during the process of election, the Holy Synod give the necessary attention to bishops present in the archdiocese who have served it with dedication over the years.
The Archdiocesan Council in America attempted to raise its voice in the face of the issue of a canned election and the imposition of a bishop on the largest Greek diocese in the world, whose members live in a country that respects democratic principles and values the opinions and desires of its citizens. But the Ottoman mentality that characterizes the practice of Constantinople in our day precluded paying any heed to the opinion of members of the archdiocese, even pro forma. It is as though Constantinople has not learned from its previous experience that this sort of election sets the stage for crises and turmoil within the diocese and weakens the bishop-elect even before he takes the reigns of his diocese, as is shown by the experience of the Archdiocese of America twenty years ago or the experience of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe in recent years.

Hope remains that the Greek Archdiocese in America will be able to overcome the challenges of this election that resembles an appointment, that the new bishop will be able to overcome the theory of 'first without equals' and the logic of rigid authority, and that he will be able to bear witness to Orthodox conciliarity in all its dimensions in the New World which exalts the values of dialogue, openness, freedom and democracy.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Met Silouan (Muci): Initiatives from Outside the Usual Context

Arabic original here.

Initiatives From Outside the Usual Context
The two old men, Joseph and Nicodemus, entered, without that we be aware of them, into the course of events of Good Friday, in order to bury the Lord's body. The Gospel is not sufficient about pointing out this initiative, but it also informs us about another, a greater one, which was undertaken by the women on the day of the Resurrection, when they visited the tomb in order to anoint the Savior's body.
We have before us two groups that appeared from outside the context of "apostolic legitimacy" in the narrow sense, if one can say this. That is, from outside the role for which the Lord prepared those he chose to bear the Good News, His apostles who were scattered, fearful and in hiding at that time. The initiatives of each of these two groups came in order to shed crucial light on the heart of the divine dispensation, in affirming, on the one hand, the reality of the Lord's death and, on the other hand, His resurrection. And this is really the foundation of apostolic preaching and the witness of the Gospels.
Here we are perfectly aware of how daring these two groups were in what they did-- perhaps lacking the legitimacy or eligibility in the eyes of those endowed with legitimacy, knowledge, truth and custom--, a fact that was essential for the group of apostles to go out of their emaciation, fear and internal corrosion, while failing to meet the demands of their calling to, as well as the futility of their fleeing and hiding from, the light of God's will, the light of their resurrection as a group whose point of reference is Christ crucified and risen. Did these two groups go beyond the designated role for their members? Did their members advocate a rank that was not originally given to them? Did they appropriate a dignity that belonged to others? Have they sinned in taking an initiative that appears to have originated from outside the usual context for us or according to our customs, be it with regard to role, position, place, order or responsibility?
The Church answered these questions for us by commemorating the members of these two groups on the second Sunday after Easter; and by doing so, it fully agrees that what they undertook to do at that time has become eternal. In turn, we thank God for what they did, since they have received their rank today on account of their courage, their daring, their love and their pure intention at a time when fear, paralysis, feebleness and broken promises held sway among those who would become the pillars of the Church and her apostles. We also thank God that those who undertook these two initiatives did not boast about what they did at the time, but rather it is the Church who endeavored on this day to express thanks and gratitude to them.
Is it right for us to approach this commemoration in this way? Did these questions and considerations occupy the minds of the apostolic community and members of the early Church? What is important here is how the community approached its painful and difficult situation at that time in simplicity, love and kindness, without complicating the situation further with many calculations, considerations, analyses and egotistical complexes. These two initiatives from outside the usual context permitted the light of the resurrection to revive the entire community at a time when its circumstances were in no way enviable, and to propel it in the direction that the Lord commanded His disciples before His passion.
Perhaps this approach will revive within us this great hope, through the activity of Christ's resurrection and the uninterrupted work of His Spirit within us, when we observe our situation on various levels-- home, parish, diocese as well as at the level of the universal Church-- and give us the necessary impetus to give room for the Spirit to work within us and among us, so that we may overcome the barriers that we ourselves or circumstances place in front of us. Are we not in need today, in dealing with our worries and cares, of initiatives from outside the usual context, which perhaps will help us to achieve that for which we have mobilized ourselves: constructing the signposts of the kingdom amidst this world?