Friday, June 28, 2019

Met Silouan (Muci): Our Local Church and Holiness

Arabic original here.

Our Local Church and Our Holiness
The Sundays of the Gospel according to St Matthew start with the Lord's inviting the disciples to follow Him, to preach the good news of the kingdom, to pastor His flock, to heal man and invite him to return to God the Father. In short, He invited them to the holiness in which He exists and to bring their brethren to also enjoy it themselves. If a letter is read from its title and the sowing is known from its fruits, then this is indeed what we have celebrated and openly declared on the Feast of All Saints, on the Sunday that follows our celebration of Pentecost.
We know in our ecclesiastical practice that on the Sunday that follows the Sunday of All Saints some local churches commemorate their own saints, as is the case, for example, in the Russian Church, which commemorates the saints who have shone forth within her, or the Holy Mountain of Athos, which celebrates all those who have practiced asceticism in its monasteries and caves or who have been martyred, or the Diocese of Thessalonica, which celebrates its saints who number more than a hundred.
Starting off from this lived reality in various places in our Orthodox Church, perhaps we can draw on this tradition to celebrate on this day our Antiochian saints, known and unknown. By this we do not desire to boast, but rather the motivation is to lift up thanks to God for the seeds of holiness that have sprouted over the course of history, ancient and contemporary, in our land and among the faithful of our church, perhaps as a local model to inspire believers, give joy to their hearts, and sharpen their interest and desire to live in faith and bear witness to Christ where they live, learn, serve and die. Perhaps the attraction of the existence of local saints will make the good news more incarnate in their life, so that we may be joyfully aware that Christ has found for Himself in our environment, our culture and our educational, social, political, economic and material circumstances in their various forms, a place within us where He can dwell in this century, last century and the centuries that preceded them.
Such a commemoration would help us to take responsibility for living in faith more seriously, especially when we put it in the context that the Lord announced to His disciples that the apostles would sit on the thrones of the twelve tribes of Israel and judge the world (Matthew 19:28). Some fathers explained the meaning of this verse by saying that the saints in every generation, because they persevered in the faith and sanctified themselves, will judge their contemporaries in their generation, so that no one will have an excuse for his failure to strive to sanctify himself when another was able to sanctify his life in the very same circumstances.
Our land has received the seeds of the good news of the Gospel and it has suffered much to spread it and make it firm in other lands, since the age of the apostles. That which our predecessors and ancestors received freely, they gave freely (cf. Matthew 10:8) to subsequent generations. That which the Holy Spirit taught them by explaining the divine word, guiding their souls to knowledge of the truth, self-sacrificial service to one's neighbor and orthodox worship, we have received from them, we strive to crystalize it and make incarnate it in our life and we raise our children in it.
One is greatly affected when he sees a handful of believers, small or large, living their Christian faith as a constant and natural choice, in the simplicity of the experience that love, joy and thankfulness must not be absent from the believer in adversities, sicknesses and hardships. Having this perspective allows you to receive the spirit of wisdom, gentleness, peace, love, calm, consultation and communion, and your soul will be lifted from its fall and freed from its chains. You will find a beacon that illuminates your path, and you will find salt that gives flavor to your life. You will discover this especially in unusual circumstances, such as wrenching poverty, displacement and forced emigration, temporary sicknesses, the early loss of children, patience with straying children, etc. With their constant prayer of the heart, these ones still inspire the spirit of holiness among us and in us. We favor these living, hidden soldiers in our church, in our growth, in addition to others among our teachers and fathers in virtue, prayer and service. All of them have our great thanks on this day and we ask that the Lord sanctify them and sanctify us in them.

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