Monday, December 30, 2019

The Melkite Patriarchates' Response to the Council of Florence

As we saw in the account of David of Damascus' appeal at the end of the 9th century, the pattern of the 'Melkite Patriarchates'-- Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem-- coordinating their own affairs, with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem at the center is a constant from the earliest period of Islamic rule (or, arguably even earlier, with Jerusalem's role in the struggle against Monotheletism) until the arrival of the Ottomans, which roughly coincided with the foundation of the Hellenic Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher. One of the more consequential decisions taken by these patriarchates was their rejection of the Council of Florence in 1443. As Orthodox Synaxis explains:

In early 1443, Arsenios, the Metropolitan of Caesarea of Cappadocia, which was in Constantinople’s jurisdiction but in territory long under Muslim control, visited Jerusalem ostensibly to venerate the holy places. It seems, however, that his real motivation was the trouble he was having with his suffragan bishops who had been appointed by the unionist Patriarch of Constantinople, Metrophanes II. Once in the holy city,  Arsenios appealed to Patriarch Joachim of Jerusalem against his patriarch and bishops, so Joachim called a council to address the issue, which was attended by Patriarchs Philotheos of Alexandria and Dorotheos II of Antioch. This council ruled in Arsenios’ favor, not only provisionally excommunicating and suspending all unionist clergy from holy orders until an ecumenical council could be held, but authorizing Arsenios to act under their authority to preach Orthodoxy and impose penalties on such clergy anywhere without territorial restriction.

Read the entire account, translated from Archbishop Chrysostomos Papadopoulos' History of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem here.

Friday, December 27, 2019

A 9th Century Appeal by the Metropolitan of Damascus to Jerusalem and Alexandria

The entire new issue of Annales Islamologiques, dedicated to Arab Christianity, is available for free download! Of special interest is Mathilde Boudier's edition and French translation of David of Damascus' 9th century appeal to the patriarchs of Jerusalem and Alexandria, which is especially valuable if you're interested in the social history of the period as well as Melkite ecclesiology and canon law.


This paper presents an unpublished dossier of documents related to the Christians of Damascus in the late 9th century. Preserved through their copy in two manuscripts datable to the 10th or 11th century, these nine documents written in Arabic were issued on the occasion of a conflict that happened among the Melkite Church in Syria in 277/890‑891. The documents prove to have been gathered by David the metropolitan bishop of Damascus, against his adversary Simeon the patriarch of Antioch. The complaint of David of Damascus against Simeon of Antioch, addressed to the two other patriarchs, Elias of Jerusalem and Michael of Alexandria, is edited and translated into French as an appendix to this article.The complaint of the bishop, the answers and legal opinions expressed by the two patri-archs, along with the letter of the people of Antioch (ahl Anṭākiya) and an earlier sentence of the patriarch Theodosius of Antioch, shed light on the Melkite ecclesiastical hierarchy of the time and give new insights into how the ecclesiastical justice was working and the canon law was used. The conflict also implies Christian and Muslim laymen of Damascus about the administration of the Church income and properties, among which a bakery (furn al ‑kanīsa). The Tulunid power remains in the background of a conflict which is mainly handled by the ecclesiastical authorities of the Syro‑Egyptian area.

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos)'s Christmas Message 2019

Arabic original here.

Christmas Abstinence

"They had all things in common" (Acts 2:44). An experienced elder says that poverty is for the soul what the eyes are for the body. "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Luke 6:20).

This means that for the rich, money constitutes a danger and an impediment to salvation. So one must have detachment from wealth and earthly matters, which makes one worthy of acquiring a sense for spiritual matters, matters related to God and His commandments.

This social, political and especially economic crisis that we are currently experiencing is without a doubt a source of sorrow and suffering for many. But at the same time it is an occasion permitted by God in order to help some faithful people to practice abstinence in their life and to experience something of the poverty that brings them closer to God and to the needy. Likewise, fasting and avoiding any banquets and nighttime parties that have nothing to with God can liberate us from the consumerist society in which we live and bring us closer to God. So let us understand the divine mysteries that spring from God's dispensation in the flesh and the profound meaning of the Feast of the Nativity. How not, when we see the child Jesus, God incarnate born "wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).

All of this does not mean that we must not rejoice during the feast and eat and drink after the forty-day fast. It means that we limit ourselves at our tables, in our dress and in our gifts, especially during these hard times that we are experiencing in our country, that we think of each other in our parishes, that we think especially of the poor, the needy, those who sorrow, because Christ has put on their garments and has loved them very much!

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Met Silouan (Muci)'s Christmas Message 2019


The Church-Manger: The Visitation of God and the Visitation of Man

"She (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them"
(Luke 2: 7)

Warmth, light, and presence radiate even beyond the manger of Bethlehem. The Guest of the manger makes warmer our ties with His love, illuminates our lives with His grace, and strengthens our determination through His presence. Jesus soothes our hearts because He is with us, gives meaning to our hope, and mobilizes our souls towards faith, love, and solidarity.
The first days of the Guest in the manger of Bethlehem brought together all aspects of the human condition stuck in loneliness, poverty, violence, shortage and isolation. This atmosphere was illuminated by the presence and animated by the spirit of Mary and Joseph, servants of a mystery which is slowly revealed; by the appearance of angels who praise Him whom they worship in heaven; by the wonderful presence of the shepherds; and by the prostration of the magi, the first fruits of a fervent adoration that humanity offers to the Lord. In this way were formed the beginnings of a gospel, which the angels, followed by the first witnesses of the Child born in a manger, began to announce.
Today, our churches are a manger in the center of the world. Among us are Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the magi, and with them the new-born who comes from Above, surrounded by earthly angels who praise him. Our churches are established in countries that experience different, difficult and painful troubles to varying degrees. Each of us strives to serve in a manner that we would not lose sight of the star which leads us to Bethlehem, that our parishes might become the manger that receives the Lord, and that our witness brings forth the good news of God to man, in all its strength, vitality, realism, authenticity and efficiency.
Although the human being suffers today, there are, however, brilliant witnesses which are born from a conscience, an understanding and a sensitivity, which are the result of the suffering and the determination to overcome weakness, laxity, corruption and fragmentation, and which carry the seeds of solidarity, faith in the truth, kindness and unity. They await the dawn of Him who is their source, their inspiration and their benefactor.
I put all my hope that the suffering experienced today becomes a manger, in which we see the birth of the Redeemer in the hearts of those who need Him (and we all need Him), and that it is also an opportunity for us to be His witnesses in love, service and adoration. How much I yearn that the present suffering be a starting point for joy to be revealed because of this double visitation: the visitation of the Lord to us and our visitation to our neighbour!
In the approaching feast, I cannot help but thank the Lord for all these manifestations of solidarity and determination that were expressed by the faithful of the parishes and monasteries of our archdiocese in order to relieve the pain of those who suffer more, thanks to their spiritual, moral, fraternal and material visitation towards their neighbour. I also thank the Lord for the constructive dialogue that many of our young people and our elders opened during this gestation that we are living in Lebanon. In fact, they favoured, within the family and the parish, true love over differences in public affairs which led to nervous and sometimes violent attitudes. They also showed a positive response to the call of our Church to initiate a fruitful dialogue and to encourage a campaign of solidarity in favour of the most suffering, during this last period, a space where the clergy and the parishioners were involved, in which there were many young people, families and secular commissions. I firmly believe that, in this way, we have taken a step together to strengthen the culture of dialogue and solidarity in order to embody divine visitation in human visitation and commit ourselves to serve our brethren and their needs. Thus we live our Christian faith and our authentic humanity, and we consolidate the pillars of our country on the basis of "the Church-manger", the place of God meeting with man, the place of dialogue with Him, of worship to Him, and union with Him.
I join in my prayers to those of my predecessor, His Eminence the Metropolitan Georges (Khodr), who does not cease to pray with his heart immersed in the depth of suffering and the depth of God's mercy as well; I also join them to those of the pastors of our parishes and monasteries, to the monastics and rational sheep of the Holy flock of Christ, in pursuit of the good of our Church, of our country and of the whole world.
+ Silouan
Metropolitan of Byblos, Botrys and Dependencies
(Mount Lebanon)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Joe Glynias on Syriac Melkite Monasticism at Mount Sinai in the 13th 14th Centuries

This is an extremely valuable article that maps out literary and liturgical use of Syriac among Chalcedonian Orthodox in the Mamluk period.


There are about 80 extant dated Syriac manuscripts, predominately liturgical, from the medieval period that were present in the library of the monastery of Mount Sinai in the modern era. About half were written in the Sinai between 1233 and 1322, while the other half were written elsewhere (10th - 14th centuries) and brought there. I analyze two types of notes found in these manuscripts: the colophons that inform us when, where, and for whom they were written, and the waqf statements that indicate the Sinai monastery’s ownership of them. While previous scholars have analyzed the colophons in isolation and attempted to explain aspects of the Syriac efflorescence on Sinai in the 13th century, I use these notes to provide a more comprehensive picture of the role of Syriac liturgy at the Sinai and of this period of Syriac Melkite monasticism.

Furthermore, I build a model of where Syriac scribes who worked at the Sinai came from over time, in comparison to a model of where the manuscripts from outside the Sinai were produced over time. Because Sinai is such an important modern receptacle for Syriac Melkite manuscripts, I utilize its collection to illustrate the various centers of Melkite Syriac manuscript production from c. 1000- 1300, focusing on the wider regions of Antioch and Mount Lebanon, and monastic sites such as the Black Mountain, Qāra, and Ṣaydnāyā. In conjunction with this, I use the waqf statements that often give the name of a bishop and the institutional beneficiary of the manuscript within Sinai, to reveal the centers of Syriac liturgy at the mountain in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the symbiotic relationship  between Syriac and Arabic manuscripts in locations around the mountain.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sergei Brun on the Patriarchate of Antioch in Medieval Cilicia

This very valuable article sheds light on a largely overlooked period in the history of the Patriarchate of Antioch during the late Crusader and Mamluk periods.

Brun, S. (2018) Chalcedonian Orthodoxy in the Kingdom of Armenia. Բանբեր Հայագիտության=Вестник Арменоведения=Journal of Armenian Studies, № 3. pp. 5-31


There is a widespread opinion, which prevails even in the official historiography of the Antiochian Orthodox and Melchite Greek Catholic Churches, that after the destruction of Antioch by the Mamelukes in 1268, the Orthodox Patriarchs – after a brief period of “wandering” – set up their residence in Damascus. This approach lacks both accuracy and historic memory, since it completely ignores the era of Cilician dominance in the history of the Antiochian Church. It would be far more accurate to say that since the destruction of Antioch (1268), the Orthodox Patriarchs set up their main residence in Tarsus, leaving this city for prolonged visits (of either several months or even years) for their imperial metochia – the Hodegon Monastery of Constantinople, or for the cities of the Phoenician coast (Tyre and Tripoli). Since the War for the Antiochian Succession and the restoration of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the Levant under Prince Bohemond IV, Patriarch Simeon II ibn Abu Shaib set up his residences in Tarsus and Sis. Patriarch Euphymius I spent several years in Cilician Armenia, between his exile from Antioch and his flight to Constantinople. Patriarch Arsenius, being elected in Frankish territory – moved to Cilicia; his proximity to the Armenian King, as was said before, cost him his throne. Patriarchs Dionysius I and Dionysius II, who occupied the Cilician Sees of Pompeiopolis and Mamistra prior to their ascension to the Throne of St. Peter, spent practically their entire tenure in the Kingdom of Armenia. The same was true for the Armenian-blooded Patriarch Ignatius II. 


Read the whole article here.