Monday, April 13, 2020

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Palm Sunday (St Paul's Epistle)

Arabic original here.

Palm Sunday (St Paul's Epistle)

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 4:4-5)

These words of the Apostle Paul are amazing as we celebrate Palm Sunday: an invitation to joy, while Jesus has volunteered for death and we are at our entrance into Jerusalem, into Passion Week, and into the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross?! Yes, the Lord is at hand, nearing His passion and our passion, but at the same time nearing joy and the resurrection. Christ is the bridegroom. Rejoice, then, at the marriage of the lamb. This is the marriage with the entire Church, with every soul.

It is joy in the Lord who suffers with us and rises with us again. It is joy with great patience all at once. The passion is at hand and the resurrection is also at hand. It is a passage from suffering to joy, from death to life. This is the cross of Christ and the cross of each one of us. It is suffering and death and it is also joy and resurrection. "Let your forebearance be known to all people." Forebearance is patience, patience with Christ tied to meekness and humility, tied to prayer and hope.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Peace, for Paul, means salvation, this salvation that we look to in difficult days. Peace is also reconciliation with God and with the soul too, and consequently with others. As for the heart and mind, they are the entire inner world. The saved person demonstrates his forebearance toward all people, peace surpassing everything.

After that, the Apostle calls for practicing all the virtues: "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely..." that is, all the virtues, all natural morals according to the interpretation of some.

We know that the truth is Christ Himself. "I am the truth" (John 14:6). He is also "the word of truth, the gospel of salvation" (Ephesians 1:13). He is thus the truth of the Gospel. As for the word "noble," in general it means cultured, respectable, refined. But in Christianity, it indicates the life of holiness, the life in accordance with God's will. "Just" is everything that stems from faith in Christ. "Pure" indicates the soul's purity from sin. "Lovely" is that which pleases God.

The word "virtue" in the text does not have a philosophical or even ethical sense. It is everything in man that springs forth from the Holy Spirit, that which makes man a new creation.
Paul gives each of these virtues his new experience of salvation in Jesus Christ.

So the virtues mentioned here in the epistle are not only connected to natural morals. For the Apostle Paul, they spring from the divine declaration that is in Jesus Christ. Natural morals do not constitute a main element of Christianity, since the root goes back to man's rebirth in Christ within the Church. "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This is true peace, this is true joy for Paul.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

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