Thursday, May 28, 2020

Christian Sahner: Martyrdom and Conversion

Christian Sahner, author of the excellent monograph Christian Martyrs under Islam: Religious Violence and the Making of the Muslim World, has posted on an article summarizing the findings in his book. 


Despite the steady pace of Islamisation, the conversion of the Christian population was not inevitable, especially at the beginning of the Islamic period. Indeed, history furnishes numerous examples of the process unfolding in reverse, in which instead of conversion to Islam,  we find Muslim conversion to Christianity. Along with this, we also find examples of Christians challenging the Islamic social and political order through acts of blasphemy. Christians sometimes recorded these episodes in the form of martyrdom narratives, that is, stylised hagiographical accounts of violence, often but not exclusively at the hands of Muslim officials. The subjects of these narratives were revered as saints, with annual feasts and pilgrimages held and churches built in their honour.

Read the whole article here.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Jad Ganem: Everybody's Crisis

Arabic original here.

Everybody's Crisis
I was struck by a comment a friend wrote on Facebook with regard to what he called "the heresy of primus sine paribus" that has been promoted for years by the literature and practices of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, where he indicated in a response to a reader's disapproval of the content of several articles defending this "heresy"-- especially the speech stating "in the beginning was the Patriarchate of Constantinople... and in it is life and this life is the light of the churches"-- that "those who follow the positions coming out of the Fanar notice that they lost their minds after the complete failure of what happened on Crete. Unfortunately, their sickness is everybody's problem."
Perhaps this diagnosis encapsulates the dilemma of the Orthodox world today, which is suffering:

-- From the megalomania affecting the Phanariots, represented by their abandonment of Orthodox tradition that has been constant for two thousand years in favor of a theology of "the Throne of Constantinople" and the one sitting upon it, with everything that accompanies that in terms of damage to conciliarity and disregard for the holy mysteries, especially the mysteries of the priesthood and the Eucharist, which have become something like a "commodity" tied to the Patriarch of the Fanar's fiat.

-- From the tendency of this madness to use politics and politicians in order to establish the "Constantinople's primacy without equals" as a fait accompli, either through direct pressure on the local churches to entice or intimidate them to step into line behind the Fanar or through exploiting existing schisms as leverage to force them to submit or to break them up in favor of the emergence of national churches in the Fanar's orbit.

Constantinople's madness, however, which affects the body of the Orthodox Church, has turned into a problem for the entire family of Orthodox churches, which are now confronted with limited choices:

-- Either they turn a blind eye to what is happening, written and said, each of them turning to the daily affairs of their local church as though nothing has happened, with all the dangers that go along with this, including fragmentation, the weakening of common witness, and the risk of consecrating this deviance with time as a fait accompli.

-- Or they confront this madness by holding fast to tradition and putting into practice true conciliarity. That is, that which includes all Orthodox bishops in the world, removed from any balancing of sees and the logic of representation, in order to solve the crises that exist, formulate a viable ecclesiastical order and clarify the role of the primus in the Orthodox Church.

-- Or they go into effective schism, with those who agree with the new Orthodox order following the Fanar and submitting to its leadership while those who oppose this regime and are faithful to Orthodox tradition remain within Orthodox conciliarity as it is currently practiced.

Whichever choice is followed, there is no doubt that its repercussions will not be easy for the Orthodox Church, which has come to be in the eye of the storm of schism now that the Fanar's sickness has seeped into all parts of the body and nothing will help except to remove the rot to save the body from certain death. Will the Orthodox take heed from the Corona crisis that has struck the world today and hurry to heal the wounds and unite in order to face the challenges that await the Church in the coming days?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Arabic original here.

The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

The enmity between Jews and Samaritans was something well-known. This enmity explains when the Samaritan woman says to Jesus, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" (John 4:9). Jesus, for His part, is not concerned with this distinction between Jews and Samaritans, just as He pays no heed to any sort of social distinction between people, such as the distinction between men and women, etc.

Then the Evangelist John recounts to us how went from talking about drinking water to talking about living water, since He told the Samaritan woman, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (John 4:10). The woman thought that he meant running water, but He meant the water of eternal life.

Later on, the Evangelist says, "On the last day, that great day of the feast... Jesus said, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me... out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the [Holy] Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive" (John 7:37-39).

This reminds of us what John the Baptist said, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me... will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11). Man is constantly thirsting for happiness, but for earthly happiness. We are concerned with things of this material world and forget that we Christians are people who do not die, who are called to live eternal life.

Every believer becomes like Jesus, a spring of living water; the life of divine grace and waters of consolation well up from him.

In order to lead the woman from misunderstanding to true knowledge, Jesus invites her to bring her husband. The five husbands who are mentioned are a reference to the pagan peoples mentioned in 2 Kings 17:24, where it says "Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities." This is why Jesus says, "the one who is with you now is not your husband" (John 4:18), indicating that the religion of the Samaritans is not true.

From here, Jesus goes on to talk about true worship. He tells her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father... But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth."

Here is an indication of the coming of the hour of Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, an indication of the coming of new times when worship comes to be not in temples made with hands, but in spirit and truth, worship in Christ Himself, the true temple, as inner worship, a fervent, spiritual encounter, not merely just dogmatic, verbal, formal and ritual worship, but bowing down from the heart. This emphasis on the inner quality, on the spirit and not only on the body, this is what reminds us of what the Prophet Ezekiel said, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

 Then the woman left her jug. She became a new person named Photini. That is, enlightener or enlightened, evangelizing the world with this new inner worship which gives us eternal life, a foretaste of the kingdom that is to come.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies