Sunday, November 20, 2022

Hasan Çolak: Ottoman Central Administration and Primacy in the Orthodox Church

Hasan Çolak, "Ottoman Central Administration and Primacy in the Orthodox Church: Sources and Agents of Knowledge and Inter-Patriarchal Conflicts" in P. V. Ermilov and M. B. Gratsianskii (eds.), Poniatie pervenstva: Istoki i konteksty (Moscow: PTGSU, 2022): 539-562. 

Çolak is one of the only scholars working on the history of the Orthodox Church as an Ottoman institution on the basis of Ottoman archival sources, so anything he publishes is of extreme interest.

[...]

Bearing in mind all that has been said above, it may be concluded that, throughout its history as part of the Ottoman state, the Orthodox Church was an active agent in its dealings with the state, rather than a passive receiver of its demands. As part of its interaction with the Otto-man state, the large network of the Orthodox Church, consisting both of clergymen and laymen, Christians and non-Christians, and formal and informal agents, made it possible for the Ottoman state to form its knowledge on the Orthodox Church. As the above examples illustrate, the primacy of the patriarchate of Constantinople was not a point of reference for the Ottoman central administration in its dealings with ecclesiastical matters in its domains between the fifteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

[...]

Read the entire article here.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Vevian Zaki on the Arabic Translation of the Epistles in Sinai 151

The website Biblia Arabica has posted a nicely-illustrated piece by Vevian Zaki about MS Sinai Arabic 151, which contains an Arabic version of the Epistles and was copied by its translator, Bishr ibn al-Sirri in Damascus in the year 869.  Read it here.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): ُExile from the World

 Arabic original here, originally published in an-Nahar on March 2, 2019, here.

Exile from the World

I write these words while I am on the Holy Mountain, Athos. For those who do not know, this peninsula in Greece is considered a monastic state and is only inhabited by monks. The monastic life began in earnest on this mountain starting in the tenth century. According to Church tradition, the Virgin Mary visited this mountain and regarded it as a spiritual garden for herself and so women are not permitted to enter it.

One who comes to practice monasticism on this mountain chooses complete exile from the world and, to live out the struggle of spiritual purification. The purpose of exile is to be cut off from everything connected to man's life, that is cutting off the old bonds to the world in order to create new bonds. Just as a man must leave his father and mother to become attached to his wife so that, by God's grace and presence with them, between them and in them, they may constitute one body, so too must one who seeks to be a monk leave his father, his mother, his possessions, his money, his rank and his authority in order to become attached to God and become one with Him. Thus monks are called 'mutawahhidun' [lit.'solitaries'], that is, those who seek unity with God. One of the prayers of the Orthodox Church says, "Blessed is the life of the people of the deserts, for the rise and ascend in divine love," and in another prayer we hear that monks "return love for love."

The principle behind this estrangement is that the Kingdom of God is not food or drink, but rather righteousness and holiness. This means that man leaves what is passing and impermanent in order to seek that which is lasting and eternal. And there is nothing that is lasting except the face of your Lord. This world will come to an end because it came from nothing and it has no existence except by the will of God. But God did not create man out of nothing to return him to nothing, but just the opposite: He created him out of nothing to grant him eternal life. Had man not rejected God as the source of his life, then death would not have entered our body. But the spirit remains, even if the body passes away because God "is the God of the living, not the God of the dead."

What monks experience in estrangement from the world is death to all that is old and a reaching in repentance toward the purification of existence in prayer, fasting and service with voluntary poverty and non-acquisitiveness (that is, renouncing one's own will) in obedience to a pure and illumined spiritual father. "The eye has not seen and the ear has not heard what God has prepared for His chosen ones." This is what the believer seeks and this is what the monk struggles for with greater longing, perhaps.

In general, the experience of serious monks in choosing this life greatly transcends the experiences of those in the world (this is not, of course, to negate the existence of exceptions) in what pertains to knowledge of the human soul and the spiritual war with the spirits of evil and demons and in acquiring the divine love that grants them joy and inner peace with kindness, meekness, humility, patience, chastity, and deep-rooted, firm faith in all circumstances. This makes them beacons that shine in the darkness of this world and attracts to them the weary and heavy-laden who come from every direction to be healed, strengthened and comforted and to face hardships with patience, hope and trust that are not ashamed of God.

The Holy Mountain welcomes to its twenty monasteries and its sketes millions every year. They come to seek a word useful for salvation and return strengthened and comforted by God's presence and activity in the life of man through the power of prayer and unconditional love. The world today is in the greatest possible need of monasteries and monks because those who are sincere and courageous are rarer day by day and those who bear witness to the truth of the Gospel through total renunciation and estrangement from the world and its spirit grow fewer and fewer.

All are called to exile in one way or another because he who seeks to settle down forever in that which is impermanent will be put to shame and he who dies to that which is passing away while seeking what is eternal will not be put to shame unto ages of ages. Who do you think is the wise one?

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Dialogue in Truth and Common Life

 Arabic original here, originally published on March 25, 2019 in an-Nahar here.

Dialogue in Truth and Common Life

Most of the time, people lie to each other and do not dialogue, because dialogue either exists in truth or it does not exist. But there being dialogue in truth does not mean that people are in agreement on what they are dialoguing about, but rather that they understand each other to be different and to gladly and joyfully accept their difference as a gift from above so that they may learn freedom in love for every person, since where there is love from above there is freedom.

The purpose of dialogue is not to establish one opinion over and against another, but to communicate in love to arrive at an opinion upon which this mutual understanding is achieved, if possible, or to accept the difference in respect for the freedom of each of those engaging in dialogue. But those who wish to live together must have dialogue and mutual understanding, even if just on the most basic common denominator between them, in order to lay a foundation for common life. What is required of people is not to apply principles and dogmas, because these differ across different religions and philosophical, dogmatic and social systems. What is required is mutual understanding of human truth in freedom of expression and respect for opinions.

*     *     *

It is certain that there are natural and social axioms tied to man's true reality and respect for his being, his choices and his right to a dignified life according to God's will. These are subject to dialogue in the context of clarification and respecting each other's existence. There exist, however, things that are non-negotiable. This is what comes within the framework of truth and falsehood with regard to everything that distorts man's humanity and deprives him of his rights contained in the constitution and the law. By way of example and not exclusively:

1. Corruption, which destroys the state and increases destitution and injustice.

2. Monopolizing a specific domain, which leads to a handful of people controlling the fates of the majority.

3. Distorting the man's true ontological reality in legislation or practice, under the pretext of personal freedom, etc.

What is intended here is that dialogue between people is for building up the structure of common life upon a single solid foundation, where all people live regardless of their faith or their , political, ethnic or ideological affiliation... on the condition that all of this is based on respect for opinion and belief and the other's freedom to live his life in the manner he sees appropriate which does not affect or injure the image of God in his partner, and so long as it is within the law.

*     *     *

The fundamental issue that impedes every serious dialogue between people is their disagreeing about the truth, even if they are superficially in agreement about seeking the truth or think that the truth is evident. Matters are relative in the eyes of people, but in the eyes of God the truth is one. Thus, when the Lord Jesus Christ answered Pontius Pilate, who was judging Him, who asked Him whether He was a king, He said to him, "You say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Then Pilate responded, "What is truth?" (John 18:37 and 38).

This is the dilemma in dialogue between people: "What is truth?" Hence, true dialogue cannot exist in truth between people except from each side's view of the truth. And is the truth with people pure, or is it based on their passions and their interests?

On account of this, people's dialogue in truth about the good of their common life is based on rules recognized by everyone, which become the universal standard for elucidating and devising the principles by which is erected the common home, that is the nation, in which all come together according to the principle of equality in rights and responsibilities for the good of society and dignified life for individuals in a framework of respecting individual and collective freedom in order to build up a communion of one life in distinction and distinction in unity.

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The War against the Church

 Arabic original here.

The War against the Church

The devil has not and will not cease from waging war against man, or rather, the project of man in humankind because he wages war against God. The war of the evil one is dangerous because it clothes itself in the mark of civilization and human progress.

Why this war on man? Because he is the "church of God", the "temple of the Lord." The war is against Christ Jesus, the sole true man.

This war also bears the mark of exterminating humankind through wars, sicknesses and sterility. It has two aspects: one that is superficially positive but negative in essence and another that is negative in both appearance and actuality.

The devil works in direct and indirect ways. The direct way is through spreading his perverse ideas in weak souls and the indirect way is through people who have been taken captive by him, who spread his wickedness, lies and destruction through false promises of freedom, dignified life and happiness.

*     *     *

The sole bulwark in the world against the devil is the Church, the Body of Christ, the Church that is orthodox in belief, life and tradition. Some think themselves orthodox while they are perverse and accuse others of perversity. This is one of the most difficult wars, because the devil leads these people to believe that they are in the right when they are wrong and they make those who are in the right to appear wrong. The devil's war within the Church is one of distortion because, as the Apostle Paul says after experience with evil spirits, "Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). The measure of orthodoxy in faith is love, that is, tenderness and the renunciation of judgment. One cannot stand in truth without being merciful. The war of fundamentalism against and within the Church is from the evil one who tricks the inexperienced, leading them to believe that they are spiritual because they scrupulously hold to the law to the letter without spirit, casting them into hateful Pharasaism and self-deception, while they are filled with complexes and passions. This is the war from the right.

The standard of spiritual soundness is equilibrium and equilibrium is justice and mercy, exertion and chastisement, judging the self and pardoning the sinner, total obedience to the divine commandment and bearing the other's weakness.

*     *     *

Happiness among humankind is an illusion, for the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "Vanity of vanities... vanity and grasping the wind..." (Ecclesiastes 1:1 and 12). Man seeks happiness in comfort and comfort is tied to development and flourishing. Civilization claims to give man progress and joy. But the so-called civilized peoples have distorted humanity, destroyed the family and the bond of love between brothers with claims of freedom and independence.

Independence and individualism are the fantasy of a deadly freedom, because man does not exist without the bond of love with others and love is not sentiment, emotions and the titillation of feelings. Love is self-emptying, death to the ego and joy for the other in God. Civilization today constructs man on the basis of his being self-subsistent for himself. This leads people and societies to greater self-isolation and collapse, self-isolation because of the centrality of the ego and the cancellation of the other and collapse because of the objectification of the self and the other and their consumption for the sake of some pleasure. The war of the world and the "prince of this world", that is, Satan, is against the building up of man upon the Rock, that is Christ. Everything that is done to man and everything that is offered to him today is so that he will forget Christ. This is the war from the left.

*     *     *

"For to me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). So declared the Apostle Paul and so he experienced after wars, struggles and persecutions. This is the essence of existence: Christ is life. He who has come to know Christ has found what he was searching for and the answers to all his existential questions and has entered into the mystery of everlasting joy and he who has rejected Him has entered into permanent suffering and infinite loss.

Let him who has ears, hear.

+Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Judgment

 Arabic original here.

The Judgment

"... on the day when God will judge the secret thoughts of all." (Romans 2:16)

The judgment is not according to appearances, but according to the hidden things in the hearts of humankind. People live for people, generally speaking, forgetting that their life is from God and not from a creature. People bow down to things that are not gods, to flesh and blood, because they seek power and authority and when they find it with other people, they enslave themselves to them. Miserable is he who does not know that God will "judge the secret thoughts of all."

People, in general, are judgmental. He who judges is himself judged in the same manner: "for the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Luke 6:38). People do not know the secrets of hearts, but God know everything. He is the one who "tests minds and hearts" (Psalm 7:9).

How does God judge us and for what are we held accountable?

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). One who does not judgements on people, on their persons, but rather seeks excuses for them in their mistakes in order to learn himself and preserve himself, is not judged by God because he himself does not judge others. As for one who holds people's mistakes against them, however, on the basis of his own assessment of the truth apart from love, his truth is false. How can a person judge another when he does not know himself? How can he distinguish truth from falsehood when he has not yet been purified? The foundation for the capacity to judge is discernment and discernment is a gift from God to the pure. He whose heart has not been purified and who has not been cleansed of his passions cannot discern matters with the eye of God. "Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny" (1 Corinthians 2:15).

The foundation of spiritual work is striving to save the sinner, not to judge him. The Lord Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners" (Mark 2:17). One who does not see himself as sick and sinful does not need the Lord Jesus Christ, but is satisfied with himself. This is the one who judges people, the one who is satisfied with, in and of himself. He does not know to seek forgiveness and consequently he is not capable of forgiving.

He who has a law is judged according to the law because the law does not bring salvation, but rather brings condemnation because there does not exist any person capable of fulfilling everything that is in the law: "For 'no human being will be justified in his sight' by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). As for one who is without a law, he has the universe as an earnest of the Creator's love and as proof of His works of surpassing goodness: "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).

In any case, the judgement is in the measure of the gift, so if those who are still under the law or those who are under the judgment of human conscience have no excuse, then how great will be the judgment of us Christians to whom everything has been revealed in Christ Jesus?

*     *     *

Beloved, let us not delude ourselves or claim what does not belong to us, but rather be humble in prayer, fasting and spiritual struggle, for we are in the time of the Apostles' Fast, so let us judge ourselves so that God might justify us, He who knows everything about us more than we do and He is the Merciful who accepts the penitent in every moment. Let us forgive, pardon and not judge people, but rather let us leave judgment to God. In repentance let us enter into the mystery of man and bear all of humanity in our repentance, because our sins extend into the world to increase its evil and our righteousness extends into it too, to increase its good. Our responsibility as believers in Christ is to increase the positivity and light in the world because the evil one sends corruption, destruction and ruin into the world, desiring to destroy the human race, so let us be children of light, bearing the suffering world and nailing our sins upon the cross of Christ, so that Christ may bear us upon the cross, saving the world in us and granting forgiveness to those who seek it.

Christ judgment is a fire of divine love, burning the wicked and granting warmth and tenderness to the righteous. Wicked is one who judges others and the righteous is the one who judges himself.

Let him who can accept, accept.

+Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Mystery of Marriage

 Arabic original here.

The Mystery of Marriage

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This was the establishment of the mystery of marriage with humankind as the mystery of the unity of man and woman. This is what God wanted since the beginning. For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ says in the Gospel about this issue, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6).

Do people treat marriage on the basis of it being a mystery and the gift of unity from God, in Him and through Him, between man and woman? Do they start off in establishing it on the principle of its unicity and its eternal permanence as a covenant between people, among themselves and with God, before Him and for His sake, or do they treat it as though it is something that can be broken, like a human contract with conditions and stipulations?

*     *     *

Marriage is not a need in the sense of man not being able to live and exist without being married. It is a path of holiness and longing for unity with God through the practice of purifying human love from attachment to self, that is, from possessiveness, domination and lust, by means of love of God and obedience to Him in the commandment that is the path to unity between the partners though union with God in the sacrament. Existentially, man's sole true need is for the infinite love that is God Himself. Why? Because man is in God's image and this is God's image in him: love (agape).

In ancient Greek, there are three expressions that indicate love: eros, philia and agape. The first expression is tied to bodily lusts, the second to friendship and the third to the existential love with which God loves us. Thus, many marriages take place on the basis of eros, having no spiritual or true human foundation, but rather are essentially tied to the delight of the eye and lust of the body. Other marriages are based on philia, in which there is mutual understanding and harmony, but within a human and social framework that does not endure, perhaps breaking up due to infidelity or due to attraction to another person due to the influence of eros and philia existing together. In the first two cases, even if the partners have faith in God and in the sacrament of marriage, because it is difficult to keep faithfulness in them or to preserve them because they are not built upon the infinite and unconditional love that is in agape, where the essence is to realize that the other is my life.

If love in marriage does not develop with knowledge and faith to ascend from eros to philia and then agape, the marriage remains within the limits of human relationships, even though it is fundamentally tied to God's presence through the grace that comes down upon the bride and bridegroom in the sacrament, which makes the marriage a covenant between them and God to be faithful and to strive to purify the love through sacrifice and giving of the self in tenderness that cleanses desire from its enslavement to the pleasure of the body and elevates it to a pouring out of one into the other in humility and self-emptying by the grace of God, and a covenant between God and the bride and bridegroom for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them in their obedience to the divine word which makes them "one body" in unity with God and between themselves. This unity cannot exist without God and apart from this sacrament there is no true unity between the spouses. Only God is able to make the two one and what God unites, no human can separate. But if it is not God who brings them together, then the marriage is not built upon rock and has no permanence in itself.

*     *     *

If God is not the foundation of the marriage, then there is no firm construction to face the earthquakes, storms and raging winds, on the inside and the outside, that must inevitably come over the course of purifying human love from the ego so that it may be elevated by grace and transformed into love from God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain..." (Psalm 127:1).

 Returning to God sincerely and profoundly and commitment to the other in the love that is by divine grace is the response to eternal, heavenly joy, from this moment, in marital life that is a little icon of the beauty of the Kingdom of God and its radiation into the world through unity consisting of three elements, between the man, the woman and God. This is the salvific faithfulness.

 


Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Family is the Foundation of Society

 Arabic original here, originally published in an-Nahar, here.

The Family is the Foundation of Society

We have come to be in a time when humanity is under attack through the distortion of the ontological reality of the human being. "God created man, male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). This reality, from which results the perpetuation of humankind has been put into doubt. Indeed, there is an attempt to demolish humanity according to the image in which God created it, that man is both male and female. In the West, they have started to teach the new generation that there is no longer what is called family, father and mother, since they have invented the new terms "Parent 1" and "Parent 2". Nature is self-evident and no one can negate father and mother as a comprehensive, essential human reality for humankind. There is a systematic global campaign to sabotage, demolish and distort the psychological structure and distinctive personality of man through destroying and erasing the essence of sexual identity.

*     *     *

A person's psychological harmony comes from the balance of the relationship between the child and its parents, from the moment of conception to the moment of birth and the severing of the umbilical cord, to the stage of breastfeeding and weaning, that is, the severing of the psychological umbilical cord, then entrance into school, then crossing from the stage of childhood to adolescence, then adulthood. We do not have space here in this treatment to enter into an explanation of the roles of the father and the mother at each of these stages and elsewhere, but it is clear that the more balance and integration there is in the experience of motherhood, fatherhood and the child's nourishment and growth in the light of maternal tenderness and embrace and fatherly security and authority in love, the more the personality develops in harmony and balance and the sexual identity becomes clear and matures with consciousness and perception of man's true reality and the essence of life in communion and differentiation in love, which is the foundation of the completion of the authentic human personality.

*     *     *

The work of the devil is to destroy man because he is proud and jealous and Satan has in the world henchmen to carry out his ideas and translate his intentions. What is called "civilization" today is headed toward cancelling the concept of the family on the basis of a distorted application of the principle of human freedom. There is an effort to end the role of woman as mother, on the one hand, and to spread a distorted idea of marriage, which is fundamentally the union of a man and a woman by the grace of God, through legalizing the marriage of homosexuals and giving them the right to adopt children.

In the name of freedom, humanity is violated and sexual relations are permitted without limits or controls that would preserve human dignity. There are infernal plans to snatch humanity away from its reality that comes from the image of God within it to deserts and jungles of carnal lust. The false civilization of today pushes man to betrayal of himself and enslavement to thoughts and passions imposed upon him through the media, social media and advertising.

Humankind destroys itself when it departs from the reality that man is created by God for a goal and purpose that man knows when he inclines, contemplating within himself, toward the infinite expanses sown within him through the divine image hidden in his innermost depths, veiled by the coarseness of lusts, complexes and mental and spiritual illnesses.

*     *     *

Today before tomorrow we must wake up from illusions of false happiness that are being marketed by the civilization of consumption, the bodily pleasures acquired through the senses, and through thought, desire, vainglory and man puffing himself up over achievements on the physical and practical level. The essence of man is love and apart from love neither man nor his works have any value. Love is the image of God in man. He learns it and grows in it through the experience of living, from his formation in his mother's womb, with his parents and in his family, and afterwards setting out to expand this experiential knowledge, wherever he finds himself.

When the family is shattered, the mother is absent and the father not present, when the elements of the family are distorted, that is, when the existence of the father and mother is denied as the foundation of the family, humankind grows up distorted, beset with complexes enslaved to passions that press it, day after day, to become closer to bestial savagery with unlimited whims.

The family constituted of father, mother and children is the essential cell of humankind which, if we preserve it in the harmony and balance that come from the Creator, we will preserve man in his true reality and calling according to God's will, and which is an absolute good and inalienable joy and true happiness in love.

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Rights of the Poor

 Arabic original here.

The Rights of the Poor

"For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise." (Psalm 12:5)

Those called poor are those who do not have what is sufficient for them or the destitute who do not possess anything, just as it can be said of the subjugated, weak and humiliated. In other words, the poor are those who are in need of the necessities of life and who have no support from people. They are the ones who are controlled and enslaved by people with authority and money. Poverty does not depend on the lack of material things, since there are those who like wise opinion, courage or knowledge of the truth and there are those who are weak and humiliated before those who subjugate them, not only by controlling their material needs, but also by controlling the positions that they demand of them and their social, political or other ambitions...

There exist, then, two kinds of poor: 1) those who lack food, drink and the necessities of life and 2) those who lack the truth. The Lord is the savior and support of the first kind and the Lord is the chastiser and judge of the second kind. The great misfortune is when this two sorts of poverty are found together in a person or group!

*     *     *

Is there anyone who can save the poor, give them their rights and give them back their humanity that has been trampled by the feet of oppressors, tyrants, monopolists and hypocrites?! Who is this just ruler and what are his attributes?

He is one who "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."

"... He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor..." (Isaiah 11:-25). The Lord alone is the Just Judge and one who believes in God and has been given the authority of judgment must know that if he does not judge according to the fear of God and by the spirit of the divine word, then this judgment of his will become eternal condemnation against him. Authority is given to humans to achieve God's will, the foundation of which is carrying out justice for the poor, the destitute and the marginalized. But if the ruler becomes more tyrannical and does not incline his ear to the poor people who live by struggle, toil and hardship, and the cry of the needy continues to rise up to God's ears, then God shall "destroy the multitude of the insolent, and breaks the scepters of the unrighteous" (Sirach 35:23) and their wealth shall "dry up like a river" (Sirach 40:13).

Everyone who holds authority is required by God to make it bear fruit in truth, whether they realize it or not. The danger to those holding authority and money is for them to fall into themselves, that is, for them to believe that they govern people's fates and to think that they are gods, even if they do not admit it openly, their deeds, words and thoughts reproach them before the judgment seat of the Most High. Look at what happened to Herod, when he delighted in the flatterers who said "This is the voice of a god, not the voice of a man!" (Acts 12:22), the Lord did not wait for him to answer, since "immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:23). The worm is the passions that eat away at man from within because he comes to be in a state of constant hunger that can only be sated by the dust of the grave and his pain is the spiritual death that puts him far from God, even if he follows the letter of the law, since his heart is lost to his pride and egotism.

O rulers, "Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets," says the Lord. And you, O believers, be sincere in your faith, upright in your life, depart from evil, "'Return to Me,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and I will return to you'" (Zechariah 1:3).

Repent!

Monday, October 31, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Pastoral Concerns: Revival

 Arabic original here.

Pastoral Concerns: Revival

"That the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29)

The Church is the people of God and the New Israel. She is the new creation in Christ Jesus the incarnate Son of God. Every member in the body of Christ shares what belongs to Christ from God the Father "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me" (John 17:8). Jesus gave us the commandment that is from the Father and this commandment is the path of eternal life for the believer: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

Revival is the believer's repentance, his return to the Church, that is, to his life as a member in the body of Christ. Every member in the body has a role and the roles of the members compliment each other in coordinating the building-up of the body, so that all may be in the fullness of the stature of Christ.

The baptized Christian acquires three attributes from Christ the Lord, because in baptism he puts on Christ and so becomes one anointed for God, that is, a king, a prophet and a priest. Revival is our living our sonship to God in the attributes of the only-begotten incarnate Son which we have been given on the day we were born from the baptismal font.

*     *     *

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

The role of the believer is to "proclaim the virtues" of the One who has enlightened his life with the truth that is in divine love. The virtues are none other than the attributes of God which the believer must live by the power of the One who raised him up from the old man to life in the true new man, the New Adam.

One who does not revive constantly from oldness to newness and from death to life by living in the new humanity that is in Christ Jesus risen from the dead and glorified at the right hand of the Father does not belong to Christ.

The believing Christian cannot but be in constant, continuous revival because he is a child of the divine commandment and constantly moves forward in renewing the mind, thought and heart, reaching toward Christ by emptying himself of everything that is attached to something other than Him in order to remain chaste and faithful to the divine Bridegroom.

A person revives and becomes an evangelist of truth and life when his mind and heart are changed and when his life and priorities are turned around. His purpose with everything comes to be that God be glorified because the glory of God is the life of man according to the image of Christ. A revivalist is one who combats his passions, uncovers them, lays them bare and fights them in order for his nature to be purified and liberated from any other nature contrary to the man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, revival is a movement of prophecy that starts in the heart "to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). That is, to destroy the idols that possess man and to build him up as a temple of God's Word.

There is no revival without the divine word being sown in the heart and without it being watered with the tears of repentance that are from the grace of the Holy Spirit. The word is not sown in earth that is not good or on cultivated earth. The earth must be cleansed, tilled and everything in it must be removed. This is repentance.

Thus the revival starts with repentance, that is, with self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is achieved by familiarity with the divine word, which is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The spirit of prophecy flows out upon those who are in Christ in the Holy Spirit and therefore it purifies one upon whom it is poured out, first so that he may see by the uncreated light his true reality and know the path that he must follow and die to everything that is not from Jesus in order to seek Jesus in every soul that breathes. There is no revival without prayer "without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), that is, without mad devotion to God.

*     *     *

Beloved children, we are all called to be in the image of Christ and to live by His Spirit, because if we follow another path, we lose our salvation since at that point we are living for ourselves, "for 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Revival is for us to know the Lord through our knowing His mind first, that is, through our being inspired by His word and being nourished by it to fullness. Then we enter through the mystery of the word into the mystery of the Spirit and become speakers of the word of the Spirit, which purifies us and creates us anew in the birth of constant repentance until God Himself speaks in us and we become His word to the world, which does not come back to Him empty, but accomplished what pleases Him and prospers in the thing for which He sends it (cf. Isaiah 55:11). "Seek the Lord while He may be found,call upon Him while He is near..." (Isiah 55:6).

+Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Holiness at a Time when Uncleanness is Made Legal

 Arabic original here.

Holiness at a Time when Uncleanness is Made Legal

"For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness." (Romans 6:19)

In the 20th century, between the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s movements of sexual liberation began and the idea of a "sexual revolution" started to spread. During the 60s broad changes started to occur in Western societies, particularly society's attitude toward sex, which aimed to "liberate" sex from predominant religious, social and ethical constraints, leading to new legislation about the sexual behavior of an individual in society, much of which is still in effect today.

These movements and legislation led to various issues and tendencies in different societies, among them sexual liberty regardless of whether a person is married or not, contraception and birth control pills, public nudity, the homosexual liberation movement, demands for the freedom to choose abortion, women's rights, the women's liberation movement or feminism, etc... The new sexual freedoms that were legislated and promoted were exploited by large financial and commercial investments seeking to exploit society for material gain and to spread ideas associated with the sexual revolution. An example of this is the fact that pornographic and obscene materials have started to appear in the open. With development in media and social media, everything connected to sex has come to be exploited for greater commerce and profit. The most important and most dangerous thing is that it has become easy to market and obtain through the use of modern technology such as smartphones, etc.

*     *     * 

What is called "civilization" today is based on what is called "human rights", which make licit corruption and the corruption of morals with regard to God's commandment. In many countries of the world, this has introduced new legislation permitting homosexuality, abortion and sexual relations outside of marriage... All of this is on the basis of the belief in man's right to do what he wills since everything is relative and that he can live as he wants on a personal level and no one has any authority over him with regard to his individual choices, since his body is his property... or so they argue.

Making such things licit is none other than man's return to paganism and submission to animal, impulsive nature, which was unrestrained before the Law. The devil has mastery over the world through lust (for money, authority, sex) and the great catastrophe that destroys humanity in the name of humanity is permitting man's submission to the lust that corrupts the image of God that is in him in the name of the freedom of his will, this lust that man can make into an art by amplifying it and taking pleasure in it to a degree without any limit apart from man's utter collapse, since he is a rational being with a free will. God does not constrain man's freedom, even if he commits error, sin or crime, because He will judge him for what he does, on the basis of the faith he embraces, by right of love and the blood of the Son of God which was shed for the life of the world, because out of love He wants us to come to Him since we have known Him. Man defines his relationship with God: either he is someone who wants to be a son, and therefore returns in repentance to his loving and tender Father or he comes to be under the Law since he lives in rejection of the Lord's Messiah.

*     *     *

Beloved, do not be deceived or dazzled by the lights of 'false truth' that Satan promotes in the name of reason, freedom, progress, civilization and culture... These are false lights, inasmuch as they do not bear the light of truth, the light of Christ who revealed to us who God is and who man truly is. Everything that separates man from what the Lord Jesus Christ has revealed to us about the substance of humanity is from the evil one. There is no mixing of light and darkness. The light condemns the darkness and "this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

Do not give credence to those who would lead you to believe in the name of freedom that the legalization of uncleanness is a human right. Everything that distorts and debases the image of God in man is uncleanness. Sex is unclean if it is not in the blessing and grace in love consecrated by God in marriage between a man and a woman, since only then does it become a bond of unity, a language of mutual address in the spirit between lovers and a shared gift for pleasures within the framework of an integrated path of life, through good times and bad, towards holiness.

Any relationship between members of the same sex is a sin that is destructive of man's spiritual, psychological and physical being because it reveals man's submission to impulse and the devil who corrupts minds and souls and destroys hearts. Thirty years ago and earlier, psychology generally considered homosexuals to be mentally ill, but today concepts have been reversed in psychology, starting with laws that permit every corruption, so that today through education in the schools the principle of deviance is introduced into the minds of students, since those whose ages aren't any greater than the number of fingers on your hands are given the freedom to choose their sex and to live according to that without the family having any right to treat this issue under penalty of law. This is the "great farce of freedom" in what is called "the civilized world", which by legalizing such deviance has become the dying world, requiring chastisement, indeed, divine punishment as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, tomorrow soon to be seen... unless humankind returns to its true reality written in nature by creation and to the image of God in it, since everything is called to holiness.

+ Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Priest and Pastoral Care

 Arabic original here.

The Priest and Pastoral Care

"For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 9:2)

At the ordination of a priest, the bishop hands him the lamb and says to him, "Preserve this deposit until the coming of the Lord for you shall be asked about it." The body of Christ, which is the Church-the parish, the rational sheep belonging to Christ, is placed in trust into the hands of the priest. They are not his: they are Christ's. The seal of the priest's mission is the parish, whose members' souls he will be asked about on Judgment Day: Did he lose one of them? Did he call one to stumble? Did he hurt one? Was he a father to them? Did he cause them to know the truth and bear witness to it among them? Did he take them out of error and was he a model for them?

The priest does not belong to himself. He belongs to Christ and Christ to God. Therefore the priest must offer to God an account from now about his work and his service for the parish. The priest is not a hireling with God, but an extension of Christ in the parish. He must be a son to the Most High, bearing the attributes of his Teacher, having no mind of his own but the "mind of Christ."

The priest and his family must be models for emulation in faith, piety, prayer, fasting, service and humility. The priest is neither a leader nor a chief. He is the washer of the parish's feet according to the example of the one who washed the feet of His disciples and by this He becomes for him a guide on the path of salvation.

*     *     *

The priest must be constantly present to serve the members of his parish because he serves Christ in them and therefore he does not have the right to neglect to serve in all liturgical, pastoral and canonical ways. He must be free of love of money and seeking it because the Lord who said "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33) is faithful and suffices him.

With all this, as the shepherd pastors the flock, the flock must pastor him. Therefore the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians:

"If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?" (1 Corinthians 9:11). Here he talks about the livelihood of the servants of the word, stating that it is the responsibility of the faithful to secure for them what they need for their life, since it is not permissible for one who serves the altar, that is, performs the mysteries of grace for the salvation of souls to be in want or need of necessities. For this reason, there is a need for complimentarity in the service of love, each according to his role, his talent and his responsibility. Does someone who will be asked about the salvation of your soul and be held accountable for it before the Lord not deserve to be provided with the material things that he needs to live with the dignity of the children of God?!

*     *     *

There is no doubt that one "who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6), whether he is a priest or a layman. The priest's sowing is the faithful who must bear fruit in the life of holiness and virtue. When the priest is free in the truth that is in Christ, he cannot he cannot but sow blessings. The priest's sowing is preaching the word of God and not his own word, visiting the sick and weak, being a support for the afflicted and the weak, a consolation for the sorrowful and an embodiment of the words of the Apostle Paul, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn?" (2 Corinthians 11:29). The priest is a father in every sense of the word and therefore he must know the sheep of the flock of Christ by name.

All this means that the priest lives a state of being crucified with God's love in this world in service with humility and meekness, with firmness and resolve. The priest cannot go along with people at the expense of Christ's truth and the canons of the Holy Church. His duty is to teach them all of this. Otherwise, he falls short of love for them and is liable for judgment before God because he treats the holy things lightly.

There is no bargaining in the priest's way of life. Of course, we are all humans subject to the weakness of nature, but the way of reform and reconciliation is given to us in Christ, which is the mystery of repentance and confession. How can the priest teach people repentance if he does not repent? How can he teach them humility and reforming their way of life if he does not confess his sins and seek guidance from a spiritual father?! The priest is not perfect. Only Christ is perfect. Therefore he must follow the path of repentance and confession in order to be a model for the parish.

A priest who does not search his conscience in the face of the greatness of the mystery of the priesthood, Christ's sacrifice on the cross and the reality of his service as a servant of God's salvific mysteries falls short, because self-reflection with regard to the requirements of the service and the mystery is likely to energize the priest and bring back to his heart the fear of God and the experience of His divine, consoling grace, which grants him new starting-points, renewed in Spirit and truth in the service of the Lord with an upright heart and in His purity by the fire of divine, cleansing love.

The priest must be in the image of the Lord Christ and just as Christ obeys the Father, the priest obeys Christ and thus is God's prophet and apostle to the rational sheep.

+ Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Let Us Be Apostles of Christ

 Arabic original here.

Let Us Be Apostles of Christ

"For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16)

An apostle in the Church is one who was a disciple of the Lord during His life on earth among us. The Lord Jesus, in the Gospel, chose twelve people from among His disciples and called them apostles: " And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles" (Luke 6:13). They lived with the Lord during His travels and preaching. They were eyewitnesses to His miracles. They saw Him in His divine glory and in His ultimate humility upon the cross. They touched Him living, risen from the dead, and they learned from Him after His resurrection for forty days. They looked upon Him ascending into the heavens and they received from Him the Holy Spirit and the authority to loosen and bind in heaven and on earth.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life..." (1 John 1:1), the experience of those apostles was given to us through them and through the Church over the course of the centuries. Therefore, our faith is based on the testimony of witnesses, the apostles who endured hardships, persecution and killing (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10) in order to preserve a correct witness to faith in the Lord risen from the dead and so our faith is preserved in surety and truth because its price is the blood of the apostles and martyrs...

 Therefore, the Church's mission is to be apostolic, to preserve the "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (1 Jude 1:3), since she is built upon the foundation of this faith and the Church is apostolic since she is asked to constantly preach the Gospel until there is no one left unevangelized...

*    *     *

Today, we are called to be apostles of Christ. Christ was sent by God the Father (cf. John 5:30, 36, 37, 39...) and He sent His disciples into the world (cf. John 20: 21) and sends us today by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to Him unto the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8).

The apostles evangelized the Jews first, and then the gentiles, and this is asked of us today too. That is, the Good News must reach every person, so that the world may know God's salvation and His love for His creation through Jesus Christ.

The responsibility to evangelize is incumbent upon every believing Christian, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). If God gave His only-begotten Son for the life of the world, then our responsibility as believers in the incarnate Son of God is to preach Him so that the world may know Him, lest people perish in their sins.

How can we make people know the incarnate Son of God, the Savior? When His word and new commandment is embodied in us: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Christian love is divine love, that is, an icon of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Therefore it is the gift of divine grace when a person accepts to empty himself. That is, for the I to become the divine thou through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We cannot live this love and acquire it if we do not experience it in the mystery of communion in the mystery of the Eucharist where in Christ we become one with God and among one another in the experience of the indwelling of God's Spirit within us and His being poured out upon us.

*     *     *

From the wellspring of grace, the joy of the resurrection and the peace of the Kingdom of God comes the power of evangelism among believers. Our preaching the Gospel of Christ risen from the dead is a personal and collective experience. The person that does not have this experience and the group that does not know this mystery can by no means evangelize and preach the achievement of victory if they do not participate in it at all. Hence the weakness of witness in the Church, because we have become estranged from the "first love" (cf. Revelation 2:4).

Discipleship is the answer to the weakness of our preaching, evangelism and witness. If the Church does not return to the experience of discipleship, that is, teaching through accompaniment and shared life, in order to teach the faith and its experience by osmosis between those who are experienced and those who are learning, then the preaching of the good news will turn into scientific, literary, proverbial, historical or imaginary words... If we do not have saints with us, then we will not learn holiness. If we do not find those who have experienced the life of grace, then we will not taste it. If we do not rub shoulders with the penitent, then we will not be trained in repentance. If we do not see people praying with our own eyes, then we will not be attracted to prayer...

This does not mean that God is unable to give people all these things if they strive alone and do not find anyone to learn from. The Lord does what He wants and gives what He wants to those He wants, but the general rule that the Lord Jesus and the apostles after Him taught is the model of the teacher before the disciple: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19), "Learn from Me, for I am [f]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29), "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet" (Matthew 13:14), "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Today the world is in need of Christ in order to escape from the persistence of spiritual death that it is experiencing and from the arbitrariness in the shadow of the domination of the spirit of consumption, individualism and false, distorted freedom. Christ put the Church in the world to be an icon of His unity with humankind and of their unity with each other through Him, so that she may reveal the life of the age to come in light of the acquisition of eternal divinity in pious believers and saints, which dwells in them and is active by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

God lights in our hearts the fire of His love to consume the thorns of our passions, our egotism and our pride, that we may be purified and become lamps that bear the light of the Word for the salvation of the world.

+Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Wealth and Poverty

 Arabic original here.


Wealth and Poverty


"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matthew 8:20)

The greatest state of impoverishment is when someone does not have a place to rest his head-- no home, no one to ask about him, and no one to take care of him. The most difficult is when this person lives under the gaze of others and is neglected, outcast or despised. A person sometimes becomes nothing in the eyes of others, like he does not exist or is not loved... For you to exist in a state of not being loved means that you live in a state of being oppressed by people, that you are hidden from existence for them...

But does the Lord abandon man? Does He forget him?

"He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him" (Isaiah 53:2-3). This is the image of the Servant of God, that is, Jesus Christ our God who came and shared our wretchedness, our poverty, our suffering and our estrangement. People are estranged from each other and the believer is a stranger on earth. Christ came to gather those who were scattered into one, to adopt strangers and make them the children and heirs of God.

*     *     *

In general people think their existence and its value is tied to what they own, that is, to their earthly wealth. The popular saying goes, "With you a cent is worth a cent." On the basis of possessions you merit honors. This is the logic of the world.

The essential question, however, is: from where is man's value? And from where does he derive his importance?

The answer in Christianity is that man's value and importance come from the image of God that is in him and from the extent of his resemblance to his Creator. That is, man's reality and being are not separate from God's reality and man's greatness as head of creation comes from his being distinguished in creation from all other beings, since he derives his life from the Spirit of God, that is from God Himself: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). Man is dust from the earth and spirit from God. For this reason, the reality of man is that he is an earthly-heavenly being. That which is earthly is transitory and that which is heavenly is eternal. He who seeks transitory things lives in the clay of mud, the black foul-smelling clay, and is destined for dust. He who seeks heavenly things has his heart above and lives below, and so becomes an extension of the Kingdom on earth.

*     *     *

Beloved, he who seeks wealth, let him be rich in the Lord and he who is poor let him be poor for the Lord. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).

What is the use of what we own if it is not for living the mystery of communion, because God is communion of love in the mystery of unity? Man cannot rejoice if he is not rich in the Lord. That is, filled with Him. He will not rejoice in the Lord if he does not enter into communion and unity with man and with the universe. And he will not enter into communion with anything else unless he is impoverished to himself. That is, unless he lives self-emptying. And he will not live self-emptying if he does not love God first and his neighbor as himself.

Wealth is for you to gain the kingdom from this moment in communion with God and others and poverty is for you to gain the world and lose your soul...

+Antonios

Metropolian of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies 


Met Antonios el-Souri: The Light of Repentance

Arabic original here.


The Light of Repentance


Saint Gregory Palamas constantly repeated this prayer: "O Lord, enlighten my darkness," seeking God's mercy and enlightenment.

Man cannot know his sins unless the Lord enlightens his heart. The condition of repentance is knowledge of sin, not intellectually but existentially, as a sickness where man is eaten away from within, and a realization of the risks of this sickness becoming exacerbated by the shriveling of his will, starting off from the pain resulting from the hatred of sin. This grants man the inner capacity in his own will to cooperate with divine grace in order to regret and desire to be freed, healed and have a change of life.

Sin darkens the mind, "for roving desire perverts the sound mind" (Wisdom 4:12). Man walks without guidance, floundering randomly along the path of self-destruction. Some or most may lie to themselves, justifying their intentions, thoughts and actions, cloaking them in the guise of obedience to God's word when they are the result of the will of their ego and their pride, so they destroy themselves instead of building themselves up and they ruin their life instead of setting it aright.

*     *     *

During the time of fasting and abstention, one tries to discern the motions of his soul in his body by refraining from heavy food and having patience in hunger and thirst in order to train his will by taming the body through obedience to God through the Holy Church's teaching and recommendations. This helps to liberate the will from the rule of the ego so that God may become our ego though His word which dwells in us and is translated into intention, thought, word and deed.

The passions that deeply-rooted in man darken his body and spirit together, since the body becomes lethargic in struggling to do God's will and enthusiastic to respond to his lusts and the spirit flees from listening to the divine word (even if it practices prayer), because it places a barrier of refusal between the mind and the heart, since prayer passes through the mind and does not descend into the heart and thus remains at this level of superficiality, the goal of which is not stability, but rather the fulfillment of sin's need to silence the conscience with a false rationale.

*     *     *

"But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23). How can that be?! When man returns to the light of the divine image that is in him by nature and attributes it to himself, deifying himself through his self, doing without God, the source of light. The light of human nature is an image that remains unrealized unless it is through the divine grace that comes down upon us in and through Christ. Man has within himself a luminosity that is not extinguished so long as it is united to the uncreated light that the Lord gives to those who repent and seek His mercy with all their hearts, power, mind and intellect.

Loving repentance is the repentance that God has for us when He forgives us our mistakes, our shortcomings and our betrayals of His love. He is "repentant" for the sins of humankind, but it remains for us to repent to Him with faith active in obedience to His will, so that the heart may be purified in praxis and theory and so become enlightened by the uncreated light that permeates his entire being, radiating from him into the world. In this way man is united to God and so God becomes "all in all" present and manifest through His glory in the life of man in light... 

 

+ Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

(Originally published in al-Karma on Sunday, March 24, 2019) 


Thursday, October 6, 2022

Open Access: Antioch's Last Heirs: The Hatay Greek Orthodox Community between Greece, Syria and Turkey

 Ioannis N. Grigoriadis, "Antioch's Last Heirs: The Hatay Greek Orthodox Community between Greece, Syria and Turkey." Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies (2022).

 

Abstract

This study explores the identity dynamics of the Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox community of the Hatay province of Turkey. Citizens of Turkey, members of the Greek Orthodox church and Arabic speakers, members of this small but historic community stood at the crossroads of three nationalisms: Greek, Syrian and Turkish. Following the urbanization waves that swept through the Turkish countryside since the 1950s, thousands of Hatay Greek Orthodox moved to Istanbul and were given the chance to integrate with the Greek minority there. The case of the Hatay Greek Orthodox community points to the resilience of millet-based identities, more than a century after the demise of the Ottoman Empire.

 

Read the whole article here.

 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Open access: Fr Andrew Wade- Byzantinised or Alexandrianised—Or Both? Vespers in the 13th c. Melkite Alexandrian Arabic Horologion

Andrew Wade, "Byzantinised or Alexandrianised—Or Both? Vespers in the 13th
c. Melkite Alexandrian Arabic Horologion Sinai Arabic 232." Religions 13 (2022).


Abstract:

 This paper presents an annotated English translation of the rite of Vespers contained in
the Melkite Alexandrian Arabic Book of Hours (Horologion) found in the 13th century Christian
Arabic manuscript Sinai Arabic 232. Most of the texts comprising this service have been identified
from the contemporary Greek Horologion, the Constantinople Euchologion and the Coptic Agpeya.
This very unusual combination is discussed. While further research on Sin. Ar. 232 and other Arabic
Horologia is necessary before we may draw more definitive conclusions, enough seems clear at this
point to suggest that the Egyptian Melkites originally used a Hierosolymitan type Horologion and
that this, in due time, was both Alexandrinised and Byzantinised. We can therefore say that Sin. Ar.
232 is an Egyptian redaction of a Middle Byzantine Horologion with archaic Hierosolymitan features.
No other Arabic Horologia have been studied to date, and no earlier Melkite or Coptic Alexandrian
Horologia are known. Considerable further research on Arabic Horologia is needed.

 


Download the pdf here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Open Access: 'The House of the Priest': A Palestinian Life (1885-1954)

 

'The House of the Priest'

A Palestinian Life (1885-1954)

Series: 

'The House of the Priest’ presents and discusses the hitherto unpublished and untranslated memoirs of Niqula Khoury, a senior member of the Orthodox Church and Arab nationalist in late Ottoman and British Mandate Palestine. It discusses the complicated relationships between language, religion, diplomacy and identity in the Middle East in the interwar period. This original annotated translation and accompanying articles provide a thorough explication of Khoury’s memoirs and their significance for the social, political and religious histories of twentieth-century Palestine and Arab relations with the Greek Orthodox church. Khoury played a major role in these dynamics as a leading member of the fight for Arab presence in the Greek-dominated clergy, and for an independent Palestine, travelling in 1937 to Eastern Europe and the League of Nations on behalf of the national movement.

Contributors: Sarah Irving, Charbel Nassif, Konstantinos Papastathis, Karène Sanchez Summerer, Cyrus Schayegh 

 Read and download the entire book here.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Open Access: Between Constantinople, the Papacy and the Caliphate: The Melkite Church in the Islamicate World, 634–969

 

Between Constantinople, the Papacy and the Caliphate

The Melkite Church in the Islamicate World, 634–969

 

By Krzysztof Kościelniak

 

This volume examines the Melkite church from the Arab invasion of Syria in 634 until 969. The Melkite Patriarchates were established in Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria and, following the Arab campaigns in Syria and Egypt, they all came under the new Muslim state. Over the next decades the Melkite church underwent a process of gradual marginalization, moving from the privileged position of the state confession to becoming one of the religious minorities of the Caliphate. This transition took place in the context of theological and political interactions with the Byzantine Empire, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Papacy and, over time, with the reborn Roman Empire in the West. Exploring the various processes within the Melkite church this volume also examines Caliphate–Byzantine interactions, the cultural and religious influences of Constantinople, the synthesis of Greek, Arab and Syriac elements, the process of Arabization of communities, and Melkite relations with distant Rome.

 

Download the entire book legally and for free here.

 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Carol Saba on the Current Situation in the Orthodox World

 Arabic original, originally published in an-Nahar, here.

What is happening in an Orthodoxy that is oscillating between geopolitical axes on a line of fire and steel?

The whole world is holding its breath. The geopolitical and military situation in Ukraine is heating up. Friction between Russia and NATO could develop into a military confrontation. A fire is likewise blazing in Ukraine, which sits upon geopolitical fault lines. The snowball of schism, which we have repeatedly warned about, is gathering speed, between the Orthodox churches which, whether they like it or not, have been cast into the competing camps of east and west. The Patriarchate of Moscow accuses the Patriarchate of Constantinople of igniting the spark of division by unilaterally granting, on January 6, 2019, without Orthodox consensus, autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatic groups at the expense of the legitimate, autonomous Ukrainian church connected to the Church of Moscow since the time of the historic agreement signed in 1686 by Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV and members of his holy synod and sent to the tsar of Russia as "protector of Orthodoxy" at the time. Constantinople responds by saying that Moscow is responsible for the division since, when it boycotted the Council of Crete of June 2016, it rejected the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and encouraged other Orthodox churches (Antioch, Bulgaria and Georgia) to boycott the council. Of course, Antioch had its own reasons not to participate in the Council of Crete, for which it had dedicatedly prepared in good faith until the last moment, the first of which being the disregard for and lack of a solution to the issue of the invasion of its historical ecclesiastical territory in Qatar by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, even though Antioch was the first to warn of the ramifications of this attack for the unity of all Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, by the eve of the Council of Crete, this canonical issue had not been dealt with as it should have been.
Thus, since 2019 there has been a split between the two poles of Orthodoxy, Moscow and Constantinople, and each of them has tried to draw the other churches into its camp. Of course, international politics have not been far from this situation. In a tweet in early 2021, the former American Secretary of State Pompeo stated explicitly that the United States supported the establishment of the autocephalous Ukrainian church, strove to win international recognition for it, and helped to free it of Russian influence. It has come to be known that the geopolitical and ecclesial factors have overlapped over the course of the twentieth century and until today, something we have confirmed in our five-part study published in an-Nahar in September 2019 under the title "Orthodoxy at the Crossroads: The Crises and Ways Out of It". This is also confirmed, for example, by recently-declassified CIA documents indicating the relationship and cooperation between the American government and the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the Truman Administration in order to limit Soviet influence and how Patriarch Maximus V, Patriarch Athenegoras' predecessor, was removed to the benefit of the latter, who was in America and was connected to President Truman, all despite the young age of Patriarch Maximus', who at the time was said to have been removed due to his mental health. These documents, which received attention due to two recently-published articles on the American website Orthodox History, also indicate Patriarch Athenagoras' cooperation at the beginning of his reign with the American government with regard to religious freedom. Many reports and articles also show how these practices continue until today. On the other hand, much is said by critics of Moscow, yesterday and today, who insist on the necessity of preventing the expansion of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the most numerous and is accused of ambitions of "Third Rome" and of being in lockstep with the Kremlin.


In the current crisis, which is the most dangerous because it harms all of Orthodoxy, much is said and written about the immense pressures that have been put on the Orthodox Churches, especially that of Greece, to recognize the new Ukrainian ecclesial entity headed by Epifany Dumenko, whose priesthood has not been recognized by the churches. The Orthodox Church of Poland, for example, continues to consider him to be a layman. Up to today, he has only obtained recognition from the Churches of Greece, Alexandria and Cyprus, despite serious objections within the holy synods of these churches. The Archbishop Anastasius of Albania, a Greek by origin who is greatly respected for his broad theological knowledge and his lengthy ecclesiastical experience on account of his missionary work in Africa followed by his role in the restoration and resurrection of the Church of Albania, objects to the canonical pretext for Constantinople's decision and continues to demand that a meeting of all the Orthodox patriarchs be convened to prevent the schism from widening. Likewise, in addition to Russia, the Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic and Slovakia have not recognized the Ukrainian ecclesial entity.


The schism train is gathering steam now and the mutual estrangement between the churches is becoming deeper. At a time when there is talk of impending decisions from Constantinople to grant autocephaly to the church of Montenegro and  to the schismatic church in Northern Macedonia at the request of political authorities in both countries, something that puts Constantinople in direct confrontation with the Patriarchate of Serbia because Montenegro and Macedonia historically belong to it, the Russian Church has decided to establish establish a pair of exarchates in Africa on the historical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in order to receive priests and parishes from that patriarchate. This disintegration and departure from the paths of unity and true conciliarity are unfortunate. All the calls to hold a synaxis of the patriarchs and leaders of the Orthodox churches to set things right-- including from the Patriarchate of Antioch, which is in danger because it sits on the line of contact in this hot-cold war-- have come to naught.


Where are we today? The Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodorus, regrets and admits, publicly and belatedly, that he did harm to Orthodox unity, as though he were saying that he had been forced to recognize the schismatics without Orthodox consensus. Would it not have been better for him, as someone who had lived and served in Ukraine alongside the legitimate church and is known for his closeness to the Russians, if he had remained a bridge of communication and dialogue between Constantinople and Moscow, fending off mutual estrangement and schism? As for the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, a figure whom we have loved and still love, who had been promising with his mastery of several languages, who had studied at Chalki in Turkey, Germany and Rome, who knows both the West and the East, who has an excellent mastery of canon law, who set the Orthodox world in motion at his election on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the early 1990s through his calls for Orthodox unity and joint Orthodox activity, several times convening the Synaxis, summits between the patriarchs and heads of the Orthodox churches as a modern and necessary mechanism for mutual understanding, keeping track of things, and joint activity, today stands obstinate in defending and insisting on an erroneous decision about Ukraine and is being pushed more and more to focus on a dodgy theory that transforms the primacy of honor that the Ecumenical Patriarchate enjoys in the Orthodox world, which is indisputable and entails the primate having rights and responsibilities for coordination as first among equals, into the canonical primacy of a first without equals-- that is, a superior, quasi-papal canonical primacy that imposes itself vertically upon the other Orthodox churches, doing away with the Orthodox tradition since the Apostles, which is the conciliar tradition, the tradition of consultation, discussion and horizontal decision-making. As for Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, whose eyes gleam with intelligence, a servant of the Church in difficult times, who was not afraid during the Soviet period to the media to bear witness to the Gospel, who constantly preached to the youth and accompanied them, who rose up with the Church after the fall of the Soviet Union-- and how not, when he was a disciple of Metropolitan Nikodim, his predecessor as Metropolitan of Smolensk in Russia and his predecessor in the Patriarchate's Department of External Relations at the height of the Soviet Union, a renowned man of ecclesial diplomacy for the Russian Church, who knew how to escape the grip of the Soviet communist authorities, who was close to the Vatican, which worked with him to defend the underground Church, who constantly connected the dots and dodged traps to stitch together international support for the underground Christian resistance in Russia that struggled and prepared for the fall of the bastion of communism and atheism, today we see him also trying to cure matters by means of what was itself the illness. Is it possible to treat poison with poison? As we wrote in an-Nahar on August 7, 2018, let us once more lift up a thunderous voice: who will stop this dangerous slide that is threatening the unity of the Orthodox Church? Have the patriarchs lost the ability and boldness necessary to take initiative? Let us pray to the Lord!