Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Ioana Feodorov: Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands (Open-access Book)

Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands:

The East-European Connection

Arabic printing began in Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Levant through the association of the scholar and printer Antim the Iberian, later a metropolitan of Wallachia, and Athanasios III Dabbās, twice patriarch of Antioch, when the latter, as metropolitan of Aleppo, was sojourning in Bucharest. This partnership resulted in the first Greek and Arabic editions of the Book of the Divine Liturgies (Snagov, 1701) and the Horologion (Bucharest, 1702). With the tools and expertise that he acquired in Wallachia, Dabbās established in Aleppo in 1705 the first Arabic-type press in the Ottoman Empire. After the Church of Antioch divided into separate Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Patriarchates in 1724, a new press was opened for Arabic-speaking Greek Catholics by ʻAbdallāh Zāḫir in Ḫinšāra (Ḍūr al-Šuwayr), Lebanon. Likewise, in 1752-1753, a press active at the Church of Saint George in Beirut printed Orthodox books that preserved elements of the Aleppo editions and were reprinted for decades. This book tells the story of the first Arabic-type presses in the Ottoman Empire which provided church books to the Arabic-speaking Christians, irrespective of their confession, through the efforts of ecclesiastical leaders such as the patriarchs Silvester of Antioch and Sofronios II of Constantinople and financial support from East European rulers like prince Constantin Brâncoveanu and hetman Ivan Mazepa.

Download the entire book here. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos) on the Jesus Prayer

Arabic original here.

The Jesus Prayer

"Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24).

In the Bible, the name is seen and experienced as the presence of God Himself. The name holds a twofold power: on the one hand, feeling the living God , and on the other, knowing Him.

Jesus' name indicates the incarnation:

Before all else, the name 'Jesus' indicates the reason for God's coming in the flesh for our salvation. By taking on our nature, God shows that it is possible for us to also become sons of God. The name 'Jesus' means 'God is the Savior'.

God said to Moses that His name is 'I Am': great is the name of the Holy Trinity.

Jesus is the God-Man. He brings both together in His person and through Him it became possible for us to reach the Father.

Can man ask for anything more than that?

When the personal God, I Am, is revealed to us, the fundamental difference between Him and various deviations like yoga, Buddhism and even Transcendental Meditation, is revealed.

Of course, when our minds are turned away from every image, it is possible for meditation to grant us a sense of rest, peace and liberation from time and place.

But there is no sense of standing before a personal god.

This can lead to a state where the person who practices meditation comes to be content with the psychological results of such experiences.

In this way it turns one away from the living God in order to focus on that "nothingness".

The hesychastic technical method:

The one praying tries, by repeating Jesus' name, to connect the intellect to the heart.

This is after he has already focused on conforming his daily life to Christ's commandments.

The one praying takes an appropriate bodily posture, reciting the prayer while his head is bent towards his chest, taking a breath at the words "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God," and exhaling at the words "have mercy on me a sinner."

In this way, he can keep his focus from wandering.

This method makes it possible for the one praying to keep his attention focused on the heart without resorting to psychosomatic methods.

Nevertheless, it is not possible to acquire true prayer through this technique because this only comes through faith and repentance.

The important thing is that we focus our attention on the name of Jesus Christ and on the words of the prayer.

When you feel the pain of sin crying out, the intellect naturally turns to the heart.

The full form of the Jesus Prayer is, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

Finally, when prayer becomes an automatic movement, it becomes fixed in the heart without any effort.

After the mind has become focused and at rest, prayer brings blessings. It comes like a delicate flame within us, like inspiration from the Most High, like joy in the heart with a feeling of divine love, delighting the intellect with spiritual contemplation.


Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Friday, September 15, 2023

Maria Mavroudi: Byzantine Translations from Arabic into Greek (Open Access)

Maria Mavroudi, "Byzantine Translations from Arabic into Greek: Old and New Historiography in Confluence and in Conflict," Journal of Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies 2.1-2 (2023): 215-288.


Scholarly demand to re-evaluate underappreciated cultures has grown since the 1980s. This generated a call to re-write the nineteenth-century narrative on the transmission of knowledge from the ancient Near East to the Graeco-Roman, Islamic, Western medieval, and early modern European world. The paper surveys the modern study of Byzantine translations from Arabic into Greek in order to propose a new narrative frame, no longer linear but attentive to continuous and bi-directional contact between medieval civilisations. The paper offers the contact between Byzantium and various parts of the Islamic world as an example. It discusses the presumed insularity of Byzantine literary culture and its relationship with ancient Greek literary heritage. Problems of dating, localising, and socially contextualising the translations (through information on their authors and patrons) are also examined.

The entire article can be read and downloaded in open access here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Jad Ganem: Two New Saints

 Arabic original here.

Two New Saints

During the divine liturgy that he celebrated for the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God at the Monastery of Saydnaya, His Beatitude Patriarch John X announced that the Holy Synod of Antioch will discuss at its next regular session declaring the sainthood of the hieromartyr Fr Nicholas Khashsha and his son, the hieromartyr Habib Khashsha, two Damascene priests who were martyred for the faith in the last century.

As a layman, Fr Nicholas was an activist for returning the Patriarchate of Antioch, which had been under Greek domination since the Melkite Catholic schism, to Arab control and was active in establishing and developing schools for the community. He was then ordained to the priesthood, where he served the Archdiocese of Damascus. Patriarch Meletios (al-Doumani) then delegated him as his vicar for the Diocese of Mersin, whose bishop, Alexander (Tahhan) had abandoned it because of its poverty and the disturbances it was experiencing. In Mersin, Fr Nicholas succeeded in reuniting its dispersed flock and caring for and strengthening the faithful, who were subjected to various forms of persecution and ethnic cleansing. The Turkish authorities grew frustrated with Fr Nicholas and arrested him on the basis of slander against him, then tortured him until he was martyred.

Habib, the eldest son of Fr Nicholas, followed in his father's footsteps. Despite his success in business, he decided to be ordained to the priesthood and served as a priest in Damascus and Cairo. His service was distinguished by a life of prayer, devotion to shepherding the faithful with love and self-sacrifice, and his closeness to the poor, who he cared for like he cared for his own family, feeding them with their food and the money that his brothers sent to help them because of his poverty. His life was crowned with a martyric death on Mount Hermon, where smugglers beat him to death because he was a Christian priest, fulfilling his desire to imitate his father.

The faithful have passed down the stories of these two priests and they remain alive in the memory of Antioch because "their blood has attested that the Holy Spirit is in them and because though love they have transcended the barrier of the earthly body and become figures of light." Today, if the Holy Synod decides to declare their sainthood, it is "in obedience to the One of whom they have become worthy."

By declaring their sainthood, the Holy Synod places before the flock and the faithful, at this difficult time, the image of a married priest to whom the Church entrusted the task of shepherding a diocese whose bishop had refused to shepherd it and fled it when its resources became scarce and it started to face difficulties. He shepherded it as though it were his little family. He and his sons lived in it and among its people and he died for it. The Holy Synod also puts forward the image of the son who abandoned worldly success in order to imitate his father and become a shepherd of souls, serving the poor as though they were a little family and dividing his sustenance and that of his family with them. He served them as though they were his masters, not caring about money or worrying about the future, but relying on the mercy and generosity of God, who crowned his life with the crown of martyrdom.

Perhaps, by its effort to declare the sainthood of the hieromartyrs Fathers Nicholas and Habib, following the declaration of the sainthood of the hieromartyr Joseph of Damascus, the Holy Synod desires to emphasize that sanctity is not limited to monks, but rather also exists outside of monasteries, and that the family which is sincerely committed to Christ is also just as much a locus of sancity as anywhere else.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Asad Rustom on the Era of Patriarch Cyril al-Za'im (III): Euthymius al-Sayfi

Translated from: Asad Rustum, Kanisat Madinat Allah Antakya al-'Uzma [The Church of the Great City of God Antioch], Jounieh: Editions St. Paul (1988), vol. 3, pp. 111-119.

Part I here.

Part II here.

Rome completes its mission: Athanasius kept to the truce and was unable to return to the patriarchal see, so Rome undertook to complete its plan and in 1697 the attention of the Jesuit priest Verseau was drawn to Balamand Monastery because he was familiar with the monks and "the schism has a great affair there because they all belong to the Rum millet." Fr Verseau repeatedly attempted to enter Balamand in order to expound on the Catholic faith, but he failed. Then two disciples of the Jesuit fathers felt the monastic calling and chose Balamand as their place to serve God, "and Fr Verseau started to visit them and guide them, warning about the danger in that monastery." It was then confirmed that they were firm in their Catholicism and so he took them on as a tool for Roman propaganda among the monks. He increased his visits to the monastery and became acquainted with all the monks, taking part in the monastery's gatherings without any impediment. "In order to please them all," he praised Saint Basil the Great and read accounts of him to them. He then put into the hands of his two friends books by Fr Clisson and Fr Nau. In 1704, five of the monks of Balamand sent a petition to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide that included the following:

"We present to Your Resplendent Majesty that we are your servants, numbering five people from the millet of the Arab Rum, monks of the path of Saint Basil the Great, who were reared from our childhood in the Catholic religion, always submitting to the Supreme Pontiff, His All-Holiness. Nevertheless, in these lands we have not found the freedom to perfect the way of life for salvation of the soul as is necessary in monasticism due to the country's lack of stability and the rule of the nations over it and the disorder of the monasteries and monks. We have presented our situation to Your Resplendent Majesty so that if you decree and command us, we will come before you about this matter. We ask that you grant us, out of the charity of the Holy Church, a humble place where we may take refuge alone, either in Rome or outside it and for you to grant us there the necessary food and ascetic drink sufficient for the body and nothing else, so that we may serve God in our place as much as possible and pray for Your Resplendent Majesty.

Balamand, in the region of Tripoli of Syria on November 1, 1704. Your servant, the hieromonk Macarius. Your servant, the hieromonk Gerasimus. Your pitiful servant, the hieromonk Hanania. Your pitiful servant the hieromonk Nasrallah. Your servant the hierodeacon George."

The Monastery of Saint John, Choueir: At this very moment, two young men from Aleppo arrived at Balamand, desiring to practice chastity and asceticism. Father Nasrallah from Aleppo advised them "to go to Mount Lebanon and search for an empty place. Afterwards, we will come to you and make a canonical monastic order, because in this monastery one cannot live in freedom of faith because in it there are recalcitrant people and associating with them is not beneficial." They heeded his advice and went and found a monastery called Mar Yuhanna al-Choueir, and sent them news about it.

This monastery was humble in the beginning, only containing a small church named after John the Baptist and a humble room that was home to an ascetic from the Sawaya family of Choueir. Choueir was suffering from a feud between its two big families, the Maja'is and the Sawaya. When the dispute arose between the two patriarchs, Athanasius and Cyril, one group sided with the former and the other with the latter. The Maja'is supported Cyril, so the Sawaya decided to support Athanasius. The Maja'is won over the majority of the families of Choueir and the Sawaya were prevented from praying in the Church of Our Lady, the village church, so they began to pray in the Church of Saint John mentioned above. In this way, the Monastery of Saint John is not named merely after its being found in the area of Choueir, but also after the Choueirite ascetic who founded it and his Choueirite family members who made its church their place of worship, defending those monks claiming obedience to Rome who took refuge there.

Rome's Only Man: One of the individuals in obedience to Rome, submitting to its bishop, was Euthymius al-Sayfi, metropolitan of Tyre and Sidon (1682-1723). He was born in Damascus around the year 1643 with the name Mikhail ibn Musa al-Sayfi, growing up there. He studied in the community's school at the patriarchal residence and received special attention from the priest Jirjis Bariq, imbibing Catholicism from his youth. This priest Jirjis had traveled to Rome and adopted Catholicism there. When Mikhail was young, he frequented the monastery of the Jesuit and Capuchin fathers and they attracted him to themselves, increasing his obedience and submission. He became close with the patriarchal vicar Neophytus al-Saqizi, learning Greek and the art of Byzantine chant from him. Perhaps Neophytus himself ordained Mikhail as a deacon and then priest in 1666.

Jeremiah, the metropolitan of Tyre and Sidon died around 1680 and the Latin missionaries encouraged the Rum notables in Sidon to elect the priest Mikhail al-Sayfi. Patriarch Cyril III agreed and consecrated him as metropolitan of Tyre and Sidon in 1682, giving him the name Euthymius. The first activity that this new bishop undertook was that he hurried to send a copy of his confession of the Catholic faith to Pope Innocent XII, with the Capucin father Accursio. This father Accursio was the teacher of the new bishop's confession in Damascus. Part of what is contained in the confession is as follows:

"I have rejected the error and schism of the Rum for some time and I have confessed the Catholic faith at the hands of the missionary monks in Syria. Now, by the grace of God, I have become bishop over the See of Tyre and Sidon and I must offer the necessary obedience to you and reference to your holy see, imitating the holy fathers Athanasius the Great, John Chrystostom and all the holy fathers whom the Roman Church has received in the time of their struggle and persecution. I do not need to mention the rejection, imprisonment, humiliation, loss of money I have endured and the enmity from the Muslims, along with some of the Rum and their clergy, especially their patriarch called Cyril, on account of my confession of the Catholic faith."

The archdiocese of Tyre and Sidon was large but not very populated, so the new bishop worked to populate it by encouraging migration there. He agreed in May of 1686 with the Rum notables in Sidon to write to those Christians who were willing, to invite them to reside in Sidon. The qadi of Sidon issued a deed for this that still exists to this day. He then rebuilt the Church in Sidon with his own money and formally issued a deed for this on April 11, 1690. It is no surprise that such a deed was necessary because Islamic law forbids the construction of churches and monks' cells but permits the renovation and preservation of old ones.

The most important thing that Euthymius undertook during this initial period of his episcopacy was that he established the Salvatorian monastic order to spread the principles of union with Rome and submission to its bishop. This work started in Sidon where, before 1700, he gathered together a number of monks to live a common, canonically-ordered life with him at the Machmoucha farm near Joun. The Salvatorian priest Constantine Bacha believes that the metropolitan's disciples numbered, at the end of the 17th century, no less than ten and that they were unable to live in Sidon and its surroundings without being subject to every accusation and every hardship from the army and others, so they rented the Machmoucha farm from its owner, the qadi Sheikh Qablan, to live and work there. They did not do this for long before, by the care of the Savior, their monastery in His name was established in 1711. Euthymius composed a special rule for its monks, news of which spread among people until it reached Aleppo. His letter to a friend in Aleppo preserves some of what the Salvatorian monks practiced in the beginning and some of the principles that Euthymius had in mind. His friend, a bishop, wrote in objection to Euthymius' permitting his monks to eat oil and fish during fasts. The latter responded:

"It does not escape your knowledge, if you ponder and see the weakness and decline of the millet and its lack of the necessary knowledge and spiritual sciences. We have seen many with weak temperaments and good zeal, who had a little knowledge and wanted to have a pure life, ordered by keeping the three vows that are the foundation of all monastic orders, so that they might benefit their millet by their activity and knowledge. But they forsook entering monasticism on account of its harshness of living now among us and so fell short of completing their good intention. When I realized that this particular reason was preventing the universal good, I used the authority of binding and loosening given to me by God and His Church to issue an order, indeed to issue a compulsion, known to all on account of its being issued and entering into force. This was so that worship in this manner would be something by choice rather than compulsion. It is not as it is now, practiced by others openly and rejected by the majority in secret. Moreover, so that we would not imitate the harshness of some previous shepherds who used their authority to bind and not to loosen, nor even less should I curse rather than bless those in whom God's words through the Prophet Micah are fulfilled: 'Eat the meat of my people and break their bones.' For this reason, we see their state as they have caused great losses for this pure path and for the excellent Christian faith. My intention as well, if it so happens, is for such as these to be separated from the other monks only in their abode and means of living, and to agree with them in keeping the three vows and the rest of the other rules, since they are under the obedience of one leader. If our intention is not achieved with them, then God has proof against the stubborn."

Euthymius, Bishop of those Submitting to Rome (1702): Some of the bishops rejected the harm that had come to the Church on account of the schism and arrogance stormed in their minds, so they wrote to Euthymius around 1694 so that he would be their leader and the flock would have one shepherd. Then an understanding was reached between Athanasius and Cyril and Cyril became the sole patriarch. His heart was set on hindering the activities of the missionaries and not facilitating their interests. He refrained from sending to the sultan recognition of the priests who befriended the missionaries and worked under their guidance. Athanasius went back on what he had promised Rome at the beginning of the affair. In 1700, Clement XI (1700-1720) took charge of the See of Rome. Euthymius wrote to congratulate the new pope and renew his submission. On February 24, 1701 he composed a new letter in which he explained the situation in the Patriarchate of Antioch and requested to be the "vicar of the pope in the East" in order to give him the authority to recognize Catholic bishops outside his diocese. He mentioned the desire of the metropolitans to install him as patriarch of Antioch and he attached the document that they had signed, but he said that he had little reach and could not accept their request because he was subject to "the authority of the Muslims." Therefore he only sought "the authority of the dhimmis."

The Propaganda Fide studied Euthymius' request in a session held for this purpose on December 6, 1701 and accepted the metropolitan of Tyre and Sidon's request for a period of seven years by a decision brought before the pope. Clement XI accepted the congregation's decision and ordered that it be acted upon and the following message was sent to Euthymius:

"To sayyid Euthymius, metropolitan of Sidon and the Rum in all the Patriarchate of Antioch where there are no Catholic bishops: On Wednesday, July 19, 1702 in the regular audience of the revered father assistant, the Most Holy Father granted, according to what was presented to him, to the aforementioned petitioner these rights for a period of seven years, such that he may in no way exercise them outside the boundaries of the aforementioned patriarchate or in dioceses in which there are Catholic bishops."

The Book al-Dalala al-Lami'a (The Shining Proof, 1710): The Jesuit father Michel Nau resorted to writing in order to convince the Rum to obey and submit to Rome and during the time of the Patriarch Macarius he composed a book entitled The Argument of the Holy Roman Church for its Orthodoxy and Right Worship. The Orthodox fathers were not convinced by this, particularly the monks of the Holy Sepulcher. At the beginning of the 18th century, they translated into Arabic a letter by Zacharias, bishop of Adana, in defense of the holy traditions, explaining Rome's program and revealing the secret falsehoods of its manner of action. They then distributed it in the territory of Antioch and it was on everyone's tongues and was circulated about. On June 10, 1704, Euthymius wrote to the Propaganda Fide saying, "The schismatic members of the eparchy of Jerusalem have prepared the book of Zacharias, the bishop of Adana, which is filled with blasphemies against the opinion of the Church of Rome. They have translated it into Arabic and published it in our country, in the jurisdiction of the See of Antioch, to spread the poison that is found within it." Euthymius adds that he undertook to write a book that "elevates the honor of the Holy Roman Church and puts her opponents to shame." He asked to be supplied with the writings of John Cariafili [?] refuting Zacharias, the refutation of Neilos [Kabasilas] of Thessaloniki, books by (Cardinal) Bessarion, the metropolitan of Nicaea, the books of Demetrius Kydones, and the book of Pierre Courfois [?] about the service of the mysteries and purgatory because they were necessary for him. Euthymius sent his manuscript to Rome and it was approved by Cardinal Barberini and so "The Shining Proof between the two poles of the Universal Church, containing the agreement of the Eastern Rum Orthodox Church with the Universal, Western Church of Rome and their unity in one opinion and one Christian faith" appeared in Rome in 1710 with a subvention from the Propaganda Fide.

It was distributed and so in 1712 the oikonomos of the Church of Aleppo refuted it in a letter which, as it appears, remains in manuscript. This oikonomos was known to Euthymius as "someone with knowledge, keeping the rites of the Rum perfectly, supporting and defending them." The book al-Dalala al-Lami'a attracted the attention of the Orthodox patriarchs and metropolitans and they mention it in the excommunication that was issued in 1718 against Euthymius and those who strayed with him, because he "composed books on his own and drew on testimonies as he saw fit and attributed them to the Holy Eastern Church."

Euthymius Gets Ready: Euthymius issued commands according to whim and in September 1713 observed that "the eparchy of Antioch is good soil in need of workers" and that its patriarch, Cyril, was "a man lacking knowledge who hates the Roman Church" but he did he did not dare to offer offer obedience before the patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria. He believed that the bishop of Saydnaya, Gerasimus al-Shami, was "a man at God's gate, his holiness is a measure of wine and the wine remains in his cell, Christ be pleased with him;" that the bishop of Maaloula and Qara was "a recalcitrant, heretical Cypriot;" that the bishop of of Baalbek was "a Cypriot with good intentions, if God blesses him with a teacher he might agree with everything we want;" that the bishop of Homs was "hapless in religion and this world;" that the bishop of Hamat was "a Cypriot strong in unbelief and in insulting the religion of the Church and of us. For two years, he has been present with us in activities of his. We honored him and gave him abundant charity and advised him as much as possible. From that day, he ceased the insults but he remains in his unbelief;" that the metropolitan of Beirut "previously believed in the Church and honored and glorified the Church of Rome. For this reason, we conferred upon him some charitable support and invited him to Sidon. We explained to him the shortcomings and the error that has befallen the Church of the Rum after the schism;" that regarding the bishop of Tripoli "some of the missionary monks have testified that he is Catholic, but I have not discerned any signs of Catholicism in him. Perhaps he had confessed the truth under the influence of a certain hope and when the hope was lost, he returned like a dog to his vomit;" that the metropolitan of Lattakia was a "heretical Chiot, ignorant of religion. He barks and snaps with heresy without being aware of it;" that regarding the Patriarch of Aleppo [i.e., Athanasius Dabbas] "he is known in Rome as a Catholic and is known to me as a climber [? مساقل ];" that the metropolitan of Adana was "an insolent Cypriot, an enemy of God and His Church;" that the metropolitan of Diyarbakir was likewise a Cypriot, that the metropolitan of Erzerum was from its eyalet and the metropolitan of Cyprus was from the eyalet of Erzerum. It is well-known that this traffic was widespread at that time and existed on both sides.

In this way, Euthymius, Rome's only bishop in the dioceses of Antioch, attempted to attract bishops to Catholicism with methods that might not all be legitimate. As for the Jacobites, attracting them was far-off in his view "and would be more attainable through force." Here it should be remarked that true unity is not achieved through money and force, but through the Holy Spirit and love, which does not seek for itself and does not think ill, but takes its time, accompanies, trusts and is patient.

Bp Constantine Kayyal: The Rich Young Man

Arabic original here.

The Rich Young Man

"What should I do to inherit eternal life?" This is the question that every person who aspires to a good life asks, in order to attain the crown of holiness.

The young man in today's Gospel reading is no different from other young men who wish to live a good life, and this desire and longing for a good life is planted in us because we were created in the image and likeness of God.

This is because Jesus waits for all of us. No matter what questions, cares and worries we bear, He wants to hear them with love. He is neither a psychiatrist nor an ethics professor, but rather Lord and Savior, because He is all love and only gives love.

Since doing good deeds and works of mercy does not in itself mean avoiding sin, you must go beyond all these things and follow Jesus, who waits for you. You must become free of your concern for yourself, of your selfishness, of every earthly thing, follow your Teacher and be a living bridge that connects God and people.

Here Jesus focuses on the commandments that order our relationship to our neighbor, among them worship, which requires two things: the first is with regard to God and the second with regard to the neighbor.

In order to proceed towards the kingdom, you must be free of fornication and preserve your life and the life of your neighbor. Otherwise, you are infringing on another's possession. You must be committed to the orphan and honor your parents and support them. The young man responded:

"I have done all this since my childhood. What do I still lack?"

So Jesus said to him, "Sell everything you have and come follow me."

That means, get rid of everything and follow the Lord. Join Him and commit to the path of perfection. But on account of his heart's attachment to what his hands possessed, the young man went away sad.

Therefore, live a life of giving, so that you may feel true happiness. Do not be like this young man who was attached to his wealth. Trust that everything is possible with God and He alone is able to help you, support you and lift you up to Himself.

Yes! The young man went away sad like any person living on earth, while the Christian is a person created for heaven. It is true that the Christian lives on earth, but he is not of the people of the earth. He is a heavenly person born from above, born in water and the Spirit. His concern is heaven and his mind is on heaven.

His faith is translated into good deeds that benefit others so that he may inherit eternal life. But here we must be aware that we do not inherit eternal life while we are sitting in our places, but rather when we are active and act in love, because the kingdom of heaven does not come to us ready-made. The kingdom is taken by force and we must rightly deserve it.

This is eternal life. It is not in obeying the laws and rules and keeping the divine commandments, for the Ten Commandments have no value if word is not attached to deed and if man is not the purpose for which these commandments exit.

Dear reader, always remember the Lord's words in his famous Sermon on the Mount, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Our only treasure is not in banks, in income or in possessions, but rather in heaven. This treasure is good works, mercy and love for one's neighbor. It is faith in God and acting according to His will so that we may inherit the desired kingdom.

Bishop Constantine Kayyal

Abbot of the Patriarchal Monastery of Saint Elias, Shwayya

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Fr Jack (Khalil): The Transfiguration in the Teaching of the Apostle Peter

 Arabic original here.

The Event of the Transfiguration in the Teaching of the Apostle Peter

We read in the first chapter of the Second Epistle of the Apostle Peter a passage that summarizes our steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus as God and Savior and how we act according to His calling us and choosing us to be a chosen people and holy nation for Him.

God has promised us that in His kingdom we will be partakers of the divine nature and He has given us everything for life in knowledge of Christ.

On the basis of this profound knowledge and deeply-rooted faith, we flee the corruption of lust which is in this world, we expend every effort and offer in our faith virtue (2 Peter 4-5) so that we may bear fruit for the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Peter does not stop reminding the faithful of the necessity of remaining steadfast in virtue and truth.

Truth, in the language of the Bible, is God's will, which we do not disappoint if we rely on it as the path for our life.

The Apostle is eager to remind because he feels the approach of his departure from this world and the end of his mission of sharing the good news of what he witnessed with his own eyes and heard himself from Christ.

The Apostle had already informed them verbally of his having beheld the greatness and glory of Christ-- that is, His divinity-- but he repeats the account of the transfiguration that he witnessed on the holy mountain in the company of James and John, because of the importance he attaches to this event on a personal level.

We thank God that we have in this passage an additional narrative of  the Transfiguration alongside the narrative of the Gospels, which makes for multiple testimonies, confirming the historicity of this event according to the standards of historians.

Nevertheless, believers do not need every letter written about Jesus to be confirmed, "for prophecy never came by the will of man," as the Apostle Peter says.

The event of Christ's divinity showing forth before the eyes of His apostles is a sign of power and proof of the never-ending life in Him.

The Apostle Peter looks at this event as a lamp shining forth in a dark place. That is, he walks in life following the light of this event, until daybreak.

Followers of Christ in every time and place must remember these things in order to struggle in virtue and persevere in truth.

The showing forth of Christ's divinity, His cross and His resurrection from the dead, unlike Greek mythology and the mythologies of ancient peoples, are not "fabricated myths" where we do not know who saw them or who reported them. Rather, they are established events that were witnessed and reported by servants of the word and eyewitnesses to them.

We believe that "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" and they reported the glory that they saw and the voice of the Father which they heard, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased."

This beloved Son is the truth in which we abide by faith, love and virtue.

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil)

Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology-- Balamand