Thursday, November 6, 2014

Holy Trinity Family, Douma Launches an English-Language Website

The Holy Trinity Family of Monasteries, which includes the women's Monastery of Saint John the Baptist and the men's Monastery of Saint Silouan the Athonite have launched an English-language website here. In particular take a look at the first major post to the site, a wonderful overview of the two monasteries.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): The Poor are Invading Lebanon

Arabic original here.

The Poor are Invading Lebanon

Does this call for fear, for anxiety? Not necessarily. This more so calls for hope! The Christian never despairs. "All things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28).

The Christian is prepared for death at all times, for death to his selfishness. Does he lose his land? The land is for all people and it is most of all for the needy. Is the number of Christians shrinking? The issue is not one of quantity, but one of quality.

The Apostles were twelve in number and they won the entire world for Christ. What is important is that we remain faithful with a little. The poor and needy person standing before us is Christ, even if it is difficult for us.

Our presence is like leaven in the dough. What is important is that the leaven be good, so that the entire dough will be leavened (cf. Matthew 13:33). There is no meaning to our existence as Christians unless we are this way.

The Lord also says to us, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

Who knows? Perhaps a new people will come to Christ through this witness, through faithfulness to the truth. "Know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).

"And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom (that is, the Christians) will be cast out into outer darkness" (Matthew 8:11-12).

Do you fear extinction? "I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Matthew 3:9).

Never be selfish and proud. We Christians are not necessarily being haughty if we take pride in our faith or in our humility. The new Saint Porphyrios said, "Pride (selfishness) is ignorance and humility is intelligence and wisdom. The proud (the selfish) person is not sated and so he is always sad, while the humble person is always pleased."

Beloved, always act according to hope in the Lord who rose from the dead. Through this faith, always transform your sorrow into joy. This is the way of the saints, so let it always be your way.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and Their Dependencies

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Patriarch John X's Speech on Mount Athos

Arabic original here.

The Speech Patriarch John X from Mount Athos
October 27, 2014

"At night when human voices, movements and tumult are clothed in stillness, enlighten every movement of my soul with Yourself, O Jesus, Light of the Righteous. At the hour when you give rest to the weary, O my Lord, let our thoughts of you be intoxicated with the sweetest dream, O sweetness of the saints. At the time of going to sleep, when the drunk repose through temporary artifice, awaken in us, O Lord, that eternal knowledge.

At the start of the day, when all are concerned with earthly things, make us worthy, O our Lord, to enjoy following the heavenly path. At the hour when all remove their nightclothes, remove from our heart, O Lord, remembrance of the world that is passing. At daybreak when sailors set out upon the sea of this world, give rest, my Lord, to souls in your haven. In your mysteries, we embrace you every day and receive you in our body. Make us worthy to feel in our souls the hope that we have in the resurrection. Be, O Lord, wings for our mind, so that it will fly in the gentle breeze until by these wings we reach our true nest."

Brothers and beloved,

I could not have found more beautiful words than these by Saint Isaac the Syrian with which to begin my speech here. I have found none better than them, a sincere prayer that encapsulates the spiritual experience of Athos and describes the state of the human soul caught up in divine love.

These words of Isaac the Syrian, are embodied by people I have known and among whom I have lived, unworthily, as a monk on Athos.

Athos embodies the experience of the Church praying and worshiping before the cross of her Lord, in constant prayer for the entire world.

Athos is incense of supplication before the Sacrificial Lamb for the salvation of the world.

Athos is a candle of prayer before the Virgin's purity, nourished with the oil of obedience and non-acquisitiveness and the wick of virginity. From its well the flame of holiness extends and its light shines out to the world. 

This Athos is the safe harbor of the Virgin in the bottomless sea of this world. The mighty waves of time break before one who is moored with the Virgin.

It is a pleasure to me to send greetings to my brother His All-Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople - New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch from this church, and to light a candle of prayer for him on my behalf and on the behalf of the delegation accompanying me, as he watches over this monastic republic.

I have known this blessed land for over thirty years. I came to know it, and here I came to know theology at prayer.

I came to know it as a school of theology, where all theories melt away in the reality of life. In these monasteries, theology is kneaded with the life of prayer. Here, as in many places, theological knowledge is mixed with piety and all these things come together at the glorious living liturgy.

The mountain is a prayer-rope for the entire world. At the same time, it is an oasis from which Orthodoxy throughout the world drinks. I drank from it myself personally and learned here and in the Athonite Monastery of Saint Paul that this mountain with its monasteries, sketes and cells is the place where the dough of theology is kneaded with prayer. I learned that the theologian is the one who prays and loves. He does not disdain the knowledge that he acquires in school and he does not disdain the piety and prayer that he sees in monasteries. Rather, he arrives at both in the symphony of his life in order to become a being who hymns God Most High, in every resting-place of the Spirit over the course of his life.

In our modern era, the Holy Mountain has had an enormous impact on the Patriarchate of Antioch.

In Antioch today, there are people who have lived and fallen asleep here.

In Antioch today, there are patriarchs, bishops and priests who have passed through and learned from the monks in the Garden of the Virgin.

In Antioch today, there are brotherhoods and monasteries whose founders have drunk heavily of the well of Athonite Orthodox monasticism and have spread life into the stones of her monasteries.

In the 1970s, Father Isaac Atallah came here. He came to you bearing the suffering of Lebanon, which was reeling under the impact of a war that had expelled its children.

Today I come to you asking for your prayers for Syria and for all the Middle East which are being tossed about by the tumult of wars.

I come to you today asking your prayers for the cradle of Christianity, the bride of the Orthodox East, the Church of Antioch.

I come to you bearing the wounds of your family and loved ones in Syria.

I come to you from the land of Ephrem the Syrian and of the Damascenes Andrew, John, Cosmas and Peter.

I come to you from the land of Simeon the Stylite to ask you to pray for the land that was first baptized in Christ's name.

I ask you to pray for people who have been driven from their homes and kidnapped.

I ask you to pray for the kidnapped archpastors of Aleppo and priests.

I ask your fervent prayers for Metropolitan Yuhanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, who is known to the soil of this Holy Mountain, its cells and monasteries.

I ask you to pray for innocent people who are paying the price of cruel days, terrorism and blind takfirism. I ask for these prayers filled with firm hope that the Middle East will return to being a source of light and the homeland of the peace of the Child in the manger.

I ask your prayers for Lebanon, Lebanon which is languishing under a certain degree of unrest, including random kidnappings and a vacuum in its constitutional institutions.

We say this with the hope-- indeed, the certainty-- that Lord hears the prayer of the righteous.

I come bearing to you the prayers of the monks in our country and I bear to you the bells of its love.

I bear to you the love of great and small in Antioch, Antioch which is great in the faith of her children and in the power of her rootedness in her land, Antioch the great which has been smashed against the rocks of her history, the cruelty of days long past and present, Antioch which has anointed the inhabited world with the light of Christ.

It is a great blessing for the Patriarch of Antioch and the Church of Antioch to be here and to join our prayer with your prayer, my brothers, and for us to all cast ourselves before the icon of the Virgin "Axios Estin" and say:

Protect O Mother of God, O hope of the faithful,

From all the harm of this life, those who ask you with certainty

God bless you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Joint Statement by the Churches of Antioch and Greece on Patriarch John X's Visit

Arabic original here. This translation is unofficial.

Joint Statement on the Occasion of the Irenic Visit of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, to the Church of Greece, October 23-27, 2014

His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East conducted his irenic first visit to the Church of Greece from October 23 to 27 at the invitation of His Beatitude Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, accompanied by a delegation of Antiochian bishops, priests, deacons and laity.

During the visit, His Beatitude was informed by Archbishop Ieronymos II and the members of the Synod of the Church of Greece about the current state of the Greek Church, which is experiencing remarkable growth and a radiant spiritual life. They also examined the suffering of the Greek people, who are suffering from severe economic distress, which is threatening people's livelihood. His Beatitude and the Antiochian delegation likewise assessed the efforts being undertaken by the Greek Orthodox Church through Apostoliki Diakonia to serve the needy, anoint the wounds of the suffering, and console the sorrowing. They prayed for its leaders and benefactors, that God may grant them further grace and blessings and strengthen them in the service of Jesus' little brothers. Their Beatitudes then prayed that God may strengthen the Greek people to get through this crisis and to continue to have the generosity and honor that have distinguished them throughout history.

While he attended an extraordinary session of the Synod of the Church of Greece, His Beatitude and the accompanying delegation examined with their brothers how to make shared cooperation between the two sister churches effective at the pastoral, theological and social levels. They assessed the ongoing cooperation that exists between their two churches on the one hand, and between the Church of Antioch and the Greek state on the other hand, by exchanging common experiences at the level of theological studies. They expressed their aspiration for ongoing cooperation in the scholarly and cultural fields and in the field of Greek language instruction, a a common Orthodox witness in today's world.

The two sides agreed on the necessity of proper preparation for the Great and Holy Council that is to be held in the city of Istanbul (Constantinople) in 2016. They stressed the necessity of eliminating all impediments that might impede its being held. His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch asked both the Church of Greece and the Greek Foreign Ministry to continue their mediation in order to find a solution to the crisis concocted by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem between herself and the Patriarchate of Antioch, so that this problem will not constitute an impediment to holding the Great and Holy Council.

Concern for the Christians of the Middle East, especially the children of the See of Antioch in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq was not absent from His Beatitude's meeting with the Holy Synod of Greece. His Beatitude also bore this concern to His Excellency the President of Greece, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, informing them about the suffering of Christians who are weighed down by the horror of terrorism, takfirism, lack of freedom, and the obstruction of prospects for a peaceful solution in their region. His Beatitude stated that this region is being buffeted by interests of nations in changing its borders, obliterating its civilization and dividing up its wealth, exploiting the peoples of the region, with their various religions, sects and affiliations as human shields and fuel to stoke the flames of these conflicts. In this regard, the Chuch of Greece expressed her bitterness over the position of developed countries toward everything that is happening today in the Middle East.

His Beatitude went over with all the officials whom he met the repercussions of the crisis that is sweeping the region for the Church and in particular for her children, whose homes, churches and monasteries have been destroyed and who themselves have been displaced. During their meetings, the heads of the two churches contemplated the bleeding wound of the Antiochian Church and expressed their profound pain on account of the kidnapping of Bishops Paul and Yuhanna of Aleppo over a year and a half ago. The peaceful history of this region has never known a tragedy like this. Even worse, the international community responds to the fate of the kidnapped bishops with a shameful silence that has had a painful impact on the faithful.

The fathers of the Greek Holy Synod and the officials met by His Beatitude assessed the positions and fixed principles of the Antiochian Church, which does not approach the crisis in the Middle East according to a narrow sectarian logic, but rather regards it as a war between the great powers of the world who are exploiting religion in their struggle. In this regard, the Archbishop of Greece said, "The Church of Greece has always been and will always be at the side of her sister, the Church of Antioch in her effort to stop the wars and spread peace with the goal of reconciliation between the country's inhabitants of various religions. You know very well that anyone who worships God the Creator does not desire this war that is unfortunately supported with extremist and intolerant ideas backed by foreign religious centers."

Syria and her wounds, Lebanon and her cares, Iraq and Palestine were present in the prayers of Their Beatitudes and those accompanying them in all the places that they visited, especially in the Church of Saint John the Russian on the island of Evia. During their celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Saint Demetrius the Myrrh-Streamer, they prayed that peace will prevail in these countries and that God will console their children and strengthen them during their time of trial.

In closing, His Beatitude thanked his brother, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and the Greek government and people for the warm reception, hospitality and good organization as well as for for the medal of honor granted to him by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, giving this award to all of his children in the See of Antioch who are suffering.