Metropolitan of Tripoli, El-Koura and Dependencies, Lebanon
Clergy Symposium Antiochian Village July 21, 2010
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
(1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
These words written by the apostles, Paul, constitute the main core of our Mission in the Present World as it was in the Ancient World, preaching to all, "the Gospel, the joyful announcement, the joyful news; the Resurrection of Christ. The following main points of the subject Mission of the Orthodox Church in the present world will be developed briefly with some not systematically because of their interconnection.
(1) Appeal for Repentance Returning again to God. It is a loss "Krima" (damage) that the magazine "Again" has stopped?
(2) To deliver man from slavery from his passions, helping him to get out from different new idols as I have said in the homily, to get out from his egoism and his individualism, to teach him how to live again in a community, in a Christian family as it was lived in the early church, mentioned in the Act of the Apostles. "And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship (or community), in the breaking of bread, and in prayers … Now all who believed were together and had all things in common" وكانوا يواظبون...(Acts 3:42-44)
All this struggle to get out from the old man (supposes and) needs Purification of the heart, Curing the illness of the soul. It is a therapeutical method.
(3) To live with an eschatological view, experiencing death before death, Resurrection before last Resurrection as a Foretaste (progevtis) of the Kingdom of heaven.
Giving signs to people that this apparent world is insufficient is unsatisfying.
(4) To live with the Spirit of God not with the Spirit of the World.
I would mention here some known passages of the New Testament from the Apostle Paul “For these who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit, for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded to life and peace" (Romans 8:5-6) another passage from the first epistle of St. John.
"Do not love the world or the things in the World. If anyone loves the World the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
And the world is passing away and the lust of it but he who does the will of God abides forever"
This will not make us forget at the same time what St. John himself writes in his Gospel. "For God so loved the World that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life."
(5) The uniqueness of the Orthodox Antiochian Church and her mission.
(6) Another Particularity of the Antiochian Orthodox Church today
Now we return to the first point the church appeals with a prophetical voice, with an eschatological view, all the people reminding them that the object is repentance in regard to the Kingdom of God.
St. Gregory Palamas says that this present life is a time, an occasion for Repentance "Kaipog Metavoias".
The church struggles in order to guide all God’s creation for Sanctification which is the aim of our life. It is not just returning to the first Adam but more that, it is acquiring the Glorification of our nature newly created in Christ.
"If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new".
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
People, usually search for physical health! (كيف صحتك ) how’s your health, material things, they don’t seek purification of their soul, of their passions.
The object of life for many lay people is acquiring money making business (I remember when I attended the final commencement at the University of Balamand the greatest number of the graduates was in Business Administration, while for true Christians the main purpose is to acquire the Holy Spirit as St. Seraphim of Sarov says. That is why the priest is mainly a Spiritual Father. He is "Abouna" before all other things. He is not just a liturgical servant, nor just a teacher; he has to liberate people as we said from their passions, from the fear of dead from the darkness.
The one who overcomes sin within his heart, I mean the Spirit of this World, overcomes death and fear of death.
St. Isaac the Syrian says:
"The one who confesses his sins is more important that the one who raises people from death."
"The one who repents truly resembles the one who "has passed from death into life."
The present world took out from man, the sense of Sin. The greatest spiritual illness of the soul is (unawareness) insensitivity towards sinful acts.
Sin in our days (as someone said became a "moda" habit – (trend)
What characterizes a priest as a spiritual father is that he specializes, he behaves, he thinks with the Spirit of God. He is supposed to hold the gift (Charisma) of discernment between Good and Evil, between what is from God and what is not. All this supposes Simplicity life and humility. He is not just a confessor but also a guide, a counselor for all things in life, to repentance.
The priest is a Spiritual doctor, curing men’s soul.
"Those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14)
Now we move to another point concerning the uniqueness of the Orthodox Church and of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is built on two pillars: the Parish and the Monastery: Parish life and Monastic life.
However, his Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius use to say that Orthodox person is the one who live as a monk in the midst of the world.
This tradition is based on the example of Christ and also on the example of the Saints who are human beings incarnate-the Word of God and follow a deep serious interior experience life training themselves and others to deny themselves and follow the commandment of Christ, to struggle against their past purifying their heart from bad intention from judging of others.
The church tries to show, and to reflect to others the face of Christ to the (Living Icons of Christ). This occurs when it is guided by the effective action of the Grace of God.
It is a synergic movement gathering the initiative of man and the action of God.
Orthodox Church is an ascetical Church. Orthodox man is supposed to live ascetically, simply without too many complications in life, too much unnecessary consumption of materials.
All this helps man to focus on Spiritual affairs. Also it helps him to be free in God, to say the truth the Word of God, to be detached from the environment, to have courage, zeal, initiative for what is good.
The Orthodox Antiochian Church is neither national nor ethic church, because it doesn’t belong this world. It is evangelical in the sense that it lives "literally" the incarnated Word of God according to the tradition of the school of Antioch. At the same time regarding the Kingdom of God with a spiritual and eschatological view.
(6) Other particularity of the Antiochian Orthodox Church is that it is the only Orthodox Church which uses, at least in the Middle East the Arabic language. It has a long experience of common social life with Muslim people. It knows the mentality, the psychology of Islam. This is a great opportunity to witness to our faith one and who knows maybe even to the Jews.
The Antiochian Orthodox Church is a missionary church. Even though it is a minority in number. However, it could be as a leaven which can be put in a meal in order that it will be all leavened. (Matthew 13:33)
Here allow me to speak again about the priest and his service.
We said before that the priest is the spiritual father. He is ABOUNA. He reflects the paternity of God. St. Paul the Apostle says to the Corinthians: "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Church yet you do not have many father for in Christ Jesus I have begotten through the gospel” (1 Corinthians) St. John Chrysostom explains: "The instructor gives his lesson and goes but the father follows his son and embraces him". Continually the priest as Spiritual father reflects also God’s comparison. He is the father and the mother at same time. He is the confessor, the teacher, the preacher and he would communicate the Word of God. He tries to implement (practice) what he is teaching "Whoever does and teaches men – shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5:19)
St. John of Cronstadt says that he is first of all a man of prayer. All these functions ministry of the priest suppose that he is praying at home with his family, that he is struggling against his own poisons in order to cure weakness of others, and so not to hear from others "Physician heal yourself first" (Luke 4:23)
He (the priest) must have a Father confessor as spiritual director. Otherwise how can he hear others? If he doesn’t confess himself how can he teach others show to pray?
And finally he must have a great zeal for Christ in order not to hear God’s voice saying to him "So then because you are like water and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth”(Revelation 3 or even another voice)
“I know your works, your labor your patience and that you cannot those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars and you have persevered and patience, and have labored for my name sake and have not become weary, nevertheless I have this against you that you have left your first love Remember therefore from where have fallen repent and do the first works”(Revelation 2:2-5)
In conclusion I would like to quote this passage of St. Paul the Apostle saying in his chapter on Resurrection "The first man was of the earth made of dust, the second man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly”
Today we need to be detached from the slavery to secular society, environment, money, politics, fashion, multimedia etc… whoever not to be indifferent towards others but to face real while being energized by the Holy the spirit of God.
Here comes the role of prayer we need in our days prophetic word prophetic voice. How to re-evangelize our own people. Books are beneficial but not enough. We need experienced people, enlightened, illumined.
Jesus Christ is the truth. The Minister of the church is a testimony of the truth" For this reason 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 hear my voice
"And you shall know the truth and truth shall make you free”
Saint Basil the Great says:
The responsibility of the bishop is to defend the faith and to keep the church in the right dogma." If we don’t strive to preserve our faith, as our enemy strive to destroy it there is nothing prevents faith from diminishing ".
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