Sunday, March 18, 2018

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Theosis

Arabic original here.


The purpose of the Christian's life on earth is theosis.

Theosis is our participation in the very life of God. This is accomplished through the divine grace that is active within us after we are purified from passions and lusts: "those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24). According to Saint Maximus the Confessor, God made us in order for us to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The sin of contemporary man is that he wants to be self-sufficient without any relationship with God his creator. In the end, this constitutes his real death. Here we recall the words of Saint Irenaeus, "God became man so that man might become a god" (through the uncreated divine grace).

This patristic issue stands against the challenges of rationalist thought. The true challenge lies in the Christian experience that desires a true renewal of man from within. Of course, man's participation in the life of God is possible for human creation. But this human mind, with the struggles of body and soul, is closely linked to the work of divine grace. This leads to the descent of the mind into the heart and to the enlightenment of the mind and the heart through prayer and fasting. That is, through the uncreated divine energies.

This communion with God through divine grace-- that is, theosis-- preserves God's absolute transcendence, something that is called apophatic theology. When we say that God is good, merciful, just... this does not reveal God's true nature. That is, His essence. Rather, it expresses what is around this nature and the positive attributes that come forth from it, in which man participates, but it does not touch upon God's ineffable essence. Participation in what comes forth from God is possible, but God's essence or His true nature completely transcends our perception: this is apophatic truth.

This explanation does not quench the thirst of the human soul that longs for God. It is merely an intellectual preamble, encouragement for the practice of the ascetic spiritual life in this blessed Lenten season, that we may touch God's hand in our life and have a foretaste of the joy of the kingdom.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Met Georges Khodr Resigns as Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon

This translation is unofficial.

Statement issued from the Antiochian Orthodox Media Center
In the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Balamand, March 3, 2018

His Beatitude Patriarch John X honored His Eminence Metropolitan Georges Khodr, Metropolitan of Jbeil, Batroun and their Dependencies at the metropolitan's residence in Broumana on March 3, 2018, bestowing him with the Order of Saints Peter and Paul with the rank of great commander (the highest honor in the Patriarchate of Antioch, in appreciation for the great efforts that he made in service of the aforementioned archdiocese and the Church in general for nearly half a century. This honor came after Metropolitan Georges offered his letter of resignation from his responsibilities and his resignation from his responsibilities as metropolitan of the archdiocese. Consequently, His Beatitude will appoint a patriarchal vicar in accordance with ecclesiastical and canonical principles.

Met Georges Khodr on St Gregory Palamas

Arabic original here.

The Divine Light

The fast becomes more severe and we try to mobilize for Christ as though we are crucified with Him. Because of this suffering, the Church increasingly mentions light in our prayers. The word "light" appears frequently during this period. Next Sunday, we venerate the Holy Cross and we offer flowers which say that we rejoice in the cross. For us, adversity is a path to triumph, not as it is known among the people of the world, in pressure and fear, but rather it is the triumph of the humble who have known the path of Christ.

Today, the second Sunday of the fast, because of long debates that took place in the fourteenth century about the place of the divine light, the Holy Church commemorates Saint Gregory Palamas, bishop of Thessalonica.

Gregory was a monk on Mount Athos when a person called Barlaam came from Italy, saying that divine grace is something created. Gregory answered him and said that divine grace is from God Himself and so is uncreated and eternal. The conflict intensified until the Church was forced to hold great councils that are known under the name of Saint Gregory Palamas because they revealed and confirmed his teaching.

Why was this conflict intense? Why was it important? And why did the Church take this position? It is because each of us must receive all of God in himself. God is not only in heaven. All of God is within you, in your heart. He comes down completely into you and this is the meaning of the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas, whom we commemorate today.

Therefore let us not think that we are only earthly. Rather, from this moment we are heavenly because God dwells within us and makes of our hearts and our souls a divine spirit. Do we appreciate this or do we know ourselves only as creatures of dust? We are all creatures of dust, since God formed us from this earth, but in Christ we have become heavenly. There are dark things within us, but if the grace of Christ comes, it dispels the darkness, forgives sin, and shapes us, not with dust and water, but with light.

This is something very great, which we do not seem to appreciate and we do not seem to perceive. Each of us defines himself as being of flesh and blood and in this way gives himself an excuse to do whatever he likes, while if he were to say, "I am of light. I came from God and I go to God. I am nominated to be a god, as the Bible says," this person would not give himself an excuse, but rather would be demanding with himself, taking account of himself every day in order to be in the image of God.

Our task is not to be good people who don't go to jail. This is the least that is demanded, that one must keep the commandments and not steal, not commit adultery, etc. But one is required to reach higher, to the ceiling, or if there is no ceiling above him, to draw near to heaven, by which he becomes a son of God. You are children of God, just as the Lord was a Son of God from eternity, in his essential nature. Thus He invites us, through good works, upright faith and constant purification, to become, like Him, participants in the divine nature.

This is something unique to Christianity, that we do not remain distant from God, but rather are brought near to God's heart and remain there, within the Lord. Thus, as we move from Sunday to Sunday in this blessed fast, from mention of light to mention of light, from transformation to transformation, we know that we are carried upon divine light to divine light.