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October 2003

2003, Articles, Raiati

Our Canonical Situation in America / 26.10.2003

The Archdiocese of New York and Northern America (United States and Canada) felt that it needs to have a special or particular canonical situation that allows it to manage its internal issues through a locative council made of the Metropolitan and the current four bishops. This way each of these bishops will have a region to manage called Episcopate and this way he will not remain an honorary bishop but will have people to pastor and a kind of “particularism” that gives him the freedom of movement over his land. The bishop will carry the title of the city he lives in and not the title of a historical city that existed in this land.

The Metropolitan shall remain a member of the Holy Synod and would be the head of the regional synod we mentioned. The bishops will be allowed to attend the meetings of the Antiochian Synod in case bishops from the homeland and diasporas were invited in addition to the Metropolitans of the Archdioceses.

This idea of becoming different from the archdioceses of the homeland emerged from the fact that a large number of the faithful are being “Americanized”. These generations started praying in English and melting in the American society. However, they still have a kind of nostalgia for Antioch and for their roots here. After many years, Orthodox believers from different nationalities might melt in one church. However, this idea hasn’t matured yet and this is why the Greeks still follow Constantinople and the Arabs follow Antioch. These meet each other through love and through a body of bishops that represent all communities.

Concerning the election of the Metropolitan, his candidacy happens there but he is elected by the Antiochian Council according to its followed procedure until this day. As for the bishop, his candidacy is given temporarily by the general assembly in America and could be then nominated by an assembly from his region. After that, the bishops elect him with three representative Metropolitans from the Holy Synod and he is ordained there.

This was decided by the Holy Synod in its autumn meeting in the Patriarchate, Damascus. This has put an end for the confusions, tensions and conflicts in several places. This decision was taken in an atmosphere full of love and hope because our brothers in immigration are walking with us, together, in one Antiochian belonging and in one intention to support the Orthodox faith here and there. And the thing that made people more convinced with such a solution is the fact that foreigners that converted into Orthodoxy have entered this faith through Antioch’s door and that neither converts nor Arabs have any will to form a separate Church.

From the theological point of view, we have reached a situation where every bishop is independent from the other even if they united in one episcopate. This encourages him to take actions in his region. In principle, and until few centuries ago, we didn’t have a bishop without people; the archbishop cannot be amputated from his people. The pastoral conclusion of this is that this Archdiocese shall stay one and exchanging experiences and thoughts with us; and we hope that declaring this step will strengthen the relationship between the mother Church and the countries of immigration.

Of course, a renaissance doesn’t come automatically after changing something in the administration. It descends from the Holy Spirit that makes great believers and creative thinkers. Antioch remains only an expression if it wasn’t accompanied by holiness and a new theological thinking that confronts modern man and the emerging challenges so that Christ stays everything and in everything.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: وضعنا القانوني في أميركا” ” –Raiati no43- 26.10.2003

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2003, Articles, Raiati

Mercy / 05.10.2003

The Gospel of Luke is the Gospel of mercy par excellence. In the outset of today’s reading (Luke 6: 31–36) the Evangelist presents a behavioral basis: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. Therefore, if you want people to have sympathy towards you, to help you, to serve you during tribulations, and to come to you in your sickness, you should do these same things when you find people in such situations.

Then, Luke ascends to one higher degree and says: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” If you wanted to express your love through charity, do it to any person in-need and not only to a relative or friend since you might be expecting these to be thankful or to treat you in the same way if you passed through a difficulty. Give the person that you don’t expect to reward you, to become closer to you and that might not come back to thank you. Luke mentions a practical example on that: “And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?” This person might not be able to pay the loan that he signed, would you then send him to jail? How would that benefit you? If you were not able to give a big debt, then don’t do it. You must know that some people might take advantage of your tendency to help the poor and your mercy in order not to pay you back even if they had the ability. Deal with this situation. There is something called “a dignity debt” and it means giving someone an amount and not suing him: He might pay you back if he could and might not even if he was able to do that. In this situation, let the Lord deal with him.

Then, Luke ascends to another degree also and says “love your enemies”. The word “love” here doesn’t mean that you should make your enemy a friend of yours because he might not accept this friendship. On the lowest levels, the word means that you should not hate even if you were internally hurt since oppression hurts. Most of the times, you cannot convince your enemy that there is no real reason for his hatred or hurting. He might start a fierce campaign and stain your reputation and this is all because the devil has entered him and stained his soul or because there are people that have hatred as their natural approach and are delighted with harm. Jesus wants you not to return hatred with hatred, because hatred carries injustice and through it you will stain your heart and take its calmness away. Once your soul becomes muddled, you will not be able to see God’s face since God is peace.

The Evangelist presents an argument concerning forgiveness as he says that through forgiveness, you become a son of God who “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked”. He sends the rain and the sunlight to all people as Matthew says; he gives people their food whoever they were and gives the sinner various gifts perhaps he would repent.

Then, Luke ends this chapter by saying: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”. Here, Jesus asks you to behave as God does. And you are capable of doing that if you recognized that grace made you a son of God, i.e. in communion with Jesus being the Son of God.

Linguistically, being merciful means that your chest should be wide enough for all people. This is how God’s chest is. The important thing is that you understand that sin is the only thing that can deeply harm you. And mercy could be successful in bringing back a person to his sanity. He might not be affected by your mercy, but you would have saved yourself from hatred. And when you reach the highest level of forgiveness you would become like God your Father. Forgiveness erases every guilt in you and makes you trained to humility. The person that doesn’t forgive is the one that can’t endure his wound. However, people might hurt you a lot. You are asked to bleed and heal your wound through the only effective medicine which is forgiveness. All sins captivate us, but no sin does that as hatred that imprisons us. In the same way that you easily forgive your naughty or aggressive son because he is from your flesh and blood, you should forgive all “naughty” people because they are from Christ’s flesh and blood.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الرحمة” –Raiati no40- 05.10.2003

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