Perhaps the thing that made the Church choose this passage for today from the Epistle to the Philippians is the fact that it speaks about joy. We receive this joy from Jesus’ last entrance to Jerusalem. “Rejoice in the Lord always”. The Lord’s passions are not a source of sadness because they led us to salvation and showed this salvation through the Resurrection. The Passions and Resurrection are two faces for one truth: Christ’s triumph.

Joy shows dreams and hope. The reason behind that is the fact that the Lord is near. Modern exegetes say that Paul was anticipating the Lord’s coming to happen during his life. Whether this is right or not, the Lord is always near through the Word and the Eucharist. During the Holy Week, we taste that the Lord comes to us spiritually everyday of the week until this coming shines on the morning of Pascha. Other than the Savior’s nearness to us, nothing else matters. We are attracted to “Prayer and petition with thanksgiving”, and thanksgiving is a form of praying. The purpose of praying is purification; without the will for purification there is no prayer. Purity, in us, comes from God’s peace in us which is supreme to any logical understanding. If God’s peace became in us, it shall “guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ”. You would move in peace towards Him, and He would become your residence. You would be there: up with him.

After saying this, the apostle wants us to think about supreme things which he names: whatever is true, chaste, right and pure. Chastity is the form of purity that is related to the body, while purity is more general and dwells in the heart. He also wants us to be admirable (have a good reputation) which comes from good behavior. Even if we were so, some people would still gossip about us.

In order to facilitate these virtues, he tells them: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice”. Paul considers himself a source for teaching the faith that the Lord has put in his heart. Faith came to them through hearing, learning and the traditions of the Churches that Paul established. Also, there are the things that the believers see during worships, in the Divine Liturgy.

The believers saw this group of gestures – hearing, watching and the ritual activity – with Paul. This way, faith is transferred to us through recurrence of religious knowledge and through imitating the veterans. We completely dip children in water in baptism because this was transferred to us through tradition. Also, we draw the sign of the cross because of the tradition of the ancients. Signs and symbols in our Church are like icons, incense, clerical clothing and ecclesiastic architecture: They all come from what we have seen. Chanting was also transferred to us through generations and we have sensed that it teaches faith and urges people to be pious and to be in communion with the brothers while chanting together in one tongue and one spirit.

If we taste this in every divine service, we shall start from today chanting the chant of the bridegroom, the divine groom, and the call for vigilance will start too. If this vigilance was present throughout the days of the Holy Week, our joy would be fulfilled to receive Pascha.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “رسالة الشعانين” –Raiati 15- 08.04.2012