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للمقبلين على سرّ الزواج المقدّس رجاءً مراجعة موقع:  wedding2

مركز القدّيس نيقولاوس للإعداد الزوجيّ

To Father Saba Esber Print Email
Saturday, 28 November 1998 00:00


By Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon

Tomorrow, the Orthodox Patriarch will ordain you a Bishop and the people will declare: AXIOS! [Worthy!] Don't think that any earthly worthiness can make you any greater in the eyes of our Lord, for we will always remain naked and bare-footed in front of His sight. You grew up in the Arab City of Lattakia under the care of a righteous shepherd and in the midst of an amazingly loving church-youth which was like a heavenly island that descended upon us as a gift from above. We uproot you from there in order to load upon your shoulders a heavy burden.
You will come to confront that which you have yet confronted and you will be preoccupied with many tasks, especially with the good management of your responsibilities, but through love you can transform all to an aspect of love. We don't have an unavailing job; every person you'll meet is the beloved of God. Never dismiss anyone, for the simple in their meekness may teach you what the most knowledgeable may fail to.
Your weakness may become overworking yourself to pay effort for effort, word upon word, and since you were trained as an engineer, you may feel that everything we have must follow an exact order and that the church of our days must be incorporated in the logic of the institution.
I do not deny some of this but I know that in all matters, including those of the Church, everything can be organised in such a manner to have a brilliant management and tremendous fundraisers for charity but despite all this, the flock may remain spiritually dry. Know the difference between this age and the age to come and understand that you are a man of the age to come. Understand that nothing can add up, as pride in your heart while it is building the hearts of others, less you die freezing and then God will vomit you out of His mouth.
Remember the Book's word: "the righteous lives by faith." And faith as a language—is when God becomes your refuge, when He becomes your home. The Liturgical symbols, Tradition, Fasts and Readings are all the signs of our seriousness in the devotion to God but you come from a Church very rich with this heritage. Some of the people who ' ingested ' our worships, practised all the fasts, lived a remarkable orthodox life, built temples and gave to the poor, but never had love, never knew humility and never of tasted the simplicity of Christ. God turned His face away from such people and they died from their drought.
I know the power of communal prayer and I know how high is the Orthodox grandeur in their heritage. This all needs to be nourished but this community would be worthless if you weren't madly seeking saintliness, for if you shied away from this laborious search for Jesus, you would then lose yourself and subsequently, this community could not grow and be set forth through you.
You are a face that shouldn't be assimilated among other faces. Haven't you read that the people of hell have no joy because they're tied back-to-back and no one knows the other? The inhabitants of heaven are set face-to-face. If the Church is the beginning of heaven and fails to become as such in its life, it will then be returned to this world where it was taken from. And if you knew your responsibility in the coming future, they would insist upon you to adjourn to your colleagues, ' in order to save the unity of the brotherhood '. No, you are of God's breed and only those who love Him are your kin. You minister through patience, endurance and attention unto those who are your colleagues—it is your wisdom to be vigilant—but you are set for God only. That's why sometimes you will feel yourself a stranger among your own house's people, not only if this relationship did degrade into enmity, which the Lord has foretold. This is something you should expect, for the Church in its present situation, is not the Kingdom; in the Church is embedded what enable it to become a doorstep to the Kingdom if she chose to. Work for the believers as if they'll change the next day. Work from now on until the end of your days as if they'll repent. This is what is called Hope. But hope doesn't deny your keenness and presumption of their misery. Return them everyday from their delusions. They might not be redeemed—this isn't your task for "the sower, sows on hope"—we were not to see the ploughs in this age.
One of your sowing tools is to study everyday because the Word will give forth life, the Divine Word which comes forth from you after that will have nestled in your heart. I fear the clergy from intellectual laziness. In many cases they are deluded, that by practising mere worships they are reaching out to the people. This is not always guaranteed, for in many cases people will not listen and are often distracted. But the Word—after that you have assimilated it—will soften your deformations and radiate straight into their hearts. Ceaselessly keep studying and do not underestimate their minds. Those who are distracted from books boast with their zeal as the means for evangelism. I never understood why people can't be zealous, why do they synthesise this duality? Zeal is the duty of every believer and it shines with chastity. Love is the beauty of every believer and in many cases, the ordinary people outperformed all the bishops put together. But the unique role of the priest is to be knowledgeable in order to protect the faith and to deliver it to the people according to their levels. The bishop is the protector and interpreter of the dogma. Anyone who is spiritually responsible for others, no matter what their rank or degree, is he who answers if you asked him. In every city or town an authority is always required. The Church cannot continue without people able to explain all the dogmas to an inquirer. Why should a foreigner minister in a desolated town, be an interpreter of the Holy Books! Why we should accept naive priests and comfort ourselves by substituting their ignorance for their zeal!
You will carry the flame together with your very few kinsmen, the jealous will try to extinguish it but love your jealous opponents and do not distract yourself with them less they sadden you, cause your closing up on yourself and disrupt your giving of yourself to others. Many have fallen in the past two thousand years and many will continue to do so. This isn't your concern, remain vigilant, chaste, know and behave, as if you alone are the Church even though many have fallen; if you do so then you will have escaped judgement. In the days of St. Maxim the Confessor everyone did fall except for him and two of his flock, and after his death the Church followed what he believed. Multitudes did not make history; even ecumenical councils—which confirmed our faith—were but motivated by one person or by a small group. The group may become the whole in the depth of its meaning but since when has the ecumenicity been defined in terms of numbers? No doubt that the nature of the mission of evangelism requires you to spread the good news all over but this, in no way, should mean lowering the standards or abolishing its brilliance. God did not abandon His people when He limited the prophecy to some persons and did not refuse His creatures when He begot His only Son.
In this struggle, love all of your flock until death, remembering that love doesn't revoke understanding and that understanding doesn't necessarily cause boasting. Love is a miracle, which you won't acquire—for it descends—unless you are attracted to His generous face, from the dirt that you stand in, to the light where He is. This is an inner battle—and it is the biggest war—which will end only when you are in your grave.
You, with this good and new group of our priests and bishops, will carry Christ to the ends of this orient and maybe to the scope of the whole world. And if we will be buried in the ground, we will know that the light in you will never be quenched.
Do never underestimate your mission: It is not any less than that the Christ has conquered the world.

(*) Fr. Sava (Esber) is an Archimandrite in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian archdiocese of Lattakia—Syria. Elected by the Holy Synod of Antioch and ordained by Patriarch Ignatius IV on Sunday November 29, 1998 he was assigned an auxiliary Bishop attached to the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the Orient in Damascus, Syria.

Published November 28, 1998 in the © An-Nahar, Lebanese news paper. Translated from original Arabic.