Stories on the Church of Antioch and the Middle East
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is an archdiocese of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. It traces its roots to first century Antioch (modern-day Antakya, Turkey), the city in which the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). The Patriarchate is led by His Beatitude John X from Damascus, Syria. In addition to its continuing presence in Syria and Lebanon, the Antiochian Patriarchate has archdioceses in Europe; Asia; North, Central and South America; and Australia and New Zealand.
The Church of Antioch was established by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in 42 A.D., with St. Peter serving for the next eight years as its first prelate. The Church of Antioch is one of the five ancient Patriarchates of the Christian Church, along with Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Rome. Antiochians are in full communion with other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America, as well as many other Orthodox jurisdictions around the world.
[SVOTS Communications / Yonkers, NY] When Patriarch John X (Yazigi), Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, visits the United States this fall, he will receive not only warm wishes but also a charitable gift from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. The gift, intended to aid suffering Orthodox Christians in Syria, will be presented to His Beatitude in December and will represent a tithe (one-tenth) of the Seminary's #GivingTuesday appeal.
"Life has a deeper meaning than fighting crowds on Black Friday or scouring the web for the best deals on Cyber Monday," said seminary Chancellor/CEO The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield. "That's why St. Vladimir's is participating in #GivingTuesday, a national day of charitable giving.
On October 27, 2014, His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, delivered the following speech on Mount Athos during extended travels in Greece. (Arabic original here.)
"At night when human voices, movements and tumult are clothed in stillness, enlighten every movement of my soul with Yourself, O Jesus, Light of the Righteous. At the hour when you give rest to the weary, O my Lord, let our thoughts of you be intoxicated with the sweetest dream, O sweetness of the saints. At the time of going to sleep, when the drunk repose through temporary artifice, awaken in us, O Lord, that eternal knowledge.
"At the start of the day, when all are concerned with earthly things, make us worthy, O our Lord, to enjoy following the heavenly path. At the hour when all remove their nightclothes, remove from our heart, O Lord, remembrance of the world that is passing. At daybreak when sailors set out upon the sea of this world, give rest, my Lord, to souls in your haven. In your mysteries, we embrace you every day and receive you in our body. Make us worthy to feel in our souls the hope that we have in the resurrection. Be, O Lord, wings for our mind, so that it will fly in the gentle breeze until by these wings we reach our true nest."
Brothers and beloved,
I could not have found more beautiful words than these by Saint Isaac the Syrian with which to begin my speech here.
English translation of a report (Arabic original here) published by the Patriarchate of Antioch:
Under the presidency of His Beatitude Patriarch John X (Yazigi), the Holy Synod of Antioch held its fourth regular session on October 7, 2014. The following bishops were present:
Spiridon (Zahle and its dependencies), Georges (Jbeil, Batroun and their dependencies), John (Lattakia and its dependencies), Elias (Beirut and its dependencies), Iliyya (Hama and its dependencies), Elias (Sidon, Tyre and their dependencies), Saba (Hawran and Jebel al-Arab), George (Homs and its dependencies), Siluan (Buenos Aires and all Argentina), Basil (Akkar and its dependencies), Ephrem (Tripoli, al-Koura and their dependencies), Ignatius (France and Western and Southern Europe), Isaac (Germany and Central Europe).
English translation of an interview published by the Patriarchate of Antioch on October 4, 2014:
The Syrian newspaper al-Thawra Online met with His Beatitude Patriarch John X Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and conducted an open discussion with him that touched upon general issues and the crisis that our country is experiencing. As is his custom, Patriarch Yazigi addressed these issues with all frankness, clarity and transparency. Here follows the text of the discussion:
What role does the Antiochian Orthodox Church play as a part of the social fabric of Syria? What has it done and what will it do?
To start, we would like to direct our warmest greetings to the Syrian people as a whole and our Muslim brothers in particular on the occasion of Eid el-Adha. Many happy returns.
The Patriarchate and our Orthodox Christian people are a fundamental part of our country. We are Syrians, the children of this nation. We were born here, as were our fathers and grandfathers. Christianity started out here and we feel that we are one family with all the country’s communities. Throughout history, the Patriarchate has been—and we hope it shall remain—a fundamental factor for common life in dignity, for reinforcing all the national and historical foundations that have brought us together ever since Christianity appeared in these lands. Ever since the coming of Islam, we have lived together and have built a common history. There is no doubt that our future is one.
Life comes from death. Virginity gives birth to Life. Weakness perfects strength. Defeat leads to victory. Wisdom begins with fear. Humility overwhelms pride. Sorrow turns into joy. The dead become immortal.
The Christian faith is filled with many seeming contradictions. Our Lord's Passion not only teaches but instills and inculcates in us this key truth. Yet it is a truth that we too quickly forget, and which our lives too easily deny. This truth alone is able to sustain us in our darkest hours, when all hope seems lost, when faith seems pointless. This is why we must continually hear, and take to heart, the stories of the saints, especially the martyrs.
Consider St. Venantius. At the age of 15, because he confessed Christ, Venantius was scourged, imprisoned, tortured with torches, dangled head-down over smoke to suffocate, beaten so that both jaws were broken and he lost all his teeth, thrown into a dungpit and then fed to the lions. All these things he suffered without complaint. During all these afflictions holy Venantius was strengthened by angels. And his quiet patience and longsuffering, his firm constancy and conviction, his meek endurance and lack of complaint – this impressed all who saw and heard, so that these gruesome tortures did not frighten, but rather fortified the faithful and attracted the unknowing. When Venantius was finally beheaded, so were many new Christians who desired the certain hope and the strong faith that he evinced.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America wrapped up its fifth annual meeting on September 18, 2014, by issuing a significant "Statement on the Middle East," and a second substantive "Final Statement" of conclusions and goals.
Convening in Dallas, TX, at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Assembly tackled a number of topics in their three-day meeting, including the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
Summarizing the discussion, they wrote in their Statement that, in concert with His Beatitude Patriarch John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East as well as the other Patriarchs of the East, "we lament and denounce the egregious and barbarous incidents in the area, including religious intolerance and fanaticism, that erode the social fabric and unity of the region, destroying churches, shrines and monuments, which are the common heritage of all Christians and, indeed, all humanity."
On Friday evening, September 5, 2014, The Orthodox Clergy Association of Southeast Texas held a Town Hall Meeting at St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas (with rector The Rev. James Shadid), titled "The Silent Holocaust—The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East." The press release following the event reported that all of the Orthodox, Coptic and Syriac Christian communities in the area participated—approximately 300 persons, including 16 priests. Jurisdictions represented were the Greek Archdiocese (GOA), the Antiochian Archdiocese, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Serbian Diocese of Midwestern America, and Coptic and Syriac Dioceses.
There were four speakers, including Hieromonk Bashar (al-Shamany) of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Originally from Mosul, the he spoke about the current situation in the Middle East. Father Bashar's family are currently among the thousands of scattered refugees. A question and answer period followed, and a large collection was taken for the IOCC's relief work in the Middle East.
At the conclusion of the Town Hall, all of the Orthodox clergy offered up the Trisagion Prayers for those who have died.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) remind us that with the new school year, Syrian refugee students are in need of supplies and hygeine items. The notebooks and pencils in the IOCC School Kits provide tools needed to continue learning, while the items in the Hygiene Kits help children maintain their health and dignity. The following IOCC-sponsored kits are offered:
SCHOOL KITS — Imagine going to school without pencil and paper. Children in many of the countries where IOCC works don't have even the most basic of these school supplies. By putting together a School Kit, you can give a less fortunate child the tools needed to succeed in school.
HYGIENE KITS —Basic items like a bar of soap, wash cloth, comb, and bandaids may seem small, but putting them all together in a Hygiene Kit can make an instant difference in an ongoing development program or when disaster strikes.
In a historic meeting on August 17, 2014, His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, hosted His Holiness Mar Ignatius Ephrem II, Patriarch of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, along with a distinguished delegation traveling with him. The meeting took place at the ancient St. George Antiochian Orthodox Monastery located in the "Valley of the Christians" in the town of Meshtaye in northwestern Syria. Before his election to the Patriarchate, His Holiness served as Archbishop of the Eastern United States for the Syriac Orthodox Church.
A complete English translation of the welcoming speech by Patriarch John X can be read at Notes on Arab Orthodoxy. Patriarch John X said in part:
It is a great pleasure for me to say to you, "How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together!"
The Psalmist once said this and today your sweet faces and the smiles of your children say this. The stone of this holy monastery say this. If they could speak, they would sing of their longing to see loved ones and would chant welcome to them all as living stones in the body of the Antiochian Church that first sang the name of Christ and spread it to the lips of all humankind. We welcome you most warmly. It is better for us to say: welcome to your home in the Monastery of Saint George. Our meeting today is a message to the world that the seeds of Christian unity will by watered first by us in Antioch, just as Jesus' disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
At the July 2014 Archdiocesan organizational meetings at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America (AOCWNA), represented by North American Board President Violet Robbat, and Vice President/Project Coordinator Dianne O'Regan, announced the total contributions received to date for the 2013-2014 Project: "Help the Orphans of War in Syria." On behalf of the Antiochian Women across North America, these women were honored to present a check to His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph for $283,055.55, the largest amount ever raised in a single year during the forty year history of the Antiochian Women!