Melkite Greek Catholic Church

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me."

In English followed by text in Arabic

By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros

Homily for the New Year 2008

(Luke 4:14-19)

The first speech of Jesus was in the synagogue. It is an explanation of a passage from the Prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed be free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Jesus explained this text by simply saying: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Today we start a new year. What do we expect from it? We ripped off all the pages of the 2007 calendar, and we have in face of us a new calendar; and its fresh pages, each with its day or week, are innocent and beautiful. We move through time by sullying each page, tearing and discarding it. What does mean time for us Christians?

Is it only a movement of days, weeks, months and years according to a calendar with pages to be torn and tossed? If it is only that, it gives us a feeling of disconnectedness, as if the events of our life cohere no more than one page does to another.

In speaking of time, the Greeks distinguished between chronos and kairos. The chronos is the chronological time, which spans the surface of life, with its events, good and bad, sometimes meaningful some other times meaningless. The kairos is the contemplative time which goes down into the depths of wisdom and true knowledge.

The kairos is the contemplative time. The word contemplation has a Latin root, suggesting "time with". The Kairos is the time of the Kingdom of God. As Christians we believe that time is a time with God, because it is the time of God with us. When Jesus came, he was called "Emmanuel", that means "God with us". With the coming of Jesus, "God with us", the chronos became kairos, the time became filled with the presence of God. That is why when St Paul spoke of the coming of Jesus Christ, he spoke of the fullness of time. He said: "When the fullness of time has come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir through God" (Gal. 4:4-7)"

So contemplative time is time in which connectedness is perceived as essential. There is no fully human knowledge unless it is knowing "with"; And "knowing with" is the meaning of "conscience", from the Latin "con" (=with) and "scientia", means "to know".

To be a Christian and to live one's time as Christian is to move more and more every day, every week, every month, every year, from mere chronology to contemplation, to move from events following each other as if randomly to events filled with conscious choices. Our choices are the seat of connectedness; they are conscious choices we make in connection "with" God our Father, with Jesus our brother and Savior, and with the Holy Spirit who inspires us. In this way the Christian time becomes the realm of morality, as well as of meaning. In choosing, we choose with God and at the same time with freedom and responsibility.

When we live our time in a contemplative way with God, there will be no more room for fear. When Jesus came the angels proclaimed glory to God and peace to men. And Jesus, before leaving his disciples, told them: "I will give you my peace". It is the inner peace. When we live our time in a contemplative way with God our Father, with Jesus our brother and Savior, and with the Holy Spirit who inspires us, we will live it without fear but with inner peace. And inner peace will always be compromised until we recognize and affirm that we cannot be ruled by our fears but only by our faith, our hope and our love.

Inner peace comes from the faith that God loves us and sent us his Son Jesus Christ as savior. Inner peace does not come from stoic endurance or even heroic resistance, but from being "with God" who is "God with us", and from doing with hope and love what God wants us to do, in spite of the various difficulties we will encounter in our daily life.

We read in the Book of Job "God does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number." (5:9). In Jesus we believe that he did marvelous things and, based on this faith, we hope that he will keep on doing marvelous things in our life and, through us, in the life of the world. He will keep on bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed be free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor."

Happy New Year, Blessed with contemplative time with the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

الزمن الجديد

في الزمن الجديد كل شيء حاضر. ليس ماض. أمور الأمس لا تموت، لا تتوارى، لا تُنتَسى. الزمن الجديد حاضر دائم. لا ماض له ولا مستقبل. لذلك لا أحلام ولا تصوّرات لأنّ الإنسان لا ينتظر شيئاً من الخارج. الكل معطى له داخلياً. ينمو. لا شك أنّه ينمو في النعمة والقامة. يسير من مجد إلى المجد. في حركة. في جدّة. لذلك يكون في دهش. يختبر الزمن وقد توقّف ومع ذلك يسير في حركة كيانية لم يعرفها في إنسانه العتيق في الملء. الحركة من ملء إلى ملء أكبر. حضور لنعمة الله فيه ومع ذلك يكون في حركة فيها، أي في النعمة، إليها.

الزمن القديم زمن يختلس منكَ الحياة كل يوم قليلاً. في الزمن الجديد أنت تَعُبّ من الحياة إلى الأبد. في العتاقة الحياة وعد يكتنفه الموت. في الجدّة الحياة واقع ثابت ممتدّ إلى الملء. في الزمن القديم السير إلى الأمام تقدّم إلى نهاية المسير. في الزمن الجديد السير إلى الأمام تقدّم إلى بدايات لا تتوقّف. دائماً ثمّة ما تنفتح عليه الحياة. تعرفه ولا تعرفه. يأتيك من عمق إحساسك لكنّه يأتيك جديداً، مدهشاً أبداً.

إذا ما كان الزمن العتيق ليُقاس بما بين حدثٍ وحدث، ما كنتَ عليه وما تؤول إليه، فالزمن الجديد لا قياس له لأنّه ليس رباطاً بين أحداث، بل هو حالة تنمو وتنفتح على الآتي بتواتر. والآتي نور وأنوار تتكشّف من أعماق الله ومحبّته الفيّاضة. أمواج تلو أمواج من حضرة الله. "ما لم ترَ عين ولم تسمع به أذن ما أعدّه الله للذين يحبّونه".

في الزمن المائت أنت في خشية من الآتي. لك ألف سبب وسبب أن تكون في مخافة وقلق. واقعك خسران ما لديك ولو ربحت العالم كله. لذلك الزمن العتيق واقع مشبع بالأحزان تُسلي نفسك عنها بالوعود والتصوّرات والتخيّلات. الزمن الجديد ليس كذلك. أنت إليه في فرح ورجاء. كل شيء يأتيك فيه ليزيدك أنعاماً وبركات. لا ما تخسره في الزمن الجديد لأنّك رائحة المسيح.

هذا الزمن الجديد تذوقه منذ الآن. تدخل فيه بالنعمة. لذا تختبر الأبدية وأنت في الموات، وأنت فيه عالم بأنّك آتٍ إليه في ملءٍ كلما نَقُصْتَ في هذا الدهر. لأنّك فيه وفي الزمن العتيق في آن تأتيك الحياة في الموت وعبره. يأتيك الفرح في الحزن ومن خلاله. لذا يصير الموت لديك محيياً والحزن بهياً. تختبر أنّ ثمّة ما يشدّك دائماً إلى الموت. إنها حركة الطبيعة الساقطة فيك. لكنّك تختبر أنّك وأنت في انحدار، في تناقص، في توارٍ، ثمّة فيكَ ما ينمو ويكبر إلى نور جديد، إلى حياة جديدة، إلى نعمة تزداد. لذا الحركة الداخلية للموت فيك يتغيّر اتجاهها. يصير الكل للفرح، لحياة تتجدّد. يخضع الموت لناموس الحياة الجديدة بنعمة الله بعدما كانت الحياة قد استُعبِدَت لثقل الموت.

الذين لا يعرفون المسيح لا يعرفون الزمن الجديد لا هنا ولا هناك لأن الزمن الجديد قياسُنا بالمسيح إلى المسيح. فالذين لم يأتوا إلى المسيح يثبتون في عتاقتهم. يسيرون أبداً إلى موت. وبعد الموت يكونون من موت إلى موت إلى الموت الأبدي. لا جديد عندهم. كل شيء يتفتّح لديهم على خسران، على تناقص. لا مَعين عندهم لحياة جديدة. الموت يصير لديهم حالة كيانية يكون فيها يسوع إليهم خارجاً لأنّهم أوصدوا أنفسهم دونه بعدما أفعموها ميولاً عنه إلى اجترار أنفسهم وما لهم. أهواؤهم ملأتهم. لذا تكون أهواؤهم عالمَهم. فراغ يلقيهم في فراغ. لم يعرفوا الخروج إلى النور. كانوا دائماً منشغلين بأنفسهم، لذا تكتنفهم الظلمات الداخلية.

لا يمنع يسوع نفسه عن أحد، لكنّه واقف بالباب يدقّ فمَن يفتح له يدخل إليه ويتعشّى معه. أما الذين لا يفتحون له فيَقبل أن يبقى خارجاً عنهم. لكنّهم بإعراضهم عنه يحكمون على أنفسهم. لا يحكم هو عليهم. يستحيل حضور يسوع خارجاً إلى وبال عليهم. يلقون بأنفسهم في الجحيم. هذا، بالضبط، هو الجحيم أن نُبقي يسوع خارج حياتنا. أن نوصد أبواب نفوسنا دونه. لا نور، إذ ذاك، يدخل إلى حياتنا. نقيم في خطايانا. خطايانا تكون جحيمنا لأن فيها طعم العدم طالما رائحة الموت منبعثة منها أبداً. يسوع محبّة حتى للذين لا يحبّونه. فقط لأنّهم لا يمتدّون إليه لا تفعل فيهم محبّته. يسوع نور وعذاب. نور للذين يقبلونه، وعذاب للذين يُعرضون عنه. هي هي محبّته الواحدة تنعكس على هذا النحو في هؤلاء وأولئك.

ليس الزمن العتيق من خلق الله ولا ناتج خلق الله. العتاقة آتية من الخطيئة، من الموت. ليست من طبيعة الإنسان. الزمن العتيق واقع غير طبيعي. وليد أهواء الإنسان. لذا كان الزمن العتيق مظلماً لا يأتي بجديد. واقعه أنّه يسير بالإنسان إلى العدم أبدياً. فالشكر ليسوع الذي انتَشل من العتاقة كل الذين آمنوا به وأحبّوه.

في السنة الجديدة، رجاؤنا أن يملأنا ربُّنا ومخلِّصنا من حضوره في حياتنا كل يوم. أن يصير كل قول وعمل وفكر فينا إلى يسوع عسانا به نقتني تلك الحركة إليه، إلى حياة جديدة إلى فرح لا يعتريه فساد، إلى رجاء لا يخبو. يا فرحي! الأشياء العتيقة تمضي، هوذا كل شيء يصير جديداً. جديدنا القدّيسون وأفراح الأعياد التي تُحضر يسوع لدينا وتحضرنا أمام يسوع، بلا همّ. الكل معطى لنا لنتخطّى الموت وروائح الموت. حتى الموت صار في المسيح إطلالة على فرح جديد وحياة جديدة وزمن جديد!

الأرشمندريت توما (بيطار)

رئيس دير القدّيس سلوان الآثوسي – دوما


Homily for the New Year 2010

"And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age

and grace before God and man" (Luke 2:51)

By Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros

Today we start a new year. We advance one year in age. Do we advance in wisdom and grace? St. Luke said that "Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and man" (Luke 2:51).

1. To advance in wisdom is to become more and more mature. St. Paul, in is Letter to the Ephesians, sees that the goal of every Christian is to "attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ." (4:13). How can we describe the spiritually mature Christian?

St. Augustine said: "I want to know only two things: God and the human soul." The mature Christian is someone who knows who God is and who human being is.

a) First the mature Christian is, according to St. Paul, someone who has the knowledge of the Son of God. To know the Son of God is to believe in the depth of one's heart that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16). If God so loves us, there is no longer any reason for fear, worry or anxiety.

b) Second the mature Christian knows who he is. The mature Christian has a dynamic sense of personal uniqueness. Each one of us can truly say that he or she has no replica, and that God has given to each of us a special mission to be fulfilled, a life's work that no other can accomplish. If I am a husband, a father, a mother, a businessman, no other man or woman can fulfill these roles in exactly the way that I can. In their outside appearance, people are different but inside they are all children of God, and are called to incarnate God in their lives..

I read a nice story I want to share with you:

A little boy was watching a man selling balloons at a Country Fair. This man allowed a red balloon to break loose and soar up into the air. Next, he released a blue balloon, then a yellow one, and finally a white one. They all went soaring up into the sky until they disappeared.

The little boy stood looking at a black balloon for a long time and then asked, "Sir, if you sent this one up, would it go as high as the others?"

The man gave the boy an understanding smile. He snapped the string that held the black balloon in place. As it soared upward, he said, "Son, it is not the color! It's what's inside that makes it rise."

Don't judge human beings by their outside appearance. It is what inside them that gives them their value and their dignity, and make them rise to God. We read in the Book of Genesis that when God created Man, he formed him from the dust of the ground, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This breath of life is a divine breath common to all human beings. Inside every human being there is a breath from God. All human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God. The image is in their nature, the likeness is in their actions. When they sin they lose God's likeness, but God's image remains in them. Jesus came to restore in us God's likeness, to give us divine grace. To advance in wisdom is therefore to know who God is and who human being is.

2. To advance in grace is a healthy self-acceptance. If God loves each and every one of us as his children, we should love and accept ourselves with all our limitations, and accept life with all its difficulties and limitations. The mature Christian is characterized by a fundamental peace that the many vicissitudes and sufferings in life cannot destroy.

We know that our actions do not deserve us God's favor. Everything we have is a grace from God. St Paul had some sickness and he asked God to deliver him from it. God told him: "My grace is enough."

Karl Barth, the great theologian, was preaching to prisoners on New Year's Eve. He said, "Some of you have heard that over the last forty years I have written many books, many of them very fat ones. Yet there are four words which say it better than all the books I have written. These four words are ‘my grace is enough.' When my books are forgotten, these words will shine in all their eternal richness."

"My grace is enough"

The "grace of God" is one of the most beautiful expressions in our Christian vocabulary. Grace is God's loving activity in the world. It represents the unlimited pouring out of God's mercy. Grace is God's unconditional forgiveness offered to the unworthy. It is God's enabling power given to overcome the challenges of life. Grace is the quality in God which moves Him to do good to us even though we do not deserve it. Grace is God giving Himself to man. It is divine life itself: God coming to make His home in us. We don't do good in order to deserve God's grace. We receive God's grace without any merit from our part. And we do good as answer to God's grace.

There is a story about a man who went to heaven. He was met at the gate by St. Peter, who said, "It will take 1.000 points for you to be admitted. The good works you did during your lifetime will determine your points."

The man said, "Unless I was sick, I attended church every Sunday, and I sang in the choir".

"That will be 50 points", Peter said.

"And I gave to the church liberally," the man added.

"That is worth 25 more points", said Peter.

The man, realizing that he had only 75 points, started getting desperate. "I taught a Sunday school class," he said, 'that's a great work for God".

"Yes," said Peter; "that's worth 25 points".

The man was frantic. "You know", he said, "At this rate the only way I am going to get into heaven is by the grace of God."

Peter smiled, "That's 900 points! Come on in".

In this New Year, let us always remember that God's grace accompanies us in every moment of our life. And every moment of our life should be a loving answer to the grace of God.

Happy New Year!


"Rebirth to a New Life"

A Homily for New Year's Day

By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros

Homily for New Year's Day

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year! With this wish, we greet one another on this first day of the year. But what does this wish mean? Is happiness something we can really obtain in this world? And what is happiness for us Christians? A being is happy when he realizes what he has been created for. We can say that birds are happy to fly in the air and proclaim their happiness by chirping. Fish are happy when thy swim in the sea. Human beings reach happiness when they realize the fullness of their being. As Christians we believe that men and woman are created in the image and likeness of God. The description of their status in paradise before the first sin of Eve and Adam is a description of real happiness with God. When they refused God and were separated from Him, it was the end of their happiness. The image of this end of happiness is expressed in the Book of Genesis when it says that they were expelled from paradise, expelled from the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to restore in us this image of God to its full beauty, and to reopen to us the Kingdom of God, and thus to give us happiness.

But to enter the Kingdom of God, we have to be born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again". To be born again means also "to be born from above", that is to be born of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus repeats the point "very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 3-6).

The same idea is expressed by St. Paul through the theme of the "new creation": This new creation happens when one lives "in Christ". Paul uses the expression "in Christ" 165 times in his letters. He says in 2 Corinthians: "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). How does one become "in Christ"? For Paul, by dying to our old life, to life "in Adam", and being reborn in Christ. The way to life in Christ is by dying and rising with Christ. The path is death and resurrection, death and rebirth.

Why do we need to be born again? I read a very evocative story about a three-year-old girl. She was the firstborn and only child in her family, but now her mother was pregnant again, and the little girl was very excited about having a new brother or sister. Within a few hours of the parents bringing a new baby boy home from the hospital, the girl made a request: she wanted to be alone with her new brother in his room with the door shut. Her insistence about being alone with the baby the door shut made her parents a bit uneasy, but then they remembered that they had installed an intercom system in anticipation of the baby's arrival, so they realized they could let their daughter do this, and if they heard the slightest indication that anything strange was happening, they could be in the baby's room in an instant.

So they let the little girl go into the baby's room, and raced to the intercom listening station. They heard their daughter's footsteps moving across the baby's room, imagined her standing over the baby's crib, and then they heard her saying to he three-day-old brother: "Tell me about God – I've almost forgotten" (Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity, 2003, p 113-114).

The story is both haunting and evocative, for it suggests that we come from God and that when we are very young, we still remember this, still know this. But the process of growing up, of learning about this world, is a process of increasingly forgetting the one from whom we came and in whom we live… Our identity and way of being are more and more shaped by this "world" of sin, of selfishness, of self-centeredness, and at the same time of estrangement and exile from God. That is why we need to be born again from above, from the Spirit of God.

"The biblical picture of the human condition is bleak. Separated from God, and self-concerned, the self becomes blind, self-preoccupied, prideful; worry-filled, grasping, miserable; insensitive, angry, violent. In the dark, we are blind and don't see. We live in bondage in Egypt, in exile in Babylon, and sometimes we become Egypt and Babylon. We can be both victim and oppressor. Especially as groups, we can be brutal and oppressive. There seems no evil of which we are collectively incapable… We are created in the image of God, but we live our lives outside of paradise… in a world of estrangement and self-preoccupation… Thus we need to be born again. It is the road of return from our exile, the way to recover our true self, the path to beginning to live our lives from the inside out rather from the outside in, the exodus form our individual and collective selfishness. To be born again involves dying to the false self, to that identity, to that way of being, and to be born again into an identity centered in the Spirit, in Christ, in God. It is the process of internal redefinition of the self whereby a real person is born within us" (Ibid. 117).

Our new life is a life of reconnection with God. "Paul speaks of the new life in Christ in the most extraordinary terms. It is marked by freedom, joy, peace, and love, four of his favorite words: freedom from the voices of all the would-be lords of our lives; the joy of the exuberant life; the peace of reconnection to what is the peace that passes all understanding; and love – the love of God for us and the love of God in us" (Ibid. 121).

With this rebirth to a new life we can say to one another: "Happy New Year!"

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