Saturday, April 10, 2021

On Revival in Antioch(2).
Archimandrite Elias Morcos.


Archimandrite Elias Morcos.

        This is not for some people and not for others. It is a call, it is an invitation, to all. All of us are called to love the Lord with the love of life. All the life of the Church is the life of invitation: “’I have redeemed you and I have called you by your name. You are mine,’ says the Lord to his people” (Isaiah 43:1). Likewise the Apostle Paul says, “We also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). The people without a calling and love is “a people ravaged and plundered,” the Bible says. The Church does not exist without the visible Church, the Christian people. Our religion is a religion of incarnation. If we do not embody it, if we do not follow the Lord, then where is the Church? “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power” (1 Thessalonians 1:5), says the Apostle, but out of habit and the passing of time, we often take the words without their true meanings, the shadow instead of the person and thus we mock the Lord. We might hear the call and do something. We might go for a part of the way. We might be given the grace of prayer if we ask for it, the fathers say. But if we do not do all the Lord’s will, there will come a day when we discover that we have no faith and no forgiveness. “Woe to the person whose reputation surpasses his reality,” says Fr. Silouan. But the Lord says, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:1-3).

In order for us to truly follow the Lord, we must have force and self-emptying. Jesus came to be crucified, not to talk. If talking was enough, then Jesus would not have been crucified. He said, “He who wants to follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” This total commitment, the commitment of the cross is doubtless painful and scandalous. But it is the only way in the Church. Pain here is a birth pang, and a birth pang is the beginning of any existence. We have no existence in the Church and the Church has no existence in us without the cross of commitment and its pains. But those who abide will be wiped out: “They slept a heavy sleep,” says the Psalmist, “and they found their hands empty” (Psalm 72:18). The issue is the issue of true commitment that we plunge ourselves into. We do not love our life to the point of death, a commitment in which we break the barriers of our freedom like breaking the sound barrier: in our freedom, we empty ourselves of our freedom in order to follow the Lord, and only then does he open before us the way into space.

This ultimate commitment is what makes the Church the Church. Everyone can contribute in this commitment to the Church of Antioch, each one in his field and surroundings and profession, fathers and sons according to the gift of the Lord. It is within the ability of fathers to offer the best and most precious gift, if the Lord wills. I would like to repeat to you what a Coptic monk, a friend of mine, wrote, “O people of Antioch, the voice of the Lord to you, as from the voice of the great prophet Samuel: offer, offer the good vessels that you have, which through all these years have become empty. Offer them so that they can be filled with God’s oil. Do not be stingy with your sons and daughters, so that they can become your vessels of salvation on your day of hardship and so that they can become oil of joy and gladness in the time of war. The Lord will be pleased with you and your times of relief will come from him. Do not say enough, enough. The world looks upon you. Yes, enlighten once more, O Lord, Antioch so that the world will be enlightened by its light as in the first days.”

As for those who have truly committed to the Lord and have gone into the great depths—and among you are many of them—they do not stop along the way. If we have done something, we are not satisfied with it, as every stopping is a fall. No one is better than another. “All the Church is a Church of penitents. All the Church is a Church of mortals,” says Ephrem the Syrian. We have not yet begun to repent. We have not struggled against sin to the point of blood. If we stop and we haven’t bled, then we have not brought it to the end and commitment, the revival, and the Church become mere expressions and empty clichés that we repeat in order to quiet our conscience. Our giving must increase in order to remain. May the spirit’s be to vigorously move forward and not stop short like Lot who remained alive while his wife looked back and died. We must renew our will like the stroke of a hammer in the soul so that it arrives at the profundities of existence. “So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for the soldering”; then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter” (Isaiah 41:7). The danger of lethargy confronts us at every moment, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:30-31).

 Brothers, if we understand the revival on this basis, and we walk in it with faith, steadfastness, and alertness, by His grace, He, for the sake of His glory, for the sake of His love and the Love of His holy Church which is above all and for all, He will allow the revival to be. At that point the revival will be at its true extent, proceeding after the Lord risen from the dead. Then each one of us will rise from his death. In an eternal exodus we shall follow him in his Pascha, he whose life has no end, amen.