Damascus April 22, 2015
“It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” (Acts 23:6)
Paul and John are on trial; the Christian persecution for Evangelization of the first century has now returned to this land. Such persecution is not common in the East or in modern times. The consequences of this trial are not only earthly but heavenly. In this struggle, the Great Judge will prevail, for His judgement is both the case of True Man and True God.
Maybe this trial is unfair, most probably because the kidnapped are not able to plead their case. But their testimony resounds ceaselessly by their spirit and life, and echoes in the wilderness of this world.
O brethren of the Word, you are our children in Aleppo; in you and among you we planted the seeds of the true word, the word of witnessing and of ministry. Behold, the plant is growing! We see this growth in you and we are proud of its fruit. We are astounded by your perseverance, which strengthens our perseverance. We exalt your steadfastness which sustains us. We esteem your patience, which recompenses our patience. How not? You are the crown of our glory and pride (1 Thess 2.19,20) in this trial against evangelization.
O brethren of Faith, we are on trial because of what we believed in and evangelized and we served by the hand, heart and conscience. We live today on earth so that we can live thenceforth in Heaven. Man has the right to believe in the True God, and to faithfully minister with this faith his neighbor as himself. Our belief in the True Man, leads us to serve Him anywhere we are, but we will continue to be citizens where we are today. We will not deviate one iota from this determination. It deserves every sacrifice in defense of human dignity. Man is oppressed and dehumanized by the contemporary human market which offers people as a commodity in a wicked commerce. The sting of dehumanization shall be broken in this trial against dignity.
O brethren of hope, be not oblivious to the fact that we are on trial “ for our hope in the resurrection of the dead”. (Acts 23:6) St. Paul attested once, and we declare it out loud: they want to eradicate the future at the expense of the present! However, they do not know that the Lord of heaven and earth, Who created them both, also provided that we may traverse the distance separating the two in spirit through Faith, and may attain the future with God-given hope toward achieving His promise to us. The present life is transient, but the future one is permanent.
We all look forward in great expectation, remaining steadfast with this hope in the face of death, crouching close to destroy your bodies and souls. However, our hope in the resurrection of Christ has broken the sting of death in this trial against endurance.
O brethren of love, it is undeniable that when facing such a trial one must confront it with his true identity and faith. If we betray the love of Christ towards us, our hearts and consciences grow dim. When we see you strong and consistent, brethren, our hearts rejoice with the sight of your love among the wreckage of fallen humanity, whose self-centeredness has truly reached the gates of Hades. By your love we conquer everything, and by it you overcome all forms of death, so that you may enter into the Kingdom of the God of Love. Amongst devastation, death and foul play, the evidence of your love will be built as a final judgment in the trial against conscience.
O brethren of blood, you have been judged, or you will be judged. Some of you have received the favorable judgment of God to be martyrs and confessors, and some of you live the testimony of unsurpassed hope, in silence or under threat, in weakness or in agony. However, by your perseverance you muzzled those who lay a wager for your betrayal, apostasy, and feebleness in the face of weakness, enticement, or threat. Your blood, whether still pulsating or shed, is a balm to your families and to your brethren, and a seal of victory in the trial against immortality.
O brethren of truth, be assured that anyone who has declared victory over truth and hidden falsehood is silenced. We see them through the eyes of the heart, and fathom what is noticeable in them, in their words (media) and actions, as well as in their secret intentions, and consciences. No truth will supersede the truth of God and man, regardless of their sins. This is the cry of John in all of us: “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” (1 Jn 3:14 to 15). We will not compromise when it comes to human beings, and we will not yield to anything except to the truth. We proclaim it with you, at the heart of your suffering, struggle, steadfastness, and courage. By this, you have disclosed their evident error in the trial against truth.
O brethren and compatriots, your wounds are our wounds, and your pain is our pain, your suffering is our suffering, and your tears are our tears, and your life is our life. Our hands are extended to you, and our hearts have room for all of you. Let us shake hands, talk to each other, have peace, reconciliation, mutual understanding, cooperation, and integration. A solution is not achieved by violence, but by multiple forms of dialogue. Let’s act now. Fear comes when human civilization perishes and disappears, and when this trial is prolonged. With you we raise the flag of the partnership in the trial against unity.
O brethren of fate, our East; we are the sand of its deserts, dirt of its fields, rocks of its mountains, water of its rivers, roots of its trees. If they vanish, life will no longer exist or it will have no meaning. Our East has become an open arena for all evils. The bargain of this trial is to demolish life in its cradle, shatter civilizations, remove the rudiments of its landmarks, conceal its characteristics, displace man, destroy history, and disfigure the identity of God. Our victory of truth on earth is derived from heaven, but not by calling upon God to be exploited, as impulses of passions, of which heaven is completely acquitted! We are devoted to stay in the East, to which we belong, of which we are, in which we bear witness to our faith, from which our witness starts out, and on which we build our humanity. The one God was not for us a subject of dispute, and reason for fighting, or cause of division. We learned to address Him as “Our Father” (Matthew 6.9), so we are all, “Brethren.” We can speak to everyone in truth and love, and “to lay down our lives for them” (1 Jn 3:16); and so we are able to confess that we share a common destiny. Either we all hold tight together, or we all lose! No believer or nonbeliever, whether from the East or outside it, can bear a false witness, blinded to what is going on here. With you we raise the banner of brotherhood, confounding the false witnesses the trial against human and religious.
O brethren in humanity, our cause is beyond one group or nation, and wider than one region. Our ordeal is a test for all humanity in the contemporary world, which is distorted by its enslavement and various distractions. We are thankful for all those who are aware of these perils, and for those who are striving to contain them, treat them, and prevent them. We will not become a cause to be resolved and decrypted. We are not like this, for you are our cause! We are vigilant, from our dwelling place, over the consciences of those who willingly continue to eradicate our cause: the cause of the true human and the true God. Is it not unreasonable for roles to be exchanged, so that the sentenced might become a judge, even if he was in a cell, and the judge might become sentenced, even though he is sitting on the judgment seat?
O brother in completeness, He Who was incarnate for us, carried our nature, endured unjust sentence, ascended on the Cross, went to Hades and then rose to heaven, has taught us that we are your “brethren”, unworthy though we be, and that “your Father is our Father and your God is our God” (Jn 20:17). Our peace and joy in you have reached to a level whose height and depth is unattainable in our spiritual life, and whose length and width is immeasurable in our material life! It is a joy, and peace, according to the measure of the giver: “My Peace I leave with you, My joy I give unto you… no man taketh from you.” (Jn 14:27; 16:22). You have determined to give us your joy and your peace! How great is our victory, and how benevolent is God’s judgment!
These are the ten categories of the brethren, and the “book” of our complete defense, which we “took out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.” (Rev 5:7). This is our good news to you; “Listen to them” (Acts 2:14), so great is our consolation in you. We are all aware that the trial is not over yet, as we have yet many rounds, according to the will of the Holy One. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid… What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory… “(Romans 9:14; 22-23).
This is a victory of the right hand of the Most High, accomplished through you and through us! As our unceasing encounter is sustained in prayer for all, we lift it up to Thee, O Lord, for unto Thee belongs, glory, power, worship, and dominion forever! Amen.
Translated by Archdiocese Office