Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sheket: Silence

Is it possible to compare what is happening at the present in the Near and Middle-East to some "fading of faith, disappearance of faith, fading of faith as salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13; Mk 9:50)? This would expand from Turkey down to Ethiopia through the traditional regions that link Mesopotamia to Egypt as the birth cradle of faith in One Living God.

I would believe with all my faith that we are only witness to the dawn of faith in God and that, more than any "magushe - Magi" - we only approach to the cradle of Christendom. This presupposes that our eyes are open and in alert and not stiff or lame by the burden of history.

We usually consider that we live in a Westernized civilization. This has been the case since the apparent conquest of the Europeans that spread over the planet in the past two thousand years. Before that period, and the Roman Empire per se, Sumer has been the cradle of a civilized think-tank that developed toward the West of Mesopotamia and to the East.Faith in the One God cannot avoid a profound reflection upon Zaratushtra and the ethical questions of "good and evil", acceptable or damageable.I have a Syrian Orthodox picture of a 5th century Cross that clearly shows a portrait of Buddha as image of Christ as both the Awaken and Jesus and Nazareth hold the same instruments of power, the scepter and the scroll.In the past two thousand years, the good news of salvation spread throughout the world because of the Jews and the Christians, from a specific local place based in the Mediterranean region. But It has hardly been the work of the Western Church alone for some very clear reason:the soldatesque combat of faith against Evil often became too refined in its psychological ways and pretence. On the other hand, the methods that spiritually allow to reach to a God making all things divine have been deprived by useless techniques. Love cannot be technical. As some Jesuits have noted with much insights before the time of the perestroika, the fall of communism in former Soviet Union, (Fr. Rouleau, sj), Christianity is poor in the West. This is a humbling reality that we would not easily be accepted. The West cannot forget that it did not generate the Bible or the Gospel and the Epistles. They firstly only exist or seem to exist in their Greek original forms based on a Semitic way of thinking and announcement. The Fathers of the Church wrote in Greek but also in Syriac, Coptic, later Armenian, Gheez, Georgian and Arabic. The Yemenite peninsula, facing Ethiopia combined for a time the Talmudic, Nestorian, Syriac, "Jacobite" traditions while the West was systematically destroying the most ancient local mythologies. The same process showed also by the time of the Baptism of the Rus.

True Westerners do know that they are indebted to the Oriental traditions and rooted in them. In the present, this also supposes the capacity to humble and not pretend that spiritual or superpower models may continue to lead the world because of irrefutable business developments that extended some spiritual "overcome" or pre-supposed "victories". Westerners pathetically need to constant referring to the traditions of the Fathers. They can only be understood in a full and positive parallelism with the Jewish traditions that developed in the Mesopotamian academies and regions. On the other hand, the Eastern Church maybe confused by the fact that Revelation took place locally and in cultural realms that continue to develop or rise again unexpectedly.

Israel shows the evidence of a dangerous and persistent temptation for all believers: faith and culture have been intermingled, mixed up and led to more confusion. This may explain why foreign Christians - in particular - may adopt some attitudes of partisanship in facing the others (Jews, Islam). The Easterners may not be able to distinguish between faith and culture. No culture or tongue can encompass the wholeness of the Revelation. Thus, it is not possible, for any of us at this stage, to judge who a soul is, provided that the mystery of Election given to Israel by humbleness of God calls any soul to do things "greater that the Lord Jesus Himself". This is the core point of humans on their way to become God Whom they receive.

There might be at the moment a process of confusing mixture - a mishmash - in which Christians look at each other as wolves AND sheep. but they cannot be both! The miracle in which we are called to participate is that the Western and Oriental Churches should accept and recognize why each survived and did not develop; they grew and disappeared; they wanted power and got the mark of martyrdom = witnesses. Who could have thought with clarity that the Eastern Churches would rise from the stake of atheism or dictatorships in their original countries and get on the path of a witnessing action: man is called to be sanctifying?

Some people would call that "struggle for life"; it is different from "Drang auf Leben that, in German, rather underscores impulsive forces allowing life to grow and fight for the good combat. "Russian "Bor'ba za zhizn" is a fighting effort, often at pains, to preserve and save life. What makes the spiritual destiny of Israel totally unique is that it comes back to a home whose leasing contract does not exist except in the Oral and Written Laws transmitted flawlessly down the generations till we reach this "instant" inside our history. Jews are or can be back. Or they reject and deny that just as others can back this story and then turn against and erase the idea that they could even support such a project.

Because this history is mainly comparable to the spiritual splits that affected the Churches over the past two thousand years. Some stiff cultural attitudes do trace back to the Great Schism of 1054 between Western and Eastern parts of the Undivided Church. A difference of alphabet can maintain very strong barriers even in very educated circles. But what was totally unexpected is such a gathering-in at the utmost universal sense of the human image and stand while the Mediterranean Churches broke down and down again. They had the desire and strong will to achieve this full unity.

Indeed, we go through fascinating times because they revolve what we would think predictable and will open the way to others: India, China, Africa are only at the dawn of experiencing what Passover may imply. Thus, if we are sincere, we are like children that, year after year stare at the marvels of saving nights.

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

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