Saturday, June 28, 2008


The Eastern Orthodox Churches will celebrate this Sunday, on the third week after Pentecost, the feast of the "Local Saints - הצדיקים המקומים ". I had committed a submission in my Le Monde blog Abbaa two years ago about this festive day for every local Church (""). Time passes, circumstance evolve, in particular in the Holy Land, but also within the Orthodox (Ancient and Eastern) Churches. To begin with, it should be noted that the Oriental Churches are engaged in a wide process of planetarian new deployment, revision of their structures and organization. This happens after a normal period of 10 to 15 years after the fall of communism in most of the traditional Oriental byzantine and other Eastern countries. It is thus a normal standard historical process because changes always happen in time and are a sign of revival.

On the other hand, time shows how changes involve and somehow imply tensions, pressures exercized by different Churches that had rarely been free or capable to openly sketch out new patterns for their faithful at a local and international level. Again, the fundamental question of what a Church is, as a local or regional, linguistic or ethnical, shows up with much power. It obliges the heads of these Churches and of the other Churches to think with much insights and patience.

In the past two years, the Russian Church canonically united the two main bodies of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow with the Church Abroad and some part of the Church in Exile. The act has been signed. It has to be implemented by faith, trust, confidence and re-grafting of two entities that until the union on Ascension 2007 would not accept some principles of the other party. But this will be a long journey, an ongoing one that cannot be stopped, not even by the normal appearance of some fighting groups of "Resistance", mainly based in speciafic cultural areas such as North America and Canada.

The Romanian Church has a new patriarch, Daniel, a renowned theologian who was metropolitan in Iasi, also a strategic place considering the connection between Bukovina, the Ukraine, Bessarabia, Moldova. Interestingly, the problem of new eparchies in Europe or in the territory of the Moscow patriarchate is less important than the appointment of bishops in Australia and New Zealand.

The Church celebrates the "local Saints". It was firstly a feast in honor of the Holy monks of the Holy Mountain (Hagion Horos = Mount Athos). And from there it spread to venerate the memory of the saints whose lives and often blood have sowed the reality of the Resurrection and of the faith in the One God through Jesus Christ all through the world. Everything started - as concerns my humble person - just next door: I shall attach a photograph of the view I have over the coupole of the Holy Sepulcher from my cell door. It happened here. Not in any other part of the world. Not in any other town, even in the Middle-East. It happened outside of the walls of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. He was put to the stake and died. Faith alone, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, allows to say that he is risen from the dead. From this place and from the place of Mount Zion and all Jerusalem, the kingdom of God and constant hope, atonment, pardon, creativity, confidence trsut in God reached to the ends of the world over the past two thousand years.

This Sunday June 28th, 2008 is thus very significant for the Churches: in Rome, in the presence of Barholomaios Ist, Ecumenical Patriarch and other heads of Churches, Pope Benedict XVI will open the 2000th anniversairy of saint Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. The man was apparently a singleton, the model of the "converted if not penitent Jew" at a time when there was no Gentile Church all all the whole of the hierarchy was strongly Jewish and rooted in daily Judaism or the usual local Jerusalemite intermingling of blood and creeds. Saint Paul is a man of contradiction and a controversial character. His message crossed all unbelievable coups: "all abandoned me, the Lord assisted me" (2 Timothy 4:16).

At this point, it would be very interesting to consider, during this year dedicated to Paul of Tarsus' preaching, the point of convergence that do exist between strict Judaism that is also a preaching toward the pagans = Gentiles against idolatry and the attitude of a chassid like Rebbe Menachem Mendel Shneerson of Lubavich, the last Lubavicher Rebbe who died on Tammuz 3, 5755/June 12, 1994; his yohrtsayt\יארצייט (passing away anniversary) will be celebrated within a few days. But after 2000 years of preaching throughout the world and dispersion in all parts of the world, Christians and Jews come in some situations as firstly reluctant partners of God's holiness in the world. Paul's ways were indeed much very likely to the Art und Weise developed by a man like the Lubavicher Rebbe. This would make shriek some Jews and Christian would call to a scandal. True, the One Living God calls to sanctifying His Presence in this world, to begin with Jerusalem. The Noahide laws, the realm of the Mitzvot, the transgression of the Mitzvot in specific cases or the strict compliance with their meaning(s) should allow to reconsider how mankind is definitely called to sanctify the kingdom and witness for holiness.

Thus, how can we consider the "Local Saints" in the Church of Jerusalem? Undoubtedly, we have to refer to the large listing of the men, women, youths and elderly people who testified, attested, witnessed that Jesus Christ died and resurrected from the dead. But this is not enough: without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, nobody cannot say "Abba" (Romans 8:15 - Galatians 4:6). It means that by itself the Resurrection must be visible in this world as the true evidence that God loves and calls any human being to be like Him to the full. This is why the Saints are so important in the Oriental Churches. There is no despair, no hatred, no forces that can affect or kill a believer. The saints were originally "haqedoshim\הקדושים ", those who lived in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The saints are those who continue to anticipate the revival of the dried bones in Ezekiel 37 because they are alive beyond any kind of possible hatred and despise.

The list of the saints of the Church of Jerusalem includes the First Testament holy prophets and persons and then all those who, in the Holy Land, found their real way to God and gave their lives as a testimony that God is reviving and life-giving, loving. Down the centuries characters of different origin, mainly from Greece, but also from the neighboring regions and contemporary countries sprinkled the divine light from Judeo-Christians of the Early Church to the Arab Christians. On Sunday, the Armenian Apostolic Church will commemorate saint Gregor Narekatsi (of Narek) who illuminated Armenia and wrote marvelous hymns and prayers.

But how could we update our understanding of the saints in Eretz Canaan, Eretz Israel, Palestina (the name is restricted till 135 CE then under the British mandate and today with the emergence of a possible Palestinian State).

Saints are beyond any ethnical origin because they assume to the fullest their human and divine essence of living. In this aspect, we really need to understand, beyond any folklore, the profundity of the saints' biographies. One of the very features of the Holy Land Saints is that they lived in a blessed area of divine revelation. Sadly, revelation often drifted to murders, bloodsheds, rejections, slander, gossip. The more we come ner to God's Presence, the more humankinds is driven by idolatry and desire to exterminate the neighbor, whoever concerned. The Bible shows Cain's murder of his brother: "the blood of your brother cries out to Me from the earth\ דמי אחיך צעקים אלי מן האדמה

"In blood we get alive\ בדמיך חיי " is not a sordid appeal to slaughter. It has often been understood as such through the ages by all monotheists. At the present, the saints are the model of humbleness and dialog, patience, tolerance in contexts of total instability and ignominous ethnical and financial corruption. There is more: Jerusalem changes. Church territories were often disputed. Today, the verse of the psalm: "ולציון יאמר איש ואיש יולד בה והוא יכוננה עליון \ Indeed, it shall be said of Zion, every man was born there. He, the Most High shall preserve it" (Psalm 87:5) is VERY ACTUAL.

What showed throughout the passed 7000 years? Lack of stability or consistency and God patience in revealing His Presence? Fixed borders and states or flexibility and unexpected events? Faithfulness or captures of alien properties? We need the local saints because they came here from the whole world at different ages of history. And they acted with love and wisdom.

The local saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Jerusalem might some day be envisioned as parallel to the Jewish martyrdom, both local and in the dispersion. The quick development of the Yad VaShem "Righteous among the Nations" allows to dig deep the meaning for the local inhabitants of what holiness means as related to the Shekhinah\שכינה or Divine Presence and a real acceptance of Christianity as a pouring from the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, the Arab Church has overcome with much courage centuries of turbulences. It extended and still encompasses her borders from Mesopotamia to Egypt and the Gulf. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza as also Iraq may have today seeds of sanctity from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile via the United States and Australia.

Therefore, the feast of the "local Saints" of the Holy Land, incudes the regular list of the canonized saints. It is potentially immensely wider because Revelation and Redemption showed in this tiny pice of earthquaking land. The Church of Jerusalem is thus much wider and seemingly invisible because it deals with the plerome, the fulfillment of all plenitude.

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