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2013: A Year of Hope

By Bishop John Abdalah

The year 2012 was one of tragedies and blessings, beginnings and endings, dreams and fears. Our hearts ached as Syria suffered daily horrors. Brothers and sisters were martyred for being Christian and scores of people were threatened by violence and danger from every direction.

Here in America, we had our own glimpse of such tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. This tragedy offers us insight into the terrible things experienced daily by innocent people in the Middle East. Both in America and abroad, unable to find solace, we searched for answers and sought to assign blame, which often set family members at odds with each other. Such blame and distress does nothing to help the world, our Church or our families. What awful temptations have we endured in 2012.

With the passing of our Father and Patriarch Ignatius IV came unsettling feelings of abandonment. For over three decades we had but one steadfast leader of the City of God, Antioch. Our Patriarch was wise, unbending and fearless. He was diligent in searching for truth, and a brilliant teacher and statesman. He was a dreamer and a builder. He worked without rest, doing what he knew to be God’s will. No wonder the loss of this father left us feeling insecure. Who could fill such shoes?

But God never abandoned us Antiochians, or Syria. He raised up for us and for Syria a man who believes in and speaks of Christ’s hope. God has granted us a leader who has a vision of God and a vision for peace. Metropolitan John of Europe is a man with both ascetic and diplomatic experience. After years as an abbot and academic, the Church sent him to lead the Antiochian faithful in Europe, where he has worked with the peoples of all the countries there, each with its own culture, language and formative experiences. This election is in my opinion a reason in itself for hope.

Our Metropolitan Philip continues to guide us with a vision for America and the modern world. This vision has been expressed in an incarnational theology, educating people in practical ways of meeting and experiencing God. It has been actualized in the Antiochian House of Studies, which Patriarch John helped us with when he was the Dean of the John of Damascus Institute of Theology at Balamand, and by the organizations of the Archdiocese which allow people to serve God firsthand. Patriarch John shares much of the vision of Sayidna Philip. The Antiochian Church in America rejoices in this election. May God grant the new Patriarch of Antioch, John X, many years of strength and life, and may God grant us peace to continue to praise God in both America and the Middle East.

First published in The Word, Vol. 52, No. 2, February 2013