Más Allá de la Escena de la Natividad

¿Sabes quién es y qué hay más allá de la escena de la Natividad? En Navidad, recordamos la concepción milagrosa y el nacimiento de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, en carne humana, de la virgen Santa María. También recordamos la escena y los testigos de la Natividad y muchas otras cosas.

Recordar todas estas cosas es correcto y bendito. Pero lo que no está bien es olvidar a Dios el Padre mientras celebra el nacimiento de Su Hijo.

La Navidad es también una celebración de la manifestación de Dios Padre, en Su Hijo Jesucristo. “Dios, que en los últimos días y de diversas maneras habló en el pasado a los padres por los profetas, nos ha hablado en estos últimos días por Su Hijo, … el brillo de Su gloria y la imagen expresa de Su persona … ”(Hebreos 1: 1-3).
En la liturgia divina de San Basilio, el sacerdote ora dirigiéndose a Dios Padre, “en los últimos días usted se manifestó ante nosotros, que estábamos sentados en la oscuridad y en la sombra de la muerte, a través de Su Hijo Unigénito. Nuestro Señor, Dios y Salvador Jesucristo “.
Dios el Padre estaba detrás de la escena de la Natividad. La Navidad es también una celebración del papel de Dios el Padre en el nacimiento y la vida del Señor Jesucristo, por medio de Su Espíritu Santo.
Dios el Padre es “el Padre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo (2 Corintios 1: 3, 2 Corintios 11:31, Efesios 1: 3, 1 Pedro 1: 3)” Él es el que envió a su hijo, nuestro Señor Jesucristo , nacido de una mujer [Santa María] en la plenitud del tiempo (Gálatas 4: 4). Planificó toda la historia de Navidad y la reveló a tiempo.
El bebé nacido en Belén es la Palabra eterna [Logos] de Dios, que estaba al principio con Dios (Juan 1: 1, Apocalipsis 19:13). Él es la “Palabra de Dios” que “se hizo carne y habitó entre nosotros y vimos su gloria, gloria como del unigénito de [Dios] el Padre, lleno de gracia y verdad” (Juan 1:14).
Antes de la creación del mundo, Dios eligió a Su Hijo Jesucristo para ser el Cordero de Dios, que está “sin mancha y sin mancha” para quitar el pecado del mundo (Juan 1:29, 1 Pedro 1:19).
Después de la caída, Dios el Padre le prometió a Eva que Cristo vendría de su descendencia para aplastar la cabeza de la serpiente (Génesis 3:15). Fue Dios el Padre quien habló, por su Espíritu Santo, en los profetas para profetizar el nacimiento de Cristo de una virgen (Isaías 7:14, Mateo 1:23), y su nacimiento en Belén (Miqueas 5: 2, Mateo 2 : 5-6), y mucho más.
El Espíritu de Dios descendió con Su poder sobre la virgen Santa María y la hizo concebir con el Santo (Lucas 1:35). Guardó la virginidad de Santa María antes y después del nacimiento del niño Jesús (Ezequiel 44: 2).
Dios llamó a su hijo “Jesús” para salvar a su pueblo de sus pecados (Mateo 1:21). También llamó a Su nombre, “Emmanuel” para recordarnos con Su presencia entre nosotros, a través de Jesucristo (Mateo 1:23).
Dios brilló con su gloria y los ángeles fueron glorificados en el día del nacimiento de Cristo (Lucas 2:14). Guió a los Magos por la estrella hasta el lugar del niño nacido. También los guió a otro camino, en su regreso (Mateo 2: 1-12).
Dios el Padre es el que envió a su ángel con un mensaje a José para salvar al niño nacido de la masacre de Herodes de los hijos de Belén (Mateo 2: 16-21). Este fue un cumplimiento de la profecía: “De Egipto llamé a mi hijo” (Oseas 11: 1, Mateo 2:15).
El amor del Padre a su Hijo Jesús ha sido desde antes de la creación del mundo (Juan 17:24). Dios habló de Jesús a David por medio del profeta Natán: “Yo seré su padre y él será mi hijo”. Nunca le quitaré mi amor ”(1 Crónicas 17:13, NVI). Dios el Padre ha declarado a gran voz que el Señor Jesús es su Hijo amado (Marcos 1:11, Lucas 9:35).
El bebé nacido en Belén no era un simple ser humano. Él tenía la plenitud de la deidad en Él (Colosenses 2: 9). El Padre habitó en Él (Juan 14:10). El Señor Jesús declaró su unidad con el Padre: “Yo y el Padre uno somos” (Juan 10:30). También reveló su amor a su Padre: “El mundo puede saber que amo al Padre, y como el Padre me dio el mandamiento, así lo hago” (Juan 14:31).
Fue Dios el Padre quien ungió al Señor Jesucristo con el poder de su Espíritu Santo para predicar las buenas nuevas a los pobres, sanar los corazones quebrantados, proclamar la libertad a los cautivos (Isaías 61: 1-2, Lucas 4:18) .
El Señor Jesucristo siguió haciendo el bien y sanando a todos los oprimidos por el diablo, porque Dios estaba con Él (Hechos 10:38). El Padre estaba haciendo las obras en Cristo Jesús nuestro Señor (Juan 14:10). Por lo tanto, el Señor Jesús dijo: “Créanme que estoy en el Padre y el Padre en mí, o créanme por el bien de las obras” (Juan 14:11).
Es digno de reconocer, amar y glorificar a Dios Padre mientras celebramos el nacimiento de Su Hijo, el Señor Jesucristo. Todos los que aman al Niño de Belén también aman a Su Padre (1 Juan 5: 1). En realidad, no podemos venir a venerar a Jesucristo a menos que el Padre nos acerque a Él (Juan 6:44). Te deseo una feliz  navidad.
Padre Abraam Sleman
frsleman@CopticChurch.net

Beyond the Nativity Scene

Do you know who is and what are beyond the scene of Nativity? In Christmas, we remember the miraculous conception and the virginal birth. We remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Logos of God in human flesh, from the virgin St Mary. We also remember the scenes and the witnesses of Nativity and many other things.

To remember all of these things is right and blessed. But what is not right is to forget God the Father while celebrating the birth of His Son.

While Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is also a celebration of the manifestation of God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV).

In the divine Liturgy of St Basil, the priest prays addressing God the Father, “in the last days you manifested Yourself to us, who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, through Your Only Begotten Son. Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.”

God the Father was behind the scene of Nativity. Christmas is also a celebration of God the Father’s role in the birth and the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit.
God the Father is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1: 3, 2 Corinthians 11:31, Ephesians 1: 3, 1 Peter 1: 3)” He is the One who sent His son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born of a woman [St Mary] at the fullness of time (Galatians 4: 4). He planned the whole Christmas story and revealed it in time.
The baby born in Bethlehem is the eternal Word [Logos] of God, who was in the beginning with God (John 1: 1, Revelation 19:13). He is the “Word of God” who “became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from [God] the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Before the creation of the world, God chose His Son Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God, who is “without blemish and without spot” in order to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19).
After the fall, God the Father promised Eve that Christ would come from her offspring to crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). It was God the Father who spoke, by His Holy Spirit, in the prophets to prophecy the birth of Christ from a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), and His birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5: 2, Matthew 2: 5-6), and much more.
The Spirit of God descended with His power on the virgin St Mary and caused her to be conceived with the Holy One (Luke 1:35). He kept the virginity of St. Mary before and after the birth of the baby Jesus (Ezekiel 44: 2).
God called His son “Jesus,” to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He also called His name, “Emmanuel” to reminds us with His presence among us, through Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:23).
God shone with His glory and the angels glorified on the day of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14). He guided the Magi by the star to the place of the child born. He also guided them to another road, in their return (Matthew 2: 1-12).
God is the one who sent his angel with a message to Joseph to save the child born from Herod’s massacre of the children of Bethlehem (Matthew 2: 16-21). This was a fulfillment of the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15).
The love of the Father to His Son Jesus has been from before the creation of the world (John 17:24). God spoke of Jesus to David through Nathan the prophet, “I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him” (1 Chronicles 17:13, NIV). God the Father has declared with a loud voice that the Lord Jesus is His beloved Son (Mark 1:11, Luke 9:35).
The Baby born at Bethlehem was not not just a mere human. He had the fullness of the deity in Him (Colossians 2: 9). The Father dwelt in Him (John 14:10). The Lord Jesus declared His unity with the Father: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). He also revealed His love to His Father: “The world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do” (John 14:31, NKJV).
It was God the Father who anointed the Lord Jesus Christ with the power of His Holy Spirit to preach the good news to the poor, heal the broken hearts, proclaim liberty to the captives (Isaiah 61: 1-2, Luke 4:18).
Lord Jesus Christ went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him (Acts 10:38). The Father was doing the works in Christ Jesus our Lord (John 14:10). Therefore, the Lord Jesus said: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11, NKJV).
It is befitting to acknowledge, love and glorify God the Father as we celebrate the birth of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone who loves the Child of Bethlehem also loves His Father (1 John 5:1). In reality, we cannot come to revere Jesus Christ unless the Father draws us to Him (John 6:44). I wish you a happy and merry Christmas.
Fr Abraam Sleman

Emmanuel Center: A Monument of God’s Victory

While I watched the workers painting the facade of Emmanuel Center’s building with the final color, a thought came across my mind, “This is a Monument of God’s Victory”. I believe there are many who need to be aware of this truth.

It had never occurred to me that financing this project would be a challenge that exposes the spiritual warfare inside us to love and serve one of the two masters. Christ said clearly, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). Whether we admit it or not, we are in a struggle to choose between the two masters — the “Living God” and “Mammon (Wealth)” — until God gives us victory.

This building stands as a monument of God’s victory in His Cheerful Givers who stood against loving and serving Mammon; those who accepted willingly to share with us our incredible adventure of faith. Their names are recorded in heaven, and this building stands as a witness to many generations, of how God won the battle in them.

I saw God’s victory in many Cheerful Givers. Among these victorious are children who have offered their allowances, widows and new immigrants who have donated from their needs, young couples who have offered generously, and rich people who have loved God more than their wealth.

I saw God’s victory in many who wanted to express their gratitude toward St Mark’s Church for its services to them personally, and/or its services to the land of immigration, as the mother church to all churches in North America.

I saw God’s victory in loving people from many churches that have contributed and enjoyed the sense of being ONE church, regardless of where they are and where they worship. They offered their donations as to the Lord; some of whom do not even know St Mark’s Church or its priests.

I saw God’s victory in many of the Cheerful Givers, including the youth and kids, who have contributed while feeling the heart of missionary work in the middle of Jersey City.

I saw God’s victory in many Cheerful Givers who have faithfully pursued their walk with God by paying their first income and their tithes, in holy fear of God’s word (Malachi 3:8).

In all of these loving people, I saw by my eyes how God won the battle inside them against Mammon, and how He richly has blessed them. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

I am sure God will continue to fulfill the needs of His Church, through His loving people, to complete the building. I hope you will not miss the opportunity of such blessing and honor. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Fr Abraam Sleman

www.SaintMark.com/donate

Message to the Deacons in the Holy Week

In the Coptic Orthodox Churches, the congregations are blessed in the divine services, not only with the participation of the priests but also of the deacons. I thank God, that I personally have been touched by the participation of the wonderful deacons, especially during the Holy Week of Pascha and the Feast of Resurrection in St Mark’s of Jersey City, for many years. I thank God for the gift of having such wonderful deacons, as they are really amazing.

I really love the deacons and value the presence and the role of every single one of them, young or old. But I fear that somehow their pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3). For this reason I wrote this message, in all fatherly love, to all the deacons in all the churches!

The rites and the prayers of the Holy Pascha Week are amazing tools in the hand of God to portrait before the eyes of the people the crucified and risen Christ (Galatians 3:1). Such remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection is intended to bring the hearts of the worshipers into a living fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection. We would miss the point of the Holy Week of Pascha if the portrait of the crucified and risen Lord disappeared from our conscious and hearts.

Every Divine service of the Pascha Week is a real worship before the throne of God. It has to be offered by the Spirit of grace and prayers, in fear and reverence (Zechariah 12:10). We should not be intimidated with the limit of time verses the many prayers, readings and hymns. It is better to read, pray and chant little with understanding than doing this without understanding (1 Corinthians 14:19). Moreover, let your humble voices be heard in heavens, in Spirit and truth.

The Holy week is about the Christ who emptied Himself and obeyed the Father until the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8). So let us be in harmony with Him through emptiness ourselves. God is looking for our obedience to the priests, the elder deacons and our parents. He is also looking for our kind affections to the younger deacons and the weak with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10). Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else (Mark 9:35). In this Holy Week, and always, learn the meaning of washing the feet of your brother as Christ washed your feet (John 13:14).

Beloved Deacons, please be aware of this: Either we are going to work with Holy Spirit to portrait the crucified and risen Christ or we are going to be deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent and portrait a false image of ourselves. I am looking forward to the day when I kneel down kissing and washing the feet of every one of you. I wish you a blessed Holy Pascha Week and the joy of His Holy resurrection.

Fr Abraam Sleman

frsleman@CopticChurch.net

(732) 718-4129

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel Center: Where God Rejoices With His People مركز عمانوئيل: حيث يفرح الله مع شعبه

مركز عمانويل Emmanuel Center هو عطية من الله لشعبه، ويقع في أرض كنيسة مارمرقس الكنيسة القبطية الأرثوذكسية في جيرسي سيتي. وبنعمة ربنا، سيكون مكانا مقدسا لإقامة القداسات الإلهية، والمؤتمرات، وفصول مدارس الأحد، والمناسبات الاجتماعية، فضلا عن العديد من الأنشطة الأخرى الروحية والكرازية والاجتماعية والرياضية للأطفال والشباب والبالغين وكبار السن. وسوف يكون مكانا مكرسا لله ليفرح فيه مع شعبه وليفرح شعبه بخالقه.

أرجو مساعدة الكنيسة بالصلوات والتبرعات لاستكمال أعمال التشطيبات. الرب يباركك، وشكرا لك.

Fr Abraam Sleman
frsleman@CopticChurch.net
(732) 718-4129
Donation by Credit Card:
www.SaintMark.com/donate
Donation by Check:
Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mark
PO Box 4397
Jersey City, NJ 07304

Emmanuel Center: Where God Rejoices With His People

Emmanuel Center is a gift from God the Almighty to His people, where there is much need of such community center. It is located in the premises of the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mark’s church of Jersey City. It will be a holy place for worship, conferences, Sunday school classes, social occasions as well as the many other spiritual, missionary, social and sport activities of all ages. It is a place for God to rejoice with His people and for His people rejoice with Him.

I kindly request your help to the church with your prayers and donations to complete the construction of the building. God bless you and thank you so much.

Fr Abraam Sleman

Donation by Credit Card:

www.SaintMark.com/donate

Donation by Check:
Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mark
PO Box 4397, Jersey City, NJ 07304

 

عيد الظهور الالهي – القمص أبرام سليمان

20130119 Epiphany – Fr Abraam Sleman – Arabic
هناك كثير من التساؤلات حول موضوع عيد الظهور الالهي، ومنها ما معني “ينيغي أن نكمل كل بر”، ولماذا كانت الضرورة لحلول الروح القدس علي السيد المسيح؟ ومن هو صاحب الصوت السمائي: هذا هو ابني الحبيب الذي به سررت؟ وبعد ذلك كله: ما هي أهمية كل هذه الأمور لخلاصنا وحياتنا الأبدية. أدعوك لتسمع كلمات النعمة في هذه العظة.

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A Church Covered with Badger Skins

While all Coptic Orthodox churches have the same worship prayers, rites and multitude of activities, some consider the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City as “a church covered with badger skins”. Perhaps you may ask, why talk about this church and not others, and what “badger skins” are? Let me share with you some personal memories that you may share how I feel about calling this church, A Church Covered with Badger Skins.

I revere all the churches, and appreciate the effort of all their fathers, but I simply testify of what I have been touched within the church of St. Mark in Jersey City. Following the example of St. Paul, and as a servant of St. Mark’s church in Jersey City I magnify the ministry that has been entrusted to my weakness by the Lord. In doing so, declare the strong work of God, and to bring glory to His name (Romans 11:13).

The Thrice-blessed of Memory H.H. Pope Shenouda III called my weakness to serve in this church in 1995. I remember at that time, there were many loved ones waiting for my return from Colorado to serve in the Church of the Virgin in Ard El-Golf in Cairo, where I had previously started my service. When they heard that my next stop would be Jersey City, they were upset. One of them had even called me and warned me saying: “Are you going to serve in the garage?” I was not comforted with this description of the church. I replied back: “I do not deserve to serve, even in a manger of Bethlehem.”

If you are not familiar with Jersey City, it is a city suitable for new immigrants to the United States, because of the availability of public transportation, its proximity to Manhattan, and the high concentration Egyptians and Egyptian stores. You do not feel alienated in Jersey City, but rather that may be in Shubra or Upper Egypt. However, the situation was a little different for us, since we were not new immigrants. The idea of moving to Jersey City was a shock to my young children, because – according to human wisdom – it did not make sense to leave Ard El-Golf or Colorado for Jersey City; except the Divine plan is greater than human wisdom.

What awaited us was even more shocking. First, the church building was outdated and its architectural design was no longer suitable for the growing number of congregants served by the church. The church doors were not adequate to enter and exit the building. The staircase was not safe for going up and down. The restrooms were unacceptable. Due to this shock, I said bluntly to the Thrice-Blessed of memory H.H. the Pope: “When I entered the church at first glance I felt I was in prison”. But by the grace of God and the love of the people, the church has been renovated with simple architectural modifications that were necessary for the church service. May the Lord reward everyone’s labor of love with regards to this matter, and write their names in His Kingdom.

The biggest shock was even not in the building, but in the congregation which had fallen into a state of disunity. To make matters worse, some of its leaders were spreading propaganda against others, but thanks to the Lord that the voice of the Spirit of God has been much louder those voices. Again the compassionate fatherhood of God embraced all who were at odds with one another and brought peace.

I will skip the details of the long years that I have spent in St Mark in Jersey City. However, there is something worth mentioning that from the first day I considered it as the place of my witnessing and martyrdom. During these years, the altar of the church witnessed many tears, shed for everyone in the church by name, especially for all antagonists and wrongdoers, to be blessed children of grace

God’s response was amazing. The Lord has called some of the children of the church to the holy priesthood and to the monastic life. Many have become blessed deacons and servants in whom the church rejoices. Even the children have enjoyed the fatherhood of God in the church, and wore their diaconal vestments with their fathers in joy. These young children shared in the church readings from the lectern joyfully. Moreover, many of the church’s youth have attained advanced degrees, and prestigious positions in their careers. I thank You, my God on Your great work with the children of this church.

I have a lot to say about this church which I love from my heart. Many honored Bishops and visitors have testified of the work of the Lord in this church. But, unfortunately, in spite of all this grace in which we stand, some see the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City as church covered with badger skins.

In the Old Testament “ram skins dyed red, and badger skins” were the outer cover of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:5). This was according to the Lord’s command: “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that”  (Exodus 26:14). As many have interpreted this, the badger skins were unsightly in appearance and taken from animals that were unclean. So, the appearance of the tabernacle from outside was not appealing.

Badger skins here symbolize the external condition of the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City, which is no longer favored by some due to reasons that are unrelated to the essence of the Church. Some have mentioned that one of the reasons is that the church is a little more distant from their homes which they have chosen in better places, away from Jersey City.  Others see the effort that is sometimes necessary to find parking. Or perhaps newly-built churches are more appealing. Some others do not like the fact that St Mark Church in Jersey City includes so many of the new immigrants, “the brethren of the Lord”, while other churches have families that are more stable and well-to-do.

Calling St. Mark’s church a “church covered with badger skins”, in that sense does not degrade the church or making little of the glory that God shed on it. While the Tabernacle was not so pleasant from the outside because of the badger skins, it was adorned with gold from the inside. Moreover, inside the Tabernacle, there was what is greater than gold which is the dwelling of God with His glory on the Mercy Seat (the cover of the Ark of the Covenant). That is according to the words of the Lord: “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel” (Exodus 25:22).

Jesus was not born in Herod’s palace, but in Bethlehem amid the animals of the manger. Neither the palace nor the manger matters, and not the visitors of either, but what matters to us Christ of the manger. I have seen Him in the Church of St. Mark through the afflicted souls and in those who are in need of service. For the spiritual person, Church is not for socializing with friends, but it is a place to worship the Lord, and to have a real encounter with the Lord Jesus and to serve Him through those who are needy and hurting. I thank God that the church is always filled with such blessed people.

The Lord asked His people to come and present to Him their offerings in the Tabernacle or the Temple no matter how distant their countries were. This is so according to His command: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed” (Deuteronomy 16:16).

The Psalms of Ascents have always been a joyful expression of the people to ascend to the house of the Lord, saying: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Psalm 122:1-2). Jerusalem was not in the backyard of their houses, but many miles away during an era when travelling by animals were very difficult.

The spirit of God made of the Church of St. Mark a resting place for them. They found in it loving people who embrace them and support them, making their new journey easier. Thus, St. Mark’s church has become a fertile field to serve Christ through these people. A church without serving the needy is a church without serving Christ, according to what He said: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

There are now what are the so-called “wealthy churches” and “poor churches” depending on the income of their members. Sadly, some have forgotten what is real wealth and what is real poverty, as the Apostle Paul said: “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10). So is the case with the Church of St. Mark, which is the church that is poor in financial resources, but rich in the glory of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of love. We thank God for this because living in luxury might be the cause of spiritual death, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: “but she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6). Moreover, we thank God that He satisfies all our needs in due time.

In a testimony to the history, I have discovered, over the years, that the Church of St. Mark in Jersey City is not a “garage” nor a “prison”, but a resting place of the spirit of God, where He works with amazing strength. From the beginning we have accepted the words of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” (Zechariah 4:6-7). Thus the church emerged out of all the challenges she faced with a great glory that bears witness to the Lord’s work through His Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of God has made the Church St. Mark a safe haven for children to be raised according to the Gospel and away from human wisdom and currents of American society. This is also is according to the words of St. Paul the Apostle: “and my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

I thank God that the skins of the badger, that are not so appealing have, have a deeper meaning in the scriptures.  The are symbol of equipping and beautifying the church with the readiness of the Gospel of peace. The Lord said, I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk” (Ezekiel 16:10). St Paul reveals the meaning and says, “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

The Spirit of God has instilled a sense of responsibility in St Mark Church’s priests and srevants to have Bible classes for all the ages of her children in addition to the Sunday school classes. Again, I thank God that the sound doctrines of the Bible are emphasized in all the sermons and the services of the church, as the early church fathers did. Thus many have become disciples of the Lord according to His promise: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13).

Also, by the grace of the Lord, the message of the Gospel is sent from St. Mark’s church to the whole world via satellite TV and internet. This is to feed the hearts of thousands with the word of God, as it is written: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). I thank God that in this we see the fulfillment of what the Scripture says: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalms 19:3-4).

It is worthy to mention that behind all this services in the church were the efforts of the Late Hegumen Reverend Fr. Gabriel Abdelsayed over the span of no less than 23 years. Then the Spirit of God, along with my weakness, provided blessed priests, numerous servants, deacons and people, in a harmonious symphony of love led by the Holy Spirit, to speak of the glory of God and His salvation in Jesus Christ.  O Lord, reward everyone who labors in the church.

By faith, I hear what the Lord is saying for this amazing church: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) … and also what Nehemiah said: “Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach” (Nehemiah 2:17).

I thank You my God for this great blessing …

I thank You my God for every soul that enjoyed being in Your presence in this church …

Remember O Lord all those who labored with us and reward them the heavenly reward …Fr.  Abraam Sleman

frsleman@CopticChurch.net


 

كنيسة مغطاة بجلود التخس – القمص أبرام سليمان

بينما تشترك كل الكنائس القبطية الأرثوذكسية في طقوس العبادة والكثير من الأنشطة، إلا أن البعض يعتبرون كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي أنها “كنيسة مغطاة بجلود التخس”. وربما تسألني: لماذا الحديث عن هذه الكنيسة دون غيرها؟ ما هي “جلود التخس”؟ دعني اكتب لك بعضا من مذكراتي الشخصية لعلك تشاركني بما اشعر به نحو هذه الكنيسة.

أقدس كل الكنائس، وأقدر خدمة كل الآباء في كل الكنائس، ولكنني فقط أكتب عما اختبرته في كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي، وعلى مثال ما فعله القديس بولس الرسول أقول لأنني خادم كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي أمجد الخدمة التي وهبها لي الرب، لأعلن عن عمل الله القوي، وليتمجد أسمه القدوس (رومية 11 : 13).

اتذكر وقت دعوتي – من قبل المتنيح قداسة البابا الأنبا شنوده الثالث للخدمة في هذه الكنيسة عام 1995 – كان كثير من الأحباء ينتظرون عودتي من كلورادو للخدمة في كنيسة العذراء بأرض الجولف التي سبق أن خدمت بها في ربيع عمري. ولما علموا ان محطتى التالية هي جرسي سيتي شعروا بالاحباط، واتصل بي احدهم وحذرني بقوله: “هل انت ذاهب لتخدم في الجراج”، وقتها لم استرح لهذا الوصف للكنيسة، وأجبته: “أنا لا أستحق أن أخدم في مذود بيت لحم”.

وان كنت لا تعلم عن مدينة “جرسي سيتي” فهي مدينة مناسبة جدا للمهاجرين حديثا إلى الولايات المتحدة، وذلك لتوفر وسائل المواصلات المتعددة، وقربها من منهاتن نيويورك، وكثرة المصريين فيها والمحلات المصرية حتي أنك لا تشعر بالغربة، بل تشعر كأنك في شبرا أو في أحد مدن الصعيد. ولكن كان الأمر بالنسبة لنا مختلفا، فلم نكن من المهاجرين حديثا، بل كان انتقالنا لجرسي سيتي صدمة لأولادي وهم أطفال، لأنه لا يقبل أحد – حسب الحكمة البشرية – أن يترك أرض الجولف أو كلورادوا ليعيش في جرسي سيتي إلا لتدبير إلهي فائق للحكمة البشرية.

وكان في انتظارنا أكثر من صدمة، أولها أن مبنى الكنيسة كان متهالكا، ولم يعد تصميمه المعماري مناسبا للعدد المهول الذي تخدمه الكنيسة، ولم يكن للكنيسة أبوابا كافية للدخول والخروج، ولا حتى سلما آمنا للصعود والنزول، ولا دورات مياه مقبولة، ومن هول الصدمة قلت لقداسة البابا المتنيح بصراحة مطلقة: “حينما دخلت الكنيسة للوهلة الأولى شعرت أنني في سجن”، ولكن بنعمة الله ومحبة الشعب تم تجديد الكنيسة باللمسات المعمارية البسيطة الضرورية للخدمة بالكنيسة. عوض يارب كل من له تعب في هذا الأمر، واكتب اسمه في ملكوتك.

ولكن الصدمة الأكبر لم تكن في مجرد مباني الكنيسة بل في شعب الكنيسة، فقد كان الشعب في حالة انقسام وتشيع. وما جعل الأمور أسوأ أن بعض المسئولين في الكنيسة كانوا يروجون الدعاية للبعض ضد البعض الأخر.. ولكن شكرا للرب أنني لم أستمع لمثل هذه الأصوات فقد كان صوت روح الله أعلى من كل الأصوات، واحتضنت أبوة الله الحانية كل الأطراف… أشكرك يا إلهي على نعمة الأبوة التي احتضنت الكل حتى لا يهلك أحدا.

دعني أتخطى السنين الطويلة التي عشتها في كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي التي اعتبرتها أمام الرب “مكان الشهادة أو الاستشهاد”. خلال هذه السنين شهد مذبح الكنيسة الدموع المسفوكة من أجل كل واحد في الكنيسة بالاسم، وبالأكثر من أجل كل المعارضين، بل ومن أجل كل المسيئين، ليكونوا أولادا مباركين للنعمة.

وكانت إستجابة الله عظيمة، فقد دعى الرب بعضا من أولاد الكنيسة للكهنوت المقدس والحياة الرهبانية، والكثيرون صاروا شمامسة وخداما مباركين بالكنيسة تفرح بهم الكنيسة. وحتي الأطفال تمتعوا بأبوة الله في الكنيسة، وارتدوا ملابس الشموسية مع أبائهم في فرح، وخرجوا ليشاركوا في القراءات الكنسية على المنجلية. والأكثر من ذلك نال الكثيرون بل الأغلبية من شباب الكنيسة درجات علمية عالية، وصارت لهم مراكز مرموقة في أعمالهم. أشكرك يا إلهي على عملك العظيم مع أبناء هذه الكنيسة.

ولكن للأسف أنه – بالرغم من كل هذه النعمة التي نحن مقيمون فيها – يرى البعض كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي أنها “كنيسة مغطاة بجلود التخس”. ولكن ماذا عن “جلود التخس”؟ في العهد القديم كانت “جلود الكباش المحمرة وجلود التخس” هي الغطاء الخارجي لخيمة الاجتماع (خروج 25 : 5)، وذلك حسب أمر الرب: “وَتَصْنَعُ غِطَاءً لِلْخَيْمَةِ مِنْ جُلُودِ كِبَاشٍ مُحَمَّرَةٍ. وَغِطَاءً مِنْ جُلُودِ تُخَسٍ مِنْ فَوْقُ” (خروج 26 : 14)، فلم يكن منظرها من الخارج مقبولا، علاوة على أن  ”جلود التخس” كانت مأخوذة من حيوانات غير طاهرة حسب تفسير الكثيرين..

جلود التخس ترمز للظروف الخارجية المحيطة بكنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي، والتي لم تعد تروق البعض لأسباب لا تمس جوهر الكنيسة، ومنها أن الكنيسة قد أصبحت بعيدة نوعا ما عن مساكنهم التي اختاروها في أماكن أفضل بعيدا عن جرسي سيتي، وأن هناك بعض التعب من جهة انتظار السيارات، وربما لأن المباني – في وضعها الحالي – تتميز بالبساطة الشديدة بالمقارنة بالكنائس الجديدة، وربما لأنها تضم الكثيرين من المهاجرين المستجدين الذي يمثل أكثرهم “أخوة الرب” في مصر، بينما كنائس أخري تضم عائلات أكثر استقرارا ورفاهية.

وصف كنيسة مارمرقس أنها “كنيسة مغطاة بجلود التخس” أمر لا يقلل من كرامة الكنيسة ومجدها، لأنه بينما كان شكل خيمة الاجتماع غير مقبول من الخارج لأنها مغطاة بجلود التخس، كانت خيمة الاجتماع مشمولة بالاسمانجوني والقرمز والأرجوان، والذهب، وكان بداخلها ماهو أعظم من الذهب وهو حلول الله بمجده على غطاء تابوت العهد، وذلك حسب قول الرب: وَانَا اجْتَمِعُ بِكَ هُنَاكَ وَاتَكَلَّمُ مَعَكَ مِنْ عَلَى الْغِطَاءِ مِنْ بَيْنِ الْكَرُوبَيْنِ اللَّذَيْنِ عَلَى تَابُوتِ الشَّهَادَةِ بِكُلِّ مَا اوصِيكَ بِهِ الَى بَنِي اسْرَائِيلَ” (خروج 25 : 22)، فكل مجدها في داخلها.

السيد المسيح لم يولد في قصر هيرودس، بل في بيت لحم وسط حيوانات المذود. لا يشغلنا كثيرا القصر ولا المزود، ولا رواد القصر أو المذود، ولكن ما يهمنا هو مسيح المذود، وقد رأيته في كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي من خلال النفوس التعبانة والمحتاجة إلي الخدمة. الكنيسة – بالنسبة للروحانيين – ليست ناديا إجتماعيا للتروح مع الأصدقاء وأولادهم، بل هي مكان لعبادة الرب، واللقاء الحقيقي مع الرب يسوع وخدمته في أشخاص التعابى والمحتاجين. وأشكر الله أن الكنيسة مملوءة دائما بمثل هؤلاء الروحانيين المباركين.

لقد جعل روح الله كنيسة مارمرقس مكانا يستريح فيه الغرباء المهاجرون حديثا، ووجدوا فيه من يحتضنهم ويقف معهم حتي تصير أمور الحياة ميسرة لهم. وصارت كنيسة مارمرقس حقلا خصبا لخدمة المسيح. فالكنيسة بدون خدمة المحتاجين هي كنيسة بدون خدمة للمسيح، وذلك حسب قوله: “بِمَا أَنَّكُمْ فَعَلْتُمُوهُ بِأَحَدِ إِخْوَتِي هَؤُلاَءِ الأَصَاغِرِ فَبِي فَعَلْتُمْ” (متى 25 : 40).

ومع تقديسى لكل الكنائس، أنا لست مع الشعار السائد في المهجر “كنيسة لكل مواطن قبطي”، فهذا الأمر مبالغ فيه، وهو بعيد جدا عن فكر الانجيل، ومنذ البداية لم نسمع قط عن أكثر من خيمة إجتماع – أو هيكل يهودي –  لتكون قريبة من منازل الشعب، ولكن بينما كانت هناك المجامع للصلاة وقراءة الشريعة في كل مكان، كان الرب يطلب من شعبه أن يحضر أمامه بتقدماتهم إلى موضع الخيمة أو الهيكل مهما كانوا في بلدان بعيدة، وذلك بحسب أمره: “ثَلاثَ مَرَّاتٍ فِي السَّنَةِ يَحْضُرُ جَمِيعُ ذُكُورِكَ أَمَامَ الرَّبِّ إِلهِكَ فِي المَكَانِ الذِي يَخْتَارُهُ فِي عِيدِ الفَطِيرِ وَعِيدِ الأَسَابِيعِ وَعِيدِ المَظَالِّ. وَلا يَحْضُرُوا أَمَامَ الرَّبِّ فَارِغِينَ” (تثنية 16 : 16).

لقد كانت مزامير المصاعد تعبيرا عن فرح الشعب بالصعود إلي بيت الرب قائلين: “فَرِحْتُ بِالْقَائِلِينَ لِي: [إِلَى بَيْتِ الرَّبِّ نَذْهَبُ]. تَقِفُ أَرْجُلُنَا فِي أَبْوَابِكِ يَا أُورُشَلِيمُ” (مزامير 122 : 1-2). ولم تكن أورشليم في الحديقة الخلفية للمنزل بل على بعد أميال عديدة، وفي وقت كان فيه السفر شاقا على الدواب.

لقد صار هناك ما يسمى بالكنائس الغنية والكنائس الفقيرة حسب دخل أعضاؤها، ونسي البعض ما هو الغنى الحقيقي وما هو الفقر الحقيقي، كما قال بولس الرسول: “كَفُقَرَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُغْنِي كَثِيرِينَ. كَأَنْ لاَ شَيْءَ لَنَا وَنَحْنُ نَمْلِكُ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ” (2 كورنثوس 6 : 10)، وهكذا هو الحال في كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي، فهي الكنيسة الفقيرة في مواردها المالية، ولكنها غنية في مجد الروح القدس، وعطاء المحبة. ونشكر الله على هذا لأنه ربما تكون الرفاهية والظروف السهلة سببا للموت، وذلك حسب قول بولس الرسول: “وَأَمَّا الْمُتَنَعِّمَةُ فَقَدْ مَاتَتْ وَهِيَ حَيَّةٌ” (1 تيموثاوس 5 : 6).

وكشهادة للتاريخ أقول أنني قد اكتشفت مع مر السنين أن كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي ليست “جراجا” و لا هي “سجنا” كما سبق وأن قلت، بل كنيسة استراح فيها روح الله، ويعمل فيها روح الله بقوة مذهلة، لأنه من البداية قد قبلنا قول الرب لزربابل: “لاَ بِالْقُدْرَةِ وَلاَ بِالْقُوَّةِ بَلْ بِرُوحِي قَالَ رَبُّ الْجُنُودِ. مَنْ أَنْتَ أَيُّهَا الْجَبَلُ الْعَظِيمُ؟ أَمَامَ زَرُبَّابِلَ تَصِيرُ سَهْلاً! فَيُخْرِجُ حَجَرَ الزَّاوِيَةِ بَيْنَ الْهَاتِفِينَ: كَرَامَةً كَرَامَةً لَهُ” (زكريا 4 : 6-7). وهكذا خرجت الكنيسة من كل التحديات التي واجهتها بمجد عظيم يشهد لعمل الرب بروحه القدوس.

وقد جعل روح الله كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي مكانا أمينا لتربية النشء بروح الانجيل وبعيدا عن حكمة الناس وتيارات المجتمع الأمريكي، وذلك حسب قول القديس بولس الرسول: “وَكَلاَمِي وَكِرَازَتِي لَمْ يَكُونَا بِكَلاَمِ الْحِكْمَةِ الإِنْسَانِيَّةِ الْمُقْنِعِ بَلْ بِبُرْهَانِ الرُّوحِ وَالْقُوَّةِ” (1 كورنثوس 2 : 4).

واشكر الله أن “جلود التخس” التي ليس لها المنظر المقبول من الخارج، صارت فيما بعد – في سفر حزقيال – رمزا لتجميل الكنيسة باستعداد انجيل السلام، حسب قول الرب: ” وَأَلْبَسْتُكِ مُطَرَّزَةً، وَنَعَلْتُكِ بِالتُّخَسِ [أي ألبستك نعالا من التخس]، وَأَزَّرْتُكِ بِالْكَتَّانِ وَكَسَوْتُكِ بَزّاً” (حزقيال 16 : 10)، وقول بولس الرسول: “حَاذِينَ أَرْجُلَكُمْ بِاسْتِعْدَادِ إِنْجِيلِ السَّلاَمِ” (افسس 6 : 15). ووضع روح الله في كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي اهتماما كبيرا لعمل فصول لدراسة الكتاب المقدس لكل الأعمار، علاوة على فصول مدارس التربية الكنسية، وصار الكثيرون تلاميذ للرب حسب وعده: “وَكُلَّ بَنِيكِ تَلاَمِيذَ الرَّبِّ وَسَلاَمَ بَنِيكِ كَثِيراً” (اشعياء 54 : 13).. كما حرصت الكنيسة علي أبراز البعد الكتابي في كل عظات وخدمات الكنيسة الطقسية والسرائرية.

وبنعمة الرب تخرج من كنيسة مارمرقس بجرسي سيتي رسالة الانجيل للعالم أجمع بالفضائيات والانترنت، لتشبع نفوس الألاف بكلمة الله، لأنه كما هو مكتوب: ” إِنْ كَانَ يَتَكَلَّمُ أَحَدٌ فَكَأَقْوَالِ اللهِ، وَإِنْ كَانَ يَخْدِمُ أَحَدٌ فَكَأَنَّهُ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ يَمْنَحُهَا اللهُ، لِكَيْ يَتَمَجَّدَ اللهُ فِي كُلِّ شَيْءٍ بِيَسُوعَ الْمَسِيحِ، الَّذِي لَهُ الْمَجْدُ وَالسُّلْطَانُ إِلَى أَبَدِ الآبِدِينَ. آمِينَ” (1بطرس 4 : 11)، وتحقق في الكنيسة قول الكتاب أن الذين لا تسمع أصواتهم في كل الأرض خرج منطقهم (مزامير 19 : 3-4).

عندي الكثير عن هذه الكنيسة التي أحببتها من قلبي، ولقد شهد الكثيرون من الآباء الأساقفة والزائرين لعمل الرب في الكنيسة. ووراء هذا كله كانت خدمة الطيب الذكر المتنيح القمص غبريال عبد السيد سنينا طويلة لا تقل عن 23 سنة، ثم  هيأ روح الله  مع ضعفي أباء كهنة مباركين والعديد من الخدام والخادمات والشمامسة والشعب، يعزف بهم الروح القدس سيمفونية حب، تحدث بمجد الله وخلاصه في المسيح يسوع. عوض يارب بالخير كل من له تعب في الكنيسة.

بالإيمان أسمع ما يقوله السيد للرب لهذه الكنيسة العجيبة: “لأَنِّي عَرَفْتُ الأَفْكَارَ الَّتِي أَنَا مُفْتَكِرٌ بِهَا عَنْكُمْ يَقُولُ الرَّبُّ أَفْكَارَ سَلاَمٍ لاَ شَرٍّ لأُعْطِيَكُمْ آخِرَةً وَرَجَاءً” (ارميا 29 : 11)… وعلى نحو ما قاله نحميا: “هَلُمَّ فَنَبْنِيَ سُورَ أُورُشَلِيمَ وَلاَ نَكُونُ بَعْدُ عَاراً” (نحميا 2 : 17).

أشكرك يا إلهي علي هذه النعمة العظيمة..

اشكرك يا إلهي على كل نفس تمتعت بالوجود في حضرتك في هذه الكنيسة..

أذكر ياإلهي كل الذين تعبوا معنا وعوضهم بالأجر السمائي..

القمص ابرام سليمان

frsleman@CopticChurch.net

Patriarch, but without Chains – Fr Abraam Sleman

Abounded these days talks about the time, in which they came of the papal candidate chained, for his unwillingness to stand for the papacy. While some are crying for missing such time, they do not know that we have bound ourselves to other chains. Probably some of those who are circulating such talks – for one reason or another – need to see a divine objective from the perspective of God’s vision and will of the new pope.

In fact, we – the church – have put chains and restrictions to the process of choosing the pope, but of another kind, by implementing human laws and regulations through the ages. Such laws and regulations may not coincide with the will of God in a lot of things, and also may not be suitable for implementation in this era. These chains have become, not in the hands of papal candidate, but unfortunately hindering the Church, not to be blessed by God’s absolute freedom in the selection of the new Patriarch. As in the words of the Apostle Paul, I long to see the new Pope patriarch, but “without such chains” (Acts 26: 29).

Nowadays, those who are aware of the Papal election’s controversy know how we are now suffering as a result of what our fathers have constituted in the laws and the regulations of the election. Sadly, we are following without thinking. The more you impose conditions for the selection of candidates, and narrowing it in a smaller group – with such laws and regulations governing – the likely we miss God’s choice for the best. Is not God free to choose who sees for the papacy? So why all these laws and regulations that may be contrary – often – with the mind of God and His will as stated clearly and strongly on the pages of the Bible?

It is known that the word “Patriarch” means “Father of Fathers” or “the Pope”. The church did not know the word “Patriarch” until the fifth century AD. It was used for the first time in the reign of Emperor Theodosius (401-450 AD). He was the first one who called the Bishop of Rome “Patriarch”.

By the Holy Spirit, Abraham is called the “Father of the Fathers” (Hebrews 7: 4), and then became the title of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as of the twelve children of Jacob (Acts 7: 8). In the church tradition, the twelve disciples of the Lord and the seventy apostles are called “Patriarchs”.  St. Mark the Apostle is considered as the first “patriarch” of the Church of Alexandria.

Simple question that arises now:  Who did call Abraham and gave him the grace to be “the father of all believers”? Who did call the twelve disciples and apostles to be the first patriarchs of the Christian Church? Who did call St. Mark the Apostle and gave him the grace to be the first Patriarch of the Church of Alexandria? Was not God Himself by His absolute authority, “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3: 15, NKJV)? Jesus said to his disciples: “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70, NKJV), “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15: 16, NKJV).

In the rite of the Patriarch’s ordination, the elder of the Bishops declare the absolute authority of God in the process of the nomination by saying: “O true God alone with your only son and the Holy Spirit who to Him we ask and pray to Your goodness for your son (the nominee), whom You elected, glorified and chosen him to be the ruler of Your people”

We have never heard that God has consulted with anyone in the selection of people for divine tasks, “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:34, NKJV).

In choosing David to be king, Samuel, the prophet, joined with Jesse executing God’s choice, but the absolute decision was for the Lord God. It was the opinion Samuel to choose “Eliab” brother “David” because he was “tall”, but the Lord rejected such considerations developed by Samuel as being  constraints to the choice, and said to Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:6-7, NKJV). At the end, the Lord announced his choice for David, of whom it was told that he was the youngest who took care of the sheep (1 Samuel 16: 11).

God’s choice might be as a surprise to the entire Church, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:25-29).

God is not bound with laws and regulations implanted by human. What matters with Him is, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household” (Luke 12:42, NKJV) and is the one who hears the voice of his master: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25: 21, 23, Luke 17:19).

God’s choice for Saul to be later St. Paul the Apostle was beyond the expectations of every one of the early church. He said about himself: “The gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace” (Galatians 1: 11-15).

When the Lord asked Ananias to go to Saul, he was reluctant to do so at the beginning for what he heard about Saul. “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9: 13-16).

The acceptance of Saul into the apostles’ circle caused much surprise, wonder and controversy in the church. When they saw him preaching Christ in the synagogues and that He is the Son of God, they were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9: 20-21). Today, would any law or regulation accept “Saul” to be an apostle in the church?

In addition to the absolute will of God in the selection of the Patriarchs – and every priestly rank – He also gives the grace of the Holy Spirit to make them in their ranks, in Christ Jesus. Therefore the four living creatures praise the Lord in the Book of Revelation saying: “You are worthy…, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5: 9-10).

I believe that God’s choice for the Patriarch is a sovereign act of His will, by His Holy Spirit. The Lord said to Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3: 8).

What if the Lord wants the new Patriarch to be a metropolitan, a bishop, a monk or even a layman married person? Can anyone prevent the Holy Spirit to choose whom to work in? Or are we still looking for a patriarch who is chained by our human understanding? Are we looking for God’s choice or the decision of the ballot box?

In the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church there are bishops were ordained patriarchs. Moreover, there are about 42 married laymen who became popes, since the introduction of Christianity Egypt at the hands of St. Mark the Apostle.

In the Book of Acts, the early church was concerned by serving the Lord, fasting and prayer. The Holy Spirit was in charge of leading the church and appointing its leaders. In the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon…, Lucius…, Manaen…, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they sent them away (Acts 13:1-3). The Holy Spirit is still able to assume the leadership of the church, if we surrendered to Him.

I am not the one, who has the final say in such issue, but I just wanted to bring it into light. It is totally up to the fathers, who are considered pillars of the church. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth” (Psalm 115: 1).