Entries with tag orthodox .

Abducted Syrian Bishops Serve as Models of Christian Service

This month marked four years since two Christian hierarchs were abducted at gunpoint in Syria. While Metropolitan Paul of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and Bishop John, the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, were en route from Antioch to Aleppo, they were stopped by unknown assailants and taken hostage. The deacon driving their car was shot and killed.

The bishops’ whereabouts and status remain unknown. As Syria has been embroiled in a devastatingly violent and multifaceted civil war since 2011, various factions immediately blamed each other for the abductions.

The extended disappearance of the bishops has had a marked and heart-rending effect on the Christian population both in Syria and around the world. Both men were known as prominent and dedicated clerics in their communities.

And there’s one more important detail to the story that I haven’t mentioned yet.

The bishops were returning from a humanitarian mission when they were kidnapped.

In today’s charged political climate, much of the conversation here in the United States and in Europe centers on security over humanity and dignity. Civil authorities endlessly debate the merits of offering humanitarian aid and of safe haven in our own communities, particularly to the victims of violence in the Middle East.

Metropolitan Paul and Bishop John, both residents of Aleppo, probably knew better than anybody how dangerous it was to venture out past their front gates and into the world. And yet they did it anyway.

They took their Christian role as servants very seriously, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The bishops could easily have decided that it would have been too risky to travel. They could very well have remained secure in their homes, offices and cathedrals.

But they didn’t. They went out into the world to serve.

As Christians, our ambition is to follow the example of Jesus; to live a Life in Christ.

And though we still do not know where Meropolitan Paul and Bishop John are, their service reminds us that our individual and collective potential for helping others is far greater than the power of death.

Indeed, the anniversary of their abduction during this Paschal season emphasizes the power of Christ in the world. Christians, after all, are not deterred by danger; we go out into the world and open the doors to our communities in service for many.

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 

St. Nicholas and the Spirit of Charity and Giving

 

St. Nicholas is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and beloved Christian saints. Universally venerated among traditional Christian denominations, one would be hard pressed to find a city that doesn’t have a church named after the 4th-century Bishop of Myra.

 

He is known as Nicholas the Wonderworker because of the many miracles and stories attributed to him both during his life and after his repose.

 

One of the greatest was when St. Nicholas interceded on behalf of three innocent men condemned to death by a corrupt governor. He is said to have boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, which was already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The governor, denounced by St. Nicholas for his wrongdoing, repented and begged for forgiveness.

 

Famously, St. Nicholas is also said to have aided a poor man who had three daughters but no dowry for them. At the time, remaining unmarried meant that the daughters would have fallen into lives of poverty and public ridicule, and so Nicholas decided to secretly help them. He went to their house under the cover of night and tossed three purses filled with gold coins through the window.

 

These are only two of the many great stories credited to St. Nicholas, but nearly all of them have to do with his devotion to charity and sacrifice.

 

Because of the saint’s habit of secret gift-giving, the diminutive “Saint Nick” is one of the many names given to Santa Claus, the legendary Western character who gives gifts to children on Christmas eve and is thought to be a combination of several figures, including the real St. Nicholas and several pagan winter characters.

 

As the weeks leading up to Christmas mark the proverbial “Season of Giving,” St. Nicholas serves as a reminder to embody a spirit of charity both during the holiday season and far beyond it.

 

Giving Tuesday” was exactly one week ago, a movement established as an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season.

 

And in the last month, civil rights and anti-discrimination organizations have experienced an unprecedented increase in donations following the U.S. presidential election.

 

Once again, as it miraculously does every year, St. Nicholas’ famous spirit of charity and giving lives on during his feast day here and around the globe.

 

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is commemorated on Dec. 6.

 

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

 

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 
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