From the editor: February 27, 2015

A Farewell Triumph


Six years ago I posted on Mere Comments a review of three books on monastic sacrifices.

The martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians on Feb. 15 brought the first two books to mind. The first, Sacrifice in the Desert, on the Copts and monasticism, I remember quite well. My impression at the time was that Coptic Christianity, through its healthy relations between both lay and monastic communities and through its suffering under Islam, is deeply marked with the spirit of the Cross. As with other ancient churches of Middle East, it has a living memory of and spiritual connection to its martyrs from earliest times: it knows their names, their stories, and the witness of the martyr is near at hand and close to the heart. So, I could not help but think of the 21 Martyrs in Libya when reading this text from the first week of Lent in the Orthodox Triodion book of services:

Bidding farewell to the world and all that is in it, let us now be crucified with Christ; let us endure outrage, mockery and other sufferings, that we may be glorified with Him.

The 21 Coptic martyrs, canonized this week by the Coptic Church, fulfilled this text with their lives, and they bid farewell to the world—but are alive in Christ. Are we ready to bid farewell?

The second book, The Monks of Tibhirine, is about the 7 Trappist monks in Algeria who were abducted from their monastery in 1996 and were soon afterwards beheaded. (Their story is told in a commendable 2010 film, Of Gods and Men.)

I am afraid I cannot supply any prosperity gospel messages here. Our life in Christ is to be marked by the Cross.

Appropriate to the season and to the current suffering of Christians in 2015, the next speaker we have lined up for a Fellowship of St. James evening (March 19) is Juliana Taimoorazy, founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. She is also a fellow of the Philos Project ('promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East'). She is an Assyrian Christian, from northern Iran, with direct contact with Christians in Iraq suffering now under the guns and blades of ISIS. She will tell us about our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq.

You will get a sense of her passion and concerns in this post in which she tells which ends:

We Assyrians are being killed and our culture is being erased because of our Christian faith. Our 2,000-year-old churches are being blown up and our manuscripts are being consumed by fire, but we will not be silent!

Indeed, ISIS may kill, but it cannot triumph. But I should not say much more. The witness of suffering Christians eclipses any of my words. The proper response is simply to take it all in and honor their testimony. What can I add? So I close with words from the Triodion for Lent as we all look to the Sacrifice of Christ and Easter, using imagery from Exodus:

Let us sign ourselves with the blood of Him who for our sakes willing was led to death, and the destroying angel will not touch us; and may we eat the Holy Passover of Christ for the salvation of our souls.

Jesus is Lord and lives. Let us celebrate the feast.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James