Publisher: -SVS Press-
ORTHODOX PROFILES VOLUME SIX
Praise from Patriarch John X
Just a few words cannot summarize the story of the master of the word…
George Khodr is more than a writer and more than a scholar. Before all else, he is a pastor who used well his talents to introduce Christ into the human heart as well into the intellect.
Born in a multicultural and multi-confessional orbit, he kept a well rooted faith without being hemmed in, either within strict conservatism or within an atmosphere of liberalism.
The Antiochian Church is grateful to this man, as he also is grateful to the Church in which God planted him as a child, a youth leader, a priest, an orator, and a pastor of souls.
Well rooted in the tradition like the cedar, and the adopter of an open approach to other religions and confessions, exactly like the cedar extending its branches to all, he can worthily be called the “cedar of the Antiochian Church.”
—His Beatitude, John X
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Metropolitan Georges Khodr, Archbishop of Byblos and Mount Lebanon, is one of the foremost Christian voices of the Middle East. He studied theology at the Institut Saint-Serge in Paris, and received an honorary doctorate from St Vladimir’s Seminary in 1968.
Read the Introduction by Metropolitan Ephraim of Tripoli, al-Koura, and Dependencies
It is extremely hard for anyone to introduce this specific book by Metropolitan Georges Khodr, since it does not comprise a sole subject, such as childhood, but tackles a wide variety of complicated topics. Nevertheless within this complexity is wonderfully expressed the inner life of a soul that believes in God while living in the midst of this turbulent world. Hence, it is important to point out to the great benefits that a reader can acquire from this unique book.
Many topics are related to the faith of the Church in the midst of the world. It is worthy indeed to meditate on the faith, and on the Church in the world; he says for example, “the just shall live by faith” (Gal 3.11); “God should be the air we breathe . . . he should consciously be our only recourse” [p. 45].
Consider another example: On the topic regarding the pure in heart, he argues that a man pure in heart longs for God, for the true Lord, “. . . to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6.68). On the other hand, he stresses that the Church remains the place of our salvation even if some of its members are sinners: “There is nothing for us to do other than to remain members of the Church . . . there, we listen to the gospel. There, we eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ” [p. 46].
All the above-mentioned contemplations were grouped in a chapter entitled “The Majority of Christians Have Not Yet Been Born.”
What characterizes his style of writing lies in condensing the entirety of an important subject in a single sentence, such as: “Creation is in the breath of life” [p. 67], and not in institutions.Similarly in another place: “The word is more important than the voice” [p. 87].
In another beneficial topic, entitled “The Encounter of East and West,” the author, speaking through “his friend,” tries to reveal himself, to open his heart: “Living in the world ‘you are not of the world, yet I have chosen you out of the world’” (Jn 15.19). Then, he asserts that “God is our true homeland” [p. 96]. He tries to overcome all the differences between East and West, in going beyond all other matters. “God is our true homeland” . . . where “the Holy Spirit inscribes our spiritual existence” [ibid.]. He keeps asking this important question: “How to achieve detachment from this world?” What an interesting question! Then he adds that “the West tends to consider man as the center of the universe” [p. 97] (instead of God, as in Eastern thought), and he continues: “We need a savior to deliver us from every idol of the mind and heart” [p. 98]. Later on, he stresses that “the person who lives by faith does not receive God from the universe, but rather receives the universe from the hands of God” [p. 109].
Why then is this book so interesting? The main interest lies in the capability of the author to present to the reader different situations of the Church; this book pictures a pure-hearted man, longing for God and searching for the Truth. He makes clear that God’s grace is revealed in the many faces of the beloved ones of God.
On the other hand, this book helps us meditate on the most essential themes of our existence, mainly life and death: how life gives a meaning to death, how the power of the Resurrection is revealed (pp. 115–116). He explicitly says that “those who are wounded by the love of Jesus of Nazareth have already entered with Him into the certainty of life” [p. 115]. Again, “the Church shares no common language. It seems foreign to most people to have lost the means of addressing the heart of mankind today” [p. 118]. Also, “How do we revive the conversation betweenyoung people and the world today, with everything they reject? [p. 119] . . . How to “reconstitute the family?” [p. 119].
He jumps from one topic to another easily, repeating a central idea by saying, “I am obsessed with the idea that the world has become estranged from its God” [p. 119].
One of the most interesting topics he tackles is monasticism. He points out that “monasticism is a prototype of the kingdom to come, where there will be neither marriage nor property; where every movement will be an act of kindness, and where love will be the source of every action” [p. 126].
Speaking about the spiritual father, or the “elder,” he pleads: “I am in need of a living icon who sees me eye to eye” [p. 127]; again, “My elder is a window open to the age to come, to the potential of expectancy and hope” [p. 128]. He stresses that “there is nothing more beautiful than the face of an old monk” [p. 121], and asks himself how can we detach ourselves from the world in the quest of the truth.
Furthermore, an interesting topic he meditates on is priesthood, chiefly a specific priest, a “saint,” he knew in his youth. He points out that “God calls to himself those whom he loves” [p. 134], but “‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’ (Rom 5.20)” [p. 135]. And he adds, “I needed to understand the mystery of the priest from a living icon . . . I understood that the priest is called to become himself a ‘prosphoron’ . . . an object to be consumed” [p. 137]. But, “every person considers himself the center of the universe, and expects the priest to treat him as such” [p. 138].
My dear reader, since you are a spiritual son of God, a son of the Church and yet a son of the world, I invite you to read this book with great thirst. You will find in it many edifying subjects concerning your soul and your life. These are problematic questions, which could occur at any time, at any place, to anyone having difficult problems. These personal problems demand answers, and need real experiences; nonetheless they have all been experienced in the Gospel, wherein one could find their solutions.
Indeed! It is a journey with a man longing for God, for the real Truth, the Metropolitan Georges Khodr.
Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura, and Dependencies