This is an encouraging message from His Eminence Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo, the martyr bishop who was kidnapped in Syria in 2013 and since then no one heard anything about him: “God will ask us: ‘how did you serve the church?’ While we think to ourselves that the church should serve us.”
English translation by Waad Rabahie
Video recording: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, Alexandretta & Dependencies
Bp. Paul of Aleppo:
The church is not the stone building… The church is you and your children.
If we want a strong and organized church in which everything is beautiful, there should be many of our children who love to be in it and serve it.
Like this beautiful choir and those fathers for which serving their families and serving the life of God is their life. In our life we have many people that serve us: teachers serving our education, employees serving our food and drink… etc.
And there is the church which serves God’s life in our life. And this is the most important and difficult service.
The church is the place that we come into to live with God. And we come out of it and God still accompanies us, promising Him that He will stay beside us and we shall stay beside Him.
This is the service in which everyone in the church participates: priests, deacons, the choir and all people who serve the most important thing in our life, which is for God to be with us. And they teach us to live with God.
My beloved ones, today I want to think with you how someone decides to be a priest.
Some people would say this matter is a calling from God which comes to someone and not to the other. The truth is, as saint John Chrysostom says: (he was a bishop here in this city more than 1000 years ago) the calling is for everyone. God can’t call a person and not call the other, God calls everyone, but one feels the calling while the other neglects it.
We all are His children and we all are called to serve Him. No one is better than the other. Then how does a person feel that he has a calling? God won’t come and stand before him and say: “you shouldn’t go right or left, just become a priest!” God doesn’t act like this. The calling is when a person feels that his church needs help, when a person feels that his church needs help, this is a calling from God.
God doesn’t force anyone. God doesn’t force people and keeps talking to them. God calls the person who understands from the first word.
So I plead to you and I remind all the fathers and everyone that we should teach our children that the best and most noble service is to serve the house of God, to have people who are devoted servants of the altar and of you. We all say that the church is the most important thing in our life. This is a good saying. But what do we offer to the church? Some people offer their money, presence, love… which is all good. But for a person to offer his son or himself, to be servant of the church: this is the best offering from the humans.
All of us – beloved ones – are not only called, but also God is expecting from us. One day… on the day of judgment, He will ask us: “how did you serve the church?” While we think to ourselves that the church should serve us.
God will ask us, “you have lived in this world and God has given you a lot, how did you serve the church?”
I hope that all of us have served it somehow or will serve it more. But let’s always keep this question before our eyes.
I hope each one of us will be able to say to God: “I have given YOU all that I have. I have offered YOU all that I have. Nothing precious… but it’s all that I have.”
This how we should answer. And that’s what happened with Apostle Peter who said: “Lord, we have left everything, and followed you”. [Matthew 19:27] Saint John Chrysostom says: “What did Peter leave behind? He was a fisherman, he didn’t leave anything. He wasn’t a rich man nor a president or a minister, he was a simple fisherman. But he did offer everything. He said ‘we left everything and followed YOU’, ‘we offered ourselves'”.
So beloved ones… let’s not wait for God to stand before us and say: come and become a priest… or come and serve the church or come to pray or come and commune. God won’t stand before us. He who doesn’t feel God in an invisible way… God can’t call him. God wants that every day as we stand in prayer, morning and night, raising our hands asking for people, for our families
and for the whole world, to say to Him: “Lord, today, yesterday, and tomorrow we offer all that we can.” This is the calling of God for all of us.
We pray: “God, may YOU multiply the people who listen to YOUR calling and come to serve YOU and serve us among our children.”
Raise your children like this. This is the most honorable and greatest service for us and for God in our life.