Paul: Teacher of Life in Christ

We decided to choose for our meditation the expression, “For me to live is Christ,” since it is, so to speak, central to Saint Paul’s mission. It is the pivot on which turn all the teachings of Saint Paul. Besides, it sums up the true aim of Saint Paul and of everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

We have tried to go through the Letters of Saint Paul, tracing the meaning of this chosen verse as Saint Paul understood, taught and lived it, experiencing it in all the circumstances of his life. This verse is really the mystic tissue, the link between all his letters. It underpins Saint Paul’s stance on all the various, very diverse themes discussed in his letters.

We have tried, so to speak, to conceal ourself behind Paul, and with our fainter voice echo the thunderous power of his word. This is because we consider that Saint Paul’s words are of today, addressed to us and all contemporary Christians. That is why in our monthly bulletin from Damascus for the Year of Saint Paul we have presented Saint Paul’s Epistles, under the heading “Voice of Paul: Voice of the Shepherd.” Then we have outlined different themes that Saint Paul examined and discussed, under the title, “Letter of Saint Paul to the Damascenes.” Yes, the letters of Saint Paul are always addressed to us and speak to us directly, with the word of life. They are eternal words, speaking to us of Jesus, who is always the same, yesterday, today and for ever. The words of Saint Paul are addressed to us too as children of the third Christian millennium, just as they were addressed to the first Christians of our Arab Christian world, cradle of Christianity, and to the whole world. In this our letter the words of Saint Paul are above all addressed to the sons and daughters of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the Middle East and throughout the whole world.

I wrote a goodly part of this letter in Rome, during the session of the Twelfth Episcopal Synod, presided over by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, with the participation of 253 Patriarchs, cardinals and bishops from around the world - 112 countries, of which 36 from Africa, 24 from North and South America, 17 from Asia, 31 from Europe and 4 from Oceania. Besides, one must count the expert theologians, the male and female superiors general, the auditors, the translators and all the others present at the Synod. Work in the Synod was hard, for we were in session for six hours per day, without counting time for prayer and for studying the numerous papers, documents and bulletins that Synod members received daily in their personal pigeon-holes and which all required the labour of a written or oral reply.

So I literally stole some free time, especially in the very early mornings, to prepare this letter. I spent whole beautiful hours at a time reading all the Pauline Epistles and reflecting on them, noting verses and passages to help me understand and develop the phrase that I chose as the theme of my Christmas Letter in this year dedicated to the celebration of the Bimillennial Jubilee of Saint Paul’s birth. I also read the Acts of the Apostles with the same end in view.