Your Eminences, Graces, brothers in Christ, the Saliba Family,
We are all gathered this evening as a solemn tribute to our much lamented father in Christ, Metropolitan PHILIP, of Thrice-Blessed Memory: but I must say after 53 years of knowing you, O my Saidna, in the words of Abid Bin Al Abras, “my eyes seep sorrow- water skins with holes”.
If our most beloved Metropolitan PHILIP were to give his spiritual Children a farewell address, I’m sure that he would have said what St. Paul said to his own spiritual children in Corinth:
Ye Brethren, I beseech you, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye are to speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (I Corinthians 1:10)
This Admonition is relevant, reverberating the words of Saidna to us in 2001 when he said: “Even if the angels tell you division is good for you, do not believe them.”
I must open this eulogy with this because Metropolitan PHILIP devoted his entire ministry to unity; unity for the Archdiocese; unity for Orthodoxy
on this continent, and also for his co-religionists. Only Saidna PHILIP could bring together various Christian and Muslim leaders to have a consensus to the government regarding the troubled Middle East. It was his expansive charismatic personality that would draw divergent religious leaders in a unity for humanity’s sake. This was one dimension of the personality of Metropolitan PHILIP, which was a part of a beautifully, multi-faceted tapestry, that made him the man that he was.
Therefore, to be true to our much lamented Chief Shepherd, I prayerfully hope that on behalf of his children, all the clergy of this God-protected Archdiocese will pledge with all our might to incarnate this truth which His Eminence so valiantly and brilliantly fought for his entire life: Unity. Yes! Unity reflects the divinity of God himself; “it was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.”
Walt Whitman once wrote: (briefly)
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
my father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
But I, with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, fallen...”
So I stand before you, representing your orphaned children, with a sigh and a cry:
Today we see you laying here silent, whose muscular voice was a clarion call to excellence and action!
Today we will never again feel the pulse of your love for Antioch, your making Christ present by your grace and profound humility; Yes, we are indeed orphaned! We are lost without your fatherly embrace!
Today we will never again be challenged by your seeing light when others saw only darkness; this, the genius to overcome every obstacle that included your health, until the Almighty saw it fit to finally carry you in the “palm of His hands” and give you rest in His eternal bosom; thus relieving you of your heavy burdens.
Today we behold you here, laying in the silence of this Cathedral, never again to feel the tenderness and warmth of your friendship and generous hospitality; so freely given.
Yes, we are indeed orphaned, left without that charismatic leader who, in the words of Nikos Kazantzakis affirmed that “the ultimate most holy form of theory is action. Not to look on passively while the spark leaps from generation to generation, but to leap and burn with it!” And you were indeed on “fire” for this Archdiocese.
Also Saidna PHILIP, you taught us to never “measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” (Dag Hammarskjold) The entire face of this God-protected Archdiocese has been transformed since that August of 1966, when at 35 you assumed the mighty task of shepherding a scattered flock across North America.
Your ministry began at the tender age of 14 with the chanting of an epistle and the holding of a basket of grapes for the late great ALEXANDER III (Tahan) at the Monastery Church of St. Elias on top of Dhou El Shweir. So the son of Abou Mizan, Abdallah later who became PHILIP who finally became Abdallah; the servant of God. hus making the ascent to greatness unmatched by any hierarch in the modern history of the Church of Antioch, through the multi-dimensional aspects of your Archpastoral ministry.
There is no Eulogy or even words to describe this Prince of the Church. History will record his mission in North America as the brightest and most brilliant in the 20th and 21st centuries. His achievements are beyond this moment of recall, but stand as a monument to his military determination and, are unparalleled across the landscape.
A Lebanese by birth, but in his view he belonged to the larger Arab world. The plight of the Palestinians weighed heavily upon his heart and as of late he had shed many tears over the immense tragedy in Syria, which created a new generation of orphans. In truth, Saidna PHILIP was a citizen of the World , caring and feeling for all peoples and all nations facing oppression and hardship. Saidna PHILIP wept over “man’s inhumanity to man,” and any distance from Christ pierced his soul.
The Patriarchate Of Antioch has lost one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of luminaries whose written and spoken words will fill volumes in the universe of mankind. PHILIP (Saliba) was an Antiochian to the core. Certainly, the Church of Antioch has lost one of the staunchest champion of every single undertaking for the improvement of its institutions, thus leaving an indelible mark throughout the Middle East. For Saidna, Antioch was not an ancient relic but a universal ideal of evangelization, a legacy that he felt should be handed down creatively to each generation. Oh, Saidna, you inspired in your children this transcendent theme, for which on this night, and every moment, we kiss your right hand, now asking for;
Your Blessings from the Day, without evening!
Dear Saidna, the Lamentations on Great and Holy Friday will be filled with a deeper meaning as we remember you. We will weep because you are no longer with us and the depth of sorrow can only be assuaged knowing you are before The Almighty God and seated at the Banquet Table of the Righteous. In this you will be fulfilling your love for the Liturgy as laid out in your Master’s thesis, and your whole earthly life. Now I speak before you, as you, witness the never-ending Liturgy in God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Your Chanting of the Doxology in that ancient melody of the past (Ajam Kurd) still reverberates in our ears, for no one offered glory to God as you did! Yea, from that glory you have received HIS Glory!
Khalil Gibran once wrote:
Oh my soul, the ignorant would say. the spirit like the body will pass,
and what passes never returns;
Tell him; the flowers pass,
but the seeds remain,
and this is the secret of existence.
Yes Saidna, your ‘seeds” are eminently planted in our hearts, which because of your work has become fertile ground and in this wise; blossom and will continue to blossom in Christ’s vineyard on Earth and surely the Holy Spirit will guide us.
We bid you farewell, our Father: Eternal be your Memory!
We bid you farewell, our Chief Shepherd: may we ever serve your vision!
We bid you farewell, our dearest, most cherished friend, father and brother, we shall not fail you!
We bid you farewell, the radiant light of an era, never to be seen again.
Eternal be Your memory: farewell, thy good and faithful servant, enter into the eternal joy of the Kingdom!