Monthly Archives

January 2000

2000, Articles, Raiati

The Difference between Advice and order / 30.01.2000

I am not talking here about the relationship between an abbot and his monk from the aspect of obedience. We have lots of writings about this relationship which is based on the fact that the abbot is modest, humble, and gives birth to others in Christ. Obedience is based on the virtues of the spiritual father because the monastery is not a military camp; and when Apostle Paul described us as Christ’s soldiers, he was referring to our seriousness in commitment to Christ and not comparing the Church to an army.

Christ is the only one that gives us commands, because he is the Lord and has the word of salvation and deserves obedience as he obeyed the Father and gave himself to death, death of the cross. We also obey people that have left their ego and reached great spiritual maturity and illumination; those are able to direct others without emotion, any intent or lust for control. Dionysius the Areopagite- who is a writer that appeared in our region in the beginning of the sixth century- says that he who reaches illumination should be made priest. This means that you should obey him not because his was ordained as a priest, but because he was ordained after he was illuminated and noticed by others. Priesthood itself doesn’t give spiritual maturity and fatherhood. When a person is upgraded to a position, he doesn’t automatically become free from desires and consequently worthy for guidance. Only the Holy Spirit can make someone worthy for true guidance.

The Church understood that as it doesn’t give someone the right to practice the Sacrament of Confession immediately after his ordination. It waits for the spirit to descend on him and give him maturity so that he becomes able to give people true guidance. With hope, we wish for him to achieve spiritual fatherhood. Actually, we give him the right to loose sins but he doesn’t automatically become a counselor. This is related to how much he is close to Christ.

This person must study the Holy Book, pray deeply and warmly, and become purified from his sins. If he didn’t do these a lot, his words won’t be coming from the Spirit. If he knew that he is weak, let him make people’s sins loose without saying a word. The Sacrament of Repentance would be fulfilled. True guidance is learned from the Holy Spirit and not in books.

However, if the Spirit inspired you to say something, give an advice and not an order. Nikon- an abbot of a big Russian monastery who died in 1963- wrote about this issue based on the teachings of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov saying: “I remind you that I do not oblige anyone to take my advices anyways. An advice is just an advice, and the final decision is for the person that asked for the advice” (From a letter he wrote in 1951). He saw that the priests of his time were not really able to discover God’s will in specific situations. They could only clarify God’s commandments. And therefore, Father Nikon clarified to one of his spiritual daughters that she must consider him a journey companion more than just a father. He said that she must not consider him greater than he really is and must feel free to leave him if she felt that his advices are not beneficial.

He did not have a spiritual father himself. He used reading and praying that could be very beneficial if there were no spiritual fathers with spiritual differentiation.

It is obvious that if you guided people, you shouldn’t kill the personality of the spiritual son. You should not think instead of him, let him think and grow and carry his responsibility in front of God. “No one could solve others’ problems that life put in front of them” (Henri Bergson). Do not disrupt someone’s brain or heart. God said: “My son, give me your heart”. Help him make his heart ascend to his Lord. He leans on you; Throw him on the Lord’s feet and disappear.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الفرق بين النصيحة والأمر” –Raiati no05- 30.01.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

Pedagogic Attitude / 23.1.2000

You cannot take a final position from a person only from exchanging thoughts with him. Every mental giving is a way of treating, i.e. a relation between two human entities. A pure philosophical position is related, in a way or another, to the heart. Man is a complete entity and not just a brain. The scientific position itself is a commitment. The human brain is not a train that moves from a station to the other; it is a confrontation and an embracing.

Therefore, it is wrong when someone thinks that if he gives convincing arguments, according to him, it will automatically be transmitted from a brain to another. There are people that don’t surrender to logic and are usually annoyed from strict logic. There are also people that don’t accept the truth even if we proved it, even though it is confirmed for us. There are some people that their hearts move when they’re convinced, and others are convinced when their hearts move. Some minds are less preponderant than others. Some understand through their heart and intuition. Some analyze thoughts, and others can’t think beyond the tangible incident and can only talk about daily life stories.

We, as Christians, have a big relation with the mind and a relation with the heart. There are human models close to calm prudence and others close to emotion and reaction. Those who are closer to logic can analyze and believe people until the opposite is proved. While those who are closer to emotions usually tend to misunderstand; they deal with actions through reactions.

Since the mind and passion are mixed in every person, it is important to deliver the truth to him, the healing truth through passion and logic together. We must respect him to the maximum; the person that has descent morals does not hurt anyone or show him negative pride so that the other’s heart will stay pure to be able to understand. It is difficult to accept an argument from a person knowing that he hates you; you react to his argument through emotion. You must buy his love so that he accepts you and your thoughts. He might like you but reject your thought, but he won’t refuse your person. You don’t teach him only by going down to his mental level, but also by going down to the status of his heart. This means that you should be humble and heartbroken.

The condition for communication is to have a calm tone. Shouting often cuts the communication, because it usually carries a refusal for the other. If you shout at someone, he’ll think that you hate him and this will make him stop listening and might hear nothing.

If your nerves became tense do not talk; ease your anger. Stay quiet for a while until you feel that you became calm. This way you purify your mind and do not shock or hurt the other.

If you heard the other person shouting, pray for him and embrace him in your heart. And if you saw him nervous, postpone your answer to another time and do not admonish him unless he was very close to you. Some shouters are like angry monsters so they curse and swear. A person like that is not able to understand. If you can answer him after he becomes calm, make him first feel secure towards you through nice words that he might accept or not.

This is a pedagogic attitude; having cold nerves does not mean not having feelings, but the important thing is that the other person understands that you are agreeing with him and you are not far from him but calm. Talk to him and show him interest in the subject and his person. However, in all cases stay honest and show him that you are internally angry without any shouting. Show you difference and the points of your difference, and there is no problem if you decided to stop talking to him for a while to make him understand that you are sad. But make him understand that this break from him does not carry hatred towards him. You can stay far from him until he accepts making up with you on the basis of the truth.

The only important thing is to seek the truth, what you want comes last in comparison with the truth as it is not meant for you to win. You are nothing but a servant for the truth. Train others to love the truth, this way you become the raiser of every person life put in front of you. You are not in control of anyone. You take people’s hands and lead them to God that revives their hearts. You are a preceptor because you love.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الموقف التربوي” – 23.1.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

Praying for Unity / 16.01.2000

The Orthodox Church has always prayed and is still praying for unity. We say in St. Basil’s liturgy: “Put out the schisms of Churches”. When the conflict appeared between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Roman Patriarchate in 1054, the Patriarch Michael of Constantinople wrote to the Antiochian Patriarch Peter III about his conflict with the Latins to complain about some of their traditions, and the Antiochian Patriarch replied: “Let the conflict stay inside the Church”; i.e. do not accelerate the schism with Rome so that we could still discuss the issue as brothers.

Then, centuries passed and we tried to gain the unity back in the Ferrara-Florence council in 1438 but the attempts failed until the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a letter in 1920 asking in it to solve the problems. The result was the establishment of the “World Council of Churches” and in this Region the “Middle East Council of Churches”. These councils aim for rapprochement and collaboration to try to reach the unity that only God could give through his gratification.

Fifty years ago, a movement that calls for the prayer for unity appeared and a week was dedicated for this matter and it was called the “Week of Praying for Unity”; this week lies between 18 and 25 January of every year and in it we meet to raise our prayers and ask for this unity: What might appear as a big difficulty to the mind could be reduced by the prayers of the pious.

However, unity means the removal of the barriers at the level of the doctrine. I mentioned the level of the doctrine because other liturgical traditions could stay free if they didn’t contradict faith. The Latin way of worship stays as it is and the Byzantine also stays the same. Today, theologians don’t seem to raise old issues such as the form of baptism (i.e. through sprinkling water or through dipping the baptized person in water) or the form of Holy Communion (the usage of leavened or unleavened bread). There is an agreement that regional traditions are not barriers.

The real difference, as all teams agree, is concerning our notion for the Church. Is it a communion of faith and sacraments put into a structure in which all Churches are equal? And in which every Church has an independence that gives it openness through love so that Churches wouldn’t become molten with each other in a pyramidal form, i.e. so that we wouldn’t have an executive head that gives orders to all believers and bishops on the basis of a divine delegation? This is a summary of the Orthodox view which states that the bishop of Rome is a premier among equal brothers; he heads the meeting of the patriarchs and might play a coordinative role and be the symbol of universal unity among us, however he is not a “universal bishop”. This expression that isn’t accepted by lots of Latin theologians is used constantly by the current pope. He blesses the patriarchs and the bishops. Every follower for the current situation would sense that the Western Church – regardless of admitting the presence of the local (regional) Church and giving the local bishop importance and speaking about a community of bishops –lives a kind of contradiction between the local and the global Church. They couldn’t build a structure in which the local church could go along with the global church. How can the Churches of France, Germany or the United State be local yet not able to elect their bishops? This means that they admit some sides of local independency and don’t admit others.

These issues should be solved by meeting each other. The highest official meeting between the two Churches will be held in Baltimore (in the United States) in the coming July. I assume that it will start solving this issue.

We will still have the remaining mentalities and feelings and what people were raised according to. Theologians could agree on most issues but people might not line with them. However, we live on the hope of “a blowing of a storming wind” that would be for us a Pentecost that makes us renewed human beings.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الصلاة من أجل الوحدة” –Raiati 03- 16.01.2000

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