Monthly Archives

February 2000

2000, Articles, Raiati

Rebuke and Forgive / 27.02.2000

Christianity carries too much kindness to the extent where sometimes we think that we see the wrong and do nothing in front of it. Actually, dealing with things in modesty and smoothness doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a strong position when needed. Therefore, the Holy Book spoke a lot about reproaching. It is written that the Lord: “began to reproach the cities in which most of his works of power had taken place, because they had not repented” (Matthew 11: 20). Warning the mistaken, therefore, might reach severe blaming.

And for the faithful not to be annoyed from the remarks of the responsible, Paul doesn’t only ask the bishop to preach but to also “rebuke those who oppose the word” (Titus 1: 9). Rebuking could be a part of the sermon, according to the occasion and subject, because he, who loves, disciplines. What kind of love doesn’t target reformation? And here we mention John the Baptist who used reproaching with Herod, for the issue of Herodias, although the king was simply listening to him. The loving brother wants to expose his mistakes in front of his friend and confess so that these mistakes go to the top of his soul and don’t stay hidden deep down. Paul said concerning this: “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light” (Ephesians 5: 13). We don’t believe in a friendship in which my mistakes and yours are both hidden and not revealed. This is not a friendship. This is a plot against truth.

A person might reform himself without the help of an instructor. However, man usually loves his sin as he destroys himself. Sometimes he might know what he is destroying, and prefers its destruction over its restoration. We cannot see someone falling into hell and not help him to ascend.

You might think that you shouldn’t blame a person that was wrong towards you in order not to seem annoying and you might also decide to stay silent towards his action because it saddened you. However, the Lord says: “If your brother sins, rebuke him” (Luke 17: 3). Matthew also says that but with a weaker tone: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (18: 15). Why should you rebuke? Because you recognized his sin and you shouldn’t reveal it in order not to turn into gossip. The fact that the sinner disturbed you, hurt and harmed you or caused you bitterness is not the reason to rebuke him. Your self is not what should concern you in this case, and the issue is not an issue of self dignity. You should renounce yourself and your wound. The important thing for you is the other that hurt himself while hurting you. You are concerned with his salvation from his evil and not with your salvation from grief. You are sad for his situation. And this is our philosophy of love that includes the love for enemies and our interest in their salvation.

It is important not to get emotional if you rebuked someone, because anger takes away the benefit from this reprimand. Anger indicates that you are interested in your wound and not in the harm that happened in the soul of the mistaken. In this sense, you shouldn’t be harsh and shouldn’t curse the other because cursing is not rebuking. Show the wrong things and reveal the nature of the mistake so that he recognizes the importance of what he did.

After that, “If he repented, forgive him” as it is enough for you if he came back to God. And From God, he shall come back to you.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “وبِّخ واغفر” –Raiati no9- 27.02.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

“First Communion”: Again and Again / 20.02.2000

We have agreed with Catholic Churches on the level of the Patriarchs of the East that the First Communion must not be celebrated in schools but in parishes. The Orthodox side suggested this idea and the Catholic Patriarchs accepted it. We all knew that this decision won’t be easy for schools that hang on to their independence; however, we were told that Catholic schools accept the decision.

Nonetheless, the news that I hear from our region show that some of these schools are asking our Orthodox students to get permission from their parents to have the First Communion “in the parish”, i.e. in the closest catholic parish to them. This way, these institutes would appear that they obeyed the order of their authorities by cancelling the First Communion at school, but they actually took the kids to the parish.  The apparent part of the decision is preserved; however, there is a violation in the spirit of this decision because what we wanted in our agreement with the Catholic authorities is for boys and girls to have communion in their Orthodox parish if they were Orthodox. We don’t only refuse the expression “First Communion” because we take communion with Baptism, but also refuse the participation in the sacraments with non-Orthodox Churches.

I will not remind you today that the decision not to participate is mutual in our Church and theirs, but it often occurs that a Catholic priest acts leniently with his Church’s orders and does what he wants. We are more committed to the orders of the spiritual authority. The basis in Christianity is that a right doctrine is a condition for a person to have communion. In this sense, when a person leaves a doctrine and adopts another one, he won’t be your partner in faith and consequently not a partner in the Holy Grail. A united grail is an image that expresses a united faith.

We could go back and elaborate on the issue if we had to. However, I wish to say a couple of things today: First, that it’s a pity that some school administrations are escaping from the decisions of the Patriarchs. Second, is that I feel wrathful that some parents ask the priest of the Orthodox parish to permit their child to have communion in a Catholic parish as if they have never read this bulletin in which we wrote numerously and as if they didn’t understand that our Church – and not the parents – takes the decisions in religious issues. We have warned schools not to deal with parents this way but to deal with us through their Catholic spiritual authorities.

I also feel sad when some parents feel that their child must feel happy with his friends by doing what they do. Why don’t they tell their child: “You have your Church, and you already had communion in it a month or a year ago… when you got baptized”? How do you accept to have a “First Communion” and it is not your “first”?

I want parents to understand that we have an identity and authenticity and that we show it without being shy. We do not contend anyone for his doctrinal belonging. But why is this disturbance for Orthodoxy? If the school administration’s excuse is either their ignorance of our position or their aware refusal for our position, what would our excuse be for all this approach towards Christian brothers that we love, respect and have dialogue with? However, the conditions of unity between us are not complete yet, and consequently we don’t have the ability to meet together at the Lord’s Table.

Our Church has transparency and loves all Christians. If a person knows that he is a real son of his Church, he would say what it says and act as it wants him to act for the salvation of his soul and for recognizing God through recognizing the truth.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أوّل قربانة» أيضًا وأيضًا” –Raiati 8- 20.02.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

On Love / 13.02.2000

Archimandrite Lev Gillet the French, who converted to Orthodoxy in the late twenties in Paris, taught me that one of the best methods to destroy someone’s hatred is to mention his name in your prayers. If you raised his name to the Lord several times, you would be able to bring him into your heart too. He used to tell me: “mention the Lord’s name on him”, this way he will be embraced with the Lord’s presence and might change. As for you, you must change.

In our daily life, we go against someone because we misunderstood a word he said, a behavior he did, or because he hurt us and we considered this as a sin from him. In front of this, blaming might not be beneficial and must be postponed until he calms down. Meanwhile, embrace the offender’s name to Christ’s chest for this shall make you see him on your chest too. After that, you are allowed to blame him mercifully.

When I used to ask one of the faithful if he carried love towards a person that harmed him, he used to answer: “I don’t hate him”. This isn’t love, of course. This is simply being polite. Loving him means paying attention to his tiredness, to his complexes, to his sorrow and joy; it means that you should serve him in the situation that he is in. Love doesn’t wait, love initiates. Remember the Good Samaritan and how he healed the wounds of the wounded and took him to an inn (or dispensary in today’s language) and asked for him to be taken care of. He fully committed to the left-alone person. Of course, you cannot carry the responsibility of tens of people, but you can do that towards those who God put in the path of your life: Starting from the members of your family, the people you work with, friends, and especially the sick and sad. These are your parish, don’t neglect them. Any small gesture towards them, especially during their hardship and when they are hurt or had a shock, would give them a lot of happiness. Every one of us lives in an attention after another. The spiritually strong person is the only one that is satisfied with God’s looking after him. However, God wants us to take care of each other: Wondrous bonds attach our hearts as if we are one person separated through different figures.

Do not consider an incident that happened with your relative as silly; it might be very important for him. Do not say in your mind that you shall visit your friend if he passed through a big distress only. He might only have a small contusion: Take the phone and ask about him. When you get closer to people, they will feel comfortable with their Lord. The important thing is not to keep your friends in order to be consoled through them, but for them to live in consolation. “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much”. Daily details could be, on the level of personal bliss, the most important among all things. This bliss always carries something divine.

These details mean that you should talk gently to your wife and children in the evening and show your care. And if you were an employer and had employees around you, show a word of care concerning the health of each one of them and ask him about his family. This is one example among many. When your responsibilities grow, your soul and you work will push you to be careful from close people. This is normal in work and production. However, minimal decency is required from you: Don’t say a word that has a personal nature to your assistant after a day that saddened him. Every assistant wants to be existent in the eyes of his employer. Your wife, children, and relatives love to be existent in your eyes. Moodiness is allowed only to a small extent. If you heard that a person feels left alone, put an effort to create the opportunities and methods to save him from that.

Sometimes you don’t understand why a person feels that you are treating him with brusqueness. Double your effort and take the initiative to get closer to him and to make him closer to you.  The important thing is for none of us to live alone.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “تقاسيم على المحبة” –Raiati no7- 13.02.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

Mercy and Strictness / 06.02.2000

Mercy is the attitude of the heart towards the sinner and the abuser. Mercy is forgiving him, not carrying hatred towards him and treating him with meekness. However, all of these are accompanied with softness or strictness in disciplining the sinner. This discipline should be free from temper and decided by the mind that should examine the situation and love at the same time. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6: 36). This follows the expression “love your enemies”, and is followed by “Do not judge… forgive” and also: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye”. God’s embracing to us leads us to embrace others; And God’s fatherhood to us implies our brotherhood with everyone.

However, love is not free from any discipline. “The Lord disciplines those he loves”. The Holy Book that talks about God’s love also says: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath” (Romans 2: 5). When the Lord gets angry, he continues loving you, but through his wrath he disciplines you. His fatherhood makes him bring you back to your awareness as a son. It is written in the epistle to the Hebrews that “we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it”. And for the person being disciplined not to think that he is hated, the apostle continued his thoughts saying that those that are trained with discipline will be given from the Lord fruits of righteousness of peace. He also continues his idea by saying: “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees”. This treatment sometimes needs strong exercise.

Being soft is a method and not a purpose or a basis. This might work with sensitive slender natures, but doesn’t give any results with thick natures that have planned for evil. These natures need strictness that might sometimes reach smashing. Of course, after smashing you have to fix, but sometimes we have to pass through smashing in order to reach the cure. Sometimes we need a moral slap, and other times we also need to cut a relation and stay away and show some anger. Yelling might never benefit us, but harsh words- without cursing, insults or contempt- might work so that the sinner wouldn’t think that through our silence we are agreeing on what he did or that he didn’t hurt the truth.

The important thing is to show the sinner that we are not being rebellious because of our pride but for the truth and because we care about the sinner and want him to come back to the truth. He might not recognize that he deviated from the truth unless he became spiritually mature in order to understand that. We have, therefore, to bring back to him his spiritual feeling or remind him about the divine commandment that he violated if he could sense it. We can show him the wrong side in his behavior and the deviation that he did.

All of this indicates a patient calm treatment. Being silent towards what is wrong means that we don’t want to be annoyed and disturbed, and this way the sickness will continue and we won’t be loving the person that we diagnosed. Neglecting the situation and depending on time might not work, because time doesn’t always bring calmness and mistakes will be repeated and accumulated until they explode. However, waiting for a little time is beneficial for the person disciplining and the one being disciplined to face problems calmly.

The great person is the person that once he recognizes his mistake, he leaves his stubbornness and confesses. The person that we conciliate is the one that reconciled with truth and accepted his soul in this truth. We should teach people that truth saves them and that if they existed in this truth, they would be in peace and joy, and this one big face of love.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الرحمة والشدة” –Raiati no6- 06.02.2000

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