Monthly Archives

May 2000

2000, Articles, Raiati

Clothes of the “Vowed” / 28.05.2000

Since I undertook the service of this archdiocese, I meet kids wearing the gown of St. Anthony or St. Elias (which is usually taken from the Capuchins). I have also seen lately (In the Marian month) women wearing white and blue. Perhaps those women are not from Orthodox origins because this dress is obviously copied from the statue of the Lady of Lourdes.

Sometimes, conflicts occur between enlightened priests and the mothers of such children because the mother asks him to bless this clothing and we do not usually have any blessing for any clothing. What goes on in the minds of those women? They usually say: I have vowed my child for St. Elias or St. Anthony; what does this mean? If she was looking for a power or healing or grace, then this must be asked through prayer and has nothing to do with a piece of rag. No rag contains a divine power; if you wanted a prayer, say it directly. You would be thinking about wizardry if you thought that some material secretes a blessing only because it is in contact with the body. Also, if you took some readings from the Psalms or Gospel and wrapped them together and hanged them from your chest, we don’t believe that they would benefit you. On the contrary, we believe that this is a kind of wizardry. Wizardry is when you believe that doing a specific act would give a spiritual result such as healing. Anything other than a personal prayer from you and believing that you will get a response simply by grace is a kind of wizardry and consequently is harmful.

We only have one kind of blessing and it is the blessing of priestly attires. We say to God: “Bless these clothes that are used to honor the glory of your Holy name and for the beauty and decoration of the servants of your holy altar and your pure sacraments”. Then we sprinkle these clothes with Holy water and ask for those who will wear it to be worthy of serving the holy sacraments.

And for the priest not to think that these clothes carry a sanctifying “power” by themselves, he personally blessed every piece of the attire before the divine service. This happens because the clothing is related to himself; he who is called to fulfill the divine mystery.

It is commonly said among us that we should leave people to their faiths. This is not faith for us but believing superstitions and it is our duty to fight superstitions.

It has been said in the New Testament: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household”. It is meant that He, in whom you believe, the Savior, saves you from sin and sickness. The Other saying: “Believe in a stone and you shall be discharged” is rejected. We have never seen a stone that can discharge someone. We are not interested in the movement of the heart towards anything but Christ. Believing everything would ruin your internal entity and leave you in delusions and deadly ghosts.

In this sense, if a cloth was put around the body of a child or an adult, it wouldn’t be different than any other cloth. Paganism can penetrate into the Church through the minds of naïve people that are eager for healing. What does it mean spiritually to vow your child for a Saint? Every one of us is vowed, in Baptism, to God and our hearts are purified without any physical mean. “Enter your room (your heart) and pray to your Father that is unseen”. Your heart is vowed for the Lord: In this exists your healing and console.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “ثياب «المنذورين»” –Raiati 22- 28.05.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

Hatred / 21.05.2000

In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord takes us from the tangible sin into its origin, into what we call lust, i.e. the internal emotion, as he says for example: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5: 21-22). Jesus is interested in the heart; he wants to purify it from the factors that corrupt it. Hatred is one of the things that corrupt man; it is the continuation of grudge and the reasons that activate it.

Hatred is the retraction from others and the isolation of the self that eliminates others mentally as it doesn’t dare to eliminate physically. It is a moral killing of the person that you believe is annoying you or affecting your benefits and pride. We start hating the person that’s different from us, as if his existence eliminates ours; we start considering that he has no freedom to be the person he wants to be.

Hatred is a lust in the soul that many people fall into on all levels, even people that consider themselves spiritual when they are actually not. It is a kind of petrifaction that hits most people. This stubbornness destroys the person that falls into it because he who closes himself in front of others and eliminates them would be threatening and drying his heart.

The Great St. John Climacus recognized the danger of this feeling when he said: “Hatred is the fruit of anger and a desired bitterness”. The bitter person cannot be creative, giving, or serving in his kindness. The wild angry person perishes himself and the others because he doesn’t give them any importance or credit. The danger of hatred is that it takes root in the person and needs grace from heaven to descend on the heart like “dew” and soften it.

When the Scripture talked about God in the Psalms it said that he is “slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever”. The Lord disciplines without hating any of his sons, while the person that gets angry and hates a lot is somehow mad and needs a heavenly power to be healed.

Yes, people do have stupidity and bad intentions towards us and some of them even carry refusal and compulsion. Most of the time, these people do not know why do they hate. Therefore, the Scripture said about those: “they hate me with cruel hatred”. They wouldn’t like your face, speech, appearance, or a word you have said that they interpreted wrongly and got hurt. They wouldn’t say why they’ve been hurt by you, so they become sad and transform their sadness into hatred. After that, they would start abhorring every action you do and add it to what you’ve said before and make a big deal out of those. However, you might be sweet hearted with no evil or hurting intentions, and in this case they would be killing themselves and you would carry no responsibility. They oppress you, and you’d be wondering if you should disappear from their way in order for them not to harm themselves through hatred. However, where shall you hide if they were from your family or environment or colleagues? Should you stay quiet all the time to make them comfortable? And if you did that, how can you witness for the truth?

You wonder why can’t you be different and stay friends? Isn’t diversity the beauty of this world? What would harm them if you were more talented than them? God gives talents and these are for his glory; may God be glorified in whoever he wants. Some have more gifts than others. You might have fought and tried hard in order to purify yourself and know and understand, while others might have stayed in their laziness wanting you to also be with them in this mental poverty.

If you thought that others are envious (envy and hatred are twins), pray for them so that God would take away their sin and let them revive through an effort similar to the one that made you revive too. Remember those weak people in your daily prayer in order not to become bitter yourself. When you do so, perhaps they might taste love and know how to be happy like you.

Perhaps the miracle happens and the “dew” descends on them.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الحقد” – 21.05.2000

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2000, An-Nahar, Articles

Homicide / 06.05.2000

Our life is a gift which only God gives forth and which only God takes back. You do not have the authority to kill or harm yourself, and certainly no one has this authority over anyone else’s life. You receive both your life and your neighbour from God. The other person may live as he wishes and it is your duty to direct him, to keep him company, to serve him and help him improve his situation and attain a better life. In doing this, your own spirit is beautified. Consequently, you have no right to kill another person even if he has requested you to, because he doesn’t have the right to put an end to his own life which was bequeathed by God to him. Accordingly, abortion cannot be permissible because a mother doesn’t own her foetus. Similarly, as a doctor, you don’t own your patient and you have no authority to kill him, no matter how bad his condition. You don’t have this authority over your patient’s body. You are not to make the decision to allow death for an unconscious patient, even if his condition becomes a complete coma. This is the greatest perversion to the very secret of existence. Your body is not an object for you to use it as you wish. It is a part of your person; it does not belong to the governor to flog or to the judge to execute. 

In the situation of human dialogue, the body is the medium of conversation. If a human connection cannot be established between you and the other, then your destruction of his body demonstrates your contempt for his human nature and prohibition of the dialogue between the two of you. Both your body and his grow upward together. God draws you with your bodies to Himself where He becomes your union. Your journey is always upward, and the other will only accompany you through his yearning for the higher. If you and the other are not both drawn to God, then the dual relationship between you is severed; it becomes either abuse or slavery. Slave and master both become objects like any other object. A relationship between two beings is impossible outside the embrace of God. A “being” in the depths of its truth cannot exist without openness towards its Creator and accordingly towards other creatures because it ceases then from saying “I” but affirms “we.” The “I” can only be fulfilled in the communion of “we.” The same is true for the body. After its self-transcendence and release from slavery, it extends towards embracing and accepting the other. The moment this triune communion between “I”, “you” and the divine “He” is achieved, then the whole man [body and soul] and all humanity dwell in Him. Killing abruptly ruptures this tri-unity. 

Obviously, by annihilating the other you annihilate yourself in the same measure and you actually renounce the dominion of God over both of you. Every sin is a negation, a denial of one of God’s qualities: a denial of His patience, mercy or love. Killing is an absolute denial of God because it is a denial of His existence as the Giver of Life. You annihilate your opponent because you decide that he is obstructing your plan, your business, your passions, your liberty, and anything which issues from this. You decide to become the sole master of your life and you think that in this alone is your protection and guarantee of dominion. Killing is the last stage of separation by projecting your delusions on existence and considering yourself God. Consciously or unconsciously, you replace God. With each transgression, you substitute God in a way – by killing you replace Him completely. 

In a movie about Joan of Arc, I appreciated what I saw in the episode where she was grieved by the abundance of bloodshed in the lines of the enemies after the victory in the battle of Orleans against England. Despite her belief that she was delegated from heaven to fight this war, she couldn’t endure this waste of blood. The commander explained to her that no war is possible without bloodshed. She had a different logic. I will not analyze here the conversation between a virgin saint and a rationalistic commander, but the horror of bloodshed comes to my mind as I recite Psalm 50. “Deliver me O God from blood guiltiness.” Even if you think it is possible to resist, none of us is far from such a temptation. 

Because of the importance of blood in the Early Church, any priest who, although unwillingly, caused the death of a human was immediately released from the priesthood. Similarly, canon law prescribed that if a priest or a bishop slapped another person he was to be defrocked. Relationship between humans is language, otherwise no relationship is possible. Language [in Arabic logat], from logos, is that which St. John’s Gospel uses to preach the Word. The Word is the relationship between you and the other. Without the Word you annihilate both the other and yourself. 

This brings us to the dilemma of genocide. When a group of people proceeds to exterminate another group on the basis of fear, solely because their victims are “different,” this implies that these scared murderers think they are re-establishing themselves in existence apart from the context of coexistence. Cain (Kabeel in Islam) killed his brother Abel, who was a herdsman, because he had a “different” occupation. If the “other” is not from your country, your race, religion or political party, he is sentenced to death. Because he cannot be put to death legally, you slay him without a court because any trial is a dialogue. In a way, every massacre is a massacre against the name of God as He is worshiped in heaven or on earth. Every massacre is “religious” in the sense that ethnicity or political ideology are religions, and religion by definition can sustain neither sin nor the sinners. “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (John 16: 2). There exists a “liturgy” of extermination. There exist those who permit or prohibit in the name of God, the “chosen of God” whom God assigned the task of eliminating all those who do not belong to their God. 

The logic of genocide is that the world should be of one colour. This is totally different from the logic of the national army, which doesn’t say, “I am going to kill” but says, “I wish, if it is within my power, to restore order and justice and to defend the country without killing anyone and I regret the death of the enemy.” The army has no enemy; it only has temporary opponents. The army is not supposed to do premeditated harm or invade because occupation causes mental harm and humiliation. This is why the greatest leaders were always those who walked the paths of peace because they detested bloodshed. The philosophy of the military is that it defends the entire nation and that it is not, in its essence, hostile to any other nation. Civilized nations do not brainwash their own citizens with hatred and propaganda, and their military exemplar is that of the Byzantine Empire where offensive wars were totally excluded and where the armed forces were solely used as a shield for peace and a defence force. 

Apart from this logic, the militia exists because it is the “military” of a certain group. The militia does not support the general cause of the nation. A militia is always set against another militia. A faction has no cause because it exists specifically for extermination. This is why a civil war, any civil war, is always most difficult to reconcile. Using this philosophy we should put the war which waged in Lebanon on trial. Unless every group which committed a massacre is brought to repentance, none of us can repent to our motherland and to the human integrity it symbolizes. God cannot be the Victor unless every group comes forward and confesses its sins to the other groups in the presence of the entire nation. In the context of this logic, there is nothing worse than this popular saying we use: “God forgave the past!” No, God does not forgive us, and it is not in His nature to forgive unless every one of us has acknowledged and repented from his own sin of murder in thought and deed against the other. Whoever dipped his hands in blood or wished the death, displacement, desolation or diminishment of the other is an accomplice in the sin of extermination. Every victim, no matter what his belief, is innocent because he is a part of God. God does not want anyone to fight in His name. God knows how to put to death whomever He wants. No one is the representative of God in the domain of death. 

He who wants to bring others to life dies himself. This is why Christ is the Life-Giver: His humble submission [“Islam” in Arabic] on the Cross totally destroys any “theology of killing,” any military “sanctification” for any ideology of persecution, any dogma of “revenge,” any punishing “hand of God” and any divine mission using the sword. “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). God did not delegate His authority to anyone. Only He judges the hearts of the people and lets them be free to obey or disobey. He does not yet separate the blessed from the accursed “for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Hopefully, each of us will receive in proportion to his capacity. 

I don’t see any possibility of teaching man peace if he doesn’t believe in God. If God does not exist then you become a god. This should explain the ever-growing wave of murder worldwide where people, individuals and groups alike, worship themselves. Certainly, sometimes restraint from crime may be based upon the fear of punishment, but this remains strictly within the domain of individual relations. Where no punishment is available – in the context of ethnic and religious wars – the only reasonable explanation is that your god exterminates the other god. I mean by this that your understanding of this god embodied or expressed within the movement of your group invalidates the other embodiment and the other movement. 

The concept that came to be called a “multicultural society” is none other than the culture of variety, acknowledging that there may be another understanding of the one God, or that He has multiple revelations within one society composed of a variety of small groups. Today’s so-called “culture for peace” may be very ambiguous especially as it is practised in many countries worldwide where it is basically an acceptance of treason. But the idea in itself, in its pure form, states that every nation must live in freedom to be able to cooperate. Within this same nation, no ethnic or religious group is beyond error and repentance. Repentance is the God-given fruit to initiate dialogue as the means out of trouble, through mutual acknowledgment of one another’s rights of existence. This means that coexistence and mutual life must be based upon something non-pragmatic and I don’t see any foundation other than God. 

God died in our midst and we made ourselves God. This is why we allowed everything. Will God return? 

I believe that when the Gospel says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,” it demonstrates that your glory to God is conditioned by your love for peace. Peace is one of God’s names in Christianity and in Islam. When will He grant us to love this quality in Him?

Translated by Father Symeon AbouHaidar

Original Text: “القتل” – 06.05.2000

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