Monthly Archives

October 2000

2000, An-Nahar, Articles

Jerusalem and the Glory / 14.10.2000

Of all the Palestinian scenes nothing has moved me like the Intifadah [insurgency] of stones since its detonation until it was rekindled now. I am amazed how unarmed children (what weapon can the stones be?) are saying no to armed soldiers. This refusal for me is the apogee of martyrdom – as we understand it biblically – and it’s shiniest representative been, in my opinion, the death of the kid Mohammed Al-Dorra, whom I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday saying: “our love and prayers are offered to Mohammed Al-Dorra.”

The night following the Divine Liturgy, I watched the televised interview with Yasser Abed Rabbo [Palestinian Information Minister] who was able, for three hours, to talk about the pain that his nation is suffering without any sign of grudge: the Palestinian resistance has become for many a tradition of love.

It hurts to see injustice, is there still a need to expose it after all this oppression exercised over an entire nation in the scope of the Holy Lands?  And the greater injustice is the support for the continuation of this oppression despite the cries of the prophets.

They always questioned how could Jerusalem become a killer?

How can the Jews today disregard reading the condemnation for murder written in their tradition?  “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope.” (Is 5: 20) This is a tragedy befalling a monotheist nation like ours — which was called to do justice — meanwhile their devotees are murderers. They summon all nations if oppression befalls upon them—while oppressing the others doesn’t disturb them. This is the tragedy of their religious atmosphere since no one there can discern the disaster in this domain. Rightfully Jeremiah said: “For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? Or who shall bemoan thee? Or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest? Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch my hand against thee, and destroy thee;” (15: 5-6) Why none of the Western Christians is not using this old rebuke against the present day Israel who, on the contrary, still enjoys the status of the spoiled kid? We declared this truth 52 years ago and kept repeating it over the generations mayhap they shall listen, but they shut their ears as if forcing the blood upon us.

And blood was spilled in the place of worship transforming the souls of the victims to another temple where the blood-sprinkled bodies prostrated a passionate prostration. And the Glory descended upon the Aqusah [Temple Mount]. And God attracted us spiritually to Himself: in martyrdom one passes through heaven. In what meaning Jerusalem becomes a way to heaven? A very complicated say indeed. In some religious literature, Jerusalem is the centre of the world. Of course, this is an image suggesting that, in the cosmic body, Jerusalem is the heart – and one is subsequently included with it in this vision – in the atmosphere of metaphor where one needs the material in order to attain the unseen. From this perspective Jerusalem is the yearned for (Israa in our reading), and the spring of yearning (Meaarag in our reading) at the same time. He who wrote from the exile in Babylon: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!” wasn’t merely longing for his homeland, but was seeking after the Divine presence in its Temple. Later, the Holy City became the image of the Heavenly Jerusalem descending from above as the City of God.

In this spirit, Lady Rabeaat Adawiyah wasn’t seeking the House in her pilgrimage, but the Master of the House. No one seeks after the rocks in the Holy lands but after an icon. And seeking after things on high, Early Christians were not concerned with Jerusalem, which they left before it was captured by the Romans in 70 A.D. Their Saviour was in heaven and here His tomb is empty. Even the Patriarchate of Jerusalem ranked fifth in honour among the other churches since the fifth century. The fact that the Christ did sanctify the land which He stepped upon, is not so critical for the Christians for whom His Gospel and His presence in the Holy Gifts is much more precious than the earth of Jerusalem.

In-depth, despite the historical aspect in which Jerusalem is connected to every religion, the real meeting point for all the monotheistic religions becomes that when the city surpasses itself and stretches forth towards God. But before attaining His face, one remains with the symbols where begins all conflict and political game.

After politicising the symbols, the Hebraic State declares the existence of a Palestinian presence above the earth (the Aqusa Mosque) but an Israeli authority below the earth (the second Temple, despite the fact that this was not archaeologically proved). By artificially migrating from religious symbols to political covetousness everything becomes ridiculously permissible.

There is then an accord between all religions over Jerusalem if we aimed at the meanings, and a disaccord if we pursued the symbols.

The intellectual step that the Arab Christian theologians stepped, starting since the 60’s, was by overlooking the land and focussing on the man. This antinomy was expressed through these words, for the first time by Patriarch Elias IV, who headed back then a joint Orthodox-Maronite delegation to the Islamic summit in Lahore. In a first impression, one is transported from the Holy Places to a no-place—to the face of one’s God. And in a second movement, one descends from the vision of the gracious face of the Lord to the coexisting faces of the inhabitants of the City – this City that becomes holy through the justice – which is their right upon the nations of the earth.

The unity of Palestine, despite all the historic quarrels over the right of existence for this or that party on this or that area, is the essence of justice for both Arabs and Jews only if the Jews abandoned the Zionist idea. We would have then gone to Madrid and to Oslo and the bloodshed would have being spared.

All politics is a compromise, but some compromises are impossible – not only because they are humiliating – but also because they are unviable. Within the frame of a possible political solution today, awaiting the hoped for peace, is:

First, a Lesser Palestine including the West Bank, Gaza and a complete and undivided Eastern Jerusalem.

Second, to stop the expansion of all kibbutzes.       

Third, the return of all the refugees to their hometowns and villages. And the rest is mere details.

This necessitate both parties’ return to the negotiation table, unless the present conflict did not surpass all this deliberation, unless the Hebraic State did not madly insist on its limitless craziness and unless our beloved people in Palestine did not march to the extent of their heroism.

Awaiting this, all Arabs are looking forward towards their upcoming summit. I can’t understand why this summit was delayed, how can they cold-blooded watch the massacres? Is it our destiny to become like the story of Shahrazad [One Thousand and One Nights] awaiting a new story delaying us every night? Arab mentality enjoys the poetry and likes to believe that merely by speech they can substitute the action. The least what can those Arabs who have diplomatic relations with Israel do is to freeze this relation as a symbol of protest. This can be a start for an Arab action aiming at soliciting the mediation of the US to justly interfere between Israel and the Arabs. But most regretfully, the Arab diplomacy can’t understand the impossibility of resisting Israel without the necessity of upsetting the US. This Arabic circus cannot save Palestine. Only one thing can annoy the Americans and that thing is the Arab oil. For the US to keep exploiting limitlessly and without an account the Arab oil – for the US to remain comfortably listening to Arab poetry against her – this means that the US will never cut the “umbilical cord” between her and Israel. The defiance of the entire Arab nation against the American tyranny has no relevance if the oil was not subordinated to serve the Palestinian cause. Arabs themselves must invent a mechanism to limit the American greed in their riches.

Remains all that huddle about sending troops and enlisting volunteers (where from?!) to fight beside the Palestinians and which remains a merely performed song.

None of the Arabs is dying for the Palestinians. No one is saving the Arab dignity except the Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Gaza and elsewhere. I don’t know the scheme of this salvation, all I know is that it springs from the Palestinian brave hearts, which have signed an eternal pact with life.

Translated by Father Symeon AbouHaidar

Original Text: “القدس والمجد” – 14.10.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

Between Orthodoxy and Catholicism / 08.10.2000

I feel sad to tell you that the relations between our Church and the Catholic Church are now in a dilemma and that they are paused on the level of the international mixed committee for the dialogue between the two Churches.  This committee met between 9 and 19 July in a region next to Baltimore in the United States and 46 delegates attended from around the world (Father Michel Najm from the Archdiocese of New York represented the Antiochian Church). The topic of the meeting was to examine the unity movement (with Rome) from the aspect of ecclesiastic theology and canon law. However, this meeting failed and the participants didn’t reach an agreement because the Orthodox still refused the existence of a theological basis for the existence of Catholics that have Byzantine rituals.

They discussed deep topics with theological and canonic forms that are related to Catholic Christians who come from Orthodox origins. Therefore, no mutual statement resulted from the meeting as before and the members will only send reports to their Churches about the possibility of overcoming the difficulties that block the dialogue. Nevertheless, the mutual committee expressed its hope to continue this quest and dialogue hoping that it would help to bring back the communion between the two Churches. In addition to the discussions, the delegates participated in prayers that were held in the Latin Church and in the Greek Orthodox Church in Baltimore.

The dialogue on this high level became complicated since 1990 when new Eastern Catholics appeared in Western Ukraine and Romania (After the Communist Regime closed their Churches). Also, Russian Orthodox Christians felt that Catholicism is being practiced in Russia – via Latin missionaries – and that it was snatching their people. The latest document on this issue appeared in a meeting of the international committee that was held at Balamand in July 1993. In Balamand, the process of joining Rome as a way for unity was refused. There is another path for the unity of the West and the East. The document spoke about the notion of “Sister Churches”. However, some Churches, especially the Greek Church and the Greek Catholic Church in Romania, refused this notion. Finally, the “Faith teaching” council in Vatican issued in 30 June a decision that refused this notion and this decision was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and was approved by the Pope.

Regardless of this dilemma, the Orthodox representatives expressed their will to continue the dialogue. I have a feeling that the Balamand document was enough and there was no need to add to it another document. It was obvious for us that each addition or adjustment made to the Balamand text would make the issue of Eastern Catholics more complicated. Rome gave us in Balamand more than we expected by confessing that establishing Eastern Catholic Churches was a doctrinal and historical mistake. We didn’t accept the legitimacy of these Churches but we respected their existence and freedom. Canonically, they are a part of the Church of Rome. From this aspect, we deal with the Sacraments of these Churches.

It is normal, while looking at the dialogues of Churches, for every side of us to see that these Churches are raising only one problematic. They are considered as one block although, administratively, they are not. They are considered as one phenomenon in Eastern Europe or in the diaspora. However, some of these Churches have stopped their snatching of believers in a notable and direct way. Also some of them have a brotherly feeling towards us.

It is obvious that an obstacle was created, which isn’t only a psychological one, because of the appearance of these Churches. I feel that our awareness and the ecumenical spirit that have penetrated several places are able to stop the process of “snatching”. Our spiritual renaissance and theirs have proved in some countries – such as ours – that we can cooperate in theological scientific production and in other ways without having a sacramental participation with each other.

Other issues, some that are old and others that are new, have expanded the hole between us. The next official meeting won’t be sooner than two years. How can we continue this mutual strive after the appearance of this obstacle in Baltimore? Only God knows. We pray for Him to let us overcome the barriers.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “بين الأرثوذكسية والكثلكة” –Raiati 41- 08.10.2000

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2000, Articles, Raiati

Mercy / 01.10.2000

The first thing that we read in today’s Gospel (Luke 6: 31–36) is an invitation from Jesus for us to treat others the way we want them to treat us. The other is in the path of my life and God made me responsible for him. I became the person that feeds him when hungry and talks to him when lonely. I ask about him and about all his needs. I initiate in all what is good for him, and do not wait for him to ask me about anything.

I love him and don’t wait for him to thank me. I don’t look for a quality in him as a condition to serve him. He might not be my relative or friend. Love is not based on exchanged feelings. From my side, I should love though he might not love me back. I should love and serve him as obedience to Christ.

I often lend him money and do not hope to get it back. Christian love is not a contract. It is a one-sided giving. It is given to any person that needs it, and once we recognize that, we shall understand the Lord’s expression: “Love your enemies”. If someone antagonized me, he would be harming and saddening himself. If the Lord asked me to save him from this hostility, I should heal his soul. And since I knew that he fell in hatred, spite, jealousy, or gossip, I should become his doctor. I have been assigned as his doctor because I recognized his illness. I should think about his salvation and not about the wound he left in me. If I stayed away from him or hated him, the level of my humanness will decrease; I will become a dwarf and enter his game. However, if we knew that love is unconditioned, it I will become easier to understand the expression: “Love your enemies”. Exactly as God is graceful towards the unthankful and the evil, I distribute myself on those who loved me or hated me without differentiation. My heart should be wide enough for the world; therefore, the Gospel ended this text by saying: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

Exactly as the Lord treats all people with what is good, grace, clemency and fatherhood, I should be. His bosom is wide enough for all his sons, good and evil together. God uses a specific way with every group of people in order to let them reach him. The Lord of the house loves both, the good boy and the bad evil one. He has his own way with every child. In this same way, if we treated all people with the same sympathy, we would be able to manage our life with people in different ways and the purpose is to reveal to them, through our behavior, the divine tenderness.

Man has harshness in him; he has harm, exploitation and love for control. He has all kinds of serpents. You should love the other in order to kill these serpents. Evil is not abolished except through what is good, forgiveness, and constructive work. Negativity cannot be destroyed except through positivity. And what is even better than positivity is to have the initiative in serving, to be the one that washes others’ feet. This is your mission; this is what Jesus did.

A Human relationship is not a contract in which two sides agree on the phrase “I give you if you gave me”. It is a triadic relation in which God is the regulator of the contract. “God loved us first” and he is the one that loves us during our life and the only one that receives us when we die and in the last day. I am merciful with you because I learned the morals of mercy from the Lord, my embracer. And if we looked at people through the eyes of God, we will find out that they are his beloved ones regardless of their sins.

On earth, we should be ready to deal with everyone, and make them elevate from their situation, or at least try to. This is hurtful for the sensitive person and for the pure person that is shocked by the impure. However, the Lord made every person a guard for his brother, and if he didn’t accept this delegation and left the other without mercy, he would be handing him to death.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الرحمة” –Raiati no40- 01.10.2000

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