Monthly Archives

November 2005

2005, An-Nahar, Articles

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself / 19.11.2005

This commandment ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth in fact is found in Leviticus of the Old Testament as such: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”(Lev. 19: 18); this can be interpreted to mean that you only love those of your own people. The New Testament broadened the meaning of that commandment by calling us to love all people. Yet the commandment is in the imperative revealing that love is a divine commandment and not only a sentiment; you might sense a feeling on the inside towards the other and you also might not do so. So “to love” is a law understood as such: you should love your neighbor as yourself. The underlying idea in the Old Testament is that those who love are tied together as the Law-Keepers forming together in this context the “Holy Nation”; the human-divine entity of the Jewish people.

Not so is the case in Christ. In Him one does not belong to a nation. By loving, we become the people of the “loved ones”. So Jesus offered the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to the doctor of the law who asked him: Who is my neighbor? To this question, the Lord answered by another: Which was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The doctor said: He who has practiced mercy, Jesus said to him, and you also do likewise (Luke 10.9-37). He meant that every man remains a stranger if you do not take into consideration his pain and loneliness. Do not ask therefore about the one you show mercy to. Just have compassion generously and simply. He who is shown mercy by you is loved by you. And thus the “nation” of the beloved is built with love.

The Law of Moses presents loving as a command so that, in loving, one is not left to his own caprice and passion; for if one leaves this world with resentment and animosity to others, he separates himself from others and thus the ties of love in the Holy Nation are undone. And if you refuse to love someone, you would find yourself out of love; in the same way, you alienate God from the relation between you and your enemy if you do not love him as Jesus commands: “love your enemies”. If you love your enemy you remove enmity from your heart and you might be and instrument in removing it from him; but in all cases you would bring him out of loneliness and alienation.

Since one’s love for the other is a commandment, that means that it does not spring from the lovability of the person to be loved. The other might be ugly by all means; still you have to love him. You do not love the other because he deserves your love or because you expect him to reciprocate your love. He might have nothing to offer. Do not expect anything; sufficient is the grace that comes down on you from God to give you life; and that alone can change your desert into an oasis. If God is your sufficiency you will have the fullness of life whether you have others around you who share their love with you or whether you find yourself in the desert of love; in that desert, as Mauriac says, you also will enjoy fullness of life if you know that you are God’s beloved.

The love of God saves us if we appropriate it as coming down on us personally and as sufficient for us in our lives. Sometimes we feel that the affection someone shows us is a reflection of the affection that God has for us; perhaps the ultimate value of emotional love is that it makes us feel God’s fatherhood for us. God can be seen through everything that exists in this world. The world is a great book. Blessed are those who manage to see God in what is around them.

If we explore the meaning of the commandment further, as Jesus wants us to, we find that the neighbor is he on whom we have mercy and serve till the end; and so love your neighbor as yourself would mean love your neighbor above yourself. It is ridiculous to say that the meaning of the commandment is to feed the neighbor in the same way you feed your own body. At times we have to deprive ourselves of food and clothing in order to give the other; that is the meaning of the commandment. Keeping a balance between what we have and what we give is not “love till the end”; the balance ascertains our existence for us while love might mean that we deny our existence so the other would live.

That commandment reaches its full dimension only with Him who loves all humans above himself that He gave himself to death, death on the cross. And because He preferred others above himself, He makes us understand the commandment as “love your neighbor above yourself”. You, having known the love God has for you in Jesus, have died or have “killed the world” in you so you do not feel that you exist in yourself but that Christ has called you to existence. And this new life in you, when imparted to another person, makes him live and exist after having been only meagerly existing.  You should love the other regardless of his qualities whether good or bad. He might be ugly like Christ’s face was on the cross. You do not love the other because of any beauty in him. Anyway you should not gather him to yourself but to Jesus. You have no hold on him whom you love in Christ. He might be in need of you today but not so the next day. That could be for a long time or maybe for a short time only. Someone else might be in need of your mercy. For you, the ‘other’ is Jesus who said: “I was hungry and you gave me food”. Needless to say He was referring to those who are hungry and not to himself. Having a servant’s heart, you follow up on those you serve. You comfort, you feed, you clothe others and give them guidance; all this you do because you, for one reason or another, got to know about the need of the others, so you approach them and you pour out yourself for them.

Those whom you serve might be moved by the care you give them and give you back with heartfelt genuine affection. The problem here is that that might make you aware of your own importance as a “giver”. You should not let your service make you great in your own eyes or feel important. You should love with the only purpose that those you give would know that they are loved by God. If he pays you back your love, you would have received your reward. That is all right to happen but is not of importance. What is important in people loving one another is that they should get close to God in being drawn to Heaven above.

In fact when you give, you give to Christ Who dwells in the one who is needy. Christ is the ultimate and absolute poor who took nothing from the world except rejection. So you are with Him in all those who suffer. The one who loves and the one loved are one in Christ who, by giving His blood, disseminated all “giving” that ever springs from God’s heart. He, alone, who dells in God can bring God to dwell in others. But if you make yourself dwell in others, you do not impart to others only what is good in you but also what is ugly. So you should impart only God and your faith in Him to others. I do not deny the joy there is in the exchange of affection between the hearts of people, for that is rewarding. But do not grasp on to the one you give to, because your goal is that he should turn his face to God’s face to thank Him; and so he will obtain Life.

Translated by Riad Mofarrij

Original Text: “تحب قريبك كنفسك” – 19.11.2005

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2005, Articles, Raiati

Transferring the Priest / 13.11.2005

It is common for people to say: This priest is ordained for the church of a certain village. The 6th law of the fourth Ecumenical Council (451) has clarified that a priest is appointed for an ecclesiastic service in a city, a village, a memorial place for a martyr, or a monastery. The name of the city or village was mentioned in public during the ordination by saying: “The divine grace ordinates (the priest’s name) to the service of priesthood in (the name of the church) in (the name of city or village)”. This means that a clergy is not ordained in a general way, and this was the wish of the council to forbid priests from moving easily from a place to another and violate the law.

Sometimes, if a church had a few number of people, a priest might be appointed for this church and another one at the same time. It was common for us, and is still applied, that a priest stays in his village until he dies or becomes healthily unable unless a disciplinary decision was taken against him or he started a schism or problems in the parish, then he must be transferred to another place. Facts showed that if he didn’t succeed in this church, he might succeed in another one.

Sometimes, a priest might want, for personal reasons, to move into another archdiocese so he takes the permission of his elder to do that. In this case he will be appointed for a different church from the one he was ordained to originally. In addition to that, pastoral experience taught us that transferring a priest that showed maturity and piety from a very small parish to a big one could be beneficial for the parish. Eventually, the bishop is the responsible pastor for everyone and knows the situations of the archdiocese and knows where each priest might be beneficial. In other words, he knows whether a priest could manage a smooth parish or a parish that has some difficulties.

The archdiocese is one church and has one administration that works through consultation between everyone especially between the priests and bishop. This is based on the faith that the bishop is the father of everyone because he has no earthly benefits and his only wish is for Christ to become the head of the community, and in this context the priest is left in his place or transferred to another one.

During war, our priests were either displaced or became sick or died and in some cases they filled empty churches. All of this imposed changes between people. But now, and after things returned to their normal state, it was necessary to organize things again in order to decrease the number of churches that have the same priest. Limiting several parishes under one pastor will make him unable to pay good attention to all churches. This is beyond man’s energy. This will make pastoral care a nominal thing. The situation could barely develop to become ritual through doing the Divine Liturgy and some prayers. But does anyone ask about families and teach and take care of children? A part of this will surely become weak.

This is the basis: When the size of the parish becomes smaller, pastoral care will become greater as we move from quantity to quality. We need a high quality of care and a constant presence of the priest in a specific community, in a certain village of this Mount.

Moreover, we have a big number of theology students and the bishop of Mount Lebanon must put each one of them in a place. It is not possible to give two or three churches for one priest and throw this student after his graduation on the street especially if he was a lover of Christ and an active discerning young man.

My policy is to narrow broad regions and increase the number of servants of the temple so that the word of truth becomes heard in all places and we embrace our children and build new temples. More than one new church awaits us. We already have the piece of land for some of these churches (for example “Hadath”) or we have bought the land (for example “Naccach”) and in other places we will buy because hundreds of families don’t have a pastor. Remember God’s words: “I will strike the shepherd (or cancel the shepherd), and the sheep will be scattered”. God will sustain the priest if his region became smaller and his soul will become greater because his brother took his place seriously.

In addition to that, we face today the issue of aging priests that need a colleague to help them. We don’t want anyone to leave his church unless he became physically unable to serve. However, another priest or a deacon must help him and he must accept this with love.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “نَقْلُ الكاهن” –Raiati 46- 13.11.2005

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2005, Articles, Raiati

Forgiveness / 06.11.2005

When you forgive the other in his presence and accept his qualities that differ from you, you would be admitting that God allowed him to be as he is, this means that he could be worse than what you want him to be. However, this is the world, and in this world people are formed according to how they came from their mothers, to how they grew up in their societies, and to the various experiences they had.

A person being as he is, means that you should expect him to behave according to the way he knows and you might not like that. You shouldn’t be satisfied from forcing yourself to accept him, but you should accept him and hope to reform him. Humanity is a painting, in which every color is different from the other, and God wanted us this way, different, because we are free and there is no model through which humans are formed. For if you accepted the other, you would have accepted God’s will in his worshipers; and his unfathomable will is diversity.

Accepting the other results in cooperating with him if he was close to you, I mean if he was in your environment or if your profession forced you to cooperate. Of course, you must know whether he was straight or a thief, an honest person or a liar. You have the right not to deal with him in your profession. This professional cooperation doesn’t force you to love him; you should stay in your straightness and honesty.

Forgiveness requires not killing the other because Christ is present in every person you deal with and because He who gave man his life is the only one allowed to take it back. This means that you should never be angry, because anger is the source of cursing, harming and then killing. This also means that you shouldn’t be angry but be a friend of the person you’re dealing with, because friendship is a side of love that could do anything.

One of the aspects of forgiveness is accepting the person coming from another religion or from outside your church. People have their religions from their birth, so you must be merciful with them and not mock their religious positions, and if you argued, do that with full respect. Do not agree verbally on positions that your church doesn’t accept; don’t be flattery especially that you might not know all their beliefs.

Our country is a diversified society. You should confront but not challenge. You should be happy in their feasts and for the good thinking they have, but you should have your precautions on things when you should. Do not argue a lot, and if you did, do it politely because we should pay attention to our fellowship and have with them a human unity after our religious or doctrinal unity became impossible.

You shouldn’t be affected by anyone and shouldn’t have any maliciousness or spite. Give a service wherever you can because serving softens the hearts. And if the person you wanted to make closer to you became sick, stay next to him for this shall make him closer to you if he was gentle. And his enmity towards you might disappear if some of his enmity was lost. Burn his bad qualities with clear and active love. Remember the words of the Lord: “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”, i.e. destroy the enmity of his soul with unlimited kindness and maintain his status and reputation and praise him in his absence if he deserved it because this shall encourage him and enhance his ethics. And if we supposed that he remained evil, remember what the Lord said: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you” because the purpose is to live in love on earth as a beginning to the Kingdom of God.

Lenience becomes mutual forgiveness between you and the other, and God becomes the bridge between you. This would be your victory over yourself and an invitation for the other to enter Christ’s zone.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “المسامحة” –Raiati no45- 06.11.2005

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