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January 2006

2006, Articles, Raiati

Virtues of the Priest and Bishop / 29.01.2006

In today’s Epistle (1Timothy 4: 9–15) Paul addresses his disciple Timothy after making him a bishop or overseer in Asia Minor. After telling him that God is the savior of all people, he asks him to teach that to the faithful. The first job of the priest or bishop is to teach. Therefore, he must know the dogma which is the substance of the Holy Book and its interpretation; he must also know what our fathers said about the bible while interpreting it knowing that they based their interpretation on the statements of the Councils.

It is required from the priest then to go deep down our tradition, at least in the main issues if he wasn’t able to know everything. We add to these main issues the history of the Church, the Divine services and knowing the most famous Saints. How could a person teach if he doesn’t know anything or if he knows just a little? Therefore I will not respond to the request of those that want me to let a person with little knowledge into priesthood just because he is pious. We all invited to piety.

However, education is not enough. The apostle assures that the clergyman must be a model in speaking, in pure speaking that carries no anger, tension, prejudice, bias or gossip. Then he continues: in behavior, and here comes an endless list of virtues containing chastity in the love for money which is something the priest is exposed to while performing the divine sacraments. Here, the believer differentiates between a clergyman that desires money in a sick way and a clergyman that is satisfied with what he is given and that doesn’t object on any amount and if he wasn’t given anything, he doesn’t nag and ask. And if the priest felt any deficiency, he complains to his bishop so that he wouldn’t owe favors to anyone.

After that, Saint Paul the apostle highlights three qualities that seem the most important for him: Love, faith and purity. Love is the peak because “God is love” as the Evangelical John says in his first catholic epistle. He must love all the sons of his parish. He must love those that love him and those that have a reticence or complaints towards him. He must go to those and confront them to understand what they have towards him; he must accept their remarks if they were right and be patient towards them if they remained on their enmity and distance from him, and must strengthen his service to them in order to gain them for Christ.

And finally, he mentions purity. This virtue means purity in money and also in behavior with the women of the parish through staying away from joking with men and women and in general avoiding being funny.

After that, the apostle asks his disciple to devote himself to reading. In the times of Paul, they read the Old Testament because the New Testament wasn’t written yet. But today, the commandment to read means reading all the Holy Book and different spiritual books including, of course, the available old and new theological books for the priest and bishop in the languages he knows. He can also read what he can from different cultural books, and for me, he must also read newspapers in order to know the conditions of the country and the world to know the pains of people and their worries in this world.

Then, Paul urges his disciple to preach and teach. As for preaching, the Holy Canons makes it obligatory in every service especially in the Divine Liturgy. And in case the priest couldn’t master the methods of giving speeches, and didn’t have enough knowledge of our teachings, and hears the faithful complaining about his preaching and was convinced with their arguments, he must then not preach or just say a few simple instructive words without taking much time because our Liturgy has no place for a long sermon.

And what Paul calls “teaching” is a different thing than preaching. It is the organized teaching for children and adults, and we must not neglect the adults. This happens through Bible study evenings or in Christian education classes in schools or in lectures. And not every clergyman is qualified to do this.

Finally, Paul asks Timothy not to neglect the gift that he got in ordination but to develop all his powers because we learn everyday and we try to gain virtues also everyday so that our development becomes obvious to the faithful and they glorify God in us.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “فضائل الكاهن والأسقف” –Raiati 05- 29.01.2006

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2006, Articles, Raiati

Spiritual Renewal / 15.01.2006

The heresy of “the reformed church”, which is a part of the Baptist movement, believes that God comes to a person only once during his life and saves him and this way he becomes saved forever. In the epistle that we read today (Colossians 3: 4–11), Christ doesn’t become everything in us if we didn’t leave our desires. We continue being between an ascent and a descent until, if we had an honest repentance and stayed with the Lord when he appears in the last day and didn’t embrace sin, he shall justify us in his judgment. In this world, Paul tells us: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. We are saved through hope, but salvation is not a passport that lets us enter the heavens automatically.

The apostle asks us to put our desires to death. This is what he meant saying: “Put to death, therefore, the members of your earthly bodies”. By the word “members” he means the bad factors that form the entity of the sin, this entity that he compares to a body, because when vices hold on together they attract one another.

Paul has two lists of desires: the first one starts with sexual immortality and ends with grief and the second one starts with anger and ends with lying. These two lists might not contain all sins, but it is obvious that according to the apostle, you cannot become a new man if you were still drowning in one of the hidden sins in you. You have to be “renewed in knowledge in the image of your creator”, and knowledge means knowing the Lord, his words, and the behaviors of his Messiah in this world that reveal to you the fact that you are God’s beloved one. Knowledge means knowing that God loves you. Only by knowing that, you shall stop sinning and become a new person.

If you examined your heart, and were honest in this examination, you might find something remaining from a sin or another. When you struggle through continuous prayer, through reading the Bible, forgiving others and righteous deeds, the Lord shall purify you.

Destroy one sin from those that the apostle mentioned and you shall see all other sins collapsing. And once you gain the corresponding virtue, you will notice after a while that all other virtues are descending on you.

The fathers revealed to us methods of purification in addition to the general spiritual struggle (praying, spiritual reading, fasting and charity). Liberation from each sin has its own way. For adultery, as an example, Paul tells us in another occasion that we should “flee from sexual immorality”. This is a desire that can’t be fought except through going away from a person, a relationship or a situation. None should feel powerful in this war.

As for greed, it cannot be fought except through giving, in order to be trained not to be attached to the money you make. You should survive from the love of money on the biblical basis: “He have freely scattered his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever”.

Lying could be fought by fighting fear and by being trained to be brave and to resist in front of everyone, in addition to all other main spiritual war methods such as praying, reading, and charity that can heal all sins.

Once you are liberated from these tendencies and the falls that result from them, you shall put on the new man, Christ, and in him there will be no more conflicts between a Pagan and a Jew or any race and another. All social differences will be diminished. However, this unity, which Paul invited us to, is not possible unless we were liberated from lusts and desires and surrendered to Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: التجدد الروحي” ” –Raiati no3- 15.01.2006

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2006, Articles, Raiati

2006 / 01.01.2006

The Ecclesiastic year starts on September first, while the civil year starts today. However, people are used to organize their matters according to the civil regulation. Today, we remember the circumcision in the flesh of our Lord since it is an event of the Savior’s life mentioned in the Gospel, and it means that he respected Moses’ Law in order to save us from it through his blood and enter a new life in Baptism. Since we were emancipated from all physical signs, faith has become the only connection between God and us. Those who have become in Christ’s Kingdom don’t need any tangible sign and this is why circumcision of Christian children was cancelled. We do not oppose anyone who wants to do it for health reasons although modern medicine says that circumcision has no benefits.

One of the great teachers of Alexandria, Origen, wrote a beautiful page about circumcision saying that we should circumcise the sin from our senses: we circumcise our hearing so that we don’t hear impure things; we circumcise our sight in order not to see what might insult our Christian entity…etc. In other words, we should start the New Year in chastity and not spend New Year’s Eve in gambling and entertainment.

After that, the church put the memory of one of the greatest bishops in history, St. Basil the Great, who died in 379 at the age of 49. He deserved the adjective “Great” because he was great in asceticism, in organizing worship and monastic life, social work, resisting the political authority that was anti-orthodox, and has played a big role in theology. Ecclesiastically, January first, is a full day. We enter it with hope as we wish that God gives us peace first and then economical prosperity. We pray for our country that suffers from horrible crimes against the safe and innocent. Therefore, each one of us should focus in his individual prayer on asking safety for all people, so that God provides peace between all our sects and so that no outside party would stab us and we would still be able to find our means of living and raise our children.

In addition to praying, there is another effort, and it is that whoever wants should volunteer to fast a day or more, and this fasting would be a kind of prayer for God to receive Lebanon in his mercy and goodwill. The year 2006 shall be new if the heart is renewed and purified. When we achieve repentance and decide to stay and dwell in it, we shall be renewed together and stay away from hatred and cursing. Perhaps God would then see this and save us from tests that are above our energy and would cut the hand of anyone who wants to kill the leaders of our patriotic life or any press man. Then, we would be able to walk wherever we want without being afraid.

I feel sad when I see that the number of believers today is low. Oppose this bad habit and come to the Lord’s Table so that your souls would become beautiful and free from all evil in order to ascent together to Christ. Time passes, and your tomorrow from the aspect of food, work and familial life would become today. Economical life is in constant ascending and descending. And most of the time, you are weaker than political mafias that can disturb the life of the country and defect its system.

Maybe the only thing remaining for you is to become a good person through your individual behavior. Try to make yourself spiritually beautiful and enhance the people of your house. When a lot of people do that, a beautiful society and a noble country shall be created.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “2006” – 01.01.2006

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