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March 2007

2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The Peace of the Crucified One / 10.03.2007

Lebanon is, in all, crucified. Holders of personal interests in the world crucify it. They crucify us, as we have no selfish interests in this country. Those, who consider themselves to be great, eliminate the little ones, who do not benefit in any way from this country. I am worried about the little ones, who do not perceive why adults carry within themselves enmity, why they do not have the tenderness of childhood, instead of falsifying each other, why they do not have joy, why they resolve to death after they were created to live, why they make crosses for one another, why they do not sing sincerely [the Lebanese National Anthem]: ‘All of us for our country, for glory’, which is not actualized without humility. This country is like a kingdom of powerless old people, who had lost their sense of the flowers. They want to live without smelling the truth and tasting the good, and whenever they are reconciled together they want to divide the booties among themselves, without distributing the gains to those in need of light.

Those arrogant people want us to be food for them, but they do not want themselves to become nourishment for all. Christ has said: “Take, eat; this is my body.” [Matt. 26: 26] The country lays itself down as food to whomever wants to live, and those arrogant ones give us stone in place of bread, and partition in place of unity. Why is the drought of the thirsty hearts for the living water?

Since we know that powerless people are convicted to be crucified, our church had set the day of tomorrow as remembrance [the Sunday of the Holy Cross], in which the crucifiedness of people is raised to God in hope. In a country where people despise each other, without having recourse to weapons, we wanted to eliminate hatred through love. Thus, tomorrow is the Sunday to venerate the cross and to tell people that one of them had been raised on this wood in order that every person might receive life instead of complete death and hope instead of despair. This takes place within a liturgy, at which a cross is laid on a salver, surrounded with flowers and basils, and it is been circumambulated with the salver, and we fall on our knees, facing the cross, remembering both the cross and the resurrection. Then, the priest gives the believer a flower, to tell him/[her] symbolically that Christ is the joy of the world, and that the human being will not remain subjugated forever, if he/[she] embraces the crucified, for Christ has taken human crucifiedness, so that one might become a resurrectionist person.

We are a paschal-community, and we do not exterminate anyone since Jesus died to save the world, and not only those who belong to Him through baptism. You, whoever were you, ask for life and it begins with physical life. “[I]t is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual.” (1Cor. 15: 46) The order of a state is established first to serve the natural person, and then, God’s calling the person makes him/[her] filled with spiritual life. In the beginning there is the civil society, then, some people from within the society transcend and become spiritual through divine giving, which is poured upon them. Thus, they become on earth the people of heaven. And in the times of crises, heaven does not become hidden from the people of love, which [in fact] many hide it from themselves, while it penetrates the soul of the one who loves its penetration, so that it might make him/[her], from now, a kingly person.

Why do we set this remembrance day in the middle of the fasting period? We have noticed that some of those who fast become weary of their endeavor and they move toward looseness. Hence, in order that they might not lose the image of the Savior, we set this image to them, which whenever is printed in their hearts, enables them to continue their endeavor. [We do this] since there is no room for weariness in love, and declining is not permissible whenever the vision descends upon you. As the result of kissing the cross the believers embrace each other, as they have known that the Lord himself had embraced them through His death, and had purified them and raised them, through the Spirit, to the Father.

Thus, extinguishing of the soul, for the sake of peace, is not permissible. The Lord does not extinguish, but He rectifies. And you call your adversary, or whomever you thought to be so, to the Lord, who endows him/[her] with life through rectification that is from God. Whenever you kill [or exterminate] a person you emit him/[her] from the possibility of repentance, and your soul becomes  intolerant and then it rives, so that it would not be possible to ensure for yourself repentance in any day of your life. In front of the invincibility of life, both the sinner and the good are equal. God embraces both and promises to purify them, and God has limited the power of life and death to Godself alone. We live together with the hope that every one of us will attain purification which descends upon us from above.

God has not commissioned anyone to implement, on God’s behalf, the death of the Other, and God addresses every killer, saying: “Where is … your brother?” [Gen. 4: 10] That is to say that you had to live with your brother, who was not destined to die on his brother’s hand. In general terms it means that every person is your brother, since you both received the gift of the one life and a divine promise to prosper together. Whenever you are concerned about your brother’s recalcitrance, you have to resort to good advice and to become reconciled with him, by the mercy that is within you. Thus, the seeds of sin would not sprout, and he would react to your good [approach] with goodness and your soul would meet the glory that is within him, since no one lacks glory.

Before the war in Lebanon I had an official, we used to call him ‘qawwas’, he would be protecting the bishops in our country, and the consuls and ambassadors in Istanbul. This was a kind of protection that Ottoman Empire had supplied to these ranks of people. Those guards had the right to carry a sword, and in modern times a gun. And as this young man was walking at my home, in front of me, I felt that he carries a gun, under his jacket. I asked him, what is this? And he replied that it is a gun, legalized by the state. I told him, I do not want you to protect me, since I prefer to die than to cause another to be condemned to death penalty or life imprisonment, even when he kills me. Most probably this person would be a father of a family, while I do not have a family, so, I divested the man of his gun.

The Lord is armless and we are on His likeness, and thus, arms are not of a concern for us. This is why I always disliked the word ‘crusaders’, which was taken by the Franks in the tenth century, when they attacked our countries. I was astounded that they were killing in the name of the One who said: “”Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” [Matt.26: 52] These words made millions of Christians testify as they became martyrs. And these words entered the Church Legislation, so that it is not permissible to the priest or the monk to defend himself, since by doing that, there would be the possibility of killing the other. And our Law says that whenever the priest kills another by a faulty movement, and unintentionally, he must be prevented of performing Divine Liturgy the whole of his life.

When those who were called ‘Crusaders’, in their own language, dwelt in our countries and were excessive in bringing corruption, the Muslims had interesting courtesy to call them ‘Franks’, and they did not call them ‘Crusaders’ since they knew that Christians do not kill.

Only in the power of Christ Christians continue to exist. They do not long to any other path, and they forgive the killer. They have no other weapon, and no desire for power or authority, knowing that victory is to the Word of God and the will of God. Thus, they do not carry weapons, and it has been said to them: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matt.10: 28] And hell of course is a list of the assaulters.

The world is not about distributing booties [among ourselves]. Rather, it is to spend your profits for the poor. And whenever you share what you have with the poor one, he/[she] raises you to heaven since you are unable to raise yourself alone to heaven. Rather brothers/[sisters], whenever you love them, raise you. And all people, to whichever dogma they belong, are brothers/[sisters]. Through compassion, you can make them from the people of heaven, on the Day in which God judges us all. “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham … But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out.” [Matt.8: 11-12] Your only guarantee for becoming from the children of God is to perceive God as the Father of all humanity.

I have not called you not to summon for equality among the children of the one homeland. Thus, you have to know that you have no independent dignity apart from the dignity of the Others. Hence, you have to ask for your freedom, since it is the dignity. Yet, it might be trodden. Then, you seek the Other through the word and the contention of the word, without becoming from the customers of the foreigner, since he/[she] does not protect other than him/[her]self, though he/[she] might say differently. The word is effective whenever you are great in love. The Other might have a language different than this language. That is his/[her] concern, and he has someone to judge him/[her]; while you have only the [possibility of the] strive of the soul. No one can be a tyrant over your heart, and you are the person of the heart, especially that Christianity does not recognize itself as a human or political entity. Thus, do not support other than the oppressed, and always by the legitimate word and the virtuous emergence of the soul. And if you were from those who read, the Islamic revelation maintains that “Whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives of all mankind.” (Sūrat al-Ma’ida 32) Hence, on the level of personal behavior we and the Muslims are one.

This is why militias are all void in the eyes of the Lord and the internal fight was also void. And I know that turmoil leads to killing.

We are all called to complete sincerity if we want that no one dies by the hands of a man, lest we become oppressors. Every one of us is a steward for the Other, for the Other’s life, growth, prosperity and the preservation of him/[her] in all circumstances of the country and in every crisis of history; until God’s truth prevails. We do not exterminate an existence which God has made for God’s glory and has safeguarded it through God’s children, and has entrusted us the question of the Other’s life, no matter how much a tribulation aggravates; since the Lord is able to deliver us from the burden of temptations through peace that God pours it upon us as a grace from God.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “سلام المصلوب” –An Nahar- 10.03.2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

Perfect Freedom / 03.03.2007

To have an intimate relationship with the Lord implies that you are free from every human being, and first of all from your heart. I understand that your gathering with your people – the people of the village or the members of your denomination – is an emotional affinity, converging dispositions, factionalism of history and warmth. However, you do not come from them, since your depth has nothing to do with flesh and blood, and it should not be the captive of history. There [in your depth] should be no trace of fear, since fear produces seclusion and seclusion needs that warmth, which makes you from your people, or part of them.

But if you have descended from above, where you were sitting with God, even when you walk on this earth, heaven becomes your entrance to the people, and you become their referee to heaven. Through you, the people search for the Lord of heaven and they act here as if they are the people of heaven. Thus, when they come to you, they would not do so because of any factionalism or being driven by the power of their covets, since they know that you do not share their covets. Rather, a power drives you, which is neither from the reality of the people’s compactness, nor from their collective outrage, which is the outcome of their arrogance.

I understand that the bond of doctrine [similar belief] prompts you to serve your people, however service does not imply endorsement. You endorse your brother against injustice, i.e. whenever he becomes the victim of injustice. However, you do not endorse him whenever he himself wrongs, simply because there is kinship or unity of religion between you and him. Religion comes from God, however it does not reach to all souls, or it reaches broken up, parted or distorted. You are not responsible for this person, in his incongruity. No doubt, that you are his shepherd, but you are [also] the shepherd of the Other, and you sacrifice for the shepherd and the shepherded.

You belong only to the parish of the people of God, and with them you have a covenant of obedience to God, who gathers you all. Among them, you are responsible for the poor and the simple ones, since God is the share of those poor and simple. And if you were prosperous, approach them, so that they might know that salvation in the world is given by some loving persons. Let those who are in need be your community of love, i.e., those who know that God satisfies them by the blessings of the earth and comforts them by whatever God communicates them in their hearts and whatever God grants them of the whiffs of Spirit.

However, those communities, which are originated through divine Spirit and the souls are lightened by them, are born at the dawn of goodness. They are neither from space nor time; they are not localized in them. That is why the rule of the crowd does not apply on them. Thus, they are dispersed without any power, since they do not pride themselves on whatever they own. Further, whatever they own means nothing to them, since they think that as much as they become needy to God as more they become strong and resolute. Whenever they are stripped, God becomes their clothing, and whenever they hunger, God becomes their food. Thus, according to the standards of this world, they do not exist. Nevertheless, you feel their absence whenever they disappear.

Let no one think that I become sad whenever I see e.g. the contiguousness of the Muslim to the Muslim or the Christian to the Christian. There is in every community tradition, which is to be considered, and each denomination might have good natures and social behaviors which carry peace and spiritual pourings, that heal the weary soul. The whole issue is how you approach, whether on personal or group level, those who belong to your own spiritual community and those who do not belong to it. The meaning of ‘denomination’ here in Lebanon is obscure. On the level of the heart you support it, since it is the heir of God, in its teaching and prayer. However, you do not belong to it in its social activity, since you should be motivated for your nation, and there are no small nationalisms within the large nationalism. You do not have a denominational alignment unless because of the state’s restrictions. And if you were a Christian, you align yourself with your believing brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and this means nothing on the worldly level, except what we call works of compassion. Thus, there is no solidarity opposing a different solidarity, and factionalism vanishes here.

Hence, I want to say that doctrines and love are two completely different things within the religious domain. On the level of the doctrine you are united with its followers and God sees this and it has its [special] articulations in worship. However, love is absolutely one for all people. You do good to the believer in your religion and to the one who does not believe in it, and you support the defenders of the truth and you move with your heart for action [in that concern].

From this point of view I do not understand the meaning of nation [̓Ummah], as the Muslims use the term. I do not deny for the Muslim to be a brother of another Muslim in doctrines, however this does not lead to lining up [with him]. The pillars of Islam are different and they [inspire] unity. But unity of the heart is one with all people, including pagans and atheists, since God has united Godself with them, through that which Christians call the Fatherhood of God.

The nation is the nation of God, as it is used in the Qur’an, and if you want to use it in this sense without further developing it, I do not mind. Then, you have to search for another term, which designates the national group, in order that you feel yourself belonging to it and part of it. It is clear that the national group is an organizational entity, or we have made it organizational because of the national unity, we have convened upon. Similarly, the denomination is an organizational entity, founded on a religious belief. The national front is a group, without religion, that is why whenever it speaks of a religious state – and this has been relinquished in Christian nations – it implies that its constitutive law is inspired by divine law. This is the case in Islamic countries, while there is no such Christian legislation, thus, there is no possibility for a Christian state. Therefore, the existence of a national front, united by national spirit and faithfulness to the state, is inevitable. [In such a national front] there would be no faithfulness to any religious belief and there would be no possibility to refute any religious belief, since otherwise, the state would be abolished and it would become a church or a divine nation, as it is the case in Islam. In other words, you are compelled to secularism whenever you want to found a state in its modern sense, i.e., where the distinction is kept between the divine and the worldly givens.

We in Lebanon are not bound, as a state, to a divine given. That is why we have contented ourselves with the denominations, as they themselves consent, without disputing their religious bases.

Thus, it is possible that a group of denominations has a similar national position, since this position is based on national interests, which are from this world.

There is no doubt that the origin of this modern thought lies in [the thought] of Enlightenment-philosophers of the eighteenth century. Before that period there was neither a modern state nor religious freedom. Nothing convinces me that a religious state might recognize total freedom of religions. It might recognize the circulation of offices among all citizens and freedom of worship; however it would not admit the limitless extension of other religions, the endless religious dialogue, mission and evangelism.

We have today partisan coalitions from different denominations. This is good in itself and it might be partly a guarantee for the avoidance of religious or sectarian wars. However, this does not mean that we have eradicated the essence of denominational tension, whenever political situation is changed. I wish that this would mean that we separate between religion and war. And I wish – if we were all honest – that we eradicate the essence of war in a lived secularism, though not all of us admit it theoretically.

Whenever peace dwells – and it is one of God’s attributes – we examine the religious social concerns, the possibility of religious dialogues and the meeting among the religions, in the social domain, in a brotherly atmosphere. And we may do that in the theoretical domain as well, in order that we might struggle against [both] theoretical and social isolation.

It consoles me, the Orthodox Christian, that tomorrow we commemorate a saint, lived in the fourteenth century, and called Gregory Palamas. [Palamas] emphasized the old Christian belief that we share in some divine eternal powers, and thus we come spiritually from the same God in terms of sanctification, as we all come from God through creation, without penetrating the divine essence, since that would be polytheism. When would the Lebanese people become deified (and the term [in Arabic] is of Islamic origin)? That is, when would the Lebanese people assume the divine characters (and the phrase is again Islamic)?

All other perceptions are temporal mending. The country is not founded only on laws and institutions. These are good and necessary. [However,] the country should be founded on purity, and this is called – in political terms – combating corruption. As for the purity of the ministers and the representatives of the nation and its officials, this is the highest level of combating corruption. This implies that our people approach God honestly and bravely, until God becomes – in our minds – the king of the country, as it is in God’s essence. When would we admit that in our obedience to God we would have a better life, or even the best life? This is our true freedom, which whenever associated to public freedoms, it raises us unto great manifestations.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الحرية الكاملة” –An Nahar- 03.03.2007

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