Monthly Archives

January 2009

2009, An-Nahar, Articles

Christianity: Is It Reasonable? / 31.01.2009

I am not here to compare and favor one religion over the other or to define the nature of religion as to whether it is laws, obligations, regulations and prohibitions or not. Christianity is not any of the aforementioned even though they are indispensable in regulating human temporal life. But Christianity, in the absolute, is something else. Love which is the whole of Christianity, its doctrines included, is a divine movement in the heart and through the heart and a “move” towards the brother; and in that it is like nothing else. If we say that God is love, it is clear that He does not have countability in Him, He who “counts” God, as Imam Ali says, limits Him in the sense that the rule of numbers (Arithmetic) does not apply to Him. If you consider His oneness as a negation of “twoness”, you would count Him. And if you say that there are three manifestations in Him you also would count Him. What you say is not meant arithmetically. The oneness of the God we believe in is free of any numerical meaning. In that cadre of oneness we can see God only as adjectives we describe Him with, but His essence is manifested by all of His works which are summed up in Love.

One of the expressions of that love is the Eucharist that is our participation in the Communion Cup on Sunday about which much theology has been written and around which many unending arguments have been spun yet that mysterion (sacrament) is but the pouring forth of Christ’s sacrifice which He lifted up to the Father and itself is what we participate in. The life that spread from Golgotha to the whole universe, we take it in so we can live by receiving the love that God has loved us with. And we surround this communion with hymns and readings. But the essence of the mysterion is the descent of the Divine Love upon us and our response to it with obedience.

I have shown at different times that Pascha, “the feast of feasts and the season of seasons”, is our only real feast because Christ’s victory is celebrated and that every other feast is only an elucidation for the mystery of that victory. But what we have in the feasts is only icons of that love.

The issue is that the Lover pours down his love wholly on the beloved if the latter receives this love personally. God calls us to know our belovedness (that we are loved) and to tell others of it; and Christ is in all of that. It is true you are in need of teachings but that is only to lead you to understand that you are called to enter the Divine bridal chamber. Verily, apart from that, every discourse is garrulity (chatter).

There are some who are unable to have such vision due to darkness in the soul or insensitivity in the heart until God “throws” His light in that heart.

And light, from light obtains. Hence he who senses his belovedness carries it on to the others. So after the commandment of loving God comes the commandment “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. How could you love the other despite the hurt he has caused you? Because you know that he is God’s beloved and hence you cannot but love him with the love that you have begot (inherited) from your Lord. All else, that is not according to that measure of love is prosecution; and prosecution presupposes that there is on Earth those who condemn others with laws made by Man. To prosecute you implies that I look down at you or that I see you against me and that I want to get back what is mine through the power of the law.

In the Kingdom of Love there is no prosecution. In the world of sin you resort to law courts in that you have practiced love towards the other but he rejects it. Yes in this world there is money, rights and property. And these are governed by those in the world and these are necessities in the world of sin. And you might not be able to fly from this present world era but in Christ Jesus I take you with me to the era to come. I pull you towards it with all my affections; I pray that you would go along with me there. You might abhor the world to come because it threatens your interests. And the clash is always there, while you are in this world, between your desire for god and the application of yourself to worldly desires. The choice is yours.

Quite often people face us with the question as to how can one live according to the Gospel? If we do not tell lies, cheat or pilfer in our work we cannot earn a living. That is not true in reality; not all the institutions are founded on corruption. I knew several among the judiciary (I know several judges) who were content with their income; and if any conflict arises between what is Divine and your performance in a certain job, you have to chose  what is Divine.

A young woman once told me that her employer makes improper advances to her and if she did not comply with him he would dismiss her from her job. I told her that she should have no reason not to leave the job. There are some radical decisions one has to take sometimes in this world concerning one’s closeness and commitment to God in order to strengthen the bond of love with Him. This means that you understand what Paul says, “It is not I who live but Christ lives in me.”

If you perceive this status in your relationship with God, you sever yourself from the evil world. You get bothered when that world (of evil) slips into yourself after having accustomed that self to the peace that obtains from behaving “Divinely”.

Sin is always attractive and at times it appears enchanting for you. I have known no deception as that that is in sin. It “dances” before you with pleasures that you soon realize are temporary on one side and are painful on the other; or they are painful because before committing yourself to them, they show you dreams and expectations that they do not accomplish for you. Divine love is par excellence the power in which no disappointment resides; because God does not offer except that in which your good is.

Yes, there is a massive corruptibility in Man when faced with the seduction of sin; and he seeks to bridle himself away from that in subjugating his will.

In the ascetic writings we have extensive work on the different passions that attack (scare) us but we rarely find in the literature of the East what is of benefit in taming the human will. It is true that there is a fleeing away from sin but what stands in its face is knowing God’s will for that matter and that is in knowing what God says in the Bible so that you equip yourself with the word as a shield and a helmet and a sword as Paul says. In that God would be your fortress and would drive away from you the attacks of the evil one. But most people do not love what God considers good for them and favor what is named as evil by Him. There are those who delight in stinginess, hatred, lying, opportunism, and it is hard for them to alter that love to another (that of God’s) because this would destroy the setting they have founded in themselves for sin. And if they got so engrossed in it to the point of becoming allies, they would ask you about the path of salvation.

After a long time of intimacy with sin, repentance and faith in the possibility salvation become difficult and that is so only due to your alliance with sin and it becoming a part of you. Do not you know that intimacy God’s love truly saves you and supports you all your life.

In the sermon on the mount Jesus says: “If your piety does not exceed that of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 20: 5). The issue as Jesus presents it is that our piety of prayer and fasting and reading the Divine word and devotions, be not one of appearances based on duties but one based on welcoming God in our hearts.

After that he says “”You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Eye for eye was an amelioration or progress over policy of vendetta. Yet that remains in the realm of the rights and the legal.. And you do not want to cancel the rights, since you are of the rights –the nation. The question is how do you move from the realm of legalism and prosecution to that of the Divine Kingdom? The answer is “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you so you can be the children of your father who is in heaven.” And that means that you have put an end to punishment and entered the kingdom of equality between God’s good children and His wicked ones. You would be able to understand that if you know that the Lord’s mercy is poured on all people. Christianity, understood in that way, is reasonable.

Translated by Riad Mofarej

Original Text: “هل المسيحية معقولة؟” – 31.01.2009

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2009, An-Nahar, Articles

What after Gaza? / 24.01.2009

You cannot perceive what is after Gaza unless you read Israel as exterminating state, saturated with Nazism. The bloods of children, women and the pregnant ones among them, have been an exercise to kill Arabs, an exercise for extermination of whoever stands against the Jewish state, as George Bush has described it. And the apparent meaning of such description implies the desire that no other people, than the Jews, live in this state. This national – religious – racist belief, to the extent of chauvinism, requires the evacuation of the Palestinians, who carry the Israelite nationality or their suppression in order that they immigrate or throw themselves in the Arabian deserts.

The Hamas rockets and their [armed] factions are pretext for the brutal attack on Gaza. This is the old abhorrence toward Hagar and Ismail, since the writing of the book of Genesis. Our struggle is not merely with this hybrid existence, but with the abhorrence it carries, which logically leads to extermination. I do not want here to enter into a clarification of the meaning of “the chosen people”. This has the meaning of free grace, which God has poured upon Abraham and God intended through it the service of consolidation, and not the superiority [of these people]. However, the renegade people contrived superiority, thus they worshiped themselves and assumed the right for extermination, thinking that it is a divine commission. And this is how Hitler has set in the area (of the trigger) of every German soldier the Biblical statement Gott mit uns, which means: God is with us.

Then, the concept has been secularized and big numbers, or most, of the citizens of Israel have distanced themselves from faith. Though, the secularized state remained Jewish, in the social sense. And those who are not Jewish, they do not in reality belong to this entity, which assumes to be the only democratic state in the East.

What do the American governance, and some of Europeans, mean when they say that they want to create two neighboring states on the land of historical Palestine? Thos have desired that Palestinians become ‘prudent’ and they also aimed for an sane Jewish state. However, could Palestine become prudent without its Jerusalem? Does the whole earth mean anything without Jerusalem?

The talk about the two states means the reconciliation between a state which is not constrained by any ideology and another, which is the slave of Zionism. There might be between the two [states] apparent peace, but this is not mutual understanding. This discrepancy reveals an Arab nation, which believes in one humanity, and another Zionist one, whose philosophy denies the belief in one humanity. What does neighborhood between a nation with no army and another, all of which are soldiers wearing the uniform whenever they want as a military community, mean? Two states, with disproportion between them, is a project for war inherent in the intentions of the two parties.

The question which poses itself theoretically is: do we want Israel to survive? Have we been reconciled with this erroneous entity, which is conceived by iniquity and born in sin? We are compelled to legitimize an adulterous birth. Nevertheless, I do not call for an eradication of Israel by weapon. I am afraid this would not be possible in the foreseen future. And most importantly I am afraid that, applying this, we fall in the sin of extermination in which the Jews have fallen in Gaza and before Gaza. I want to safeguard the Jews, but reject the state of Israel. This would be followed by many queries about the power of the Arabs, whenever they unite. And for what purpose do they unite, if they want? And also when and how should Palestinians meet in order to express their opinion about a victory on Israel? Do they think that a rocket from here or there might eliminate the Hebrew existence? Do I agree with Hamas that all of Palestine is an Islamic property?

You cannot abolish a Jewish ideology with an Islamic one. Both aphorisms are the same. I cannot accept that Arabs reject a Jewish state, because it is Jewish, while all their countries, except Lebanon, are Islamic states by their constitution, and one of them necessitates a Muslim president. You should fight Israel with a different persuasion, otherwise it will prevail.

And if we assume that we strike the Jewish arrogance by armed Islam, and as a result we found Islamic united governance in Palestine, where is my place, I, the Arab Christian, on the land of the ‘restored Palestine’? Our struggle against Israel should be then under the heading of Arabism, or Arab consensus.

The case does not close with the tiding of the Arab house in a reduced, hesitant and miserable Palestine. The question is not about erecting this entity, but about the Palestinians’ recognition, or repudiation, of the Jewish state. Whenever the founding of the two states implies diplomatic reciprocity between them, the Palestinian case is over. Israel might continue to exist on the level of fact and not on the juristic level de jure. Not only because we aspire to the union of the whole of historical Palestinian land, but also because we deny the Zionist ideology. We want Jews to be freed from this ideology, which destroys their spiritual reality and intact humanity. We do not reject the Jewish people in the world, because we want them to be saved and because they have throughout the world great intellectual and scientific capabilities. Whoever is an enemy to the Jewish person cannot serve our cause. We seek that they may be freed from ideological antagonism that rejects the other.

With the arrival of Mr. Obama to the American presidency terrible pressure might be exerted on Arabs, so that all acknowledge Israel, accept the exchange of diplomatic missions and normalize the relations with it. Palestinians may be forced to be congested in a small spot of their country with the acceptance of some non-military institutions. I worry that the time of their oppressiveness comes. If they accept this, the rest of Arabs should not recline.

I call for an Arab repudiation, for the persistence of repudiation of the Zionist entity. Military resistance will be demised with the founding of the state and with the Arabs’ consenting, either explicitly or implicitly, to the two states. Military resistance is a facet of repudiation. Repudiation is the norm of our facing Israel politically and intellectually, and this does not contradict the peaceful [existence]. However, the founding of the two states assumes the factions’ acceptance of this. How?

From now the factions should be united and the Palestinian governance should also unite. The intellectuals, academicians, and journalists should subsist in the mindset of repudiation and the spirituality of repudiation, with the hope that the bloodshed in Gaza, and other than Gaza, may stop. This means the withdrawal of the Israelite army entirely from Gaza, and reconstructing it, or initiating in its reconstruction.

This means also the elimination of [the principle of] Zionism from the minds, including the Jewish minds, and also, on the long run, the elimination of the ideology of Israelite entity. Nothing indicates that Israel will remain forever. Few analysts believe that there are elements of disintegration in it, which would abolish cohesion among its citizens. This is not our concern now. Our concern is that Arabs unify. This intellectual resistance conveys to me the new features of an educated Arabism, which accepts the diversity of Arab countries. In their strives, those countries should coil around each other, in [at atmosphere of] modernity comparable to the modernity of the West.

This implies that Arabs should reject terrorism. This is partly responsible for the Islamophobia in the West. Terrorism is a foolish choice, which convinces the westerners about the underdeveloped reality of Arabs. The peacefulness of the Arab soul and its complete renouncing of violence might convince the westerners not only to converse with us and be friendly to us, but also to consider us as partners in world politics. [The role of] Arabs is vital for the universal human coexistence, whenever they abandon violence permanently in their thought and activity.

‘Gaza after Gaza’ is the symbolic statement which indicates the need to carve the Arab peace in a way that whoever wants to shred it would be an unjust criminal. The time has come for our entry into the fully civilized life, which spirit is peace. This alone prohibits the evil ones to kill Arabs and to abolish their good life, which has been since long time safe and has been built upon cultural bestowal and human sharing which generates love.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “ماذا بعد غزة؟” –An Nahar- 24.01.2009

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2009, An-Nahar, Articles

The Body / 17.01.2009

The body carries the splendor of creation. All creation is beautiful revealing the hand of God in bringing it about. Yet the organic nature of the human body reveals God’s mind. The organic connection that exists among the different organs of our body is amazing, something that I gave no importance to in my youth but now I stand in awe before it. One wonders at how food, after it has been digested becomes a part of your hair, your eyes, your chest. How come one can become a Plato or an Einstein when he originally comes from very simple parents? One thinks of the flesh we have on our bodies; we communicate through it at the rational and other levels. It would not have been rational had it not been “reasoned” by someone. So it is in the place of being contemplated by the one who “reasoned” it. Concerning the creation, God says “it is good” in the book of Genesis, but concerning Man It says that God made him in His image and likeness. When God beholds Man, He says: “And God looked at what He made and saw that it was very good”. God was fascinated only with Man, apart from the other creatures, as the only one to dialogue with Him.

This flesh is of the earth despite its charm. And this earthliness overpowers all what the body has to the point of preventing it from the “light” that was there in the beginning. We are of the light as much as we are of the earth, and they (earth and light) play together at times and at others they oppose each other. Based on his flesh (body) Man can see the power of God and His majesty and His tenderness. God’s mysteries will be revealed to us when we turn to Him with all our heart and strength and when we communicate with each other with all our heart and strength; as such you cannot see God unless you see His goodness in His good creatures.

This seeing does not take place among people at the intellectual level but in an organic way when we embrace each other; we become one with the other because we are linked to each other with hidden “golden threads” until the unity of all humans will be revealed when the Kingdom of Heaven shall descend upon us.

Beauty and ugliness are both from God and each is a jargon. The ugly person will not alienate himself if you learn his language, that is if you go beyond what you see and get to view him in God. Man is not in the charm of his face but the charm of his unity with others and in the freedom of the image of God in him. It is a great mystery that your being is so not in yourself and your responsibilities, but in the humane dealing you have with others. To be one with and distinct from others simultaneously puts away the bondage resulting either from being closed on oneself or from being totally dissolved in others. As such we have here a human being who is in unity with himself and with the community at the same time.

The keys of life and death are in God’s hands. All humans are mortal and taste death. The human body is prone to death in its makeup. The body cells do not live forever. And in our understanding, “anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6: 7. In that sense, death is mercy; and in the Christian understanding, it is a meeting with the Lord. And everyone is in God’s grip hoping to be resurrected. And death is the first encounter with God in what we call paradise in the hope of beholding the Divine Light in Heaven at the end of time.

At the end of time, the bodies of humans will be called for the Resurrection through the Holy Spirit who by His grace gathers the soul to the body on the last day. In that sense one can say that the body is already resurrected after death even though the dynamism it had has ceased.

The Sanctity of the body prevents us from cremating it. We hope for the continuity between the body and the person it belongs to though such continuity appears to be unfastened. The body is anointed with Chrism after baptism. This is why the cemetery used to be close to the church building where the living feel one, in the hope of the resurrection, with those who have departed. (They all share the same anointing through the Sacrament of Chrismation.)

From this perspective, the Church is not drawn to the idea of separation between the soul and the body, but she draws all to the mercy of God. The corruption that the body goes through is a chance for its encounter with the Lord. There are those who fear death and those who do not. What is important is that one should be ready for his departure from this existence and to get to that of Peace. We promise those who depart from us with prayer and the comfort of what the Scriptures say. And in Europe many institutions have been founded to take care of those who are terminally ill and prepare them for death; I wish there were in every family of the faithful those who are close in taking care of the sick with kind and good words. The priest can carry this mission if he learns what he can say beyond the said and written prayers.

The above mentioned care implies the belief that with death we come to the end of our earthly life and that the body is honorable and that it receives the Sacrament of Unction; that implies that we believe that the human being is one before death and after it dismissing the belief that we are made of a soul that remains and of a material body that disappears. The body in our understanding is an integral part of the human being not inferior to the soul in the reality of this existence and the one to come.


As I reflect on this divine view of the body, I carry Gaza in my heart. All those who have been killed there are with God. Why do they pluck out the infants? The death of those who fight is justifiable. But how can a people who have the Prophets that called for justice accept the death of women and the elderly who are unarmed? Why this destruction which reminds us of the end of the world? What is the benefit of killing hundreds of the people of Gaza? All these are bodies which injustice and oppression have made into sacrifices at the altar of God.

The issue is not one of reconciliation. What is required is to stop the killing of armless people. And if a truce takes place, then the language of peace would be in effect. The Palestinians should be left in Gaza, the land they love that has been theirs for ages, to build their society around the olive trees, the orange trees and their waters, thus participating with the current civilization of the world.

Stop this “bath” of blood. The people being killed were not of the German nation whose leader burned the Jews in the most brutal ways. Why should the one whose ancestors were victims in Aushwitz transform every town in the Gaza strip to another Aushwitz?

Peace be on those who stand steadfast in Gaza. Our brothers there are called to glo

ry. And may we use all the means we have to realize that glory.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الجسد” –An Nahar- 17.01.2009

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2009, An-Nahar, Articles

The New Human Being / 10.01.2009

It is an essential query to ask: which Lebanon do we want? However this does not necessarily lead to subdual of wills in order that this renewed political entity might emerge, since the new or the desired Lebanon is a structure. This is to say that the question is asked on the level of structure, and not on the deep spiritual level, in which we hope that people would be grounded, so that the state might emerge from the new or the renewed creation. You say that we want the country free and independent; however, this remains on the level of speech, since the people do not act as seeking freedom and independence. If you express whatever you desire for the country that does not necessarily change your desire into work. To demand orally and through organized struggle does not bring about from the quiver of a magician a genuine homeland.

People, who in their inner essences have become deep and deified, who always transcend in order to set up a house for God on the earth, can make Lebanon. The homeland, then, is formed structurally, molded and envisaged politically in accordance to this spirit. The homeland is to be founded from outside the political framework, from outside the political talk. It foundations are to be raised on spiritual life, which descends upon it from above.

Only politically you can insist that the homeland surpasses denominations. However, the term ‘denomination’ has double meaning. It means for us the dwelling of God in the denomination, while it also means the residence of politicians in it or its being dominated by politics, and then its alteration into a rigid, fatal entity as it recoils within itself and its allies. Denomination in the sense of an rotten corpse, which depraves the national entity, strikes God in Godself. We cannot overreach ourselves and move from a denomination to a homeland, unless with the help of God, who reveals God’s entirety rather than the entirety of the denomination.

Whenever grace dwells in the heart of every Lebanese, regardless to which of the eighteen denomination he/[she] belongs, no offence would fall on him/[her] if he/[she] becomes proud of the history of that group without racial discrimination or factionalism. Nevertheless, it is hoped from us that we believe in the religion of love. This is not another or a different religion, but it is the concentration on the assurance that we live spiritually through the Other, through his/[her] freedom and recognition of our freedom. Yet, we have to opt for that which brings us together rather than for what separates us, and we have to line up together in whatever unites us, so that we do not burden our minds by history’s contraventions and we do not keep its abominations in our hearts. [Only then] the hearts might be in serenity, the vision free and the souls purified.

This means that we should forgive those who did wrong to us in the past, and we should not burden our memory by the misdeeds of the oppressors. We should not consider our partners in existence today as responsible of the consequences of works that have elapsed. The faces that encounter us today might be of great light and the kindhearted ones, whom we have considered our adversaries, might be our nourishment. Yes, we have to read the history in order to learn from it, and I do not call for forgetting it, but for not becoming its captives. And if the history-writers display immense adversaries, let us take off adversary from us so that we might feel that we are conversing in truth, seeking it and walking on its path.

I do not deny the honesty of those researchers and their strive to know everything the Other has, and I do not deny their critique or their reservations. Truth should not be twisted in order to appease the Other. And I do not ask the scholars to unite religions, since this contradicts any serious precise knowledge. Humanity is of diverse inclinations and convictions, and the things are as they seem to them. However, dialogue requires detecting the truth, pushing fantasies away, and seeking kinship. There is no rivalry in this; rather clarity and elucidation, in order that the position of our thought and of the other’s might be known.

Nevertheless, I think that there is contiguity between us and many cognate spots in the mind, yet, there is disagreement between the interpreters because of the imprecise scrutiny of the texts, or because my hermeneutical method disagrees with yours. Here lies the difficulty of dialogue, yet it is not an impossibility.

However, my worry here, in this limited space, is not dialogue but the possible meeting of love in this or that text.  I take, as an application for love, the manner of the bee, which goes to this flower or that, and the sources of honey are known to the beekeepers. Thus, you may, without denying your sources, choose from them whatever inspires love rather than controversy. Though I do not deny for anyone the right to uphold whatever lies in his/[her] books. Nevertheless, I earnestly request him/[her], in my poverty, to search in his/[her] sources for whatever brings him/[her] nearer to me and brings me nearer to him[her].

I do not present to you a new religion, but I ask request from you a new reading, since you have decided to love me and I have decided to love you. Draw out of your tradition whatever supports this love.

Unity originates from your and my faith. It is the unity of the human being and the human being is whatever compassion has descended upon the two faiths. God, who utters through conduct, addresses Godself in me. It is possible that we together reside in God’s address. I do not limit this to the homeland; however, the people of my homeland are nearer to the ‘reasonable manners’ [al-ma῾rūf]. Thus, I shall build my homeland by the language of the deified ones and their pursuit. And deification means to be molded by the dispositions of God and to approach the energies that God supplies me with; these are given in Christianity and Islam.

Then, a community is formed which in its true texture is one.

By this, I do not deny the political pursuit, however political pursuit without the presence of the righteous, truthful and pure ones is nothing. This is so since the governors lead a good society and they do not lead a wicked one, since that which is not subject to God is not also subject to law, to governance or to institutions. This is the minimum level of societal goodness upon which a state might be founded. A state cannot be founded upon elements which have lost its human understanding and sensation. And a society would not be organized only by sociology and the military power. This might drive away the evil that falls under the law of penalties but it does not induce to the good which is based on the obedience of God by love.

I understand well those who aspire to a state of law, which rejects in its nature the state of tribes. And I am aware of the importance of the institutions, in which the good citizen might be enrolled. However, the good citizen is not merely the one who fears retribution; rather it is the one who would live in freedom and decency. Without the evil there would be no law and there would be no state. I know that there is need for suppression, but it should be without antagonizing the offenders themselves.

But if the Lebanese think that whenever they issue a law, and look out for its implementation, this would be enough for a pleasant and good life they are mistaken. We do not rise high through citizens whose goodness is that they do not go to prison. We rise high through people who have had the heaven in their hearts and they seek to convert the deserts of the hearts into gardens [or paradises].

Here is the role of the religion of love, however its parade moves. Thus we have two pursuits: a political, modern pursuit with all [the requirements of] civilization, and a divine pursuit, with noble dispositions and the solicitation of the face of God and the face of the Other. To be trained to see God in the Other and to love his/[her] face, this makes us understand that God is the light of the heavens and the earth, and that God’s Kingdom begins in us and on the earth.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الانسان الجديد” –An Nahar- 10.01.2009

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