2009, An-Nahar, Articles

The Old Has Passed Away / 07.02.2009

Last Monday was the Feat of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and in Greek it is called the Feast of the Meeting. I take this opportunity as a symbol to say what I intended to speak about. Maybe the deep meaning lies by what Luke had written in this chapter [of the Gospel] saying: “And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. As it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” [Luke 2: 22-23].

This is a meeting with the temple, the meeting of the New Living Temple with the old one. There was a man called Simeon, who was not of the priests. He received the child and said that He carries salvation to the Jews and to the nations. I stop here to say first that Judaism has come to an end and its temple has been extinguished as the Romans burnt it in the year seventy. Thus, every old thing has passed away as Paul has said [2Cor. 5: 17], and as we feel, we, the children of the New Covenant, which God has established with those whose hearts were renewed and dwelt by God. Thus, contrary to what people think, the religion of the Old Testament has not survived purely as it was. In the Jewish conscience the religion of the Old Testament is crowned by Talmud, and the daily life of the Jews is dominated by Talmud, which was written five centuries after Christ. Jesus of Nazareth has brought Judaism to the divine purposes, which were encapsulated by ostensible address. Whenever religious ordinances become letters that we accomplish they kill the self, or enslave it. And the culmination of this situation was when Jews became adorers of themselves and of the land. As if they, as the group set upon the “Promised Land”, are the saviors of themselves and of the world. This is their theology sine long time ago, as if God’s concern is the dust of the earth, or as if God is the land register for their benefit.

We Eastern Christians say that Judaism, as it represents the laws and the temple, has come to an end (even when its stones have not been extinguished). And that the Jewish mentality as it is about the letters of the laws, has no more place for God. Consequently, our conflict with the contemporary Zionism, concerning the concept of the Holy Land, is a theological conflict. Thus, we do not understand the Western Christian theology which claims that Jews are still God’s people who carry God’s message to the world. After the Church has become the people of God, Christ has absorbed everything old, in order to make it new. Whoever brings the old things, that are within him/[her]self, to death, will live with Christ, who is the whole of newness.

This is why the old structures, which carry the seed of death and the culture of death, have been destroyed in order that they might carry the seed of life and the culture of life. In every one of us there is the tendency toward rigid conventions, i.e., the tendency to change life into temples made by hands, of which the fountain of its enlivening, which was dripping in it, has been cut after its eruption within God. And hence, the old is to be considered as old, similar to the cells which become old and cause death. The structures of old mind are fake by their nature and they erode us from inside, similar to the cancerous cells, and there is no revivification possible for the body unless all of its components are renewed.

Every human being is inclined toward the old, since the new disturbs as it requires responsibility, namely the will to change, similar to being born anew, and this in its evangelical terminology is called being born of the Spirit.

Our story with life is about how we can fight the power of spiritual death that is within us? How can we confront senescence? The Fall, in the Eastern Church, is not about a sin that we have inherited from the beginning. You do not inherit another’s responsibility, rather every soul dies by its own death, i.e., by its inner evil and it carries its own sin and not another’s. Nevertheless, the human being is born blemished and everyday of his/[her] life brings him/[her] closer to death and brings into his/[her] existence that which hinders the realization of his/[her] divine calling. And that prevents or delays his/[her] ascension. In this deep sense we say “every soul shall have a taste of death” [Sura Al-῾Imrān (The Family of ῾Imrān), 135]. In the old expression, these are the devil’s temptations or the attacks of lust, so if you become immersed in the lusts of the earth you will lose interest in heaven, where is the renewal of life.

Every fear of death makes you create structures, or conventions to which you retreat and think that they might protect you from the various expressions of the fall. In reality the human being is in a situation of escape. He/[she] feels that the face of God is pursuing him/[her] and that God demands a lot and requires effort, and this threatens the temples that we made inside us, to which we resort, yet, soon we discover that they do not heal us.

As old Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms, he prayed [for himself] that God may take him, and he said, “for my eyes have seen your salvation” [Luke 2: 30]. Salvation is the newness of God and God was never old. This statement hides the intention of the one who uttered it to say that the old temples within me should extinguish as I encounter the tenderness of Christ, in order that, similar to this baby, I also might become tender. And if I become so I would desire the tenderness of God and God’s healing.

Salvation does not only save you. It renews you, since whenever you perceive God as life-giving, you will live. You will live through God’s life. “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks”. (John 3: 31) This has nothing to do with ages since “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3: 6).

Yes, every human being has body and mind. This is from the created nature and it has great value on this level. However, it is immeasurable with the grace that has descended. On that level, bodies and minds would not be considered, since all of them are incomparable to the grace. Thus, there is no similarity between that which has come of nature and that which has come of the supernatural. That which has come from below is preservation and human training. While that which has descended from above is not in need of bodies, minds, government, world systems and the order which the human being has established for him/[her]self, thinking that he/[she] might benefit from the arrangements of science and that he/[she] grows and is founded through them.

You are renewed whenever you perceive the Kingdom of God, as He says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3: 3). Being born from a woman is of nature. Being born of God is of the will of God and of its acceptance by the human being; however, this needs a continuous strengthening through obedience. There is no such a treaty that guarantees your being contiguous to God. You are exposed to spiritual damage. Thus, you have to be awake. Spiritual vigilance requires that you love it, and that you find joy in God’s accompaniment to you. Your accompanying God and God’s presence with you do not create temples within you. You always need that God provides you with God’s grace and you receive it as the old Simeon has received Jesus.

This constant watchfulness liberates you from fear. Ask God that God may accompany you, and that God may make you always a new creature who rises from death. The most dangerous temptation is fear. “Perfect love casts out fear”. [1John 4: 18] This firmness is not from you, and it does not last by its own. It lasts through persistent prayer, and through reciting the name of Jesus, which whenever your tongue repeats, becomes a presence and at the presence fear disappears. Then, the old things pass away. And then you know that God has made you from the children of the Kingdom.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الأشياء العتيقة قد مضت” –An Nahar- 07.02.2009

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