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June 2010

2010, An-Nahar, Articles

Humility / 26-06-2010

I would not care if my name would become rubbed out of the soul of the earth.

I would not care if the world would move along forgetting me.

Hanan ʻAd

How could I define humility as it is a virtue that does not tell about itself. Thus, it does not speak. It does not have an ‘I’. [However,] its existence speaks and creates worlds in the souls. It cries since it is wounded as it is the victim of injustice. It does not admit glory for itself. It is intoxicated by divine beauty, which hides it. It sees only that beauty without seeing itself within it, since, like Mary, it has fallen into utter oblivion. Hiddenness has dwelt in it. [Nevertheless,] no one eradicated it. No one could do that.

People come to God through the gate of humility. It is thrilled by them all. It sees them as figures of light and it is unconscious that it reflects them. They pass through it and it does not stop them, and whenever they pause, they marvel its sublimity. Then [God] their Lord recognizes them and assumes that they are aiming at God. God carries them to the glory, since they have passed beside it, they have perceived the marvelous, they have dwelt in the marvelous’ poetry and played on the marvelous’ harp, as the angels have envied them and have kept silence. Did they ascend to heaven or heaven has descended? The Compassionate [God] has made this excellence, among the virtues of your Lord, a throne and [God] has sat [became on the same level] on it. Whatever you have in your world is nothing if humility does not shine on a surface that God has chosen it for its radiance. Whenever science disappears transfiguration becomes essential. Transfiguration becomes the utterance, or the language between a glory and another. Those who attain this language will dwell in the coming age, in which God will condemn those arrogant ones, who thought of themselves as gods and thus they died since they have not known that the Lord is God and that they are to fall into oblivion.

Once, a prince in Balkan had written to the crown prince (and he was going to succeed his father’s rule on the emirate): “Do not desire to become a bishop, an abbot or a prince. Do not desire, since all this is the glory of the world.” Contrary to that, whenever you desire the glory of God you partake in it. Nothing brings this and that together, since either you come from heaven and you conduct the earth through that or you come from the earth and die in it. The people of heaven are buried in earth; however, they are not from the earth. They have ascended.

“Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.” [John 17: 5] When Jesus said this he was on the way to his unjust death. To be subject to injustice is the condition of humility. People are subduers of one another. Few are those who accept injustice and love their subduers. Whenever the mercy of the subdued ones falls upon the subduers they might understand and repent. Thus, we do not attain understanding unless we are loved by someone. And no one loves unless he/[she] hides him/[her]self. Only the one hidden admits the Other. He/[she] admits that the Other, any Other, is better than him/[her]. This is a condition for the spread of humility. This is a condition for the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

When Mary has said, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.” [Luke 1:52], she was referring to those powerful in the earth, whom she had seen magnifying themselves for their things. Belongings are not beings. But whenever God raises the humble ones, God grants them eminence from God, namely that which is not created. And according to our Book [the Bible] God makes them gods, and God knows while they do not know. In this they become deified.

The one raising oneself is unable to reach at God, since God does not love the arrogant ones, thus they blow up from their own exaggeration. However, those who make themselves to the same level of the soil, their Lord will raise them and will sculpture them a new and will appreciate them, while they do not appreciate their own selves, since the essence of their virtue is that know that they do not have any virtue. On this matter Basil had said, “we have not done any good work on earth.” This echoes the words of the Savior: “No one is good but God alone.” [Mark 10: 18] That is why we remain in ignorance of our virtues till the day when “God judges the secrets of men”. [Rom. 2: 16] Then, when God declares the righteousness of those righteous ones, they refer their righteousness to God and are glorified on their own.

The whole thing is that you recognize God as the sole and the only giver, and you humble yourself to God for this knowledge and be thankful. Humility is an admission about the centrality of God, that is to say that God alone becomes the object of your sanctification. Sanctification within you lies in your confession that you are a sinner. That is the beginning of your trust on God, which is a plea for divine giving.

Whatever has been said so far does not invalidate the word of Socrates: “Know yourself”, since you have to know your abilities in order that you might work, contact people and build relationships with them. This is not limited to your rational abilities and your qualification for this or that activity. Civilized life requires competence, sciences and experiences. Thus, the human being should appreciate the talents he/[she] has in order that one does not undertake that for which he/[she] is not prepared, rather commit him/[her]self to the society, of which he/[she] is a member and has his/[her] political deliberation, and maybe commit him/[her]self to the political work. In this, one should not underestimate oneself and should not be inattentive to the development of one’s talents. And in this there is no arrogance.

Where does the merit of humility come in the human being’s awareness of his/[her] scientific and vocational talents? It is possible that a person is great in his/[her] academic or vocational mind and at the same time he/[she] is aware that the Lord is his/[her] help in this. And if he/[she] perceives his/[her] long struggle, it remains that he/[she] should thank God for these natural and vocational talents. We know that it is common among scholars their love of the truth and their acceptance of each other, whenever they disagree theoretically. The Quran had expressed this through the saying: “Of His servants, only the learned fear Allah.” (Fatir [The Originator of Creation], 28)

You might be very brilliant and at the same time poor to God. Whoever denies his/[her] rational or vocational talents and abilities ignores God’s gifts to him/[her]. If you pretend that you have knowledge, while you don’t, or that you are ignorant, while you are not, then this is false humility close to arrogance.

People perceive humility directly and at once. However we should not conceive that the humble person accepts whatever you say, without challenging or discussing with you. He/[she] might be a person of confrontation and struggle to the extent of intellectual contention. Yet, others love him/[her] since they perceive his/[her] honesty and faithfulness to the truth.

To be rubbed out for God does not mean to rub out your intellect in front of another person, regardless whether that was in a social setting or personal life. The beauty of the humble person is that he/[she] accepts the truth from whatever side it came. It does not matter here if there was a strong confrontation and his/her convictions were different than yours. The humble person thinks that whenever truth comes from you, then it is a message from God that reaches him/[her] sometimes through his/[her] opponent. Thus, it must be said that since the humble person asks God for inspiration, he/[she] does not take sides in his/[her] choices; and he/[she] does not have a package of boxed-in thoughts. He/[she] does not live through whatever he/[she] has collected from his/[her] memories or friends. In this sense the humble person is always a new, or a renewed, person. He/[she] encounters you through the dawn, and comes upon you through the light, by which he/[she] has been enlightened, and frees you from the trivialities and prompts you not to puff up, since he[she] dislikes the vanities. The humble person reminds you that your salvation comes from that which is true, in order that you might dwell in it through the blessings. Humility rubs out all the sins of the person.

Whoever opposes boasting and pretention provides with integrity whomever he/[she] befriends with, and whoever inclines to serenity. And God dwells in serenity.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “التواضع” –An Nahar- 26-06-2010

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2010, An-Nahar, Articles

Love and Desire / 12.06.2010

There is no point of meeting between love and desire, as one of our great poets has claimed. They might be identical linguistically, but when you follow the Bible and the writings of the Fathers, I notice that a similarity exists between the Divine Love or the love that God pours down and the yearning or the passion flowing from one human heart to another, which was spoken of by the Greeks in Antiquity and by those who adopted the use of the word “Eros” in Christian writings. The expression “Eros” is not confined in its meaning to a physical denotation but always denotes an affective or emotive meaning. It is an automatic spontaneous feeling similar to water gushing out from a spring. Though it is usually said of the depth of the soul, but it could be said, though only slightly, of God. And when said that He is its source, then that feeling –which is void of emotions – the source of which is God, is called love.

So the love that God in His generosity and grace pours down in someone’s heart – as we Christians say – can also be poured into another person’s heart and as such the human being loves in the same way God loves.

Only the Old Testament speaks about the passion that exists between a man and a woman when God tells Eve that “your desire shall be to your husband” (Genesis 3: 16). And in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word “desire” implies desire and lust.

But The New Testament does not have in it even one word denoting desire or even the word “love” in its simple meaning. It does not speak of a sentimental relationship between a man and a woman. It only speaks about marriage, which might focus much, or only a little, on emotions or it might even not do so. Marriage is related to God in one way or another even when it is done on familial or social basis. As a result of that, it is not true that in marriage, Christianity requires love in its popular modern understanding or in the romantic sense. There is nothing in the New Testament that is similar to what one finds in the Song of Songs or to what Hosea mentions in the beginning of his book about fawning and fondling.

This avoidance of talking about passion in the New Testament is so, in my opinion, because the Gospel does not describe natural life for us, and the believer does not need to be taught by God about matters existing in his psychological and physiological make up – what Paul calls the natural man according to his creation; then the natural man, without losing his attributes according to nature, becomes a spiritual man born of the Holy Spirit. One becomes God bound. St. Paul did not show disfavor towards the good human desires that are practiced according to the commandments of God which keeps Man from perdition and helps in his spiritual ascent. In the believer, both his body and soul are together walking in the Holy Spirit. This Man who is renewed by the Divine Spirit receives from God the love that supersedes passion in the sense that it “supervises” desire, domesticates it and purifies it. The beginning of all beginnings is that God is love; and when we “herald” from love, we would be “descending” from God. We would live His Deity in the “frame” of a nature which is always called to behold the Divine Energies that make us holy. And through holiness, you would be freeing yourself from the yoke of this world while still on Earth; thus you ascend, since the ascension is not a geographical ascending to heaven.

This leads me to what St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians as he speaks of marriage. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church”. (Eph 5: 25). The Arabic word for love “ahebbou”, is phonetically like the word “aghebbou”(for love) in Greek; and that means love your wives with the love that you inherit from God. Such a love is not related to natural passion and also not related to the physical relations in a marriage. St. Paul does not call the Christians to a blaze of emotions since he knows that that does not need a commandment from him; but he calls Christians to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ has given himself for the Church, that is till death, and such love comes down upon you from above.

St Paul calls you to become a spiritual person in marriage, such that you remain in the natural marriage relationship, but you elevate it through love – not through passion and emotion – so that you become self-giving, like Christ. You become one body with your wife, as St. Paul says. Such unity is impossible for passions to accomplish, since passions go up and down. With emotions, you find coldness, warmth and lukewarmness, while the goal is for one to become a spiritual person within the limitations of his nature. And St. Paul continues saying: “this is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Eph 5: 32)

This is not a reference here to marriage as being one of the sacraments of the Church; what he means to say is that all your life becomes a Divine sacrament when you live it according to the relationship between Christ and the Church; that is in the maximum of largesse.

Giving is the keyword here. In Greek culture, love is a kind of a takeover, a domination of the other. That is Plato. But in Christ, love between man and woman is an oblation so great that the argument as to who is the head in the family, fades away. He who has authority in the family, or in any management, is the one who loves and not the one who orders. In giving orders, there is the desire for authority to the point of passion. The one who loves is obeyed without him having to give orders; because the one who loves dies so that both, he and the one who is loved, will have life.

Passions go and come back as they wish; if you are able to guide them with the light of the love of the Gospel, you will save them. And if you do not, they will destroy you. The desire of one does not embrace the other person. Only through love God has embraced us and adopted us, and love adopts all people, because it is shed for the sake of the one who has commanded love – and I mean God. Love embraces all existence, the whole human condition, and makes it a dwelling for God. As such love abolishes the distinction between Heaven and Earth.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “المحبة والشوق” –An Nahar- 12.06.2010

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