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September 2010

2010, Articles, Raiati

John the Beloved / 26.09.2010

In the feast of the Assumption of St. John the Evangelist, the church reads this section that speaks about the scene of the crucified and the people standing at the cross. It starts by mentioning three women: Mary Jesus’ mother, her sister the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. If we compare this with Mark and Matthew, we understand that the women at the cross were: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee. In Mark the book also says “And many other women which came up with him to Jerusalem”.

As for calling Mary the mother of James and Joseph as the sister of the Theotokos, this means that she was her relative, and this is common in the Hebrew literature and the Gospel. However, the Gospel of John which is used today for the reading is only interested in the Theotokos and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this disciple according to all the tradition is John the Evangelist himself. The Lord addresses his mother saying “Woman, look, here is your son”. Jesus’ usage of the expression “women” is mentioned before in the wedding of Cana of Galilee, and for them this way of talking is normal and does not show any disrespect.

In this observation we must go beyond the person of John being called “the disciple that Jesus loved”, which is mentioned in other occasions in the book. If we do so starting from the apparent textual meaning, I say that Jesus made Mary a mother to every beloved disciple, i.e. to all the faithful. To clarify this statement, I say without interpretation that Mary has motherhood towards each one of us, and Jesus’ statement on the cross is enough to make us to honor the Theotokos.

No one can know precisely what does Mary’s motherhood for each believer mean. At least, it means that she has tenderness, kindness, intercession and embracing for each one of us, and that we mustn’t ignore her in our prayer. This confirms what her relative Elisabeth the mother of St. John the Baptist said: “From now on all generations will call me blessed”. The expression “Call me blessed” refers to our confession that she has the heavenly blessing which is the complete sight of God.

We do not say that except about the martyrs that nothing separates them from Christ. While about the rest of the saints, we say that they are in the Kingdom interceding for us surely, but not in the complete sight of God.

None the less, the reading focused on John the Evangelist, and his death is called Assumption like the dormition of the Theotokos is called. In our church, he is the first person that we called a theologian as we say “John the Theologian”, since no other evangelist wrote about the deity of Christ as he did.

We only call two others “Theologians”, Gregory of Nazianzus and Symeon the New Theologian, and it is obvious that John towered like no one else did.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “يوحنا الحبيب” – 26.09.2010- Raiati no39

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2010, Articles, Raiati

I Revive in Christ / 19.9.2010

Christ’s resurrection, for Paul, was not an event that happened so that we learn from it, but a reality that’s active in the soul and continual in the faithful. It was their general resurrection, but it is an extension in the life of the faithful. This permanent spiritual change in the life of the believer is what takes us from the Law of Moses to the new life.

Paul says concerning this: “For I through the Law died to the Law that I might live to God”. What Paul wanted was the Christian not to follow the ritual requirements of the Law since he is not saved through those, but to follow the law of love and get crucified with Christ. This is repeated in other occasions in the epistles. If I got crucified, i.e. I crucified all my whims then I will live with Christ who’s risen from the dead.

However, he seeks another expression so he says: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. The apostle exterminates the ego; himself is not him, but Christ. This means the complete extinction of our desires, the absence of our harmful wills, and the total integration of the believer in Christ.

Finally, he says “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. This means that through my purification from the closed and limited ego, a life descending from the heaven stays in me. This is my faith in the Son of God who loved me. This is the only time where he doesn’t say: “loved us”, i.e. using the plural or something similar. I, personally, am the objective of his salvation. I am the person that for him Lord Jesus came to this world and “gave himself for me”.

This is the mystery of the cross that Paul talked about many times. The crucifixion of the Savior and his resurrection and Gospel are for him one thing. However, all of this is poured in man, he is crucified, resurrected and a carrier of the word of God, and he perishes his soul through toil as today’s Gospel says, and all of this in order to transcend God’s word and spread it. A person cannot carry it if he didn’t accept to crucify himself to get on earth a spiritual resurrection in the purification of defects and sins. The soul in this scriptural reading, or the “self”, is better than the whole universe. This is why you cannot sell it in exchange of anything from this world.

Money, pleasure, power, influence … All of these do not equal a human soul free from sins and capable, in the fear of God, to control the issues of the world with purity and humility and without predominance on anyone.

Nevertheless, the power of a person on himself is not obtained simply by doing the will and its insistence on the issues of the person, but the Christian power in a person’s work comes from God’s power on him. With our acceptance of God we approach people and things so that the relation won’t only be healthy but also beneficial for us and for others.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أحيا في المسيح” – 19.9.2010-Raiati no 38

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2010, Articles, Raiati

Christ’s Cross / 12.9.2010

I have said in another occasion that when Paul said “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand”, he had taken the pen, which is a rod, from the writer’s hand, as Paul may have used to dictate since he was short-sighted. He took the pen and wrote with large letters that he can see, and each letter in Greek is detached from the other.

What is the subject of this section? There is a group in the church that wanted to force Gentile converts to get circumcised and follow the ritual laws of Moses. This is against the decision of the Council of Jerusalem that didn’t oblige the Gentile converts to pass through Judaism if they became Christians.

So, there were people in Galatia that did not respect the decision of the apostolic council. Paul denounced those Christian Judaizers and there circumcision pride as he said: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. As if he is saying that the requirements of the Law are from this world, so if they were crucified (dead) then I’ll be alive.

The apostle increases his tone as he says: “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything” but the new creation that occurs in us through baptism. Baptism is a reflection of Christ’s death and resurrection in us. Therefore, what’s the remaining importance for us from circumcision which was the sign of the testament between God and Abraham? The sign of the new testament in us is Christ’s blood and consequently the Baptism as the apostle arrives to say: “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God”.

The common interpretation of the expression “Israel of God” is its reference to the church which includes that old Israel that converted and the Gentiles that joined through baptism.

Paul gets tired of this situation and he says: “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”.

These marks or signs “in my body” are the pain that Paul suffered from the Jews and Gentiles. “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep” (2Cor 11: 24-25).

For him this was the reflection of Christ’s crucifixion in his body, which means that these sufferings invalidate the continuation of our practice to the Law of Moses in its legitimate way.

In this Sunday which precedes the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we prepare for the feast by our admiration to the sufferings of the apostles and saints, and by our knowledge, as today’s Gospel says, that God “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “صليب المسيح” – 12.9.2010- Raiati no37

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