Monthly Archives

April 2011

2011, Articles, Raiati

Resurrection / 24.04.2011

Resurrection is an event and a meaning. The event is the emission of Christ from death with his power, and has happened on Sunday’s dawn or morning. It is the spiritual and glorified emission of the same body that was crucified, and the important thing is to assure that we don’t have here in front of us a new form of Jesus of Nazareth because this would mean that there is no salvation. We are in front of a continuation of this body, human mind, and the same human soul. However, it is a body from which the light that was hidden in it has brightened. This is why we say that it is a glorified body.

This was the event; as for its meaning and impact, it is Christ’s triumph over death since he has “trampled upon death by death” as the troparion of the feast says and as Apostle Paul clarified while talking about Baptism when he said: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death (i.e. to reach his death)? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death (for the death of the sin) in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6: 3–5).

The impact that the Resurrection left in Christ is that “since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him” (Romans 6: 9).

The event is proved through two things. The first is that the disciples and the women that went to the tomb found it empty with the stone removed and saw the appearances of the Lord that are counted and described in the Gospel. These appearances showed that the person they knew before his death is the same that they saw after it. As for the triumph over death as soon as death happened, i.e. the non-dominance of death over him, this has filled the three-day period between Friday and Sunday morning as we cannot say that death defeated Christ for three days and only at the end of this period Christ prevailed. As soon as his humanly soul left his body, Christ was victorious; therefore, we don’t say in the chants of this period the expressions “Christ’s dead body” or “corpse” but we insist on using the expression “Christ’s body”.

When we take the body and the blood of the Lord, we would be taking a living body, we would be united with him who has risen from the dead and sat on the right hand of the Father. Baptism and the Eucharist are both expressions of Christ’s life in us, i.e. the revival of our body and soul.

According to this, death doesn’t scare us after we have become alive in Jesus Christ. Through this victory that happened once, we have become “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6: 11), and invited to the renewal of our life through the Holy Spirit.

When we answer the greeting “Christ is risen” by “Indeed, he is risen”, we do not only mean to talk about the event that happened in the person of the Savior, but also to declare that his Resurrection gives us a new life.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “القيامة” –Raiati no17- 24.04.2011

Continue reading
2011, An-Nahar, Articles

The Resurrection / 23.04.2011

Tomorrow we celebrate the event of resurrection and we aim to perceive its meaning. The event is that Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead and has conquered death as the Paschal hymn articulates it at our Church: “by death, trampling down upon death”.

The event itself was described with special consideration by the writers of the New Testament, since the event is hard to believe in, beside the fact that the writers considered it as the foundation of Christian Faith. Had resurrection not occurred, faith would be in vein and the preaching about Christ would be in vein. Thus, on one hand resurrection is real, consequently its reality has to be established, mainly through the witness of those to whom Jesus had appeared, and on the other hand resurrection is the heart of faith and this contributes to the certainty of faith.

It was Paul the apostle who claimed Resurrection as the core of Christian faith and he was the first to write on Christianity implying that his teaching on Resurrection was received from the apostles. Paul did not distinguish between the event and its meaning and he wrote down a theology that can be summarized by these words: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Thus, belief in Resurrection is confirmed by the words of the apostle: “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1Corinthians 15: 4-8).

To explicate this point further we can refer to the eyewitnesses of the death of Jesus and they were as well eyewitnesses of his appearances after the resurrection, in the sense that they recognized the one who appeared to them as the same who was hung on the wood. Those eyewitnesses were: Mary the Magdalene, the women who carried the ointments and went to the tomb, Simon Peter, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, the apostles gathered in Thomas’ absence and then in his presence, some of the apostles on Lake Tiberias and the apostles in Galilee. He also appeared to them at the time of his ascension to heaven. These appearances are eleven in number, and we read one of them every Sunday in the Orthodox Church.

Narrating these appearances shows the critical spirit of the apostles. This narration makes it obvious to me that the apostles were free of careless popular thinking. They were far from immature and provocative belief.

Thomas’ denial of the resurrection at the beginning and the fact that he was not convinced by the disciples’ words show his strong critical spirit. The next week Jesus appeared to them while Thomas was with them.

Nevertheless, the feast is not limited to the departure of the Nazarene from the tomb, which was a cave and not a hole in the ground. The feast articulates the whole salvation we are given since the incarnation of the Son of God, and specially the salvation we were given through the cross. Before the moment of the crucifixion, Jesus has said “it is completed,” which is to say that ‘I have completed everything my Father has sent me to do and I have fulfilled every word of the prophets’. Thus, after Christ, we owe everything sublime, pure, and true to him. That is to say that integrity of thought, intellectual and artistic output and the victory of the oppressed person, all of these draw their inspiration from the life and words of Jesus. From this standpoint, we hope, on this day, for resurrection from personal toil and the reality of the fall, and we ask for aspirations toward heaven. From a dogmatic standpoint, we have in Easter a promise that we shall rise on the last day. God’s perfection has appeared in Christ. The Savior’s resurrection foretells us that Jesus’ call to us is to “be perfect”.

The feast is the liberation from all types of death in our personal life and in the lives of those around, whom we serve. It is a continuous event within us unto the end of the age. This is why the Feast of the Resurrection extends from Good Friday to the morning of the feast. Whenever this triad enters our lives, we can celebrate the feast every day, promising that all the days of our lives will become an eternal Pascha. Our joy is founded on Jesus’ victory, thus, we do not admit joy on one day and grief on another. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Hence, whenever some say that we are suffering with Christ, we do not mean that the pain of the body or the soul is better than safety. We can accept the sufferings since sometimes they reflect the inner safety. If heaven, at the end, is our victory over sin and death, then we are in it, and if heaven pours out in our daily lives, then we become a paschal community and then we can sing, “Christ has risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death.”

Thus, there is no truth in the saying that “Christianity is a religion of tragedy.” As I heard it once, I told the person addressing me that tragedy, in its Greek sense, means that you are imprisoned in a locked room. However, there is no ceiling above us. There is nothing above our heads than heaven. We have left all the prisons into “the freedom of the sons of God.” This is why, recently, one of our saints used to greet every friend he met saying, “My joy, Christ has risen”.

By this word I greet all who have read me between today and tomorrow, until sorrow cease to exist.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “القيامة” –An Nahar- 23.04.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

Entering Jerusalem / 17.04.2011

Palm Sunday’s Gospel starts with Mary washing Jesus’ feet and continues with the Jews making plans to kill Lazarus her brother because his existence shows Jesus’ power and that is harmful for the Jewish cause. Let then Jesus’ friend be killed: This is something common in crimes.

After that, the Gospel narrates Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem coming from Galilee and staying in Bethany, the village of Lazarus and his sister and a suburb of the holy city. Jesus enters knowing that he is going to die there as he has prophesied in the Gospel. Some people welcomed him and some of them saw him raising Lazarus from the dead. These started tending to believe in him. Did some of them favor the Chief Priests when they told Pilate “Crucify him, crucify him” as some claim? We don’t know. However, it is important for us to know that if we became his followers, it is a shame to deny him.

In the period between entering Jerusalem and crucifixion, a lot of events happened and Jesus spoke a lot. According to the Gospel of John, from which we took today’s reading, Jesus purifies the Temple on Monday. He teaches in the Temple on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the conspiracy against Jesus happens and on Thursday the Mystical Supper occurs with the farewell speech. After that, the Lord gets arrested and put under trial. Then, on Friday, there is his crucifixion, death and burial.

Jesus accepts death, the thing he came for. Through this, he was fulfilling the Father’s will and revealing his love for humans.

On Palm Sunday, we open our hearts so that the love of Christ would enter them and we respond to this love to be able to live once we take it through the Holy Spirit.

On the eve of Palm Sunday we have the service of the bridegroom and the same service on Holy Monday and Tuesday. In this service, every soul invites the blessed Christ to become its bridegroom or groom just as he is the groom of priests.

On all of the days (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) we take communion, the body of the Lord in the presanctified gifts’ liturgy so that we truly revive in Christ daily. On Thursday, we have the memory of the Mystical Supper in an ordinary liturgy which is a peak in the life of the Holy community. After that, we reach the service of the passions and the readings of its Gospels, and by that we put on Christ who is going for our redemption and love and we chant his passions throughout the day on Holy Friday getting ready for his Resurrection from Holy Saturday until the light of Resurrection appears to us.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “دخول أورشليم” –Raiati no16- 17.04.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

The Passion for Power / 10.04.2011

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, showed that they loved power as they asked Jesus to make them “ministers” in his kingdom since they thought that it is a political kingdom. The Lord refused to fulfill their lust; he didn’t come to create a state on earth but to change everything through the bible. The disciple of Christ shouldn’t look for serving him through politics; we have another language and different methods.

After this fall from James and John, Jesus says to his disciples: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them”. In the Church, no one can make himself a master and no one overpowers others. Power, in the sense of giving orders, commanding, arrogance and having a desire to give commands and to be obeyed, is not something from the New Testament. All of our life in the New Testament is service; you achieve your status through service. This is why the Lord continued his talk saying: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”. Your greatness is valued according to your service. Your relationship with people starts when you start serving them. After that, Jesus continued this sense saying: “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all”. A slave in ancient civilizations doesn’t have any will: His master’s will is his; he is nothing in front of his master.

In Church and society, you fulfill others’ wishes. You shall feel the needs of others and try to fulfill them according to your ability. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I needed clothes and you clothed me”.

The Lord concludes this section by saying: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. This is an echo of what he said a little earlier when he spoke about his passions, death and Resurrection. You shall die in service and give your life through taking real care daily of everything God puts in your way.

This chapter from Mark suits the Lenten period that we are in because it is a dedicated service for the poor and for each other. One part of fasting is a food diet, but it is truly a service for others as we pray for them.

In this Sunday, the giving of St. Mary the Egyptian’s life to Jesus is reflected. She served Him and also serves all of us when we look at her repentance. Others are everything: If they took what you gave them, they would feel that Christ is giving them and that they are becoming great in his grace, and once they grow through it this shall be passed into their brothers. In this blessed season, commit to prayers and helping the poor through giving and praying. When all of these meet together, this shall become a journey of humility and a path towards the Kingdom.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “شغف السلطة” –Raiati no15- 10.04.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

The Healing of Faith / 03.04.2011

The father of a sick boy asked the Lord to heal his son saying “My son is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech”, which means that it is a spirit that made him tongue-tied and have other symptoms that indicate epilepsy. The father asks for healing “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. His faith in Jesus is not clear; however, he did hear that the Nazarene is a wonder maker, so he said why not ask him for a miracle. Christ faces this troubled soul. He encounters this man through his doubt so he tells him: “Everything is possible for one who believes”. The Lord goes down to him perhaps he is moved, perhaps he believes. This man cries as if he saw in Jesus’ question to him an invitation to a faith that’s shaky for him.

At this point, the man says: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”, and in better words this means: Strengthen my desire to believe and my wish for my son to be healed.

When the disciples asked the Master: “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” he said that “an evil spirit of this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting”. Perhaps the Church wanted to read this section from Mark in this Lenten season because the text has combined between praying and fasting, the two pillars of this Lenten period.

Fasting indicates that emptying our stomachs from food is a will to fill our internal personality from the Word of God, and from this aspect, fasting and praying are one. Praying, here, doesn’t mean a collection of prayers organized in daily rituals, but means a communion with God, a unity with him in a way that if you asked for the healing of a patient for example, God would do this healing through you. You and your Lord would be doing the same job.

Back then, the disciples didn’t have this ability because the Holy Spirit didn’t descend on them yet and didn’t fill them with his grace that we see in them in the book of Acts. Disease was often a fall of the entity, a kind of falling behind, a crisis… while safety was what God wants, it was often a rising and a facilitator of our journey towards God and a sign of spiritual perfection. This is why God wants it and prepares for it through those who deserve to have it from God. He prepares for it through the faith of the healed and the in-need for safety. This is why God put the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick which expresses the tenderness of the Lord and an invitation to thank and praise him.

God is found in the believer, and this believer can Give God for any person that needs him. In the same way that you push a person into repentance towards the God that you repent to, you can also ask the mighty God in you to become on the sick person so that he rises from his collapse and sticks to his Lord healthily.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “شفاء الإيمان” –Raiati no14- 03.04.2011

Continue reading