Monthly Archives

May 2011

2011, Articles, Raiati

Sunday of the Blind Man / 29.05.2011

John the Evangelist didn’t write this long chapter about the man born blind only to talk about a miracle Jesus made, but to say through it that Jesus is the giver of light and that the non-recognition of Christ is blindness itself. Since the beginning of the fourth Gospel, where this passage is found, the apostle says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”. The Gospel of John talks a lot about the light.

The Jews used to believe that a disaster hits a person as a punishment for a sin he did. The Lord replies saying: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned”. One doesn’t inherit the results of the sins his parents did. The Master goes beyond this debate through healing the man blind from birth. “He came home seeing”. In the end of the talk about the healing this man becomes “seeing” from the spiritual aspect since he believed in Jesus. The physical healing was a way into the spiritual one as the man told Jesus: “Lord, I believe’ and he worshiped him”.

The Evangelist uses the occasion of this miracle to insert a theological debate between Jesus and the Pharisees because the miracle happened on a Saturday and they used the Law of Moses to say that the miracle is a work and one should not work on a Sabbath although they have heard what the Lord said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”.

The issue of Sabbath as explained by the Pharisees was one of the main reasons that made them provoke the people to kill the Lord. Lord Jesus was the victim of this wrong interpretation of Sabbath, the victim of the tyrannical system that people put and didn’t come from Moses.

There is also another part of the debate, which is the debate that happened between the parents of this man and the Pharisees. Was he blind or not? They refused the fact that the blind was healed and that they entered into darkness although they saw the truth. However, they didn’t want to admit it because if they did they would be then admitting that Jesus is at least a prophet or the anticipated messiah. They refused to admit this in order not to lose their power over the Jewish people and for the doctrine of the Pharisees which they inserted into the pure Jewish doctrine won’t be lost. This young man can’t be blind; they had to insist on that in order to save themselves.

Even if the truth appeared to us, we could sometimes escape from it because it is the surrender of soul to the savior and a complete repentance of all our sins. You can either be with Jesus, and consequently with all what he taught and asked for or with the darkness of your heart and sins.

The Gospel of the blind man is the choice between being completely to the Lord or not. It is nothing to be partially for him. “Your will be done”: This is how we are saved and not through our own will.

Christ is the complete light and we cannot choose parts of the light. Choosing parts of the light is blindness.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أحد الأعمى” –Raiati no22- 29.05.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

The Samaritan Woman / 22.05.2011

When Jesus was going from Judea to Galilee he had to pass through Samaria, so he went to Sychar, a city close to Nablus. There, was Jacob’s well that still exists today and an Orthodox Church was made next to it. So, Jesus sat down by the well…

It was about noon when a Samaritan woman arrived- which means a foreigner that is also split from the Jewish religion- and one of the finest conversations in the Gospels was held between Jesus and that woman. The Lord asked her to give him a drink as she was carrying a jar, but she was surprised from his request because Jews did not associate Samaritans. Jesus went beyond what separates people and promised her to give her the living water. She did not understand that this was something different than the water found in the well. So, she said: “Where can you get this living water?” and Jesus took her into another level saying: “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. This is, therefore, water with a different nature than that in the well. What is this water? How is it?

She wanted it, but Jesus couldn’t give her immediately water from his kingdom because she was an adulteress. She did not deserve a gift from heavens because she insisted on the bad behavior she’s behaving. This is why the Lord changed the path of the conversation and told her: “Go, call your husband”. She confessed that she had no man and then she confessed to her people that Jesus is a prophet. She wanted to enter into a theological discussion; so she said: “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem”. Christ abolished the doctrine of the Samaritans concerning worshiping in their region and also abolished worshiping in Jerusalem: “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth”. Their hearts would worship if they knew the Father, his Son and his Spirit. The old temples coming from Moses have no value anymore. God does not live anymore in Jerusalem’s temple after the Jewish return from the Babylonian captivity. After that, Jesus called himself the Temple, and we have become an extension of this temple after his resurrection. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”

This woman moved after the words of the Lord into the way he thinks and the behavior he wanted for her and preached all the people of Samaria about the Master. When the Samaritans asked him to stay at theirs, he stayed for two days and a lot of people believed in him after seeing and talking to him. The woman took them to the savior and they confessed saying “we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world”. The idea of the Messiah being the Savior of the world was not known for the Samaritans or for the Jews. The Content of the Bible descended on them, and then after the resurrection of the Savior, the people that followed him knew that he is the savior of the whole world and goes beyond Jews, Samaritans and all nations. The Holy Spirit revealed for people that Jesus is the savior of the world through his death and resurrection.

When our heart discovers Jesus, we become attached only to him and not tied to anything, any place, family, memory or sins. Jesus takes off us all the weights and makes everyone of us a beloved disciple lying on his chest and a great in the Kingdom.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “السامرية” –Raiati no21- 22.05.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

Miracles of the Apostles / 15.05.2011

The word “saints” used in this chapter (of the book of acts) refers to Christians. When Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians, he called them saints because they are sanctified through truth and baptism. This was the early period of the growth of Christianity.  After they took their preaching to Antioch, they were called Christians there. In the city of Lydda- a Palestinian city that still exist today- Peter found a paralyzed man and told him: Get up and roll up your mat, so he immediately got up.

Then, this chapter tells us about a girl in Joppa that got sick and died. Peter was invited to her house so he got down on his knees, prayed and said: Tabitha (which means doe), get up, and she did.

The result of healing Aeneas in Lydda and Tabitha in Joppa was that a lot of people believed in Lord Jesus. This is not something weird as the Lord has told his disciples: “Heal the sick, cleanse those who have leprosy” (He gave them the power he had from the Father and they transformed it through the power of Resurrection).

These miracles continued in the Church with the saints that were, like the apostles, working through the power of resurrection. We do not say that every saint has surely done a miracle. However, we do call some saints such as Saint Nicolas and Spyridon as wonder workers.

The idea falls into the fact that God is able to heal the sick regardless from the laws of medicine because he is not limited with the law of nature. We don’t know how does the miracle happen, how does the blind get his sight back or the paralyzed his movement. Healing happens through the will of God.

We do not have a medical office that decides whether a miracle happened or not. We just notice that something supernatural happened and glorify God. This doesn’t mean that we should be automatic believers of everything people talk about. You are free to believe or not when someone tells you about a miracle, but no one should accuse others of blasphemy in such cases. You are free to believe or disbelieve all the miracles except those found in the bible. However, if you saw any fruits, thank God.

Other than healing, our Lord has made much more important things than miracles that happened through people. His incarnation from virgin Mary, transforming bread and wine in his body and blood, his Resurrection from the dead, the sanctification that occurs after repentance…, all of these indicate that God does miracles constantly and always remember us with his mercy.

Everything started with the Resurrection of the Savior. We should know that we are people of Resurrection that wait the miracle in every moment and sanctify our souls through the interferences of God in our life so that we recognize that the New Testament is still active.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “عجائب الرسل” –Raiati no20- 15.05.2011

Continue reading
2011, An-Nahar, Articles

The Kingdom of Christ /

The discussion between the Lord and Pilate was very dramatic. Based on the accusations of the Jews, the governor asked Jesus of Nazareth: “Are you the King of the Jews?” The governor was not interested with the charge, since it does not shake the throne of a Caesar. The charge would [also] not result in the execution of the Savior. Finally, the governor judging asks Jesus: “what have you done?” Jesus answered: “My kingship is not of this world”. The origin is not the earth. However, I confirm that I am a king. My task is confined to this: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” [John 18: 33, 35-37]

In every nation and in the whole of humanity there is one human being or few people whose task is not to govern, i.e., to deal with politics, but rather to bear witness to the truth. The Nazarene had once said: “And for their sake (for the disciples’) I consecrate myself”. In the original meaning of the word it means that I have been set aside for God, or I am specialized in what concerns God, [or] as the believer says, I am in the image of God. I speak God’s language since God has descended to me and has dwelt in me, because I have humbled myself in front of God. However, had I built a tower for myself, as it was in Babylon in the past, so that I may reach at God with my own strength and with some other arrogant ones, God would have destroyed the tower and confused our languages, namely God would have made in every human being meanings different than the others’ meanings, while God has no place in these languages. Then, God would no more reign over us, since God would no more be the King of all languages, and not the only one in the human heart. Thus, every human being has turned into his/[her] heart, namely the heart has become a den for snakes, while snakes have been torn apart as they fight each other and they have earned kingdoms, all from the earth, and in our Lebanese expression we say they have become farms. Hence the ‘I’ could no more become ‘we’. The earth does not germinate a Kingdom for God. This is why Jesus, who has descended with His words from heaven, said to the earthly representative of Rome: “My kingship is not of this world”.

I and the world—we do not speak the same language, unless this world comes know that it is called to be – all through – a domain of heaven or heaven.

Maybe few are aware that they have come to bear witness to the truth and that their language is the language of truth only. And maybe they are not aware that their communication means are messages of truth, namely that they have come to sanctify themselves till their language merges with God’s language. This way they might be founded on sanctity of the truth.

I think that Christ’s words to Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world”, means that the Nazarene has come with a new language, with the word, and that you have to follow it and to endorse it, since otherwise you would not have accepted complete change of the human form. [It would further mean] that you are merely borrowing terms from the words of the Nazarene, while your conviction does not emerge from truth. You might think that it does, since you perform a role in society or you have a rank or power which allows you to form your own kingdom in this world and from it, so that it might conform to the wisdom of this world, and its skill. And you would enjoy your intelligence, which is from this world, thinking that it is from God since God is the source of intelligence.

Before Jesus said “My kingship is not of this world”, he thought about His disciples’ affiliation to His Kingdom: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth” [John 17: 16-17]. They are responsible to bear witness to the truth and not to perform politics as Herod, the priests and Pilate. To bear witness to the truth is to be filled with holiness, i.e. there would be nothing in them other than the word of God, and they would not speak other than whatever emerges from the Word, which was from the beginning, namely before the universe and its politics.

“As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” [John 17: 18] So, as I do not say a thing from myself since I have received everything from you, similarly they would not say a thing from themselves but only from whatever they have received from me. They do not have an identity from their own selves. In their highest strive they are me, as if from eternity they were like me, as I and you are one from eternity.

Nonetheless, Paul the apostle admits that there is wisdom in this world, and wisdom of speech is a part of it. However, he explains that the world has not known God through human wisdom, since Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” [1Cor. 1: 24] Does this mean that there is no communication between the two wisdoms, and that nonconformity would forever exist between the language of the fallen human being and the language of God, and that the saints are separated from the sinners? The question is extremely difficult. However, whenever we get to know that the word of God is God’s reign in the world and that the truth of God is the truth, then we realize that no compromise is possible between the divine perspective and the human state, which is most of the times fallen.

The great allurement is to make the human word a substitute for the word of God, and this is the compromise, namely the descent from a higher level to that which is below, so that you would make use of the human logic in order to cover with it the divine logic, or to hide it, and to convince yourself that you are wise and a loving person and that you do all this for the benefit of people.

In this way proceeds the logic of those who attain the wisdom of the age. [They say to themselves that] these are the human beings and this is what they understand, so let us come down to them. And in reality the procedure moves on as you, thinking of yourself to be the servant of truth, adopt the wisdom of this world.  This is the big illusion. The tower of Babylon had fallen and the languages were confused, and you have become from the people of the earth, and its soil has covered some of the light which you still had.

As for how to use the words of this world, its manners, and its lanes so that you would allow God to speak through them, this is the work of grace within you and it is the fruit of a permanent vigilance concerning the purity of your stance. To become a human being who yearns to divinity in every commitment of you, in order to sanctify your brothers [and sisters] in truth without counting a reward for yourself, and without embellishing yourself. This makes you well versed in the wisdom of this world, however without being subject to it.

How does a sinful world change? It does not change with excessive intelligence and with the increase of the intelligent ones, who were born and grown up in sin. Those who strike themselves with the words of truth every day, so that their sins would not creep into their skins, those can change the world. They can bear witness to the truth, since there would be no separation between them and truth. The world would be saved through little intelligence and much truth, through those who are poor to the splendor of the saints, until the Lord is manifested in the majority, so that they might bring the Lord’s Kingdom into the kingdom of this world.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “مملكة المسيح” –An Nahar- 14.05.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

The Seven / 08.05.2011

What was this complaint that came from the Hellenistics and Hebraics in the early Church in Jerusalem? The Hellenistic Jews are Jews that became Christian and lived for a long period away from Palestine where they received some of the Hellenistic culture. Those were not able to understand the Aramaic language that was used by the people in Palestine including Palestinian Christians. On the other side, those who the book of Acts calls Hebraic Jews were the Jews of Palestine that became Christian and didn’t immigrate, so they refused to speak except using the national language of the people of Palestine, i.e. Aramaic.

The Hellenistic Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews saying that “their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food”, i.e. in the aids that were distributed.

Each of these two communities had its own synagogue (It is what we call today the Knesset) so that they could understand preaching with their own language.

It is known that the Torah was only read in Hebrew for both the Hellenistics and the Hebraic, however that language was not used anymore. Therefore, they used to preach using Greek or Aramaic according to the linguistic knowledge of every nation.

When this problem appeared, the Apostles assigned seven men. Most of the interpreters said that this selection was the establishment of the system of deacons and the church named the martyr Saint Stephen, who was one of them, a deacon.

The apostles laid their hands on them and this expression indicates the process of the sanctification of a work that’s related to Sacraments and is not a simple blessing. Assigning a person to take care of the widows’ aids does not require the laying of hands. It is significant that in this selection the first one named was Stephen who was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”, and this means that he was not ignorant in the knowledge of faith and this is obvious from his speech to the Jews who killed him by stoning.

After that, the epistle says: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples (i.e. number of Christians) in Jerusalem increased rapidly”. Later, the word “disciples” was replaced by the word “Christians” in Antioch. Then the epistle says: “and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”. This refers to the Jewish priests that started believing in Jesus, and this explains that the Jewish community persecuted them because of that and that’s what made one of the great Christians to write an epistle to the Hebrews to strengthen through faith the priests that converted into Christ and the Jews that were under oppression.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “السبعة” –Raiati no19- 08.05.2011

Continue reading
2011, Articles, Raiati

Thomas / 01.05.2011

The Evangelists wanted, as Paul did before them, to confirm the Resurrection not only through mentioning it for the reader of the New Testament but also through showing concrete things that are the appearances of the Lord that happened eleven times. The first appearance occurred when the Lord entered to the disciples on the eve of Resurrection when they were together and afraid of the Jews since they were at risk of death, imprisonment, and suffering because they followed that who the Jews put up on the cross.

After greeting them with peace “he showed them his hands and side” so that they don’t think he’s an illusion, i.e. so that they become sure that the person who entered to them is the same one they knew and saw crucified. For the redemption to happen it was very important for the body that the Jews crucified to be the same one that resurrected from the dead.

Immediately after his greeting he told them: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. It is obvious that he called them at the beginning of his gospel, but now he stabilized them in the mission because sending them is related to the power of Resurrection. After fifty days, he sent them the Holy Spirit so that they get filled with the power of Resurrection and give people this power.

In this first meeting, Thomas was not with them so they told him what they saw, but he wanted a proof so he said: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe”. How did Thomas live with his friends after that? Did they discuss the Resurrection? They did surely pray together until the Sunday after Resurrection came; this is the Sunday that we mention today and call Thomas Sunday or New Sunday which is the eighth day after Pascha.

In this day, Jesus came while the doors were locked. This means that walls couldn’t prevent Jesus from entering the hall where the disciples were. The book didn’t say that the Lord penetrated the walls. Jesus appeared through his power and became between them; the Gospel doesn’t explain how that happened. He greeted them and went directly to Thomas saying to him: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe”.

We don’t really know if Thomas got over his doubt by putting his hand on Jesus’ side and the marks of the nails. The important thing is that he told him: “My Lord and my God”. The word “Lord” in the Greek text is definite, therefore it means: You are the Lord and you are my Lord. This is a confession from Thomas that Jesus is the only Lord. And in order not to let someone think that he is calling him a lord in the sense of a “master” like any other master, Thomas added the phrase “My God”. This is a confession that Jesus of Nazareth is the complete true God.

Thomas’ doubt was beneficial for us to recognize that Jesus rose from the dead and that through this resurrection his disciples recognized that he is the Lord and the God. Thomas’ testimony is one of the strong ones, if not the strongest, to say that Jesus rose alive and triumphant over death.

Thomas helped us to believe without seeing and to deserve the Lord’s delight in us as he has said: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. Make us worthy, Lord, to be among these.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “توما” –Raiati no18- 01.05.2011

Continue reading