Monthly Archives

August 2011

2011, Articles, Raiati

Some People Fighting Paul / 28.08.2011

The Apostle says in the beginning of this passage to the Christians coming from Paganism that they are the seal of his mission. They converted through his words. Some doubted Paul being an apostle. Those doubters might be the Judaizers in Church that want to preserve the Sabbath and other Jewish provisions and let these continue in Church. They might also be a group that brags about spiritually. Whatever the reason was, Paul found that he has enemies in Church.

Then he talks about his rights “to eat and to drink”. However, he didn’t want to eat from the parish. Another point is concerning preachers being allowed to be accompanied by their women. The word “apostles” that he uses refers to those that were not among the twelve disciples. Among those are the ones called “the Lord’s brothers” who were his relatives because the word brother was used to indicate close relatives. Then, he mentions Cephas, i.e. Peter, because some of the faithful in Corinth considered themselves as his people.

Barnabas, that was mentioned here, accompanied Paul in preaching Southern Asia Minor (Turkey nowadays), and then each of them went in his way. However, he mentions him without any tension.

Paul gives four arguments to defend his right to be helped by the parish: 1. this is the usual practice in daily life; 2. this is based on the Holy Book; 3. this was practiced in the Temple; and 4. this is a clear command from the Lord. Does the soldier work at his own expense? And also the vineyard planter and the flock tender? Paul proves that this position doesn’t come from him but is based on the Law. Nevertheless, he doesn’t care about earthly things, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in hope. Then his logic arises and he asks the recipients of the epistle: If we have sown spiritual seed among you (teaching, preaching and pastoral care), is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you (money)? Then he shows that he has a power over them that he took from the spiritual seed he gave them. However, he says: “But we did not use this right”, we didn’t take from you any material. “On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ”.

His only concern is preaching, whether it gave him food in return or not and whether they gave him a home or not. He is specialized in preaching in order to build people on Christ. He doesn’t care about his body. He manufactures tents to eat. He relies only on God to eat. He became hungry, yet he didn’t care. Pagans persecuted him and he didn’t care. He was drowned and stoned yet he didn’t care. God protected him during difficult conditions. God protected him from Nero’s persecution that killed Peter after writing his Epistle, while Paul  came back to Rome and died there as a martyr a year or two after Nero’s persecution to the Church.

His right to eat and drink that he proved but didn’t hold on to is the right of every priest or servant in Church. Strengthening the Clergy is a command from God because we have to protect his health so that he could give us the maximum of his spiritual ability. How could he pray with the community if he was hungry or sick because the parish didn’t take care of him? The parish grows spiritually when its priest is grown on all levels so that God is glorified through the priest and the parish together.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “مكافحةُ بعضٍ لبولس” –Raiati 35- 28.08.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

Jesus the Healer / 21.08.2011

The Lord did these activities: Preaching the Kingdom of God and healing illnesses. Healing, for Jesus, was a sign of the coming of the Kingdom because the Kingdom is the health of the soul and the coming back of the person to his full safety.

Today’s Gospel talks about an ill person that falls in panic attacks in his youth years. He falls into the fire and water, and these are symptoms of epilepsy.

The parents presented the boy to the disciples but they couldn’t heal him, so Jesus said that his disciples are an unbelieving and perverse generation and ordered them to get the ill boy to him. The Lord rebuked the evil spirit that was controlling the boy, i.e. he ordered the spirit to get out of him and therefore the child was healed from that moment. This boy was healed through a word from Jesus. In addition to health, the Lord heals the heart from its sin if the person repented.

When the disciples failed, they asked the Lord why they couldn’t get the evil spirit out. Then, the Master told them “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move”. The meaning is clear here: No difficulty could stand in front of the faithful because he can overcome it. After that, he talked about the evil spirit saying: “This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”. When the flaming prayer is built on trusting God – whether it was from the church prayers in the meeting of the faithful or an individual prayer – it shall heal the praying person, the sick or the sinner. It has an efficiency coming from God himself that is a partner with the believer as he gives him his grace that “completes the incomplete and heals the ill”. God sends his healing and you feel it. This is why the Church organized, based on St. James’ Epistle, the Anointing of the Sick which is exercised once a year in the Holy Week or in the house of the sick.

Fasting, being and orientation towards the Lord, is exactly as prayer. It is the power of the Lord in us and not only a diet. Fasting is not only an abstinence from food but, in the first place, from sin. When the person is fortified with prayer and fasting, Christ’s power shall descend on him. The prayers of the church and of the saints, that are the victorious church, are together the power of healing and of repentance.

After these words, Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life”. All the good things that the Savior did were to prepare us to see his passions and Resurrection. The core of the Christian faith is the passions of the Lord and his emergence from the dead. This is the aim of his journey. Therefore, we shall live with Lord Jesus if we accepted his suffering and resurrection with the joy of the victory over sin. We are Paschal people that overcome the sin that consoles us and ascend from it, because it is death, into Christ’s visage.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “يسوع الشافي” –Raiati 34- 21.08.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

God’s Temple / 14.08.2011

The apostle said: “We are God’s fellow workers”; however, God is the initiator of all the good things in you. You accept his grace, and this is communion. The Lord doesn’t oblige us to do anything. You accept the gift and make it fruitful. This is why Paul clarified after that saying: You are God’s field (and this is an agricultural figure) and God’s building (giving the image of a building). The author of the Epistle believes that a constructor is wise when he builds on God’s basis.

Then, he addresses every believer to draw his attention to God’s role in this construction. He reminds him that the only basis is Jesus Christ. Therefore, we do not build according to another religion and we don’t mix our doctrine with another.

Therefore, if we lived in straight doctrine, our work will appear in the last day. All our behaviors will appear to the Lord in the final judgment, and this examining that God does to us has been called “fire” by Paul because fire separates metal from gold. For if your work survived through the examining you shall be awarded, however you may lose in the examination.

And for the Corinthians to understand that they have to examine themselves, Paul said: “You are God’s temple”, because God doesn’t live anymore in Jerusalem’s Temple. Christ’s body is the temple and you are Christ’s body. The Church is you. And you will become God’s temple through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in you, and this, you shall take through “Myron”, which is the anointment of the Spirit, if you preserved this anointment and didn’t erase it.

This anointment will continue and you will be called Messiahs (which means the anointed). You are sealed like a sealed letter than no one can read except the one it was sent to. Being sealed means that you are only for Christ and not for any leader or bishop. You are from the household of those who love Christ.

Beware not to ruin God’s temple by selling it to someone other than Christ or by destroying parts of it because it will become ruined and the Holy Spirit will leave it. There are people that live without the Holy Spirit. I fear that the Spirit would leave you as a dead body. You ruin the temple if you accepted a thought that Christ doesn’t accept and if you became subject to worldly thinking. You also ruin the temple if you purposely sinned and let the devil spread his thoughts in your heart.

When the Apostle said “You are God’s temple”, he didn’t use the word temple in plural because we are all one in Jesus Christ. Love makes us one temple for him. If you surrendered once to hatred, you shall go out from your belonging to this temple.

The Church is one because it emerges from Christ, but its unity can’t be preserved except through the unity of its children. It is a unity with Christ and with the brothers. And if you didn’t preserve this, you would be living in maliciousness, arrogance and pride. While if you preserved the unity in all situations, you should know that this is coming from Christ and that he is preserving you in his love so that you won’t die every day in sin.

Christ has risen from the dead so that none of you would stay spiritually dead, today or tomorrow.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “هيكل الله” –Raiati 33- 14.08.2011

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2011, An-Nahar, Articles

The Feast of the Dormition / 13.08.2011

In Christian terminology, it is the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and “dormition” is the eastern term for death. In the language of worship, the dead are called those asleep, in order to indicate Christ’s victory over death. Their death is because they are embraced by God before the Resurrection on the last day. The origins of the feast are eastern. It was established in the sixth century in Jerusalem where her church stood in Gethsemane. The Emperor Maurice made the feast general throughout the empire. Pope Sergius I, who died at the beginning of the seventh century adopted the feast, and Pope Pius XII announced that the transport of the Virgin to heaven in body and soul is a dogma.

The Orthodox Church has not defined the transport of Mary into heaven as a dogma. Orthodox theologians are divided between those who believe in the assumption of her body and those who do not, since where there is not a synodally-defined dogma, the matter is left to freedom of interpretation. However, the services for the feast are clear in stating that she was transported (“You were transported to life, being the Mother of Life”, that is of Christ). Also in the prayer for the feast we say “You arose after your death to be with your Son eternally” and even more clearly “God… preserved your body in the tomb and your glory is with Him in your divine transport”.

The question that poses itself to eastern Christians is ‘are the texts of the feast binding as dogma?’ The general, basic answer is that worship services reveal a dogmatic position in general, but this does not mean that we are able to extrapolate a binding dogmatic position from the worship services, and so we remain with critical freedom as long as a clear definition is not issued at an ecumenical council made up of all the Orthodox churches.

Taking stock of both the Orthodox and the Catholic positions, we can say that Mary anticipated the Resurrection, that she will not be subject to trial or judgment, and that she abides in glory, that is the state in which we will be after the final resurrection. This is what Saint John of Damascus realized in the eighth century when he addressed her in one of the two sermons he wrote about the Dormition. He said, “I will not call your holy departure death, but rather a dormition or a journey but the best way to call it is an abiding. In leaving the realm of the body, you entered a more excellent realm”.

I said that she abides in the divine glory and that she is not like us, subject to divine judgment on the last day. This is why we greatly magnify her. She is our ambassador to heaven.

She is full of grace, as the angel Gabriel told her at the moment of the Annunciation. That is, that she was free from all sin, submitting to God alone and prepared to accept every word from Him. This is what the angel meant when he said, “The Lord is with you, blessed among women.” These words were the beginning of her path to glory. The beginning of the path is that from her and from the Holy Spirit the Word of God, who existed in the beginning, became incarnate. The angel’s greeting makes it clear to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will rest upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” There is no doubt that the angel Gabriel’s use of the word “overshadow” points to the cloud that accompanied the People of God of old and which later became the temple in Jerusalem. The idea, then, is that Mary is the new temple of God or the first church for Christ and there is no church unless she dwells within it. In the first church, which gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem, where the disciples gathered “continuing with one accord in prayers and Mary the mother of Jesus was with them” (Acts 1: 14). So when the Holy Spirit rested upon them, it also rested upon Mary, just as it had rested upon her at the Annunciation in order for the Word to be made flesh. This Spirit accompanied her until the end of her life on earth. This is the life in glory before her being transported to the heavenly abodes.

There is no further talk about Mary after this in the Gospel, since it goes on to talk about the Holy Spirit’s formation of the Church. The Virgin is an inherent part of the Church since she said, “From this moment all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). Thus the words of the Gospel show that the humanity that relies on the Gospel as its scripture turns to the Virgin, through whom the Mighty One worked wonders (Luke 1: 49). Those who know of the place of Mary in glory address her, seeking her intercession.

The author of the Book of Revelation looked at her as an image of the Church. He said, “There appeared a great sign in heaven: a woman robed in the sun and the moon is under her feet and upon her head is a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 1: 12). Byzantine art has a pattern by which she is drawn with the Child. She relies on Him for all her splendor. She has no power on her own. She is given what we receive from the Lord. If you love the Lord and go for all His splendors, then He is great in His saints and among them she is the first. Knowledge of Mary is a part of knowledge of Christ.

Perhaps this feast is an occasion for me to say that what is called the intercession or the entreaties or the meditations of the saints are words that do not cancel the single mediation of Christ. Salvation was achieved a single time in the person of the Savior. No one can add anything to that, since there is no power outside this salvation.

We Orthodox do not accept the view of Mary as a partner is salvation. No human can save humans. However, we believe that those in heaven pray, just like the people on earth, because Christ’s Resurrection is active from this moment and by it Christ has trampled down the death of those who have tasted it. Those who have been transported to glory stand in prayer and are not mere bones and ashes. They are alive with their Lord, that is they speak to Him and we speak to them. We accompany them and they accompany us in the vale of tears in which we live. The Church in heaven and the Church on earth is one. Heaven is chanting after divine kindness in the saints. Is it right for you to say that those in heaven are silent and that Mary is absent from the glory of her Son and of her brothers and sisters in righteousness?! She is a word, after the Word dwelt within her and after He gave those invited to the wedding at Cana wine to enjoy. What does it mean when some say “Can God not respond to us directly?” If you entrust grace with Mary, supplicate her, and receive an outpouring from her, is the Savior not working within you directly? In the Kingdom of Love above, what is direct and what is indirect? Are we not, with those great ones who preceded us in arriving at God’s mercy, the single body of Christ, living together in

Translated from Arabic

Original Text: “عيد رقاد السيدة” –Nahar- 13.08.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

‘Not with Words of Wisdom’ / 07.08.2011

In this chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul invited them to speak the same thing, and by this he didn’t mean that he wants them to have the same human opinions, but for their opinions to be based on the Gospel that the apostle preached them with. He also warned them not to have divisions between them, because if they had Christ’s mind in them they shall not be divided from each other. He also told them that Chloe’s household- i.e. the servants of a woman in their church named Chloe- told him that they have quarrels among them concerning people they follow: Some say that they follow Paul the author of the epistle, others said that they follow another apostle named Apollos that had a relationship with the church of Corinth, and another group said that they follow Christ. Paul wants them to be only for Christ and not for anyone of the apostles that preached them.

And to prove that he doesn’t want followers, he gave them two reasons. For the first reason he said: Is Christ divided? And for the second reason: What is the important of Paul? He wasn’t crucified for you neither baptized you in his name because no one can do anything except in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as the Lord ordered us to do.

Paul insisted that he didn’t baptize anyone except Crispus and Gaios so that it wouldn’t be understood that he baptized in his own name. He also said that he baptized the household of Stephan, i.e. Stephan, his wife and kids. This is what the word household refers to. And he assures that Christ didn’t send him to baptize but to preach.

And when he used this word, he clarified that he didn’t preach with words of wisdom, i.e. with human eloquence or beautiful composition but with the simplicity of the Gospel. If he had gotten his own words, he would be abolishing Christ’s crucifixion. After that, he spoke extensively about the cross. When the preacher stresses on the cross, its meaning and influence on our lives, he doesn’t leave any human words in him anymore.

Of course, the preacher composes with his expressions and style, and this is inevitable. However, his words won’t have any content except from the Gospel and from what we got from early Christians, from the saints and Church fathers that didn’t say their own words but translated the Gospel into the language of the people.

Everything we have, the thing that saves, is to remind the faithful about the salvation they got and to clarify for them how they could maintain the Gospel through their behavior.

On this basis, it is not very recommended for the priest to have philosophical ideas or poetic phrases in his preaching. It is essential that he doesn’t mention intellectuals from this world that wrote in our language or other languages.

This doesn’t mean that he should repeat the words of the Epistle or Gospel in the language of the people as if people didn’t understand what they heard. It is required from the preacher to reveal the deep meaning of the text that was read, I mean the meanings that could be related to the minds of the listeners. He must put an effort on the level of the core and the essence of the text that was read.

The important thing is not for the hearts to be moved with the eloquence of the speaker but to repent to God through the divine words that we try to deliver to people as God wanted. What did the inspiration want to say through the Epistle and the Gospel? We move through this inspiration only, to reach what the Lord wanted through the inspiration that was given to the author of the Epistle and the Gospel.

Only through this, we can fight our desires and become detached from our iniquities. Through this, we shall become, through the purification of hearts, the living word of God. The job of the preacher is to make us only have the word of God in us.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “لا بحكمة كلام” –Raiati 32- 07.08.2011

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Jesus’ Transfiguration / 06.08.2011

The event which we celebrate today, the transfiguration of Christ, is essential in the Gospel. Before it, in it and after it the atmosphere is pain and resurrection. After Peter’s confession concerning Jesus’ sonship to God, “from that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things … and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matt. 16: 21)

Peter’s confession was in the area of Caesarea Philippi, which is currently called Banias, and is located on the foot of Mount Hermon or Jabal al-Shaikh. After six days of this confession the Lord took Peter, Jacob and John, who were His close companions, to a high mountain [Matt. 17: 1-2]. The tradition tells that it is Tabor in Galilee; however Tabor is not a high mountain. Thus, some scholars are inclined to say that the Lord has not left the region of Banias and that transfiguration has occurred on Mount Hermon. This is of no importance for the teaching. There He has been transfigured and His form was changed as it says in Greek. What does it mean that His face shone like the sun and His garments became white as light? Here comes the teaching of the Orthodox Church, as it reads the text. The event took place in the day time, however this was not the light of the sun, since this would not be different [than the regular light] and there would not be any wondrous element to be mentioned. However, it was the light of Godhead, which Jesus was concealing in His body and it has radiated in order to foretell His resurrection. Thus, this is kind of anticipation of the salvation events.

Just after this we read that Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and talk to Him. Only Luke says that they “appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” [Luke 9: 31] And the departure refers to the sufferings.

As the two prophets were on the mountain with Jesus, a bright cloud overshadowed them. And if we read this word with the Old Testament background we come to understand that the cloud is referring to Shekinah [Hebrew word] and the Arabic is Sakinah which means serenity, designating the divine presence. From this cloud of glory a voice was heard: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” [Matt. 17: 5] The part before “listen to him” has been mentioned in the baptism of the Lord, which conceptually anticipates the suffering and the resurrection of the Savior. Is transfiguration then an image of the baptism and the heard voice is the same one heard at the Jordan River? This, in terms of the narrative, is a critical question which I cannot answer. However, as critics we may say that the content of baptism and of transfiguration is one, and that the whole question from the beginning to the end is about the crucifixion of the Master and His rising from the dead. In the baptism we are transfigured, that is we acquire a new form, which the Creator has prepared it for us from eternity.

Coming back to Elijah and Moses, the traditional thought has perceived Elijah as a prototype for the prophets, who come to tell that all prophesies are realized in the death of the Lord, and perceives Moses as the one by whom the law of obligations will come to an end, whenever he meets Jesus the Nazarene. They were present in the cloud of glory which has been declared first through Jesus Christ, while they were not in the glory before that, as the Lord has said: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (John 1: 18) However, the statement “listen to him”, which is not mentioned in the narrative of the baptism, calls us to listen to the transfigured Christ, who is anterior to us, whenever we become from the adherents [of Christ], staring only at Him, through His grace and our humility. Elijah, Moses and all the prophets, who preceded the Master in time, would not bring us other than to Him. We accept them since they brought the old humanity to Him. And we accept the thought that harks to Jesus and the philosophy which serves Him, and the art which discloses Him in one way or another. He alone remains and He does not abolish [others], since all truth and sublimity comes from His transfiguration, namely, from the radiation of that Godhead, which He carries, to the whole scope of life.

Elijah and Moses did not see God in the Old Testament. No one can “see [God] and live” [Ex. 33: 20]. No one penetrates the essence of God. Since then, he/[she] would become God, in his/[her] essence. Nevertheless, God is light that has to be attainable. “God became man so that man might become a god.” [St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3]  Since Irenaeus, in the second century, this has been said, and it was affirmed by Athanasius in the fourth century, Basil has confirmed it, Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth century has taught it, and the Christian East has verified it in a council.

In one way or another all of them have maintained that there are in God eternal powers, which are not God’s essence, however they are uncreated powers. Since whenever God offers you temporal powers, namely powers that are created in time, they would not be God or they would not arrive at God. God provides you with works which are God’s, and they were eternally with God, and whenever you receive them you rise to eternity and you become as having no beginning.

If grace was created, then it would be exterior to God, namely it would not deify you. What does it mean that grace sanctifies you? What does it mean that you become perfect through sanctification, if sanctification was something that God throws within you while it is not of Godself?

The incarnation of the Son of God implies that He has bridged the gap between the Creator and the creature, without God becoming a creature in essence, or the creature a Creator in essence. However, they become one through sanctification and they meet in eternity. In eternal life, which has been accomplished through resurrection, you are not merely behind God, but you are in God. You walk in God toward God’s unending reality and toward your unending reality through the consolidation of love.

However, you would not reach at this resurrection without you being crucified with Christ, so that you would be purified from the defilements of this world. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” [Matt. 16: 24], so that he/[she] might throw away every corruptive lust and choose Christ alone. That is why when Moses and Elijah have disappeared from the mountain the disciples could not see other than Jesus.

Every one of us may resemble Christ that is by crucifying one’s sins every day, so that one might rise every day. Through such resembling one might become a partner of Christ, namely one with Him in love, which is not mixed with hypocrisy, as though he/[she] is sitting with Him on the right side of God.

That person would coexist with all people, would perform any profession and would love the things of this world, without being subject to them. However, in each fold of his/[her] inner existence he/[she] would be with Christ or from Christ until he/[she] reigns with Christ at the resurrection when God becomes all in all.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “تجلي يسوع” –An Nahar- 06.08.2011

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