Monthly Archives

September 2011

2011, Articles, Raiati

Christ’ Light / 25.09.2011

“The light of Christ illumines all”; this expression that we say in the liturgy of the presanctified gifts fills the beginning of the passage that Paul starts with. He is definitely referring to the Lord’s light that appeared to him on the road to Damascus when he was going to arrest Christians. He became able to shine from the darkness that he was in and become a light that illumines us on Christ’s face. After the divine incarnation, we started seeing God’s light on the face of Jesus who is the only way to reach him.

Although the Apostle could see the greatness of God’s glory, he still saw human weakness, so he said: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”. “Every complete gift comes from the father of lights”. This clay nature makes us “hard pressed on every side”, but because of the grace, we are not crushed. The grace liberates us from our clay nature and our damage. We are all confused between what is for God and what is not; however, we are not “in despair”, and “we are persecuted, but not abandoned”. Persecution is the situation that awaits us as Jesus said. Why persecution? Because the sons of darkness cannot accept light, and because evil people were naturally reproved by good people without talking. “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus”. His passions are drawn on our body and souls through persecution. And if we endured death, Jesus’ life shall appear in us. These things that happened to the Lord, death and resurrection, will take shape in our existence. If we suffered, we shall gain peace, and if we died, through the death of sin, we shall repent.

Then, he confirms this idea another time: “we are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body”. Paul always has this duality between dying for Christ and life in Christ. This is faith. Here, Paul mentions what has been said in the Psalms: “I believed, therefore I have spoken”. Testimony happens through the Word, and preaching is the fruit of faith. If we testified and spoke, Jesus would have planted his life in us because we speak through it. Finally, the Father will raise us from the dead as he did to his Christ. We rise for your sake. This is the communion of saints. We rise together in order to live together in the Kingdom of God. While waiting for this, the grace that prepares our rising is spread. The grace is spread through the thanksgiving of many. And the peak of thanksgiving is in the Divine Liturgy where grace is spread for the Love of God.

Paul always heads towards God through Christ’s light and the power of grace. This has always cost us persecutions, daily annoyances and a lot of fatigue. There is no Resurrection without crucifixion. But you can accept the cross with satisfaction and share the passions of the Lord in order to gain God’s love and distribute it to the brothers through love and take off their difficulties through guiding them towards patience and enduring discomforts.

In the midst of difficulties, you see Christ’s light on their faces. We, the people that believe in Jesus, are statures of light. If we really were for him, we should have nothing in us but light. Dust will fall off us. Difficulties will fade as consolation will take their place. Every harm, discomfort and sorrow will eventually lead us to Jesus Christ, to his tenderness, softness, and warmth so that nothing will stay in us but him; we will become him and he will become us through the love that he pours over us.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “نور المسيح” –Raiati 39- 25.09.2011

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2011, An-Nahar, Articles

Mr. Erdogan! How Well Read Is He? / 24.09.2011

Two sentences stopped me in the speech which the Premier of Turkey, Rajab Tayyeb Erdogan, addressed the Foreign Ministers of the Arab World in Cairo with; the first is “Turkey and the Arabs share the same faith, culture and values.” The Creed referred to here is undisputedly Islam. His words indicate that the Premier does not recognize the presence, in this part of the world, of, at least, twelve million Arab Christians who do not expect to have their national identity be affirmed by a foreigner (Erdogan). In regard to culture, the language that has had a significant impact on the Anatolian language is Farsi. After Mehmet the Conqueror, Constantinople became a pole of attraction for poets of the Arabs and the Persians until the entrenchment of modern Turkish. But in general, and around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there was no Arab impact left that has not been affected by the Persian influence.

With the emergence of organizations in the Nineteenth Century, Turkey swayed towards the West. And then the Turks became more closed and fanatic with the War of Independence and the Declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923 until the revolutionary Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) came to power. After that, the horizons were widened with the translations and the trend towards communal and political thought. What survives now in Turkish literature has no connection to Arabism. But in regard to the values that Mr. Erdogan refers to as “in common” between us and them, some are ancient and some are modern. There is no doubt that what is ancient does not put pressure on us not to make us eager for modernity (which we are) and moreover, we have tasted much of Europe, while the Turks are strongly attached to what is ancient and Europe is for them a hope for political fusion thus complementing the NATO which brings both Turkey and Europe together making Turkey the stronger one in the regions of the Arabs in the hope of an Ottoman-like situation in which the Arabs are only a “small” ally.

But what is more frightful than what he previously said is his statement: “There came in the history of Turkey a young man who put an end to a “black” culture and inaugurated an modern-ancient culture when he conquered Constantinople; and that man is Mohammad (Mehmet)  the Conqueror. I do not argue the greatness of the Turkish culture and its ancience, but I have a question for Mr. Erdogan which is not supposed to shock him. Has he read the Byzantine culture which he calls “black”? The Turks are a strong military people who, with the help of the Western fleets that conspired along with them, were able to overcome the greatest civilization in the year 1453. Yet how is it that Mr. Erdogan wants to convince us that the civilization which is whole and integrated in all its elements, the civilization that is creative, the civilization the spirituality of which reaches the heavens, was BLACK. How can he not see that the Renaissance of Europe emerged only when the brain drain to the West (from Byzantium to western Europe) took place? Such brain drain from which Greek thought was adopted in developing modern thought.

What is most prominent in Byzantine civilization is culture. We have witnessed Greek and Latin calligraphy in the works of Historians, in articles on agriculture and military art, in medicine and veterinary practice, in dream interpretation; and all that constitutes a huge library part of which was that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which used to contain the works of the Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the Church. Besides that there were private libraries which also contained Liturgical books. The rarity of books springs from them being expensive. Only rich families can afford buying books. The elementary school, in which a young child learns arithmetic, reading and writing, used to be overseen by the Bishop. The main book used for learning was the Book of Psalms. Learning how to make sentences took place at school as did also the singing of hymns.

All the children used to go to middle school. People learned what there was in ancient cultures: Homer, architecture, rhetoric and mathematics. The study of philosophy included theology, mathematics, music, astronomy and natural science. Translation of books to Farsi, Arabic and Latin took place in the Thirteenth Century. People adopted the vocabulary of the study of administration from Latin, and from Arabic they adopted the terms used in the art of weaving. The Church used to cling to ancient language. There were several universities in Constantinople and the Patriarchate itself used to offer university education.

Higher knowledge and learning had to include the interpretation of the Scriptures. Also the theological terms used emerged when the creed was defined. Asceticism and Mysticism had their impact on education and the study of the creed focused on the books of John of Damascus. The great mystics of the time were Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas and Nicholas Cabasilas.; and so here come the lives of the Saints and the liturgical books that were written in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries’; the Orthodox consider those as their daily bread. Also, knowing how to use the Liturgical and prayer books for the different seasons and feasts is a basic aspect of Byzantine culture.

Besides the abovementioned concerning Byzantine culture, we have the written works accomplished by men of knowledge and scientists; and these works deal with History, Geography, Military Art, Rhetoric, Novel Writing, Philosophy, Linguistics and Grammar.

History starts with creation and ends with the time-period of the writer. Moreover there is Greek Philosophy from which Christian thought borrowed terminology that can be used complimentarily with the Revelation which is immutable in essence and several methods were used in building the theological structure. Also there were few main philosophers but there were many of those knowledgeable of ancient Greek literature, many language experts and tragedians and writers for the theatre.

Perhaps some of the most beautiful written works were the religious poems like the Kontakions and others used in the prayers of the Church. Moreover there was in Byzantium popular poets and story writers in both the vernacular and formal dialect.

The Byzantines also knew applied Zoology and Botany and the use of medicinal plants. They also adopted the study of Chemistry to be used in the industry of metals, medicines, dyes and glass.

In the medical realm and health organization, many hospitals were established and the doctors received systematic education and fixed earnings. They were famous for their ophthalmic practice; Paul of Aegina knew much in surgery and gynecology and had an influence on the medical practice of the Arabs. Another has put a dictionary of diseases. They wrote specific books on dentistry and were well known for their knowledge in veterinary medicine and animal nutrition. The study of Pharmacy was a part of the medical curriculum and they had adopted some things from the Arabs and Persians in that.

As for Rhetoric, it was used as a means in political and religious campaigns. St. John Chrysostom was famous for his eloquence in the fourth and fifth centuries in Antioch and Constantinople and we have his sermons in Greek but they were translated to most of the European languages and some to Arabic.

In Graphic Art, icon painting on wood or as murals was popular in the Empire and it was used to teach those who cannot read. As of the Fourth Century, Mosaic art spread in the land; and one of the oldest mosaics (those of St. George and the Theotokou) are now in Thessaloniki. A few were kept in the Aegia Sophia and many icons were discovered during the days of Ataturk. There are also some in Cyprus and still more in Ravenna in Italy. And due to the high cost of making mosaics, murals were painted instead; and this became popular in the Arab world and is now widely spread in Syria and Lebanon. Moreover, books and scripts were adorned with drawings especially the Book of the Gospels. The same was true in textile embroidery and goldsmith industry.

The Church was aware of the importance of the Icon and in the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Church defined the doctrine governing the veneration of icons. Devotion through icons spread in the year 787 A.D. and homes were full of them. It was St. John of Damascus who first explained its position and function in the Church. He lived in Palestine as a monk; the Church adopted his thought concerning the icon namely that the Divine Incarnation of the Logos leads us into the theology of the icon. The faith of the Orthodox people was kept partly because of the spirituality resulting from venerating of the icons and finding inspiration in them.

All the Byzantines, as historians affirm, were believers; when they meet a monk on their way, they would ask for his blessing. And such a way of life can tell you about their concern and care for the sick and the needy.

Among the emperors of Byzantium were those who were in darkness; but among them also were those who left the throne and joined the monastic life in monasteries. That society, amidst its sinfulness, wanted to inaugurate, in purity of life and orthodoxy of doctrine, the Kingdom of God here on earth; its stamp is the shedding of tears for sins (repentance), kindness, forgiveness, peace, compassion, ungreediness and asceticism. All the aforementioned is wrapped up in one word which is “love for the Lord”.

All what there is in the matter is that one would pay more attention to the internal aspects of one’s person than the external ones. In that sense the belief of the people of that culture was mystical in nature whereby one would dwell in God’s “mysteries” in a dispassionate manner invoking unceasingly in your heart the name of the Lord Jesus until your heart becomes itself the prayer.

Those who know Byzantine worship find in it richness that is above every richness. All the prayers of Matins and Vespers and the Midnight carry in them the certitude which we express on the Sunday of the Resurrection saying:” Christ has risen from the dead”. In the Liturgy, you receive hope from God to have you in the fullness of the Kingdom of God free from judgment on the last day. All those intense, profound and pure prayers as you stand or as you bow down with your body, while your soul is pure springing from the Divine Book so that, with the rest of the community, it (the Divine Book) becomes its verse.

When Mr. Erdogan reads the above, can he say that the great splendor that we described is a “black civilization”? You (Mr. Erdogan) are not excused when you read us and understand us wrongly. You are not excused when you see the light as darkness. The city which your ancestors invaded was known then as the sole bearer of civilization and culture in the world. Render justice to what was glorious before you came and read it well because the responsibility falls on you.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “السيد اردوغان هل يقرأ؟” –An Nahar- 24.09.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

The Cross / 18.09.2011

The cross is the tree of life because it is where Jesus fulfilled his triumph over death. However, reaching this life requires from you a big effort during all your life on earth, and this is what Mark the Evangelist said in today’s reading: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. The expression “whoever wants to be my disciple” means that you can choose to walk behind the Lord and his words, or choose to refuse this journey. But if you wanted to follow him, you must deny yourself and your lusts and leave all your desires and repent. Without all of this, you are not on the road of the cross. You shall not have anymore a self-closed and a self-attached ego.

You also know that in your world there are big crosses on which you must be crucified. You might have problems with your family sometimes. The man could be a cross for his woman and the woman could be a cross for her man. Sometimes, you also have a cross in your professional and patriotic life. You might have illnesses or discomforts. Here, Lord Jesus says: “whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it”. Saving yourself from sin requires a lot of fatigue and daily struggle. There is no day in your life in which you don’t confront the temptation and attraction of sin.

These corrupt things that you face must not enter your soul, and if they did, you must kick them out. Therefore, the Savior said after that: “whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it”. If you were attached only to Jesus, you will be able to lose your life, and this means losing your sins and desires.

Then our lord takes us to the climax when he says: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” What good is it for you if you gained a lot of money, power and notability and enjoyed all the pleasures without leaving a place in your heart for God? Here, he uses the word “world” in the sense of the “corruption of the world”. You are invited to choose between gaining God and gaining the world.

In this spiritual war that you are having against the evil that’s coming towards you or that entered into you, you must know that you belong to Christ and that if you were so, you would be starting to enter the Kingdom on earth because “the kingdom of God is within you”. You declare that you are for Christ if someone asked you to reveal your identity. You declare that you believe in Jesus and that all your thought is based on him.

The consolation that Jesus gave to his lovers in this speech is that some of them will not die until they “see that the kingdom of God has come with power”. Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, and this kingdom has come with his coming because with his teaching we started entering the kingdom and its miracles. But when he said: “The kingdom of God will come with power” he was referring to his death and Resurrection. This is when the Church will be founded and the Holy Spirit will descend on the disciples, and if people accepted baptism, the Church shall grow and give Christ’s body and blood, i.e. the Kingdom of God will extend in the souls. The Church is the entrance to the Kingdom through the Gospel and Holy Sacraments. The kingdom of God grows in the Church and is completed in heaven where we shall witness God face to face.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الصليب” –Raiati 38- 18.09.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross / 11.09.2011

This feast is related to two incidents. The first one is when St. Helen found the Cross under the soil of Golgotha while she was building churches in Palestine. And the second incident is when the Cross was put in the Church of Resurrection and the Persians came and stole it when they occupied Jerusalem in 628. But when the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius triumphed over the Persians he got the Cross back to the Holy City and the Patriarch raised it in front of the faithful.

This is where the expression “exaltation or elevation of the Cross” came from. On the feast day a procession is done before the liturgy when the Cross is put on a tray full of flowers and on a table in front of the altar. The priest raises it over his head and then goes down to the ground with it while chanting “Lord have mercy” five-hundred times, and then he gives a flower for the people that kiss the Honored Cross.

In our Church, we don’t have a Cross without the crucified drawn or sculptured on it so that it becomes an icon. Worshiping, therefore, is to the image of the crucified on the hope for Resurrection.

Our entire faith is based on Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection. And we celebrate this crucifixion in many different occasions outside the holy week, and this feast is among those occasions. Without Christ’s death, we have no hope. And if he didn’t die and resurrect, we wouldn’t have any resurrection or any base for our faith. The Love that Christ preached appeared in a special way on the Cross and was transfigured in Resurrection. Love is not just a teaching. It is the reality of crucifixion and of the rising of Christ from the dead. We express this through putting the cross in the child’s neck after his Baptism in order for him to understand all his life that he was buried with Christ and that he will rise on the hope of eternal life.

This feast renews our invitation to live a new life and to become new creatures through the Holy Spirit. The Cross is a symbol of this reality that the Savior revealed to us and that we try to experience through tasting all the beauties of Christ if we wanted to overcome our desires. As much as we are emancipated from our desires, we would be declaring that we follow Christ the Resurrected from the dead.

The new life means repentance, which is coming back to Jesus’ visage and leaving all the temptations of the world. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. First, you decide to walk behind Christ and to endure everything with patience, and at the same time to love the brothers so that people would see you free from sin and “Resurrectional” people.

Yes, you are in pain exactly as all humans are, and Christ carried your pains. You will suffer everyday and you might be really worried; and if you wanted happiness, you shall get it from Jesus once you give him your heart to dwell in. This means that you should take the Cross as your companion in order to endure this existence and elevate with it.

However, the rising of existence with you and elevating it to Christ requires from you struggling in order to know God’s word in the Bible. Read it daily and meditate in it so that the Lord sees that your face became luminous and that you are walking into a new life. In addition to knowing the Bible, you should experience daily prayer and participate in the Divine Liturgy every Sunday.

You have no life unless you spoke to God in the morning and evening so that you gain the feeling for God, for his mercy, greatness and embracing.

Renewing your spiritual life is what ensures your power to carry the cross and walk towards Resurrection.

The sign of the Cross on your face and chest should be completed through being aware of the importance of the Cross and through staying attached to it through this sign in order to know that you are heavenly.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “عيد ارتفاع الصليب” –Raiati 37- 11.09.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

Paul’s Gospel / 04.09.2011

When Paul talks about his Gospel, he means his teaching and preaching; he doesn’t mean the four Gospels. In all cases, when the apostle was preaching and writing his epistles, none of the Gospels was written yet. He says that people are saved through his Gospel, and this means that his Gospel contains the base of what the Lord taught and did. He explains in the beginning of his first epistle to the Corinthians, and in other occasions, that the Gospel is preaching the death of the Lord and his Resurrection and that all other words lead or come from Crucifixion and Resurrection.

His expression “I passed on to you what I received” probably doesn’t mean that he has received directly from the Lord the information concerning his death and Resurrection. He is also not talking about the tradition he inherited from the apostles after coming back from the land of the Arabs to Jerusalem. He probably took the main events from Ananias, the head of the Christian community in Damascus, before baptizing him after the Lord appeared to Paul while he was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians.

In this chapter, preaching is summarized by three words: Christ died, was buried and rose. The expression “according to the scriptures” is not a reference to the four Gospels but it means “according to the books of the Prophets”.

The appearance of the Lord to Cephas, i.e. Peter, is not clearly mentioned in the four Gospels; however, the two disciples of Emmaus said, quoting the twelve disciples, that the Lord has appeared to Simon (Luke 24: 34). Then, John the Evangelist says that the Lord appeared Simon in Galilee (21: 7). Perhaps Paul is referring to this. As for the appearing to 500 brothers in Galilee, this must mean a crowd of believers in Jesus.

As for appearing to James, this is mentioned in the Apocryphal Gospel of James. And when he says that he appeared to the twelve, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they were all together at once.

“He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”, i.e. to a child with an early birth. He is considering himself the least among everyone because he has persecuted the Church of God excessively (Acts 3: 3, Galatians 1: 13 and Philippians 3: 6). However, he was saved though the grace that was poured on him as it was poured on those that came before him. However, the apostle’s humility didn’t prevent him from feeling that he has done more than all of them concerning preaching (2Corinthians 11: 23). Nevertheless, he was convinced that his work came from the grace.

The comparison he did between himself and the apostles was mentioned here twenty years after Resurrection. However, after this date, they all struggled a lot and many of them died as martyrs and we have the Epistles of Peter, James, John, the non-Iscariot Judas, and the Gospels. Whatever the fact of this comparison was, Paul’s depth still attracts us until this day, and a lot of our fathers took their thoughts from his, and his Epistles are the ones read most of the days of the year. Our vision of Christ, of his nature, love and acts must have the same dimensions of Paul’s vision so that we obtain a big love towards Jesus.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “إنجيل بولس” –Raiati 36- 04.09.2011

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2011, An-Nahar, Articles

Love as Crown and Core / 03-09-2011

There are three ranks [orders] of human existence: the rank of bodies, the rank of minds and the ultimate rank of love, as the great Pascal has said. Before my death, I face all the three ranks distinctively and in their interconnectedness, so that one may conquer the other and God seizes hold of me as God pleases.

The rank of bodies is about the human body, with its beauty and weaknesses, with the complications that it hides, with that which transcends in it and that which falls, with that which brings joy and that which causes pain, until it is buried with the hope of resurrection, if we were believers. The body is a stanchion, just a stanchion, for a mind that either glows or is absent. Through the word ‘body’ Pascal points to all that he owns in this world and its abodes, to all its vanities and delights and whatever is in one’s hands of dissolution and the love of dissolution, which might seem to be existing, while it is not. However, there is in it comfort and enjoyment. Enjoyment is about things through which we stretch out, yet, they make us heedless and they veil from us that which is greater, since the greater is more difficultly accessible, and requires from us great effort to drive away the specter of death. This reminds me with what Paul has said, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” [1Cor. 15: 26]

Thus, we must enjoy. The tragedy is, however, when we stand by these enjoyments and we perceive ourselves in a horrible emptiness, similar to ‘nothingness’, until we reach at the rank of the mind, which encompasses the universe. For us, the universe is about knowledge. It is regretting that you do not know everything. Certainly, you do not know much in life, that of which you might take advantage in your [own] life, especially what concerns your health. There have been, in the past, those who knew everything, like Al- Ghazālī and Leonardo Da Vinci; however, at our times, the encyclopedic knowledge has seized to exist. Thus, the educated is partially educated, while lack of education is widely spread in many countries and continents. This is our reality, the mind is a source of power for practical life, yet it does not lead you to the thought which gives you joy. How is it possible not to be moved, with the whole of your being, when you know that a Maronite priest had memorized one-hundred thousand of verses? How do you not desire all the feelings which endowed this man with life, whenever you are able to memorize only ten verses of poetry? Then, our poets who wrote here since Imru’ Al-Qays are not alive in your thought.

Is not my intellect curtailed, I, the writer of these lines, from whom all the mathematical and natural sciences have remained absent and who is ignorant completely of all electronic education, and thus belong to a civilization which no more exists. The content of my intellect is then little.

Hence, the mind is just an ability and not a core. In addition to this, you do not have enough time to know everything. The human being is a combination of voids put together.

In one of our monasteries, we had with us a Rumanian monk, who mastered several contemporary languages beside old languages, such as the Sanskrit, and he knew all the modern sciences and could cite poetries in their original languages and the New Testament in Greek. I used to sit at his feet for hours during the day, in order that I might learn what I want. I have never known anyone in his intelligence in the whole Orthodox world. This is the mind.

The Middle Ages have known the dilemma concerning the relationship between faith and reason, or between transmission and the mind, as it was displayed in Islam, Catholicism (with Thomas Aquinas) and Judaism. Whoever has read the religious texts of those three religions would realize that the dilemma is one and it is the reconciliation between revelation and reason. In the religious dimension of all these beliefs Aristotle was, indisputably, the first master.

The Eastern Byzantine Church has not experienced this dilemma, maybe because Aristotle had not dominated it. On the other hand, Basil the Great had known that through reason one can know the nature and through revelation one can grow in faith. As if Basil had confirmed two sources for knowledge, and thus he had not perceived the problem concerning the relationship between reason and revelation.

Further, the Orthodox Church views the human mind, similar to all human constituents, as damaged, upon what we call the parental sin (i.e. the sin of the first parents, Adam and Eve). Thus, the mind was not aborted but rather it was damaged. Furthermore, the Church views a relationship between the mind and the heart. Thus, we say that the mind descends to the heart and then it ascends purified. The mind is then the means to know this world.

The importance of reason is not downplayed in the Christian East, however there is [a kind of] inebriation in its regard and the elimination of it would lead to an uncontrolled emotivity, while God is known through faith that is the outcome of the meeting through divine grace between the mind and the heart.

Since his childhood Pascal had started his intellectual life and then he went through technology and he was a great Christian writer, particularly in relation to his book ‘Thoughts’, before he passed away in the age of thirty-nine. ‘Thoughts’ is concentrated on his knowledge of Christ and it was inevitable for him to consider love as the highest rank [order] of human existence. One of our Fathers said that when John the Evangelist in his First Epistle had said, “God is love” he did not refer by it to an attribute of the divine attributes, rather God in Godself.

It might be useful here to recount a conversation between me and the departed Mufti [a Muslim scholar] Nadīm al-Jisr at a funeral. He initiated the conversation saying, ‘you are monotheists’, so I thanked him and then he added, ‘however, you are philosophers’. When I noticed that he is referring to our faith in the Holy Trinity, I answered him: ‘No, we are not philosophers. We are lovers of God.’ Then I explained that there is unity that brings the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together and that unity is love.

We do not distinguish between love [agápe], that is God, and that which descends upon us or indwells in us. I think this is what Pascal had meant when he said that the highest order in existence is love. [Love] might entail death for the sake of the Other, and it does not come neither from the rank of bodies nor of minds. In it you remain yourself, however you become poured to the extent of the death of the solitary I. You become one with the ‘Other’ without dissolving [in the Other].

Love is given to us since eternity and it remains forever as God takes us to Godself or into Godself. Thus we become it and it becomes us and nothing other than it [love] alone endures in the Kingdom.

However, it does not descend upon us unless after great purification and austerity. Then, in us and in all the people of heaven, it takes the image of a fulfilled unity. Love does not replace the mind; rather it elevates it to itself. [Love] does not abort the mind in what it has of particularity, but it transcends and purifies it so that it might give up all distortion and instability, and might become an instrument for discerning God.

Only through this vision, the mind controls the things of the world as they control it. In the last day when all people unite in love, God will be ‘all in all’. God will be revealed as love both in God’s nature and works, i.e. nothing remains in them other than God. Hence, they recognize God as their savior and there would be no trait [of the world] in them but God’s integral descent on it [the mind]. God will make them, like Christ; sit on the throne on his right hand. Love would not become a crown for us unless after it becomes our core.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “المحبة كإكليل وفحوى” –An Nahar- 03-09-2011

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