Monthly Archives

November 2011

2011, Articles, Raiati

Christ is the Peace / 27.11.2011

Paul says that Jews and Gentiles (Pagans) are made one by Christ, who destroyed through his body, through his death “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”. Through this death both people became “one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace”; this means that through taking Christ’s peace, a person becomes one with the other.

Here, conciliation was fulfilled. He who died for everyone killed on the Cross the hostility with his soul. Hostility has no more effect on the hearts of the faithful. There isn’t any basis left for Aristotle’s phrase: “he who is not Greek is Barbarian”. You are all one in Jesus Christ.

If the Holy Spirit was one in you, He shall let you reach God together. No one is a stranger anymore. If an Orthodox Christian settled down in your town and you didn’t share with him Church issues and you didn’t take his opinion in these issues, you would be considering him a strange man and not your brother in Baptism and in the Lord’s body.

You are guests in one house, the owners of the house and citizens with God’s people. After the Church has become you homeland, what separates you? You are God’s one house and you were built on the basis of the Apostles and Prophets (We acknowledge prophets as we acknowledge the twelve apostles).

The cornerstone of this house is Jesus Christ himself. In Lebanese Architecture, this stone is the closing stone of the vault. This is how you build: You put a wooden cage and you put over it stones that are not attached by lime or any other substance. It is enough to have a stone on the top of the ceiling that is put in a way that the four walls are coherent through it. It is the coherence between all the stones of the building or hall.

Paul compares Christ to this closure stone to show that He is the only bond between believers. This is what Paul calls “building joining”. This one house, the Church, “rises to become a holy temple in the Lord”, and moreover “you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit”.

This means that you are one Church; man doesn’t live alone, independent from others. You, in your sins and spiritual beauties are one, but this unity must appear in your meeting on Sunday. None of you should dispense the others. One shouldn’t stay alone with his family on a Sunday morning. This way you are separated and cannot appear as Christ’s body.

He said: “In Him (in Christ) you are built together to become a dwelling by His Spirit”. The Holy Spirit makes you one with Christ. If you were resting in your home with the Lord, then you are not one in spirit with the brothers. The Holy Spirit makes us embraced to each others in all prayers but especially in communion of the Lord’s body. Therefore we say after communion that “we have received the Heavenly Spirit”.

If you knew that the Church is the unity and the place for encountering God, you forgive people’s trespasses and you see the Holy Spirit descending on them and you do not judge them as the Lord separates the weed from the wheat on the final day.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “المسيح هو السلام” –Raiati 48- 27.11.2011

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The Face of God / 26.11.2011

God’s face is known only when projected on the face of human beings. And you cannot know yourself unless you see beauty in the face of others, that is if you consider them “beautiful” as you think you are. You come from him (the other) when you realize that he is not “ugly”. And the other will not be yours if you do not accept by faith that God has lifted away from him all ugliness. And the lifting away of ugliness does not come from Man, but from grace, that is it comes down on you. And you establish a kinship with God in the sense that you become related to the Lord. And because He sees Himself in you, He makes Himself your kin conjoining Himself to you and that strengthens your kinship to Him.

Your beauty does not come from outside you for God bestows it on you so you can become what you are called to become; and if you acquire much glory, it becomes the natural means for others to see the Lord in you.

The reflection of the Divine glory on you is impossible if your eyes behold other than God. God is revealed in Nature and it is His mantle. And when you read Him in it, you will “ascend” to Him with that reading; yet the center of nature is the human being, and it is in him, above all, you can “ascend” to the Lord.

Yes God is revealed in nature but His loftiest revelations are in Man. And God offers Man His beauty freely though God is not in need of him; while Man derives his richness from God only, God being the source. And when God pours of His love on one of us, that love reaches to the others but it is not from us. Love is imparted from God to whoever wants and He helps him with it such that if the person builds his reality on that love, then that Love will be able to reach whoever one wants. Man is a carrier of the Divine love after it has acted in him and wrought him in the sense that it is a life that you live such that when others sense it in you they would say: “That’s how the power of God changes people”.

If you do not become a new person who authentically acts in love, you remain one who only speaks of love and not one who has tasted it and been changed by it. If the Lord becomes your ideal that is you have become someone who is turned to Him, you become in His likeness. And he who is illumined, becomes a god, that is a beginner in deification, acquiring the attributes of God and in communion with Him. This entails the dismissal of all false gods and pretentiousness, that is you have to purify yourself always so that you receive from God only what He wants for you in the hope of you giving to others what you have received. And if you look at the faces of the illumined believers, you will behold the one light of the one God who reveals Himself in the same way in this person or that.

The oneness of God is revealed in the oneness of His manifestations; then you are like your brother, yet each one of you keeps his own personality and that unique manifestation of God in it. Holiness does not imply the dissolution of one in another. The one who unites is God, and his manifestations in different people are different. Such a difference accounts for the communion of saints. Communion presupposes variety and plurality in the manifestations of holiness and its actions; one person has a Church rank while another does not, this one is a monk while the other is a married man, this one is a martyr while the other is not. The manifestations of holiness are different yet their essence is one, and it is one in the oneness of holiness since this unity is in the Lord himself who is our holiness and its giver.

Holiness does not mean spiritual perfection. That pertains only to God. But holiness means that you want it (holiness); it means that you seek to be nothing before God and you see yourself as nothing on the path of striving for holiness. That means that you should know that you are a sinner, a broken one on whom God will have mercy.

Yet when the devil suggests to a person to mar his “face” because he is bored of God, then the Light will leave him. His being will be destroyed or at least it will crack. Each one of us is prone to falling, and as far as being virtue is concerned, none is guaranteed. Virtue is the result of daily strife and an awareness of our fragility and God’s protection for us. You have to seek after the Divine help always when you are attacked with seduction of any kind; or we would be getting a ticket to take us to “hell” which will “burn” us in this world and the coming one.

God’s face might shine on you to remove the ugliness that has dwelled in you. That is the business of His love which can make you grateful. And beauty might come back to you suddenly and not in stages. You learn much about sin; it educates you, it makes you cry, it hurts you. Keep what it has taught you in mind; be concerned for the downfalls without panicking because the trust you have in the Lord is more powerful than fright. In that you are pampered by God. You are in the bosom of His Fatherhood until He takes you back to Him and you “sleep” (i.e. die) in His mercy.

Your coming back to God can be of importance in that the brethren can benefit from your repentance; if they find “beauty” in that (your repentance), you would draw them to the beauty of your face when your God was visiting you, and then, with them, you come back to the communion of saints and you would become the Body of Christ.

Then you would know the freshness of what you have been dreaming of as if you have been “kidnapped” to Heaven and all what is in you would sing until you hear the sound of angels making music around the Throne; and you wonder asking “how come the angels sing a new song to the Lord?”

This angelic situation can obtain here in this world as you go about your daily job and service. Heaven is not a place; it is the depth of existence in you or your own depth in existence and those “depths” are God who gives you life as He beholds you. And when His goodwill is on you, do not seek anything else because nothing can be added above that.

I meant to say that, in this world, God is with us and in us and He fills the universe. That does not mean that God is mingled with what is created as in pantheism; He is distinct from the Creation and is above it, but He is “strewn” in the universe or else He would be considered as “absent” from the creation.  Therefore, as the Orthodox say, our relationship with Him comprises our seeing Him in His Energies; and when you see Him in you and in the universe then it means that you have accepted Him. But if you see Him “dissolved” in the material and psychic existence, then it means you had denied Him as Creator.

The issue here is that the Creator is always “up there” and always “down here”. And if you do not receive Him as one with you and in you, then there is no real creation (new birth). Creatorship carries createdness in the sense that the Lord, being the Creator, is in an ongoing movement towards you (the created) and you are always beholding Him. Creatorship has no end. The Lord did not make an object that He would throw away. He shepherds it or else it would become lifeless. All what is of our being of mind, spirit, soul and body exists through the Divine Providence; the former is an expression that implies the continuance of “creation” or in other words the continuance of God’s embrace (lit. bosoming) of the creature.

Between you and your Lord, there must be an encounter; that is your face is towards His face in order that His face would forge yours. And if you become intimate with Him to the point of constant companionship, then that would be a union – one in which there is no dissolution. He would “put you on” and you would “put Him on” as St. Paul says in 1Cor. 6: 17 “The one who joins himself to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.”

At that words become powerless and tasting (experiencing) takes over.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “وجه الله” –An Nahar- 26.11.2011

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2011, Articles, Raiati

Salvation by Grace / 20.11.2011

Apostle Paul wrote this epistle in prison, probably from his last prison in Rome. It is one of his richest epistles, and perhaps it is not only sent to the Ephesians but to the surrounding cities of Asia Minor. He confirms in this passage that “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”. The apostle always makes us involved in Christ’s life and in sitting with him in the heavens after Resurrection. Paul doesn’t differentiate between the Lord and his people.

And for Christians not to feel proud about their virtues, he confirms to them that they are saved by grace, and in this small passage he confirms this idea twice. Christ embraces his beloved ones, and involves them in his death, resurrection and ascension to the heavens. Everything for him is a grace from above, and grace is God’s kindness towards us.

Where does this grace come from? The answer is: from faith, this means that it is for free. The Lord gives it because he wants to, and people have no favor in that. This salvation is God’s gift, and not from acts or from Moses’ Law. And here the Apostle meets with the epistles to the Romans and Galatians; and the epistle that he sent to the Galatians was read in Ephesus. All these cities learned that grace is for free and faith is for free, and all of this carries a fight against the Jews and the people influenced by them in Christian environments in Asia Minor. We are created for the good deeds that God prepared so that we live by them. The so called “pre-assigning” that appeared in protestant Calvinism and that says that some people are prepare for the heavens and others for hell is a belief that was refused by those Evangelical people in the nineteenth century, and we have already refused it since the beginning because it cancels any personal responsibility. A person is saved for two reasons: First, because God wants to save him through grace, and second because he accepts this Divine salvation. God says “I am the Savior”, and man says “God saves me”. This is what we call synergy or communion between God and man although the Lord is the initiator with grace and man responds to it. In the days of Blessed Augustine (fourth century), the heresy of Pelagius appeared in Africa and claimed that Man is saved through his efforts; it was considered a blasphemy by the Church. This doesn’t prevent the preacher from urging the believers to do good deeds and from telling them that they won’t be saved if they neglected effort. These are very beneficial words to stay away from laziness and carelessness.

However, our fathers taught that man doesn’t enter the Kingdom through his effort but through God’s mercy. You always seek so that God accepts your quest and crowns your giving, but remember that we are saved by grace and that you are always in need for God and that you gain salvation through his supreme love and kindness. He is the one that revived you through Christ and seated you with him in the heavens. Knowing that you descend from above through grace puts in you the spirit of humility which is the power of your hope.

This convergence between grace and human effort is a shining teaching in the epistle to the Ephesians and a refusal to the fatalism that says that God obliges us to enter heaven or hell. Love doesn’t want anyone in hell, but you acquire love through permanent obedience to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الخلاص بالنعمة” –Raiati 47- 20.11.2011

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Boldness / 19.11.2011

Human relationships are ones of boldness or fear. The one of boldness comes from the faith one has in his power or his prerogatives. Yet our faith in prerogatives and rights does not always lead us to confrontation even though it might lead us to martyrdom; and martyrdom is not always in need of human power but of a conviction in the believer that God who is in us will speak for us defending us even though the defense might lead to the shedding of our blood.

And you have courage because you are certain of your orthodoxy saying what you think in front of other humans being an individual or an audience that you address or write for. That is what the Arabs call moral courage. Yet at times you would be apprehensive of confronting though you are very certain that you are on the side of Truth.

St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “Be strong”, and before him the Lord has exhorted people for martyria in front of kings and rulers; and it is clear that His life was one of confrontation with others from the beginning of His mission until His death. And we also see the courage of the disciples before the Jews and the Gentiles and we know that most of them were martyred and during the three centuries of persecution, millions of believers accepted death enduring fire, and boiling oil and lions, because they were waiting for a better life. For them, life was being with Christ for whom at times we have to give up life in this world.

How come, at times, we fear someone we love? That implies that you would expect him to turn his back on you drawing his mantle of love away from you. Then you would lose the protection of his love. At that you would feel alone and when you get to chide him you would avoid that, fearing that you would lose his friendship. Then you would be cast only on God who takes care of you.

In that situation, your apprehensions would be misinterpreted by others as weakness and lack of faith; yet God reigns and you know it for sure while they do not, because God does not make claims and allegations; He inspires and reveals.

And though love casts out fear as John says in one of his epistles, the one who loves but is afraid feels that he cannot combat and at times loses his case in the argument. This happens much in groupings that in whose dealings there is much craftiness and deception.

The tragic in this is that the righteous are trampled over by the “deceivers” and sin hails as victorious; but it does so only seemingly until, by the grace of the Lord, the real truth is revealed.

You, be on the side of the weak especially the “underdogs” who often have purity of heart and weightiness of opinion while the oppressors “vanish” under the Lord who tramples them over with His wisdom because they try to appease Him to no avail; but the underdogs are the lords in His Kingdom and they are content with such a grace.

A question remains as to how to provide those poor of the earth with the power to combat the evil in this world so that the light of the Kingdom of God does not dwindle but is revealed. Here we call to mind Jesus’ words: “Be as wise as serpents and meek as doves”. The difficulty in this life is that some people are serpents and some are doves. How do we lead the wicked to meekness and how do we bring up the meek on dealing with the traps that some set up, to undo their (the traps) effects. When St. Paul says: “Love believes all”, does he mean that all what you hear others say is true? I do not think so, because we know that Paul had wisdom in how to manage different people differently and how to use Roman law in defense of himself before the procurator of Palestine. “Love believes all” must mean that one could believe, at times, those who usually lie. And what is atrocious is that at times we can do wrong to those who tell the truth (by not believing them). That would hurt them; but the Lord would have accepted their repentance while we do not because we do not believe them. Would that cause them to regret their good action (being honest) because we have considered them among the liars anew?

Learn boldness by seeking it from the Lord; for the fear you have has entrenched itself in you because of the complexes that have intertwined in your being and you have not been able to undo them with your own strength; but you feel that if you progress in the spiritual life you will receive power from above. The only armor you can put on is kindness and the word of God.

Yet many consider kindness a weakness because they measure it with the cruelty they use to gain authority; and authority, they think, makes them great. Be careful not to fall in the desire to oppress others so you can feel yourself powerful. There is nothing in that. Love those who oppose you for that would help them to make themselves better.

Learn how to combine kindness and strictness if you have to pass judgment on matters others oppose you with. You are responsible to bring your “opposer” to the Lord. It is not important to win the argument – or to lose it; what is important is to take your “opposer” by the hand and help him get closer to the Lord.

Yet there are those who know how to defend themselves and those who do not though they know they are oppressed by the other. One has to be careful not to become despotic but to harbor strictness with the compassion that he has. And if he remains weak, and that is not a demerit, then God will be his “mouthpiece” in this world and the one to come. Such a person has God and God alone.

We have learned from the Saints that gradually are trained in righteousness unless the Lord transforms you miraculously to the spiritual summit all at once. But train yourself in this spiritual power through which boldness waxes in you so that you become like the serpent in its cunning and the dove in its meekness; then the Lord will cover you with His wings.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الشجاعة” –An Nahar- 19.11.2011

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The Good Samaritan / 13.11.2011

This is one of the most important parables that invite us to love our neighbor and enemy. It starts with a dialogue between an expert in the law and the Lord, and this expert is a teacher of Moses’ Law and of the whole Scripture in general. He was probably a Pharisee because he believed in eternal life after death. Jews, except for Pharisees, didn’t believe in life after death, and they got this idea after the emergence of Christianity. The Lord answered his question with another one: “What was written in the law?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself”.

This answer combined Deuteronomy 6: 4 and Leviticus 19: 18. In the book of Deuteronomy, the commandment starts this way: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”. While in Leviticus it says: “You shall not bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.

And when Jesus answered this man by saying: “Do this and you will live”, he said to the Lord: “And who is my neighbor?” Is he the Jew that lives in Palestine with them? Then, Jesus started to tell a story that he composed, and the most important thing in it is that it shows a Samaritan, i.e. a man from another religion, taking care of a wounded Jew on the road and healing him while the two people didn’t have any contact between each other especially that the Samaritans depended on the Five Books of Moses and refused the books of Prophets.

The Samaritan went beyond the existing religious separation and took care of this strange man, and our Fathers say that the Samaritan in this parable is a symbol of Christ who doesn’t consider anyone strange but he is the one made strange by people while he takes care of everyone through his love, clemency, death and resurrection.

Notice that the law master asked the Lord: “Who is my neighbor?” This question was answered by Jesus with another question: “Which of these three (The priest and the Levite that passed by and left the wounded and the Samaritan) do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The answer was: “The one who had mercy on him”.

The question, “Who is my neighbor?” seemed wrong in the biblical text. The real concern is “who do I consider my neighbor”. The answer is that through the love that you have, you make the other your neighbor. Any other person is your neighbor if he needed your care regardless of his religion, color and country. You are a brother for every needy person, but do an act of care and attention so that he feels that he is your brother and neighbor. Love is a motion, and with it differences vanish.

All humanity is God’s nation, and you are one with every person that might consider you his enemy. You serve him without looking to his feelings towards you or towards your religion or country. You walk on all roads of existence to search for a person to serve so that he believes in your and his humanness. Love destroys the differences between you, him and every other person. It purifies yourself, it makes you another person and, through it, you feel that you are God’s son. Remember that if you said in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven”, you declare that all people, whether they sinned or not, are God’s sons, and you should understand that the kingdom starts now in the hearts of loving people and in the hearts of those who they take care of. Search for those that have a bigger need because the Lord is very close to them.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “السامريّ الشفوق” –Raiati 46- 13.11.2011

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Christianity and Institutions / 12.11.2011

The Church thrived in poor countries without a single institution, according to what the great Russian theologian Sergius Bulgakov said: “The Church is not an institution; She is life in the Holy Spirit”. As if he wanted to say that educational institutions and others do not necessarily make believers of people. It is well known that some of the avid atheists in the West did their studies at institutions run by monks. They say that in those institutions, there is a basic atmosphere of faith which might draw you to believe; this is true. And I know of some secular schools that also draw people to the faith. Recently,I have read somewhere that most of the Maronite priests of a certain Archdiocese have studied in public schools that did not offer any religious teaching.

I am afraid that the Church would feel that Her strength is in the institutions She has while Her power resides in Her holiness. During the Third Century in Jordan, The Church was called the Church of tents; that is, the members of the congregation lived in tents, the Bishopric was a tent and the Liturgy was celebrated in a tent; and there is no evidence that those who enjoyed the great Cathedrals had more piety than the Bedouin Christians. The Danish philosopher Kierkegard says: “No matter how high the walls of the monastery are, sin can still find a way to get in”. Solitude might help one in the spiritual life but not necessarily so for certain. The monks and priests and bishops might put you in a frame in which you remain and thus you do not progress spiritually. Spiritual life is not an insurance company; this life is poured on you from above and only from above. You might choose to be on fire with that life or you might remain frozen cold in your frame.

The big question you are in front of is where are your priorities and where do you expect healing to come from. You either live with the Lord and in Him and for Him and through Him or you have very little of the institutions. I have witnessed spiritual splendor in people who have been pastored by priests who have little education and I have witnessed spiritual lukewarmness in people who had a great spiritual guide. One of the poor parishes in my Archdiocese shows great compassion and care towards the needy among them. “O Man, all what there is but a ‘heart’”. And those of us on whom there is an anointing from the Holy One come from Churches that are not wealthy and bountiful but the Lord gives us the desire of our hearts.

Things in the Church run as if She does not believe that holiness in itself is effective and that there is a need for something to support Her. Everything indicates that the Church wants the language of the world and the ways of the world, and that She considers Herself as an alternative for the State; She even would not hesitate, if the State is weak or absent, to set Herself in the place of the State or to “put on Herself the garment of the State” instead of upholding it (the State) in its constitution and legitimacy.

What is not understood by those in charge of the Church is that Christ came to change the world and the logic of this world. When Jesus was standing in front of Pilate, He told him: “You do not have authority over me had it not been given to you from above”. Heaven has given you to kill me; and though it appears as if I submit to your judgment, but in reality I submit to my Father. If we do not use Christ’s logic, then automatically we are of the mind of the world; and we would adopt the ways of the world and empower ourselves with its power. With that we would be disparaging the logic of Christ (which is in reality, and is supposed to be our logic in the Church) and we would have borrowed a language from this world and believed in its efficacy and would have done away with Christ’s language in order to appear as intelligent as and more effective than our Christ.

Jesus of Nazareth came to change the language of history because He believes in the language that He made putting an end to the language of this world. We are thus in front of one question: Did Jesus come to us with a new language that revives the ear that listens to it and the heart in which it is poured or He brought us a rigid hard one? Would the reader of the Gospels realize that the meanings in there are not just a compilation of words and that the Music within is different from the tunes that mesmerize us and excite our desires?

If Christ dwells in you and works through you and is of your company, then you are an innovator. And I do not refer here to what is poetic in your words but to that which is poetic in your being; that which shakes you and shakes the world. At that you would be praying with the “Bedouins” and follow the “Bedouin” bishop to receive the Body and Blood and dispense with all man-made beauty that has been pushed on you or put in you. At that you become concerned not to betray and not to borrow the beauty of no one, or the words of no one or the uniqueness of no one except that of Jesus of Nazareth.

He incarnated in your flesh and bones – and more explicitly said, He took your being to give you His so you get transfigured even for just few moments. You would become a new human being by just touching the hem of His garment; and only such “touching” is what guides you.

You have to chose to be fully stripped of your world so that God would open for you the gates of His heaven and pour in your inside the garment of light. Those whose language (mind) has not changed would only see you as stripped and do not hear your “new language”; but you would be more splendid than all of them because you have mantled yourself with the mantle of light while they are still dressed in old rags that can cover nothing in them since they would get torn apart little by little.

Do not exchange the Lord’s language with platitudes. If you do, there will come a day when you yourself would forget the “language” of salvation and you might, thinking mistakenly, that you are supporting the Church of Christ with what you have borrowed for Her from this world. If you lose the gift of discernment you would lose everything. Discern what is Christ’s from what is not His, and dispense with the language of this world and its structures so that Heaven will make you a new ‘structure’ that seduces the mind and the heart at the same time revealing you as the icon of Christ. The icon is made with inspiration from above, totally different from human décor and design. What is important is that you avoid believing in external décor and that which is the product of human imagination only.

Christianity hails from the Holy Spirit. Take Him to your inside being so your being would come from above.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “مسيحية والمؤسسات” –An Nahar- 12.11.2011

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The Priest and the People / 06.11.2011

The priest, even if he became a spiritual father, is one with every individual in his parish because they are all together a royal priesthood and a holy nation as Saint Peter says and they have together Christ’s love. A father looks over his sons with one jealousy and a father honors his son even if he knew his faults, and a creature can’t escape from faults because we are all human beings.

And for this relationship to stay healthy, no one should ask anything for himself especially that this will make him avoid shock if he wasn’t regarded. One shouldn’t say: “I have my dignity”. If it wasn’t regarded by others, your dignity is with God and it doesn’t decrease in his eyes. If you know that you are God’s beloved one, why would you search for a dignity expressed by a creature? Jesus didn’t want you to request. He wanted you to give and to ask yourself if you respected the dignity of others.

The relationship between the priest and the believer is bidirectional. It is true that he is your pastor, but on the other hand you should also take care of him. You should initiate by greeting him, and if you were a conservative Orthodox, you should ask for his blessing because you believe that he gives you the Lord’s blessing. And if you had some affluence, you should strengthen him financially without waiting for a ritual occasion such as a wedding or losing a member of your family.

A lot of mistakes were committed in the past because the priest didn’t do all his duties towards you or your family. You wanted to punish him so you left the Church and went to another Church without understanding that you are being separated from the remaining Orthodoxy in this priest or another one. This priest will die and you, and your family, would be on the wrong path. Thank God that this has decreased a lot after the others discovered that they are our brothers and stopped stealing people from our own pen and we stopped stealing from theirs.

If you have anything against the priest, complain to the bishop because if he discovered that he has mistaken he will discipline him without emotions but according to the law and would reconcile you with him and straighten his behavior so that love would be back between you.

You are a shepherd and a shepherded at the same time. You might have more awareness than the priest and guide him to the truth and urge him to have knowledge and to love his fellow priests if he needed that.

It is your job to push the priest into expressing his needs to the bishop because the bishop might not know all of them, and he can’t do that especially that the number of priests is large. Do not give the priest the chance to gossip or to criticize bitterly because this harms himself. Let him open his heart to his bishop that doesn’t have any need to take the side of any priest or to neglect, but he is a human being and can’t know everything. Give the bishop the chance to love him.

Give your brother the believer a chance to love the clergy so that we stay one royal nation. Do not leave any space for babbling or hatred or partisanship in Church. And if the parish was divided because of familial or political reasons, ecclesiastic meeting is the perfect opportunity to unite people. And if our Baptism was one, then our living is one and our giving becomes one through God’s grace.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الكاهن وعامّة الشعب” –Raiati 45- 06.11.2011

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Murder / 05.11.2011

In the beginning murder came to be when Cain killed his brother Abel after God had driven Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. When you place yourself away from the divine care you might be able to destroy your brother whom God shepherds; it is as if you kill God Himself. And Cain killed his brother out of jealousy since God accepted the offering of Abel and did not accept that of Cain, so he became angry with God, that is, he separated himself from God and in turn from his brother. So when he met Abel in the fields, he killed him.

Then came the commandment through Moses: “Thou shall not kill” and as such the life of others is not under your control. That (life of others) would go only to the One who gave it and thus it enters His mercy.

There is arrogance in taking the life of another or in other words, murder comes from arrogance and highhandedness. And highhandedness as such is a type of deification in the sense that God alone is the one who is highhanded and can destroy. Every sin is a self deification and the murderer is the major “destroyer” since he considers the one he is about to kill as not having the right to exist. He (the killer) takes you back to nothingness or he thinks he does that; and afterwards he feels he has returned himself to nothingness and this feeling increases day after day to the point that often the killer despairs of his own repentance.

The cancellation of the other is the feeling that a certain person has to be brought to nothingness by shedding his blood because his existence is intolerable. That is the existence of the other is bothering to the “killer” to the point of stifling. And if you (the killer to be) do not stifle the “enemy”, you will suffocate. The Qur’an describes the inner state of the murderer saying: “…. whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if be had killed all mankind…” Sura 5: 32

Murder takes place primarily in one’s soul. So the aim is to love your enemy since when you keep him existent, both you and he will be glorifying the Lord and Heaven will roll into your heart and his heart. And then you would be able to understand, not in the popular way but with more depth, the meanings in the Qur’an (in Sura 2:191) that ”Oppression is worse than murder”; what God wants you to do is to rid your heart from the seeds of oppression that are in it since that is what spurs your hands to kill. And the aforementioned explanation goes hand in hand with what we find in the Gospel of Matthew 5: 21-22, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. ’But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment”. In the spiritual traditions of the Fathers of the Church, anger is the passion that gives birth to the sin of murder or any form of violence; and as such one of your spiritual goals is to eradicate this passion so it does not turn into sin. And the soul which is free of anger is the quiet (restful) soul; that is the spiritual ascetic school of the hesychasts who work to undo the effect of the passions and appetites in the depth of their being where God alone has full reign.

The load of Murder is quite heavy. A well known journalist of the An-Nahar newspaper once told me about what a sniper of the times of the Lebanese civil war once told him:”I wake up in the middle of every night and I see the ones I killed, their faces and even their clothes, and this makes me very anxious and troubled“. That is in fact the return of that man to his conscience after he had been trained by his military friends to quench that conscience in him. Keep in mind that murder might stay on the conscience of the murderer tens of years or the rest of his life.

Despite all that the murderer remains the sheep that has lost his way in the mountains, and he remains our brother and we are supposed to shepherd his wounded soul so that he can open his heart for the Lord to sow His word in him. And that murderer might be a major one, still tenderness can find a way to his heart and make of him a meek lamb. Repentance is God’s work in the soul, and if one’s soul opens up to it in tears, the Lord will wipe every tear from one’s eyes. Some of our Saints were ultra sinners but the Lord took them in His compassion and tenderness so that nothing remained in them except His invocation and remembrance.

I conclude from this that we have to raise ourselves up on forgiveness; and that brings down on us the mercy of God and His power and puts limits to our waywardness. Such a great conversion can take place through God’s love no matter how deep we have sunk in sin because the human heart is the beloved of God and the human soul is able, when touched by His love, to say with Psalm 33:8 “Taste and see how good is the Lord”. And if we get to the passionate love of God after we have sinned, the Lord will blot out our sin forever. The greatness of the Lord lies in that sin does not find a place in His memory. Is that not His forgiveness?

The above was a discourse on individual murders. What about the killing of communities one the other? What about wars? No doubt, there are countries that hate others; or maybe that was so before World War II after which came peoples who seem for them impossible to fight each other nowadays. So training and taming groups of people not to fight is possible.

There are peoples who have warred due to what seemed to be a religious reason. Yes indeed this happened; and God was “borrowed” for the sake of killing. During the period of Hitler, “God is with us” was written on the habit of the German soldier; and there are peoples who thought that God has commissioned them to kill other peoples and that the killers are God’s militaries. And in that Karl Marx was right when he said that “religion is the opium of the people”. He had witnessed murders in God’s name and the spread of poverty in God’s name. Would one group of people feel sad over another group that kills in God’s name? I have noticed that this rarely happens and as such those that do not feel sorrow in the case I mentioned above, have themselves participated in the killing. How long would it take us to reconcile with and forgive the sin for those who sinned against us?

None of us is God’s agent is shedding blood. And every interpretation or explanation that contains such understandings is from Evil. Cannot the believers in each religion call each other to an agreement or pact of peace that considers killing in God’s name a heresy or even blasphemy?

So, is it not possible to change the ideology of the peoples in such a way that the understanding of the army of a country would be only one of defense in case an attack against it takes place? If you permit me to talk nonsense, I would question saying why shouldn’t the production of weapons be banned altogether? It seems that in times of danger, factories are immediately converted for the production of instruments of death. Why are the peoples afraid? In that, I do not understand how the United States accepts to give permission to its citizens to possess weapons. What would happen if the human being gets angry and agitated?

The citizen is given the weapon of murder; then why is he called to account when he kills? And how is it that they speak of his virtues in such a case? Of course you cannot heal a person of anger and of the possibility that he would destroy another human being unless the grace of God descends on him. The angry person wounds others from his heart. Why then are there those instruments of death? Why is it that we should die apart from God decreeing that?

I understand that what the angels said at the birth of Christ “Gloria in Excelsis and peace on Earth” to mean that obedience to God is what leads to Peace. Is it not the responsibility of the religions and nations of the world to make an effort so that something of that, if not all of it, might be realized? That was the reason behind founding the United Nations. Do we need a political scientific agreement to get to real love or do we seek self purification in order to sow mercifulness among individuals and peoples alike?

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “القتل” – An Nahar – 05.11.2011

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