Monthly Archives

January 2012

2012, Articles, Raiati

The Temple of God / 29.01.2012

After separating between the believer and the non-believer in the second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul said the following: “You are the temple of the living God”, referring to the fact that God doesn’t dwell in temples built by hands and going beyond the Temple of Jerusalem. He establishes the living structure of Christians on a promise from the Old Testament: “I will live with them (i.e. the chosen people) and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people”. Here, he doesn’t say that every Christian is a temple of God but the Church, with its members connected through grace, is God’s temple.

Paul’s words are taken from Leviticus: “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (26: 12). It is also based on Ezekiel: “My tabernacle also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (37: 27). Paul concludes from this that they should “come out from them (i.e. from the Gentiles) and be separate”. The intention here is not a social isolation and composing an anti-Gentile sect, but to be separate from their impurity and if you reached this purity you “will be my sons and daughters”. The idea of God as a father is partially found in the Old Testament. Jesus confirmed it and it is clarified in the prayer that he taught us “Our Father who art in heaven”.

The promise to be sons and daughters to the Lord has a condition which is to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates the body and spirit”. By “everything that contaminates the body”, he probably means rapacity, drunkenness, and sexual relationships outside marriage. While the things that contaminate the spirit include all harmful lusts that have no relationship with the body (lying, hatred, malice, viciousness, and everything issued from the soul and harms others).

And if you did this, this would be “holiness out of reverence for God”. The apostle asks us to be holy as God is holy, being pure from every evil or every evil-like things.

The word “holy” in the apostolic time didn’t refer to those who are in heaven and were beatified by the Church. It refers to all the baptized that Paul hoped for them not to sin after baptism because it is a covenant with God and a serious connection with Him.

You are characterized by the quality of the new life. Through your behavior you become in God’s likeness even if lapses are inevitable. The perfect purity before the coming of the Kingdom is what we hope and work for, however every human commit sins. Nevertheless, Paul insists that we have become a new creation and that we are with Christ, through baptism, from today and not tomorrow. For Paul, our heavenly life starts here, and there is no duality between earthly and heavenly behaviors. “The kingdom of God is within you”. We do not differentiate between the worldly life and the coming one after death. All our existence is filled with Christ starting from today. Our love for Christ lets his love for us descend on us. This way we become together “the temple of the living God”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “هيكل الله” –Raiati 05- 29.01.2012

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The Unapproachable Light / 28.01.2012

All that stirs within us whether they are thoughts, longings, or desires, are either an internalization of everything by the self to enliven us or is an exodus of the self for indulgence in pleasures. We either live, or die in our inner associations. For if goodness or love enters us, we exist; whereas, if despondency, or sins enter us we disintegrate. We are moving either towards fuller existence or towards death. There is no stagnation in our being. There is the tranquillity of virtue, if we will it, or there is a gradual inclination towards nothing, and a propensity towards non-existence until God, on Judgment Day, sees if we are subject to judgment or are found not guilty. He does not judge us, unless He finds evil in us; wherefore, it was from the beginning, for the adamant to pursue freedom of the Judgment; thereby being transformed in their Lord’s presence into figures of Light.

“God is the Light of the Heavens and the earth.” He either sees you as He is, or rather He sees you as darkness. If you insist on the Last Day, not to be like Him, darkness will multiply in you and you will become as one who resembles nothing. Whereas, if you love His Light, which is in you, you become a language – God’s language. For, the celestial beings will converse with you in glory, in which you will become a partaker.

Naturally, God’s Light, is uncreated not as sensible light is; meaning it is not a sensible object. It proceeds from Him before things came into being. This Light comes from Him and if it descends upon you, you cannot comprehend it with your mind, for your mind is created; while the, Divine Essence, is uncreated. You, nevertheless, partake of the Divine Energy emanating from Him.

What are the virtues… or rather, where are the virtues in this theological discourse? The virtues are not acts per se; they are characteristics of acts in a way. If you do them you become the Divine Light that is within you. Virtue, therefore, is the radiance of Divine Light. You are resplendent and the result is that you are righteous in that you share in God’s righteousness, i.e., you sit alongside Him. When sins grow in you, they appear as acts, or the accumulation of evils. Sin in its reality is darkness that is to say, it is the expulsion of God Himself from your soul; thereby drowning in the obscurity of everything which is not of Light.

Your conduct, is not just between you and your acts – this is only apparently so. It is a personal relationship between you and Him. Either He dwells in you as Light or you plunge into darkness unable to see His face. Whether you move towards the Light or towards darkness, you always return to the beginning that is within you. If you continually return to God, you become like the Word, of Whom John said, “In the beginning was the Word”. As the pre-eternal Word, is the perfect articulation of God, so do your virtues come to utter the Word. For, if you are enlightened you cannot say anything except Christ. In contrary, if you are extinguished you say nothing. God maintains His image on you. If you, therefore, mar His image, He will speak to you on the day of His good will, to take away your darkness, and send you His gift of virtue. You will then move in Him anew and sing His song.

To be calm and peaceful; patient and meek; humble and chaste; obedient to loved ones; these are all the same virtues. Simply stated, you may bask in the splendour of virtue, yet, they are only apparently differentiated as they are merely expressions of this or that strength within you. In truth, the virtues are linked together as are the vices. In other words, if God’s grace overshadows you, it will unify your personality and He will join your virtues one to the other. For humility is strengthened by meekness, patience by calmness; and all will be fortified in tranquillity. What seems to be virtue in you is in reality, the Divine Presence, within you.

My words lead me to affirm that purity is unique in our being, and is capable of returning to us by divine approval if lost. For the Lord, is not neglectful, nor will He wholly withdraw from us; unless we insist on withdrawing from Him. Albeit, God loves us more than our infatuation with our passions; for the, Lover of mankind, as He is called, is not parallel to sin which, Mercy can eradicate. For the atonement of sins requires discipline, unceasing terrible toil; it is the putting to death of something enormous, that is, sin.

The death of sin will not come to pass unless you agonize only then will God find you worthy of His peace, in your last hour of existence. This occurs in our spiritual literature: When a group of, St. Sisoe’s, disciples gathered around him on his death bed and said to him, “Oh, Sisoe, give us a word of life!” He answered and said, “Me, give you a word of life? How? I have not even repented yet?” This great ascetic was afraid he had not purified himself completely and that he was still subject to the Divine Judgement. Day after day, it is a conflict in the soul until light streams down upon us and fills the heart, in the moment of His pleasure; so that we may die blissfully. With unfailing virtues, let us be prepared for His divine approval, drawing upon us an abundance of light. The Divine Presence is something you seek, but God does not guarantee such, although He promises it. Wherefore, if you receive humbly and sincerely this divine pledge, you will not know anything about it until the Last Day, when Christ pronounces these words, “Come, blessed of my Father, and inherit the Kingdom I have prepared for you”.

It was prepared for you before the world was. Do you believe this? Do you feel that you are God’s beloved? You walk in God’s words, and know in faith that Christ, came down to you; even though you do not fully comprehend that you have welcomed Him. God alone, “justly tests the minds and hearts”.

You live with hope and fear together, mixed with joy that is if you are a striver and crucified, weeping for your sins in request of free salvific Grace. God’s word to you is significant and it is great that you welcome it. When you bow down and kiss the Crucified’s feet and wipe them with your tears, you welcome it. Prior to treading this Golgotha, you are nothing save an energy. Your existence begins there.

If you therefore, grasp, Christ’s wounds then you go to the brethren and preach His love for them, so they might repent. Since, if you do not spread His love to them you cannot see Him in yourself, nor will they be saved. If they weep with you because they have felt their own falling away, the Church of our Lord is then established by you both.

This community will remain a small handful; wherefore, God will be glorified in it. Repentant sinners have always been the little flock that receives Him in blessings; if having understood that Christ alone was their portion. This is the perfect peace that directs you to the Saviour, with complete submission; then your faith works in you through hope.

Hope alone will assist to convey you to the moment of your departure from this life, which is the door to Mercy. Live to greet death. This is your resurrection hence forth. The Lord, will forget all your indiscretions if you do this, and will overlook all shortcomings in your life. He will complete your soul with remission of sins, and then you will find yourself tenderly embraced. His embracing is the Light which you have been waiting for. Light will wholly be poured upon you in His embrace and your Lord will be pleased and He will hold you to His bosom in order that you may understand the last of all understandings.

Translated by Monastery of Kaftoun

Original Text: “النور الذي لا يُدنى منه” – Nahar- 28.01.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

Timothy / 22.01.2012

Timothy is Paul’s spiritual son and his representative in Ephesus to serve there. He wrote him this first epistle from Macedonia, and from his last imprisonment he wrote him his second epistle. Timothy could be considered as the bishop of Ephesus, and the apostle as the supervisor of the bishop in the region that he was assigned to. From this fatherly character Paul advises his disciple and says: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young”, because believers used to dignify the spiritual leader especially if he was an elder, and priests were called elders in the New Testament. Then he asks him to have some virtues as an example for all virtues.

He mentions “speech” first which refers to the pure suitable speech, and he also probably wanted Timothy to be an example in good preaching and this is what he will mention in a while.

Then he mentions “conduct” which means good morals. Some of these are words and others are behaviors, therefore do not let anyone stumble over a defected behavior. Purity, honesty and integrity are part of this behavior, and the climax is love and a song was written on love before this epistle in the first epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 13).

He doesn’t have here any order of virtues because he mentions faith, the originator of love, after love. After this list he says: “devote yourself to reading”. He means by that reading the Old Testament and the epistles that he wrote because the Gospel wasn’t written yet. Then he insists on him to preach and teach. Preaching is what is done in the divine service, especially in the Liturgy, while teaching doesn’t have any specific setting. It is organized and sequential lessons.

“Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you”. Prophecy means here that no one takes the dignity of priesthood except through an inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Someone in Church expresses the inspiration of the Spirit. The Laying of hands is the ordination. In a time not so far from this epistle we see the whole community electing the bishops and deacons. Most probably, Paul ordained Timothy with the participation of the priests of Ephesus.

After these words, Paul makes all virtues in one package so that everyone sees Timothy’s progress (Let your light shine before people). And the great Apostle asks his disciple to be diligent in these gifts and not to neglect any of them, as if he is saying that if you weren’t decorated with virtues, how can you continue in your episcopate which is a divine commissioning? How do you respond to this commissioning if you were void from divine charity? What would you give the parish and people if the Lord wasn’t dwelling in you through the Holy Spirit?

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “تيموثاوس” –Raiati 04- 22.01.2012

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God is Love / 21.01.2012

A discussion about the being of God is unthinkable of in Eastern Christianity since its heritage says that He is transcendent in His essence and beyond comprehension; comprehending Him implies getting to His essence and getting to His essence implies that you become He thus mixing the Creator with the creature and that is unacceptable. Still you have to connect with Him since without this relation there is no Lordship; for without this relationship, whose Lord would the Lord be?

Before Man got to monotheism, Plato made god to be the “Form of Forms” (Form of the Good) attributing a form in “heaven” for every existing object, and God would be the crown of all these forms. But for his student Aristotle, God is the Cause of Causes or the “unmoved mover”. Judaic monotheism takes us to a different realm expressed in the Exodus 13: 3, “I am going to the people of Israel to tell them that the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and if they ask me about his name what shall I tell them? God told Moses: “I am Yahweh”. And in the original Hebrew, “I Am”. And I go back to the original Hebrew because the name Yahweh is a verb in the present tense and not a noun, meaning “I Am Who I Am”, or “I Am Whom I Will Be”; that is He introduces himself through His existence among His people. That is not a definition of the Divine Being but of the Divine action. In that sense God told Abraham, “I make a covenant with you; I will be your God.” Genesis 17: 17. Those are not words about the Being of God that is self existent but about God’s accompaniment to Abraham in the context of the covenant “I will be their God and they will be my people”. (Jeremiah 7: 23). The same is found in Ezekiel, Luke, and the Acts; what is implied in Jeremiah is that “my being your God” means that I will turn to you today and tomorrow (meaning always), and if you know me as your God, you will be me mine in the sense that: “as I “move” towards you in my care, kindness and tenderness, you will be “moving” towards me in obedience. Without a compassionate God, you are merely a social group of people like any other group, and you have no being except in my mercy. The term “People of God”, the object of the preposition is “God” indicating that God is known through His relationship with the people and not in His essence. This nuance of meaning is repeated in phrases like “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” or “the God of Israel” or “the Lord of Hosts” or “the God of our Fathers”.

In the dealing of God with His people, His attributes are understood – that He is righteous, just, able, a shepherd, a bridegroom, a father, a mother. All what God does is a relationship. Even the attribute of “creator-ship” is relational; Genesis starts with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Perhaps of the most eloquent of what has been said of God is that He is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1: 3 and 2Corinthians 1: 3). The aforementioned characterization of God is also relational.

In this article’s title, we face for the first time, what we might consider at first glance a description of God in the phrase: “God is Love”. That came in 1 John 4:8; after he says “for love is from God”, he says “God is love”.

My conjecture is that “love” as it is here, is not one of the qualities of God; it is His name. It is Himself. It gives content (or meaning) to God’s word and expresses His movement in Christ and in His holiness.

Love is the “Origin” that is in the Father from which (love) came the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the Eternal Being who with the Son and the Holy Spirit are in oneness, that of love. And that oneness is the depth of the Lord and not a number that follows the arithmetic of our world. Love is this relational oneness (literally, the oneness that moves) that gives life to humans. And God has tied himself to Man since the time of creation. Humans exist in Him if they love Him and if they love one another. So when they dwell in love, they would be walking in God; and what they need is only that love would dwell in them and that they dwell in it finding peace in it, as such the chasm between Heaven and Earth is abolished.

And because Love is perfect, God eliminates the false gods created by the human desires and passions. And it is idolatry when you consider your desires as the source of life; as such your desires become hostile idols that “kill” you, thus proclaiming with Nietzsche “God is dead” while in fact He is the One who really is and exists and in Whom the existence has life.

But God’s life that is renewed in you requires that you fight the false gods that you have accepted to make you, while they plant spiritual death in you because they snatch you from Love.

It is this Love, which when you really “taste” (experience), makes you become God’s companion. We are His companions through His word which He speaks into us; thus we become His word and it becomes us. So in our companionship with God, we become one spirit with Him as St. Paul says, and we would desire nothing except His “face” (i.e. His presence) which when we long for, His Lights will show on us.

If you understand that, you would do away with the false qualities that the world has attributed to God concerning the nature of His dealing with His people and you would start understanding the love that comes down on you from above and you would dismiss away from God all what is really not He and of Him. You will not remain captive to popular ideas (in the world around you) that can produce spiritual death in you. You would not view God as one who punishes you like a policeman does, or one who sends you illness or one who takes you life in a car accident.

You die because of fear. And fear makes God an enemy of life. Life, in its spiritual and physical aspects is a gift from God, not only in Him creating us but in the permanence of His love for us generation after generation.

To this, the Lord is not what Man pictures Him to be. It is He who “pictures” (forms) man. Therefore it is wrong to project on to God bad human qualities, like wanting someone to die. I know some people who attribute to Him the planning of a certain harm that befell someone. God does not harm anyone, and He does not get a germ into a human being. All what comes from Him is goodness and truth and charity.

The Lord is pure, and you need to purify your mind from all what can harm you in your coming to Him or else you would not enjoy the love that comes down on you from Him.

All that is other than love is the kingdom of sin. And “the wages of sin is death”. Drive away death from you through love so that you become a son of the light; only love does throw you into the light.

Decide truly that you would not do anything that would put the Love in you and in the others to shame. That is Light in all its fullness; aside from that do not think about a fatigue that might come your way or a temptation that seduces you because Love cleanses all the harm that comes forth from the corruption that surrounds you and from those who are corrupt.

Love even those corrupt ones and forgive them for if they taste through you the Divine Love given them, they will discover something they have never dreamt of before. In Love, there is the possibility for a new humanity, the people of which come down among us from Heaven.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الله محبة” –An Nahar- 21.01.2012

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Ethics According to Paul / 15.01.2012

The beginning of this chapter, “When Christ, who is our life, appears”, refers to the second coming. This results in the fact that you too appear with him in glory after your resurrection from the dead. Glory is when the uncreated powers of God dwell in you, these eternal powers that shine from his essence. You shall not reach this glory except through “putting to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature”. This is an expression from Paul intending to say that sins are like a body inside your bodies. Paul compares sins as a whole to a strange self connected entity.

After these words, he mentions some sins; some related to the body or committed through the body and others found in the whole human entity like what we call “evil desires”. However, he gives a special place to greed for money or for any other thing that man can own such as the love for power, and he compares greediness to idolatry.

He mentions that God’s wrath descends on those that commit these sins, and he assures that after leaving idolatry, they also left the sins that idolatry lead to. Then he considers that the list of sins that he mentioned must be completed so he mentions anger and rage…etc. He ends by mentioning lying which is rarely mentioned in the Book after the Lord’s words: “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’”, because what is in the heart must be on the tongue, and we as Christians don’t have any duplicate or schizophrenic personalities. Therefore, honesty was a main basis for us.

If these sins and other sins hit a person, he shall remain in his old self as he was before Baptism. And on the opposite side of this old man there is the new man and the Apostle used this meaning by saying: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”. This man is renewed in knowledge which is the knowledge of God, the intimate knowledge that creates an overlap between the creator and you through Christ.

Because of the confusion in Colossi between some Jewish influenced religious sects and because of what the Apostle called philosophy, he wanted to say to the Colossian believers: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew”; Jews used to hate the Greeks and gentiles in general and feel pride towards them. Also the expression “circumcised or uncircumcised” carries the same meaning. The thing that refers to the gentile in the Greek mind is the fact that he is uncircumcised, and in Christianity we are not attached to this anymore and we do not differentiate between the circumcised and uncircumcised. Also if the “Barbarian” believed, he shall have the same dignity that the Greek used to brag about. The “Scythian” comes from a people that lived in Eastern Europe, and he enters salvation as all nations do. Also there is no more difference between the “slave and free”. Although slavery in the times of Paul was still in the Roman community, it didn’t carry inferiority. The slave as the free participates in salvation. Before cancelling slavery from the Roman legislation, the slave had the same dignity that the free had in Church. The important thing is that “Christ is all and is in all”. He doesn’t differentiate between races, social statuses and ranks. Unity was given by the Lord through the Salvation that he fulfilled through his death and Resurrection.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الأخلاق عند بولس” –Raiati 03- 15.01.2012

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The Feasts / 14.01.2012

Feasts are a break in the rolling of time; they are an exodus to what is absolute, to what is hoped for, to joy and to communion with the community and to what you become when you embrace God. New clothes and good food are only an outer image of the spiritual beauties that descend upon us in feasting.

All peoples do make a break in the monotony of time with their feasts; but Christianity has given feasts a breadth and a vastness which is unheard of. First, Christianity infuses eternal life in each day of the year since there is not one day in which is void of feasting for Christ’s life events or that of a Saint or that of a group of Saints. The life of each saint is told in a book called “The Sinxar” to which you can refer for knowing a Saint’s life and be sanctified through it. From that perspective, there is a daily exodus from the temporality of our days; and this exodus takes us to the splendor of piety and the different aspects of virtue practiced by the celebrated Saint, as they come in the worship service of that day. You do not reckon a day by what comes before it or after it; but you draw yourself to Holiness that is not defined by time.

Therefore, the feast gives you a freedom from your days and routine and so you are able to live the feast. And if you rid yourself of the weight of your day, you live the remembrance you are holding for that feast day. That is a way of life for you in time. You make the past present in you and in the community. This is what we have meant with ‘bringing the past into the present that you live now’ as if there is no time separation between them. And that is not a matter of mere reminiscing or imagining; you live the past in the present and so there remains no past in your conscience. You experience the reality – of the past – now.

That cannot take place unless there is a spiritual stir in you. This is why the feast is an event that the community experiences in its ‘now’ (present). In general, that is in need of a Liturgy or a celebration that is similar to it (the event). And you long for the return of the season of feasting for yearning to experience that splendor every year. And at the base of this is that the re-tasting of the splendor is the uniting factor (between past, present and future) which transcends time since it refuses to consider eternity as only for the end times.

Joy gives rise to joy; so in the same way the feast is a remembrance, it is also an in-advance-tasting of what is to come. That is in the same way the feast is a now-experience of the past, it also is also an in-advance tasting of what is to come, since what is to come is always the Kingdom. And so, God’s face appears to us. As such the feasts are the presence of God in the present which is renewed in you and in the community.

You live the festive season with the community which in its ties of unity receives the eternal meaning (from the past) and expands to things of the age to come making these things heavenly.

The splendor of the feast obtains only if you participate in it with repentance; as such the festiveness of the season takes place in the heart since the heart is the meeting place with God. And all festivities and seasons are nothing if God is not at its core.

With the above there is generally a difference between the religious feasts and the national or civil holidays since the latter are merely a reminiscing of what is old and past the core of which is nostalgia. While the remembrance that is based on faith and that “lives” by faith has its reality in the experience of and tasting of the Divine in us. As such we celebrate the feast by Grace. In other words, it is the Lord who is in us feasting for Himself.

What is it that threatens the feasts? It is the absence of God from the hearts of people; that distorts the feasts and changes its nature. For instance, when Christmas, or the feast of the Nativity, becomes the feast of “children” or the feast of “the family”, then no relation between the feast and the “child of Bethlehem” remains. In that sense we have a feast other than Christmas. I have no objection to “the feast of children” or that of the “family” or to the parties that come with the good food of the feasts; I am only saying that that has no relation to Christmas. What we have in the Bible is: “Be vigilant and pray” (Matth. 26: 14).

Christianity knows nothing of the parties that accompany feasts. There are foods that go with the feast. The Church did not say no to that since regular social life carries within it the joy of the feast; but it is important that food should not be the focus. Things that have beauty are surrounded with danger. This is why we need to be adamant in having our feasts focused on the Divine, that is our feasts to be a celebration of and a rejoicing in God and His Saints so that the sense of entertainment does not take over the feast and spoil it and thus, through it, spoil us also.

I come from a simple and humble family which holds the great and the small feasts alike so that it does not miss a chance for sanctification. And sanctification in that family is hidden in the icons and in proper hymning which was carried over with my mother from her father and she carried it over in the Church.

That is why my parents used to say the Lord’s Prayer in Russsian which some of the lowly members of our Church learned it; while the children of the high class families, as we call them, used to study in the French schools of the Monks. And we, the lowly, were rooted in the Eastern aspect of the family though we studied deeply, in fluent and eloquent French, what we were able to express concerning the heritage of Antioch, the capital city of our ancient country and the heart of Christianity before the Arab conquest of our lands.

I was born into that type of home which cherished old customs. And once towards the end of July and beginning of August, while my mother was still in bed recovering after she delivered me, her father entered the house and found it full of packed things to be taken up with us to the mountain resort for the summer. And he asked my mother: “What is this”? And she answered: “I have decided to baptize the child after our return to the city in October”. Then he said: “This is worldly talk. What if something wrong happens to the boy’s health? ‘How can we sing to the Lord in a foreign land?’” (Plsams 136) (That is in a place where you can find no one to baptize him). My mother had to obey him and call the priest who came with all what was needed for the baptism; and he baptized me in the Orthodox faith.

All my life, I have tried to comprehend my “coming” from such a faith and the feasts related to it.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الأعياد” – An Nahar – 14.01.2012

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Gifts of the Holy Spirit / 08.01.2012

The title of this passage is unity among the plurality of the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes and that are various but do not separate between us. Christ is the distributer of graces. A person gets a certain amount and the other gets a different one. The gift of a person complements the gift of the other for the unity of the Church.

Paul’s return in his words to “When he ascended on high…etc” is taken from the Psalms and is applied on Moses’ ascension to Mount Sinai where he took the Law and gave it to people. The apostle here hints that his intention by quoting the words of the Psalms is Christ’s ascension to the heavens. Then he explains the divine intentions as he says that He, who ascended, is the one that descended in incarnation. He descended in the Jordan River. This is why these words are read on the Sunday that comes after the Divine Theophany. And for He was incarnated and baptized, His purpose is to fill all things.

After that, the apostle lists the roles that people are invited to do in Christ’s body. Descending to “earthly regions” in addition to incarnation refers to the descent to hell through death.

“Apostles and Prophets” seem to be the two main functions in every local Church. The word “apostles” doesn’t refer here to one of the twelve. It refers to the person that preached the nations and therefore brought new people to Church. Prophets are the people that transfer God’s will to the gathered community through a divine inspiration. He doesn’t use the word bishops but pastors. He doesn’t mention the role of the bishop or elder (priest). This became clearer for St. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome a while after writing this epistle (around 90 and 100 A.D.).

The teachers are not the preachers. A preacher works in the liturgy while a teacher gives organized lessons that are coordinated and continuous.

“The building up of Christ’s body”, the Church, is the purpose of the existence of these mobile functions. The aim of the gathered Church is for all of us to come in the unity of the faith that combines us and make us one and is known though the knowledge of the Son of God i.e. through entering Christ’s depths. The word knowledge means the great unity.

This way, we become together a perfect man, one man in the plural sense. And therefore we achieve “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. The measure of the Lord is our measure. This is a complete unity.

In this passage of the epistle to the Ephesians, the image of the Church is neither the vine nor the temple as in other places. It is the image of the man that is composed of many people that become, in Christ, one man having His measure. This is the high spirituality where we do not differentiate between Christ and Church.

After this image that we extracted from the epistle to the Ephesians, it is not acceptable to say “I am sitting home on Sunday morning and there is no need to join the others”. Know that you and the others compose the one Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “مواهب الروح القدس” –Raiati 02- 08.01.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

The New Life in Baptism / 01.01.2012

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy”. The word philosophy that is mentioned here is found only once in the New Testament. It doesn’t refer to the Greek philosophy from which Plato and Aristotle came. It refers to the worldly spirits that people used to believe in. This philosophy tempts you, kidnaps you and dominates you who have fallen in heresy in the Church of Colossi.

The worldly spirits that are connected to the universe are related to astronomical beliefs and to ascetic prohibitions and angelic worship. The rampant heresy in the Church of Colossi is a kind of fabrication (i.e. it is a mixture between different dogmatic components). The contrary of that is Christ only. In Him all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. The Rising Christ from the dead combines in his person all the Divinity that is found in him before incarnation and the created world that He directly took from the virgin, He also combines the universe with Himself through His resurrection from the dead.

If there was any power or authority in the physical universe, Christ would be the head of all components, and here Paul moves on to the dogma of Baptism, and as he went beyond the Pagan thought concerning the cosmic bases, he also goes here beyond the Jewish circumcision. In Christ you were circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands; it is not the putting off of the prepuce but the putting off of “the sinful nature” through the circumcision of Christ. Here he compares the sins to a body put in our entity. You put that off through the circumcision of Christ, through baptism, and baptism is your resurrection with Christ’s resurrection. This is an echo of what was written in the epistle to the Romans: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life”.

It is clarified through this passage that as Paul got rid of Paganism, of the bases of this world, he also wants to get rid of Jewish circumcision. And this is what happened in the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem. We pass beyond Jews and Pagans if they didn’t take Christ. Resurrection saves us from every old thing, and falling into Judaism again or into any kind of Paganism attacks Christians even if they were baptized like the Colossians.

This is possible in every generation. Paganism and Judaism are renewed in different forms. Only the person that sticks to the Savior’s resurrection being a new life can resist in front of all intellectual and philosophical temptations that we have joined day after day. We need to renew the baptism in us through examining every thought that attacks us and standing in front of it in the life that Christ gives us.

Every person that mixes Christ with something different or with something that is anti Christ would be committing a heresy even if he thought that he is in the Church. He is in it physically, but his mind belongs to something else. Christianity is not only baptism. It is a continuation of baptism; it is constant death with Christ and a constant resurrection with Him. The sad thing is that very few believers compare what they read or hear with the Gospel. The real believer goes back to the Gospel to examine every thought and asks knowledgeable people if he had little knowledge in Christianity.

The important thing is to live every thought through the Gospel that is in your hands.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الحياة الجديدة بالمعمودية” –Raiati 01- 01.01.2012

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