Monthly Archives

March 2012

2012, Articles, Raiati

The Annunciation of Salvation / 25.03.2012

Salvation is the purpose of the Annunciation of Divine Incarnation. The fruit of Annunciation was defined by the author of today’s epistle saying that “Both the one who makes people holy (Christ) and those who are made holy (The faithful) are of the same family, i.e. of the Father, and this establishes the existing brotherhood between us and the Savior. Our brotherhood to the Lord appears through praising him in Church and through Jesus’ declaration (from the epistle): “Here am I and the children God has given me”.

We also have a main common factor with Christ and it is the fact that we carry, with him, the flesh and blood that he shared with us through His incarnation from Mary in order to abolish, through His death, the devil and his effectiveness and to liberate us from slavery that we were in because of the fear of death.

We commit sin because we fear death as we think that sin revives and resuscitates us. However, as soon as we feel that we will die through it, it gives us the feeling of “nothingness” because this is what sin is about as it carries no power for life.

After that, the author says that God has taken Abraham’s offspring. “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers”. And the most important resemblance for us is that He died, for death is the most important thing in our life and the most eloquent expression of Jesus’ love for us. The author’s most eloquent expression of Christ’s death was the he called Him a “High Priest” and He is the only one that was sacrificed for God His Father. He, willingly, offered this sacrifice in order to “make atonement for the sins of the people”.

Then, the author clarifies that Lord Jesus suffered while being tempted, and this temptation was harsh through hitting, mockery, the crown of thorns, and through being nailed on the Cross and stabbed with a spear. And because He tasted temptation, He became “able to help those who are being tempted” i.e. us, who believe in him.

The road started with the Annunciation, and since He started preaching Himself, the Jews became His enemies and wanted to make Him silent and suppressed. However, He was crowned through His triumph over death. Therefore, if we held the memory of the Annunciation today, we should be aware that we are getting ready to continue in His path on earth, until its end, through the crucifixion and Resurrection. We should taste our march with Him because there are no other ways than Him.

Today is a day of joy because it reveals to us God’s nearness to man, not only as He used to say through the prophets, but through the fact that He descended and “set up His tent in our own neighborhood” and lived with us in all the phases of our lives. The final expression of this is that He died with us, and our death became a way to be dwelling with him. Our death became a way to be closer to Him after being a “wage for sin” and a curse.

All of this is a Paschal anticipation. Pascha is the only anticipation and our acceptance of God’s power. After being separated from Him, He tells us that Mary’s acceptance for the incarnation has made us sons of God after being the sons of rage.

Also, for the fact that the Annunciation is always celebrated during the Lent, we understood that austerity, asceticism and repentance are all necessary to understand the Lord’s brotherhood and leadership for us towards salvation through Crucifixion and Resurrection.

We pass through the feast of Annunciation in order to take a turn towards the Holy Week in which we feel joy and get ready for Christ’s triumph in Pascha.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “البشارة بالخلاص” –Raiati 13- 25.03.2012

Continue reading
2012, Articles, Raiati

Veneration of the Cross / 18.03.2012

This Sunday that is called “The Sunday of the veneration of the cross” is actually a veneration of the crucified. The Church noticed that some believers get tired when the Lent is halfway through. Therefore, in order to make them continue their quest without boredom, the Church made a small memorial for the Lord’s passions.

The sacrifice that was raised on the cross is Christ himself. Through it, He has become the Chief Priest; actually, He has become the only chief because He is the one that offers and the offering at the same time.

In today’s Gospel, Mark reveals for every believer the meaning of the cross and how a person must commit to the cross and be slaughtered through Christ’s passions. He shows that this would be following the Savior’s way, as he says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”.

First, you have to show commitment. Your will must be engaged to Christ. This leads you into getting rid of selfishness, the love for yourself and lusts. This is what the Lord talked about when he said: “One must deny himself”. However, in order to truly get rid of your desires, you must take up your cross, i.e. endure the discomforts of life as the Lord took up His cross. Following the Lord causes you physical and psychological fatigue. People around you and people you deal with torture you in the first place. These pains are a condition to follow Christ. If your whole life was a fuss, you would be following your desires and not Christ.

The Gospel draws this meaning by saying: “whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it”. Losing life means tiredness and staying away from sin. All of this is controlling your desires, monitoring your soul and supervising yourself.

He reaches the peak by saying: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” You might win all the money and glory of the world, and yet your soul might be in sin. What would you be winning? Hell would have entered your soul which contains money, glory and power i.e. contains “nothing” in the eyes of God but a real misery for the soul. How could you redeem your soul? Would your soul be a price for these glories and lusts?

This fall means that you feel ashamed of the Son of man. If you didn’t feel so, you would endure everything and testify for Christ who would embrace you to His chest.

You are asked to choose between the Savior and the Savior’s enemy, sin. Those two cannot exist together in one heart. You are asked to be biased to Jesus and not to add to Him anything else or what is against him.

If you were with Him, you shall go to your job, family and all your natural concerns. And you would be coming from Him to all of these and everything you do would be sanctified. You would be taking up your cross with joy.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “السجود للصليب” –Raiati 12- 18.03.2012

Continue reading
2012, An-Nahar, Articles

Joy / 17.03.2012

The Fathers of our Church have sensed that a feeling of drudgery and tiredness creeps into the believers at the mid-journey of Lent; so the Fathers got concerned that we complete the journey without joy; and such absence of joy is, in a way, an anticipation of death while our vision is one of the Resurrection.

While writing this, I would have wished everybody to realize that Christianity which speaks not only in words but also through symbols, has made the Cross its symbol only because the Cross is a transformation from death to Life.  Since the light of Christ is unquenchable, then the light of Pascha is all what there is proclaiming that Christianity is not a tragic religion which is shut off and closed but one in which the Lord, after the resurrection, appears to His disciples in a room though the doors are closed. And so even though one’s heart is closed, the Lord would still get in if the person wants so. He comes in to take away pain and sorrow; and whoever thinks that Christianity is a religion of inflicting pain and suffering on one’s self makes a mistake, even when that might bring some good. But the good is in not in the pain itself; but in being patient when enduring pain and suffering.

The stories of Christ in the Gospels are full of miracles He performed wanting to heal the sick; “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matt. 11: 5). But no one should think that he can receive Divine comfort and grace in being lazy. Sin is inevitable, but only through repentance can one come out of it and we cannot ascend (to God) on the ladder of repentance except through prayer.

Christ did not invent the cross. It was used as a punishment in Roman law. He only accepted it to make us know that through it we can move towards God. We are made ready through hardships that come our way to receive the grace that is poured down on us.

You can expect physical healing which we think of as brought about by God. And Psychiatry tries to deal with the complexes we have inherited but it does not deal with our spiritual well-being. It basically does not seek what is spiritual especially that its founder is an atheist.  I do not say that prayer is a substitute for medical treatment. And the Saints encouraged people to seek medical treatment. But Man is “on the cross” with hardships that come his way until he receives the Divine mercy. No one invents his own personal cross. And maybe you do not like my use of the word “cross”. But its reality stands in the midst of our existence. We stick to the word because the cross brought us life when the Man of Nazareth accepted the crown of thorns and the piece of wood on which He was hanged and nailed.

When our Church assigned the readings for the day of the memory of the Cross, all the texts came similar to those read during Holy Week namely Holy Friday.  As if the memorial of the Cross during Lent is an anticipation of Holy Friday. As if we cannot wait long till we get to Pascha so we remember that beforehand. And the theological readings we read in this period are similar to that of Pascha. We, in our Church, desire the foretaste of the joy of the season we are waiting for.

I do not remember which Muslim scholar had said centuries ago something like God does not allow a monotheistic community to remain in error for many centuries in its understanding of the Cross or to fall into a grand deviation, like the one attributed to it, from the truth. I have taken it upon myself not to rival others, but I am not the one who has uttered the above words. But I do not think that the greatest epic of love like the one we are considering here should be totally alien to the Divine Mind.

I do not know want to think that the myriads and myriads of martyrs who have been killed for that Love-story (of the Cross) or have died for its sake did that in vain and had died for a big lie; and if they had been deceived, who then is the deceiver? The great extent of holiness they got to was only accomplished because of their faith in what they considered to be their true salvation.

We who are fasting this Lent come to the Memorial of the Cross in the middle of Lent so that God would purify us from all our uncleanness, thus we inherit the Bearer of Life who is Christ.

We ask for divine forgiveness and the heavenly light and Life and true joy, and we know that those are glory itself. But before the descent of that glory upon us, we say “Lord do not rebuke us a sinful people in your anger, and do not chastise us in your wrath because you are good”.

Finally, what does the Cross, in the knowledge we are renewed, mean?

The idea of Christ’s death means nothing to us except that He, who is life, has entered the realm of the dead and deadened death. The whole story can be distilled in that with Jesus accepting suffering, He revoked suffering and granted those who believe in Him the power over all that is negative in this world.

But the triumph of the Resurrection makes us not forget those who are in suffering and are sick and makes us ready to carry them with us to Joy. We do not like to “crucify” any one and we wish that no one remains under the load of his cross. One Man carried the Cross so that no human being should remain bent under its load. We strive to ascend with all people to the peak of existence, that which we call Heaven. We hope that all people would arm themselves by triumphing over whatever in them that antagonizes Humanity.

We will go on fasting in God’s pleasure in the hope of getting to Pascha with all those who love Jesus and then pray that all humanity will be in Joy.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الفرح” – An Nahar – 17.03.2012

Continue reading
2012, Articles, Raiati

Healing of the Paralyzed / 11.03.2012

After wandering around the Lake of Tiberias, the Lord entered Capernaum where he lived after leaving Nazareth. He was received in a house that might have been owned by one of the disciples. The number of visitors increased when they heard that “He was preaching the word to them” i.e. Moses and the prophets. Then, they brought a paralyzed man to him (according to our translation), i.e. a hemiplegic man. And when they couldn’t get near him because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof. Such roofs, made of wooden boards and some soil, are well known in Lebanese mountains.

Jesus immediately says to the paralyzed: “Son, your sins are forgiven”. In their custom, this is blasphemy, because none of the Jewish priests or prophets ever said such an expression. The teachers of the Law only knew Jesus as a man. This is why they disapproved the fact that he is capable of forgiving sins.

However, He proved the validity of His claim of being able to forgive by giving physical healing after forgiveness. He said to the ill person with authority: “Get up, take your mat and go home”. He confirmed to the Jews through forgiving and healing that He has authority over man’s body and soul.

Then, immediately after the paralyzed was healed by a word, “He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all”. “This amazed everyone” and therefore they said “We have never seen anything like this”. Perhaps, among those people, there were some who handed Jesus over to death. It is obvious from this miracle that the first concern of the Lord is healing the soul from sin, while the second one is healing the body. Jesus has done this through making many miracles.

If someone got sick, the most important concern for him is to repent, because the disaster wouldn’t be to die but to die without repentance. It’s not a problem if the ill person asked for his healing from God; however he must not forget the healing of his soul. If a priest was called to pray for a sick person, his prayer and request to God shouldn’t be limited in healing. The important thing is our rise from sin, while our safety is handed to God’s care over us. Maybe sickness is sometimes a shock to remind is of the importance of going back to the Lord.

The Lord might allow a sickness or an accident, but this doesn’t mean that he is the reason behind it. God isn’t the reason of our pains. He lets us rise from them in order to get closer to him.

Who is aware that sin is the biggest disaster and that there is nothing worse than it? I wonder how we take care of our health so that it doesn’t drop, but we rarely take care of our souls in order not to fall into temptation. Does the irascible person ask himself for example: How can I train my soul to gain calmness? Also, who says to himself: I shouldn’t follow a certain group of people in order not to do the bad things they do? How can I try to embrace myself to Jesus in every social situation I fall into? And how can I strengthen my soul in faith, in the spirit of prayer and in continuous prayer so that I don’t fall? Putting it in one phrase: Am I a real lover for virtue, or is it just an illusion? Is my real concern to commit to Lord Jesus, in order for him to become my life?

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “شفاء المفلوج” –Raiati 11- 11.03.2012

Continue reading
2012, An-Nahar, Articles

The Christian Quarter / 10.03.2012

Once, as I was approaching old age, someone asked me: Is there any statement through which you present yourself, from your birth until today, which might serve as a succinct statement of your self-understanding, a statement that does not detract anything from you, and you would be eager to remain on it, since there would be nothing else which people compound to it as of your identity? I said to him: “I am a poor boy from Ḥāret al-Naṣara [the Christian quarter]”.

At my childhood I did not know the meaning of ‘naṣara’ [the Islamic term for Christians], since my people were not using it. It is a word from the Qur῾an and also from the civil organization at the era when the Arabs had invaded our countries. The political and the constructive notion behind the term is that those who were called by the Arabs naṣara, while they call themselves Christians, should gather in one quarter, around their church so that they may remain under the protection of Islamic rule, and the rabbles would not assault them. At that time I could not understand why it happens that someone might assault them. What have they done? As I became a young man I started to understand that there is someone to attack any community in the world, regardless whether it committed a fault or no. And this is written in books, or sometimes the books come from people.

However before I was born, namely centuries after the emergence of the law of protection for naṣara, Christians have started to live far from the church. They started to intermingle with other people of the country, and none of the two groups has had the responsibility of protecting the Other. This was so since after the Ottomans were associated with the West they said to their subject-citizens: you are all citizens and whenever the Ottoman nation is assaulted, the Ottoman Christian will be taken to war. Thus, the Christian knew that the sultanate is one since death is one, and many legislations had shown that this people is one.

Once I asked someone: Why is it that if our [two] social segments are neighboring each other at the gate of Haddadin in Tripoli and if all are working together in the same market, there remains no need that any of the two groups protect the Other, rather good neighborliness remains the norm? And good neighborliness arises from the neighbor’s kinship to the Other or the collegiality in work, and no one asks the Other about the quarter where he/[she] rents a house. They converse together and each of them respects the traditions of the Other. One morning, I was visiting a friend in Ramadan. He said to me: forgive me, I cannot offer coffee to you, since we are fasting. I said: I would not expect anything else. And whenever [the neighboring groups] spend the night together they do that with yearning.

All over the people of the city, the Christian quarter has remained and also at its borders the Jewish quarter. Since the Jewish quarter was a different civil entity, I had never thought about crossing it or entering the synagogue. Each group was [for the second group] the Other.

I have not remarked any partisanship in the Christian quarter, or any disparity among its families. Perhaps what has united them was this church existing in their midst. They were always around it, so that whenever the bell chimes they know for example that it is the Vespers, and some of them run to it and at the end of the prayer they return to their houses to have dinner, or stay up a little with the relatives, regardless whether the distance was big, since cars were not common for the non-wealthy people. And in case you visit them they receive you though they would not know previously about your visit, and sometimes they converse about some interesting issues.

I remember that my father was a good converser and he would not depend, for his talks, on the newspapers, which he used to skim. He used to talk about his experience with the Turks. He never hated them. They were [for him] the masters of the war. We have never asked why we fight for them. They were the masters of the country. And we were dying at the waterway, that is the Suez Canal, or return from it, or from Baalbek, after we pay the recompense.

The educated ones were saying that they were Arabs. This notion has emerged in Paris, among its Maronites residents, who were writing in French. My parents were saying that they were the kinsmen of Arabs [or the children of Arabs]. How did they find that, I do not know? Only at the end of the First World War the ID cards have appeared and there was a struggle in that concern. However, I remember from the days, at the end of the twenties of the nineteenth century, that the older generation still used to say that we are the kinsmen of Arabs. And whenever they wanted to express about what they feel in their depths they used to say we are Christians, and they meant by it only an affiliation which is not related to this world. The country was at the hands of the Turks, and then, it became at the hands of the French, while they were at the hands of God and God’s Church, around which they used to gather. They have not known anything about a different church; unless when they went to villages for summer resorts, since they knew that other Christians were inhabiting the mountains and that they pray and sing with different languages and different tunes. And I have not felt any partisanship among them, since the Others were the Others.

My people are pastored by priests who would have received basic knowledge which enables them to perform the service. ‘Service’ refers to our liturgies, since the good performance of all the services, though they were many, was the condition to receive priesthood. The Bishop alone would attain full theological knowledge from abroad, and abroad would refer to the countries starting from Constantinople (i.e. Istanbul in Turkish) to Petersburg in Russia, passing by Kiev, Kazan and Moscow, so that every one of our bishops would master Greek, Russian and solid Arabic, which enables him to preach. And the head, or the Bishop, not long ago, used to reside within the church-haven, namely in the Christian quarter.

My father and grandfather were born there, and I used not to go there unless to visit my aunt, who was living with her two sons, after her husband had died in the war with the Turks. My parents, after their wedding, lived in a new quarter called al-zāhiriyya, and then in an Islamic district called bāb al-raml, where I was born. Thus, there was not any affiliation in my identity to the Christian quarter.

Hence, why should I be a poor boy from the Christian quarter? Is it because my grandfather had built the dome of the cathedral there or because in my youth I loved to become rooted in this identity, which has descended upon the people of the quarter from heaven? Where are their origins, other than in heaven? Have I adopted the quarter or it has adopted me, after its people were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 26: 11)?

It does not worry me that all the people of the quarter, except few, have immigrated. The human being is in immigration to the end of times. What matters is that they are in the Church on Sunday, and they become the Church whenever they receive the body and the blood of the Son of God, so they spread, knowing that they are in the care of God alone and they are to be buried in Christian cemeteries with the saints.

Their comfort is that they carry the Christian quarter in their minds, since their fathers have testified to them, and they will found it in unlimited reaches and teach their children to cross their faces as the sign for the victory that Jesus declared on the wood [the cross]. Their number is not a concern for them, and if the Christian quarter extinguishes, in any sense, they will remember that someone said to them: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28: 20).

The dome of the cathedral had fallen in the life of my grandfather Georges Khodr, and when he saw it rifting cried out for the believers to come out, and no one of them died, since the heaven was their dome.

We will be scattered in the whole earth. However, this is not a concern. We are not the inhabitants of the earth. Our bodies are here and our heads knock the heavenly throne until the Father sits us with the Son on the right hand of the Father. The Christian quarter is gone. Christians are now retained between heaven and earth, till the Day when the earth passes away.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “حارة النصارى” –An Nahar- 10.03.2012

Continue reading
2012, Articles, Raiati

Sunday of Orthodoxy / 04.03.2012

“Orthodoxy” is a very old word that means the righteousness of the opinion or the right faith; it also means the right glorification because the faith of our fathers inspired them to write the prayers that express this faith. If you compared the doctrine to our prayers and chants, you will find that they are the same.

Why did the Church insist on specifying a Sunday during the Lent for the righteous faith? The reason is that if your doctrine was deviant, then fasting wouldn’t benefit you at all. Faith is the starting point of the Christian life and its basis and continuity. Therefore, praying support you through the struggle of fasting because it is full of divine thought that is taken from the Holy Book that straightens your faith.

Why do we insist on Orthodoxy, not only on this Sunday but throughout our lives? Because there are groups that deviated from the Church since the first century, and the big disaster came with Arianism that was considered a blasphemy in the first council because it rejected Christ’s divinity. Actually, all heresies derive from this one.

Today, Arianism is repeated by Jehovah’s Witnesses that reject the Lord’s divinity, and this is why they aren’t Christians.

Today’s Gospel expresses the Orthodox faith by saying: “you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man” (i.e. Christ). If Lord Jesus was the bridge between heaven and earth, then this would be an expression for him being God.

In the epistle, the author shows the holiness and spiritual greatness of people in the Old Testament and after that, the passage ends by saying that “none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect”.  This means that perfection is through Jesus, and ancient people had to wait for him and for his disciples (us) in order to become, with us, one Church to receive together the divine glory.

If we marched together in this Lent through the study of the Bible and spiritual readings and prayers that are filled from the Divine Book, we shall be able to be ready for the feast. We shall live resurrection daily in the Lent if we overcame sin and waited for the Savior that is coming to us and ate his body and blood and live through them until God transfers us to him through death.

Pascha, historically, existed before the Lent. We know Pascha since the first century, while the Lent took four centuries to become fixed. Pascha is the belief that Christ is a Lord and a God. He gives the Righteous faith that we mention on the first Sunday. All the coming Sundays contain, in a way, this faith and wait for Christ that is coming to us and expect his last coming.

Who gives us, in this day, the gift of being filled – every Sunday of this Lent – with the power of Pascha that is spread all over the days of this fasting? Who can make us Paschal and Rising in joy? We hope to be together in these days in order to be able to be together in the blessed Pascha.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أحد الأرثوذكسية” –Raiati 10- 04.03.2012

Continue reading
2012, An-Nahar, Articles

Lent / 03.03.2012

The Christians got to Lent one or two weeks ago and their destination is Pascha (Easter) since Pascha is the Vision; and the goal of Lent is to behold the glory of God shining from the face of Him who has risen from the dead. Asceticism is the human means enabling Man to get to the Light. And, the Light and Man’s efforts, work synergistically so that one receives the power of God. There is no spiritual existence outside the meeting between the Divine Grace and Man’s efforts. And through such struggling your confidence (or daring) before God obtains as well as the wonderful intimacy between you and Him.

Since “Vision” is the goal and since the vision of Pascha is the “Vision”, we have arranged to have this period of fasting before we feast with the Resurrection; and that does not prevent us from having other periods of fasting to prepare us for other feasts which in the final analysis are reflections of the “Great Feast” or “Eid el Kbir” (in Arabic) which is Pascha. And no fast that you choose to do on your own is but a seeking of the face of your Father who is in Heaven. And I have no doubt that fasting Wednesdays and Fridays is none but a preparation for the approaching Sunday which is the Day of Days par excellence. We celebrate the Holy Liturgy on Sunday to declare that it is the “day of glory”. The above meanings are supported from Exodus with what happened with Moses who had been fasting for forty days and nights on the mountain of Sinai where “the Lord was talking to Moses face to face as one talks to a friend”. Yet the glory of the Lord did not appear to Moses as it says “No one sees my face and remains alive”.

Something like a vision took place with Elijah also on Mount Sinai. After having fasted for forty days and nights, as he was fleeing from the Queen Jezebel, God appeared to him in the form of “the sound of soft breeze”. Yet that is different from the event of the Transfiguration when the above mentioned prophets were brought to the Mount by God and they saw God’s light on Christ. The latter event is a direct communication with the Lord while previously, in Sinai, what happened was only a proximity.

The same period of time Moses and Elijah spent fasting, Jesus also spent fasting after his baptism. The number (40) was considered as sacred, as other numbers also, in the Old Testament. The number 40 for those fathers (in the OT) meant going back to one’s self and as such holds in it meanings of repentance. Except that the period of fasting in the Church was not defined at the beginning since each church used to fast the number of days they chose; until the number 40 was set as universal in the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325 AD and in that of Latakia in the year 365 AD.

I mention that to affirm that the number of days we implement in Lent came to us from the spiritual heritage of the Fathers.

What was Lent like in the old times? A testimony comes from the sayings of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus in the fourth century; he says that the monks used to have one vegetarian meal which has no meat of any kind in it. And it appears to me that the above saint received this from a former tradition which kept that practice till the Council of Trullo when eating meat and all its derivatives like eggs and cheese was banned (cannon 56). And this tradition still goes on in the Orthodox Church till now.

At this we have to mention that there are other churches that have freed themselves partially or totally from these rulings in the consideration that these are Church orders or arrangements that change with the changes of the times. The Orthodox have since a long time been looking into the possibility of making adjustments in the above mentioned rule of fasting, and perhaps the Orthodox Council might be looking into this matter.

Here also we need to mention that for us fasting is a Divine call spoken of in both Testaments, the Old and the New. Yet that Divine call does not contain any form or manner of diet. There is a flexibility here of a pastoral nature. Also it is understood that drinking alcoholic beverages is not favored during Lent.

Fasting Lent does not revolve around abstaining from eating meat and its derivatives but hinges also on asceticism; that is staying away from what we find pleasure in including food allowed during Lent. The idea goes beyond abstinence in order for us to get closer to those who are poor and their style of food; also it is meant that you do not remain spendthrift in your expenditures so that some money can be given to those who are in need. Such people were at the top of the concerns of the Christians at the beginning; one of them wrote in his apologetics (defense of the Faith) to one of the Roman Emperors of the second century, saying: “Why do you persecute us when we are a people who would abstain from food in order to give what it costs us of money to those needy among us?” Such communion was so at the beginning of the Christian Church. And until now, almsgiving is a practice that is one of the pillars of fasting. The almsgiver does that for God and so he does not reveal himself. In the same way the one who fasts does so for God who sees the hearts, and He who sees the hearts rewards him openly.

This view of fasting makes it a path for humility, that is to see one’s self as nothing but seeking and receiving everything from God; in that he grows to become one who is poor in Spirit, that is in need of God. He who by grace reaches this status becomes ready to do without much of what is around him. Finally, fasting is exercising one’s self in following Jesus’ words: “Do not treasure for yourselves treasures on this earth………….but treasure for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” He who trains himself to identify with the status of the poor and suffers from need like they do will have his heart become a dwelling for God. And when he does so during Lent and the other fasts of the Church, he would acquire the poorness in Spirit which is a state of being in need of God perennially.

There remains an essential matter of doctrine. What is in us that fasts? Is it the soul or is it the body? The body does not sin and so it does not fast. It is a place for the soul that desires to be sanctified. It is an appearance for the self which is whole, wise and loving; but it is not a machine. It is part of the individual person existing in both the body and the soul together which also together express the “I” or self on which Grace is poured down to purify it of pride and self-fullness.

The self can be arrogant, authoritative and grabbing, but also can be open to the Divine in its heavenly generosity. And when the body becomes whole, it is not due to a diet or so but primarily because of its surrender to the “human being” (one’s Person) who is united in itself in love and self-giving. The body as such is bound with the giving soul which has tasted effacement in the presence God. And God’s Face is always revealed to those who love Him to give them New Life.

And that New Life reveals itself in the approaching Pascha in the hope that it comes back again for us before the Lord receives us to His mercy.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الصيام” – An Nahar – 03.03.2012

Continue reading