Monthly Archives

April 2012

2012, Articles, Raiati

The Election of the Seven / 29.04.2012

The book of Acts is the book related to the beginnings of the Church; it is a book that tells about the work of the Holy Spirit that was transmitted to the universe after the resurrection of the Lord. The passage that was read from this book today tells us that Hellenistic Christians complained about Hebraic Christians because their widows were overlooked in the daily service which is the distribution of subventions and food to those women. Hellenistic Christians are Christians that speak Greek and live in Jerusalem and they were Jews that migrated from Palestine and lived in places where people spoke Greek such as Alexandria. After their conversion to Christianity, they willed to keep Christ’s memory by living in Jerusalem. As for those who were named as Hebraic by the Book, they were from Jewish origins and converted and stayed where they were, i.e. Palestine.

The apostles thought that they should leave “the wait on tables” because this took a lot of their time and their priority which was preaching. They thought that they could delegate seven believers to fulfill the service on tables. They got them by an election, and they believed that the distribution of material is not enough and that they should be “full of the Spirit and wisdom”. Any service in Church requires virtues: dealing with people, treating them without authority, having tranquility and peace in the soul, in addition to be just with people in the distribution of money or food… Also there is the removal of barriers between two different people or races such as the Hellenistic and Hebraic.

The Divine Book named those seven and said about Stephen who was one of them that he is full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and we shall see in the Book of Acts his theological knowledge and his martyrdom.

Did these seven have a position or a rank? The common opinion is that they were deacons: The first deacons in Church. However, St. John Chrysostom didn’t agree with this opinion. The common thing in the early Church is that deacons used to be responsible for the social work in addition to their ritual service. The seven did have a kind of consecration because hands were laid on them, which is a sign for an ordination. Any consecration, whether for a reader or a bishop, needs the laying of hands. The seven weren’t deacons in the common modern sense, but they did have an official position even if it was temporal. Becoming a monk, which isn’t considered as a sacrament by most of scholars today, was considered a sacrament by ancient scholars because the bishop or abbot lays his hand. A sacrament is anything that contains dedication for God through a tangible sign accompanied by a descent of grace. Priesthood is the election of the grace for a specified service. This isn’t a privilege for anyone but a free divine delegation. Immediately after this, Luke (The author of the Book of Acts) says: “So the word of God spread (through preaching). The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly”. And when he says that “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”, he means the priests of the Temple that joined the Church.

Then, generations converted into Christianity, and they had great struggles in faith.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “انتخاب السبعة” –Raiati 18- 29.04.2012

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The Cosmic Resurrection / 28-04-2012

Resurrection is an event and a thought that is it occurred in the journey of Jesus of Nazareth; however, it was an implication. This is articulated in the Paschal hymn, which says: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death.” What is meant by these words is that when death approached Christ, it did not have control over him.  As though there was something beyond the vehemence of the death-event, declaring the triumph of the Savior within the reality of death.

Death is an event explicated in several chapters of the four gospels and similarly Paul emphasized it. In Luke’s narrative: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.” (Luke 23: 27) And after he was crucified “he breathed his last.” (Luke 23: 27) The statement “he breathed his last” appears literally in the other gospels with reference to the witnesses and their names. Crucifixion has occurred physically [historically], as if the gospels made use of the journalism of those days [in telling it], regardless whether they believed in salvation or not. The narratives tell about the death of Jesus of Nazareth in agreement proving the accuracy of the present Gospel-text, which had been testified by the people of the first century and they confirmed the event before the completion of the Gospels’ writing.

Jesus of Nazareth had been killed by a provocation of Jewish multitudes and a main Roman juridical sentence so as we could speak of another event and that is resurrection. This event discloses the primary meaning of the death of the Nazarene to his followers. The remaining question is whether resurrection is an event that you could sense. A preliminary answer is that Jesus had been buried in a cave, i.e. above it there was its rooftop, there was no soil above it, and further this vast tomb was seen empty on Sunday morning. According to Matthew’s narrative, the angel said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who went to see the sepulcher: “Come, see the place where he lay.” Then he said, “He has risen.” Thus, it seems that there is a sensible proof of resurrection based on the non-presence of a corpse in the sepulcher. In the Gospel of Mark, there was a young man in the tomb sitting, who said to the women, “He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.” Here is again a confirmation of the emptiness.

Luke expresses the emptiness of the tomb by saying that Peter was there, “he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves,” hence without a corpse. This is the same testimony given by John.

The Gospels do not claim that Jesus’ body had moved on the third day and went out [of the tomb]; rather they all say that he appeared to his followers. Resurrection is not a sensible [physical] event like crucifixion, in the sense that it is not described physically [historically], however it is an event that we have scrutinized or perceived from the appearances of the teacher to the disciples and to Mary Magdalene in the garden. Thus, it is a different kind of an incident, i.e. a different physical reality. It was a real liberation from a real death. We accept it from the testimony of the witnesses, namely the apostles and the companions, who said that they saw him.

We understand the meaning of His death from resurrection. Crucifixion is an event; however, you need someone to explain it to you. That is to say you need someone to move you from reality to the reason about which was the goal of the cross, namely that we might live through resurrection as Christ lived. In different terms, we are the purpose of resurrection. Nevertheless, this would not be possible without Christ condemning sin in his body, as Basil says. Thus, the Paschal feast has come to tell us that after having new life through Christ, we do not expect anything else since “the time had fully come”, as Paul said. Through the cross we have become the children of God. The earth has turned into heaven and we have been invited to the throne of glory.

No one interpreted the meaning of resurrection and of our receiving its extension, as did Paul. He said, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6: 3-4) Thus, if we do not want to live a new life that would mean that the savior’s resurrection had not concerned us, and we had not received it, rather we have remained in our sins.

For this great apostle, resurrection was not an event that had passed and could be praised. It became a presence in the lives of the believers, so that they might come from its light, its warmth and its endurance. That is why St. Seraphim, the Russian saint, worked out a daily greeting: “O my joy, Christ is risen”. This reminds me with Saint Merdarius, who was a Roman noble. Once, when he was walking in the upper floor in his palace, he heard songs coming up from the street. He looked out from the terrace and saw people singing. He asked the servants about the people and the reason of their singing. The servants told him that those are people from the East, driven to execution, and that they are singing for their belief that through their death they would be united with their savior, who is called Jesus. Merdarius thought in his heart: A religion that makes people rejoice on their way to death, must be a true religion. Therefore, he came down and joined them. Thus, he was baptized by his blood, and we celebrate the feast day of this saint as a martyr.

Whoever shines with spiritual splendor has been risen from sin, as has Jesus been risen. Whenever we look at an icon, in our church, and we rejoice in it, we come at that moment from resurrection. The remembrance of resurrection is the start of the week since every liturgy is a Paschal Liturgy.

First Christians used to put on white clothes whenever a dear person had departed life. That was because of the belief that the person had moved to resurrection and that he/she at death would have a discourse with the Father, as Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, had said.

However, God does not care only for individuals. God desires that resurrection pervades the cosmos, thus, on the last day the cosmos will turn into light. Our teaching is that Jesus’ resurrection had inaugurated the new cosmos and that it would enlighten the matter in it on the last day. Thus, if my statement is true, the matter would not remain materialistic, rather it would enlighten through Christ’s light and each cosmic movement would be part of the Last Paschal.

Then, we comprehend the whole range of our chanting: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. And to those in the graves He granted life!” To say that the dead will rise and to stop there does not quench our thirst. That must be further explained by saying that the cosmos shall be the clothing of Christ and Christ does not wear other than light.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “القيامة الكونية” –An Nahar- 28-04-2012

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St. Thomas Sunday / 22.04.2012

On the evening after Resurrection, Jesus entered with his glorified body, without being subjected to the thickness of walls, to the disciples when they were meeting in the attic “for the fear of the Jews”. The disciples feared that their people would destroy them in order to end the whole case of Jesus permanently. Jesus greeted them normally, and because He knew that they would doubt His appearance, “He showed them His hands and side” and therefore they recognized that He is the Lord. After confirming that He is the rising one – with Jesus knowing that they are filled with Him – the time had come to delegate them and send them, so He says: “Receive the Holy Spirit”. The Spirit dwells in me and I have His gifts. You shall have all His gifts in order to build the Church so that every believer takes the gift that is chosen for him by the Divine Spirit: Teaching, managing, preaching… as Paul shows in his epistle to the Romans. Then He also tells them: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”.

The background of this speech is that Jesus, through His death and resurrection, made the new covenant with us; this is the covenant that Jeremiah spoke about, in chapter 31, when he said: “I shall forgive their trespasses and forget their sins”. The apostle doesn’t forgive according to his own will. He knows God’s thought about every sin, and he expresses the divine forgiveness or doesn’t. In the Gospel of Matthew it is written that: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18: 18). This stresses on the fact that the Church after Pascha and after the spiritual renewal, became the only place in which we repent and gain forgiveness. The Church used these words as a basis for the sacrament of repentance. Thomas, who was absent on the eve of Pascha, doubted the Lord’s appearing. When the Lord appeared again after a week, i.e. on the Sunday that we call St. Thomas Sunday, the Lord reproved him for his lack of faith. Then, Thomas said to the Lord: “My Lord and my God”. Such strong confessions are rare in the New Testament. As for His words: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, this doesn’t mean that we should easily believe whatever is said to us. Faith is something inside the soul; it was thrown there by God. Lots of people that lived in the time of the Lord saw His miracles and heard what He said, yet they didn’t believe. The eye and the ear are not enough.

Perhaps, Jesus’ reproving for Thomas carries a meaning that Thomas must have believed in what the disciples said. Lots of people doubt, and those don’t have a less understanding ability that other people. They usually say: This issue isn’t easy for the mind. Doubt is a satanic temptation, it is a defect in the faith that we had. Logical understanding doesn’t always come through faith. Also, logical doubt doesn’t come through the lack of faith. Faith is throwing yourself into the Father’s bosom and submitting yourself to Him. And if you found yourself in confusion or suspicion, accept what the Church says i.e. the righteous doctrine that we took from our ancient fathers throughout generations. Believing in heaven, eternal life, the Holy Trinity, the intercession of saints, in icons, the forgiveness of sins… All of these are things that let doubt enter our minds. Become informed in what the Church says and “be faithful not unfaithful”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أحد توما” –Raiati 17- 22.04.2012

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Pascha / 15.04.2012

The phrase “Christ is risen from the dead” reveals the peak of our faith. It also became common as a consolation expression for those who feel the resurrection. St. Seraphim of Sarov has made up an expression to salute others in every encounter: “My joy, Christ is risen”. Also, we, who don’t feel ashamed of faith in our Paschal visits, still greet by saying: “Christ is risen”.

Should we consider it only as a common phrase for Orthodox people? Or should it be a phrase that comes from the bottoms of the heart into the tongue in order to revive a friend that we are greeting and support his faith and encourage him to accept the Savior’s Resurrection as a new power and life for him? If we meant to say it, we would do so whether we were happy or tired, sick or healthy, rich or poor. This expression is superior to any situation and life circumstances. It is valid and effective and it transfers the grace from our mouths to the ears and consequently the heart of the other.

We repeat this expression from the Paschal liturgy to the Thursday of Ascension so that we feel satisfaction from the vitality of resurrection knowing that we have moved from death – any kind of death – into life. There wasn’t any joy in the depth of human soul when death was triumphant and when people knew nothing but death. But when they knew the new life in Christ, death stopped being an existing truth and we started calling death “dormition” because we know that, through Christ, we are transferred to a new life in heaven.

The whole problem of man is death while all things before death are difficulties that we can overcome. When Christ came, he solved this problem and gave us the promise of resurrection. This is called the Final or General Resurrection. However, this is preceded by a first resurrection which is baptism in addition to many other resurrections which are our continuous repentances and receiving Holy Communion. All of these are a preparation for the Final Resurrection. This means that our life has become, in Christ, a permanent resurrection and that if we fell, Christ’s body and blood will revive us and make us rise in the hope of coming resurrections.

Our pattern of life, we as Paschal people, is a resurrectional pattern. Our chants are also resurrectional because all words in Church lead to resurrection and contain it in a way or another. Therefore, we stressed that every Sunday, being the beginning of the week, is a Pascha in which we mention the one that is risen from the dead. Without any doubt, celebrating Sundays preceded historically our celebration of Pascha.

In order for the Paschal joy to be fulfilled in us every day, we must not forget that the Son of God was incarnated to live our life and to share with us everything except sin. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord” (Romans 14: 8).

Jesus lives with us through life and death. And if He was attached to us in death, He would revive us immediately even if this was in an unseen way. He lets us become with Him and for Him until He gathers us in the last day. If you read this, say: “Truly, He is risen”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الفصح” –Raiati 16- 15.04.2012

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The Orthodox / 14.04.2012

I wouldn’t have specified them with an article had they had not been unique. The uniqueness does not make them better or worse than others. I will talk about them as much as possible since they are unknown to the extent that they cannot, due to their few numbers, have ambitions on earth. But here they co-live with others without standing out and without blowing the trumpet.

I was once visiting with the late Maronite Bishop of Beirut Mar Ignatius Ziade when he told me about the difference between the Orthodox Liturgy and the Maronite one. And after he explained the background of the Maronite Liturgy he told me: “You start your service saying ‘Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’; and this royal proclamation came to you from your living with the Byzantine emperors’”. I did not show any disagreement with him though I know that he was magnifying us a little too much; yet I had realized the depth of what he said. In that course of talk I remember I had told Ghassan Twayni more than once “nous sommes d’empire” meaning that we blend with the existing “empire” in that it is a nation; and we have been through with the Roman Empire, then that of the Arabs, the Mamaleek, the Ottoman and the nation of the Mandate (France) and then we got ourselves in what we dreamt to be the nation of Lebanon.

The way I see things, I think that the Sunnis were right in saying openly that they do not accept the classification of our society according to the sects. And perhaps what made us meet at a certain point, was that we, like them, did not speak of confessionalism because we believe that we are the catholic universal Church or that we are from Her; and that we do not feel good about that “prison of sectarianism” that the constitution of 1926 got us into. But others would hear you at this only if you are allowed to have a trumpet. Perhaps our Liturgy, that transports us to Heaven, harms us making us see all people as heavenly while they themselves want to remain earthly. The problem is that you are not allowed in Lebanon to dream of a country the image of which has not yet descended from Above.

And when on Sunday, we sing “Christ has risen from the dead trampling down death by death”, we think that what is meant by that is that Christ has won victory over His own death and we get overtaken by the hymning that we do not see the deadness of Lebanon and its craftiness. But we insist on seeking the Kingdom ignoring what is around us of the earthliness of this world.

Some of us say “We are of this people and with this people (of the Lebanese people)”. It is good to say that. But isn’t it fair that we expect that they be with us also, and that a little of Heaven be on Earth so that we accept to say that we feel good about bringing in to us a little of this Earth so that we and the others can meet in some place of this world?

Is this world too small for Antoun Saade, Michel Aflak, Costantine Zrayk, Asad Rustom, George Habash and others and also the Evangelicals who presided over the Palestinian movement or their ancestors; these all came from our people. I know that it is useless sometimes to argue, but how much was the protest those people made, a product of the narrowness they sensed in the Lebanese religious identity? There is something wrong in the Lebanese fabric in that it renders some the children of the dame while others the children of the bondwoman. And you might be a prince, but there would be some who insist on making your mother a bondwoman.

Yet I do not intend to complain though I am allowed to express my pain on paper. Except that our Fathers have told us not to scream but advised us to speak quietly so that he who has ears would hear quiet voices. As such you get concerned for your unity with those who are of your religious sect and those who are not. Yet regardless of that even those among us who do not practice their faith will say on Sunday the “Christos Anesti” for forty days and would give each other a holy kiss as Paul says. And for many years I wondered what that quality “holy” (of the kiss) meant until I got to understand that whoever chanted that hymn, or had his mother chant it for him, knows that the other believer is his brother whether he prays every Sunday or neglects that; but still he calls to mind that between Pascha and Ascension Thursday, Jesus ascended in His body to Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father; that is He gave our Humanity that has been glorified through Christ, the same honor that belongs to the Divinity. Then we are potentially, as the philosophers say, at the right hand of Majesty in the Heavens in the company of the righteous that have gone before us to the Face of the Father.

That is what our Fathers call “the attentive drunkenness”. When you see us on the morning of the resurrection after we have started Matins with “Christos Anesti” carrying the lighted candles kissing each other, you would say: ‘Where do these people come from? Why all this love?”. That is not only love. That is passion. And I would comment on him who asks that question saying: “What’s wrong with that passion? Come join us.

We humans have done nothing good on Earth as St. Basil used to say every Sunday during the Lent season. But our glory – and that is not from us but from God – is that we are always in the presence of God in a state of chanting until the Savior comes back again to this world. But I do not want to leave you dear ones with the impression that this world in not the Lord’s, while we draw this world to Him with His word and not with the provocations of politics. We never accepted to be called a sect. Maybe this comes in the official papers of the government. Since, in the eyes of the people you are placed in a category. But we know the place of those who are righteous among us and those who are sinful. But after that “attentive drunkenness” you move from sin to righteousness which teaches you to sing “Christos Anesti” in full.

St. Basil says in his Liturgy from the letter of Peter, “we are a special people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation.” This is so only because of the Holy Cup which we drink. The sinners are a chosen people not because of any privilege they have, but because the Lord has chosen to give them His mercy and tenderness. Same with the Holy Nation which is also sinful but the Lord sanctifies it with the blood of His Son. The Savior sees us in our brokenness; and when He is lifted up, He lifts us up with Him so that we, as His body, can sit on the throne.

The only witness we have is that, in the flesh, we are the least among the peoples, and that you become their “first” through His call for us. We are the crumbs of this earth, and being as such, we cannot elevate ourselves so that our witness does not get undone. “Flesh and blood do not inherit the Kingdom of God”. And God knows whom to break to make them humble. But if you behold the humility of Christ hanging on the Cross, you weep and kneel down; and that is what we tried to do during Lent. And after that we exalt in our chanting “Christ has risen from the dead trampling down death by death” until humanity rises from its somnolence and becomes one with Truth.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الأرثوذكسيون” – An Nahar – 14.04.2012

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The Epistle on Palm Sunday / 08.04.2012

Perhaps the thing that made the Church choose this passage for today from the Epistle to the Philippians is the fact that it speaks about joy. We receive this joy from Jesus’ last entrance to Jerusalem. “Rejoice in the Lord always”. The Lord’s passions are not a source of sadness because they led us to salvation and showed this salvation through the Resurrection. The Passions and Resurrection are two faces for one truth: Christ’s triumph.

Joy shows dreams and hope. The reason behind that is the fact that the Lord is near. Modern exegetes say that Paul was anticipating the Lord’s coming to happen during his life. Whether this is right or not, the Lord is always near through the Word and the Eucharist. During the Holy Week, we taste that the Lord comes to us spiritually everyday of the week until this coming shines on the morning of Pascha. Other than the Savior’s nearness to us, nothing else matters. We are attracted to “Prayer and petition with thanksgiving”, and thanksgiving is a form of praying. The purpose of praying is purification; without the will for purification there is no prayer. Purity, in us, comes from God’s peace in us which is supreme to any logical understanding. If God’s peace became in us, it shall “guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ”. You would move in peace towards Him, and He would become your residence. You would be there: up with him.

After saying this, the apostle wants us to think about supreme things which he names: whatever is true, chaste, right and pure. Chastity is the form of purity that is related to the body, while purity is more general and dwells in the heart. He also wants us to be admirable (have a good reputation) which comes from good behavior. Even if we were so, some people would still gossip about us.

In order to facilitate these virtues, he tells them: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice”. Paul considers himself a source for teaching the faith that the Lord has put in his heart. Faith came to them through hearing, learning and the traditions of the Churches that Paul established. Also, there are the things that the believers see during worships, in the Divine Liturgy.

The believers saw this group of gestures – hearing, watching and the ritual activity – with Paul. This way, faith is transferred to us through recurrence of religious knowledge and through imitating the veterans. We completely dip children in water in baptism because this was transferred to us through tradition. Also, we draw the sign of the cross because of the tradition of the ancients. Signs and symbols in our Church are like icons, incense, clerical clothing and ecclesiastic architecture: They all come from what we have seen. Chanting was also transferred to us through generations and we have sensed that it teaches faith and urges people to be pious and to be in communion with the brothers while chanting together in one tongue and one spirit.

If we taste this in every divine service, we shall start from today chanting the chant of the bridegroom, the divine groom, and the call for vigilance will start too. If this vigilance was present throughout the days of the Holy Week, our joy would be fulfilled to receive Pascha.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “رسالة الشعانين” –Raiati 15- 08.04.2012

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Is There Any Political Islam? / 07.04.2012

Islam is unmitigated, it is indescribable from without. “It is only a revelation being revealed” (Sura Al-Najm [The Star], 4). And it is not possible to add to revelation that which is not of its nature. Politics means governance, and the term governance has not appeared in the revealed [Book] in the sense of a state or an administrative organization. Rules of governance are not guaranteed in religion, as Sheikh Ali Abd Al-Razeq has showed that frankly and vigorously. And to me the whole revolt over the Sheikh was because his book has been published in the year 1925, namely one year after Moustafa Kamal’s abolition of caliphate. At that time it sounded as if the scholar Abd Al-Razeq has reinforced Ataturk’s position, and confirmed the abolition of caliphate, to which Muslims were attached. That has sounded as if a sheikh from Al-Azhar, like Abd Al-Razeq, has appeared to judge the delight of Muslims about a rule that had emerged just after the death of the Prophet.

Nothing indicates that the Prophet’s conduct incorporated governance, in its political sense. The people of Medina alone did not make the Umma [nation]. Muslims in the society of Yathrib [the earlier name of Medina] and out of it were God’s Umma. And there were no departments, or what resemble departments, for an administrative structure.  Muhammad, as a person, was the reference for everything in the Umma. The Islamic Umma was a society rather than a governed state. Thus, there is no sense in whatever some learned ones say that ‘Islam is religion and world’. It is a religion in its divine and behavioral senses.

With the death of the Prophet there was need for ordering, thus Abou Bakr was paid allegiance as caliph, and then the other Rashidin Caliphs [rightly guided caliphs], until Umayyads came and the organizational element has been strengthened. Then, the Arab Umma and Islam have emerged simultaneously, since Arabs before Muhammad were not a nation. Arabism as a characteristic has been strengthened as they were faced by the Persian and the Greek Empires. This has enhanced the Muslims’ feeling that they are a state, and the notion of the state was reinforced by the [Islamic] conquests. However, Muhammad’s Islam was not similar to this, since Muhammad has not transmitted other than the word of God, and God has not spoken about Muslims’ politics.

If we come to the modern era we see that the worldly feature, which Arab Muslims have assumed, has been Arabism. Thus, the Hashemite Family in Hejaz has revolted against the Muslim caliphate of the Ottoman Empire, which means that for them Muslims have no political unity secured by the caliph. While Ataturk had officially abolished caliphate, namely he considered that Turks remain Muslims without an international, political system and they believed that civil system, which they adopted, does not contradict Islam. Further, Turks had abrogated Sharia’s legalization of polygamy, without forgetting that Muslims seek inspiration from the welfare of the Umma.

Yet, what does political Islam mean? Muslim countries have known all [ruling] systems. There is the dynasty system [of one family], the monarchal system, the republican system, the parliamentary system and there is a republic which in its constitution does not mention that Islam is its religion. And nothing indicates that Muslims want to identify themselves with the governing systems.

As result, the regulation for Muslims in politics, as sometimes in other than politics, remains based on the welfare of the Umma. And the Islamic Umma [flourishes] through its creativeness, advancement, cultural and economic prosperity, the luminance of its civilization, its peace, safety and its cohesion with other nations or other segments without domination from its side upon it, also without confinement or chaos. The Islamic Umma flourishes through the strive for the emergence of those competent ones in every society, whether Muslims or others, since Muslims benefit from the competent ones regardless their [socio-religious] belonging. And this happens whenever Muslims acknowledge the concept of unity based on diversity.

The Qur᾿an is full of accounts about the human being and the people, since the Lord is aware of the existence of different coexisting worlds, which are productive in all fields for their benefit and the benefit of Muslims. This means the acceptance of Muslims to live truly with all humanity’s spectra. There is great interpretational flexibility in Islam, which has led an Iraqi scholar to recite to me gracious [Qur᾿anic] verses which signify that Christians are not infidels. In the modern era I know Indian religions that claim to be Unitarian, which means that there is no partner [beside God in their beliefs]. Whenever we move into an interpretational phase, which considers Tawhid [Monotheism] an essential element in most world religions, this would help Muslims to perceive themselves living in communities which accept them and wish them good. Then they would view in all people a kind of spiritual coherence. Calling [da῾wa] remains an issue based on freedom and peace. “Whoever wishes, let him believe; and whoever wishes, let him disbelieve” (Sura Al-Kahf [The Cave], 29).

People, from different religions, strive to perceive themselves as citizens who welcome unity and welcome the person who is competent in all areas of life. However, there are some principles which are essential for the modern person, namely that God does not support a religion in order that it rules all people of earth, regardless whether they accept or reject it. Also God has not made anyone in the custody of another; rather God has made every citizen in the care of the other citizen, so that we defend and care for each other and respect all. Human beings do exist regardless their thought, and their lives are precious and beneficial to all, also to those who do not hold the same faith.

These lines in societal thinking are about civil life, and in politics it is referred to as civilian rule. We may disagree since this is a human thing, and we might disagree about the one religion, however the nature of the human subject is freedom, though he/[she] might take council with the Other. We have called the society, which is based on disagreement, democratic and there is no alternative for it other than the system based on police [state] or a despotic regime.

In Great Britain, it took eight hundred years until freedom became the norm of social life and it is established in France only since two hundred years, and similarly in America. Whenever Arabs incorporate themselves in the thinking that has prevailed those countries, administratively and politically, they understand the civil society.

The Muslim scholars and those who strive politically take their religion with great understanding and with the spirit of love for Others, and they build the homeland with high spirituality. Thus, everyone of us might have complete confidence in the Other concerning his/[her] own freedom.

Political Islam is the invention of people. It is the mobilization of those who love power. It is plain that whenever Muslims attain the highest ranks of civilization their political language becomes civil, similar to those great ones of the earth. My Lord has made me one on earth with Muslims since I want to live. I want for them the highest ranks of ascendancy. This would help me to have a dignified life.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “هل من اسلام سياسي” –An Nahar- 07.04.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

Towards the Passions / 01.04.2012

In this passage from the Gospel of Mark, the Lord lets the disciples enter His great mystery. He was ascending with them towards Jerusalem and He prophesied that the Son of Man, i.e. Himself, will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes. Scribes are those who used to copy the Torah in order to be read over as many people as possible and because of this work they have become knowledgeable people. He said: “They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles”. By “gentiles” Jesus meant the representative of Rome in Palestine, Pontius Pilate.

The Jews and Gentiles both took part in the killing of the Lord. Jesus spoke about the form of his passions: “they will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise.” This is what the other Evangelists also said.

Then, there is a weird conversation from the sons of Zebedee, James and John (The evangelist). They still thought that Jesus is a temporal political king, so they asked to be ministers in his government. Therefore He asked them if they could take the passions that He will take. But, as the others, they couldn’t understand anything from what will happen to Him. The disciples felt mad from James’ and john’s will to be special among them although none of them understood yet that Jesus’ kingdom wasn’t from this world.

Then, Jesus called the twelve disciples to tell them that Gentile nations have their rulers. While among you, nobody dominates and if you wanted to search for the great among you, he shall be a servant for you. Service is the only way to the known greatness in Jesus’ kingdom. Then, He stressed on the word servant as He said: “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all”.

The model is in front of you, the Son of Man that didn’t come to be served but to serve. Not only that, but also to die.

For us, the great is the one that says about himself that he is the smallest. The Bishop used to sign his letters this way “the poor among bishops”. This means that he is being humble to the extreme so that the believers would believe him and so that he could fulfill a righteous service. We all came to be a ransom for others, as the Lord did. We cannot become anything except through the Lord’s grace.

Through this feeling, we come towards the Lord’s passions, death and resurrection. It is the feeling of ignoring our ego, our interests, benefits and the love of appearing. You cannot take anything from the Holy Week unless you felt poor towards God as St. Mary the Egyptian did: The saint that we celebrate today who stayed 47 years in the dessert to gain the atonement of her sins.

Putting our sins to death starting from today gives us acceptance for Pascha.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “إلى الآلام” –Raiati 14- 01.04.2012

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