Monthly Archives

June 2012

2012, Articles, Raiati

Nativity of John the Baptist / 24.06.2012

The Biggest part of the first chapter of Luke is dedicated for the nativity of John the Baptist. The third chapter in Matthew is dedicated for the Baptist’s mission and the same is also found in the first few lines of Mark. Moreover, he is mentioned in the sixth verse of the first chapter of John. Why is all this importance given for the forerunner and the baptizer? His whole biography, from nativity to death, is found in the Gospels and takes a big part of the narrative.

What is this interest in John the Baptist? Particularly, why does Luke show this interest in his nativity? Why do we celebrate his nativity and also his beheading while for all other saints we only celebrate their death or martyrdom? I don’t know any other nativity feast except for the Theotokos. Death is our nativity in the kingdom. Without any doubt, the Gospels speak a lot about the Baptist and this must be explained.

Here, the first assumption we can make is that the Baptist is a mediator between the Old and the New Testament. He is related to the New Testament because he saw Christ, yet he belongs to the group of old prophets.

The second assumption that we can make for the richness of narration about the Baptist, is that he still had disciples after his martyrdom and those formed a danger on the new mission. Therefore, the Gospel had to show that John himself witnessed that Christ is greater than him. Although Christianity was spread, the Baptist still had disciples called Mandaeans and those still have their own religion today in Iraq and perform their special baptisms.

A confirmation for the existence of the Baptist’s nativity feast in early Christian worship is that there is a Church dedicated for this feast in Ain Karem, Palestine built over Byzantine ruins from the fifth century. Luke looked at this nativity and considered it a great event because it was miraculous as the nativity of several people in the Old Testament and this is an image of Jesus’ nativity that had a direct divine intervention.

All the narrative that is related to the Baptist resembles that related to the Savior’s nativity; however it is more connected to the Old Testament. Zechariah was given the good news in the temple because he came from a family of priests. The spiritual character that the Baptist will have is that of a harbinger in the Old Testament (Doesn’t drink any alcohol). The Baptist goes to his activity while Jesus was working too and they get connected at the Lord’s Baptism. The Baptist’s words become close to the expressions of the Gospel when he speaks about the Messiah that carries the sins of the world and this isn’t mentioned in the Jewish tradition. This wasn’t the job of the Messiah.

The messenger was Gabriel that stands in front of God’s visage and the same messenger that gave the good news to the Virgin. It is obvious that Luke wanted to show a relation between Lord Jesus and the Baptist, because the stories of the good news were similar and both delivered by the Archangel. In addition, there is a main relation between the names of “Jesus” and “John”. The expression “Jo” is an abbreviation of “Jehovah” i.e. God; and “ohn” comes from the Hebraic verb “to have tenderness”. God’s “tenderness” over human beings stands in the name of “Jesus” which means “God saves”.

However, from the beginning of Luke, the difference between Christ and the Baptist is big. The first prepares the path for the second as it is said: “You will go on before the Lord (Christ)”. What was written in the Book about the nativity of John is an introduction to what is related to Christ’s nativity in Luke particularly.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “مولد يوحنا المعمدان” –Raiati 26- 24.06.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

Calling the First Disciples / 17.06.2012

This is the calling of the first disciples as narrated by Matthew and it is the same in Mark. It describes the environment in which Jesus lived; it is the environment that surrounds the Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias. It is an environment of fishermen. He saw two brothers: Simon – who He later called Peter – and Andrew which is a Greek name because Galilee had lots of Greek speaking people that were influenced by the Greek culture and this is what makes us believe that some apostles spoke some vernacular Greek.

These brothers were casting their net in the lake. All of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen except Matthew that was a chief tax collector. Jesus called them by saying: “Come, Follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people”, i.e. to be the carriers of the gospel (which they understood later). They must have thought that Jesus had a spiritual message, perhaps a chief of a small community that is interested in God’s word and calling people for it. Such small spiritual associations were known among the people of Israel. They immediately “left everything and followed Him”. This means that they left their systematic fishing; it doesn’t necessarily mean that they left their boat on the shore to be taken by any passing person and this is proven when we read that the apostles didn’t cut all their relation with the sea.

The expression “going on from there” means that he was walking on the shore of Lake Tiberias. He passed a small distance and “saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John (John the Evangelist). They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them (using the same way)”. Perhaps the four were from Bethsaida. They immediately “left the boat and their father and followed Him”. Thos two didn’t only leave their jobs but also their father and this is even a greater alienation.

Four people followed and accompanied Him while he roamed in Galilee. Where did they go? To the synagogues; a synagogue is a huge hall in which Jews meet on Saturday to read the Old Testament and preach according to the text that was read. This text shows us that whoever knew the Holy Book can teach, without having to be previously appointed.

“Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom”. What was He saying? The core of his preaching was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4: 17). In addition to that, he was “healing every sickness and disease among the people”.

Who were the sick people that he was healing? The Book says: “people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases”; The Book mentions those who are demon-possessed, those who had seizures (epileptic) and the paralyzed. After this scene, we see that He was healing all diseases with the divine power that He had because He had sympathy towards the physically ill as He had towards sinners. He wanted the mercy of God to appear in every person especially those who were suffering.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “دعوة أوّل التلاميذ” –Raiati 25- 17.06.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

Strengthening the Priest / 10.06.2012

Strengthening the priest financially is an expression of your faith because he is a main basis in the Lord’s Church in which he serves. According to the Book, he should get his living from the temple in which you are a member. In addition to that, you might feel that he is personally close to you through his good pastoral care for you and your family and situation. A loving person takes care of the living of the person he loves.

I am saddened by our sons that shock me with such words: “Let the responsible for Church properties increase the priest’s salary”. In this case you look like someone only interested in requesting without doing anything yourself. Such people barely know anything about the situation of the properties. In many cases, you wouldn’t find any Church property in the village and the income would be limited to what people pay in Church on Sunday: Those people are few and form a maximum percentage of ten percent of the parish in most places.

Because others aren’t present in Church, it is your duty to carry the Church on your shoulders. With this expression, I do not exempt those who are responsible but absent. We are all “the body of Christ, and each one of us is a part of it”.

Do not limit your giving to occasions (baptisms, marriages and funerals). Each of these happens only once in a lifetime. In Sacraments, you are free to give or not. It is insolence from the priest to refuse the amount because it is small. He doesn’t serve for a fee. You should initiate in giving so that he doesn’t feel sad; sadness disrupts the mission and weakens it.

Do not postpone your giving for tomorrow. Even if it was a small amount, give it in order to gain God. This person has dedicated his life and depth for you; shouldn’t you dedicate for him every while an amount of money according to your ability? He would mention your name in front of God and he would have surmounted in front of God thanks to you. If you opened your heart, the difficulties of life would become easy for you. Do not excuse yourself by saying that you are in a hardship. Through hardship, you would still have the penny of the widow and it would save you as it saved her. What you spend for the poor of the earth would become savings for you on your road to the Kingdom.

Encourage your friends to be like you because you might end the priest’s shortage through this. I am a witness of how the nagging of the priest would harm him and his parish. Take the burden of sin off him so that he could go to his service with joy and not be occupied by the obsession of money but be busy with the holiness of the service and reading. The person that is occupied by the Lord would relax from the burdens of life. Then, if he didn’t go to pastoral activity, you can blame him.

We cannot blame him if he tried to make his living through an extra job, but every job would take from him the time that should be originally dedicated to service. If he was in need, he would be tempted to be close to the rich people of the parish. Rich people shouldn’t have any kind of special status for the priest for any reason. Also we must not prefer any building plan or renovation or any physical activity over the strengthening of the priest, because a building plan could wait while feeding the priest’s children cannot.

In the old Greek civilization, philosophers didn’t own anything but lived from the city. If we brought a young man from the Institute of Theology to make him a priest, he would own nothing. He should live from the church a life that any educated person lives (buy books, travel to conferences, charity). Even if we forget about those activities, there would still be the normal living for an average family.

Move your hearts for the sake of those who serve Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “تعزيز الكاهن” –Raiati 24- 10.06.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

Pentecost / 03.06.2012

The Pentecost is an activation for the salvation that was once fulfilled on the cross and had to be transmitted to people and this happens by accepting it. “The apostles were all together in one place”: This means that the Church was gathering and the Holy Spirit descended on the Church as a whole and on every individual in it.

After the Ascension of the glorified and triumphant Christ over death, The Holy Spirit became able to descend as Apostle John said in today’s Gospel: “Up to that time the spirit had not been given” – it wasn’t yet in people and with them – “since Jesus had not been yet glorified” i.e. he didn’t die and rise yet.

The Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father and dwells in the Son. It comes from them together and at the same time it doesn’t come except from the triumphant Christ over death. The Spirit carries to humanity the results of the saving death and shows that the apostles gained salvation and became capable of giving it to those who believe in Christ and are baptized in His name.

This shall happen until eternity. What happened in the attic happens to every baptized person if he believed and confessed and received the body and blood of the Lord. The power of all divine sacraments is in the crucified Christ and is activated in us in the life of the Church.

If we were in the Church since baptism, we would be able to derive all the powers of the Trinity that are reflected in us through the Myron, communion, repentance, marriage, priesthood, funeral, the sign of the cross and the anointing of the sick. The Church is all of these together, because it is in a state of calling for the Holy Spirit for the whole universe. When the Holy Spirit descends on us, the Church shall appear through us.

Those who became for Christ only are the ones who the Holy Spirit descended on, and those do not leave anything not for Christ in their hearts. Those are the temples of the Holy Spirit and Messiahs through grace. Those speak about God’s greatnesses because they are constantly close to Him.

Every one speaks in his own language, i.e. according to the amount of holiness in him and the amount of understanding if he had received this gift. Such person transmits the Holy Spirit through preaching and every person understands and receives this preaching according to his mind and the ability of his heart. There is no difference between the descent of the Spirit in the Pentecost and its descent today in the Holy Sacraments and the word of the Gospel if we read it while opening all our senses and with obedience.

No person can take all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives the gifts according to the ability of every person to activate. One could be a preacher, a teacher or a servant in the management of the Church or a priest or an active layman. All of these together are witnesses for the Holy Spirit and its work. From this aspect, the Church is a movement or a flow and not only an order, organization or gathering.

The Church grows through the gifts that descended on its members. If lots of people responded to the Divine Spirit and submitted their souls to it, the Church would appear alive and active in the human society and would change our situations and we would gain each other through the Spirit because gifts interact and integrate. If lots of gifts were inactive, we should try to request them from God in order for Him to appear alive and effective and for the rising Christ from the dead to be glorified.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “العنصرة” –Raiati 23- 03.06.2012

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