Monthly Archives

September 2012

2012, Articles, Raiati

Mercy / 30.09.2012

The ethical basis, through which the love for the other is applied, is to treat people as we want them to treat us. Equality in treatment is the minimal thing in sentimental and practical encounter. The Lord clarifies this rule as He says: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” In addition to that, you are asked to give more than what you are given. Love is to exert from what you have and to love unlimitedly.

This is what the Lord has expressed by saying: “Love your enemies”. You shouldn’t look for good qualities in others in order to love them. You should love the qualities that one may have or may not. You should love him as he is, in his elevation and in his decline whether you had cordiality towards him or not. You shouldn’t love him because you have gained something from him. You should love him even if he didn’t show you the affection that you were expecting.

Then, Jesus says: “Do good”, without indicating the direction or the form of this act. Charity starts by taking care of the other, by considering his needs especially if he was close to you. If you didn’t know his needs, you must ask him about them and try to manage a way to fulfill them for him. His needs might be materialistic or moral.

If you weren’t able to give him money because it wasn’t available, you could always give him a moral power and a console if he was in sadness or visit him if he was sick. Sometimes, he might prefer other things over money.

Do good; not only verbally but by showing your friendship. Don’t be away from your friend so that he doesn’t think that you left him emotionally. The whole universe is based on affinity. If a person forgot you or pretended that he did, you must initiate and come back to him so that he gains back the warmth and stop feeling isolated. Feeling isolated is a bitter and saddening thing.

Always give others joy so that they don’t feel desperate or fall in a moral adversity. Heal every person you know so that he sees, thanks to you, God’s visage.

The Gospel then ends this passage with the following: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

Mercy is the attempt to save someone’s life from all adversities and from the temptation of sins. Mercy is having the capacity to embrace the other to you and to his Lord through you. When a person senses God’s person, he shall not be in hardship anymore. His soul will be able to contain all creations, accept all people and forgive those who have harmed it.

Mercy makes you one with lots of people; it makes others united with God and makes them acquire joy.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الرحمة” –Raiati 40- 30.09.2012

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2012, An-Nahar, Articles

The Campaign against Islam / 29.09.2012

Why is this furious campaign against Islam in the West? If we want to think through the things without interpretation, we say that there is some desire to strike Islam derisively and with clear retaliation. Why to provoke Muslims now, as if there is a party which assorts hostile words for people from different prospects?

The story began with pictures from Denmark, until it has reached this offending Film [by Californian filmmaker Sam Bacile], of which I watched a part. At least it has to be said that the movie is repulsive since it clearly impugns the Arab Prophet.

Also the thrusts in the French press have confounded me. I do not understand this propagation in fighting Islam especially that the world seeks peace and the competitive spirit among religions has disappeared since a long while. Are there specific political powers to fight Islam? It is clear, for those observers of religious concerns in the world, that churches are opening up for other religions, and there are documents to prove this.

You see that theological schools in this country [Lebanon], and other countries, teach Islam in completely scientific ways similar to the way Muslims teach, and you do not argue or dispute. In the Lebanese University either Muslims or Christians teach Arab-Islamic culture. Throughout years I have been doing this at the university, and no one objected saying, how a Christian cleric could teach Islamics, as it is part of the Arab culture?

What is in the mindset of the movie-producers or the article-writers in newspapers in order to attack Islam? How this phenomenon has started? The most I can say is that Christian denominations, and I am following their intellectual and practical activities, are not recruited at all against the Islamic doctrine. Thus, I conclude that Christian leaders have not propounded this absurd move, which has been partly manifested in press or in cinema. The spiritual and intellectual leaders of Arab Islam know that.

We are thankful to God that Arab Muslim scholars have faced these campaigns, against their religion, quietly. This is partly because of their trust in Arab Christians, who want to live with Muslims in peace and discernment.

I do not want to come back to this abusive movie which has impugned the Prophet, and I have read the biography of the Arab prophet well, and I became assured that whatever has been presented [in the movie] is not reported in his biography. Whatever has appeared in recent times [through those campaigns] is nothing than falsehood, the source of which I do not know. There is no trace for science in this output, and consequently I can say nothing other than it is entirely the work of political intelligence.

Regarding the Muslims, and after they have showed their rightful anger, they have to act wisely, and their leaders do not lack wisdom. Christians, in our Arab world and in the West, have to stand by Muslims, since the believers in Christ long for truth and religious peace in our countries and in the world.

The start is the life in unison, which implies full respect of the doctrine of the Other, as part of the admissible intellectual difference. My wish is that all the people of the West, who form the civilized society, might understand that the Crusades had elapsed, though the present war has nothing to do with the cross.

We, Arab Christians, have decided since the Islamic conquest to live with Muslims in peace and social unity, with total freedom for all. We are seekers of freedom for all citizens, and I mean freedom which is responsible and loving for the Other.

This implies all kinds, expressions and manifestations of freedom until God’s rule, justice and care encompass the world. To have confidence in the Other means that you accept him/[her] as practicing his/[her] religion, and you accept the societal image of his/[her] religion and his/[her] right for calling, prayer, family education and the right to speak, rejecting whatever violates courtesy and brotherhood.

Our region knows this friendly atmosphere since we live friendships between the families, individuals and professionals and we approach each other in sincerity and we do not distinguish among people, rather we distinguish between the gracious and the vicious ones.

The pure and the truthful community surpasses all mere mental aspirations. This is divinely given, however human effort is appended to it, since peace does not occur incidentally but it needs to be refined, and whenever you refine it, the grace of God descends upon you.

I do not say that our destiny is to live together, but that our choice is to live together. Christianity and Islam are present together among the folk of God and God is the keeper of the two people through God’s enduring inclination till the last hour of human times. All this requires great patience and good will, which coexists with divine compassion.

Nevertheless, the world is not completely free from emerging partisanships that are justified by some. However, we know that these are the outcome of evil scruples; while the will of the Lord is that we love and meet each other. The erudite ones can discuss about what is logical and what surpasses the mind. Yet, you cannot talk to the Other unless you find the existence of the Other, namely his/[her] heart and work, pleasant.

We cannot disregard the existence of the Other or forget that he/[she] is here [with us], rather we should acknowledge his/[her] presence with us, within the scope of our existence, and in the heart, and maybe all our scope is the heart. In my reading, the heart is the throne of God, and if God is my God and the God of the Muslim, then, in God’s perception, we are one.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الحملة على الاسلام” –An Nahar- 29.09.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

The Two Testaments / 23.09.2012

The two testaments occupy an important rank in the epistle to the Galatians because this epistle looks for the faith that started with Abraham. On this basis, Paul calls the believers “the sons of Abraham” although most of them aren’t from his offspring. Abraham’s blessing is “for the Pagans through Jesus Christ”. The word “pagans” indicates that Abraham is the father of all nations through their faith in Christ.

Paul assures in this sense that “Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman (Hagar) and the other by the free woman (Sarah)”. Paul uses two expressions: flesh and promise. The son that came from the slave woman was born according to the flesh i.e. without a divine promise. However, the son that was born from the free woman came as a result of a promise. Here, the apostle explains that the two women symbolize two testaments: the first is from Mount Sinai the land of slaves, i.e. Hagar. He explains that Hagar refers to “Mount Sinai in Arabia”. Sinai is a name of a peninsula between Egypt and Palestine.

This Mount corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, which is the center of Judaism, which “is in slavery with her children” because she didn’t recognize the New Testament yet. This Jerusalem has become a normal city as all cities. However, “Jerusalem that is above (and he means here the Church) is free and is our mother”. We come from this mother that gave us birth in Baptism and this Baptism makes us all one in the Church of the Lord.

Paul supports his thought by a phrase from a Book of the Old Testament: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child”. He also adds in the same sense: “shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband”. By this, he refers to the new birth that happens in Christ. Christians can feel joy in Lord Jesus even if they were a minority because they look towards faith, hope and love.

This chapter of the epistle to the Galatians indicates our liberation from the Old Testament and our entrance, with Christ, to a new life. We have become “New creations” and we renew the universe after being renewed in Christ.

This requires liberation from all old things in our behavior, as the Holy Spirit, our comforter, is always poured on us. Although we are made from this body, but our deep truth is that the Holy Spirit makes us the sons of God and not the sons of our mothers and fathers only. After that, we should raise others through our repentance and theirs. We should make the person that believed in Jesus enter the life in Jesus that renews us because He is the ever-new.

The Church becomes new through her sanctified children through the Holy Spirit. In this Church, man is liberated from the old things that were stuck on him and this man becomes belonging to the daily renewed Church through the Sacraments and especially through Christ’s body and blood that makes us according to His image day after day.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “العهدان” –Raiati 39- 23.09.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

Unity with Christ / 16.09.2012

“I died to the Law”. Paul’s expression means that I cannot be alive if Moses’ Law was still active. I die to “live for God” in Christ’s power as if I was with Christ when He was crucified. I was with Him, hanging on the cross on which Christ became alive. My unity with Him made Him alive in me.

How could that happen? I should live my life on this earth “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. Lord Jesus dwelled in me through His death and resurrection, and this is the source of my faith in Him. He has become everything for me.

However, for this dwelling to continue, I must make an effort. Salvation descends on me from God and I must preserve it with obedience. I must accept it. Therefore, today’s Gospel said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. If you were a real believer and baptized, you would indicate that you want to follow the Master. He wants to bring his followers to Himself. This doesn’t simply happen through verbal confession but requires man to atone himself, i.e. to stay away from every earthly interest and the authority of his ego, and to ask for Christ’s authority. This is self-atonement and confessing that the Lord has the only authority over the self. If you have accepted Jesus’ teachings, you would be admitting that you want Him to revive you through the Gospel because He is the word of life and the bread descending from above.

After leaving your earthly interests and the pleasures of the world, the Cross would appear in front of you, i.e. the discomforts of life, temptations and doubts. Jesus asks you to carry all these burdens to be able to follow Him. Follow Him to where? He walked towards Golgotha where He met His cross which is the discomforts of the whole world. If you carried your own pains through the tolerance of saints, you would be joining Him in Golgotha and dying and rising with Him. You do not have any other path than Him which He passed towards resurrection. You shall also pass from your path towards your resurrection i.e. to the joy that descends on you from the Holy Spirit.

After that, the Lord says: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it”. This means that you should exert your soul through the efforts that He asks from you. You do all the efforts and not some of them. You do this for Him and for the Gospel i.e. for the Gospel’s effectiveness to appear in you and be transmitted to people so that His light appears in everything they do.

Then, the Master makes His words clearer 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?” If a person gained all the money of the world and all the power and authority in it, and his soul became a place for the evil one because of that, he would be getting no good from what he gained.

The aim is for God to gain your soul through the holiness that He wants in you and which you should love, because if you didn’t love holiness, you would necessarily be a sin lover. Holiness and sin cannot be found in the same heart at the same time.

Jesus wants all your powers, gifts and works to be only for His glory. You do not let yourself appear but let Christ’s light appear on your face so that people would come to their Christ and be saved.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الوحدة مع المسيح” –Raiati 38- 16.09.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

The New Law / 09.09.2012

Paul’s concern in the Epistle to the Galatians (Asia Minor) was to show that we have gone beyond the Law of Moses and entered the New Testament. He starts the passage that we read today by saying: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand”. By this, he means that he took the pen from the writer, whom he used to dictate, and wrote those few words in his own handwriting to show his love for his readers.

Then, he went to another subject, “circumcision”, and noticed that some people in Church that were still insisting on Moses’ Law thought that Pagans converting to Christianity must pass through Judaism first and then get baptized. Paul pictured this for his readers by saying that such people boast about circumcised bodies; he refused that and said: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.

The world has been crucified for me because I have abolished the world that was subjected to the evil one; he used the word “I crucified”. He also said: “I was crucified”, and this means that the evil world got rid of me by killing me on the cross (morally).

Paul justified his liberation from circumcision and uncircumcision by making them equal as he says: “For in Jesus Christ (i.e. after we have become in Christ), neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything”. All of this means nothing and “what counts is the new creation”, i.e. the creation that is renewed in faith and Baptism.

To “All who follow this rule”, i.e. all who believe in my words or my gospel as he expresses sometimes, he sends peace and mercy and also to the Israel of God which means the new Israel, the Church.

Therefore, don’t trouble me with this controversy “for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus”. By this, he refers to the discomforts that he endured here and there, in addition to the persecutions. I carry the marks of my tiredness and I will continue my path to the cross as the Lord did. Actually, the Roman authorities killed Paul by sword around the year 67 and also killed Peter by crucifixion in the year 65.

After all these theological words, he sends his greetings to the Galatians by saying: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen”.

With this phrase, the epistle to the Galatians is ended, it is one of the deepest epistles theologically and resembles Paul’s epistle to the Romans. What the great apostle wrote is basic for those who love to taste the theology of the New Testament. Paul is the constructor of theological speech in Christianity.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الشريعة الجديدة” –Raiati 37- 09.09.2012

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2012, Articles, Raiati

The Epilogue of the First Epistle to the Corinthians / 02.09.2012

Paul’s style is to end his epistles with practical advices after simplifying the theological words that were the content of his epistle.

In the first epistle to the Corinthians, he starts the last part by saying: “Be on your guard” which means “have vigilance” during the discomforts that the Church faces. Be boisterous, do not compromise with those that are out of our faith; do not mess with sin. Don’t sacrifice anything in faith because every single thing in it is important.

Strive like men that are known to be powerful. Paul doesn’t forget that our power comes from the Holy Spirit but also mentions that we take part with the Holy Spirit in our struggle. God offers salvation and we accept it. After that, Paul doesn’t forget that the core of Christian life is love.

Moreover, the apostle mentions believers that are prominent in service. What does it mean to say that the household of Stephen (his family) “devoted themselves for the service of the Lord’s people”? We cannot confirm that Stephen is a deacon or a clergyman. In this epistle, it isn’t clear if Paul mentions priests or bishops. However, Stephen is at least an active person or a speaker, and Paul also mentions others and honors them “for they have refreshed my spirit and yours also”.

“The Churches in the province of Asia send you greetings”. Using the plural form indicates that he is speaking about several cities next to Ephesus. This proves that Paul, while living in Ephesus for more than two years, has preached the whole region.

Then, he mentions Aquila and his wife Priscilla who played a big role in establishing the Church of Corinth. He delivers their greetings and also mentions the Church that meets at their house and this means that wherever they were, the community meets and have the Divine Liturgy at their house.

“Greet one another with a holy kiss”. This expression is found in more than one epistle and probably refers to the kiss that believers practiced in the Liturgy. Today, this kiss is only practiced among the servants of the altar.

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand”. Paul used to dictate what he wants to write to a writer that accompanies him. However, here Paul takes the pen himself to confirm to his readers that he personally loves and remembers them.

He moves on and says: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed”, i.e. cut from the membership of the Church. Being a member in Church requires a practical love for Lord Jesus.

Finally, he says “Maran Atha” which is an Aramaic expression that Paul wanted to preserve in Greek Letters. It means “the Lord has come” or if you read it “Marana Tha”, then it means “Come, Lord”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “خاتمة كورنثوس الأولى” –Raiati 36- 02.09.2012

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