Monthly Archives

December 2012

2012, An-Nahar, Articles

The Days to Come / 29.12.2012

The year 2012 would be gone in two days and we hope that with it the “bad times” would also be gone; and we hope that we have blessed times of justice and peace to all peoples, times that are inaugurated by Grace so that our efforts would be made in Grace and so that our hearts would “come” from God’s heart, something that happens with those who are able to behold the Divine.

Sorrowing over the losses we experienced during the past year is of no benefit. What is good is how holy each of us has become according to his faithfulness to God. And sanctification is the only good remaining from the days that are gone since it is the whiff of hope with which we advance towards love. Time wraps away the wrong we have done when we repent and leaves us with the good that has come down upon us. If we abhor wrong deeds, they will leave us; and if we cherish the good deeds, they expand into our future times and God keeps in our hearts what we cherish and effaces what has hurt us.

Cherishing memories of the virtues and goodness in our lives disposes us for newness of life. But iniquity and sins are better not to me remembered lest they might come back since when the Divine Spirit dwells in us, He drives away sins and rears us on experiencing and partaking of the Divine Benevolence. And such Goodness and the experience of it become integrated in the souls of those who are renewed by the longing for God’s face. But there is no tie between the sins and the Divine Benevolence in us until the Lord grants us, after having died, a new life.

Reflecting on what was said above we long for the New that comes down on us from above; and there is no Freshness except in that. And this is Newness, that you do not inherit what is “old” which is from this obsolete and threadbare world and not from God. You are the heir of God. Otherwise you would be of perdition. And the “New” does not mean that which is in the present, but that which flows over on us of Divine Life. The issue is not one of time – a time that has gone or one that has come now; it is the story of what is Perennial in us; that is our course to what is Eternal which comes down upon us in our human predicament but is not of that predicament.

According to that standard, you live what has happened with you and to you during the past year. That does not mean that you can pass judgment on them. The Lord alone judges you always; and if you were of those who repent, He would disclose to you your Judgment before you die because He wants you to die well.

When you face what this life brings about, falling is inevitable since it is hard to bear all the difficulties that come your way. But if you are God’s man, He would lift you up because of His tenderness towards you; and you have come from “tenderness” the first time when your mother gave you birth; and after then you have experienced much of it when God reveals Himself as He lifts you after you have fallen.

The training the Lord asks of you now is to continuously benefit from the good that you have tasted; such experience makes you grow. And in depth, that means that you build on that good to thank the Lord first, and secondly to promise Him that you continue on with Him for faithfulness’ sake. Only in that can you know newness in the days to come. But do not forget that time in itself as it passes does not bring about newness. The Lord alone grants you that and then you would know that He alone is the pillar of your existence and your progress towards His face.

But go to the Lord with those you love. Your service to them is that you love them to bring them to thank God once they know that they exist and abide in His love for them and in your love for them. You cannot get to the compassionate Lord unless you reveal to those around you His compassion thus making them become His. You cannot walk your course to Him alone. If you accompany each other, you will know that you are marching towards Him together. You cannot see God’s face unless you see Him first on the face of the brethren. Perhaps he, whom you see as such, himself will reveal the Lord’s face to you.

This is a mutual accompaniment which is “outside time” though it takes place in our times. It is eternity in you in the middle of both your evil and your good times. God reveals to you that He alone is Goodness in what He brings to you all of your times. It is not history that is important. History is nothing if God does not settle in it, if God’s “history” does not become in you.

That means that Eternity does not come to you from the future. If it comes down on your present and future, they both become the place of God in you. The Eternity that comes down on the present time makes it the “time of God”. That is why God Himself is “newness”.

And since things with us are as we described above, then this requires of us that we fill the coming year with the Divine Presence so that meaning is given to it. While filling the days and the weeks and the months with things other than the Divine Presence makes them unsubstantial since the real substance is God Himself.

And I would say that you fill yourself and others whom you love with God; you are able to do that; and you would call the others through your sweetness to turn their face to God so He beholds them. You tend to make the days to come your own. But you actually make them your own when you ask for God’s mercy on them.

It is not your business to be concerned for your daily matters. Every day belongs to the Lord if He is revealed to the Church or to the brethren who are righteous. Your business is to ask that He be present in all your days and to make each hour of your time better than the one that came before it; as such when you get renewed, the Lord will grant you to renew others. The Lord’s life alone can purify you from the heavy weight of the bad times that come your way, and as such you become a new creation and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الأيام القادمة” – An Nahar – 29.12.2012

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The Giving of the Righteous / 22.12.2012

The Orthodox Church sometimes appears weak in its human aspect and yet we see that She rises through a Divine visitation as the Lord has promised Her:” I betroth you to me forever, I betroth you to me in righteousness, justice, love and compassion.” (Hosea 2: 19)

As humans, spiritual death is our companion. It draws us away from Christ yet He calls those chosen ones to go forth in Him. And He gives us life with what He bestows on us of His grace. The Christian people are human and are subject to the weaknesses of all humans though they are in a longing for the renewal that is wrought by the Lord’s presence in them. The glorious and radiant Church is a promise of the Lord which is realized to some extent only. The glory of the Church does not shine in us wholly as long as we are in this body and as long as sin has a place in us; that happens when the flesh is “ceased to be” through death, then we can taste the promises of glory, given to those who have repented.

The Church is glorious in hope (or in the promise); and that is an eschatological truth (a truth of the age to come). Sin is nested in the human soul in which also dwells the call for glory and the capacity to taste the Kingdom to come. In other words, we long for and desire that glory; and that desire itself is only “some” of that glory the accomplishment of which takes place on the Last Day.

You live in a Church which is fragile due to our fall, and which is great due to God’s grace; and you long for holiness which you are granted in hope but is not fully realized in you. There is no full victory in this world but also there is no despair since sin does not swallow you completely; your soul stands on the promises of God and the Divine pledge.

What is true about all the brethren in this human reality does not mean that the believers are not on the paths of salvation even though they vary in the effort they make and their abilities. And according to the Orthodox tradition, there is no believer who is in Heaven except Mary who was raised from the dead, and those who shed their blood for the Lord. But all the other Saints, like everybody else, dwell in Hope.

The above mentioned is an exhortation to behold the spiritual beauty found in some people. When we talk about some of the Saints, it is not to attribute to them glory. This is only for Mary and those who have given their blood as martyrs for the Lord.

All that the Lord has given us He has done so as a word of promise; and a promise is somewhat a realization. Because of that the “march” towards Him lasts till the Lord takes us to Himself after death.

And the “march” or journey of some is so advanced to the extent that you see it as if it has reached Heaven. The Kingdom ever comes with Christ as He comes; and, in some people, He is so vested that you feel that they are His “presence”; we see the Lord directly in the Word and quite often we see Him in faces of those who have been illuminated; and it would be hard for us to make a distinction between their faces and that of the Lord.

Humanity thrives on those and the Lord bears testimony to Himself through them. And it is by virtue of those that the Lord does not get confined in His Heaven; as such He comes down to the earth making the earth another Heaven in which righteousness dwells.

Your soul seeks such people so that it gets refreshed. No human lives by himself, but he lives in the communion of love. That in Christianity is called “the Church”.

There is nothing like that because it is the radiance of the Divine Incarnation which “visits” us after few days (on Christmas day). All what Christianity has to say is that Man has become the dwelling of God on Earth. And when the Blessed One was crucified, God appeared coming to us in His poured blood; and in that “pouring down” He lifted us up to the Heavens.

To such light is all of humanity summoned. Except that that is not realized in all of humanity. The Light chooses how He reveals Himself. You do not dictate to the Lord how and where He reveals Himself. He chooses this the way He wishes. And it is up to you to recognize the “places” of His revelation in people.

There are those we can know in the beauty of their virtues and ignore their defects or not see them because we see the Lord in them. The saved are the dwelling of God. How does the Incarnation go on if we do not see it in the good ones who bestow on us their sweetness, gentleness and candidness? The above mentioned “Incarnation” is given to people who have made God their portion in life. You do not find God if you just seek Him; that is a way. But you can also find Him with those who have made Him their companion through obedience that is through selflessness; and you can receive Him in the “giving of yourself”. God is not in people who close themselves up from others; He is in the others and in you when you get in communion with each other. God is in such a type of people.

The spiritual life demands that those who are spiritual to get together. He who is spiritual should not be to himself. Of course there is light in him, but light is intensified by the coming of the righteous together. The meeting of the righteous results in an efficacy which is a product of their communion. Being together helps in spiritual efficacy. And such togetherness strengthens the Christians in their mission.

I am not one who condones cliquishness in the spiritual life. But the togetherness of the righteous makes their giving bounteous and multiplies it. Of course, the righteous do not make a party or show fanaticism, but in their togetherness God dwells. The wicked are numerous and they go their way; but the righteous shock them by their understanding, their profoundness and truthfulness; and their witness is strengthened by their togetherness.

The wicked are “destroyed” only through martyrdom; and their numerousness is not frightful. One righteous man does undo their evil completely. This is why it is necessary that the righteous cooperate together, not only in their purity, but also in their culture and steadfastness and togetherness; since such togetherness brings the presence of God in this world.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “عطاء الأبرار” – An Nahar – 22.12.2012

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Patriarch Ignatius / 15.12.2012

The great are few. One of them is the Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV. He left us and went to the Divine Compassion. As he was being buried, I felt that he was settling in the Kingdom of the Father. We longed for his stay among us. He left to “the infinitude”, to the dwelling in the quiet of his Lord and to “we missing him”.

His piety, as a priest, would draw people to it in such a way that you become indwelled with it and with what he has accomplished through that piety in the hearts of those he has pastored. That is what the Lord and those who love Him expect from the pastor. And as a pastor, he gave himself to all people, whether they were of his Church or other churches or people of this world.

He gave to the intellectual world what he has obtained through the intellect and he radiated with that; and I think that was his strong point. I have said what came above about a bishop who had a significant presence in this world. In that he reminds me of those great spiritual fathers who did not separate between what God inspires them with and that which their minds create; as such they gave the world what came down on them (from God). His Eminence Ignatius IV enjoyed both, divine and human wisdom; and humanity is a real pillar that holds the divine that comes down on us. I think the significance of this great late man dwells in that he was able to probe human knowledge in order to tell the skeptics that they do not have monopoly over free pure thinking but that people of the faith also have it.

Because of his life, as I read it, those who do not believe in God cannot claim that intellectual understanding and knowledge is something that belongs solely to them. In the realm of knowledge and understanding, the unbelievers are not more intelligent than those who believe. Patriarch Ignatius confirmed that through his intellectual exploits.

This great man was able to show that the pure intellect is not severed from simplicity. He had a simplicity, which was Jesus-like, that was fused with intelligence. In sharp words, he maintained the village-like humility with the sophistication of academia. At times his simplicity would be so amazing that those with him would wonder as to how that very intelligent man can combine between a bright enkindled mind and the child like expressions that he utters at times. Then one would also wonder about the nature of his faith or about its style because one would find him candid in his religious expression and yet very philosophical. And if one would classify the nature of his intellect you would say that he was brought up on a philosophical methodology without neglecting the simplicity of verbal expression.

He hides his simplicity with an expressive style behind which he remains obscure; I think he got that from a shyness inherited from the ways of asceticism. In that he used to hurt over those who do not have the fervor of faith, though he would be very patient with them. He learned patience from a long sufferance in our religious milieus and from seeing our weaknesses one of which is that the Church has not yet arrived at what She aspires for, to be the Bride of Christ. He used to see our lethargy; in spite of that, he was “a man of sorrows”, as Isaiah says, and at the same time, a man of great hopes.

Perhaps due to seeing what has not been realized (in the Church) and seeking what is aspired for, he became the “man of the institutions”. Did he think that the “institution” provides stability and makes one’s dream materializd? I think so. That was an expression of the pragmatic side of him. And that is what made him prefer what is practical over that which is theoretical.

That is noticed in his directorship of the Balamand and every educational institution and realm in our Church. And if I want to highlight his personality more, I would say that he was a pedagogue in all the different educational fields that he undertook both as an instructor and as a pastor in the Church. He was concerned that we would sink in what is purely theoretical and neglect to deal with the real problems of the Theological University and those of the Church. In both situations, he approached the matters concerned with more emphasis on the pastoral aspect than on the academic aspect. What was important was salvation and the practical outcomes of what we say or think of. For sure, and without any doubt pastoring meant suffering; and that showed in all what he endeavored. And shepherding starts in the heart and moves up to the mind; and so the late Patriarch used to oversee his heart through his mind. That makes the priest or the bishop in a tension between his theoretical convictions and the necessity of practical application or between the truth and dealing with people. How can you lead, using the religious texts, a group of people who are not acquainted with them? How can you maintain peace and truth, in your parish, at the same time? And in other words, how can you, as a teacher, instruct people in the faith yet, as a pastor, hammer it down in their minds in as much as they are able to receive it and make them ready to accept what the truth is? I think that he did not digress from the simplicity of living in all things. He did not see any conflict between simplicity and high culture. He used to amaze me how he blends both the simplicity of thinking and its complexity, in himself. You would find him that person who is strong in channeling paradoxes into one stream, as we say during Lent; he wanted to be rational and sensitive at the same time. In our worship, the mind and feelings blend; and that is something he had mastered. Perhaps his religiousity is founded on what it has of reasoning despite his Christ-like simplicity. And here I say that he did not care for positions and he did not accept them in order to raise himself above others. The Orthodox Church everywhere is fond of the image of the Deacon who is well read and yet does not seek positions. Those above you call you to hold positions for certain needs and you are expected to obey. You become a Patriarch who maintains in himself the spirit of the Deacon who prefers hymning and delighting in worship above all else. The Orthodox are “Liturgy” and all the rest is only added to them.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “البطريرك إغناطيوس” – An Nahar – 15.12.2012

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The Ancient Law and Faith / 09.12.2012

Paul’s big concern in his epistle to the Galatians was for us to become stable in the freedom that he liberated us with so that we stop being attached to Moses’ Law because we have reached faith. In order to clarify that we have rose through Christ in faith and that we have been justified through Him, the Apostle clarifies that we are saved through obedience for Christ. He also says expressions to indicate that the Jews that rejected Christ are slaves like the city of Jerusalem, and says that Christians – whether they were originally Pagans or Jews – are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

The main proof for the grace and freedom is the Christian experience of a new life in Christ. He urges all those who were under the Law that was read in synagogues to examine the results of adopting the Law instead of the grace as a road for salvation.

To clarify his position, the apostle interprets Ishmael and Isaac’s situations, the two sons of Abraham. Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, was a slave for Sarah, the mother of Isaac who was the son of the promise. The son of the servant was born according to the flesh. Sarah was ninety years old when she gave birth to Isaac. Here, Paul confirms that this was only possible because of faith. This is what he called “the promise”. Ishmael appeared without a promise, without any specified spiritual purpose and he had no contribution in the history of humanity, whereas Isaac’s offspring gave Christ.

Paul clarifies that Sarah and Hagar represent two covenants, one covenant is from Mount Sinai which is a mount in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem; actually, Mount Sinai, which is known up to this day with that name is found in Arabia lands and not in Egypt. Jerusalem, which didn’t reach the freedom of the Sons of God i.e. which stayed in its Jewish slavery is barren and didn’t give a spiritual birth to anyone i.e. stayed in the Jewish disbelief. However, we, who were born from the free Jerusalem, are the sons of the promise whether we descended from Isaac in flesh or didn’t because, through faith, we are the sons of Abraham. Those who didn’t believe in Christ were born according to the flesh, in the lusts of this world. These people persecute those who were born according to the spirit i.e. in the Holy Spirit through Baptism.

What does Paul conclude from the image of Sinai and that of the free Jerusalem? He means that those who stayed with Christ are the sons of the slave woman and do not inherit with the son of the free woman. Paul goes on after that to say that we are not the sons of the slave woman but of the free woman. We got liberated from the ancient Mosaic Law and became the sons of freedom. “You were called for freedom”; it is the freedom that Christ liberated us with not only from sin but also from the Law and made us the sons of love that became the New Law that we revive through. Therefore, we triumphed over the slavery of sin and of Law and our relationship became a direct one with God through the blood of Christ and His Resurrection.

Therefore, you have been liberated from sin in order to become living in the righteousness that comes to you from the faith in Jesus. This imposes on you the Law of love that is above all other laws. Through love, you would be coming from the depths of Christ and you would be sticking to love and love would be sticking to you as long as you are, through your behavior, a son of God.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الناموس القديم والإيمان” –Raiati 50- 09.12.2012

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Holiness or the Holy (The Saints)? / 08.12.2012

“One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ”. We gather from that quotation that holiness whether there is much or little of it, when attributed to a human being is relative and cannot be perfect in any creature.

We have not found absolute righteousness in the Saints though one sees high degrees of that and much of divine radiance and gifts. In this world, they were close to God to a great extent; so when we, the believers in the traditional churches, address them in our prayers, it is because we feel that they participate with us in our journey to God and our return to Him. But if we call our great Saints “christs”, it is because we see them as close to Christ and seated with Him in as much as they had of grace and truth.

And when we call them “mediators”, we have to keep in mind that “the sole mediator between God and Man” (1Timothy 2: 5) is the blessed Lord who is both Man and God; and those we call “the Saints” can mediate for us only through the sole mediation of Jesus Christ. So there is no place at all for the wrong popular belief that says that we invoke the Saints because they as humans are closer to us than the Lord is; on the contrary, those who know Jesus Christ find in Him the humanity which is whole in its pureness.

Those who have knowledge see that the Saints, whom we invoke, manifested their weaknesses when they were on this earth. Only the martyrs are received in utter glory. They do not yet dwell in full bliss before the time of the Resurrection and Judgment though they radiate holiness; for that radiance is that of the Trinity. No creature has light in himself; even those who have gone before us to Heaven have no grace of their own. Every grace that falls on a human being, whether he is still in this body or has passed on to Heaven, has descended on him from Above; he has received it from his God whether the Lord has kept him on this earth or has called him to Himself.

That is why when some Christians disagreed among themselves over the Saints they love most as to who is better, namely St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian, the Church established one feast day for those “Three Luminaries” to say that passing judgment on the holiness of the saints is a matter only the Lord can make judgment in and that will come out on the Last Day only.

What I said above does not stop some from getting to know the different virtues that the different Saints have; it does not also stop one from getting to know one Saint more than another; these are “spiritual tastes” which can be so among people. But to say that one Saint is specialized in one kind of love over another, or to say that we can resort to a certain saint for help in a certain special circumstance is a practice that has not been revealed by God to people.

It does not benefit us to compare among one saint and another. What is of benefit is to know them and imitate them. The drawback is that we know very little of them and that we do not seek to know. Yet I notice that many in our country show an emotional type of closeness to the prophet Elijah. They ask his intercessions frequently, and they build churches by his name, and invoke him for the healing of their sick children or kin. And I am confident that the only thing they know is that he intercedes for them before the Lord. But which among those believers know that he is of the Old Testament? How many among them know about his life and his clash with king Ahab and Queen Jezebel? Which among the people is sanctified with such knowledge of the Saints? I am shocked at this popular piety which is void of real substance.

I do not condemn anyone within the Orthodox realm but I get shocked that the attitude of many from the saints has nothing to do with Orthodoxy; as if there is a “popular” church based on people’s imagination and it has nothing to do with the real Church that Jesus Christ has founded.

Pastorally, it distresses me that some pastors know these diversions from the faith and they say: “Leave the people on their faith.” Such a statement is totally rejected because what was described as faith is not faith at all. It is myth itself; and we need to strike down myths in the same way our ancestors in the faith struck down the idols. Idols are often in the mind or in the soul and we have no right to keep idol worshippers in the Church.

The Church is not the people of a certain sect who call themselves Christians. She is the group of people whose faith is orthodox so they speak of God’s word as it came from Him and as it is interpreted by the fathers of the faith and theologians that we have. You believe only in what has been revealed, and when you believe you hope and love. You long for the holiness which is the perfect attribute of God, knowing that God has called you gods and has said: “Be holy as I am holy.” Though you are in the body on this earth, yet you are in the Heavelies when your mind becomes Heavenly. God registers you in the scroll of life as a deified man and as a seeker of Him. As such, Holiness is in seeking to be holy, perhaps.

You aim to be complete in your humanity like Christ is; you do not settle down for what is less than Christ, since what is less than Him is of this world. And you have transcended this world to dwell in the Heavens. It is He who has filled the chasm that sin has formed between this word and the one to come. That incites you to belong, in hope, to the world to come. Christ has come, and comes now, and will come again.

When you are His, you find yourself existing in every move He makes. Sin is that you contently accept to “put on” your weakness after the Apostle has said: “All those who are baptized in Christ have put on Christ.”

Holiness is in that nothing should separate between your being and your clothing which is Christ. Christ is happy to make you His clothing after you have accepted Him to be your clothing.

Holiness is in refusing to make a realm for yourself other than that of Christ. As you dwell in Him, He makes you His own. Then your face is His face, your body is His body, and your eyes are His eyes; and with those eyes you behold all that is around you.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “قداسة أم قديسون” – An Nahar – 08.12.2012

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Life in Light / 02.12.2012

After finishing his great theological words in his Epistle to the Ephesians, Apostle Paul reaches the behavioral aspect and warns believers from worthless speech. He goes on and says that Christians are a light in the Lord and he stimulates them to “live as children of light”; he also clarifies that this is what they become if they were filled with the Holy Spirit who is the source of every goodness, righteousness and truth.

His advice results in the fact that they should experience what pleases the Lord by leaving the “deeds of darkness”. He also encourages them to expose these deeds in their Christian brothers so that the whole Church becomes beautiful. We tend to hide the deed of darkness. Therefore, Paul encourages believers to show the deeds of light.

After stressing on the light, he quotes an old chant that was used in worship by saying: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”. He concludes from the fact that Christ is the light of the world by calling Christians to live “not as unwise but as wise because the days are evil”.

This was the general advice, to hold on to the wisdom of God (“Be wise as serpents”, as the Lord said). However, in order to live as the Lord wants us to, we must understand His will. His will is to keep his commandments, to take Him as an example and to try to be like Him.

Here, he gives an example of Christian behavior which doesn’t contain everything, but could be used as a standard: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery”. It is meant that getting drunken leads to rejecting chastity and this is what Paul calls “debauchery”. The basis in the issue of alcohol is to be used by man with moderation. In many Christian cultures, it is a normal drink; however, if a person fell in drunkenness he would be violating the commandment. “Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1Corinthians 6: 10). The tranquility of mind, which is absent in a drunkard, is something basic for believers. Gluttony and drunkenness are the same.

As a contrast of Drunkenness, Paul introduces “being filled with the spirit” which requires chastity. If you were filled with the Holy Spirit, you will become able to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit”. Here, we conclude that Christian worship (rituals) at Paul’s time, contained chants and not only readings.

Some people – including monks – rejected, since Paul’s time, the usage of tunes in chanting. However, the Church didn’t give this objection over music any importance and confirmed the usage of music in the East and the West (until the 13th century) without musical instruments. The Eastern Church believed that chanting with the human voice is enough to raise the soul towards God.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الحياة في النُّور” –Raiati 49- 02.12.2012

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The Adamancy of God / 01.12.2012

You do not make people; and God has thrown you into their hands and as such He does not save you from “beasts” which by nature are ravenous; and you are in a jungle though your desire is to live with lambs. Had the Lord wanted you to live in constant bliss, He would have customized a special society for you according to your wishes; but he did not do so; and sin seeped into the crevices of your brains and your mind and the folds of your heart. And things will remain like this since people do not repent and those who do are few and they get benefits from the sins they commit since so many of us are lovers of money, power and killing and they do not have the faith that God sends into the human soul. They do not believe, and this world is their only horizon; and judgment day imposes a high cost on them and much effort and confrontations with those in positions who themselves never tire of confronting.

And you cannot leave the world though you might desire to. And the people of the world want to control you. They get drunk with power and they make your life difficult and they try to win you to their delusion feeling at ease in that because virtue makes them “choke”; yet virtue does draw people to itself like sin does and if one is drawn to it (virtue) he will have much of it.

Delving in sin means delving in thick darkness from which you would not want to get out; and you might not think of getting out since that means that you have to live in the light so that your soul would not be a nest of snakes; and when the snakes bite you, you consider that your healing has to be miraculous.

And the world is under the Evil One since all what is in the world is “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the grandeur of life”. Those who delve into the world love its lusts and that has become their substance. They think their salvation is in finding pleasure in the world. They want to have new life; “what do I do to inherit eternal life?” they ask. You sometimes sense, in “big sinners “a longing for the new life that comes down from the Lord who is able to make every man new; as if no iniquity has nested in them. The human being cannot bring life out of himself. He is dead. He cannot enliven himself. Someone else has to give him life. Someone else has to raise him from the dead. And the greatest insinuation of the devil is to tell him: “Postpone that. Your life is in hating eternal life and in not longing for it. It costs you a great effort; and there is no pleasure in it like the pleasures you are swimming in.”

Rising from spiritual death to life is problematic after the dimming of God’s image in us. Who can do away with this darkness? That can happen when God comes to Man to destroy death. Christ has risen from the dead because He brought back His soul, that is His unending life, to His body that tasted death. That is a miracle. Man cannot live anew except through a miracle, and the miracle implies that which does not come from Man; but that which comes down on Man. And due to that, repentance is a rebirth. Man does not make repentance. It falls down on you as Grace. Man receives it and confesses that it is grace; if you think that you make it, you die in your pride.

The only thing in your capacity is to receive Grace. It is Grace that opens your heart so it can dwell in it. A new creation takes place in you. You become a new creation. That is what Paul said:”By grace you are saved”. You do nothing and are nothing in that and do not give life to yourself. The Holy Spirit alone is the giver of life.

If you fall in sin again, then you would ask yourself as to how you would be illumined again. Paul does not make it clear as to how to rise up again. He gets very disturbed due to that. He is very concerned that no means of salvation remains for us. The only thing he can do is to seek Grace, to call on the Holy Spirit to dwell anew in the human soul. We find an existential perplexity in Paul concerning the problem of rising after having fallen. He cannot understand how Man can have life outside Christ. How Christ remains dwelling in you through one Baptism. Where does Baptism go after one’s falling? How does one live again through the resurrection of the Savior? Do you have real existence if you do not abide in Christ? Those are questions one lives through with pain. If you obtain the miracle of Salvation, you do not have an explanation for that miracle. You only can receive and accept it.

In that we have a heritage from Pascal who said: “Kneel down and pray, whether you feel like it or not”. I have not found such talk in the ascetic tradition of the East, but that is very beneficial and reasonable pastorally. Ask him who has questions about the faith, or even the disbeliever, to accompany you to Church; he might hear a new voice or touch a grace that descends on him.

Some of those who disbelieve speak of a conversion that has happened to them but they did not turn to God. In fact it is God who turns towards you and He chooses the means that He sees fit. Train yourself to receive grace. Train yourself as much as you can but that does not mean that you can order God to pour His grace on you.

The Fathers said that you should understand the words of the prayers you pray. But that does not mean that you have to feel the words. But say the prayers; you might be “ordering” God to come to you. Cast yourself on Him. Throw yourself into His bosom. He would probably gather you to Himself and embrace you. He always feels that you are His son. The Lord always creates means for you to get closer to Him. And when He sees you from far and He knows that you are a prodigal, He would forget that, since He is certain that when you are in His embrace you will hear His heartbeat and understand that His heart beats for your sake. He longs for your heart to get back to Him.

He moves your heart in a miraculous way that He had not shown you before. He is always the one who performs wonders. We say God is “Wonderful in His Saints”. And I would say He is wonderful in His “sinners”. The sinners are His; and He “uttered” that when He accepted the sinners to nail His Christ to the Cross. And if they (the sinners) accept His blood as salvation for them, their adamancy (of sin) leaves them so that it will be replaced with His “adamancy”; that is His love.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “عناد الله” – An Nahar – 01.12.2012

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