Monthly Archives

May 2013

2013, An-Nahar, Articles

From Pascha to Pascha / 25.05.2013

We believe that despite of Man’s corruption, he carries in him the seed of salvation. What the West calls “Original Sin”, meaning that it is inherited from Adam with the guilt resulting from it, is unaccepted in Eastern Orthodoxy. There is no inheriting of guilt. Human nature, as we understand it, has been stained and became corrupt but it did not become a “moral nothingness”. There is in Man a certain receptivity to the Lord or a certain Divine Effect. There is in Man a goodness that co-lives with sin; as if it is its companion. We do not find in the human being total corruption; neither do we find in it full righteousness. These are things that get mixed together in the human soul. I know souls who are very transparent, but I have not found people whose “light” takes away all the darkness inside us. Holiness is a yearning; and before the final resurrection, there is no complete holiness. And when we speak of perfection, we do not speak of a finalized state of reality but of a calling. And what the Savior meant saying: “Be perfect” is for us to keep on seeking perfection. There is no perfect human being, neither in Heaven nor at the Last judgment.  We never say, at the canonizing of a Saint, that he is sinless. We say that he has been a model of those who seek for holiness and that such seeking is his main concern. When God says: “Be holy”, He means it to be a call to an on-going yearning for holiness, and does not mean that holiness is poured in you once and for all. If virtue is poured wholly in us, then we would not be in need to pray for it. “The Kingdom of God is within you” means that you are walking to that kingdom; and that kingdom is not fully realized in any of us before the Last Day.

You have to live as if each day of your life is the day on which you receive the crown of glory; but Christ crowns you with that crown only after death and resurrection; when righteousness shines in the glorified humanity.

It is a great training in humility for one to see himself broken and to appear as bandaged before the Lord. And in our invocation of the Saints, we do not proclaim that they have received full righteousness, but we hope they, where they are, participate with us in prayer so that the community of Saints is realized, of those that have become perfect and those who are still not. All the righteous ones are in the state of yearning to what the Savior will give them, but in our theological understanding they have not yet attained Perfection.

I was once asked whether Mary is in Heaven in the body. I answered that we have not defined the matter theologically despite my personal conviction of that and despite all the hymns in our services that imply that. And I added that since there is no theological definition of that, I personally believe that Mary is in Glory and that her body did not go through corruption. Of course I realize that only those who are “in love” would say that.

You call on the Saints in the Traditional Church because “God is not a god of the dead but of those who are alive”. The Saints are our friends and that is why they lead us in our prayers though they are absent in the body. I cannot accept that Mary is not there to lead me in prayer when I stand in the presence of God. St. John Chrysostom says in his Easter sermon that no dead still remain in the tombs. And when we sing on Easter “Christ has risen from the dead” sixty times, we signify that there has been a certain motion towards the light of the Trinity as we sing. Our singing is light and that is what we carry from one Sunday to the next since, beside the Pascha feast, every Sunday, for us, is a feast and the “Sunday feast” overshadows all feasting.

Our life is a Pascha. We want it like that. And we yearn to be so since in Pascha, which means “passing”, the one we want to “pass on” to is the Savior. We hear Jeremiah saying: “The breath of our mouth is the Messiah of the Lord.” We hope not to fall in the confusion that the disciples fell into before the Resurrection, since such confusion is a “non – Christ”.

Christ, through His Cross, becomes everything in us so that He daily reveals to us the power of His resurrection in the victory we obtain over sin.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “من فصح إلى فصح” – An Nahar – 25.05.2013

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2013, An-Nahar, Articles

The Eighth Day / 11.05.2013

On the Sunday, the eighth day after the resurrection, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus opens what is closed. He opens all horizons before the eyes and the minds. He breaks open blocks and walls of this world so we can go with Him to all realms; so we can expand with Him to the infinite; to roam this world and what is beyond it; to break into the doors of Heaven since we are no more afraid of those who have been His enemies and those who, out of ignorance, make themselves His enemies.

He appeared to them while the doors were locked. He opens all what is locked and He opens Death to Life. When you behold Him, you stop looking for anything else. That is because He is the one who comes today and tomorrow and no one succeeds Him. In the Orthodox Church, the Church of the roots, we do not say that He has a successor since succession implies time in it, and Christ is beyond time. Time receives its meaning and content from Him. He did not become Man so that He would have a successor; a successor is usually the one who comes after, but Jesus has no one before Him, and after Him there is no one. Anything said about Him other than the above would be the words of humans who try to understand history while He has “kidnapped” all histories to Himself.

He appeared to them while the doors were locked; they were locked in themselves, but the doors were not locked for Him. And when He went through them, He told those He loved “Peace be with you”. That seems to be a greeting but in fact He wanted to give them Peace, that is reconciliation with God and with existence; and that requires the descent of the Lord to the kingdom of death to uproot it and establish the Kingdom of Life.

The locked doors between people are not opened in their times, but Christ broke them because there is much resentment in the hearts which are in need of  Jesus entering them to remove resentments; and so, hearts do not come together unless Grace is poured upon them to bring about that meeting. Man is not a machine when it comes to the affairs of his life. He needs the God who puts in him (Man) His tenderness so that the hardness goes away. If the Lord does not dwell in Man’s heart, then he would easily receive beauties which are fake. The person, whom God has not filled with His presence, is liable to welcome to himself all what is ugly.

We believe that the one who opens the heart of humans is Jesus of Nazareth the meek and humble of heart; and, in the Divine Mystery, that means that He pours His heart in the hearts of those who are meek to make them like God’s heart.

Jesus stood among them while the doors were locked and said: “Peace be upon you”. “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give you.” The issue between you and God is that you are His “enemy” due to sin. And sin does not leave unless God removes it through His peace; that is when He puts you in a state of peace with His Father.

After the Lord greeted them they rejoiced at beholding Him. The Lord beholds us first with a tenderness from Him so that we become able to behold Him. What did they see? And how did they see Him? The Bible says that they saw Him with the marks of His wounds. And since one of them was in doubt, the Savior appeared to him and told him: “Put your finger here and see my hands and put your hand and see my side and do not be unbelieving”. The Savior accepted that Thomas should believe in Him not by just believing, but by touching Him. The Lord goes down to the state of doubt the disciple was in, not minding that he would ask something from Him. That is the meeting between the One who grants us faith and the person who doubts.

Jesus did not deal with the doubt by reprimanding doubter. He brought Himself down to the state of the doubter because He meets the sinner where he is and grants him peace as He gave peace to the prostitute saying: “Go in peace and sin not anymore.” He did not cover her sinfulness. He mentioned it in the second part of what He told her. After Jesus puts the sinner at ease and makes peace with him, He reminds him that his times to come are days of repentance. And repentance is a “shake” before one is put at ease. And repentance is a language, one of turning back to God’s face; and that means a leaving of all the aspects of sin. And if it is not a total breaking up with sin, repentance then would be just “jesting”. Repentance is tough in that it does not accept to co-habit with any form of sin. There is no room in repentance to make peace with any “particle” of evil. You either break up with evil or you do not. And if you remain with one aspect of sin, you die.

What is difficult with our life with God is that He does not accept to dwell with any other god. And all other gods are false since they come from the deadly lusts that are in us.

It seems that God forms “deserts” in our hearts. And you remain in the desert if you do not seek the waters that He makes to spring in that desert. And you dwell with your God in the dryness that is around you or the one that is in you. You dwell with the Lord just as you are, without any condition on your part. If you get to that, then no locked doors would remain in you. All blocks would fall down and you would walk towards Him in the freedom He gives. And that walk itself would be lifeless unless you throw yourself in the bosom of the Lord totally and finally. For all what there is in the world is to behold Him and that is stronger than faith; that is love. And with total love you will have the Lord fully, and He takes away from you all the traces of fear since “Love casts out fear”.

It is not wrong to want to “touch” (like Thomas), but there is no real “touching” except through love. Is not love in its true meaning a “touching” of the Lord? In that sense Love is more powerful than faith. St. Paul says that our state is as such until we get to see Him face to face. And the “seeing” is cleaving to Him. Tradition says that the vision in its full state is coming; and that does not hold us from anticipating the “seeing” with love. “Seeing” is cleaving, and that is the highest level among the levels of love.

For us who follow Jesus of Nazareth, love comes from His resurrection because the resurrection is the victory over death. And that victory is the continuity of His resurrection in us and in the world. I understand those who do not believe in His resurrection when they tell me “Is not there for us a spiritual life that descends on us directly from God? Why does it have to go through Christ to reach us?”

I do not deny anyone the descent of Grace on him, but I have heard the Nazarene say: “No one comes to the Father but by me”. And I tried to go after that word of His. Who am I to deny the faith of those who say that they get to His Father without Him? To get to the Father directly or to get to Him through Christ as the way, is an option that does not mean anything to me. Since I see that any course to God has Christ in its core. For me, the Nazarene’s Face and that of His Father do not make an option for me. They are the same. “Who has seen me, has seen the Father”.

Every meeting with Christ has in it a revelation of God’s face. It is true that St. Paul said that Christ is the mediator between us and God. That is a statement concerning His humanity, but His Book also says that He (Christ) is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Is the Father the End of Ends? No doubt, it is there that we are lulled and rested.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “اليوم الثامن” – An Nahar – 11.05.2013

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2013, An-Nahar, Articles

The Feast Has Come / 03.05.2013

“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. [John 6:54] This does not need much interpretation. Our noble teachers have said that flesh is the self and blood is the life. There is no need for further hermeneutics. Who am I to add anything? No further utterance is needed. Is His body His words? Whenever we understand the philosophy of the good Book we believe in this and we realize what is deeper, that His words were He.

There is no debate in this. The Saints who have interpreted that His body is the offering [namely the offered elements at the Holy Communion], they were right, and whoever has said that it is His teaching they were also right. If His teaching was Himself, then the offering is also Himself. In the mystery of your person, is there any unity between the words of your Gospel and whatever you have called as your body and blood? Whoever knows the depth of God’s thought knows that the talk [of the Lord] about His body and blood is a talk about His self and there is no further talk beyond the talk on His self, until on the Last Day we understand everything.

However, only the intimate ones might understand all this. Make us Lord from those intimate ones, so that I might understand something of Your self. Whenever you graciously forgive our sins we would be given to understand. You have said: “My son, give me your heart.” [Pro. 23: 26] And by that you wanted that we empty the heart from anything other than You, so that understanding might not be hindered.

The Feast comes to the Easterners after few days and we accept it in anticipation of the love since we know that we live through it. We live with the longing that Christ will annihilate our sins, namely with the assurance that victory is coming in us through the promise of the life which is transmitted from Him to us and to the world.

Everything in Christianity is an event and a promise. Faith is faith on a reality which brings you salvation. And reality is partly a past event, which could be historically proven by witnesses. Logically, an event does not need more than a real proof through witnesses and documents. Nevertheless, the New Testament insisted to consider the death of Christ a faith issue, namely that which is more than a historical event. [The historicity of the event] would be asserted by any atheist historian had he / [she] lived at that time. Hence, any claim which negates the death [of Jesus] would not be a historical statement, rather a creedal [doctrinal] position and there is no room [here] to discuss that.

Hence, we do not have to respond to those who claim that He did not die. This would be the case whenever we comport ourselves with the logic of a historical reality. However, if we do not comport with this logic, then we would need to abandon the historical methodology in order to assume a dogmatic methodology.

In their claim of the death [of Jesus] Christians base their argument on the Roman pagan sources, and they support this argument with their historical documentations, and not merely as part of their dogmas. The Gospel, whether you believe in it or not, as a historical reference from the first century and partly from the beginning of the second century, is a well-established document with the testimonies of the witnesses and their followers, who left their traces to us from that time. Thus, [here is] the difficulty of falsifying the early Christianity [especially that] it has stated incidents evidenced by manuscripts. You cannot prove scientifically that the one whom the disciples met “after resurrection” is the same crucified one, since this is a question of faith. However, if you were educated, and you were not subject to a dogmatic position you cannot deny His crucifixion as a physical event. Hence, [in an attempt to understand resurrection] you will have to rely on what you think is revelation, i.e. an interpretation of a dogmatic text. And then, interpretative texts would be set opposite to other texts which you consider as interpretative.

The essence of Christianity is the belief that the death of Jesus the Nazarene was a physical/[historical] event which occurred under the mandate of Pontius Pilate over Judea about the year thirty-six A.D. About this there is no discussion. The importance of the Christian position, concerning the death of the Nazarene, is in that Jesus the Nazarene’s execution by Pilate does not only depend on the testimony of the Gospels.

The strength of the Christian position, concerning the [historical] reality of the Nazarene’s death, is that it is grounded not in your faith, but in the avowal of the Roman pagan records which indicate this death.

You are free not to accept to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior, since this is not of history. However, you are not free not to accept that He died, unless you take a position which the historical reality does not acknowledge. Christians add to this saying that His death is a question of faith, since they perceive in this death a salvific value.

We do not come to the reality of His death from our faith, but we construct our faith upon the reality of the cross, and it is mentioned in the Roman texts.

Our question with those who do not think as we do is that we are a religion, the reality of which is established in its sources. Yes, reality does not require any kind of faith from you; however, whenever faith does not rely on reality it would be independent completely of history.

We are a religion of which the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene is an essential element, His wonders in Palestine and His teachings. Much of this has already become material for historical examination and some of it is object of [faith] ratification. I say here that the resurrection of the Savior belongs to [faith] ratification, since you cannot prove rationally that the one whom many disciples have met after resurrection is the one actually raised [from the dead]. This belongs to faith. Faith does not oppose science, however it neither originates in science nor does its method resemble the scientific methods.

All faith ratification is in the heart of the believer. This does not mean that faith is irrelevant to the facts. Nevertheless, if faith has no contact with reality it would be the creation of imagination.

From this perspective, what does the resurrection of Jesus the Nazarene mean to us? The Gospels tell that this whom His followers saw, the One who died, is the same who has risen. They do not tell anything else. They do not speak of a revivification of a corpse. They do not describe Jesus’ transition from a state of death to a state of life or of resuscitation. They say that this whom you see now alive is the one hanged on a wood. But how this transition, from a state of death to a state of life, has taken place the texts have not mentioned this.

The Gospels were concerned to ascertain that after the complete slaughter of Jesus the Nazarene on the cross, He has appeared alive, He ate and drank and stayed alive and He appeared to His brothers and they touched Him. He inaugurated a new life in the world, and different kind of humans. He willingly has challenged death with amazing courage and with longing toward resurrection. This is possible [however] only through love of Jesus’ the Nazarene.

All the journeys of early Christians, and the later ones, indicate that many of the pleasures of the world did not attract them. From all the Roman and the Soviet documents on the martyrs you might see that that which kept Christians alive was greater than death, they carried [within themselves] a mystery which is not possible to explain psychologically. How did they die in the Roman Empire, generation after generation, crushed, and expecting nothing other than an unseen glory? What is the mystery [or the secret] behind their acceptance to live in poverty and remain the beloved ones of the Lord, being exposed to hatred of their persecutors and the mocking of many?

How do beasts eat your meats and you do not wail and your wives tell their children not to weep because of their being preyed upon? All this remained mystery, closed to the minds, until the martyrs, in the voice of Ignatius the Antioch, asked to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts so that they might become “an acceptable sacrifice for Christ”.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “أتى العيد” –An Nahar- 03.05.2013

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