2003, An-Nahar, Articles

The Holy Spirit / 14.06.2003

God has ultimately come to us in Christ Jesus; yet the question remains as to how Christ continues in us after having left this world? Some have said that His presence continues in us through the Bible; and that is what all Christians believe. And it was said that His presence continues in the Church; and that is what the Traditional Churches strongly believe in. But when the Lord comes to us with His words and revelations (like Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist) we need to appropriate the words and have them reach our hearts; the lukewarm will not pick any of God’s words but the believer whose heart is on fire for the Lord will live by them and also by them move to further depths with God. You can internalize the inspiring Word; but God can also instill it in you.

The ongoing Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit is to activate in your soul the Sacramental grace thus renewing the power given you and making it functional in you and the community you belong to. The work of the Holy Spirit is that the death and resurrection of Jesus are active in you now; also that you bridge the gap of time and have Christ, after His ascension, always come down afresh on you and the people you are with.

In the Epistle of the feast of Pentecost, we read: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.”

“In one place” and with one heart and one expectation; that is what the Church is about. You must be of the community who received the Scriptures so that you inherit the Spirit; that is you have to follow the words that Jesus has spoken. Grace has to fill the whole house because it (the house) is founded on obeying Him. Then fire from Heaven will descend on you and all of your being will be turned to “fire”. And that is what the New Testament calls the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And the fire in you might be enkindled always – a great fire. And when others find you fully given to the word of God, that word which has become alive in you will inspire you with “new words” that give new life to you and those with you.

This is why the Church has life through those who in Her are “alive”. She is not an institution with a hierarchy of those who are above and others who sit at their feet. There is none above and none below. All of them speak in the Spirit who is in them. There are no classes in the Church. And in our Tradition, we choose for the priesthood those who are illuminated and for the episcopate those who are deified; that is those who transcend their passions. So the priesthood is not an office which those who hold are there to obey those above them, but they are there because they have received it from God in this earthly life. So the Bishop is so only if the “fire” descends on him; and through Him (the Spirit) he (the bishop) listens to what He (the Spirit) has to say to the Church. And the Church here does not mean certain groupings exclusively, but the individuals that the Spirit has anointed. Such individuals who are in a position to exhort the Bishop, whom they consider to be anointed of God, meekly and humbly in the name of the Holiness of the Church. To both, Bishop and people, the truth of the hymn we sing for the feast of Pentecost has been revealed: “The Holy Spirit is light and life and a spiritual spring of living waters, the spirit of Wisdom and Knowledge; He is good, upright, active. He purifies from wrongdoing, He is God, and the One who deifies, fire of fire; He speaks to us and distributes His gifts to us….” The Spirit as the distributor of the gifts is an essential truth that fosters our togetherness in one body. One is gifted to serve the poor, and another for teaching and another for preaching and another for administration and another for works of mercy and all are bound in love. So let no one despise the other and let not one consider the gift he has better than that of another. And when we consider the Fathers of the Church, we find the same gifts distributed among them in the same pattern; we find one more gifted in something than another. We also find them disparate in their theological knowledge and abilities and depth in theological thought and intelligence. So you might find those among them who are less dazzling, very active in serving the poor. In all that they make the One Church. And in that the human being becomes a word (God’s word).

It seems that the conflict between the Eastern and Western Churches on the procession of the Holy Spirit (as to whether He proceeds from the Father as the East says or from the Father and the Son as the West says) is being resolved after Rome has issued a theological document in which there is much similarity to the position of the East from that matter. And as I see things, the Orthodox Church will not stir up the old conflict when the dialogue between the Churches is resumed. Yet the good thing resulting from that is that the Holy Spirit who was not adequately prominent in Catholic teaching has started to show in both, teachings and life (practice). But at any rate those who are filled with the Holy Spirit are one in all churches. Holiness is the same anywhere though different churhces use different expressions in talking about it. Holiness shines brightly as the sun in the lives of many here. In the Orthodox Church, each of the Patriarchates proclaims its own Saints.

Is the Holy Spirit sent to those who do not belong to the Church? This is a very delicate question. Thirty years ago I have lauched an understanding expressed as “Christ as existing in the ‘night’ of religions”; I meant by that the latent or concealed truth in those religions that is the truth which God sends to whoever He wishes. And after those thirty years, I am here to say that when one does not reject or oppose the gospel openly, that means that its words have found a way to his heart though he might not be too involved with it. Yet I am more inclined to say that I refrain from evaluating religions in their doctrines but I cannot but notice people of those religions who are pure in their ways; and if such purity is very prominent then it comes from the spirit of holiness, since human effort on its own is not a source of purity. Of course there is nothing wrong in saying that the Church is extends beyond the present Christian community. I consider that when the Hallaj (A Muslim mystic), as he was praying, says when his hands were cut off: “Two prostrations in love, the only ablutions of which is blood.” I see in that the Spirit descending on him with martyrdom and the he is gathered to the cross of Jesus.

Thinking of the above, a prayer of a Byzantine saint, Symeon the new Theologian, comes to mind: “Come O true light. Come O eternal life. Come O great mystery. Come O who cannot be understood and uttered. Come O light in whom there is no darkness. Come O hope who desires all to be saved. Come O resurrection of those who are dead. Come O immutable one who is always on the move; come to those who are in hell. Your name no one utters…….come O whom my soul loves. Come by yourself only for me. Come O who has separated me from all and made me lonesome in this world and have become my desire and wanted me to want you. Come O unreachable One.”

And so with things as those the Spirit has enriched us; and the poor in spirit found life in Him on the hope that the world will be set on fire by Him – fire that makes this world mere light.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الروح القدس” –An Nahar- 14.06.2003

Continue reading
2003, An-Nahar, Articles

Oh Jesus of Nazareth / 19.04.2003

No one would ever author you my Lord. You authored the universe with your blood. Only your blood is true utterance. Only your blood is the word, and through it we got to know that God is unique in that He loves. We are towards You because of that freedom with which you removed slavery from the meaning of religion saying that we are beloved of yours and that we have a daring with your father because we are of his house.

You tell of all of your father’s inner being, you reveal His compassion and from it comes forth all that is tender, coming into the core of our pain, to the hearts of the myriads of sinners; So the compassion of your father is captured with our eyes so we can see the ultimate truth that God has sent you so you would tell of Him (reveal Him) nailed to the cross in what seems to be His weakness.

 You have refused to come down from the cross because had you done that they would have kept on thinking that God would bring them signs and miracles from him, and you did not want any sign for them except that of you stranded on the cross. With that death you joined the game that the devil wanted for you because he thought he could conquer you with what is his, that is death. It did not occur to him that a human being would volunteer to die out of love and that only love is able to destroy death.

No poet in the world is able to put together a love verse like the one you uttered with your suffering and blood. The people who lived south of us (in Palestine) were told, before you were born, that they were loved by their Lord. But they did not believe that because they were under the yoke of misery, the misery of their sins and they did not even dream that that God is the one able to lift from them the burdens that laid heavy on their souls.  

All human beings knew that God is able to shake the world, but one did not know truly that he is God’s beloved and that through this love he is equipped to be greater than the universe and more effective than all its elements.

Oh Jesus of Nazareth! If it happens that I think of you independently of the faith I have in you, I would have told the people who are well versed in human civilizations that no one before you or after you or those that lived at your times ever spoke about love like you did. Their words were ethical commandments close to poetic verse. But you said: “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you.” You might gather form the dialogues of Plato and the amiableness of Plotinus something that resembles love, and one could find some hints for it in the ancient mythology of the East, yet I do not know in the ancient writings, those of religion and those of literature, one who spoke (about love and other) with the impetus and the wholeness of what you uttered.

Yet that was not the moat excellent. The most excellent is that you said: “… I have loved you”. That is I have loved you till the end, till death. And above all that is that you revealed your love for Man in the reality of your body and blood. I know no one born of a woman who did not have a discrepancy between what he said and what he did. Let us consider for instance the Way you have established the followers of which were called Christians in Antioch. Those followers, the greatest among them, are “midgets “compared with you. All the Saints are small in that sense. Those among them that slightly measure up to you, are those that have shed their blood (for Christ). You alone in the history of Man had no discrepancy between what you said and what you lived. Even your enemies who have written against you could not but testify to that.

Bishop George Khodre

 April 19, 2003

The sermon on the mount of Mathew and Luke, and the farewell discourse of John are two summits (of literature) which no one can read and remain the same after having read them if one does that comprehending what he reads. And there are sections of the gospels that one does not find them of greater spiritual value than other books. There are texts of religious thought whether before you or after you, that are more beautiful in expression and more profound than what you have said. In the world there are very capturing ecstatic sparks that we do not find like them in your gospel; and people get mesmerized with the enchantment there is in language. but that’s not how your Good News (gospel) is read. The whole of it, from its alpha to its omega, is associated with the blood you, on the cross, have poured. You did not seek eloquence of speech; you are a carpenter and the friend of fishermen. You are not so keen on the glitter of words. Nothing indicates that you have were skilled at rhetoric; and if people are drawn to you because of it (rhetoric), they would not be drawn to the Divine presence hidden in you but only to what is external of you.

Love oh my Lord, is in the capacity of God only. But you have brought that down to the level of Mankind making them, courtesy of you, to live that love. There are many sides to love. But what draws my attention most, I, the author of this invocation, is that your love among humans, utters and forges forgiveness. You have forgiven the Jews because they did not know what they were doing. You ask more of your followers for you want them to forgive those who hurt them and who constantly work wound them and to slander them. You say that you have to forgive him who deliberately and intentionally seeks to destroy you and your affairs. You have to forgive him unconditionally without him asking you and without you asking anything of him in return. And all that because you want him to be of the children of the Kingdom. And you want him greater than you because the kingdom is for all God’s children and it is open for thieves and murderers to enter because those also are your loved ones and because you might have been one of them whether consciously or unconsciously. Such love oh Lord is what draws me to you most, oh Master of the hearts that are wounded by your kindness and meekness.

Oh sweetest Jesus! Dwell in the hearts of the poor and the vagabonds on this earth, those who follow you and those who haven’t heard of you. All of them are yours because of the love that you have for all the same. Be with the children whose parents neglect them leading them to impunities. Help people oppressed with illness and be the companion of those who are alone in their sorrows. And for married couples be a bond of unity and a caretaker of their children. Take into your care the peoples who are called underdeveloped by the great of the Earth. They are the apple of your eye oh My Savior. Tell those oppressed that you have come to relieve them from oppression. You are against the oppressor until he repents to you.

Wipe oh Lord every tear from our eyes so that weeping would cease from the face of the earth and Joy would be a resurrection.

Translated by Riad Mofarej

Original Text: “يا يسوع الناصري” – 19.04.2003

Continue reading
2003, An-Nahar, Articles

The intellect of George Bush and his demeanor / 15.03.2003

We are in a theological disagreement with George Bush even before we start criticizing his conduct. This disagreement, if you want, is about his ambiguous theory concerning the viability of the divine promise of the Promised Land.  The disagreement is about what divine promise of land for a chosen nation, no matter, was it Hebraic or American. The founding fathers of what became to be the United States were saturated with Jewish perceptive of the Old Testament, that is, they took its literal meaning to be perpetual. The Zionist movement did not start yet immigrating to that country, when these founding fathers arrived to the new world; why then this land was called with a biblical name borrowed from the “new earth” of the book of Revelation (Rev 21: 1; Isa 65: 17), despite the fact that for us it symbolically represents the longed-for Kingdom of Heaven? Those fathers, fleeing persecution in their native England, sought for a world of justice similar to the world of the Second Coming of Christ. The founders felt that they were called to live the evangelical purity there, and after the secularization of their society, this purity was called “democracy and freedom” which they, later on, confused with the concept of God by the very indication that their children have inscribed on their currency: “in God we trust”; in a manner that, when dealing in dollars and making a more or less profit, they linked it to God and started believing that He rewards with this money.

Max Weber believes, and he might be right, that capitalism flourished first in Calvinist environments, which echoes the subject of “material blessings” rewarded to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in numbers of sheep as symbols of God’s contentment for them in the Old Testament, forgetting that the Nazarene poor came and preached that all material belongings are but nothing, and that the poor shall inherit the Kingdom of God.  Nothing in common can unite between pursuing more dollars in this country and between the ascetic way that flourished and continue today in old Christian Tradition or in the Muslim Zuhd [ascetic] movement.

Americans kept this spirituality until the appearance of the Zionist movement whatever origin it may have come from. This movement has a characteristic that keeps it seeking after these Old Testament’s “material blessings” and after the promise of a land for the offspring of Abraham, although the link of today’s Jew to Abraham had become weak in numbers, because nowadays great Jewish numbers are coming mainly from conversion [Khazar] and are not physically descendants of Abraham…

But many of the West’s people saw in the founding of the Sate of Israel the fulfillment of the Promised Land in its flourished agriculture etc… Many spiritual leaders led their flock to visit occupied Palestine to show them God’s blessings for Abraham fulfilled anew.

We had the occasion, some of my Arab Christian colleagues and myself, to meet and discuss with theologians and biblical interprets in Lebanon, especially those coming from Holland believed that the State of Israel and Ancient Israel are one and the same, and that the proof of the authenticity of the Old Testament is in its accomplishment today in the founding of the State of Israel; later on, this wave passed away, and they understood how to differentiate between the Zionist organization and the Land which God promised to Abraham.

But this movement has awakened today in the United States and its followers believe that all Jews have to gather in Palestine as a staging point of their conversion to Christianity and the Second Coming of the Savior. Jew believers dislike this theory off course because they are enemies with Jesus of Nazareth, but they use this movement because it is serving their political program of violating Palestine.

Here we have then an alteration of the original plan of the founding fathers of the American nation. This alteration enabled the declaration that the Promised Land is Palestine besides that America is still the “Blessed Land”. This last statement is Zionist but on a different soil. There is no difference if the Zionism was Americanized in planting it in the new world or if it was Hebraized in planting it in Palestine because the common task between the two plans is nailing God’s promises to a land, notwithstanding that Christ freed us from lands, from soils and from everything related to possessions because He has become the King, the Kingdom, the Promised Place and the end of all promises.

In an Orthodox reading of the New Testament you are no more prisoner of the Hebraic reading of the Old Testament because you shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the coming Savior in Heavens. We have then a serious disagreement concerning the very essence of our faith with George Bush and with his fellow members dominating the Republican Party.

In their courses, great American presidents until Eisenhower (included) held fast to the heritage of freedom even if they believed that money played a guarantor of freedom. This course was ruined when the American nation started cooperating with dictatorships and militarized regimes in Africa and Latin America in the very manner taught by Henry Kissinger who also wrote about it. Here we discover a new revelation: instead of calling for freedom, now freedom and democracy are to be imposed upon other nations. This exactly is the definition of an empire. Firstly, America shifted from the phase of preaching freedom, to the phase of destabilizing small nations (they’re all small now), in order to finish by creating free “satellite” nations.

I only want to note that the old American calling was replaced with a new system, democratic by appearance, but mandating by essence. This mandate over the earth’s nations is not authorized by the U.N., which created this system, but this mandate is directly commissioned from God because America is well pleasing to God as it declares it on its dollar.

In this historic drift from its initial calling, the United States will invade Iraq as it appears. This will involve genocide or mass destruction of an innocent people. I won’t, in this case, add to what it has been said over the illegitimacy of this war, because I read the complete reports by both chief weapon inspectors. But the decision to kill Iraq has been taken. We, the genuine children of freedom and real purity, will stand with those led to the slaughter. We will pray with all the nations praying for peace. We are united in solidarity for Iraq, despite our different religious beliefs, and we shall stand united even if the East was hit by a terrible earthquake. Perhaps the choc may enlighten our conscience and for this we shall thank God.  Maybe some comforting, we may draw from the fact that crowds in many nations started understanding how much humiliated and mistreated is the Arab world surrounding Iraq.  Mayhap this great feeling shall help us curing our sores, and healing us from the hate of foreigners.  For it clearly appeared now that all peoples are good and cordial and understand that cooperation and dignity are the spirituality that must bring us together.

And after that we comprehended how bad is the international violence, we understand that violence on Arabic soil must cease and be replaced with clear and quite minds in course of control. I don’t mean by this the international relations, because this is ruled by political logic; but I wish for these nations to become mirrors reflecting their peoples yearning for life in peace. There are no warring nations, but rather there are conflicting interests and I pray that wisdom may overcome it.

Moreover, we witness now, in the Arab world, a very strong accord between Muslims and Christians. We should encourage this spirit, as we have done in the past, in general, in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Our hope is to transfigure this Middle Eastern land to an example of coexistence. Good intentions alone are not enough; we need to re-establish our mentality on mutual respect and acceptance of the other.

In front of the upcoming crisis we must believe in God and in His inspirations. The secret of the Resurrection is in our souls. If the tragedy befalls on us, we will not lose hope, but shall endure patiently until death is cast out from this East.

After the calamity we shall be renewed to become serious, very serious to participate in the spiritual, cultural and political great renewal. This is conditioned by great repentance of our nations, in order to be laid to the straight way and start drinking from the Truth that springs from the rising of a new morning.

Translated by Father Symeon AbouHaidar

Original Text: “فكر جورج بوش ومسلكه” – 15.03.2003

Continue reading