2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The Creativeness of God and of Ours / 10.11.2007

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” [Gen.1:1]. This was not a divine emanation in the sense of the extension of divine self, so that we do not fall into pantheism, rather it was an act of love, as Augustine had said. God wanted to make, through that love, creatures who carry God’s love, or they are denotative of it. It is a power that emerged from God. God has thrown God’s scarf on the world and embraced the world, and the world still lives from divine warmth. In this sense, the Creator has been always in a situation of descent, through which the creatures rise to their Creator. There is a bond between the two, the nature of which we do not know. It [this bond] lies in our existential reality and not in the rational ability we have.

In this manner we are creative. The difference between our creativeness and the divine creativity is that God did not take an object to make the universe out of it. While we take material from nature, thought and imagination and we arrange them anew, as no one else has done before. Imitating the image of God we are called creative. Old stones do exist and you build with them a new palace.

God has first loved you through creation and then, God loves you continuously and raises you anew and you become stronger, more glorious and you enlighten others, through the light that God has thrown within you, and you raise them whenever they realize their belovedness. The human being does not exist [truly] unless another loves him/[her]. Anything else is flesh and bones, confusion of thought and storms of heart. However, there is no complete love in the world, since it is always blemished by the faults of the loving one and of the beloved. Nevertheless, whenever the beloved one feels the purity and the sublimity of the loving person and that he/[she] gives him/[her]self without expecting and return, i.e., whenever the beloved one experiences that the loving person is him/[her]self poured, then, he/[she] understands that this feeling [of love] is nothing other than a bridge to divine love, and consequently that he/[she] is the beloved of God through creation. Thus, whenever a person denies him/[her]self for the sake of the beloved one, God would be poured in the creature, chosen by another creature.

The human being does not love his/[her] slave, but he/[she] loves his/[her] son. This has been the case from the beginning. Hence, God has raised us from the rank of the slaves to the rank of the sons [and daughters]. That the human being is made of blood and flesh and at the same time is a son [a daughter] of God; this does not change a thing in the work of divine love. There is no sexuality in the relationship of divinity to us, since the Lord has no sex. Divinity works in us on a different level.

The human being is not a slave of God, since the owner of slaves would be controlling, while the loving one does not control. God longs to you and draws you to Godself with affection, and whenever you accept God you respond to God with affection, which seems to be human, however, its power descends upon you from above.

If God, historically, has sown in humanity words from God, those are nothing other than expressing the handling of human understanding of divine depth. Whenever you hear words from God, these are not permissible to pronounce them, since the tongue [does not reflect] the innermost depth, but its outward [reality]. The word that descends upon you is a nurturing word, which raises you to above. Then, there would be no difference between God, who spoke the word, and the spoken word [itself], there would be no difference between the words of the Word and the ear that hears and the heart that perceives it.

On this foundation friendship is built. It would not be possible [for friendship] to be reciprocal if you and your friend were in a relationship of slavery to God. You are free and he/[she] is free. Only the free person gives and the Other free person receives. Thus, you give the Other everything you are [or you have], and if you give him/[her] only part of what you have, then you become a slave of the other part, which you have not given.

Whatever is true for friendship is true for a married couple. Whenever each of them loves the other from a divine perspective, i.e., in freely giving [everything], then, he/[she] raises the other. This is what Paul has expressed when he said, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5: 21) In other words, this is what it means to be merciful toward one another. A relationship means to penetrate into the person, to accept him/[her] and be poured within him/[her]. Thus, it is an act of being poured in order that one might die in [or for] the Other. Then, the question of who gives and who receives orders would not occur. And undoubtedly this adhesion between the two spirits and the two bodies is the adhesion of God to Godself, since whenever God is absent in a relationship, then there would be nothing other than a biological, residential and financial unity. [However,] unity is not cumulation. It is music. In love, each plays music with the other, and it emerges not from each of them alone, but from both in the unity of existence which is nurtured daily through bestowal.

The last domain, which imposes itself on me, concerns the relationship of the state with the citizens. The state is not on the top [of a hierarchy] and the citizenship beneath it. This would be a system of slavery. The state is nothing other than the citizens arranged in harmony, according to a particular construction entailed by the constitutions and the laws. Of course, the president, the ministers and the deputies are not in love with the people of the country, since there is a compulsory element in the state, though without subdual. However, the juristic mentality and the legal procedure do not deny compassion and they require the continuous attendance of the responsibles, and attendance does not result from other than love.

Dostoevsky has said that the state has to become a church, and this entails that love should prevail over compulsory force. Of course I long to see the Lebanese reach a stage where they become one family, with the consideration of the regulations in respect of the patronage, the opposition, the police, the military and the civil. This would not deny the religious belonging, which is an environment of warmth. It is inevitable to humanize the relations between the different classes of people and the government, without confusion or chaos.

Similarly, in the denominations where spiritual leaders are appointed, as in Christianity, or those denominations bound to scholars, as in Islam, there should be love-relations among all believers, which can heal all other relations.

In our country, there are many slaves, in different domains, finance, politics, and family life and in the connections between some leaders and their followers. This would not end unless God bestows God’s grace over this people, and the hearts willingly receive their Lord. The honor of God being poured in the soul is that the person might believe that he/[she] exists through divine delight and that he/[she] is independent of any other person. We have obtained the independence of the country, [but] we have not obtained enough independence of the persons, since we have worshiped the powerful and the tyrant ones. From this subdual, we must move toward the second creation, which takes place in our ever renewed and ever loving souls. Then, universal creativeness would spread and the Kingdom would embrace us to its depth.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “إبداع الله وإبداعنا” –An Nahar- 10.11.2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The ‘I’ and the ‘Other’ / 22-09-2007

You either encounter the Others in love, or you bring them back to yourself, your centrality and your desire. Whenever you overdo in this [second possibility], then in reality you deny and eliminate the Others. Pascal, the great, had called the self-centered ‘I’ detestable and in his language:  le moi est haïssable. You, as God has designed you, are a beloved person and this is of your essence. However, your person is existent in its individuality, since the individual [person] encounters the individual [person] with all its personhood and existence.

Through asceticism you might put the ‘I’, which takes hold of the ‘Other’, to death as possible, while the surrendering self endows you and others through you with life. However, your ‘I’ and the ‘I’ of the Other would not meet, unless you could perceive the Other as essential for you, even to breathe. I said essential and not only helpful, since I have realized that you do not exist without bountiful love, to which the loved one might reciprocate or might not. Nevertheless, in most cases, love calls upon love since it exists in every soul in its divine image.

I do not exist alone. I exist whenever another loves me and whenever he/[she] is liberated from the ‘I’ which takes hold [of another] or is been taken hold of. However, in order that you might not take hold of the Other and might not be taken hold of, there must be One who embraces both of you, One who liberates both and that is God. For a unity there must be always a triad, and I am speaking humanly. All human beings together are in the image of divine Love, which whenever falls exterminates the drastic ‘I’, i.e. destructive of itself and the Other self, and then God fails to be present.

The presentiment of the self is to help the Other, and helping means that you desire for the Other what God wants from him/[her] and that you remind the Other of the truth and not of what he/[she] thinks is useful. This might cause a shock and the Other might not feel your love whenever he/[she] considers his/[her] own benefits and pleasures which exterminate him/[her], while you want to move the Other into God. This is pictured in the family, where the father or the mother does not comply with the demands of the child, who might want that which harms him/[her] or aggrandize his/[her] desire to posses. Thus, the parents might think that deprivation could help. Similarly, the watchful state, which cares about the true welfare of its citizens, it complies with their just claims, and it does not fulfill their unjust demands. Whenever the government is good and hale, it strives for the rising of the whole state, with giving preference to the underprivileged regions over the sumptuous ones. This is the interim service, since the government and the guardianship is to serve all. This is similar to the shepherd who shepherds a hundred sheep. Whenever one of them goes astray on the mountains, he leaves the ninety-nine and goes to bring the lost one back. This is the inclusive [universal] love. The spiritual care is similar to this. The responsible, first takes care of the one, whose whims had distracted him/[her], since the rest are still within right guidance.

Such is the case with engagement in thought. You are in confrontation with another, who has thought, not to dictate on him/[her] your convictions but to give and take at the same time. This is dialogue. You confront different stances whenever you dialogue for reaching at the right thing, which you might defend or your opponent might defend (in thought), since you are a seeker of truth, which descends upon you and upon the one whom you are dialoguing.

Truth, or part of it, descends upon you, and truth, or part of it, descends upon another. Thus you take the truth wherever it is revealed, since you do not necessarily want triumph for you position. You rectify what you have said and you throw away the wickedness or the fault that you had and became conscious of. You get enriched with the rightness that your opponent had, and you make him/[her] a brother/[sister] to you. You hold fast only to that which seems to be words of divine inspiration, regardless whether this inspiration has come to you or to the Other.

In the religious domain, do not disapprove the belief of the Other and he/[she] should not disapprove yours, otherwise you would fall into controversy, while controversy has been discarded in the modern mindset. Rather, you inquire into the Other’s belief and you clarify what you believe in to the Other. Then, you leave to God the right to enlighten whoever God wills. This would not be realized without a peaceful meeting together and without the right of all people to claim whatever they think is true. This is the condition for freedom, whether for you or for the Other; otherwise you and the Other would fall into a system of oppression, if we should not say fighting.

The condition of such peace is that God guides whomever God wills. To accept this divine Mystery is the condition of your entry into dialogue, since the condition for freedom is peace. Whenever you commit yourself to dialogue, you do not pursue to bring anyone coercively into what you believe in, rather you seek the light that God throws into the heart, as ̓Imām Al- Ghazālī says. You do not liberate any human being; rather the Truth sets us all free. In Sūrat al-Kāfirūn it says: “You have your religion and I have mine.” (Sūrat al-Kāfirūn [The Unbelievers]: 6) I understand this statement as claiming the freedom of both of us, you and me, which does not prevent that I discuss with you about some points or details, without asking you to renounce what is authentic in you. Further, I hope that I can help you to find out your and my origins. The condition for such praiseworthy communication is that I love you and you love me, since this is peace. Further, the [final] purpose is that I do not embarrass you and you do not embarrass me and that we meet in all that we consider divine manifestations. Thus, I respect what you say and you respect what I say in order that we reach an understanding in this world and God reveals Godself on the Last Day.

In order that I might become what I am, and you what you are, I do not covet what you have and you do not covet what I have, otherwise I would not stay myself. God has provided me with my wants and has provided you with yours. All these are the belongings of the world while we are free from the world and all that is in it. You might long only for divine grace, which descends upon us. Hence, each of us might grow in his/[her] gifts and we might hope for the spiritual gifts that the Other has, since these are God’s gifts for all. Therefore, I long for your virtues in order that my inner reality might embellish. Thus, if you were deified and you have moved in tenderness toward me, I, in my turn, move and become deified. This is the deep communion between us, which makes us each imitate the Other since we both seek deification. We become one through divine passion that is in us. According to our spiritual books, a man knocked the door of heaven and he heard from inside someone asking, ‘who is the knocker?’ He said ‘I am’. The door was not opened for him. Then, he knocked again and he was asked ‘who is the knocker?’ He said ‘I am’. It was not opened, until he knocked for the third time, and he was asked again ‘who is the knocker?’ He said: ‘You are’. Then, the door of heaven was opened for him. The message is that whenever one unites oneself with God, he/[she] enters the Kingdom.

Accordingly, you unite your ‘I’ with another ‘I’ and you become one, with maintaining forever the person and the individuality [of each] as independent and enduring, however in interpenetration with the Other ‘I’. We do not dissolve in the Other, since this is pantheism. Nevertheless, the person would be eliminated without it being contiguous, in will and heart, with the Other person, yet without confusion.

There is no relationship without a dyad, but with no separation, since God sees you one in intimacy and intimacy would not be faultless whenever it does not share divine intimacy to every human being. God does not eliminate diversity, but God eliminates discord. Hence, the mystery of your unity resembles Divine unity. We are different persons in our longing to unity. Thus, I respect your dispositions and you respect mine, although each of us might attempt to guide the Other on this level. I might be impulsive and you might be less spontaneous. You might be great in sensitivity and I might be weak in it. Nevertheless, depending on your psychological formation, you attempt to accept me and I attempt to accept you. The origins of our dispositions do not change, yet, through acknowledging the creative affection [of the Other], one embellishes and becomes more pleasant. You endeavor, with whatever you have, to reach at the most sublime, however within the context of your human reality. This endeavor does not distinguish among people, whenever one is consciously aware, i.e. whenever one’s mind and soul is widened to embrace the Other.

Only the embraced one [truly] lives. Thus, you become a mother for all, begetting the Others within the Divine reality whenever you train yourself not to give anything other than God. You clarify your inclinations, but you do not impose them. You open yourself, but you do not disperse it by replicating the Other. You are unique even though you become bountiful. Generosity alone does not threaten a human being, and it does not dissolve him/[her]. You are unique and no other resembles you, but you are not one, since you meet another. That is the poured ‘I’, the purified one, which strives to purify itself and the Other, thus, it and the Other exist.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الأنا والآخر” –An Nahar- 22-09-2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The Vertical and Horizontal Dimension / 15.09.07

The Lord is the only light that shines in the darkness of this world. All else is but misery and pastime. I can see why Man thinks that he expands himself with his pastime and that he falls back on himself due to his anguish; this is due to Man, in his shallowness, regarding himself as the center of his own existence, and extending himself horizontally in order to ease himself from the tension in his life.

And so Man is subject to his present predicament, an offspring of his illness and sorrow; he is created by the times he lives in because he believes that nothing exists outside of time and space. He lives within the confines of his body and those of his memories and hopes, that nourish the body and imagination, or he lives only through another person and revels in a slavery that deprives him of the effort of transcending himself, his entourage and his clan.

And the predicament could be a grave one like the possibility of war, poorness or war-like calamities. And no doubt also that Man is the victim of his own ignorance, poorness, richness or the conflicts in his life. And due to that or part of it, Man realizes his own depravity; he also can become miserable due to his ignorance of it. That is why the Bible calls the above situation “the valley of Baca (Tears)” where there is no end to pain, debility and the loss of dear ones.

All that evil is a part of life and it befalls the righteous as well as the evil ones. And the person who is not in touch with the Lord resorts to pleasures that lose their ability to gratify once they are experienced. Man seeks after pleasures with which he thinks he can cure his sense of alienation or heal his bitterness. He might remain the slave of his bodily pleasures if he loses the light of the Lord. Thus, while Man is waiting for the disappearance of the events that afflict him, he only finds that new calamities as painful as the former take place and are so depraving that they lead him to despair. This means that he creates his own hell, and few are those who find a way to leave this hell. I am not exaggerating when using this term because I have heard hundreds of times from the mouths of those who have chosen to describe a crisis in their family life: “my life has become hell and I do not know how to get out of it”.

The people described above have placed themselves in the horizontal dimension and know nothing about the vertical dimension which is the power that ties them to God. As for those who know God, they live in tranquility even in times of war. They are at peace whether they are in health or in sickness, whether their circumstance is stable or shaky; they do not consider a misfortune or a sickness as the end of the world because they dwell in God and God dwells in them.

I know people who take refuge in God, whether they are in ease or adversity because they know that God is their strength and help; these have transcended their physical existence and already dwell in the “heavens”. The believer, whether rich or poor, finds his all in the Lord and does not consider anything as important in his himself. You ask the Creator-Savior to come to you and you receive Him as one who is “all your life” as [St.] Paul says: “It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me” See Ga.2, 20.

You cannot rid yourself of its pain if you “borrow” consolation from this world, because the world does not supply you with truth. Pleasure is no substitute for pleasure and no fun is more entertaining than the one you are in now; it is all the same because all pleasure and fun is in itself empty. It makes you forget your worries only for a while because you draw your consolation from this world that you have made yourself its center. But if you choose the Lord to be the center of your life, you free yourself from being a slave to ill-health or persecution or oppression or crisis whether in your immediate family or in your country.

You cannot escape the weight of the situation in which you live, whether political or economic. This world is, as we perceive, full of wars and it is up to you to aspire for peace. But we see that wars are endless, and disease has no end and that one sin, when committed, leads to another; and that brings inner pain if your conscience is still alive to admonish you; only “monsters” would stifle their conscience to the end.

And if you decide to hold on to your horizontal dimension, that is to say, if you accept to live in a superficial manner, you are dead inside. You may perhaps keep in mind and believe in certain values, but these values in their depth come from the Faith even though some have tried to make of these values a philosophical entity, a god in itself. Why substitute God with cultural understandings. You can live only through God. Fatih in God is active in Man’s heart to change it and to heal it. That gives you a personal relation with God who pours His life in you; philosophy cannot do that. God alone has life, and the rest are ideas which your mind can accept yet they cannot give your life.

I do not want to dwell on the suffering that you endure because of your sins, illness or crises in the country and the world and I’m not trying to insinuate that they are the only way God uses to draw us closer to Him. Yes, many verses in Scripture call the sufferer to seek help because God wants to heal us; in that David said: “From the depths I cry to Thee, O Lord” (Ps. 129.1) and in saying “depths” he speaks of the affliction in which we throw ourselves. But the righteous lift their hearts up to God because they rejoice in Him who Himself is the source of their joy. As such they dwell in the intimacy of invoking Him and not only in that of asking for his help.

And when we Christians talk about the cross on which each of us is crucified, we request that it be taken off our shoulders, because of the suffering it represents; yet we believe that our cross is our way to the resurrection, not only the Resurrection of the last day, but the one brought about in this present life through our relationship with Christ who is our life and resurrection. Our present sufferings, when accepted with contentment, gratitude and hope, give us consolation for we know that the Lord “remembers” us and “visits” as the saints say. We also know that if we believe, the Lord will dwell in us whether we are in pain or in sin lifting its burden away from us so that our hearts will be purified.

Afflictions befall us because things are like that in a fallen world like this is. The world is like that and we do not always understand it. God heals Man; He converses with him, admonishes him, chastises him and loves him so that bitterness leaves him as peace flows in him. And with that inner peace, he lives with war, with hunger, with the tribulations and psychological difficulties. Physical healing might happen permanently because of God’s mercy; but Peace is your cure even if the disease persists, and with that you can live through any situation. We do not call for heroism in Christianity, but we call for patience. And patience is not a defeat before reality but an active reliance on God who cures you the way He wishes pointing put to you that the greatest crisis in you is sin which you confront with repentance or in other words with the presence of God in you.

God does not cancel human history or even your personal history but He accompanies you as you live your times during which He consoles you if you are patient. As such, Heaven will dwell in you before you get to dwell in It on the last day. So God does not rid you of the horizontal dimension of your earthly life, but He grants you mercy through the vertical dimension and He watches over you in guarding that vertical dimension.

This God is not an abstract thought. He is Truth, Reality, Joy and Happiness. With that God you look at the world and its tribulations. All this is accomplished by believing that God is the One longed and sought for and that He is a Spring of giving that does not cease.

Translated by Riad Mofarej

Original Text:  – “البعد الأفقي والبعد العامودي”15.09.07

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

Death and Resurrection / 07.07.2007

It is sufficient to look at the explosions and the assassinations in order that you realize that death is part of life, for those who had departed, and for those whom the Lord has preserved. To start with, such a departure is not a disaster. It is an accident. Even when the one whom God has received was great, we all inherit his/[her] greatness, while he/[she] enjoys the beauties of God in God’s kingdom. The question left is, why do we fear death, or why do we deter from death through cure and patience, or [otherwise] we draw death near, by fearing it? My mother used to say, “the lord of death has feared death” and in her Christian faith she referred to Christ. According to my understanding, the Nazarene had feared since He had participated with us in all our humanity, and in order to denote that He was not [kind of] a mythical superhuman.

They used to tell us, in the Christian school, where I grew up, that we fear demise since God has created us for eternity, while sin has occurred and has shattered eternity. Paul’s words support this teaching: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6: 23). As if the apostle suggests that death is accidental. I do not think that scientists contradict Paul whenever they say that whatever we know about life till now indicates that life has an end. However, none of them can perceive a relationship between the cause and the effect. They observe death and speak of a direct cause (the heart, the cancer or so), however, no one dares to specify the time of the end. Maybe what tortures us is that we have no knowledge of the time of our dissolution, or the submitting of the soul.

Thus, we stay in the presence of a mystery; and neither the penetration through it nor the confrontation of it with full knowledge, or with some preparedness, is given to the human being. The believer is comforted if he/[she] is truly co-existing with God, which might be viewed as a virtue or a repentance , however, without arrogance, since one does not know whether one abides by deep repentance. The word of the Master in this concern, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” [Matt. 25: 13], is a vocation, and it is not a testimony that we are in the complete pure presence, since only the Lord declares to you, at the time of judgment, your real state in the presence of God.

No one can confront the question ‘why?’ before one’s departure. Why today and not tomorrow? One might, to a limited extent, tackle the question of how: Blockage of the arteries, without cautiousness or treatment, for example; the spread of cancer to different organs. This, in case we consider the two most devastating sicknesses according to European statistics. However, how does a woman, who was cut from the oxygen pipes five months because of poverty, live? How does a person, within whom the cancerous cells move, live for thirty years? Thus, we do not know the ‘how’ in itself. Medicine is a science of possibilities, and those who are sincere in it tell you that there is in it a large space for art, that is to say that the range for testing in it is big. And they add that to practice it requires certain level of morals. Hence, concerning the cause and the manner, we are in a world of the complete unknown. Maybe it is this which makes up the main element of fear.

Whenever we look at the questions in a natural way, and we set aside all faith considerations, it seems to me that the greatest sin is Freud’s saying that we have the instinct of death. There is nothing other than the instinct of life within us. Therefore, the approach of death notifies us about the end of everything, and we feel, on the level of nature, that it is the nothingness. The psychological aspect in us, which is the desire to persist forever, contradicts the biological side, which is the destruction of this chemical laboratory, which is called the body. As if confrontation is inescapable between these two aspects of our human existence.

There is a recent talk about extending life. Is that a psychological extension, based on the notion that awareness accompanies the physical identification? The studies are not advanced enough. And the economical studies are frightening, since you will have to serve for the living of people, who are not productive, unless the givens develop in a way that is unperceivable for us, so that an old man continues to produce as the middle-aged or the young person. Naturally, whenever frailty grows and sicknesses increase, the old person would prefer to depart existence. However, some new elements of cure might intervene and the person’s understanding may not weaken, and thus, the instinct of life might get stronger.

In all researches and observations of behaviors, it is clear that “developed” humanity does not at all address the spiritual issues. It has no interest in the question: why the person desires to prolong one’s life. Positivism controls all current researches in the world. Sometimes prayer is addressed for biological purposes, and thus, prayer is viewed as an instrument for worldly purposes. Nevertheless, and despite of positivism, no one gets reconciled with death. It remains for all a feeling or a path towards annihilation of existence.

How does the feeling of new life come to a person, who is by instinct conscious of the lack of invincibility in that concern? If nothing, beyond instinct, descends upon you it is impossible for you to overcome death by surpassing it. You would not surmount death unless with something that is not of death, and it is not of your nature, since your whole existence is injured by the fear of death and heroism here do not help. All of us are the victims of this enemy, the last enemy as Paul calls it. Thus, Christianity does not ask for reconciliation with death. It rather seeks to extinguish death, and then, something new would emerge within you, which does not come from you. Thus, you become, though in the grave, a new existence. Hence, it is not possible to be reconciled neither with your dead body, nor the body of a cousin or a friend, since this would mean that you have reconciled with nothing.

If the fear of death is like a sword that is hanged over your head, whence it is for you not to fear the fear of death? Whence it is for you to draw away from this fear? In Christian terms, you draw away from death with what we call “the hope of resurrection and eternal life”. Hope is the hope toward the One, who alone overcomes death, namely God. God pledges you from death, and carries you through it with the hope and the expectation of resurrection, which makes you a new person, with a luminous body, free from corruption and alive forever.

We do not thoroughly address the destiny of the spirit. We know that it is in God’s care, and in God’s compassion, and God is merciful to the one asking for compassion, liberating him/[her] from the burden of sins; as Paul had said, “For he who has died is freed from sin.” [Rom. 6: 7] He/[she] unites with God, who takes away from him/[her] the yoke of death and transgression, carrying him/[her] from a rank to the rank of mercy, since the human being does not enter the Kingdom without it. In the Orthodox Church there is no definition for the state of the soul other than that it is in the hands of God, awaiting the resurrection. That is why we pray for those who passed away, and in reality, they are within divine compassion.

Thus, our theology moves to speak about resurrection, which Paul the apostle explains through these words about himself: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” [1Cor. 15: 42-44]

Paul builds all this on the resurrection of Christ. Hence, as the body of Christ had put on light, we put also on ourselves light. All matter, including the matter of the universe, becomes complete light; free from the corporeality, according to which food, drink and sex were our characteristics, since these are of the earth.

You are free from death through light, through divine illumination which fills you and forms you forever, so that you might walk in God and be renewed forever. The earthliness and its characteristics depart you, but you remain human in a new construction, of which we do not know a characteristic other than that it resembles divine luminosity.

In this sense your personality remains as it is, including your spirit. This is why, in the third century, we had charged with infidelity those who claimed that human souls mold with each other to become one soul. God’s spirit always revives your spirit, as God keeps your luminous body in its unity, without confusing the bodies with each other. What matters for us is that your whole personality is rewarded and it does not dissolve in God. Otherwise, this would be pantheism; and as we had rejected it in the first creation we do reject it in the second creation.

Our view of freedom from the fear of death is different from this approach. [As it was said earlier,] you overcome the fear by hope and the actualization of hope at the resurrection. Then, you receive your death not with a denial, but with faith. You live instantly through compassion and, at last, whenever God emerges you from the grave. Other than this would be referring to nothingness. While God has not created anyone in order to extinguish him/[her] from existence, rather God grants him/[her] existence of a different kind. Thus, God brings you from God’s first creation to God’s new creation, and makes you ever existent, since you always receive God’s grace in heaven, and in you God’s image becomes realized constantly. And this is joy.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الموت والقيامة” –An Nahar- 07.07.2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

Easter Again and Again / 05.05.2007

The people of my Church still are celebrating Easter [the Passover]. What are they drunk to this extent? Why do we not say anything else? Why cannot we? In the book of Revelation 13:8 there is a reference to “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” [KJV] And in the First Epistle of Peter 1: 20 we read that Christ “was destined before the foundation of the world”. As we compare the texts it becomes clear that He was destined before the foundation of the world to be crucified, regardless of God’s foreknowledge of the human sin. Saint Maximus the Confessor has known that the Lord would descend to the earth regardless whether the human being sins or not, in both cases this is a death of love. Our creation, salvation, preservation and our participation in Christ’s resurrection, all this is the outcome of divine love. And this is the feast in all its aspects.

That is why the Master said: “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified.” (John 13: 31) It is clear that the glory of God has resided in the body and the shed blood of Christ. That is to say that God’s sublimity, majesty, power and God’s inclination toward us all are realized in humanity’s slaying of the Son, since nothing of God would be truly revealed and in depth, unless Godself has shown it in the love poured for the humanity.

When those who do not believe in this ask us: Why is this sacrifice? Was not God able to address God’s love in a speech, without having to embody it in this way? Yes, it would be possible, but God has chosen to do this. And after our knowledge of incarnation we have come to understand this divine choice. God has opted to reveal God’s nearness in this way. This was God’s eternal choice as the New Testament says. What do you have against God if God has made God’s Son a human so that we might see Him in pure acts, as He eats and drinks and shares us the death, and hence, becomes no stranger to any of our conditions, other than sin?

God was not in need to present God’s Son as blood expiation. This interpretation was heard of interpreters who did not belong to [our] tradition. The blood of Jesus does not concern us except as the way to the new life. Our concern in relation to this sacrifice is about understanding Godhead as it is been poured in the sphere of death through the body of Jesus, so that the human being might be freed by his/[her] love of the crucified and the risen from the dead. On Good Friday, in which we inaugurate the Easter [the Passover], we do not merely manifest the cross but the descent from the cross. And our devotions on this Friday in particular are resurrectionist, in which there is no trace of grief. We do not wail upon Christ and we do not worry emotionally about the injustice that has followed Him. Through His suffering we are drawn to that which the Book calls our Easter [the Passover], namely to the victorious Christ. Jesus is Himself life before we proclaim victory on the third day.

Thus, we are not a religion of pain and we do not take pleasure of it as of sickness or suffering. For Eastern Christianity it does not mean a thing that the human being is hurt in his/[her] body. We do not console him/[her] as partaking the sufferings of his/[her] Lord. This [notion] is not present in the New Testament. Yes, Paul has spoken a lot on partaking in the sufferings; however he meant only two things. First, we die with the Lord through baptism, and second that we become His partners whenever we endeavor to kill the desires within us. This enjoyment of sickness, the desire for pain or to remain in it and also the desire for death is of Masochism. While Christ is the Master of life and its giver, and part of His ministry – as He was alive – was to heal the diseases of minds and bodies, and also of sin. The Gospels have devoted many pages to this element and considered it an evangelizing for the Kingdom of Heaven.

If you get sick you turn to God for healing and not for the permanence of sickness in you. The Kingdom is the end of all pains and you have to strive for the Kingdom from now, namely you have to pray, and ask the priests to anoint you with oil, and call the doctor for treatment.

Hence, we are with the living Christ. What matters is that we do not become from His killers. It is a shame to be of people who have assaulted God, as Jews and ancient Romans did. Christ accepts our injuries and forgives, however, as we have become pigmented (baptized) with Christ, how could we become betrayers? God endures our treacheries and raises us from them whenever we become of those who repent. And if Judah was an image of the ultimate treason, he had hanged himself before the death of Christ, and descended to hell, and when Christ has descended to hell by His death He has rescued him as He has rescued all fallen human race and the righteous ones. The icon of resurrection at our Church presents the Lord in white garment in the kingdom of death, rescuing from there Adam and Eve and all their offspring, in order that no one remains the slave of death or the slave of sin. And whenever we understand the ability of Christ to save us, no one sets a crown of thorns on His forehead anew, or beats Him with a reed; no one nails His hands and feet or pierces Him with a spear. Some Christians pierce Christ as though they do not believe in His redemption.

Nevertheless, since His crucifixion He has gathered all remnants of humanity and He still is gathering them, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and others. He brings sight back to those who are blind spiritually, whenever they accept Him. You might carry His name and yet depart Him, thus, remember and do not forget that you might become like the Jews and the Romans of that day. Do not kiss Him with deceit, as Judah did, since He kisses you with His lips in order to reveal to you that you are still His beloved. Do not pretend loyalty to Him since you are unable to deceit Him. And as He came in to the disciples while the doors closed, He will come in to you, even when you reject Him. He will knock the door of your heart and have dinner with you, and you will have dinner with Him, since He has embraced you to Himself before your mother gave birth to you. He will take you to His chest as He did with the beloved disciple at the Last Supper, and He will call you with your name as He called Mary the Magdalene in the garden after the resurrection, and she recognized Him.

Many things in your life obscure your eyes from perceiving Christ. This vision is essential for you to live. You will not live by your money, power, authority, beauty and mind. I do not deny the charm of all this. However, Christ’s ability to fascinate you is much greater. Do not waste your time with whatever is inferior to that, since Christ has become your Easter [the Passover], that is your passage to the Father. And if you want to ascend with Christ to the Father, He seats you on His throne from now on, namely before your resurrection occurs. And after resurrection, you sit with all those who were good on earth, regardless whether they have known His name or not, since He is the source of the spiritual sublimity within them.

And if we celebrate Easter [the Passover], and we continue to exist in the blessings of Christ, it is not because we assume complete control of them and not because we are the best people. We are [united] with all people in one brotherhood. Every human being in this world shall rise from his/[her] sins whenever he/[she] becomes of those who repent. We are not a distinguished group in humanity, since Christ has come to bring the good news that all human beings belong to the family of His Father, whenever they want this through the good work.

As to us, we know that He is “the way, the truth and the life” [John 14: 6], but we also know that those who love God, from wherever they come, are our partners in the glory, and that we are not privileged than others by flesh and blood. Rather, He has chosen us as His followers so that we might know Him as He unveiled Himself to us in the books. And He has His ways to reveal Himself to the holy ones in every nation. And He does not distinguish among us and others in His love.

In this world there are different teachings [dogmas] and every one of us has a brother/[sister] in faith. But our love is one to all people, including those who doubt. We, with those who worship God and those who worship themselves, we are all the children of one God, who chooses whoever God wants, and we do not call God to account for God’s choice. Your Lord judges every person according to his/[her] heart, and He revivifies the dry hearts, and dwells in every human heart which has become tender.

This is the Last Easter, and it is an emersion upon the joy of heaven.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الفصح أيضًا وأيضًا” –An Nahar- 05.05.2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

Resurrection / 07.04.2007

“Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” (Acts 2: 31-32)

We do not have in the Gospel a description of the Lord’s emerging from the grave or to what might be called His revival. The well-recognized icon for resurrection is the one expressing Christ’s descent into hell, into the kingdom of death, dressed in raiment of light, raising by His hands the whole humanity, as they are represented by Adam and Eve. This is His victory over death. In our four Gospels, and in Paul, there is a confirmation of the appearances of the Master and a confirmation that this who has appeared to them is the one hanged on the wood. One of these appearances took place when “Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias” [John 21: 1], as His disciples were going fishing and they did not recognized Him in the beginning. And then, the disciple whom [Jesus] loved said to Peter that He is the Lord. Belovedness is [usually] perceived. And if we content ourselves by John’s testimony we are told that “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”” [John 21:1-2] This is what we call the proof of the empty tomb. Then, there was the meeting of the Master with Mary the Magdalene in the garden, as she thought that He was the gardener, and then He called her by her name: “She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).” [John 20: 16] The evangelists wanted to present proofs in order to convince their readers. To me, however, the greatest testimony in all the books is the Savior’s appearance to Thomas, who doubted after His first appearance to the disciples as Thomas was not there. He did not believe whatever the disciples told him. In the second time, as the doors were closed, Jesus came and said to Thomas:  “”Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”” [John20: 27-28]

Thomas has viewed the scars in the hands and the side [of Jesus]. Maybe this apostle has thought that his friends have seen a ghost, and they were hallucinating. Here, John the evangelist, in his telling of the second event, wanted to say that the One whom Thomas has inspected is the same One who was hanged on the wood and that the traces of crucifixion are still present on His body. Hence, we can say that we encounter a resurrection-event.

Thus, we do not merely support the notion of resurrection but also that Jesus the Nazarene has moved from the tomb, which was in the form of a tightly closed cave, and came outside it. On this Paul has founded all his faith in Christ.

His death was the first event throughout this entire journey. This has been decided by the Jewish heads. The Roman governor has given the order, and many witnesses had witnessed it. Resurrection has showed us that the One who appeared [to many] was the same One who was raised on the wood, and then, God has raised Him to Godself. The question which poses itself is: how was the body of this Man at the resurrection? We have an evidence that He entered to [the place where] the disciples were and the doors were closed. We do not say that His body has penetrated the barriers. We say that He was present and we remain in complete mystery. The set of descriptions denote that He got rid of the opacity of the body, what the scientists call l’opacité de la matière. However, as we have seen in what we have [just] mentioned from the appearances, there is continuity between the crucified Christ and the resurrected One, or there is identification [between the two], yet, with the increment of light upon this person, who appeared to His beloved ones more than once.

Nevertheless, we can indirectly know something about Jesus’ appearance from the description, given about the people who would rise on the Last Day, in Chapter 15 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. [We read that] the human being will be imperishable (with the difference that the Lord has experienced decay neither before nor after death.). Then Paul continues about the human body: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory” (Jesus had voluntarily experienced dishonor.). “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” (The Master has experienced physical weakness voluntarily.) “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (Jesus had a biological reality.) [1Cor. 15: 42-44]

Through resurrection Jesus’ body has become a glorified body, that is, it has existed in divine glory in a sensible way, while, before His transfiguration on Mount Tabor, He was in divine glory in an insensible way. Resurrection did not give Him glory. It has only revealed it, and He, in His humanity, is seated on the right [hand] of the Father.

The impact of this truth on us is that we have become resurrectionists, namely able to overcome decay, sin and death on the Last Day. We believe that the resurrection of all humanity is the fruit of the resurrection which has been realized in Jesus Christ. Through repentance and the forgiveness of sins we have the Paschal power. And the Lord has empowered us to receive grace, which in my Church is an eternal, uncreated power of light, which God descends it upon us at our contemporary times. That means that we have the power of divinization and it becomes divinizing, namely we become partakers of God in these powers, without us being partakers in divine essence. This participation is not polytheism [shirk], since we do not pass from the situation of being a creature to being a Creator. There is no dissolving in divinity between the human and the divine natures. There is, rather, the pouring of light upon us and a continuous baptism of light, whenever we remain in repentance.

On these bases we understand that the Church celebrates resurrection every Sunday, before the constitution of Pascha, since we come from resurrection, and with its power we see divine glory as we are on this earth. From the Pascha comes the sacrifice of the elements on Sundays and on feast days, and through the elements we take the power of Christ, the One resurrected from the dead, and we move toward the power which shall burst at the end of times.

To this, the courage of the martyrs, who die as witnesses of Christ, comes from their confessing of Christ who triumphs through death. Those martyrs, though unarmed, fought the Roman Empire and they are also fighting all states, which similar to Rome have treated them harshly despite their radiating meekness. Their crime was that they refused to divinize the tyrannical ruler, though they did not refuse obedience. The state holds them responsible for whatever they carry in their believing hearts concerning the unity of divine authority. Those martyrs were trained to face the fiends and they were overstepping their bleeding violated bodies, with joy and courage.

In this respect, the story of Merdarius the martyr explains what those martyrs carried in their souls. Merdarius, who was a Roman noble, was walking in his palace. He heard songs coming up from the street. He looked out from his terrace and saw people singing. He asked his servants: Who are those and why are they singing? They answered him that they are called Christians, and that Christianity is a message which has emerged from the East. They also told that they were walking toward their execution, and that they were singing for their belief that whenever executed they would be united with their Master, who is called Christ. Merdarius thought that such a message should be great. He came down from his palace and joined them on the way to death.

For Christians the main rapture is not the Last Resurrection. It is rapture to Christ, whom Martha, the sister of dead Lazarus, has received and said: “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. … Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” [John 11: 21-25] The apparent meaning is that you have a real active resurrection before the Last Resurrection and that refers to the ‘I’. And then He explained His words saying: “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” [John 11: 26] One might pass through the death of sin, yet, he/[she] will rise from that whenever he/[she] sees me on the cross and emerging out of the tomb. Namely, whenever one sees me present within him/[her]self. Christians who stare at the Savior now are being resurrected with Him in this vision. The reality of their emerging is for today and they might be purified now, with one glance at Him. Thus, they become new creatures created by His light. This intimate relationship with Him makes every soul of them a bride for Him, since it knows that it has no life in itself, rather it lives through Him.

Every soul is given that [relationship] whenever it lives the Easter [the Pascha], and this word refers to the Passover from all that has prohibited the soul to meet Him. Whenever the soul passes over to Him and stares only at His face realizes that He is fully present. In this context St. Seraphim, the Russian saint, was used to greet whoever he meets with the greeting: “O my joy, Christ is risen”. This means that He is within you, present in the depth of your heart, and He gives you life and you do not need to expect anything else, since nothing might be appended to Easter.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “القيامة” –An Nahar- 07.04.2007

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The Peace of the Crucified One / 10.03.2007

Lebanon is, in all, crucified. Holders of personal interests in the world crucify it. They crucify us, as we have no selfish interests in this country. Those, who consider themselves to be great, eliminate the little ones, who do not benefit in any way from this country. I am worried about the little ones, who do not perceive why adults carry within themselves enmity, why they do not have the tenderness of childhood, instead of falsifying each other, why they do not have joy, why they resolve to death after they were created to live, why they make crosses for one another, why they do not sing sincerely [the Lebanese National Anthem]: ‘All of us for our country, for glory’, which is not actualized without humility. This country is like a kingdom of powerless old people, who had lost their sense of the flowers. They want to live without smelling the truth and tasting the good, and whenever they are reconciled together they want to divide the booties among themselves, without distributing the gains to those in need of light.

Those arrogant people want us to be food for them, but they do not want themselves to become nourishment for all. Christ has said: “Take, eat; this is my body.” [Matt. 26: 26] The country lays itself down as food to whomever wants to live, and those arrogant ones give us stone in place of bread, and partition in place of unity. Why is the drought of the thirsty hearts for the living water?

Since we know that powerless people are convicted to be crucified, our church had set the day of tomorrow as remembrance [the Sunday of the Holy Cross], in which the crucifiedness of people is raised to God in hope. In a country where people despise each other, without having recourse to weapons, we wanted to eliminate hatred through love. Thus, tomorrow is the Sunday to venerate the cross and to tell people that one of them had been raised on this wood in order that every person might receive life instead of complete death and hope instead of despair. This takes place within a liturgy, at which a cross is laid on a salver, surrounded with flowers and basils, and it is been circumambulated with the salver, and we fall on our knees, facing the cross, remembering both the cross and the resurrection. Then, the priest gives the believer a flower, to tell him/[her] symbolically that Christ is the joy of the world, and that the human being will not remain subjugated forever, if he/[she] embraces the crucified, for Christ has taken human crucifiedness, so that one might become a resurrectionist person.

We are a paschal-community, and we do not exterminate anyone since Jesus died to save the world, and not only those who belong to Him through baptism. You, whoever were you, ask for life and it begins with physical life. “[I]t is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual.” (1Cor. 15: 46) The order of a state is established first to serve the natural person, and then, God’s calling the person makes him/[her] filled with spiritual life. In the beginning there is the civil society, then, some people from within the society transcend and become spiritual through divine giving, which is poured upon them. Thus, they become on earth the people of heaven. And in the times of crises, heaven does not become hidden from the people of love, which [in fact] many hide it from themselves, while it penetrates the soul of the one who loves its penetration, so that it might make him/[her], from now, a kingly person.

Why do we set this remembrance day in the middle of the fasting period? We have noticed that some of those who fast become weary of their endeavor and they move toward looseness. Hence, in order that they might not lose the image of the Savior, we set this image to them, which whenever is printed in their hearts, enables them to continue their endeavor. [We do this] since there is no room for weariness in love, and declining is not permissible whenever the vision descends upon you. As the result of kissing the cross the believers embrace each other, as they have known that the Lord himself had embraced them through His death, and had purified them and raised them, through the Spirit, to the Father.

Thus, extinguishing of the soul, for the sake of peace, is not permissible. The Lord does not extinguish, but He rectifies. And you call your adversary, or whomever you thought to be so, to the Lord, who endows him/[her] with life through rectification that is from God. Whenever you kill [or exterminate] a person you emit him/[her] from the possibility of repentance, and your soul becomes  intolerant and then it rives, so that it would not be possible to ensure for yourself repentance in any day of your life. In front of the invincibility of life, both the sinner and the good are equal. God embraces both and promises to purify them, and God has limited the power of life and death to Godself alone. We live together with the hope that every one of us will attain purification which descends upon us from above.

God has not commissioned anyone to implement, on God’s behalf, the death of the Other, and God addresses every killer, saying: “Where is … your brother?” [Gen. 4: 10] That is to say that you had to live with your brother, who was not destined to die on his brother’s hand. In general terms it means that every person is your brother, since you both received the gift of the one life and a divine promise to prosper together. Whenever you are concerned about your brother’s recalcitrance, you have to resort to good advice and to become reconciled with him, by the mercy that is within you. Thus, the seeds of sin would not sprout, and he would react to your good [approach] with goodness and your soul would meet the glory that is within him, since no one lacks glory.

Before the war in Lebanon I had an official, we used to call him ‘qawwas’, he would be protecting the bishops in our country, and the consuls and ambassadors in Istanbul. This was a kind of protection that Ottoman Empire had supplied to these ranks of people. Those guards had the right to carry a sword, and in modern times a gun. And as this young man was walking at my home, in front of me, I felt that he carries a gun, under his jacket. I asked him, what is this? And he replied that it is a gun, legalized by the state. I told him, I do not want you to protect me, since I prefer to die than to cause another to be condemned to death penalty or life imprisonment, even when he kills me. Most probably this person would be a father of a family, while I do not have a family, so, I divested the man of his gun.

The Lord is armless and we are on His likeness, and thus, arms are not of a concern for us. This is why I always disliked the word ‘crusaders’, which was taken by the Franks in the tenth century, when they attacked our countries. I was astounded that they were killing in the name of the One who said: “”Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” [Matt.26: 52] These words made millions of Christians testify as they became martyrs. And these words entered the Church Legislation, so that it is not permissible to the priest or the monk to defend himself, since by doing that, there would be the possibility of killing the other. And our Law says that whenever the priest kills another by a faulty movement, and unintentionally, he must be prevented of performing Divine Liturgy the whole of his life.

When those who were called ‘Crusaders’, in their own language, dwelt in our countries and were excessive in bringing corruption, the Muslims had interesting courtesy to call them ‘Franks’, and they did not call them ‘Crusaders’ since they knew that Christians do not kill.

Only in the power of Christ Christians continue to exist. They do not long to any other path, and they forgive the killer. They have no other weapon, and no desire for power or authority, knowing that victory is to the Word of God and the will of God. Thus, they do not carry weapons, and it has been said to them: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matt.10: 28] And hell of course is a list of the assaulters.

The world is not about distributing booties [among ourselves]. Rather, it is to spend your profits for the poor. And whenever you share what you have with the poor one, he/[she] raises you to heaven since you are unable to raise yourself alone to heaven. Rather brothers/[sisters], whenever you love them, raise you. And all people, to whichever dogma they belong, are brothers/[sisters]. Through compassion, you can make them from the people of heaven, on the Day in which God judges us all. “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham … But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out.” [Matt.8: 11-12] Your only guarantee for becoming from the children of God is to perceive God as the Father of all humanity.

I have not called you not to summon for equality among the children of the one homeland. Thus, you have to know that you have no independent dignity apart from the dignity of the Others. Hence, you have to ask for your freedom, since it is the dignity. Yet, it might be trodden. Then, you seek the Other through the word and the contention of the word, without becoming from the customers of the foreigner, since he/[she] does not protect other than him/[her]self, though he/[she] might say differently. The word is effective whenever you are great in love. The Other might have a language different than this language. That is his/[her] concern, and he has someone to judge him/[her]; while you have only the [possibility of the] strive of the soul. No one can be a tyrant over your heart, and you are the person of the heart, especially that Christianity does not recognize itself as a human or political entity. Thus, do not support other than the oppressed, and always by the legitimate word and the virtuous emergence of the soul. And if you were from those who read, the Islamic revelation maintains that “Whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives of all mankind.” (Sūrat al-Ma’ida 32) Hence, on the level of personal behavior we and the Muslims are one.

This is why militias are all void in the eyes of the Lord and the internal fight was also void. And I know that turmoil leads to killing.

We are all called to complete sincerity if we want that no one dies by the hands of a man, lest we become oppressors. Every one of us is a steward for the Other, for the Other’s life, growth, prosperity and the preservation of him/[her] in all circumstances of the country and in every crisis of history; until God’s truth prevails. We do not exterminate an existence which God has made for God’s glory and has safeguarded it through God’s children, and has entrusted us the question of the Other’s life, no matter how much a tribulation aggravates; since the Lord is able to deliver us from the burden of temptations through peace that God pours it upon us as a grace from God.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “سلام المصلوب” –An Nahar- 10.03.2007

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Perfect Freedom / 03.03.2007

To have an intimate relationship with the Lord implies that you are free from every human being, and first of all from your heart. I understand that your gathering with your people – the people of the village or the members of your denomination – is an emotional affinity, converging dispositions, factionalism of history and warmth. However, you do not come from them, since your depth has nothing to do with flesh and blood, and it should not be the captive of history. There [in your depth] should be no trace of fear, since fear produces seclusion and seclusion needs that warmth, which makes you from your people, or part of them.

But if you have descended from above, where you were sitting with God, even when you walk on this earth, heaven becomes your entrance to the people, and you become their referee to heaven. Through you, the people search for the Lord of heaven and they act here as if they are the people of heaven. Thus, when they come to you, they would not do so because of any factionalism or being driven by the power of their covets, since they know that you do not share their covets. Rather, a power drives you, which is neither from the reality of the people’s compactness, nor from their collective outrage, which is the outcome of their arrogance.

I understand that the bond of doctrine [similar belief] prompts you to serve your people, however service does not imply endorsement. You endorse your brother against injustice, i.e. whenever he becomes the victim of injustice. However, you do not endorse him whenever he himself wrongs, simply because there is kinship or unity of religion between you and him. Religion comes from God, however it does not reach to all souls, or it reaches broken up, parted or distorted. You are not responsible for this person, in his incongruity. No doubt, that you are his shepherd, but you are [also] the shepherd of the Other, and you sacrifice for the shepherd and the shepherded.

You belong only to the parish of the people of God, and with them you have a covenant of obedience to God, who gathers you all. Among them, you are responsible for the poor and the simple ones, since God is the share of those poor and simple. And if you were prosperous, approach them, so that they might know that salvation in the world is given by some loving persons. Let those who are in need be your community of love, i.e., those who know that God satisfies them by the blessings of the earth and comforts them by whatever God communicates them in their hearts and whatever God grants them of the whiffs of Spirit.

However, those communities, which are originated through divine Spirit and the souls are lightened by them, are born at the dawn of goodness. They are neither from space nor time; they are not localized in them. That is why the rule of the crowd does not apply on them. Thus, they are dispersed without any power, since they do not pride themselves on whatever they own. Further, whatever they own means nothing to them, since they think that as much as they become needy to God as more they become strong and resolute. Whenever they are stripped, God becomes their clothing, and whenever they hunger, God becomes their food. Thus, according to the standards of this world, they do not exist. Nevertheless, you feel their absence whenever they disappear.

Let no one think that I become sad whenever I see e.g. the contiguousness of the Muslim to the Muslim or the Christian to the Christian. There is in every community tradition, which is to be considered, and each denomination might have good natures and social behaviors which carry peace and spiritual pourings, that heal the weary soul. The whole issue is how you approach, whether on personal or group level, those who belong to your own spiritual community and those who do not belong to it. The meaning of ‘denomination’ here in Lebanon is obscure. On the level of the heart you support it, since it is the heir of God, in its teaching and prayer. However, you do not belong to it in its social activity, since you should be motivated for your nation, and there are no small nationalisms within the large nationalism. You do not have a denominational alignment unless because of the state’s restrictions. And if you were a Christian, you align yourself with your believing brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and this means nothing on the worldly level, except what we call works of compassion. Thus, there is no solidarity opposing a different solidarity, and factionalism vanishes here.

Hence, I want to say that doctrines and love are two completely different things within the religious domain. On the level of the doctrine you are united with its followers and God sees this and it has its [special] articulations in worship. However, love is absolutely one for all people. You do good to the believer in your religion and to the one who does not believe in it, and you support the defenders of the truth and you move with your heart for action [in that concern].

From this point of view I do not understand the meaning of nation [̓Ummah], as the Muslims use the term. I do not deny for the Muslim to be a brother of another Muslim in doctrines, however this does not lead to lining up [with him]. The pillars of Islam are different and they [inspire] unity. But unity of the heart is one with all people, including pagans and atheists, since God has united Godself with them, through that which Christians call the Fatherhood of God.

The nation is the nation of God, as it is used in the Qur’an, and if you want to use it in this sense without further developing it, I do not mind. Then, you have to search for another term, which designates the national group, in order that you feel yourself belonging to it and part of it. It is clear that the national group is an organizational entity, or we have made it organizational because of the national unity, we have convened upon. Similarly, the denomination is an organizational entity, founded on a religious belief. The national front is a group, without religion, that is why whenever it speaks of a religious state – and this has been relinquished in Christian nations – it implies that its constitutive law is inspired by divine law. This is the case in Islamic countries, while there is no such Christian legislation, thus, there is no possibility for a Christian state. Therefore, the existence of a national front, united by national spirit and faithfulness to the state, is inevitable. [In such a national front] there would be no faithfulness to any religious belief and there would be no possibility to refute any religious belief, since otherwise, the state would be abolished and it would become a church or a divine nation, as it is the case in Islam. In other words, you are compelled to secularism whenever you want to found a state in its modern sense, i.e., where the distinction is kept between the divine and the worldly givens.

We in Lebanon are not bound, as a state, to a divine given. That is why we have contented ourselves with the denominations, as they themselves consent, without disputing their religious bases.

Thus, it is possible that a group of denominations has a similar national position, since this position is based on national interests, which are from this world.

There is no doubt that the origin of this modern thought lies in [the thought] of Enlightenment-philosophers of the eighteenth century. Before that period there was neither a modern state nor religious freedom. Nothing convinces me that a religious state might recognize total freedom of religions. It might recognize the circulation of offices among all citizens and freedom of worship; however it would not admit the limitless extension of other religions, the endless religious dialogue, mission and evangelism.

We have today partisan coalitions from different denominations. This is good in itself and it might be partly a guarantee for the avoidance of religious or sectarian wars. However, this does not mean that we have eradicated the essence of denominational tension, whenever political situation is changed. I wish that this would mean that we separate between religion and war. And I wish – if we were all honest – that we eradicate the essence of war in a lived secularism, though not all of us admit it theoretically.

Whenever peace dwells – and it is one of God’s attributes – we examine the religious social concerns, the possibility of religious dialogues and the meeting among the religions, in the social domain, in a brotherly atmosphere. And we may do that in the theoretical domain as well, in order that we might struggle against [both] theoretical and social isolation.

It consoles me, the Orthodox Christian, that tomorrow we commemorate a saint, lived in the fourteenth century, and called Gregory Palamas. [Palamas] emphasized the old Christian belief that we share in some divine eternal powers, and thus we come spiritually from the same God in terms of sanctification, as we all come from God through creation, without penetrating the divine essence, since that would be polytheism. When would the Lebanese people become deified (and the term [in Arabic] is of Islamic origin)? That is, when would the Lebanese people assume the divine characters (and the phrase is again Islamic)?

All other perceptions are temporal mending. The country is not founded only on laws and institutions. These are good and necessary. [However,] the country should be founded on purity, and this is called – in political terms – combating corruption. As for the purity of the ministers and the representatives of the nation and its officials, this is the highest level of combating corruption. This implies that our people approach God honestly and bravely, until God becomes – in our minds – the king of the country, as it is in God’s essence. When would we admit that in our obedience to God we would have a better life, or even the best life? This is our true freedom, which whenever associated to public freedoms, it raises us unto great manifestations.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الحرية الكاملة” –An Nahar- 03.03.2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The Politicization of God / 03.02.2007

More than once the president Bush said that God has commissioned him and has ordered him to occupy Iraq and other than Iraq. Whoever thinks this, how could you deal with him? The Lebanese have certain humor or education, and some of them think that God speaks to them in these matters; however they do not express it. I understand that the almighty God condescends to you in order to heal you from a sickness, since you are God’s creature and beloved, but that God should have a policy for Lebanon, or for a sect [or a denomination] in Lebanon, this sounds funny to me. The Lord does not consolidate you for a worldly benefit and does not consolidate a sect [or a denomination], making it superior to others, strengthening it in order that it might be in charge of God at a certain period of history. This is even funnier. Sects [denominations] are humans and humans are rogue and toilsome. The Lord does not favor a group [against another] and makes no interference in war or peace. People make war and peace according to their strength. And a proof for this is that the same country wins in a battle and is defeated in another. Thus, where is God’s faithfulness to this people as God conceals Godself from them for some times? This was haw the German pastors prayed for the support of their country in the First World War, and the French pastors for their country at the same period. And each of the two groups thought that it is on the side of God.

There is no room here to mention the Crusaders and the belief of their leaders that God has sent them to these countries. Why did God not leave them in these countries to our day? And why did God want their victory and then their defeat? And why does Israel win and then also is defeated?

There is an ingrained tendency in humans to make God the savior of purposes they have reposed. And every nation [or people] thinks that God is its ally and that they are a chosen people. Whatever was the meaning of the statement [the chosen people], why the Hebrews conquered several times before the coming of Christ and why they were defeated several times? The human being needs an ally, and it is he/[she] who declares God an ally. Why have Christians lived seven centuries in the Levant as overwhelming majority, and then have become completely obliterated in North Africa?

In my view, one of the reasons of the progress of the West, since the eighteenth century, is that they have studied politics intellectually. They considered neither the success of the French Revolution as a crown from God nor Bonaparte’s coming to rule, and also the other kings’, as the descent of grace upon them. The age of prophecy is over. Today, neither victory nor conquest is left to God, and the story is the story of weapon, political understanding, and either cultural progress or regression.

God is not with Shiites, or Sunnites, or Christians or others as they are in war, since God is the God of peace, or God is peace, as the inspired Books say. And the religious groups are playing their games to the extent of their power. No one carries a divine mandate to gain any position and God is not with the defeat of any position. And if any of these was true, then this is concealed for us to understand.

God has left for us spiritual values to live according to their content. God has not left military maps. God is not the Chief of Staff. In case we say this, it would mean that the conqueror army is the army of God. Does [then] God lead another army in case it wins? And does God have temperament [or mood] in order to take sides? Whenever our perception of war and peace is not secularized, then, we are in wars which in reality are religious, and seemingly mundane. Charles Helou used to say that our wars with Israel are wars of prophets. By this he used to refer to the religious nature, which the Jews used to give to their assaults. However, any child would know that prophets do not fight and that commissioning the prophets are forged papers which people write for their own benefit.

Whenever we leave God out of this matter, and we invite God to our repenting souls; wars would stop, since they are the work of the hearts full of abhorrence. Hope is necessary here and also to realize that we all endure not with the power of weapon, but with the power of love. Then, you will feel that you value the Other, and that his/[her] love retains your existence, and that on earth there is enough space for you and for him/[her]. This assumes that you believe that the Other cannot threaten you, though he/[she] says that, since you endure through divine gratification. [This also assumes that] you are unarmed and that you have a message to the Other to the extent that you are abstinent from the world and maybe from politics. I was telling some of my Christian friends: when you were absent from the political stage in Ottoman Empire you were more prosperous in thought and creativity, namely in domains which do not need weapon or political status.

Today, I do not have lessons for the politicized Christians. They are more eloquent than me in their fields. Whenever you can spare no effort in the fields of thought, art and economic activity, then, the people’s need of you will increase, and you will have your own space and they will have theirs. And you will together discover that the great humanitarian work sets you free from fear and consequently frees you from the trade of arms and their use. In the fifties, as I recall, André Gide presented us a lecture in cinema Roxy in Beirut and he said that the world was made by minorities. Whenever you do not immigrate, do not fear of extinction. Extinction comes from fighting. Do not fear of having children, since this is the will of God and God will provide for you and for your offspring. Do not think that you will endure by defending yourself, unless by politics’ honorable means, since then it would be a defense of the whole homeland. People should compete in thought and economic production and to clear their spiritual and philosophical thinking because of some outstanding ones among them and this is beneficial for the whole nation. Whenever we do not immigrate of fear, then, Muslims and Christians will exist in this country forever, since the one who is not selfish and not indulging in luxury loves children and they live with him/[her], in front of him[her], with joy and knowledge. Sectarianism will abolish by itself whenever each sect [or denomination] strives along the paths of sharing and progress. Then, though you would be physically coming from your family, nevertheless, the sublimity of your heart and your cognitive excellence will come from all communities.

Whenever you insist to remain only as from the people of the world you will remain in conflict, since every hungry person of the world will strive to swallow it up alone. But whenever you renounce glory you can share your bread, then, the physical bread will seem to be of less value than the bread of knowledge.

To take off the weapon from you quiver starts, then, as you purify yourself and you have hunger for God and knowledge, and also for work which comes from them. And whenever you swallow the divine word others would receive it from you, and you would live together and you would form a people who long for purity, which is more powerful than sin. The problem of the sinner is that he/[she] is not aware of his/[her] depth. And the problem of the armed is that he/[she] does not completely believe that he/[she] is exposed to die and there is not any aspect of creativity in death.

In these countries there is no way for national partnership between us without deeming God far beyond being an ally to a sect [or a denomination]. The danger comes from this god that you make according to your own likeness and your own example. Your endeavor, then, is to return to the image which God has drawn in you; and not the image of the god of war which you have drawn for yourself.

The problem is not solved when you say that this group is unarmed. I do not have intelligence services to know the truth of the issue. However, the error is not only in acquisition of arms, but also in the desire to obtain them. And the greatest danger is whenever you obtain a weapon and you believe that God’s hand is on the trigger or that it aims at the bomb. To me, no idolatry is compared to this. I do not invite you to become secular in all the areas of politics. Though that’s what I opt for. However, I invite you to deem God far beyond planning for wars, or leading them. Since then, you fall in the sin of commercializing with God for your own benefit and for the benefit of the faction to which you belong. And commercializing with God is your enslaving of God intellectually, while you are God’s slave.

To depart from possessing or politicizing God is the way for your salvation in the days in which we live. I am not eligible to point to the internal, regional and international factors which intervene and cause our death. We die in the depth because of the lack of depth of the soul and the mind, and also from the incapability to perceive the Other as our brother/[sister]. And we die of fear, namely of the lack of love.

Everything seems to be as if we will not escape adversity, unless by a special divine compassion.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “تسييس الله” –An Nahar- 03.02.2007

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