2011, An-Nahar, Articles

Jesus’ Transfiguration / 06.08.2011

The event which we celebrate today, the transfiguration of Christ, is essential in the Gospel. Before it, in it and after it the atmosphere is pain and resurrection. After Peter’s confession concerning Jesus’ sonship to God, “from that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things … and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matt. 16: 21)

Peter’s confession was in the area of Caesarea Philippi, which is currently called Banias, and is located on the foot of Mount Hermon or Jabal al-Shaikh. After six days of this confession the Lord took Peter, Jacob and John, who were His close companions, to a high mountain [Matt. 17: 1-2]. The tradition tells that it is Tabor in Galilee; however Tabor is not a high mountain. Thus, some scholars are inclined to say that the Lord has not left the region of Banias and that transfiguration has occurred on Mount Hermon. This is of no importance for the teaching. There He has been transfigured and His form was changed as it says in Greek. What does it mean that His face shone like the sun and His garments became white as light? Here comes the teaching of the Orthodox Church, as it reads the text. The event took place in the day time, however this was not the light of the sun, since this would not be different [than the regular light] and there would not be any wondrous element to be mentioned. However, it was the light of Godhead, which Jesus was concealing in His body and it has radiated in order to foretell His resurrection. Thus, this is kind of anticipation of the salvation events.

Just after this we read that Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and talk to Him. Only Luke says that they “appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” [Luke 9: 31] And the departure refers to the sufferings.

As the two prophets were on the mountain with Jesus, a bright cloud overshadowed them. And if we read this word with the Old Testament background we come to understand that the cloud is referring to Shekinah [Hebrew word] and the Arabic is Sakinah which means serenity, designating the divine presence. From this cloud of glory a voice was heard: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” [Matt. 17: 5] The part before “listen to him” has been mentioned in the baptism of the Lord, which conceptually anticipates the suffering and the resurrection of the Savior. Is transfiguration then an image of the baptism and the heard voice is the same one heard at the Jordan River? This, in terms of the narrative, is a critical question which I cannot answer. However, as critics we may say that the content of baptism and of transfiguration is one, and that the whole question from the beginning to the end is about the crucifixion of the Master and His rising from the dead. In the baptism we are transfigured, that is we acquire a new form, which the Creator has prepared it for us from eternity.

Coming back to Elijah and Moses, the traditional thought has perceived Elijah as a prototype for the prophets, who come to tell that all prophesies are realized in the death of the Lord, and perceives Moses as the one by whom the law of obligations will come to an end, whenever he meets Jesus the Nazarene. They were present in the cloud of glory which has been declared first through Jesus Christ, while they were not in the glory before that, as the Lord has said: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (John 1: 18) However, the statement “listen to him”, which is not mentioned in the narrative of the baptism, calls us to listen to the transfigured Christ, who is anterior to us, whenever we become from the adherents [of Christ], staring only at Him, through His grace and our humility. Elijah, Moses and all the prophets, who preceded the Master in time, would not bring us other than to Him. We accept them since they brought the old humanity to Him. And we accept the thought that harks to Jesus and the philosophy which serves Him, and the art which discloses Him in one way or another. He alone remains and He does not abolish [others], since all truth and sublimity comes from His transfiguration, namely, from the radiation of that Godhead, which He carries, to the whole scope of life.

Elijah and Moses did not see God in the Old Testament. No one can “see [God] and live” [Ex. 33: 20]. No one penetrates the essence of God. Since then, he/[she] would become God, in his/[her] essence. Nevertheless, God is light that has to be attainable. “God became man so that man might become a god.” [St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3]  Since Irenaeus, in the second century, this has been said, and it was affirmed by Athanasius in the fourth century, Basil has confirmed it, Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth century has taught it, and the Christian East has verified it in a council.

In one way or another all of them have maintained that there are in God eternal powers, which are not God’s essence, however they are uncreated powers. Since whenever God offers you temporal powers, namely powers that are created in time, they would not be God or they would not arrive at God. God provides you with works which are God’s, and they were eternally with God, and whenever you receive them you rise to eternity and you become as having no beginning.

If grace was created, then it would be exterior to God, namely it would not deify you. What does it mean that grace sanctifies you? What does it mean that you become perfect through sanctification, if sanctification was something that God throws within you while it is not of Godself?

The incarnation of the Son of God implies that He has bridged the gap between the Creator and the creature, without God becoming a creature in essence, or the creature a Creator in essence. However, they become one through sanctification and they meet in eternity. In eternal life, which has been accomplished through resurrection, you are not merely behind God, but you are in God. You walk in God toward God’s unending reality and toward your unending reality through the consolidation of love.

However, you would not reach at this resurrection without you being crucified with Christ, so that you would be purified from the defilements of this world. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” [Matt. 16: 24], so that he/[she] might throw away every corruptive lust and choose Christ alone. That is why when Moses and Elijah have disappeared from the mountain the disciples could not see other than Jesus.

Every one of us may resemble Christ that is by crucifying one’s sins every day, so that one might rise every day. Through such resembling one might become a partner of Christ, namely one with Him in love, which is not mixed with hypocrisy, as though he/[she] is sitting with Him on the right side of God.

That person would coexist with all people, would perform any profession and would love the things of this world, without being subject to them. However, in each fold of his/[her] inner existence he/[she] would be with Christ or from Christ until he/[she] reigns with Christ at the resurrection when God becomes all in all.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “تجلي يسوع” –An Nahar- 06.08.2011

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2011, An-Nahar, Articles

Ramadan Has Arrived / 30.07.2011

Ramadan is a month for all of us, whether we refrain from food or refrain from sin. It is not right for a Muslim to be practicing his asceticism and for us to not support him with prayer. He believes that his fast was decreed for him. You should ask blessings, health, and purity for him so that he can reach the highest point of his struggle and benefit all people through his nighttime prayer.

It saddens me that some of us welcome the iftars to which our friends invite us without our hearts going to the fast itself, that is to turning away from this world and its pleasures insofar as we are happy for Muslims to draw near to God and His generosity.

We accept Muslims because God accepts them in the purity of their worship.

The month of faith and preservation / There is triumph in it for those who wish to accept

These are the qualities that a profound believer seeks and they transcend the outward price, which is restraint from what is ugly and at that point only God remains. You become like Mary, who said “I have vowed a fast unto the Merciful One, and may not speak this day to any mortal” (Surat Maryam 26). If you have achieved purification, you have achieved your ascent to God who gives you what to say to people or who gives you silence to save you from your emptiness.

For those especially dedicated to worship, Ramadan becomes withholding the senses from sins and a fast of the heart from everything but God. As for the purely outward image of fasting, it is nothing and serves no purpose. The special characteristic of spiritual sacrifice in this struggle is described by one who said, pleadingly, “My God, the beggars have stopped at your door and the poor have fled to your refuge. The ship of the wretched has stopped at the shore of your generosity, receiving passage to the field of your mercy and grace. My God, if in this noble month you only are generous to those who are sincere with you in their fasting, then who is there for the dedicated sinner who drowns in the sea his sins and transgressions?” “My God, if you only accept the diligent, who is there for the negligent? My God, those who fast have profited, and as for us your sinful servants, have mercy on us and bestow your grace upon us. Forgive us all, by your mercy, most merciful one.” This is the Muslim’s window on all-encompassing love.

What is the purpose of the fast? Asceticism, abstinence, and austerity are exercises by which God makes possible for man what the Christians call grace, which is the divine power in the human heart or, as al-Ghazali says, what God causes to leap up within one’s breast. Secondly, the fast is a focus on the Lord himself and thus internal conditions make Ramadan a gateway to heaven. This means that its true purpose is for the one fasting to take on one of God’s attributes, which is steadfastness insofar as the divine steadfastness is reflected in a human being.

The Imam Ghazali said, “Fasting has three levels: the fasting of ordinary people, the fasting of the select, and the fasting of the select of the select.” Ordinary people’s fasting is following known obligations and it is summarized by refraining from desire for food and sexual restraint. The fasting of the select is refraining from all sins such as averting one’s gaze from what is blameworthy, controlling the tongue, refraining from listening to unpraiseworthy things “because that which it is forbidden to say is also forbidden to listen to.” A beautiful saying of al-Ghazali’s is “one should not eat permissible food in excess, to the point of filling one’s belly, when breaking the fast because there is no vessel more detestable to God than a belly full of permissible food.” His advice is that one fasting should eat what he would eat every night if he were not fasting.

As for the select of the select, their fast is “the heart’s fasting from cares… and worldly thoughts and abstaining from everything other than God.”

If Muslims were to write new Ramadan literature, they would have to think in this Middle East that the Christians who love them, even if they do not fast with them bodily they are still close to them, since if each group of us is elevated spiritually, the other is elevated together with them, or at least this is what one imagines. At the deepest level, one does not look at dogma, but rather at human beings. The goal is human beings coming together to the point of love and not just the rapprochement of two sets of dogmas. What was called Muslim-Christian dialogue targeted dogmas. For that reason, it had little success and some scholars rejected it because of the difficulty of undertaking it and began to talk about the ethical aspect in dialogue. The truth is that there is another aspect, which is the coming together of people who seek God in love and who want the other to be elevated along with them. In their intense focus on God during the fast, is there anything to prevent Muslims from carrying Christians along with them and not becoming prisoners of politics?

Political communication may be extremely difficult because it is focused on competition, denying the other his right, and a lack of vision for national unity. This is expressed by saying “I am more important than you and greater than you.” Politics is always focused on the ego, and the ego always denies the other’s ego. All that is based on humans is human, which is to say that within it are people’s desires. But if we lay aside politics and its struggles within a religion or within multiple religions, and we focus the heart and mind on God in a continuous Ramadan or in Lenten fasting, we will feel that we are human beings capable of unity and coming together and that we are in principle a single society.

The outward, organizing form of this society is that it is a civil society. The search for this is ongoing, without a limit to the expression. In sum, it is for us to be a religious society that, in so being, does not have a political aspect. Or, if it must be so organized, it must submit to civil laws without sectarian reference.

What is important is for us to be free of all vainglory and that we should not strive for what pertains to this world. When will we turn in this Ramadan direction?

If, during Ramadan, you are among the select or the select of the select, to the point of reaching God, look at His servants in the way that He does, that is that they are His children, according to the Christian terminology. No matter what your language, God is the one who shelters you and He calls all those under his shelter unto Himself. I do not only mean on the last day. We are drawn to Him at all times through His mercy and loving-kindness.

Through bodily abstinence, through spiritual abstinence, or through both of them, we shall enter Ramadan together in perfect brotherhood.

Translated from Arabic

Original Text: “أقبل رمضان” –Nahar-  30.07.2011

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Domestic Violence / 02.07.2011

It appears that we are witnessing a competition taking root between Muslim scholars or preachers and the state over the question of domestic violence. These brothers see the proposed legislation to be mutually exclusive with Islamic law and appeal to the latter for a woman’s obedience to her husband. This is what little I read in the press. In the absence of the complete text you cannot take a position, even if you are a non-Muslim. However, I anticipate a major division in the country, not only dividing between the sects but also dividing between segments within a single religion.

No doubt, only the powerful practice violence. They assert themselves with the means at their disposal, with their muscles for example. Modern society emphatically speaks of dialogue, but dialogue is not always a meeting of equals except superficially, because the strong often show kindness in order to assert themselves. Violence of different levels is rooted in nature, but it must be overturned by the justice and equality that God wants to be universal among us.

Violence is intensified by the law or by the social order which the strong benefit from and hide behind. Spousal violence is wrapped in divine words in this or that religion until man discovers the depth of equality in grace and gain the experience that mercy is more powerful than physical strength or legal power. Here again we return to the ego. Am I, for example, the arbiter of what appears from God or is it possible to commit brutality in defense of the authority of law and to apply it in practice against a citizen who has transgressed the interpretation of this arbiter of the laws expressions? It is the temptation of the possessor of the law that it is his and its reality is that it is delegated to him to carry out God’s authority, or, you might say, the authority of truth.

If we return to the topic of the family, Christianity calls for a wife to submit to her husband, but it softens this by saying that the husband must love his wife just as Christ loved the Church: to the point of death. But I have rarely found a man who has read this part of the divine text and who is not just content to demand obedience from his wife. Naturally, texts are read by humans and if they do not love very much, they use them for their own benefit.

What about Islam? The clearest thing about the matter is aya 34 of Surat al-Nisa’: “If you fear their recalcitrance, admonish them then avoid them in bed, then beat them.” I posed the question of beating to Sheikh Sobhi el-Saleh, may God have mercy on him. The problem is that after his passing, I do not have a witness. He said that the beating does not have to be intense, and this is supported by the Tafsir of al-Jalalayn, which means that this is a form of admonition and not true violence. Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Tabataba’i deals with it graciously and considers it to be a means of rebuking, which means that in Surat al-Nisa’ we do not have something that must be understood as being violence. I understand it to soften the beating when the Qur’an says, “It is made lawful for you to go in unto your wives on the night of the fast. They are raiment for you and ye are raiment for them (Surat al-Baqara 187)”. In philosophical language, this symmetry, this meeting in love, absolutely precludes violent beating.

I do not at all see anything in the Qur’anic revelation that would permit domestic violence. How should we treat each other when there are verses of mercy, of which there are dozens, to the point that it’s possible to say that Islam is a religion of mercy? It is required in every place, not only in the home. The great question is what is the place of contemporary sensibility with regard to what God has said. How should we approach contemporary civilization insofar as it is against violence? Is it committing disbelief to insist on peace in every place? Can there be interpretation within time and within every period of time? Does the contemporary sentiment for domestic peace not please God?

Will the country really be divided? This time, people will not fight according to sect. To my mind, there will appear a group that sees statutory law as against Islamic law and another Lebanese group that includes both Christian and Muslim liberals who hold to their faith but pay no attention to think that they have gone against religious dogma if they say that they are against domestic violence and who are closer to believing in equality between husband and wife in ordering the affairs of the family. There is tradition, and there is modernity or reform of Islamic thought that is close to contemporary civilization. This reformist thought has roots in Islam in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere.

Woman’s march toward equality with men is a significant phenomenon in modern Islam. It will not stop while it raises the banner of an Islam that is true to itself but is also developing according to the development of civilization that is enveloping the world today. Within this civilization, no one understands a man’s violence or a woman’s violence. Domestic violence is against them both. I have witnessed before a woman’s cruelty to her husband and her ruthless behavior. The idea is that the law protects well-being and is aimed against either party persecuting the other. The obedience to the husband that religious teaching calls for does not include the right to punish her and he cannot be a party to the dispute and the judge at the same time. This is naturally contrary to mercy. Neither of the two can in any way subjugate the other. Union is not subjugation. It is a dual motion and a mutually exchanged love. The woman does not just receive affection from her spouse, she also gives it and expects a response from her companion in existence, until they both become one being.

My dream is for those with strong muscles and those with wealth will understand that the other might be greater spiritually and culturally and that they will receive as they give.

This leads me to say that we do not have a common life if we remain divided between traditionalists and reformists. Yes, I know that all societies are divided along these lines. However, if we remain divided between people of text and people of spirit, the country will have a long wait before it sees its revival. However, I am happy that the dispute is not between Christians and Muslims, but between rigorists and people who believe in development, growth, and progress. The two groups exist in both religions. However slowly, a true civil society will take shape along with an old, outmoded society, until the society that progresses toward truth is victorious, tomorrow or the next day. There is no doubt that within human reality there are spiritualities, but there are also lived realities that keep man from rigidity or delusion. We must look at the issue of violence, in the home and outside the home, in light of a profound reform of humanity. If there does not come a unity based on understanding, we will continue to proceed in a state of false calm based on platitudes. Without a profundity based on heritage and a general revival based on truth, love, fearlessness, and confidence in others’ ability to advance, we have

Translated from Arabic

Original Text: “العنف المنزلي” – Nahar- 02.07.2011

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The ‘I’ / 11.06.2011

I had to add the definite article to the ‘I’ and this has allowed me to destroy the concentration on the self, and the contentment with it. The complete adherence to the self is death itself, since death is the complete separation from others.

Pascal, the great, has realized the danger of the self-love and said, haïssable le moi est, i.e., the ‘I’ is detestable. This is the culmination of the love of power, yet this is even larger, since your attachment to power, to a reasonable extent, leaves a certain space, though little, to others. The sin, that we are reflecting on today, is exclusion in its full sense. Minimally, it is the annulment of relationships, and this is conceivable by the perfect mind and the pathetic heart following it. It is the denial of the Other from all your existence and putting him/[her] to death without a physical execution.

Why is my harsh attack on the ‘I’? Because our philosophical and theological definition of the human being is that he/ [she] is created with [the possibility of] communication, and that not all of his/ [her] center is in him/[her]self. The human being is not one pole. Existence is not the overcrowding of disconnected individuals, each with a closed personality. Those are [rather], what we call in theistic, existential philosophy, persons. We define the person according to his/[her] personality that he/[she] is open, i.e., he/[she] is a recipient of the Other in order that he/[she] might be liberated from isolation and exist forming his/[her] personality with the Other. I am poured in you through love, and you are poured in me, and there is no dissolving in this. There is a unity without accumulation or conjunction. You preserve your inner being and I preserve mine.

Each of the two beings is a language, so that I do not duplicate you and you do not duplicate me. The personality, with its liveliness, uniqueness and splendor, could dissolve to the extent of duplicating [the Other]. However, these all should be consolidated in order that the Other is consolidated and is able to carry him/[her]self and carry me at the same time in a mystery of a union based on duality strengthened by unity.

I am poured out in you to the end and you are poured out in me to the end. Because of this completion in the flow, each of us is consolidated in his/ [her] dignified and delightful ‘I’, which does not imply arrogance, conceit or elimination of the Other. Yes, humility requires elimination, yet, it is the elimination of the self, while the Other exists in one’s self. Thus, it is possible to arrive at the completion of each person [only] through giving. How could you be eliminated and yet exist? This is the mystery of the meeting in love, which alone confirms the personality.

Whenever this meeting of dialogue does not occur sentimentally, in everyday’s work, each of us remains the prisoner of him/[her]self as the people of the Hell in the theology of our Fathers, who said that each of those in Fire is being  bound back to back with another person, i.e., he/[she] is unable to meet the Other’s face.

This interprets in human terms the Christian Trinity on the basis of what Christ has said, “I am in the Father and the Father in me” [John 14:10]. The Father remains the Father through the Fatherhood, which gave the Son His sonship. And the Son remains in His belovedness because of what He receives from the Father, and the unity between them is love. The unity of God does not imply that God is one, in whom duality and trinity do not coincide. God is not one in number. “Whoever counts Him, limits Him.” (̓Imām ʻAlī) God is unique. “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). Love is not an attribute of God. It is God’s name, i.e., God’s very being. Whoever says that God is three persons, he/[she] does not count, i.e., there is no calculation in it. God is far above being countable, while the human being might be considered as one in number, yet, not a closed one. He/[she] is one through the love by which he/[she] loves others and the love by which others love him/[her]. Whoever does not know this would be loving his/[her] ‘I’, i.e., he/[she] would be closing all the doors of his/[her] heart, petrified in perceiving his/[her] own self, that is he/[she] would desire an idol of him/[her] for him/[her]self and for others [to worship]. His/[her] love of the self is a self-worship and a request of others’ servitude to him/[her]. Thus, he/[she] calls upon others to make idols of themselves, and therefore they all would be in slavery.

To gather people merely in a family, or a city, or a country, or a school, or a university, or a factory, does not form intimate people, and they do not form a united society, unless under suppression and compulsion. This would be a political society founded on power and endorsement that is imposed from above. However, human reality does not lie in gatherings of people but in the meeting of the hearts. Of course, there are regulations and rules necessary for arranging the societies and ordering the different works; however, these are social bindings, where faults are fewer.

A political society relieves you of harm through a minimum control of the state and its institutions. Such society is oriented toward intellectual and economic output, and with the prominent educated people the minds meet, and thus, the society approaches the paradigm of the conscientious meeting between the ‘I’ and the other ‘I’, each being open to the Other, since each ‘I’ searches for the truth in principle. Whenever you were creative, you aspire to beauty and goodness and you do not envy other creative people. Nevertheless, sin infiltrates sometimes into the intellectual and the artistic elite, and it weakens their conscientiousness.

It is not possible for the closed ‘I’ to be broken other than through renouncement. The love of money here is the biggest calamity, since whenever you love money you get hardened or stiffened and your emotions weaken, and [in this way] you would be closing your ‘I’. Only giving opens it and brings it to the circle of the “we”. Whoever volunteers to some kind of poverty raises the Other to the position of a beloved existence. Some of your things need to abolish in order that you might receive the Other with generosity. The importance of generosity is that through it you experience some privation, and this means that you would feel that the Other accomplishes you.

The money that you possess, and you cling to it, is an obstacle that hinders you from seeing the poor, whom Jesus called His little brothers. Thus, throw away whatever conceals your sight and you know that the means to set forth your authority is money. The authoritative person thinks that he/[she] alone exists and that many draw their existence from him/[her]. This is the possessor, par excellence, of the closed ‘I’. Here comes the image of the tyrannical ruler, whose concern is his/[her] persistence in position, no matter whether the people live or die.

Tyranny is that the ruler deludes him/[her]self that in this way he/[she] is effective. In reality he/[she] is worshipping him/[her]self. In this case, it is possible that the country succeeds in certain domains; however, it fails in the intellectual domain. And whenever fear from authority prevails, then people would fear one another, since they would doubt about the affiliation of others with the tyrannical system.

Theoretically, the state can help the person in order to become a fountain of spiritual life. The state could become humane so that the person might feel that the state is not an instrument for subjugation and that it is a support for the poor. Politics should conquer tyranny and injustice and be supportive of justice.

The enterprise is to transform the civil society to a society of hearts, feeling each other and accepting each other in sincerity and trust.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الأنا” –An Nahar- 11.06.2011

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The Kingdom of Christ /

The discussion between the Lord and Pilate was very dramatic. Based on the accusations of the Jews, the governor asked Jesus of Nazareth: “Are you the King of the Jews?” The governor was not interested with the charge, since it does not shake the throne of a Caesar. The charge would [also] not result in the execution of the Savior. Finally, the governor judging asks Jesus: “what have you done?” Jesus answered: “My kingship is not of this world”. The origin is not the earth. However, I confirm that I am a king. My task is confined to this: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” [John 18: 33, 35-37]

In every nation and in the whole of humanity there is one human being or few people whose task is not to govern, i.e., to deal with politics, but rather to bear witness to the truth. The Nazarene had once said: “And for their sake (for the disciples’) I consecrate myself”. In the original meaning of the word it means that I have been set aside for God, or I am specialized in what concerns God, [or] as the believer says, I am in the image of God. I speak God’s language since God has descended to me and has dwelt in me, because I have humbled myself in front of God. However, had I built a tower for myself, as it was in Babylon in the past, so that I may reach at God with my own strength and with some other arrogant ones, God would have destroyed the tower and confused our languages, namely God would have made in every human being meanings different than the others’ meanings, while God has no place in these languages. Then, God would no more reign over us, since God would no more be the King of all languages, and not the only one in the human heart. Thus, every human being has turned into his/[her] heart, namely the heart has become a den for snakes, while snakes have been torn apart as they fight each other and they have earned kingdoms, all from the earth, and in our Lebanese expression we say they have become farms. Hence the ‘I’ could no more become ‘we’. The earth does not germinate a Kingdom for God. This is why Jesus, who has descended with His words from heaven, said to the earthly representative of Rome: “My kingship is not of this world”.

I and the world—we do not speak the same language, unless this world comes know that it is called to be – all through – a domain of heaven or heaven.

Maybe few are aware that they have come to bear witness to the truth and that their language is the language of truth only. And maybe they are not aware that their communication means are messages of truth, namely that they have come to sanctify themselves till their language merges with God’s language. This way they might be founded on sanctity of the truth.

I think that Christ’s words to Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world”, means that the Nazarene has come with a new language, with the word, and that you have to follow it and to endorse it, since otherwise you would not have accepted complete change of the human form. [It would further mean] that you are merely borrowing terms from the words of the Nazarene, while your conviction does not emerge from truth. You might think that it does, since you perform a role in society or you have a rank or power which allows you to form your own kingdom in this world and from it, so that it might conform to the wisdom of this world, and its skill. And you would enjoy your intelligence, which is from this world, thinking that it is from God since God is the source of intelligence.

Before Jesus said “My kingship is not of this world”, he thought about His disciples’ affiliation to His Kingdom: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth” [John 17: 16-17]. They are responsible to bear witness to the truth and not to perform politics as Herod, the priests and Pilate. To bear witness to the truth is to be filled with holiness, i.e. there would be nothing in them other than the word of God, and they would not speak other than whatever emerges from the Word, which was from the beginning, namely before the universe and its politics.

“As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” [John 17: 18] So, as I do not say a thing from myself since I have received everything from you, similarly they would not say a thing from themselves but only from whatever they have received from me. They do not have an identity from their own selves. In their highest strive they are me, as if from eternity they were like me, as I and you are one from eternity.

Nonetheless, Paul the apostle admits that there is wisdom in this world, and wisdom of speech is a part of it. However, he explains that the world has not known God through human wisdom, since Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” [1Cor. 1: 24] Does this mean that there is no communication between the two wisdoms, and that nonconformity would forever exist between the language of the fallen human being and the language of God, and that the saints are separated from the sinners? The question is extremely difficult. However, whenever we get to know that the word of God is God’s reign in the world and that the truth of God is the truth, then we realize that no compromise is possible between the divine perspective and the human state, which is most of the times fallen.

The great allurement is to make the human word a substitute for the word of God, and this is the compromise, namely the descent from a higher level to that which is below, so that you would make use of the human logic in order to cover with it the divine logic, or to hide it, and to convince yourself that you are wise and a loving person and that you do all this for the benefit of people.

In this way proceeds the logic of those who attain the wisdom of the age. [They say to themselves that] these are the human beings and this is what they understand, so let us come down to them. And in reality the procedure moves on as you, thinking of yourself to be the servant of truth, adopt the wisdom of this world.  This is the big illusion. The tower of Babylon had fallen and the languages were confused, and you have become from the people of the earth, and its soil has covered some of the light which you still had.

As for how to use the words of this world, its manners, and its lanes so that you would allow God to speak through them, this is the work of grace within you and it is the fruit of a permanent vigilance concerning the purity of your stance. To become a human being who yearns to divinity in every commitment of you, in order to sanctify your brothers [and sisters] in truth without counting a reward for yourself, and without embellishing yourself. This makes you well versed in the wisdom of this world, however without being subject to it.

How does a sinful world change? It does not change with excessive intelligence and with the increase of the intelligent ones, who were born and grown up in sin. Those who strike themselves with the words of truth every day, so that their sins would not creep into their skins, those can change the world. They can bear witness to the truth, since there would be no separation between them and truth. The world would be saved through little intelligence and much truth, through those who are poor to the splendor of the saints, until the Lord is manifested in the majority, so that they might bring the Lord’s Kingdom into the kingdom of this world.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “مملكة المسيح” –An Nahar- 14.05.2011

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The Resurrection / 23.04.2011

Tomorrow we celebrate the event of resurrection and we aim to perceive its meaning. The event is that Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead and has conquered death as the Paschal hymn articulates it at our Church: “by death, trampling down upon death”.

The event itself was described with special consideration by the writers of the New Testament, since the event is hard to believe in, beside the fact that the writers considered it as the foundation of Christian Faith. Had resurrection not occurred, faith would be in vein and the preaching about Christ would be in vein. Thus, on one hand resurrection is real, consequently its reality has to be established, mainly through the witness of those to whom Jesus had appeared, and on the other hand resurrection is the heart of faith and this contributes to the certainty of faith.

It was Paul the apostle who claimed Resurrection as the core of Christian faith and he was the first to write on Christianity implying that his teaching on Resurrection was received from the apostles. Paul did not distinguish between the event and its meaning and he wrote down a theology that can be summarized by these words: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Thus, belief in Resurrection is confirmed by the words of the apostle: “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1Corinthians 15: 4-8).

To explicate this point further we can refer to the eyewitnesses of the death of Jesus and they were as well eyewitnesses of his appearances after the resurrection, in the sense that they recognized the one who appeared to them as the same who was hung on the wood. Those eyewitnesses were: Mary the Magdalene, the women who carried the ointments and went to the tomb, Simon Peter, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, the apostles gathered in Thomas’ absence and then in his presence, some of the apostles on Lake Tiberias and the apostles in Galilee. He also appeared to them at the time of his ascension to heaven. These appearances are eleven in number, and we read one of them every Sunday in the Orthodox Church.

Narrating these appearances shows the critical spirit of the apostles. This narration makes it obvious to me that the apostles were free of careless popular thinking. They were far from immature and provocative belief.

Thomas’ denial of the resurrection at the beginning and the fact that he was not convinced by the disciples’ words show his strong critical spirit. The next week Jesus appeared to them while Thomas was with them.

Nevertheless, the feast is not limited to the departure of the Nazarene from the tomb, which was a cave and not a hole in the ground. The feast articulates the whole salvation we are given since the incarnation of the Son of God, and specially the salvation we were given through the cross. Before the moment of the crucifixion, Jesus has said “it is completed,” which is to say that ‘I have completed everything my Father has sent me to do and I have fulfilled every word of the prophets’. Thus, after Christ, we owe everything sublime, pure, and true to him. That is to say that integrity of thought, intellectual and artistic output and the victory of the oppressed person, all of these draw their inspiration from the life and words of Jesus. From this standpoint, we hope, on this day, for resurrection from personal toil and the reality of the fall, and we ask for aspirations toward heaven. From a dogmatic standpoint, we have in Easter a promise that we shall rise on the last day. God’s perfection has appeared in Christ. The Savior’s resurrection foretells us that Jesus’ call to us is to “be perfect”.

The feast is the liberation from all types of death in our personal life and in the lives of those around, whom we serve. It is a continuous event within us unto the end of the age. This is why the Feast of the Resurrection extends from Good Friday to the morning of the feast. Whenever this triad enters our lives, we can celebrate the feast every day, promising that all the days of our lives will become an eternal Pascha. Our joy is founded on Jesus’ victory, thus, we do not admit joy on one day and grief on another. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Hence, whenever some say that we are suffering with Christ, we do not mean that the pain of the body or the soul is better than safety. We can accept the sufferings since sometimes they reflect the inner safety. If heaven, at the end, is our victory over sin and death, then we are in it, and if heaven pours out in our daily lives, then we become a paschal community and then we can sing, “Christ has risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death.”

Thus, there is no truth in the saying that “Christianity is a religion of tragedy.” As I heard it once, I told the person addressing me that tragedy, in its Greek sense, means that you are imprisoned in a locked room. However, there is no ceiling above us. There is nothing above our heads than heaven. We have left all the prisons into “the freedom of the sons of God.” This is why, recently, one of our saints used to greet every friend he met saying, “My joy, Christ has risen”.

By this word I greet all who have read me between today and tomorrow, until sorrow cease to exist.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “القيامة” –An Nahar- 23.04.2011

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I, Who Am I? / 25.03.2011

The human being in his/[her] human skin is what he/[she] is, and, for us, there is no other way to know the person apart from one’s skin. You start to know the person through one’s body. You find in one’s eyes the eyes of his/[her] father or mother. Though people differ in description, yet the truth is that the newborn is attached. Genetic science teach you what is accurate, until this child comes to an age which shows the cognation in natures between him/[her] and his/[her] parents, and the cognation in certain movements, in the walk and the sitting down. Then, you perceive the unity and the distinction, until the body is, or almost becomes, completed. And whenever you look at, with great scrutiny, you will see the resemblance either increases or decreases. Such as in this family duplicity is stronger, and in that it is weaker.

In the genetic science it has been noticed, more than in the past, that resemblance is not only confined to the form, and to the skin, but rather it is about the depth of the soul, i.e. the inner formation of the human being. And then, the great dissimilarity has been revealed, i.e. the rift between you and your parent, since the souls are not cells that might resemble or accumulate. Your father might be rational, moderate or balanced, and you, would be on great or little contrast to him. You might say, for the sake of interpretation, that it is because of the environment. But you cannot analyze why and how the impact of environment came to be. You cannot relate between environment and the change that you brought about. There is something that interferes this existence from above it, or from below it, or from its sides. There is something other than the inherited skin. There are violations within you concerning what you have been touching. Your father might have been very quick-tempered while you come to be quite. What has touched you? What has occurred within you, in order that you seem to be disrupted from your father and mother? Are you the son/[daughter] of one of the people, or you are not the son/[daughter] of this earth?

Has duplicity been affected with a factor outside this human skin? The human subject becomes one whenever he/[she] feels his/[her] belovedness. One comes from one’s mother’s womb, and from all the elements that form the person, and later when the umbilical cord is cut one moves toward independence and toward his/[her] unity. As one’s feelings become harmonized, one comes to sense that he/[she] is able to say ‘I’. This state is not in opposition of the other ‘I’. Rather, one does not want to dissolve in the others, but [also] one does not isolate oneself from others. One’s ‘I’ is one’s own self in its harmony. This is what we call the dialectic of unity and multiplicity. The personality stabilizes through unity and distinction, accompanying one another. The fear is [however] in the clash [that might result] between them.

Synergy is not only among the living ones. There is no greater evidence of the continuation of the soul, after death, from that it still gives, or, you still receive from it. How many dead ones accompany your life strongly, in a way you have not experienced as they were alive? From where has this communion come? This is not a verbal dialogue. This communion does not occur as emotional interference, since such interference demands a face. Faces have disappeared. The body is no more a foundation for anything. There is neither imagination nor emotion in this issue, as we could have been felt. You are merged unity, however, it is a unity that has received different fountains, and thus, it also has to become a fountain. The one human being is humanity, though he/[she] is not a crowd.

From all this we might conclude that every one of us is unique, in the sense that there is nothing like oneself. However, to be unique does not give one any privilege. Rather, he/[she] gives you the privilege, in order that you might become through him/[her]. And one might provide you with that which one does not know, and you take according to the gift of taking, within you, and you love and know what to love in the Other. Your friend knows what to take, and in his/[her] turn, he/[she] grows through you and advances. This is the education in which no one brags about being the teacher. This is the integration of equals, where everyone complies the Other as better than oneself, since one views the Other as a giver.

To the extent of being aware of this mystery friendship is built. Someone being asked about the mystery of his relation with his friend has said: we are like this because he is he and I am I. Namely, there is that which is deeper than mental knowledge. The relationship is built through that which transcends you nature and the nature of another. This is pure love, through which alone we grow.

Other than the human element, and if you were a connoisseur, beauty might cultivate you. Some of us come from their love of nature, and some come from their love of modern or antique houses, or arts. Your personality, then, is flourishing and it can save you from grief and drought. You are the endowment of nature and you are affluent with it, or you are the endowment of art. In this way, the fountain within you gets nourished and your draught disappears. And hence, heavens [or gardens] might be implanted within you.

The ‘I’ is then both universal and sentimental. There are some who take little from nature and arts, but they take much from human beings. Whatever were the resources, the human being is manifoldly affluent and you have to discover his/[her] beauty. You might develop your ability to assimilate whatever you are eligible to receive, since, in origin, you have no limits. You are you, but you are also that which you will become.

Though you have no limits in the path that you have chosen, yet you cannot do everything. Thus, accept what you are given and expand in it, since you are called to return the multiple of every talent [or gift] that you were given to God the bestower and to the people surrounding you. God has distinguished you by that which God has not distinguish another. Thus, make use of what you have, since the ‘I’ of the Other has to grow within you your concern, in order that the world might not dry out. You cannot sleep whenever you are talented; since the Lord dislikes that the world gets deserted.

You are born of your father and mother, and then of the environment of nature, science, art and life-experience. However, above all you are born of God, who alone embraces the whole of your person to Godself. Through birth, you get separated from your mother. Birth is a departure. Nevertheless, whenever you are born of God through God’s grace, God would have been granted you some of God’s existence. The scholars of my Church say that you would come from God’s eternity and that God loves you by the same love as God loves God’s Christ. God brings about a new ‘I’ other than this which you have received from your mother. From her and from your friends you become different in degree. Only through God you become different in nature. You become deified and you would not remain only a body emerging from a body. Only “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [John 3: 6], namely of a different being than the one which one’s mother brought to the world. One becomes of a different world, that which descends upon you through divine love.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “أنا من أنا؟” –An Nahar- 25.03.2011

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The Awe of Death / 19.03.2011

There is no such a thing that inspires awe within us as death. The reason behind this is that death is the foe, though there are other foes, yet death remains without a rival. Perhaps it is possible to refer the enmity between us and death to the fact that we are unable to anticipate it, since we do not know the day or the moment at which it may come to us. It happens that a terrible disease occurs to a person, yet he/she remains in life, while another who has not undergone such a disease vanishes.

Usually relatives and friends think of their loss as a punishment from God. They say that “God gives life and causes death”, since life and death cannot occur apart from the command of the one who is the cause of everything in life. Isn’t it the responsibility of the Creator to be the cause of everything, i.e. of existence and nonexistence? However this approach implies that God has two different plans: one to reduce existence to nonexistence and another plan to keep life going on. This further means, and in simple words, that God eternally has been keeping a notebook in which God has written the name of a person and the reason of God’s taking care of him/her until one reaches the hundred years or more in life, or the reason of God’s abandoning of another person, as it is commonly said. Isn’t the claim of God’s abandoning a person a claim of God’s favoritism to some over others?

In reality we do not know the divine intentions and we are somehow left to face a mystery as we encounter the reality of death, from which we cannot escape. I admit that this is frightening; however it is much more frightening to say that God is the cause of one’s departure from life. Our approach is completely altered whenever we believe that God wants us to continue living and that God does not make arbitrary decisions, God does not have our names in a notebook and God does not search for one’s name and the time of one’s departure from this life. God is not a temperamental God and on the level of human feelings death remains an obscured mystery until the mystery is disclosed at the last day.

In sūra 39 [al-zumar], v.42 it is written that “God receives the souls at the time of their death”. This verse distinguishes between death, i.e. the soul’s departure from the body, and God’s receiving of it. God withdraws what has been entrusted to the human soul. This is the work of God. However, for what reason does God withdraw the soul from the natural world, this seems to be an unanswerable question.

I don’t want to enter into the question of divine predestination, rather I prefer to hold on a free reading of the text, which allows me to see the difference between the death of the souls, or their departing the bodies, and their being received by God. What I want to say is that the souls find their way to God and God receives them through God’s mercy. This is what really matters for the believer.

There is no way to comfort a believer by trying to explain the biological reasons behind death. That will not change the believer’s grief about a relative or a friend. It must be further said that biological knowledge about death is based on presumption. Scientific presumption however is unable to comfort the person, whenever one’s beloved had departed life, since one would not want the beloved to depart.

The whole story is that we do not appreciate absence. The reality that a beloved person is no more within our sight causes pain to us, since for us the meeting of the eyes, and of the other senses, is important. Existence is in adhering and being near to the beloved ones. No one can be reconciled with absence and the shock that it causes in the person differs based on the measure of love one carries within oneself toward the departed. The whole universe is not founded on rational understanding and the shedding of the tears is nothing else than a sign for lacking understanding.

Whenever one is able to disperse the departed person from one’s sight and memory, one would be able to free oneself from an image that seizes him/her. It is not enough to move the departed person from one’s sight to one’s discernment, since this keeps one within the grip of death. One has to free oneself from the departed ones because life itself is in God’s hands. Whenever we trust the departed ones to the divine care and to the truth of divine love, we elevate them to Truth as such. We usually hear about war-disasters and we here some claim that this martyr or that is alive in their lives. If this is true and if that martyr is alive in a person it means that the person is the slave of that martyr. Rather we are called to be free from all the departed ones. We are to meet them only in prayer, through which we bring them to God, since they do not need us, but they need divine inclination toward them.

The communion of saints, as Christians call it, has nothing to do with remembering the departed ones. Rather, it is a communion in holiness solely. Those churches which believe in intercession do not claim an emotional excitement, rather they draw upon the Holy Spirit that purifies the souls and makes out of all souls the one Church.

Based on what has been said one has to make the effort to see the departed one leaning on the teacher’s chest. The Last Supper is a lasting event and in our detachment from the world we are inclined to listen to the heart of the Lord and only then we begin to understand and be elevated to the Father. In the presence of the Father we rest only on divine mercy, i.e. the range in which we can be truly in God. In the Kingdom we can have some taste of resurrection, while resurrection is not about time rather it is compassion and tenderness. At the moment in which we yearn for forgiveness, it descends upon us from above since it is not possible at the time of departure merely to encounter nothing. From the very beginning we experience resurrection as we approach the Easter event.

Our paschal reality (the Easter event) is not a delayed event. However the general resurrection is to be announced at the last resurrection and then God’s love to us and our love of God will brightly shine.

In this sense divine glory is not dispersed, rather it is abundant fullness. Whoever is able to live this reality with complete conviction never dies.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “رهبة الموت” –An Nahar- 19.03.2011

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The Word and the Spirit / 12.3.2011

The human soul is an arena for the tension between “rising” and “falling”. It can rise and it can fall. What is Good does not go along with Evil. They clash. “Bad things”, without knowing from where they come, proceed from you even though you are intrinsically bent towards what is good and are a dwelling for God. No other being nests in you. There is a transmittance into you of what is diabolic but there is also that which is divine until you are healed.

The matter is not one of good and evil tendencies that work themselves in the soul with one outweighing the other. The issue concerns what resides in your depths. The question the Lord pauses for you is: “Are you on my side, are you with me?” And the question is so for us on Judgment Day. The issue is not how well you have applied yourself to the Ten Commandments. These can only signify as to whether you are God’s friend or one of His enemies.

Your repentance in this life is not merely a transition of a moral nature from being “bad” to being “good”. This takes place through ongoing rigorous repentance; your repentance is a shift from your depravity to the presence of God; from you holding back from Him to His self-revelation to you. Being in evil, you cannot have your deeds acknowledged as good unless you seek God’s face; that is you enter into His love. Then He takes away your sins. The issue is not what you seek, but whom you seek. And if you happen to seek mercy, forgiveness and compassion, you are in fact seeking God; because your soul will not be satisfied except with Him.  He fills all of His “beauties”. “And of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”(John 1: 16). Thus there is a variety of “graces” bur they all proceed from the Divine Fullness. It is not an over statement if I say that the sinner moves from a state of rejection of God to one of befriending Him. Without that relationship we inherit nothing and we see nothing.

This close relationship removes the remoteness existing between your power and God’s. The closeness might develop to union; one between “the Creator” and “the created” in such a way that the relationship of worship of the Creator by the creature remains. Without this closeness you remain “thrown” purposelessly in this universe. So it is necessary that God intervenes with Man to bring about salvation.

God comes down to you with Divine Love. The only thing that can exist between you and Him is communication. Love is a bond of unity between us and God though each remains in his own statehood independent of the other. If you believe, you can bring yourself to this encounter with Him.

In a dialogue, the two dialoguing parties are equal and of the same standing. This is not the case in our relationship with the Lord unless He condescends to make us so in His love. This is so in Christianity because of the Incarnation. God, in the incarnation, has put upon Himself the mantle of equality with us. And that is a genuine and voluntary act of condescension on God’s part; this is met with an ascending act on our part. That is the type of “dialogue” between God and Man. In reality, that means surrendering yourself to Him and submitting to His Word.

In this dialogue, God does not “give and take” with you; He only commands you. And it is so in matters of sin and temptation. He commands you to “silence” temptation and to say “No” to sin the moment it springs up in your mind. You do not “give and take” with the devil. You only renounce him from the start. Do not discuss things with him; just renounce him.  You take refuge in the Word of God only. Get filled with it in your heart so it flows in you and stand in the face of temptation so that you do not get in a dialogue with it (temptation).

The pleasure of sin can attract you. Only the light of Jesus, when it comes upon you, can pull you out of the attraction of pleasure to the joy of the intimacy with Christ. Thus you put away one pleasure for one that is greater. When the joy of the Lord draws you to Jesus, the choice (between sin and God) becomes easier. Rejoice in the Lord always so that your joy, having been made strong, becomes a source of resistance (to temptation) at times of trouble. You have to be intimate with the Lord so that He becomes your shelter and in that shelter you are helped.

Here comes the question about the training of the will. The human being is made strong every time one says “No” to temptation and seeks the power of the Holy Spirit. That is not only a training of the will; the Fathers tell us of the training of the “whole being” through asceticism, fasting, prayer and studying the Word of God.

Abstinence from eating and drinking and amusement and all that is not of benefit in the times we are in, makes us receptive of Grace. And being immersed in Grace, we become a “living word”, and we are empowered to reject what hinders His Word, and transforms us in feelings and thoughts to a divine mind and a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الكلمة والروح” –An Nahar- 12.3.2011

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The Sick / 05.02.2011

Sickness! When we do not see it as a situation in which God is revealed, it remains as that which damages Man. Yet, sickness can be a capacity for being transformed from a being a state of decline to one of encountering God’s mercy.  And thus one waits for what might remain in him and what might go. And this waiting is not one of dilemmatic suffering but that of the bliss of receiving mercy. And mercy is not so unless it comes from God. And this is bestowed by Him and received by us so that our yearning for Him becomes stronger.

If you believe in Grace you are able to see things. You strive to earn good health because you believe it is the sign of wholeness. But wholeness is not only in the well being of the body. There is always a frailty that appears in us which makes us turn to God allowing Him to have a stronger grip on us. And because the frailty in one is different from that in the other, the relationship that God has with each of us is unique; yet we know that our common meeting place is in His great mercy.

The bestowing of this strength on us can become a crisis in that we do not see sometimes what life is in its reality. At times we are far from the thoughts that God has for us. For example, in the story of the paralytic, Jesus says to him: “Your sins are forgiven.” Yet what was wanted was the healing of the body, while Jesus was concerned for the healing of the whole being, a healing that can take place through repentance. As such sickness, if it leads us to repentance, is a blessing.

An illness can be ascension to contemplate His holy face. At times you ask one about his health and he answers with a deep down conviction and honesty that “he is well”; that person is definitely often close to God. One like this sees with God’s light. That is what the matter is about.

But not all sickness is a visitation from the Divine Presence. The case is so when one is treading the road of holiness even if it is for a time. In this the intercessions of those in Sainthood comes down on us; our existence then goes beyond the corporal having been assumed by the sanctifying Spirit into Real Being.

The Sick is held in honor in the Gospel since Jesus says” I was sick and you visited me not” as he said “I was hungry and you did not give me to eat”. That implies that Jesus is in those who are sick and is one with them. The person who is bedridden in pain is not alone; his companion in He who has been ridden on the Cross and trampled down under unjust humanity.  One can hear Jesus say to every one whose health has been damaged: “l am with you to the Holies to bind you to my Spirit so that you will become something other than this damaged body; you would dwell in the compassion of God to walk the path of His resurrection so that your resurrection will be consummated on a day God appoints for you in His wisdom when He bestows upon you the grace of death as a window to the True Light”. And when you say to the Father in full surrender “your will be done” then the Holy Spirit will take His abode in the depth of your heart; and at that True Knowledge begins.

Myriads and myriads of the sick in the world lift you with their suffering when you become one of them since they are one in misery and many are one in intercession because God is with those who are broken. They are the excellent ones in the people of God and also those chosen for his love. God prepares for His glory the sick who strive and struggle and are patient till the end for there is no healing for them until they get to Heaven.

With such a vision of sickness there is no point in asking why we fall sick. You get to realize, during your ordeal and after you are healed, the sanctifying presence of God and His union with you; and that is so in the illness you think is “the abyss”; but with God you discover it is not so.

Every man is sick at heart and awaits corruptibility since the day he is born.  That is characteristic of our nature, in its moral and physical aspect and through this corruption we head towards death. This brokenness indicates weakness in our daily lives. Blessed is he who considers himself broken and weak. That could be a lesson in humility and knowledge that helps us manage our earthly lives with what we succeed in or fail in.

Looking at man as he is, I find him weak in his body and wounded in his spirit. As someone told me jokingly: “All of us are three percent insane at the start”. And when I read the psychological analysis I understood that no human being is free of neurosis. According to that the world is an insane asylum and we have to live together as we are all insane to a certain extent.

This wounded humanity is loved by us despite its limitations, falls and tears. We can improve ourselves through education and medicine. Also through consecration and sacrifice we give ourselves to the poor among the sick; those that are abandoned and uninsured in many countries.

Humanity is then in a perennial state of cure and recovery; and in a state of prayer when hope is envisioned. Those strong in the Lord take care of the weak thus those given and those who give receive support. And in this struggle we do not forget our brethren the insane and those with psychological handicaps.

It is important that those who are injured do not withdraw to themselves so that they can remain in a state where they can give to their peers and to those who are “healthy” so that humanity is fulfilled through love and prayer. The increase of ordeals in life does not imply a belittlement of existence.  The decline in our corporeal nature is not the issue; the catastrophe is the breakdown of our being. Death itself is not the catastrophe; death is only a “veiling” of our existence because the reality is in the resurrection from the dead in which we have our consolation even when sickness is destroying that (the body) through which death reveals itself. The comparison is not between life and death; but the option is between the breakdown in one’s being or its wellness in that God becomes the “all” of that being and as such you are lifted up by God. This happens only if you get the “support” of the poor and the sick, the little brothers of Jesus.

Why did Jesus give much attention to the sick so much to the point of performing miracles on them and preaching the good news to them as it came in the Bible in Matthew 4: 23, 24:”And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”

What was Jesus’ motive in performing miracles? Matthew 9:35, 36 makes that clear: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

You receive God’s compassion in good health and ill health because regardless of your state, you yearn for the companionship of the Savior. Your ultimate concern is the Lord’s closeness to you above that of the world.

Has closeness to God been obtained; that’s in God’s hands. Every believer awaits the Day of Judgment with faith that he will not be condemned. He trusts that he will not be brought to judgment for fear that he would be condemned because his life is to be in God’s presence accepting His blame and fearing death. That is why he prays.

All these thoughts cross the mind of the sick person.  Those with good health might not find themselves in such a confrontation leading them to think that they are fine with God. One questions whether the sick have the grace of reflecting on God and one’s judgment. One also wonders at the implication and meaning of “lead us not into temptation”.

No doubt that physical weakness can bring us to contemplate death and the resulting fear due to it. Even Jesus dreaded that. Death is a serious issue and I know of those who do not dread it; those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

O Lord lift from us the burden of fear.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “المريض” – 05.02.2011

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