2012, An-Nahar, Articles

The Days to Come / 29.12.2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

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

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The Giving of the Righteous / 22.12.2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

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

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Patriarch Ignatius / 15.12.2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

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

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Holiness or the Holy (The Saints)? / 08.12.2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

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

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The Adamancy of God / 01.12.2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

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

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God’s Love and Our Love / 24.11.2012

This world is a bunch of disappointments if you expect the love you give to be given back in return with “loves” (from others). God did not command in His Book that you seek to be loved by others. Your job is to love like His Son loved; till death. You are a sower who sows in hope, but the Lord does not say that you are sowing for yourself. He is the Harvest of the good that you give others. No one might pay your good work back, and you should not expect that. You are comforted with what you give and not with what you expect since your obedience (to God) might be returned with rejection (from others).

You give freely and you hope that the one given will return his thanks to God. You should not give others with the expectancy that they will give you back. You should give others for the sole reason that they would improve their relationship with God. You give others for their own salvation and that in turn increases your lot in salvation. As you give, you should hope for salvation for yourself and for the others you give to. And this comes to you from the gratuitousness of the Divine Gift that has descended on you and inspired you to love.

You know from what has been mentioned that you are in need of God alone since others can give you only from what they have; and what they have might only be the very little. When Jesus speaks of reciprocity in love, He means that your reward is in Heaven in the sense that it is He who takes what you think you have given to a human and as such the Lord sees Himself as the One who has taken.

If you are not always aware that what you need is God alone, you will drown in disappointment. The giving of those who give you is real only when they feel that when they give you, they are giving the Lord. You are not rich in yourself. You are rich in God and so you distribute His grace on others. He who gives you and does not reckon that in that he is giving God, or he does not consider that the money he gives you of is from God, he then enslaves you. No one has a thing to squander. One is entrusted with what God has given him. The human being seeks the bounty of the Lord, and when he obtains some of that, he shares it with other people. And he who offers others gifts should make them feel that he is God’s steward in distributing His gifts and when people thank him for what he gives, he has to bring them to offer thanks to God. What you spend of money or mind or love is only a bridge between God and those whom He visits. The only feeling we have the right to have is to bring to the Lord those on whom we pour our love; He is to be thanked for what we grant people and that is due to His love for them and also for us.

If we do not remain grounded in our need for God, we cannot receive anything from Him. That is why our relationship with others is one version of our relationship with God. Yet our relationship with God can be tested in its authenticity and trueness only through our relationship with other people. They are God’s face (presence) to us. If we accept them we would have accepted Him and if we reject them we would have rejected them. That is why people who attend Church-services are not necessarily people of God. Of course every love, be it divine or human, requires to be expressed; and our love for God is expressed through our love for people. We encounter Him in people. They are the true altar of our worship for Him. That altar, as John Chrysostom says, is more significant than the altar on which we present the offerings (sacrifice). Love is the offering.

The love of people for each other may reflect God’s love for Man. If you ascend on the path of your love for the Lord, you would be able to love people with a serenity that descends on you from above with a freedom from any sense of gain from the others. If your love for them becomes a reflection of God’s love for His creatures, your love then would be unadulterated and free from any sense of utility or self-pleasure.

The love of people for one another, when it is from God, may be fused with emotions. It is not bad if you purify yourself. And the love you grant to others without expecting anything in return, is often inflamed with what is human; that is not wrong. When we love in a Godly way, our Godly love mixes with what is human; and that is not harmful. Godly love in us is not due to mere human motivation. The meeting of Divinity and humanity in us is one of the mysteries of this existence. We have to make it in the image of the meeting between the Divinity and humanity in Christ. The fusion between us and what is of the Deity in us, remains a mystery that we accept and receive but do not explain. I am certain that I can use the word “fusion” which denotes a meeting of what is human with what is human. That is how the Deity that is “humanized” in us meets with our humanity in its ascension to the Divine that dwells in us.

That is the Saints’ experience which, though I see it from far, I try to interpret to myself and the reader in human language. I wish the Lord would grant all of us to receive that experience in our lives as much as the Lord’s Grace wishes for us. The Lord gives a taste of that to those who truly try.

What came above is sufficient for us to understand the experience of the Saints. The Saints use the language of the mind only after they have gained the Vision (of God). The mind cannot fully understand and interpret the life of the Saints except in the areas that are in its scope.

In those who obtain the above Vision, sin does not necessarily obscure it unless they give themselves to it; then they return to being merely dust, and dust has no vision of anything. And such Vision (the above mentioned) is poured on those who seek and strive on-goingly so that no trace of anything except God remains in their soul.

Such seeking as the above does not find its strength in alienation from others. You do not “see” God unless you “see” the brethren and come with them to the embrace of Christ so they can lean their head on His chest and listen to His heartbeat and listen to words that cannot be uttered. And when people are in His embrace, they bring their brethren with them to Him so that the Kingdom sets in, and thus we all rejoice in Him together. This is so because the Kingdom is not a meadow, it is the King who has come to give us the good news that God is love and we are called to recognize His love for us and appropriate it; as such others recognize the Lord when He comes towards them and gives them to taste His love; for in this, His bounty and love towards us are shown.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “محبّة الله ومحبّتنا” – An Nahar – 24.11.2012

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Hatred / 17.11.2012

“They hated me without a cause.” (Psalms 29: 15). And in a more recent translation, “They hate me fervently”. Was the one who translated that into Arabic aware of what it entails to consider hatred as the antonym of love? Is not it much worse than that? There are degrees in love. But hatred is enmity itself in such a way that not one iota of love remains in the one who hates.

Primarily it is the severance of the other from yourself and it is the in-harboring of his death in you even though you do not mean to kill him physically out of fear of the consequences it might incur on you legally; or that you do not have enough courage in you to destroy the other. But the desire of killing is there in you at any rate. There is no ‘half hatred’ or‘quarter hatred’. There is a sense of murder in you that you are afraid of accomplishing. The ‘self’ in you, and here I mean your inner core, dislikes the one you hate; and you do not get together even in the imagination because for you, even in that, he does not exist. Deep in yourself you think of destroying the other. As such there are those who hate. The love that is poured down on them makes no effect in them. There are those who are closed in with hatred and those who are open to love. This is what Paul says is the mystery of evil and we do not get to know how people get closed in their darkness and why they welcome such darkness to start with. We notice that this happens because people get hurt from others treat them harshly or offend them with words; they cannot tolerate that and so they see the other as killing them and destroying them and as a result they read the existence of those who offend them negatively as if they (the offenders) want to annihilate them.

There is a reason for the above offenses happen, but the cause is a major one that is not considered as a psychological defect but is understood to be the inner passions that unleashed themselves wantonly between the offender and the one offended. In that case, there is a digression from what is normally rational or familiar, as such getting into a whirlpool of passions that cannot be understood by logic since we cannot find a link between the offense that took place and the reaction to that offense. When the link between what the offender does and the response of the one offended is absent, then that means that we have digressed from the normal and reasonable and entered into the world of madness.

Here we have departed from the realm of rational judgment, of reason and gotten into the realm of utter emotion and whims. That is why the Bible says “they hated me without a cause”. And the cause became over dramatized to the point that we can say that “they hated me without a cause”. What is the path that brings one to hatred? Here St. Dorotheos of Gaza comes to my help; he says: “Rancor is one thing and hatred is another” And then he speaks also of disaffection and annoyance. Our ascetics knew what sin is down to its minute details. And from their knowledge of sin they got to what is like the science of psychology.

In the Old Testament, anger and hatred are associated together as if anger is an outward expression of hatred. Anger is likened to fire. It burns the one who harbors it and the one on whom it is poured. There also is talk about the anger of God, but this is only a simile. There also is hope in that Book. No doubt that, for those who are righteous, it is possible to get free from the passions; and the way I see it, hatred is a great passion that only a storm of love that comes down from the Lord can hit it; this is so because the heart is by nature susceptible to be bombarded by hatred, and strongly so.

The rancor of those who hate has often fallen on us due to envy. There are those who do not want to see you as gifted or successful or beautiful or eloquent or pure or saintly. So they haul on you all the drawbacks which they invent in order to destroy you in a “nice” way. And often they gossip against you so that they can spoil your reputation making you a robber, and thief, and a liar, and do not be surprised at that even though none of what they say applies to you. There are those who have the desire to destroy others though what they say wrongly of them might not spread much. Few turn away a lie; most people are naïve and simple so the false accusation against you might remain for tens of years; no one turns it away.

Many of those who are honest are not believed for what they say; it is easier to believe those who lie. Quite often you are a victim forever, and God alone “sees” you (know you in that) and He alone justifies you. And that might never get known by the others in this life. And you have to be content with the justification of the Lord so that you do not fall into sorrow and as such you weep alone, and only the Lord wipes away every tear from your eyes.

You hold the one who hates you with the only power you have. Forgiveness. Though nothing ascertains that forgiveness would heal the enemy, but you have no other way; it was said: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who persecute you …… for if you love those who love you, what reward do you get?” (Matth. 5: 44-46).

Our hope is that healing would come to those who hate so that the world will become righteous. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” But that does not bring us to despair, but would lead us to great suffering because we desire that people be saved.

The salvation of the world is a strife and non-ceasing prayer on the part of those who sanctify themselves. Love has the victory in the end though we might not behold that during our lifetime. Hope is also a strife and we are saved on Hope.

We cannot antagonize the evildoers. We do not hate them. We hate the evil they do. We do not hate those who hate. We do not despair of their repentance; and when they return to the Lord, nothing gives us joy as much as that does because only their repentance saves their souls from their sins. O for the day when those who hate get into the Resurrection!

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “البغض” – An Nahar – 17.11.2012

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Beauty / 10.11.2012

Beauty exists in itself and you experience it as something outside you and you capture it through your ears and eyes. It becomes in you after it has been in the universe outside you. Why does it become yours and in you while others do not comprehend it? Also why is it that there is a distinction between the subject of beauty and you though it has become in you and you have realized what it is? Why is it that something in you has caused that separation? Is the comprehension of beauty inevitable if you are one with those who are able to contemplate it? And if there is a difference between you and them, how do you explain that difference?

Considering Da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, all of us agree on its beauty. Maybe not all see it as his masterpiece, but I never came across someone who refused to consider it as one of the chef d’oeuvre (rarities) of this world. Then there is in it a splendor that imposes itself on you unless you are illiterate in the field of Art. Its splendor is self imposing because it exists in it and there is no place as such for interpretation or explanation especially that it is static and immobile in the sense that it is the beauty in it that comes to you and you receive it without embarrassment or hesitation.

That means that there are principles that artists have drawn out concerning classical beauty because they see it in the subject they contemplate without much emotionalism and thus they hang on to the principles that artists have agreed on concerning that art (classical beauty) which is an “imitation of nature” as Aristotle has said.

From that perspective, I think that those who are cultured in classical art and those who are ignorant of it are not so distant from one another in their evaluation. They assess a work of art through what they know of the natural around them and as such the touch of beauty of the artist imposes itself on them. Of course the judgment of those knowledgeable is more credible than that of the amateurs; that is why the professionals can evaluate art differently from how the average person does. There is variance among those who evaluate art but Classical Art imposes itself in the same way the Nature, from which art comes, does so.

But modern art, being sophisticated since the impressionist school started, has people at unequal distances from it; in that people have different tastes and opinions. Modern art conceals ideas behind it or it can be interpreted in different ways and understandings.

That does not prevent those people to penetrate to what they think the artist wants to say especially if they know the mindset of the artist who places his own mind and experience in the product of his art. And as such it will be said of those, that they were able to capture the message behind the art. That does not mean that you have comprehended it since Modern Art is not bound to rational understanding. Such art should penetrate your heart as you savor it and thus is not contingent to reasoning.

The fans of Modern Art do not find it necessary that beauty should be expressed and viewed through reasoning. They are not bothered to draw a body without a head. They want you to see a body different from what we see with our eyes. They want to convey to you what they feel inside themselves so that the piece of art is felt in whichever way you may and produce it a painting the way you perceive, without a principle; and as such the art comes forth from a mysterious sense in the artist who conveys to you whatever he conveys; and the artist is not concerned as to whether you agree with him or not and he does not argue with you as to what you see in his art; he only wants you to accept it.

So art is not a language the contents of which are agreed upon; a language that is explicable. The one who reflects on Art can recognize whether he has received something from it or not. There are those who see Art as a means of communication. The question is as to whether there is communication through feelings without the mediation of the mind or not; that is without clarity. There is also the harmony in color which is a form of music but not a subject.

The realm of beauty in modern times is beyond the realm of reason; that is beyond the coherent human whole. Perhaps modern Man might not experience the necessity of cohesiveness between one’s reason and feelings and he accepts to live by emotional or instinctive reactions which are not ruled by the purified human mind.

We have taken from Plato the concept that the human being is like the Polis (the city state) based on beauty, virtue and truth; and that this trinity is indivisible. So the defeat of reason by beauty is like the defeat of virtue which is what purifies us; and the defeat of truth, without which our humanity does not exist, makes us like inner storms making us wallow in turmoil that cannot be quieted.

Beauty is linked to the senses as its source and as its receiver. This is the case if we ignore spiritual beauty which belongs to the realm of Holiness. Beholding beauty with the senses only makes our capturing of it prone to fragility and mixed with our passions. When we receive beauty through understanding and feeling, we are constantly in need of purity of heart and thought so that it does not get mixed with what is against virtue and truth. And of course that is a delicate process.

In other words, if we seek to receive beauty in us, we have to seek virtue and truth. If the aforementioned trinity is divided thus scattering beauty, virtue and truth away from each other, we become adrift. Without the inner harmony of the above three elements we lose the human equilibrium in us and we fall in the terrible falsehood which calls for the separation of beauty from virtue and truth.

The worship of beauty in itself without sticking to virtue and truth is a terrible heresy. Without these last two energies in us, beauty becomes a destruction of one’s self rendering one’s self a tomb for beauty.

The resurrection from the death of the soul is in keeping the unity of beauty, virtue and truth; that is the trinity that the Greeks have viewed before the Gospel dwelled in the heart of Man.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الجمال” – An Nahar – 10.11.2012

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Gratuitousness – Giving Freely / 03.11.2012

“Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10: 8). The Lord meant you to love Him, with a love that you can enjoy and be reared with while He gains nothing from you. He takes initiative in loving you so you can benefit from His love’s continuity in you, so that you become “love”; that is you become able to receive His compassion forever since His tender mercies are all what there is. You get formed if He dwells in you in the sense that He is the one who makes each of you human.

And the Lord knows you as His sons and daughters. And He has created you with that attribute and you remain children of His because His Fatherhood remains forever; and the only thing He wants from you is that you love one another so that you come into being through that bond of love and He sees you as several pieces making one necklace all coming from His good pleasure.

That is how the Creator deals with all His creation starting with Man. He gives freely and Man is not able to pay Him back with anything except obeying Him, such obedience which in fact benefits Man. “What can I pay the Lord for all what He has given to me?” That is a question which Man poses to himself after having tasted the compassions of the Lord. And after Man has realized that he can pay back nothing to the Lord He says “I accept the cup of salvation and I call on (invoke) the name of the Lord”. And the cup of salvation is from the Lord and to the Lord. And the invocation comes from Man’s heart where God dwells; in a sense the Lord is addressing Himself when Man invokes Him or calls on Him.

And the Bible says “The Spirit helps our spirit with groans too deep for words” (Romans 8: 26). That means that when you address the Holy Spirit in your prayers, the Spirit would then be addressing Himself. In other words, He would be praying in you and He would take your humanity into His divinity so that no uncleanness would cling to your humanity. In other words, the Lord “lends” you Himself so that you carry yourself back to Him then He would be at rest in you and you would rest in Him. You as a human act like a trader in matters of your piety and holiness, but God is not a trader of “things”; He trades you with Himself. You cannot appease God with anything; you can only please Him with faith; that is you give Him back what He has given you. And He gives you afresh every day and you taste Him anew because your God is always new through the Fountain that is in Him; and you, according to His grace, feel that you have become a new being as if you have been born with the dawn of each new day as if you see the Lord as your life-giver morning and evening since He does not want you to settle with a sense of “oldness” and does not find pleasure in you dwelling in spiritual death so He brings forth life (resurrects) in you as if you did not die in a sin, which He forgets and erases from His memory which keeps a record of only your “return” to Him.

And He wants you to spend yourself for people not asking for gratitude in return so that you do not end up as a trader in dealing with them. When you are poor in Spirit, you are in need of no one except God and when someone gives you something, you consider that he offers you from what God has given him. For you, it is right to thank all for whatever they give you. But when you thank them, it is not to consider yourself as owing them, but so that they would know that they owe all to the Lord. Do not forget to get people to return to the Lord. It is not acceptable that they have done you a favor (when they give you). That is trade. It is important that they believe that they have served and loved you by the Grace of God. If they know that they are God’s loved ones, they would, through giving you, be coming back home to the Lord.

We would be obeying His commandment when we love one another; and that makes us grow in Him. But the question is: whom do we love when we love? In reality we desire the others to become Godly. It is true that we make a community of those who love God. God spreads Himself, we can say, in the sense that He makes Himself present through me and you. He does not move from one place to another. He resides and dwells where He is welcomed. He does not invade, nor does He usurp. He reveals Himself in your humanity and in those He chooses. He is hidden in you and He makes you speak on His behalf. But beware of forgetting that you are “borrowing” His words which become yours in the sense that you use them out of obedience. The splendor of your course in life is His word. And the words which He said were not put in books for you to read only, but so that you become His word. On the last day, He would see to it whether you have become His word or not; and if not then you would have remained “illiterate” spiritually.

He wants us to become one “word” in love though in appearance we are many and different. And if we say that we have become one “word” then let us consider ourselves to have become one “life” in the mystery (sacrament) of communion which makes the believers all one. When such unity exists among us, God is revealed to us as one and that revelation makes us a unified humanity existing in His love, the love of Him who has given us His only beloved Son.

In that vision, Divine love becomes existent in us; that is it descends upon us from Him who first loved us and made us His. And if He made us only His, it is for our wellbeing, so that we can grow in Him and walk towards Him or better to say our walk in Him.

We do not only grow in His grace, but we become His grace. One of our Fathers said that in His love we become eternal. That, of course, is a mystery that cannot be understood by intellection, but through your belovedness you will understand all and understand that grace impregnates you when you obey, until your mind finds its home in your heart.

That was the purpose of the creation. And since God is not in need of the creation, He then created you to flood you with His love so that you become a being in His image and according to His likeness.

Would it be left for you after that to imagine a society of love? Surely that was His purpose in the creation. You have no other aim since you have no other nourishment unless you are in communion with others. Such communion you establish through the power of giving which is in you.

As such is the community of the saints of whom some have been taken up to Him and some are still on this earth, yet in His Kingdom. Those He has taken up to Himself after having reached that image, and those whom He has kept on this earth after He has sculpted them with His grace, are the sons whom He favors; and those who have not yet arrived at the beauty of that image, He has mercy on them so that they can understand and become that image. They would become that image when they realize that He has given them freely all the Beauty they have, so they thank Him; and He, in His faithfulness to Himself, profusely gives them so that they feel that they have taken freely from Him and as such they expand themselves to Him until they touch His throne; and there they remain.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “المجانية” – An Nahar – 03.11.2012

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What the Judgment Is / 20.10.2012

In my youth, when I was a student at the Fransiscan mission school, the monks used to tell us that there is a personal judgment at one’s death, and a universal judgment on the Last Day. At that time I used to be involved in studying Orthodox doctrine in which I never found the above duality. And I used to say to myself: “Sufficient for me is the dread of the universal judgment”.

Then I came to know that the Eastern Church says that after death you realize what your position with God is and that you wait for the reward if you have not been shackled with many sins and that would be a beginning of joy if not the ultimate one. And if you are loaded with many sins, you would be waiting for the last punishment and there is quite a penalty in that.

Then at my old age I considered the idea of “personal judgment” but I did not adopt the expression used because my Church does not use it. I got convinced not very long ago that the moment of death is a moment of standing before the Creator and that that encounter is one full of awe and fear; since you are in front of God with the load of your sins and as such in disharmony with the nature of the Lord. And you feel that that encounter dictates your eternal destiny though God has engulfed the encounter with mercy from its beginning to its end.

It does not seem to me that there are legal proceedings against you that would decide your eternal destiny. And, for God to be depicted as a court is an image of a juridical nature though our holy books mention it. And these books tell the story of Man and God in principle but the major story is of the encounter which takes place right after you leave this earth. The image I use is that of Christ approaching you while you are in the coffin, and whispering in your ear, He reproves you. Maybe Jesus would be tender in that whisper, but in His obedience to His Father, He does not find sin easy since it wounds the compassions the Father has for you. You did nothing to balsam the wounds of the Father. You remain an enemy due to sin, and the Father remains the One who holds you to His heart; or the Son puts you on His chest, and when the Father sees that, He has compassion on you without neglecting reproving you, since if He does not reprove you, He would be, in a biased way, siding with you and not in line with His own Law.

And through His law you can become better because you cannot flirt with sin and remain close to God. You are close to Him in as much as you shine spiritually because the Lord does not have a clique whom He brings close to Himself and another clique He distances. You, when you are His, become of Him as He sees Himself in you since when you become pure you become His mirror; and the Lord in His nature loves Himself in you and continually asks you whether you have accepted Him or not and He knows that you are His; or that you are not His but that you are seeking to aggrandize yourself and then dwell in its uppity thus making your pride your dwelling place and as such removing God away to a distant “dwelling place”.

The heart of the matter with God is whether you make Him yours or not. And when you distance Him – and that is what we do when we sin – you distance yourself from true existence in order to make for yourself an existence which deceives you and sets you up in the delusions of this world. It is sin that makes you think that your existence is through your own power and strength and not through the power of the Lord; as such, sin takes you soaring into a deceitful mirage away from God.

The heart of the matter is that you know that you are the guest of the Divine Being who is in you; or else you would be the guest of the illusions you make for yourself in your fear of God. Are you a man of fear or of confidence? Do you feed on yourself and the deceitfulness that is nested in you, or are you thrown in the bosom of the Father forgetting your pleasures and luxuries so that you feel that you have become a son who, while still in this world, dwells in the Kingdom of God that descends on you in the love and tenderness of the Father?

His tenderness, if you believe in Him, would draw your eyes to His eyes thus making you know that you exist through His gaze on you. And this gaze, if you “catch” it, makes you examine your heart as the Orthodox say, or makes you examine your conscience as the Latin say. Blessed are you if you see God in your heart and you see Him stirring the throbbings of the Spirit in you, throbbings that stay in you after the body is extinguished.

If some insist on considering a personal judgment, I would say that, if we are watchful, each moment of our life is a personal judgment in the sense that our spiritual consciousness makes us continually standing in the presence of God; as such we see that our sin strikes us and that distancing ourselves from Him is death itself. Every sin is a death; and I would say that the death coming from sin is the “death of God” (I am only borrowing from Nietzsche the expression). How ugly is the one who kills God in him not knowing that with that he effaces himself from real existence and renders the fire of hell dwelling in his soul even ahead of the time when, unless he repents, the demons would take him to themselves.

And repentance for the sinner means that he discovers that his ways are sinful and that all his opinion of God is wrong because he used to delude himself that sin is not sinful and that it is necessary for life and perhaps he was seeking to keep God in his heart or to go further, he reckoned that he can keep for himself a being (that is his own) severed from the Divine Being.

Our story of our association with sin is very terrible because it is founded on a great fallacy which is that you think you are able to live without God or at least you think that you would delay your encounter with Him and as such you have no idea about the dread of death and what that entails.

The sinner is not only perverse in his behavior. He is also perverse in his thinking in the sense that he has got fallacious thinking. Repentance is that you take off from yourself such wrong thinking so that you can have the mind that was in Christ Jesus as Paul said or, if your religion is not that of Paul, the mind which resembles that.

Lord save us from sin and draw us closer to your Face so we can have life.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “ما الدينونة؟” – An Nahar – 20.10.2012

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