1995, Articles, Raiati

Followers / December 17, 1995

In our local language, we use the word “cronies”, which translates into “followers” in formal Arabic. Those are found among us and they lack the courage to express their opinions. Undoubtedly, they follow their leaders due to their need for protection, at a time when the government provides no protection. This is inherited from the late Ottoman era, when dignitaries and notables used to be the representatives of the denomination. This was justified since notables used to care about people’s sufferings, to defend them, and to pay the military recompense if it was necessary to exempt the citizen from performing the military service.

            During the Mandate period, our notables became irresponsible, enjoying the prestige given to them by tribes, and they did not provide services for people. They used to believe they have rights to be taken from people, but they do not have duties for the poor and the weak. During the Turkish era, there was a kind of solidarity between the notable and the people and each of them had a role to play. But now, you are just a follower and you have no benefits. The only protection provided is for bullies, because they can violate the law without punishment.

            The new notable wants you to remain silent, and your silence shall protect you from offense. Hence, the condition for your survival is a humiliation. They would humiliate you to convince you that your relationship with them is a principle. In the recent past, I used to hear people saying: “I am with x, this is my principle”. In my view, a principle is a belief from which you start, and on which you build your life. If you and your leader share the same doctrine, then it is your principle and his principle. But what I still cannot understand is the fact that you are with a leader due to a principle, such as “my father was with his father”, or “we consider ourselves as one family”, or other paltry emotions from which I understood, after long meditation, that this weak person lacks a personal identity and can only see himself as a follower for someone. It is noteworthy that the concept of “followers” is, for us, deeper than one might think, for it means that two or more families in the village or the town divide the subjects, and each party takes its own share. In the civil field, we used to say “the Sultan’s subjects”, for he owned the land and the people living on it. The vulnerable people prefer to be protected, for this spares them the efforts of shaping their own personality, and thinking about the issues of the city or a lower level. As a result, there would be outstanding people and “weakened” people. In fact, standing out requires to have a stance, to defend it, and to say no sometimes. To stand out lies in accepting if your conscience orders you to do so, and refusing if your conscience orders you to do so. As for silence, it does not expose you to any danger, but it allows you to lean back comfortably, drink coffee with the fortunate, and your son will be given a position he might or might not deserve. Not to die, not to starve, to be present ostensibly before the leader, to survive due to the fragments falling from his tables, this may be all that the majority in our country aims for.

            How can we reconcile this with our presence in the Church with the Lord to Whom we say sometimes yes, and sometimes no? The Christ would leave the ninety nine sheep to look for the lost one in the mountains to shepherd it, the Christ who said to the last man: you are My beloved. How can we be such a great thing in Church, and still accept to be meaningless in the world? Nobody is confident that he exists even if all leaders on earth died.

Translated from Arabic – 18.10.10

Original Text: “التابعون” – 17.12.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

Love Thinks No Evil / December 10, 1995

“Love thinks no evil” (1Corinthians 13: 5). Being human means thinking evil, for humans are in a constant state of fear. We do not want to see our weaknesses, so we do not have to get rid of them. We think evil about others, for in this we find comfort and excuse. Our eyes see through others’ hearts, yet only God knows hearts. We conceive our own images of others. But the real image necessitates mercy, a quality rarely found amongst humans. God wants us, first and foremost, to trust others. Trust will help them improve and make them more trustworthy. Everyone deserves to be trusted, for confidence strengthens and reforms us. Trusting someone is your connection to him and his way to God.

            “Love suffers long and is kind”. It requires patience, and the latter requires listening carefully to others, understanding them as they are, seeing their good aspects, even if they shouted or cursed. They may be shouting because they are suffering, because they thought evil. They also see us through the image they have conceived for us. No one knows anyone except through the images we take of each other, though these images are often unfair. The apostle also claims that love endures all things, all harm. Some people want to hurt us, to trample us and see us trampled. Despite all this, we shall be patient, for perhaps we may deliver them from their misery. They do not know that they are harming themselves by harming us. They do not know that they hate themselves. We shall grant them tenderness because it is their last chance for salvation. We shall be kind to protect them for the aggressiveness of their own hearts. We shall neither rave nor revenge. The other is the one who is present, and his presence will increase if we were kind, so he shall be a new person.

            Fear of isolation makes us offend people, and we think that this will help us enhance our identity. But, we do not know that only the Holy Spirit can vanish this isolation if we received It in our soul to temper it. The base of all this is that people are weak. And the weak needs the strong to console him and support him. Therefore, we shall not ask him about what he is doing against us or against himself, for what is important is to relieve him of his agony. Perhaps the love we grant would help him get out of his selfishness in which he used to confine himself. The confrontation is quite difficult; because he must destroy the walls which he thinks are protecting him. His consciousness is a weapon against the fake veil behind which he is hiding. It is tormenting to see yourself naked, for numerous are the defects you will discover; yet this is the first step of the remedy. Our concern is his healing. But we shall avoid severity, for our tenderness will let him recognize that we are veiling him with a garment of light. He will be happy to know that he can be adorned with lightsome apparel. And we shall also rejoice in the truth that has been bestowed upon him and has changed him.

            Every one is capable of being great in the eyes of God. But he will not see this greatness unless our patience, forbearance and kindness made him feel loved. No one is forever condemned to dwell in darkness. No one is completely enlightened or completely dark. Even the enlightened needs to be consoled and supported to prevent him from getting tired of his virtue and considering it dry. As for the dark one, we need to tell him that he can save himself by accepting the salvation God has made available for him.

            This is the story of life. People rescue people. Those who have their God in them, who have felt His presence, can show to others His beauty, so they shall leap like deer and wonder. Aspiring to perfection is possible, and insisting on beauty is a demand to the soul that yearns for beauty. Every soul is originally beautiful, for God in it is its beauty. And every soul can move towards God, for God moves it. But all this requires the soul to be open, to carve righteousness and grace bearing. It would then be new as the dawn.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “المحبة لا تظن السوء” – 10.12.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

The Cloak and the Tunic / November 26, 1995

“From him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.” (Luke 6:29) These words were said by the Lord “on a level place”, on a plain, and have a parallel in the Sermon on the Mount as described by Mathew. Let us meditate on this passage of the Gospel of Luke, in order to understand deeply the teaching of the Christ. These words were preceded by: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” It is because your enemy hates you that he takes away your cloak. A cloak is an outer garment used at night, similar to the “abaya”, that is the eastern cloak. In the Law of Moses, the cloak is mentioned in the following context: “If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in?” (Exodus 22:26-27) The same is reiterated in the Deuteronomy chapter where it is mentioned that if you return someone’s cloak, he will bless you. Nonetheless, there are some bad people who do not return it. And we know the importance of the cloak for the Arab people who do not have woolen blankets and who cover themselves with the abaya.  

              If your cloak is taken, you have nothing else left but your tunic by which you cover your body. Without it you would be naked. However, the Lord says: “From him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.” You will be stripped of everything. Then our Savior continues His teachings by saying: “Give to everyone who asks of you.”

              You will have no weapon in front of others except the love you offer to them. They think you are vulnerable and they deprive you of everything, convinced that you have become unprotected. But your response shall be: I do not stick to anything considered as essential by all people, which is here symbolized by the cloak in the era in which Jesus lived. You say: I do not want what you consider as a protection from cold at night, for it has no value in my eyes. You say: you want to take my tunic so I would be without any protection, in complete bareness, a mockery for people. Mock as much as you want for you will not be able to add a single inch to your height. This weakens your energy of love. My cloak is God for I tell Him, with the author of the Psalms: “You are my hiding place.” Your enemy derides your principles, your mind. Nevertheless, this will neither make him greater nor make his convictions right. You are free of people because the heart of God is your place.

              In our country, the word “dignity” is of paramount importance for almost all our people. You take vengeance for your dignity because you think it is for your soul as the tunic is for your body. If it is taken away from you, you will have nothing left. But the truth is that you are wearing the dignity of God. Your enemy thinks that he is insulting your dignity; but in fact he is insulting himself. If God has bestowed His dignity on you, then no one can ever take it away from you. His insults and slanders are harming him, not you. He does not hurt you. He does not offend you.

              If you have been affected because of what you think is your dignity, what will you do? You will insult him and yell at him, trying to convince him of your dignity. This is a defense of what you think is a right for you. But, in fact, you are naked. No one can ever take away from you this great treasure that is your bareness. It is love that you are wearing, for God has covered you with His light. You are illuminated. Hence, you are illuminating.          

Translated from Arabic – 11.04.10

Original Text: “الرداء والقميص” – 26.11.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

Love Your Enemies / October 15, 1995

Jesus wants me to have mercy on those who hate me out of covetousness or hurt me, for their inner misery has defeated them and made them loathe me. To have mercy is to embrace others, for I am a holder enlarged by Christ. Those who hate me have no chance to get rid of their aggressiveness unless I love them and offer them forgiveness and service.

            It is not enough to say: I do not reciprocate the hostility of the one who hates me. This is an apathetic attitude. I shall deliver him from the wound he caused himself. He would not be able to hurt me if I opened my heart for him to heal his wounds. I serve him firstly in my soul; I welcome him in it for he needs affection. This is why the Lord said “Love your enemies”, and then followed it by “pray for those who spitefully use you”, which means wish them all the best and help them achieve it. It is not only a matter of forgiveness, but also taking a good initiative to cause the enemy to repent and make him happy with his repentance.

            Loving enemies makes us sons of the Father in heaven. If we considered the enemy a brother, and lived this experience in our hearts, we shall know that we are the sons of God. This is why our Lord continues His speech about His father by saying: “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

            He unifies these and those in His heart, by the grace He bestows on them all. If He unifies them, why would you separate between friends and foes? God is a father; hence all of you are sons. This will help you gain the peace of mind; and those who used to hate you would also enjoy the peace of mind.

            This does not imply you would not be sad if someone showed their enmity. But forgiveness will make your sadness turn into happiness. You may feel pity for your enemies and be surprised at their injustice. However, compassion is not enough, for it is quiescent. You should instead open your hearts and try over and over to communicate with your enemies; and if you were able to talk to them, do it humbly. Do not focus on self-defense, do not rebuke angrily, and do not offend. If your offerings and openness are not welcomed, persevere with prayers for them. Mention their names in your prayers and ask Jesus to bless them to keep yourselves away from hatred. Undoubtedly, mercy will reach them one day.

            If someone showed his enmity, do not forget that the priority is his salvation. Do not take vengeance for what you call dignity; for your only dignity is the one given to you by God. It is love that makes us acquire our dignity.

            Why can you forgive? You can because you are a healer for all people. And God made you the healer of your enemies in particular, for a relation takes place between you. You are his healer, because you are the only one that knows about his illness. He reveals himself to you if he hates you. You shall not be concerned by your soul that he tried to hurt but failed to defeat. Your main concern is nothing but his soul wounded by hatred. His enmity is a chance for you to reciprocate his hostility by the righteousness the Christ has bestowed upon you. This would be the utmost joy for both of you.

Translated from Arabic – 15.04.10

Original Text: “أحبّوا أعداءكم” – 15.10.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

Crucified Ego / October 1, 1995

All our spirituality emanates from the Cross by which we came to our salvation. Not only is It an icon by which we are blessed, but also It bears meanings glowing in us. Our Lord indeed surrendered voluntarily to sufferings and pain, for we conclude the prayers of the Holy Week by saying: “O Christ, our real God who laid down Himself and suffered for our salvation.” No one takes His life. He lays it down for the sheep. And the believer shall similarly give his life, for the Lord has claimed: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” To follow the Christ means to renounce your desires and your illegitimate interests and to abjure the worldly temptations, for the sake of being with the Christ. 

            In this regard, Paul declared: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  He means that I was with the Lord and in His heart when He was crucified and He has given me life, for “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Just as the Christ is given for me, I shall give myself for Him and the others.

            The apostle continues his epistle to the people of Galatia by saying: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (6:14).The “world” means the world of trespasses. If I live with the Christ, I am in no way related to the world of trespasses and these are dead for me. On the other hand, if the world of trespasses is present in me, then I have no existence. My complete separation from sins makes me crucified with the Christ. Therefore, as He triumphed over evil through the Cross and has risen, I have also triumphed over evil and been liberated from it.

            The Cross is indeed our way to the true life that is our pleasure in Christ and our acquiring His virtues and beauties. We do not boast in torture or in the means of torture. We shall not boast except in the victory given by the Lord to His loved ones. Thus we shall not rejoice in our sins, bad habits, domination or false glory, but rather we shall rejoice in Christ.

            As a result, I will be convinced that it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, just as Paul claimed. Before embracing the Crucified, my existence was based on my desires, glory and pride. But I have been set free from all of these and filled with the presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit who purifies me.

            If I love the Christ, He will become my personality, and I shall have nothing at all to be fully dedicated to the Christ. I would be denying myself and following the Christ, regardless of the troubles I might encounter. These hardships will turn into joys. Then I can follow the Christ to the Calvary, or I would be having the Cross as a way of life, and taking it up – on my shoulder – on my path to the resurrection.

Translated from Arabic –02.04.10

Original Text: “الأنا المصلوبة” – 01.10.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

Economy / September 17, 1995

Our Fathers call for frugality in order to be able to spend on the poor. Saving for charity purposes is not the one that the Gospel forbids, for proper saving implies austerity and love. From this perspective, God calls us to economize in everything. At a time when newspapers pervade every aspect of our lives, we cannot spend a great deal of our time reading them since this prevents us from reading books, which are deeper and more meaningful for they comprehend human history and the best among them have the power of purifying. We should also limit watching and listening to audio-visual media without eliminating it, since it has some benefits, but it is also a waste of time. In fact, the mass media are based on political guidance from Great Powers. Through the media, the Powers exploit us for their own advantage, until they control us sooner or later, and our minds are inculcated with this gradually.

Moderate eating is also an essential component of our humanitarian endeavor and our liberation from the bondage of pleasures, in order to dedicate our lives to God and His poor.

In addition, we should limit parties in which dinner starts late at night. In fact, banquets, which are common in some communities, can last for three or four hours, without true communication between people, with clothes being objects of pettiness and seduction, and with waste of precious time. Of course, building friendships is a must. However, in such instances, there is no sentimental meeting between you and your friends. And if you want to share feelings with them, you do not need all this time. Some people attend many parties in one week, thus they lack time for real emotional exchange. Undoubtedly, these recurrent long occasions are an escape from real life. Full of talks, these occasions lead to gossip and several desires that distract the heart from other righteous things.

These errant parties do not comply with the Lord’s commandment: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation”. The Lord is asking us to be vigilant; and vigilance is achieved through economy and frugality.

One of the key aspects of austerity is to economize in talking, which is to abstain from speaking ill of anyone and to avoid all that hurts people.

All this can help us lead a life away from opulence and the concept of consumer society. We shall economize in everything to offer what we have and what is in our hearts to the others. We shall open our hearts for God so that He prevents us from gossip and profusion, and makes us silent, speaking in a good manner, and caring for all people in order to give them gentle words and service. If God dominates us and offers us a quiet love, others “may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”.

A virtuous ecclesiastical community is one composed of people who talk little and serve a lot, so that people will feel that Christ is among us, alive in what we say and alive in what we do.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “الاقتصاد” – 17.09.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

Gossip / 10.09.95

Gossip is a talk about others aimed at divulging their misdeeds and defaming. It is a widespread sin that involves telling lies about someone and putting their reputation at risk. People believe what they hear and their good opinion of others is damaged, which leads to despair, for they would be convinced that virtues are rare. Consequently, they would cease dealing with the person whose image has been ruined.

This is the sin of the tongue which the Apostle James wrote about: “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body… The tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” He then added that the tongue sets on fire the course of nature and it is set on fire by hell.

One may die if they knew that people became against them and that they talk about their weaknesses. Gossips offend themselves first of all, for they do not see their transgressions to overcome them. They look instead at the misdeeds of others, though revealing a misdeed does not rectify it. Virtue should begin with the tongue. When you notice someone’s trespasses, you shall pray for them and reproach them kindly so that they repent; and beware of falling into the sin you attribute to them.

Against this sin God said in the Psalms: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered”. If God covers the sins of people in order for them to repent, you should as well prevent your tongue from divulging their misdeeds.

It may occur to you that if you reveal others’ faults you are being zealous for virtue. On the contrary, you should talk about virtues of others for it consoles. Gossiping would be even worse if it was slander. Passing on true but offensive information hurts, and slander is far more prejudicial, for it can lead a soul to hell, and it undoubtedly leads the offender’s soul to hell.

It is essential that you do not believe everything you hear about someone. There is no need to make sure if the information was true. A better attitude is to ignore what we hear to prevent it from leading us into corruption. However, if we had to know the truth, a careful examination is a must. For instance, we need to know everything about people we hire or we deal with. If we knew about their transgressions, we should remain silent and take a position, rather than divulging the bad information. And if we were asked about a sin we know that someone has committed, we should not answer unless the asker has the right to know the truth.

A virtuous tongue paves the way for great purity.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “النميمة” – 10.09.95

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1995, Articles, Raiati

From the World to the Divine Love / February 05, 1995

The struggle against the Christ is largely ever-increasing. The world is now connected through traveling, mass Medias and arts, which further promotes harm. These communication vectors can be employed in both good and bad manners; and we have no complaint about their use. Nevertheless, this reality explains the prevalence of sins. Thus, everyone needs to keep an eye on themselves and their children. They cannot live outside this world and form pure groups; because the ways of survival exist within this world and through dealing with the wicked and sinners. You are building your world within the existent humanity and the latter is trying to spread its corruption, while you are attempting, through good potency and words, to make it know God. This is an everlasting battle between light and darkness that you can find almost everywhere; in your workplace, at home, and during social gatherings, in which you are present to fulfill your responsibilities.

            However, this does not mean that you are obliged to attend the sinners’ parties and gatherings, or to adopt their social lifestyle. You have to know how to choose your friends and discuss with your children their social groups and the places they go to. You can also choose the TV program you want to watch without being a slave to the screen. In fact, both our eyes and ears have their pureness. You also ought to ask your wife and daughters to be dressed decently, especially if you were responsible for their living.

            You also have to be modest as to what you eat and drink, and avoid extravagancy; and the same applies for your clothes and home furniture. The world glory also come from these; for if you desire glory and boast, you shall be void of the true existence on which rely the resistant. The more you have such desires, the more they control your mind and become your ultimate goal, so you shall fall in the bondage of jealousy and pride, and you will boast because you possess living means and power more than the others, and you will impair your soul after it has been enlightened in Christ.  While men are proud of their money and power, women are rather conceited because of their beauty, clothes, cars, and much other superficiality. This leads to arrogance and recognizing the family as wealthy, therefore being haughty towards the poor who are, above all, the Christ’s loved ones.

            Do not even think that you can show off all your glory and be at the same time passionate about modesty. This behavior contradicts the principle of sharing. If we yearn for glory, we get closer to it; and not only will it grow in vain, but also it will hurt those of weakness and cause in them the desire of this glorious life.

            Do not reassure yourself by saying that not all of us are like that. One can seem chaste out of incapacity, but his heart is filled with pleasures. To be free of your wealth by great generosity and free of your poverty by the divine wealth, this is what believers have in common.

            Facing this largely widespread corruption – and I did not enumerate all its aspects – I have no solutions to propose. You cannot be freed from extravagancy by decreasing the same. It is not a matter of quantity. Should you purify your soul, you shall be freed from inside. “For by grace you have been saved”. Everything in you must be changed. You have to like the face of God, because He is good solely, and you are far from Him because of the faces of devils hidden behind various desires. Their fight is great, and it needs a greater power to overcome them. When you become convinced that the divine joy is greater than any pleasure, and that the Lord provides consolations, you shall be leaving your world pleasures to the everlasting spiritual enjoyment. So has been the experience of the pure.  

Translated by Amani Haddad – 08.02.10

Original Text: “من العالم الى الحب الإلهي” – 05.02.1995

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