1997, Articles, Raiati

Loving the Commandments / September 07, 1997

             The first step towards righteousness is to have faith in God and to believe that what He declared in the Bible is the truth. This also necessitates making all your desires and whims die away. For our minds are often influenced by our actions, especially the frequent ones. If you have been lying so long and you think that it has been saving you, you might be convinced that lying is a good and smart behavior. The same will also happen if you steal or cheat, so you shall not see the divine truth. Your iniquities will become the source of your mind. Since all humans incline to the wickedness and tend to turn the same into a way of thinking, God spoke to eradicate this misconception from our hearts. The divine word exists, because our minds are incapable of choosing the right position; or because our minds are inclined to do trespasses and are damaged by iniquities.

            For this reason came the guiding word to which we resort and from which we come, so we shall be in the truth, or we shall be the truth. Nevertheless, you have to adapt yourself to the word and you ought not to abandon it, so as not to allow your own words to take control of your actions. The word of the Bible, and not your own word, knows what is good for you more than you do. If you adapt yourself to the word, it will stay in you and your soul will be relieved, so you will resort to it and keep it on your mouth and in your ears. If you are tempted by evil, you shall be able to repel it by the truth with which your soul has been molded, so it will be the shield, the sword, the helmet and the whole weapon.

            The author of the Psalms recognized this and talked about our love to the commandments, in Psalm 118 (Psalm 119 in modern versions). Before our spiritual maturity, when we were acting as children in the Christian life, we were like school students. We feel that God is like the teacher; He gives orders and we delight ourselves in disobedience. At first, the individual builds an enmity between him and the commandment because he feels that it threatens his freedom. He is his own god. He wants to take his own decisions, and not from any human or divine authority. But, at one point, the student will become mature, and he will understand that it is of interest to him to be obedient, and that the teacher decides what knowledge he will give his student.

            To trust God – and this is what faith is all about – is not only to be convinced of the commandment, but also to love it, because we know that it can heal and embellish the soul; and all that is not a commandment is a temptation. This is why David claimed in this great Psalm: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Not only have I read it over and over again, but also I have eaten it. The divine word shall come into our hearts so that it will protect us from the sin if it tried to infiltrate.

             The prophet-melodist talks about love by which we accept the word: “My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments.” Compare this statement and what we usually do.   We long for sins, whereas David longs for the commandments of God.

            And after longing comes love, for he says: “My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love.”  He then talks about action: “It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void. Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” Your word is a weapon with which I fight against the wicked. I will have neither a strong weapon in my hands, nor enough strength to fight them, unless I love Your commandments, so that they will attract and move me, to go into your fight in the universe. 

Translated by Amani Haddad – 09.02.10

Original Text: “محبة الوصايا” – 07.09.1997

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1997, Articles, Raiati

Secrecy / August 17, 1997

We have a common saying which is “what is said in secrecy shall remain in secrecy”. This means that you are not to reveal what your friends have entrusted you with for they confided in you. There is no doubt that people would be hurt or offended if others knew about their private matters. People may entrust you with their family affairs, their worries or their work problems for they see you are capable of giving advice, or they do so just out of complaining. You might also have heard of these matters from people who enjoy the misery of others.

You might as well know details you were entrusted with so that you help out. And if you ever revealed this information or the name of the one who told you about, you would be creating a conflict between the person who confided in you and the one to whom you spoke. Thus, it has been said in the Bible “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” (Proverbs 11:13). You might have no intention of divulging information but it is gossiping that has led you to speak.

Whenever you feel pressure for a significant person has spoken ill to you of another significant person, do not tell what you have heard so that you remain trustworthy and avoid conflict between the two of them. If they trusted you with a matter and you saw you are capable of helping, use the good utterance of what you have heard for the benefit of people and not their grief.

The priest is not the only one to be bound by the secrecy of confession. Thus, each one of us is bound to keep to ourselves what we have heard unless the utterance might jeopardize the safety of the government or sabotage the church. For instance, if any clash occurred in the parish, the bishop must be aware of such incident so that the unity of the believers shall remain intact. Any other disclosure shall be gossiping. Revealing the worries and sins of people is tattling, for tattling is disclosing true matters that are not to be disclosed.

Constructive criticism is one you make with someone you want to reform. Sometimes, you may analyze what people say as long as they are talking about it and it is already revealed. You may have an objective criticism about what you have heard but you may not dispraise the one who spoke it. And sometimes you may analyze a disclosed behavior or stands already revealed, but never offend people because of cruel criticism hiding rancor.

A lot of false news is spread in the church community. And when examined, the majority turns to be untrue. Why he who knows something about a clergyman does not go to him and admonish him rather than spreading the news among the chatters and the gossipers? So-and-so has sold something, or so-and-so has bought another thing. How can one prove any of this? The title-tattle causes a great deal of pain and sadness in people’s souls.

Silence is salvation. “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” (James 1:26). And the greatest saying is: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” (3:6)  

The rule is to praise people in their absence and to keep their misdeeds unrevealed so God shall overlook yours. Say only what is necessary and useful. For if what you said secretly is not revealed, yet it might mislead.  If you ever knew something in this matter, let go of it so that you won’t be led in desperation and lose your hope. If you found out that someone has committed a misdeed, pray for this brother and forgive his sin, for if you reproach him for what he has done you might commit the same. If someone has sinned, do not blame or punish them for this leads you to rancor.

Translated from Arabic – 16.12.10

Original Text: “الكتمان” – 17.08.97

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1997, Articles, Raiati

Peace of Christ / August 3, 1997

The Great Litany in the Divine Liturgy and other services starts with the deacon saying: “In peace let us pray to the Lord”, which means that we want to be in peace with God so that we can pray. Then we say: “For peace of the whole world.” The audience may think that we are asking for peace between nations, but the explanation comes shortly after that when we say: “For the peace of God and the salvation of our souls.” This sentence clarifies that if there was peace between us and the Lord, we will be able to spread calm in our private relationships, in the family and the whole society. Peace that resists the interests of nations, individuals and disputes in the family or the parish is bestowed upon you from above.

          Unfortunately, every nation comprises good people and many wise people, but they are not policymakers. And “Man is a wolf to man”. Wars between strong nations and weak ones will persist, unless all nations witness substantial moral reforms, as well as development and prosperity, so that they understand that their real interests lie in the growth and development of all nations together, while preserving every nation’s uniqueness, genuineness and right to be different. It is by believing in the freedom of others as a condition for peace and as a completion of our own peace that people’s lives would be at their acme.

          It would then be possible to achieve durable peace between several countries after they realize that war destructs them all, builds nothing and does not make them gain control; and that if you exclude someone, he will rebel against you to exclude you. It began to seem – after a hard slog – that peace across borders is possible for human values became stronger than animosity in souls. The European Union is a good example, for it is the fruit of a quest for cooperation and unity, after tasting the bitterness of wars and adopting Gospel principles, translating them into social values. Undoubtedly, there are some basic religious-based deep-rooted convictions that turn into a policy.

          Basically, the United Nations tried to establish peace based on human rights that became accepted standards put in a human and mundane frame, without any apparent relation to the Gospel. However, they are certainly derived from the Gospel.

          Do we dream of global peace? It depends on honesty, yet this quality is nowhere to be found in most countries. Honesty is the result of abstention from racism and the desire for expansion and economic control. Indeed, it will stay for decades, or even hundreds of years, a nebulous concept.

          It is justice that we seek, for no peace is possible without a justice for everyone. Peace may be imposed, yet it will not last. In one way or another, it has to be “peace of God” in order to survive on earth. This is the meaning of the annunciation upon the birth of Jesus Christ: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth”. If you receive something bestowed upon you from above, you shall turn it into peace and spread it here on earth.

Translated from Arabic – 02.09.10

Original Text: “سلام المسيح” – 03.08.97

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1997, Articles, Raiati

The virtue of patience / July 27, 1997

This virtue results from our belief that God has conferred freedom on people and that His patience remains until their repentance. He allows them to sin, and does compel them to be righteous. He waits for the time when they would accept grace bestowed on them. God seeks people’s love, and He does not force them to love Him. It grieves Him to see their sins.

          Likewise, we shall be patient with others and wait until they restore their senses and calm. We shall avoid anger and resentment, and be kind and modest, in hopes of prompting others to be kind and modest. We shall wait until our or their last breath. Our patience with each other is derived from God’s patience with us.

          The Lord told us “not to resist an evil person”, for He knows that if you resist an angry person by anger, neither of you will be healed. You cannot stop the tension if you were furious. You are supposed to heal the other person, and it is only by peace that you can do this. Should you acquire peace in you, the other person’s tension shall end. 

          It is not a matter of escape or isolation, for they bring no solution to the problem. Instead of just watching the sin, you have to correct it. In fact, you cannot live away from people. You should get involved in their problems, even if you have nothing to do with these problems, in order to heal those who are suffering from them, through love, forbearance and meekness. Patience is a prayer and a transfer towards God. If you rose and were compassionate, the others will be more likely to rise as well. Your change fosters the others’ chances to change. And change is not a matter of resisting others. On the contrary, you shall become a new person and the others will also be renewed.

          The image is the following: you ascend towards God, and then you come down from God to the other person. The latter will be in a trinitarian relationship composed of:  you, God and him. This is how salvation in God happens for you and for the other person, and this requires you to be lenient. If you were compassionate, the other will feel he is loved. The other’s sin should not make you neglect him. You shall go to him despite his sins, and embrace him and not his sin. When he feels he is loved, he will get rid of his sin and see himself in God’s presence. That is when he will revert to His holy face.

          How long should you be patient? “I endure all things” (2 Timothy 2:10), for people – all people – are likely to commit all lapses and even crimes. You shall be expecting all people to sin and you should not refuse to deal with anybody. The sinner nowadays cannot bear any anger or isolation. Currently, the church does not practice excommunication, and I think this would be impossible because religious spirit and religious commitment are becoming less common. Excommunication is efficient only in strong communities where the sinner knows that it is a beneficial disciplinary measure and would be really afraid to lose Christ’s satisfaction if he was excommunicated. The church comprises these days both strong and weak believers. The excommunicated members would feel you are angry and you do not love them. Therefore, the church needs patience now more than ever. Those who are marginalized would lose their patience, and nobody would accept to be excluded from the community. They would feel that your action is unfair and that it is triggered by hatred. Previously, the excommunicated used to understand – if they were excluded from the community – that you are doing so for a disciplinary purpose, so that when they would be excommunicated, they would want to restore their place in the community.

          Some people within our churches hate the priest and the bishop and want to control them. The spiritual leader cannot disappoint any member in order to keep him in the community. He will deal with him with clemency, patience and fatherhood so that he can perceive God’s fatherhood.

          We are in need of a substantial temptation, a substantial training, as well as pains in order to acquire patience which Christ requires from us. If we were able to reach this degree of patience, God’s kindness will be settled in our hearts.   

Translated from Arabic – 11.08.10

Original Text: “فضيلة الصبر” – 27.07.97

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1997, Articles, Raiati

Lying / 20.07.97

I counted a total of 178 verses against lying in the Old and New Testaments. First, this shows that lying is widespread. The Bible is based on the premise that God does not lie and that the devil is a liar and the father of it (John 8: 44). In other words, it is implied that God’s honesty should be reflected in man’s honesty, and that he who lies is not a son of God. The Holy Scripture establishes always a connection between the liar and the evil spirit. Hence, it is written: “Satan filled your heart to lie” (Acts 5: 3).

According to the Divine Word, lying is not merely the act of revealing the opposite of the reality, but it rather goes deeper in defining it: “We lie and do not practice the truth” (1John 1: 6). This refers to a pattern of behavior characterized by lies, for some people are not righteous and have an improper conduct in addition to their untruthful utterances. Such people should not be in the presence of the truth, in the light.

As for the New Testament, it places emphasis on the spiritual inspiration offered to us to arm us with the truth. Paul guides us to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness”, then he urges us to abstain from lying, “for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4: 23-25).

Therefore, it is by renewing ourselves in Christ that we can approach the truth. You would then know that you became a member of the body of Christ, i.e. the church. Honesty will allow you to unite with your brothers who would heal you from your sins, should you hide nothing and reveal the truth to them. How can you be a brother to those whom you lie to? Brotherhood entails communication, transparency and a direct, sincere and honest relationship.

I asked once one of my spiritual sons whether he lies. He answered: “But I do not harm anybody”. I said: “Even if this was true, there is one person you are harming”. “Who is that person?”, he asked. I told him: “Yourself. You are degrading yourself.” Strength is all about admitting and confronting, for you shall become strong by admitting and telling the truth.

No healthy relationship can be founded unless the other person trusts what you are saying, relies on it, and makes his decisions accordingly.

You might think that hiding some facts would allow you to arrange your matters. Even though you can escape from problems once or twice, but the truth will be revealed sooner or later, and people will despise you, avoid or even stop dealing with you. There are so many liars, yet no one appreciates the other liar. In such a case, you would find yourself trapped trying to escape by telling another lie.

I understand that people’s cruelness triggers your improper conduct. Therefore, the church recognizes no cure for lying other than accepting each other and forgiving the sinners. If one knows that he would still be loved no matter how sinful he was, he would definitely dare to be honest. He relies on the fact that he is loved. He who loves does not blame others for their weaknesses. He would rather point out their mistakes kindly at an appropriate time, but does not consider them bad at all.

If we saw the image of God in a sinner and awakened him to see Him, or if we saw him receiving the patience of God and our patience, he would undoubtedly dare to remain in the brightness of truth and dealings.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “الكذب” – 20.07.97

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