2001, Articles, Raiati

Possessors of the World / 25.11.2001

Man’s difficulty in joining the Kingdom lies in the fact that he wants to “join his self” first. He is the center of existence and not God. The rich man that was the subject of the Gospel today (Luke 18: 18-27) thought that he is the center because he kept the commandments. But when Jesus told him that he has to sell everything in order to follow him, the man withdrew. Leaving everything he owns meant to him that he has lost his control over this existence. This existence is as important to him as keeping the commandments. He wanted God and the world together; God and the love of money. This rich man did not reach Jesus’ nakedness on the cross, i.e. having his heart empty from everything except from the Lord. If money was power, God then doesn’t have all powers.

Money leads into a greater power which is politics. It is not bad to support important people (politicians) in a country whose composition is bad. However, when you aim to support the powerful through all possible ways, for example through bribe or any other method of temptation, this would be politics in the Lebanese way where the smart gets everything and where our obedience to the leaders of the nation is everything.

The person that feels that he has power and is able to do a lot isn’t usually charmed by God’s power unless he or one of his children became sick. The powerful gives God away. Does this mean that you have to give up your power in the government or authorities for example? No, but you should use it in God’s fear so that you don’t misuse favors you do to people, and you don’t oppress anyone or buy someone’s conscience.

There is also a big power for women and it is the power of beauty. The beautiful woman usually shows off because her beauty gives her wealth and power on earth; for example her requests are usually quickly done even if she only had some silly paperwork to do. Her husband can’t do something in front of her power even if she was mistaken. Showing off leads her to pride and arrogance and consequently to emptiness.

There is also another kind of authority and it is that of the educated, cultured and intelligent people. Knowledge is a power over the half-educated and the simple people. Intelligence is a thing that causes pride although it is a gift from nature. You did refine this gift through your efforts but you originally inherited it through the law of nature.

All of these mentioned are possessions in the world. Beauty, intelligence, money and political power, all of this is from this world and doesn’t have any value for God or for the people close to him. If you had something of this and it gave you pride, know that you will not taste the Kingdom of God. None of these could give you any benefit in order to be sanctified. Only if you became poor in God and knew that this poverty is the only thing that gives you divine wealth, you will become beautiful and intelligent in a different way. Modest people have their special intelligence and ability that notables and educated people have never heard of. The arrogant became a part of this world, of its soil. While people who gained beauty through Jesus’ humility, are seen by him hung naked on his cross, motivated and ready for the resurrection.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الحائزون على الدنيا” – 25.11.01

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The Spirituality of Parish Councils / 14.10.2001

They are councils to help the priest in serving the faithful at the level of spiritual education and developing properties to support the priest and the in need brothers.

The members of these councils are assigned by the bishop after consulting pious people. The canon says that they should all come from the praying faithful that understand with some depth the issues that should be discussed. Therefore, the parish council is independent from any partisanship whether it was a local one or not.

It is clear that the bishop doesn’t ask anyone about his political view because he doesn’t have a list of who each person follows or a list of those involved in a certain political doctrine. He has people to guide him towards those who have spiritual enthusiasm and good morals. The bishop is not an enemy of any leader or any person that has power and he doesn’t discuss a person’s political belonging and considers all the faithful brothers. He hopes that political rivalries, even if they were innocent, are not taken into Church and disrupt discussions because it is Christ who unites the faithful even if they had conflicts concerning earthly affairs. He looks towards partisans from all directions and towards people that are embraced to leaders considering them his sons; they all get the same love and care.

You can agree with whoever you want and any party you want as long as it doesn’t say anything against Christian doctrine. The bishop also looks towards leaders in a village or in a broader region – if they were Orthodox – considering them his sons too but he wants them not to consider the Church a range for their power or interference because this would be mixing the issues of God and the world and because this interference would increase emotions and tension.

It is normal to keep the parish council until its seigniory time, which is four years, is over if they didn’t waste money. We monitor their accounts. If anyone of the members did a big mistake, he will be laid off. However, if the performance was good, the bishop doesn’t have to change the council only because some people don’t like certain members in it. The council is not a family council. It is composed of individuals that we assign according to information we get after consultations. There is no single consultation in the world that could be perfect and give the true situation. Discretion plays a role in every consultation.

The council is relatively good and not absolutely. Therefore, and to protect the church, everyone should cooperate with the council until another council takes its place when its time ends. Boycotting it causes a lot of harm because it carries schism. You endure the incomplete performance – and know that every performance is incomplete – while waiting for a better one.

The thing that facilitates the issue for everyone is that the council isn’t a side that can take decisions but a side that is consulted. However, we cannot be present in all places. Therefore, the consultation side becomes a side that takes decisions until a mistake appears and we correct it.

On this basis, it is not acceptable to feel “sad” towards the council or to financially boycott it because this harms the Church, decreases its income and weakens its work. You don’t give your money to the council but to the Church, the mother of all of us. And if you boycotted, then where does your participation come from? How could you be a brother? No one pressures his mother to make her poor. No one imposes his own opinion on the group; he can give his opinion. I presuppose that we love each other and therefore the council shouldn’t be in a war against anyone. On the other hand, no one should fight the current council too.

However, if some brothers thought that it is good to get one or several new people to improve the performance, then we are open towards the right opinion. You fight from the inside and discuss inside the council. It is not a disaster if we didn’t choose a certain person. Also no one should consider it a miracle if we accepted that person. The council is not a place for disputes or for bad intentions and at the same time the council is not impeccable. We do not practice compulsion, and it is normal to refuse compulsion from anyone towards us.

There is no organization in the world that could be composed out of saints. Our benefit requires that we accept what we have. Reformation is possible and insisting on it is also possible. Our heart is open towards any suggestion for improvement so that love becomes prominent.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “روحية مجالس الرعايا” –Raiati 41- 14.10.2001

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The Cleanness of the Church and Priest / 07.10.2001

The two phrases: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty” and “I love the house where you live, O Lord” (from the Psalms) refer to the divine beauty which is present in our temples, but they also carry the meaning that dirtiness and untidiness are not desirable things.

Church is a place that God put his name in and that was anointed with Myron when consecrated, a location that became a place where God is manifested and a place that has been filled with prayers for tens and hundreds of years. In particular, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated there, and this pushed the faithful into piety and spiritual ascension. This is one of the places of the kingdom.

We have seen righteous generations renovating this place and protecting it from falling down, cracking or any harm that could come from nature. People have lived feeling that keeping God’s house is a part of being faithful towards him. We have progressed a lot in taking care of Byzantine architecture. However, our temples differ from the aspect of their cleanness, as we have few churches that are not clean until now.

The Sanctuary is the most important place; the essential cleanness there is the cleanness of the altar and holy table. The table is covered with covers and one of them is obvious and nobody touches it even the priest. Nothing is put on it but the Gospel. We should also pay attention to candles so that drops don’t fall off them. And if something dirty appears, the priest must take it off. Everything could be cleaned; every piece of cloth could become completely clean.

In addition to that, there is the floor of the sanctuary on which we shouldn’t see any coal or incense that fell down or any trace of a person that walked on the floor.

All of this is the responsibility of the priest. He can choose any delegate he wants in order to do this work. He can use the help of any person that has gifts that qualify him to supervise this supreme place. One of the preoccupations of the priest should be to make the ecclesiastic utensils that are put on the altar decent in front of God and not repulsive for the faithful and the same applies on the covers of these utensils.

The priest is the only person that is directly responsible for these tools that should be clean as crystal so that this servant of the altar doesn’t make his lay brothers doubt and think that he is careless towards his service. This is a training for the priest to understand that God’s issues should all be done properly, in order and perfection.

In relation to this, we have the clerical clothing that he uses in the Divine Liturgy and services. These shouldn’t be torn and shouldn’t become very old because they are part of the service’s beauty.

The Priest’s cassock and the things related to it should always stay clean as all his clothes. This is a part of his love for organization. Of course we are neither seekers of elegance nor seekers of having too much clothing because this is profusion and doesn’t go along with austerity. Decent appearance might not be a virtue, but is something that goes along with general decencies which the clergy must have. This might sometimes be an image of his quest to gain decency in everything.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “نظافة الكنيسة والكاهن” –Raiati 40- 07.10.2001

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Pastoral Words / 09.09.2001

Some traditions have emerged in our Church which I haven’t seen in the Orthodox world such us having Baptisms and weddings at monasteries. The monastery is not a place for weddings because the people that live there are people who don’t get married and it is not desirable for them to see weddings where they live. Our old canon laws also state that baptisms must happen at the Church of the parish and not at other Churches.

The importance of Baptizing at the parish Church is that the baptized child is received as a member in his parish. This is why baptisms used to be held during the Divine Liturgy and people didn’t send invitations for baptisms because the entire parish would gather and receive the child and make him a member in it. However, today, whether held at the monastery or the local Church or the cathedral, parents are inviting their relatives and friends although baptism is an act of the community and isn’t only related to the family.

We have done this experience and tried baptism during the Liturgy according to an order that already existed. We also tried the wedding during the Liturgy where the wedding prayers and the liturgy prayers intersect and connect with each other. You should get married in your community and not leave the Church of your parish.

Today, we notice that most people do not pray during weddings. Fashionable clothes are exposed in an obscene way and there is no more sanctity for the temple. People are occupied with other people and don’t seem occupied by the divine words. The sanctity of marriage is violated by obscenity.

People say that they want to get married or baptize their son at a monastery because this is a vow. Why did you take this vow? All of this comes from the spirit of individualism while our spirit must be communal. The Church in our archdiocese is the Church of your village. In this Church you are spiritually born and raised and in it the joy of your marriage must be fulfilled and in it is where it should be prayed over your corpse and next to it is where you should be buried.

Many vows are wrong because they have no basis in our canon law. One of these vows is to buy a drawing or a chandelier and impose it on those who are responsible of Church property. This drawing might not be an Orthodox icon and you would feel sad because we were obliged to refuse it. You must donate an amount of money to the Church and those who are responsible would buy what they are in need of.

I thank God because our believers started to understand this and we have applied it in the mount region where people were displaced (from their villages); there, when someone comes to help, he doesn’t impose his name to be written (on what he has donated). When a person gives, he would be giving God; he shouldn’t be seeking to carve his name on an icon or a tile. If you were charitable, the Lord will register your name in the book of life.

Another important thing is that people spend too much on their weddings while people are starving to death. In the midst of the hardship that we are passing through today, spending this much on banquets and receptions is obscene. The bride and groom must have the courage to spend small amounts of money. The bliss of the bride and groom starts with their love for the poor.

It hurts me that people who want to baptize or get married are exaggerating in spending starting from the invitation cards that have become more expensive than they should be. The wedding could go along with humbleness and modesty. Priests are hurt in occasions when people spend very little over them in comparison to what they spend over the “cocktail party”. Money is wasted over pleasures and worthless glory and not even a little is given to charity or to become closer to God.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أقوال رعائية” –Raiati no36- 09.09.2001

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The Sustenance of the Priest / 02.09.2001

The question isn’t “How does the priest live?” but rather “Does the parish love him enough to spare him the need to search for his living?” The Scripture says: “Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?” (Apostle Paul). What milk is this? Paul himself says: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” and by this he means the means of living.

The idea is based on the Canon Law that doesn’t want the priest to search for his sources of sustenance in order to be dedicated to teaching, service and visits. Paul’s thought is that the believer that takes the spiritual giving of his pastor helps the latter to have a decent living. If he was stingy towards him, he will make him busy in money and corrupt.

If spiritual service was the most important thing for us, then the priority of spending is for the priest. He shouldn’t be given a minimum wage under the excuse of building or renovating a church. It is very clear that the priest’s decent living is more important than the physical church because this is the human church. Church councils have continuous projects in some places and restoring churches requires a lot of time. Meanwhile, how do this man and his family eat? I don’t know any family that reduces its kids’ food and their school fees and medication in order to buy an apartment or build a place. Things that are stable for you, i.e. the priority of food over any other project, are also stable for the priest.

What sources of living does this man have? It has become known for us since the beginning of the twentieth century that the priest has a fixed monthly salary and that the faithful honor him when he does a spiritual service for them. However, our experience shows that the biggest part of his income must come from the salary. Sometimes the faithful give a small amount. The number of happy occasions and sorrow ones varies. They increase and decrease and their income doesn’t give comfort. Some parish councils have a very bad tendency to say: Our priest has this number of weddings and that number of baptisms in order to take off themselves the responsibility of giving generously. I am amazed by the behavior of some people that are stingy with money that is not theirs and don’t behave the same towards their families.

Very few are convinced that a priest that has two or three children has to spend exactly as any family that also has two or three children. A lot of people don’t think about that as if there is a tendency to put the priest under the guardianship of the people in control of the Church’s money. As if they are saying that he has to be in need in order to learn humility. Who said that he can’t be humble without being in need?

Then the last and major issue is that the final decision in determining the salary is taken by the bishop who is responsible for the churches’ properties, and the deputies of these properties are only consultants for the bishop. We have to get rid completely of the following kind of speech that insults the spiritual authority: This is the property of our fathers and ancestors. This is not true. They gave, but after their giving these properties became under the guardianship of the church and not the families.

I feel very sad when I face a speech like the following: This is our maximal ability. What does this mean when we have in every parish a bunch of rich people and money in the banks? They also say that we don’t collect a lot in church. Alright, but if 3 to 8% of the faithful attended the liturgy, does this mean that the priest must live from what is collected in the liturgy only and not from a certain system of subscriptions?

These broad lines of our behavior are the thing that pleases the Lord.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “إعالة الكاهن” –Raiati 35- 02.09.2001

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Mistakes of Spiritual Counseling / 22.07.2001

The first mistake is exaggerating in strictness. Sometimes, the spiritual father sees that it is beneficial to forbid the confessor from communion until he becomes sure of his repentance. The father would listen to him weekly and when he notices an improvement he would bring him back to the Holy Communion.

As for ordinary situations, wisdom is essential. For example, there could be a sick person that has to take his medicine in the morning accompanied by a piece of bread. The lord’s body is for the sick as it is for the healthy. Another case is that the spiritual son may not be intending to have communion in the morning but feels that he wants that during the service. The priest must estimate what should be done in such cases. There should be flexibility in things that are related to fasting. Ecclesiastic laws that have a disciplinary touch exist for the salvation of souls. It is up to the discerning priest to manage those laws.

In general, there is a difference between teaching and guidance. We provide teaching with strictness. However, if a person fell into sin, we must use mercy with him. This mercy facilitates the return of the lost son. There should be firmness while blaming him over the sin and sympathy while lifting the sinner from the pit.

The spiritual father commits a mistake if he disparaged the sin and if he made the issue look easy in order to try and save the sinner. Reducing the grossness of the sin usually throws the confessor in a deeper pit and ruins his evaluation for things. One shouldn’t say for example: “You lied, and lying is common; next time, be better”. This is a killing compromise with evil. You cannot say to a married person: “You used your freedom while you were traveling. I understand this. Preserve yourself in the next time”. Such words are very corrupting. To understand the person is one thing, while to excuse him is something completely different. The priest isn’t a psychoanalytic to understand how things occurred. He is a teacher of the Law and this is what gives salvation.

The counselor must encounter the sin that’s mentioned with the beauty of virtue that the spiritual son didn’t have. He must make the virtue attractive and try to make it beloved for the spiritual son. From this aspect, the priest accompanies his spiritual son with good words towards Jesus’ visage. He mustn’t act like a military person or like someone that has lost his patience. He must not be surprised by any sin and not produce any groan or sigh or anger in front of what he is hearing. Any person could commit any sin. The father must hear through his mind and try to understand the reason behind the trespass and its circumstances and the weakness that led to it. He must not confront with psychoanalysis but with the divine word. He shouldn’t play the role of a psychoanalytic. Analyzing is not his job, and having a minor knowledge might lead him to disasters. However, if he really discovered that the spiritual son needs a psychiatrist, he should lead him to one.

In addition to this, the priest cannot decide anything for his spiritual son. He is forbidden to command him to marry or to become a monk for example. He could say: You are qualified to be married, however he can’t exhort him to get married or to become a monk. Also, the more dangerous thing is to tell him: This girl is appropriate – or inappropriate – for you. The spiritual father doesn’t carry the responsibility of success or failure in marriage. The most important thing is that he shouldn’t carry a list of girls to make them the wives of his spiritual sons.

Again and again I want to assure that the spiritual son isn’t a slave for the priest. The priest must listen to whoever asks for guidance. In Greek, the word “obedience” is derived from the word “listening”. The main purpose of counseling is to guide the confessor to listen to the word of God so that it can change him. Therefore, no one may have dominance over the other. A loving and discerning accompaniment leads to obedience for God’s words.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أغلاط الإرشاد الروحي” –Raiati 29- 22.07.2001

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Spiritual Counseling / 15.07.2001

Not every priest is a spiritual father. Therefore, the Church doesn’t allow every priest to take confessions. When the bishop finds that a priest has reached a level of maturity, he declares him a spiritual father. What actually happens is that if a priest was alone in his parish, the bishop would give him this authority and call him a spiritual father even if he wasn’t able to be a counselor. The main idea is that the priest doesn’t become automatically – i.e. through his ordination or a special prayer – a spiritual father. This is a grace from above. The important thing is for the priest to know his limits. If he didn’t have enough knowledge in the Holy Book or didn’t have enough spiritual experience, it is better if he only gives forgiveness of sins without counseling. In such case, the Gospel would be a good counselor.

Deep religious education is a condition to recognize sin and its contrary. This would become available through numerous readings in different theological fields and ascetic literature if the reader can precisely differentiate between what he reads and what he must say in the case of the believer that came for counseling. How does the spiritual father move from what he has read to what he must say? This is a big question. We wouldn’t benefit people if we just repeat what we found in books.  It isn’t enough to direct people to sincerity; we should clarify how to live sincerity for example as a lawyer, a merchant or a person running for elections. What are the particularities of virtue in every case? It isn’t enough to call people for chastity. Talking about chastity with a single person is different than doing it with a married one. We cannot just ruminate ascetic words knowing that most of them have been written for monks.

No counseling could be done by simply saying ethical and social words such as: “Why did you do that? This is wrong”; or “you pray, how could you do such a sin?” If someone cannot speak from the heart of the Gospel with Jesus’ words, he must remain silent.

On a higher level, we might have a priest that has tasted the sweetness of the Lord. Such priest must not say anything except what comes from his experience. If the priest was a man of prayer, he can direct people to prayer. However, the priest that only fulfills his ritual duties cannot speak about praying. It isn’t enough for the counselor to say: “Pray, son”. If he hasn’t tasted the beauty of prayer and understood it and knew how to fight laziness or distraction in it, it is preferred for him to remain silent. Talking generally and ambiguously doesn’t take you anywhere.

All spiritual fathers must give advices and not orders. He shouldn’t cancel the personality of the person who came for confession or counseling. He isn’t his slave but his son and brother. We shouldn’t treat him as we treat a novice in monasticism. A spiritual father doesn’t put people in templates. He can be strict sometimes but not all the times; he must be sweet and tender in all situations.

The honoring given by the repentant for his spiritual father doesn’t mean that he falls in slavery to a person or that he doesn’t see any benefit except in this father. If he discovered that he isn’t getting a lot of benefits, he can leave him after taking permission. The spiritual father must make the bond loose because this is what this person has come to ask. The counselor must accept that his spiritual son could find another counselor. The spiritual father shouldn’t fall in jealousy towards other spiritual fathers.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can choose your spiritual father whenever you want. He shouldn’t necessarily be your parish’s priest. However, before leaving him, make sure that you’re going to someone better. There are very wise priests. It isn’t confirmed that all monks are better than them.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “في الإرشاد الروحي” –Raiati 28- 15.07.2001

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Worthless Glory / 8.7.2001

On the nativity of the Lord, the heaven said to the people of earth: “Glory to God in the highest”. On the other hand, Herod killed the kids for the love of his own glory. In both Testaments glory is only given to God, while man gains his glory from him. Most of the shining verses state that glory is for God and we admit this. This is the glory that we saw on Christ, and was revealed through him on the cross. This glory fills the house of God, and it is for the people of God.

The bible derives from God and says that wise men do not inherit glory while people with humble spirits do. The bible doesn’t see any glory in any person other than that who has piety and wisdom (and these are for God). Therefore, the Lord said: “I do not receive glory from men”. Jesus also saw that the request of glory comes from the lack of faith. This is why he said to the Jews: “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comesfrom the only God?” (John 5: 44).

A lot of people seek compliments and want to appear in people’s eyes. The request of leadership and control comes from our love of this worthless glory. Leaders that want support and posts seek this since posts are rarely gained through efficiency and education. The powerful helps the weak, not to honor him but to make him a follower. The weak tries to please the powerful because he fears him, he fears the suppression and the injustice of the leader. These “stooges” don’t disagree over an idea or a subject, but because of their different leaders or because each one follows a certain person.

What we conclude here is that we should seek our independence through piety that makes us the followers of God only. Sometimes this independence puts us on the edge (outside) of our society or makes us unaccepted from the powerful sides. However, in this case we find our immunity in God.

When a person loves others, he wants them strong and having independence in their opinions. He admits that their dignity comes from their Lord and no person could give another dignity. If I really love someone, I want him to be free, free from me because an unconditioned obedience to me is nothing but contempt towards someone I want as a follower.

This phenomenon is getting stronger in countries where the state is weak and do not protect people’s rights. The church can do nothing but read for people the bible that pushes them to only ask God’s glory. The church is not in a struggle with the powerful but it does say: “He (God) has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly”. The Church wants the person that considers himself “important” not to do so, but ask power from the grace to make himself a brother of all, a servant for those without waiting for any retribution or gratitude. The church asks him to serve the poor and the marginalized in order for them not to fear their weakness, for their weakness not to kill them.

If we all asked God’s glory, it would have settled on us and we would have been all equal in what God gave us, and we wouldn’t have felt any notability because of earthly money or power. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name give glory”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “المجد الباطل” – 8.7.2001

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The Devil / 1.7.2001

He is called in Greek “diabolos” and means the separator; he is the one that separates between people. Against him is the only God that unites people through love that he gives them so they become one body even if they were independent from each other. The other person is independent from me but not separate. When I say that you are my enemy, this means that I don’t consider you “with me” or “in me”. If you are my enemy, then you are thrown away from me and out of my heart.

I can consider you united with me even if I thought you were different. And if I loved you, that would not be to attract you to me but to God. When you are moving towards God, I will love you because this is what matters for me. For if I was moving towards God too, God himself will become a meeting for us. Because of this meeting that we are both invited to, we become one although each one of us would still have his own different things. God is the one that unites. We would still have some contrast, as every one has his privacy, but the common thing between us is the divine momentum that makes us eager to the Lord.

Whereas, if I leave you away from me, we would both be living in our solitudes and this way I’d be destroying both of us. When I love, I wouldn’t think about having control over you, because I’d be putting you under my authority and desires. This means that I want to pass to you my lusts and make you corrupt. When this happens, I won’t be “with you”; I would be with myself as it is with its sins. I am not able to love you unless I got rid from my sin so that it doesn’t affect you, so that it doesn’t finish you. Enmity, therefore, is death.

All of this goes into Satan’s benefit, he who wants spiritual death for you and me. This death is the Kingdom of the devil. He throws each one of us in a place and prevails over us. However, if we didn’t separate, God will unite us because his job is to make us one.

We can become united with God when we understand that “God embraces the worthy to his entity. All the saints embrace with all their entity God’s whole entity and they have no reward except him” (Saint Gregory Palamas). God doesn’t leave any part of him not embraced with man. Saints leave everything that is not divine while embracing God as they don’t ask for themselves and for others anything except God.

When God becomes everything in you and in the other person, unity happens as you would have ended your moodiness and you became light and saw light in others.

On the other side, the job of the devil is to prevent you from seeing others as light. He makes you see their defects in order to hate them so the light in you fades and you despise others to support your opinion about them; however, it is not your self that gave this opinion but your own defects.

Christ doesn’t reign over the scattered community (parish); Satan is its ruler. If these people prayed, they wouldn’t be praying for God because the spiteful worships himself. You see people coming towards the Lord’s body (Holy Communion) with the Lord not being between them; here, communion isn’t able to offer the Lord to them. They do not take anything, as Apostle Paul said that they took their condemnation and also the prayers that prepare us for communion say that they took “fire” and this means that they ate hell inside them.

The question here is: Who is your ruler? Is it Satan or Christ?

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الشيطان” – 1.7.2001

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Christ’s Visage / 17.06.2001

“Annahar” newspaper published on June 5th an article entitled: “Is this the real visage of Christ?” (Talking about a form believed to be the closest to Christ’s face). This try was based on an experiment done on a skull of a Jewish man that is believed to represent the best model of people that lived in Palestine in Christ’s time as his skull goes back to the first century.

Of course, skulls don’t come from one model and are not all alike. There is also no definite dating archeologically. And we don’t know if Israeli authorities were interested in this subject and we also don’t know their intentions.

Here, we must say that early Christians didn’t care about the Lord’s physical form. Some of them said that his face was beautiful and others said the opposite. Of course, we find no interest in the Gospel concerning this issue. Studies showed that “Torino’s shroud”, that was believed to be Christ’s shroud, comes from the middle ages. Studies also proved that the text that has a description of Christ and attributed to Pilate is not a fixed text. So we don’t have any signal of the Savior’s physical appearance, and surely it doesn’t matter for us.

There is a statue that portrays the Savior artistically made after several tens of years from his resurrection. However, this is an artistic work and doesn’t have anything to do with reality. We can also find the oldest icon of the Lord preserved in the Louvre museum in Paris, and it is a Coptic icon that goes back to the Fifth century. However, this icon falls into a religious educative art in which the artist doesn’t try to imitate an actual image as he doesn’t have a photographic intention. And because Icon writers – and this is how we call painters – try to follow early models to give a spiritual idea, all their images were very similar. An icon is closer to being a symbol than a physical seen form. It is a theological reading of the person we are drawing.

European art was inspired by icons despite becoming independent in style and making. The important thing when looking at the icon is to spiritually ascend to the person portrayed on it. We don’t have any quest to know about the Lord’s skin or the color of his eyes. Of course, he did resemble the people of this oriental region and this is everything we can say.

Our relationship with the Lord is through the Holy Spirit. We don’t know him physically but spiritually as Paul says. This means that we know him through the heart when filled with grace. We also know him as the disciples of Emmaus did “when breaking the bread” through divine communion and the words that he said. We know him through love if we lived it and through the ecclesiastic bond that unites us with the brothers.

In this case, cinema doesn’t give us anything new about the Lord when an actor plays his character and it also doesn’t strengthen our faith. For us, he is not simply a human to put on stage. We look at him after resurrection, i.e. we see him a luminous creature related to us through the Holy Spirit and leading us to the Father. We can artistically enjoy the paintings done by great artists in which they drew biblical events including crucifixion. We do not deny the canonicity of these paintings, but they don’t make us pray. We meet the Lord through prayer and through icons. We also enjoy classical music that gave the tones for the polyphonic western liturgy. However, we don’t pray this way. We pray through the Spirit.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “وجه المسيح” –Raiati no24- 17.06.2001

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