2011, Articles, Raiati

God Adopted us Through Christ / 25.12.2011

“When the set time had fully come”. This is a phrase that could be understood through what precedes it which is a talk about the heir that is subject to guardians and trustees. However, when he matures, the reign of the guardians ends. But after the end of the guardianship period, the set time fully came. Therefore, God sent his Son born of a woman, and we became directly under the Son’s authority or reign, and then, the reign of Moses’ law and its statutes was invalidated.

Paul assured that we became sons. Therefore, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father”. Here, Paul wrote in Greek letters the Aramaic word and then explained it as “Father”. “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child”, in a sense that the guardianship system is vanished and you have become as the only beloved son for the Father and you have the same love that this Son has from the Father and this is what explains that you are adopted.

“God has made you also an heir”; God doesn’t treat you anymore as a person from the Old Testament put under guardianship. Your direct relationship with God is “through Jesus Christ”. The sonship of the latter to the Father made you a son. This chapter from the Epistle to the Galatians was taken in order to understand the meaning of the Nativity. In the early Church, this day was celebrated with the Theophany and the meaning of the two remembrances is God’s manifestation through the Nativity and Baptism.

Then we separated the two remembrances and we kept the remembrance of the Lord’s Baptism on January 6th. However, when we read this passage from the epistle to the Galatians, we started to understand what wasn’t very clear in the common feast, which is the fact that we became sons through Jesus Christ’s sonship.

And our sonship started carrying the meaning of the children’s boldness towards their father. A Child talks to his father and mother in the spirit of filiation.

It is true that this feast was called “the small feast” by our fathers, and they called Easter “the great feast” because it is the feast of salvation. However, the divine incarnation launches the salvation. Also, salvation appears in all the feasts of Jesus Christ and his miracles and also Jesus’ teachings show the mystery of salvation.

It is sad that Christmas is confused with idolatrous traditions such as eating and drinking before the Liturgy or on its eve, and it is almost turned into a worldly season. It is time to live it as an ecclesiastic season full of divine meanings in which we are renewed every year.

Do we receive Christ as Mary, the manger and the cave did? Do our poor hearts open for him and we sense the warmth of his love? Do we celebrate the feast in our Churches and not only at our homes?

The feast is not the decoration. It is sharing with the poor so that they know that God loves them through their richer brothers. Christ was poor when he was born and stayed poor. As an honoring and love for him we will ask about the in need so that we satisfy him and get closer to his heart.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “تبنّانا الله بالمسيح” –Raiati 52- 25.12.2011

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Sunday of the Fathers / 18.12.2011

It is the Sunday of the genealogy of Lord Jesus, and Matthew means by this, since the beginning of his Gospel, that Jesus is stemmed from Abraham and David, and the sequence of the names of the Lord’s fathers comes in three phases: The first one is from Abraham to David, the second is from David to Babylon’s Captivity, and the third is from Babylon’s captivity to Christ. After this, the reading reaches the incident of the nativity itself. Luke gave more names in the genealogy that he narrated, and this is closer to the sequence found in the Old Testament. It seems that Matthew depended on a reference that was more common in his days.

Matthew wanted to stress on the fact that the Lord is stemmed from David. This was a common belief among the Jews sixty years after the Savior’s resurrection. In the genealogy there are women, and most of these women have bad behaviors, and one of them is a foreigner. Matthew probably wanted to say that Jesus comes from humanity as it is with its sins and he is the one that purifies it.

There are fourteen names in the first two groups and only thirteen in the third one. We can consider that the fourteen mentioned by Matthew in every group is a symbol for David (in Hebrew, David is written “DWD”: The number of every “D” is 4, and the number of “W” is 6 which sums up to 14).

Matthew narrated the incident of the Nativity. Mary was engaged which means that she was theoretically or legally his wife but actually the marriage doesn’t happen until the girl is wed and taken by the man to his house. Matthew assures clearly that Jesus didn’t have a physical father. The virginity of Mary when giving birth to Jesus is only found in Matthew and Luke. This was sufficient for early Christians to adopt this fixed virginity. The absence of mentioning the virginity in the other Evangelists could be explained by the fact that the common belief in Mary’s virginity saved them from mentioning the thing that was known for everyone.

“And you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”. In Hebrew, “Jesus” means “Joshua” which means “God saves”. Jewish theology says that the time of Christ is the time of the end of sin.

The word “virgin” that Matthew uses is taken from Isaiah 7: 14 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and without any doubt, the text that was in Matthew’s hands when he wrote his Gospel in Antioch around the year 80 was the Greek text. In fact, Jesus wasn’t named “Immanuel” in the Christian nomenclature but the word “Immanuel” was to describe Christ and his works.

“But he knew her not until she had given birth to her firstborn son”. The expression “he knew her not”, after going back to the usage of the word “knew”, means that he didn’t have a relation with her in her pregnancy, he denies any sexual relationship between them before the Savior’s nativity, but he also doesn’t suggest, from the linguistic aspect, that there was a relationship after that. As for the expression “her firstborn son”, it was probably added as Christ is called by Paul “the firstborn from the dead”. Also the expression “Jesus’ brothers” doesn’t necessarily mean that the Lord had physical siblings, because the word “brothers” in Hebrew means relatives (first cousins, the children of uncles and aunts).

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أحد النسبة” –Raiati 51- 18.12.2011

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Piety or Knowledge for a Priest? / 11.12.2011

Choosing between them means that piety or knowledge is sufficient, but we say that every Christian, especially the educated Christian, needs both together because this is what the Holy Book says. The thing that we must not forget is that the essence of piety is faith, and faith has content and Apostle Paul showed this by considering that the content of faith is Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. This means that faith is not an emotion and a personal feeling that you love God and work for him. Feeling accompanies faith but isn’t faith itself.

Faith carries divine talk and this is inspiration. The Scripture said: “I believed; therefore I spoke”. We cannot disable the mind and tongue and claim piety. Therefore, the movement that claims in our days that we only need a pious priest even if he only knew few things is worthless. What does he understand from his prayers in this case? How could he live the words of his prayers?

I am surprised from the absence of insistence on the knowledge of the priest after living a period of ignorance for a minimum of a thousand years. I am surprised from being satisfied by only good behavior. Look at this story: Once, the people of Beirut presented to St. John Chrysostom a man and said that they want him as a priest. The Saint asked them: What are his gifts? They answered: He is pious. He answered: This is something that must exist in all people; a lay man and a clergyman are both invited to have the same piety, but a person must be responsible for teaching.

If a stranger came to ask about our dogma and what does it contain, it is normal to expect to hear our priest. Every nation has teachers, and for us the priest is the first teacher. This stranger expects to hear from the priest that is supposed to know the dogma well and to know how to defend it and to have his main concern to attract people to him. And if we supposed that he invited strangers to our liturgy because it is beautiful, and someone asked about the meaning of a certain phrase and he couldn’t answer, how could this stranger respect us?

I know that there are difficult questions that go beyond the normal teaching that this priest received. This needs specialization. In this case, he can ask a fellow priest or a theology professor. However, not knowing the essentials is completely unacceptable.

However, if knowledge is limited only for the bishop, how could you have him in every occasion? The knowledgeable person should be found in his place so that it wouldn’t be proved that we are a people that only love chanting and that we are a Church that has no renewal or thought and that this Church is just a museum; this is a common accusation for western people that say that the Orthodox Church is the Church of beauty but has no thought because they rarely find someone that can answer a question.

It is obvious that what I meant is that purity of behavior is the most important thing for any of us especially for people with responsibilities, but the Gospel is what is given to people, and consequently piety and knowledge are coherent and accompany each other so that God is glorified through the person that carries both of them.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “تقوى أو عِلْم عند الكاهن” –Raiati 50- 11.12.2011

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The Priest’s Education / 04.12.2011

More than Seventy years ago, while I was a student in a Catholic school, I was in great malaise from the things that I used to receive about Christianity from those monks, and no Orthodox priest was able to tell me a word about our faith. Regardless of the piety of my priest, I missed the Gospel and dogma, and I was sad because I had to go to strangers from my Church in order to know something about Christ.

I am even sadder because the scene of ignorance that we have didn’t end completely even though we have made a lot of progress. During my youth, I didn’t understand how does a bishop that studied in Halki or Athens or Moscow and mastered languages accept this difference in knowledge between him and his priests. He didn’t used to put any effort to teach them something. How did he accept them to have empty minds while his book tells him that there exist teachers and preachers and Church history has revealed to him that Church leaders were St. Basil, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, John of Damascus and others? Emptiness can only give emptiness. Forty years ago we created a Theological Institute in Balamand, and this is a great achievement, but the number of students that register there is not the required number that we need. This means that we have to ordain illiterate or half-illiterate priests. There is no enough effort put to accept students and the pretext is that we don’t have enough money. Therefore our quest should be to find money to fill the expenses of the institute and we must perform a statistic in order to know the number of priests we need after the death of old priests. Let us assume that in the next twenty years we need to graduate four hundred or six hundred students to fill all vacancies; by that we would have solved the problem of the parishes that wait for educated priests.

The remaining question is: why don’t we receive the required number although we have an obvious spiritual sense in a lot of our young people that are involved in Church service? The only answer for me is that some of those who don’t get involved in this education are afraid from poverty in the life of the priest. Consequently, the problem of the priest’s living is related to the affiliation to the theological institute. Therefore, the main question is how to get ready in all the archdioceses from now to find sufficient salaries to be paid for the four hundred or five hundred priests that we need in a way that we say to the graduate: After four years, you spend a year or two in training for priesthood in a certain Church as a deacon for example or as a clerk for the bishop and you earn a sufficient salary and you do not search feverishly for a rich Church because we must reach a time in which our graduates become ready to be enrolled in any Church in the city or countryside.

This means that the love for studying exists in some of our youth and that the only problem is financial and could be solved on the level of the whole Antiochian Church because of the poverty of some archdioceses. If the Orthodox faith must be nurtured in all places, brotherly love requires that the relatively rich archdiocese helps the archdiocese that cannot pay the salary of the future priest. This requires a great brotherhood and a feeling for the weak brother.

Therefore, let us enter the science of statistics and let Jesus’ love be inflamed in us to find suitable priests for him.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “علم الكاهن” –Raiati 49- 04.12.2011

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Christ is the Peace / 27.11.2011

Paul says that Jews and Gentiles (Pagans) are made one by Christ, who destroyed through his body, through his death “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”. Through this death both people became “one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace”; this means that through taking Christ’s peace, a person becomes one with the other.

Here, conciliation was fulfilled. He who died for everyone killed on the Cross the hostility with his soul. Hostility has no more effect on the hearts of the faithful. There isn’t any basis left for Aristotle’s phrase: “he who is not Greek is Barbarian”. You are all one in Jesus Christ.

If the Holy Spirit was one in you, He shall let you reach God together. No one is a stranger anymore. If an Orthodox Christian settled down in your town and you didn’t share with him Church issues and you didn’t take his opinion in these issues, you would be considering him a strange man and not your brother in Baptism and in the Lord’s body.

You are guests in one house, the owners of the house and citizens with God’s people. After the Church has become you homeland, what separates you? You are God’s one house and you were built on the basis of the Apostles and Prophets (We acknowledge prophets as we acknowledge the twelve apostles).

The cornerstone of this house is Jesus Christ himself. In Lebanese Architecture, this stone is the closing stone of the vault. This is how you build: You put a wooden cage and you put over it stones that are not attached by lime or any other substance. It is enough to have a stone on the top of the ceiling that is put in a way that the four walls are coherent through it. It is the coherence between all the stones of the building or hall.

Paul compares Christ to this closure stone to show that He is the only bond between believers. This is what Paul calls “building joining”. This one house, the Church, “rises to become a holy temple in the Lord”, and moreover “you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit”.

This means that you are one Church; man doesn’t live alone, independent from others. You, in your sins and spiritual beauties are one, but this unity must appear in your meeting on Sunday. None of you should dispense the others. One shouldn’t stay alone with his family on a Sunday morning. This way you are separated and cannot appear as Christ’s body.

He said: “In Him (in Christ) you are built together to become a dwelling by His Spirit”. The Holy Spirit makes you one with Christ. If you were resting in your home with the Lord, then you are not one in spirit with the brothers. The Holy Spirit makes us embraced to each others in all prayers but especially in communion of the Lord’s body. Therefore we say after communion that “we have received the Heavenly Spirit”.

If you knew that the Church is the unity and the place for encountering God, you forgive people’s trespasses and you see the Holy Spirit descending on them and you do not judge them as the Lord separates the weed from the wheat on the final day.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “المسيح هو السلام” –Raiati 48- 27.11.2011

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Salvation by Grace / 20.11.2011

Apostle Paul wrote this epistle in prison, probably from his last prison in Rome. It is one of his richest epistles, and perhaps it is not only sent to the Ephesians but to the surrounding cities of Asia Minor. He confirms in this passage that “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”. The apostle always makes us involved in Christ’s life and in sitting with him in the heavens after Resurrection. Paul doesn’t differentiate between the Lord and his people.

And for Christians not to feel proud about their virtues, he confirms to them that they are saved by grace, and in this small passage he confirms this idea twice. Christ embraces his beloved ones, and involves them in his death, resurrection and ascension to the heavens. Everything for him is a grace from above, and grace is God’s kindness towards us.

Where does this grace come from? The answer is: from faith, this means that it is for free. The Lord gives it because he wants to, and people have no favor in that. This salvation is God’s gift, and not from acts or from Moses’ Law. And here the Apostle meets with the epistles to the Romans and Galatians; and the epistle that he sent to the Galatians was read in Ephesus. All these cities learned that grace is for free and faith is for free, and all of this carries a fight against the Jews and the people influenced by them in Christian environments in Asia Minor. We are created for the good deeds that God prepared so that we live by them. The so called “pre-assigning” that appeared in protestant Calvinism and that says that some people are prepare for the heavens and others for hell is a belief that was refused by those Evangelical people in the nineteenth century, and we have already refused it since the beginning because it cancels any personal responsibility. A person is saved for two reasons: First, because God wants to save him through grace, and second because he accepts this Divine salvation. God says “I am the Savior”, and man says “God saves me”. This is what we call synergy or communion between God and man although the Lord is the initiator with grace and man responds to it. In the days of Blessed Augustine (fourth century), the heresy of Pelagius appeared in Africa and claimed that Man is saved through his efforts; it was considered a blasphemy by the Church. This doesn’t prevent the preacher from urging the believers to do good deeds and from telling them that they won’t be saved if they neglected effort. These are very beneficial words to stay away from laziness and carelessness.

However, our fathers taught that man doesn’t enter the Kingdom through his effort but through God’s mercy. You always seek so that God accepts your quest and crowns your giving, but remember that we are saved by grace and that you are always in need for God and that you gain salvation through his supreme love and kindness. He is the one that revived you through Christ and seated you with him in the heavens. Knowing that you descend from above through grace puts in you the spirit of humility which is the power of your hope.

This convergence between grace and human effort is a shining teaching in the epistle to the Ephesians and a refusal to the fatalism that says that God obliges us to enter heaven or hell. Love doesn’t want anyone in hell, but you acquire love through permanent obedience to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الخلاص بالنعمة” –Raiati 47- 20.11.2011

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The Good Samaritan / 13.11.2011

This is one of the most important parables that invite us to love our neighbor and enemy. It starts with a dialogue between an expert in the law and the Lord, and this expert is a teacher of Moses’ Law and of the whole Scripture in general. He was probably a Pharisee because he believed in eternal life after death. Jews, except for Pharisees, didn’t believe in life after death, and they got this idea after the emergence of Christianity. The Lord answered his question with another one: “What was written in the law?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself”.

This answer combined Deuteronomy 6: 4 and Leviticus 19: 18. In the book of Deuteronomy, the commandment starts this way: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”. While in Leviticus it says: “You shall not bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.

And when Jesus answered this man by saying: “Do this and you will live”, he said to the Lord: “And who is my neighbor?” Is he the Jew that lives in Palestine with them? Then, Jesus started to tell a story that he composed, and the most important thing in it is that it shows a Samaritan, i.e. a man from another religion, taking care of a wounded Jew on the road and healing him while the two people didn’t have any contact between each other especially that the Samaritans depended on the Five Books of Moses and refused the books of Prophets.

The Samaritan went beyond the existing religious separation and took care of this strange man, and our Fathers say that the Samaritan in this parable is a symbol of Christ who doesn’t consider anyone strange but he is the one made strange by people while he takes care of everyone through his love, clemency, death and resurrection.

Notice that the law master asked the Lord: “Who is my neighbor?” This question was answered by Jesus with another question: “Which of these three (The priest and the Levite that passed by and left the wounded and the Samaritan) do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The answer was: “The one who had mercy on him”.

The question, “Who is my neighbor?” seemed wrong in the biblical text. The real concern is “who do I consider my neighbor”. The answer is that through the love that you have, you make the other your neighbor. Any other person is your neighbor if he needed your care regardless of his religion, color and country. You are a brother for every needy person, but do an act of care and attention so that he feels that he is your brother and neighbor. Love is a motion, and with it differences vanish.

All humanity is God’s nation, and you are one with every person that might consider you his enemy. You serve him without looking to his feelings towards you or towards your religion or country. You walk on all roads of existence to search for a person to serve so that he believes in your and his humanness. Love destroys the differences between you, him and every other person. It purifies yourself, it makes you another person and, through it, you feel that you are God’s son. Remember that if you said in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven”, you declare that all people, whether they sinned or not, are God’s sons, and you should understand that the kingdom starts now in the hearts of loving people and in the hearts of those who they take care of. Search for those that have a bigger need because the Lord is very close to them.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “السامريّ الشفوق” –Raiati 46- 13.11.2011

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The Priest and the People / 06.11.2011

The priest, even if he became a spiritual father, is one with every individual in his parish because they are all together a royal priesthood and a holy nation as Saint Peter says and they have together Christ’s love. A father looks over his sons with one jealousy and a father honors his son even if he knew his faults, and a creature can’t escape from faults because we are all human beings.

And for this relationship to stay healthy, no one should ask anything for himself especially that this will make him avoid shock if he wasn’t regarded. One shouldn’t say: “I have my dignity”. If it wasn’t regarded by others, your dignity is with God and it doesn’t decrease in his eyes. If you know that you are God’s beloved one, why would you search for a dignity expressed by a creature? Jesus didn’t want you to request. He wanted you to give and to ask yourself if you respected the dignity of others.

The relationship between the priest and the believer is bidirectional. It is true that he is your pastor, but on the other hand you should also take care of him. You should initiate by greeting him, and if you were a conservative Orthodox, you should ask for his blessing because you believe that he gives you the Lord’s blessing. And if you had some affluence, you should strengthen him financially without waiting for a ritual occasion such as a wedding or losing a member of your family.

A lot of mistakes were committed in the past because the priest didn’t do all his duties towards you or your family. You wanted to punish him so you left the Church and went to another Church without understanding that you are being separated from the remaining Orthodoxy in this priest or another one. This priest will die and you, and your family, would be on the wrong path. Thank God that this has decreased a lot after the others discovered that they are our brothers and stopped stealing people from our own pen and we stopped stealing from theirs.

If you have anything against the priest, complain to the bishop because if he discovered that he has mistaken he will discipline him without emotions but according to the law and would reconcile you with him and straighten his behavior so that love would be back between you.

You are a shepherd and a shepherded at the same time. You might have more awareness than the priest and guide him to the truth and urge him to have knowledge and to love his fellow priests if he needed that.

It is your job to push the priest into expressing his needs to the bishop because the bishop might not know all of them, and he can’t do that especially that the number of priests is large. Do not give the priest the chance to gossip or to criticize bitterly because this harms himself. Let him open his heart to his bishop that doesn’t have any need to take the side of any priest or to neglect, but he is a human being and can’t know everything. Give the bishop the chance to love him.

Give your brother the believer a chance to love the clergy so that we stay one royal nation. Do not leave any space for babbling or hatred or partisanship in Church. And if the parish was divided because of familial or political reasons, ecclesiastic meeting is the perfect opportunity to unite people. And if our Baptism was one, then our living is one and our giving becomes one through God’s grace.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الكاهن وعامّة الشعب” –Raiati 45- 06.11.2011

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The Rich Man and Lazarus / 30.10.2011

It is a parable from Luke, and parables in the four Gospels are stories made by Jesus and were not told before among people. He pictures in this parable a rich man and a poor one. The rich dresses in purple and fine linen, i.e. silk, and “lived in luxury every day”. Obscene richness is through dressing, food, shelter and furniture.

The evangelist pictures next to him a poor man thrown on his gate. He was thrown because he had sores. He was always hungry and dogs used to come and lick his sores. We are in front of a severe illness that exposes the sick person to living with animals. His name is Lazarus, which means “God is our aid or assistance”. Perhaps Luke gave him this name to indicate that the poor has no one but God.

“The angels carried him to Abraham’s side”. This is an expression for Jews that refers to living in the Kingdom. Therefore, the poor man was among God’s companions. The Evangelist wanted to say that God gives the poor their sustenance and he is their aider.

Then the text says that the rich man “dies and was buried”. And Luke said that he is in hell, and in the language of the Old Testament, hell is the Kingdom of death, and Luke clarified that he is in torment. The Evangelist doesn’t say why he is in torment, but from what was already written in the biblical text we understand that because he didn’t have any compassion towards the poor man and didn’t notice him thrown in front of the gate of his palace. This rich man looked towards Abraham and saw the poor man by his side. He desired to be in the Kingdom but he couldn’t cancel the punishment that he deserved in his world, and the writer clarified that by saying: “between us and you a great chasm has been set in place”. He wished that his fellow rich people would change their behavior through receiving a messenger from heaven. This man requested that from Abraham who receives in his bosom the sons of the Kingdom.

The answer was straight: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them”. By “Moses and the Prophets” he refers to the books of the Old Testament that teach mercy and how man is saved through it not because God, in his nature, is a severe punisher but because sin punishes the sinner and denies him from seeing God and from being in communion with the Saints. Luke was very clear in what he said concerning the rich man and his friends: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead”.

We are tested through our love that we show in this world. If it existed in us on earth, it shall stay in the soul that God takes back to him, and the love that stays in us is our salvation. Love is first to see the other and his needs and to make him feel that he is a brother and that he owns what we have. He is a partner in what we own. It is his right. If we gained a fortune, we are responsible for it not for the sake of our pleasures but through confessing that it is a credit for all the people that are with us and around us since it is not acceptable for someone to stay without any food, clothes and shelter.

What we own is not for our service alone. It is for all the brothers and especially for the needy as we are God’s delegates for their service so that we glorify God through what we gave and they glorify him through what they took.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الغنيّ ولعازر” –Raiati 44- 30.10.2011

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From Paul’s Biography / 23.10.2011

In today’s epistle, Apostle Paul says that he preached the Gospel to the Galatians. By this, he refers to his teaching and doesn’t mean the four Gospels that were not written when he sent this epistle to the Galatians. Then he says that he didn’t receive this teaching from any man or from one of the twelve apostles but he received it directly from the Lord through a revelation that the Lord revealed to him.

He proves this by saying that when he was in the way of life of Judaism, he intensely persecuted the Church of God and destroyed it. We know that from the book of Acts where he said it. When the Lord appeared to him on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus, he transformed him into a unique disciple for him in his enthusiasm, loyalty, capacity of work and depth in theology.

Paul felt when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus that God set him apart and chose him from the womb of his mother to be a disciple and the Father called him through his grace to reveal his son in him so that he would preach him among Gentiles. And later he took a delegation from the disciples to do this job: “my immediate response was not to consult any human being” and this means that he didn’t behave according to human reactions but gave his soul to Jesus’ voice and order.

Paul knew that it is important to contact the apostles to unite himself with them and not to take from them an authority as he has already taken that directly from Christ. He clarifies that from Damascus he went to Arabia. And interpreters believe that this land is “Houran” and it was called Arabia under the Roman administration.

What did he do there? Maybe he found a few Christians and lived with them because Houran is not far from Damascus. There is no doubt that he used to pray and stay alone with his Lord that revealed to him the truths of faith, and this confirms what he said at the beginning of the epistle.

Then he says: “After three years, I went up to Jerusalem”. He didn’t spend any time in Jerusalem after becoming a Christian. The purpose of going there after such a long time was to visit Peter. This means that he knew that Peter didn’t leave Palestine during the years that Paul spent in Arabia. Paul knew that somehow. So he said: “I stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother” (i.e. Lord Jesus’ relative).

What did Paul do there? Without any doubt, he used to pray with Peter every day and talk together about theology.

In addition to that, this means that the rest of the apostles had left Palestine to the lands of preaching. We don’t read in the book of Acts that Paul succeeded in contacting any of them, and then we see him in a relationship with Peter in Antioch.

We conclude from these words that Paul tried to stay close to the apostles. We stay with the Church of the apostles which is our Church. We cannot live away from the brothers. They are the body of Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “مِن سيرة بولس” –Raiati 43- 23.10.2011

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