I wouldn’t have specified them with an article had they had not been unique. The uniqueness does not make them better or worse than others. I will talk about them as much as possible since they are unknown to the extent that they cannot, due to their few numbers, have ambitions on earth. But here they co-live with others without standing out and without blowing the trumpet.

I was once visiting with the late Maronite Bishop of Beirut Mar Ignatius Ziade when he told me about the difference between the Orthodox Liturgy and the Maronite one. And after he explained the background of the Maronite Liturgy he told me: “You start your service saying ‘Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’; and this royal proclamation came to you from your living with the Byzantine emperors’”. I did not show any disagreement with him though I know that he was magnifying us a little too much; yet I had realized the depth of what he said. In that course of talk I remember I had told Ghassan Twayni more than once “nous sommes d’empire” meaning that we blend with the existing “empire” in that it is a nation; and we have been through with the Roman Empire, then that of the Arabs, the Mamaleek, the Ottoman and the nation of the Mandate (France) and then we got ourselves in what we dreamt to be the nation of Lebanon.

The way I see things, I think that the Sunnis were right in saying openly that they do not accept the classification of our society according to the sects. And perhaps what made us meet at a certain point, was that we, like them, did not speak of confessionalism because we believe that we are the catholic universal Church or that we are from Her; and that we do not feel good about that “prison of sectarianism” that the constitution of 1926 got us into. But others would hear you at this only if you are allowed to have a trumpet. Perhaps our Liturgy, that transports us to Heaven, harms us making us see all people as heavenly while they themselves want to remain earthly. The problem is that you are not allowed in Lebanon to dream of a country the image of which has not yet descended from Above.

And when on Sunday, we sing “Christ has risen from the dead trampling down death by death”, we think that what is meant by that is that Christ has won victory over His own death and we get overtaken by the hymning that we do not see the deadness of Lebanon and its craftiness. But we insist on seeking the Kingdom ignoring what is around us of the earthliness of this world.

Some of us say “We are of this people and with this people (of the Lebanese people)”. It is good to say that. But isn’t it fair that we expect that they be with us also, and that a little of Heaven be on Earth so that we accept to say that we feel good about bringing in to us a little of this Earth so that we and the others can meet in some place of this world?

Is this world too small for Antoun Saade, Michel Aflak, Costantine Zrayk, Asad Rustom, George Habash and others and also the Evangelicals who presided over the Palestinian movement or their ancestors; these all came from our people. I know that it is useless sometimes to argue, but how much was the protest those people made, a product of the narrowness they sensed in the Lebanese religious identity? There is something wrong in the Lebanese fabric in that it renders some the children of the dame while others the children of the bondwoman. And you might be a prince, but there would be some who insist on making your mother a bondwoman.

Yet I do not intend to complain though I am allowed to express my pain on paper. Except that our Fathers have told us not to scream but advised us to speak quietly so that he who has ears would hear quiet voices. As such you get concerned for your unity with those who are of your religious sect and those who are not. Yet regardless of that even those among us who do not practice their faith will say on Sunday the “Christos Anesti” for forty days and would give each other a holy kiss as Paul says. And for many years I wondered what that quality “holy” (of the kiss) meant until I got to understand that whoever chanted that hymn, or had his mother chant it for him, knows that the other believer is his brother whether he prays every Sunday or neglects that; but still he calls to mind that between Pascha and Ascension Thursday, Jesus ascended in His body to Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father; that is He gave our Humanity that has been glorified through Christ, the same honor that belongs to the Divinity. Then we are potentially, as the philosophers say, at the right hand of Majesty in the Heavens in the company of the righteous that have gone before us to the Face of the Father.

That is what our Fathers call “the attentive drunkenness”. When you see us on the morning of the resurrection after we have started Matins with “Christos Anesti” carrying the lighted candles kissing each other, you would say: ‘Where do these people come from? Why all this love?”. That is not only love. That is passion. And I would comment on him who asks that question saying: “What’s wrong with that passion? Come join us.

We humans have done nothing good on Earth as St. Basil used to say every Sunday during the Lent season. But our glory – and that is not from us but from God – is that we are always in the presence of God in a state of chanting until the Savior comes back again to this world. But I do not want to leave you dear ones with the impression that this world in not the Lord’s, while we draw this world to Him with His word and not with the provocations of politics. We never accepted to be called a sect. Maybe this comes in the official papers of the government. Since, in the eyes of the people you are placed in a category. But we know the place of those who are righteous among us and those who are sinful. But after that “attentive drunkenness” you move from sin to righteousness which teaches you to sing “Christos Anesti” in full.

St. Basil says in his Liturgy from the letter of Peter, “we are a special people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation.” This is so only because of the Holy Cup which we drink. The sinners are a chosen people not because of any privilege they have, but because the Lord has chosen to give them His mercy and tenderness. Same with the Holy Nation which is also sinful but the Lord sanctifies it with the blood of His Son. The Savior sees us in our brokenness; and when He is lifted up, He lifts us up with Him so that we, as His body, can sit on the throne.

The only witness we have is that, in the flesh, we are the least among the peoples, and that you become their “first” through His call for us. We are the crumbs of this earth, and being as such, we cannot elevate ourselves so that our witness does not get undone. “Flesh and blood do not inherit the Kingdom of God”. And God knows whom to break to make them humble. But if you behold the humility of Christ hanging on the Cross, you weep and kneel down; and that is what we tried to do during Lent. And after that we exalt in our chanting “Christ has risen from the dead trampling down death by death” until humanity rises from its somnolence and becomes one with Truth.

Translated by Riad Moufarrij

Original Text: “الأرثوذكسيون” – An Nahar – 14.04.2012