Monthly Archives

July 2001

2001, Articles, Raiati

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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2001, Articles, Raiati

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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2001, Articles, Raiati

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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2001, Articles, Raiati

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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