1996, Articles, Raiati

The Bestowed Kingdom / October 06, 1996

The heart is open for everyone, as they are in their weariness, complaints (grumbling is our disease), objections and requests for help. The open heart has no fear and never rejects anyone. Each and every one of us has the right to knock the door of the heart and to feel he is received with gladness, whether he was polite or rude at the beginning. If he is accepted with delight, his insolence will vanish away. You might not be able to respond to every demand; but, first and foremost, we all need sincere affection.

Someone comes to cry beside you. Cry with those who cry, rejoice with those who rejoice and console those who are in grief, for the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, as Jesus called Him in His last talk with His disciples, and as we call Him at the beginning of every prayer. To comfort does not mean to coax or to flatter.  Sometimes, you need to be severe, but your interlocutor feels – if you were caring – that you do not intend to hurt, mock or disregard him. If you had little and you were asked for help, then you shall offer what you have, so the asker will know you are sincere. And your presence is what you can always give. If you had some influence, authority or control, do not hesitate to help others, for we are all brothers in Him who loved us to death.

Do not be judgmental as to people’s intentions because you ignore intentions. It is better for you to be deceived than to misjudge. “God tests the hearts and minds”. You are incapable of testing hearts. Do not think that you are extremely intelligent, for this is an arrogant behavior. Listen to others’ needs, be innocent while listening and respond to the request if you can, so you shall be serving God. The Christ is behind the needy, so if you serve the latter, you are serving the Christ.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that naivety is a condition of innocence, nor exaggeration is a condition of intelligence. Try to find out the hidden talents, because for many people, these talents are often veiled for no one loved them. Love people and you shall see them doing miracles. People die in a horrible isolation. Every human being is lonely. One might be lonely and have a wife who does not love him. Similarly, many women feel they are uncared for. Most people are scattered, and find no one by their side when they need to express their complaints or describe their sufferings.

You need to get out of your shell and reach to the other’s face. If you reject others’ faces, then yours and theirs are gloomy because no one has ever looked at them. People can be overexcited, yet they are lonely; for excitement does not help us get rid of our seclusion. People might think that they are meeting others at wedding ceremonies since these are joyful; however this is not always the case. Adornment is a sign of one’s isolation; and luxury is the main indicator of isolation. Our overspending implies our deep dejection; for happiness does not need anything else to be. We can add nothing to happiness.

We are invited to share happiness, rather than superficial pleasures. Happiness is to forgive and not to blame; for blaming means that you were expecting something and you ended up being deceived. You ought to expect to be deceived by those whom you love most. Even the closest persons to you may hurt you. This is certainly sore. But, do not leave those who hurt you, for they do not know what they do.  Perhaps they hurt you because they have been suffering from life, and they are throwing their harm on you. Be patient and pray for them so that they can have a clear sight and peace in their hearts. Be kind with them so that they wake up. Your aim is their spiritual wellbeing, and your main concern is that they see the face of God rather than yours. You want to see their faces illuminated; and this is your reward. You shall be happy for them being cured; and they shall pay you love in return. But, if you treat them in a bad manner, you will fall in badness with them, and they will not be released.

Let the doors of your soul be open for all those who come to you, so you shall rise and they will too. This is the kingdom bestowed on all of you.

Translated by Amani Haddad – 26.02.10

Original Text: “الملكوت المسكوب” – 06.10.96

Continue reading
1996, Articles, Raiati

Idols / 22.09.1996

John the Beloved concluded his first Epistle with the following: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (5: 21). Why does John say this, even though his addressees have been freed from worshiping idols? The reader of the Epistle understands that there were heresies, some of which claimed that Christ did not have a real body, and therefore was not incarnate; as if the general and permanent heresy is when the believer does not feel that the truth of Christ is amongst us and within us.

Is Christ with us and within us if we succumb to that which deprives us of our freedom in Christ and of always looking up to Him? There is no doubt that worshiping money, worshiping glory and worshiping the body are some of the permanent idols that enchant every generation and mislead people. However, I am talking now about other things.

Among others, worshiping of science and technology constitutes a new religion. In fact, science makes us feel that we are breaking into the unknown; and every time we do so, we feel that we no longer fear it and that we are more capable of understanding reality; although we often worry about that which we did not expect. Yet knowledge, no matter how wide it can get, does not alleviate the impact of neurosis nor inner anxiety, or family problems, or the isolation we feel in the church where things are not working out as we expected when we sought its revival. People are the same, even if they were called spiritual persons. This is often nothing but a name; yet some of them rejoice in money and fake glory.

We suffer isolation in a society where authoritarianism and lies prevail, as if people cannot believe that honesty brings power and profits, but with patience.

We can never rid ourselves of the fear of the future or the fear for our health which is threatened with heart disease, cancer, hypertension and AIDS. Rejoicing in palaces, beautiful houses, luxurious furniture, travelling, women (and women rejoicing in men); none of this will prevent sickness or death from occurring. Fear will always remain regardless of all the sophistication and luxury. But people amuse themselves and get all dressed up so as to forget their concerns and find their way to settlement temporarily, even though there is no settlement.

I am not calling on people to abandon education but to be aware that science is relative in the wholeness of life, for the ignorant and the scientist are equal before death and sickness. And when our faith is weak, we tend to make science an alternative. Nothing is dangerous in itself. Knowledge is not a danger. Yet the danger lies whenever this knowledge replaces the simple values that make up the existence: love in all forms of giving, human sharing, refraining from indecency, justice, forgiveness and every other eternal matter revealed to us by the Bible.

As for technology, it is good in itself since it allows us to produce more, shorten the distances, stay up to date with all what is new in the world, get our daily chores done easily and reduce the difficulties of life in general. Yet technology comes with a price. Technology can cost us our nerves and our spiritual lives if we were not very cautious and aware. This does not mean that we are to return to the old civilizations, manual industries and the simple life style. This is a getaway dream that will not ever be realized and that vanquishes weak peoples. Big nations impose this on you since they barter machines for the product of your agriculture.

And if you are to contribute to technology, keep away from what is immoral, especially in the field of genetic engineering which is an attempt to manipulate genes and fetuses. This science produces in vitro babies and gets rid of the unwanted fetuses by throwing them away or burning them. We are not slaves of technology.

What matters is to be free from that which is put into your hands, as you were free from the money you accept and the authority given to you. Things have no power over you. It is you that give them value and worship them as idols. Slavery and freedom lay both inside of you.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “الأصنام” – Raiati no 38. 22.09.1996

Continue reading
1996, Articles, Raiati

Constructive Criticism / May 26, 1996

Every individual in the Church community has the right not only to talk about anything, but also to criticize everything. I said “every individual in the Church”, not in the religious denomination. You might be considered as orthodox simply because you were born so, but you may not be taking part in the prayers, or you may not be in contact with those who work and teach. You may also be lacking the minimum knowledge that enables him to enjoy the right to criticize. Only the believers who practice their faith, who are present, and who are familiar with the activity of the parish and the diocese, know what they are talking about, unlike others.

            Criticism in gatherings, for entertainment purpose, that target the clergy, mainly what they did and said, might be daunting or leading to sadness and despair. This type of criticism is often unfounded and based on slander and defamation. If you were to criticize the behavior of the priest or the bishop, you ought to talk to him or blame him. In fact, we are willing to listen and to accept your arguments, should you have any.

            Do not believe everything you hear. Make sure it is right and then talk to those concerned. And let your comments be for prosperity, so that we can advance, if you we talking because you are zealous for the church of God. Refer to the Lord and be calm before voicing your complaints, so that He scents your mouth with the redolence of the Spirit. Then, talk to those concerned both humbly and clearly. The church is not a place for letting off steam; and it cannot be built by the plaintive, the angry, or the one who seeks dispute. Paul called us to “Bear one another’s burdens”, and he added: “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness”.  We shall pay attention and refrain from destroying and defaming each other, for defamation is evil.

            The commandment is to cover the trespasses of our brothers. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” But the commandment also mentions: “Put away from yourselves the evil person.” This means that we shall report the misbehavior of the sinful or the dishonest to the spiritual authorities. If you remained silent about those who are destroying the church of Christ, you are a partner in destruction. We must not expose the priest or the authorities in front of people, so as not to cause them to stumble. Our duty is to report the misbehavior to the spiritual authority, in order to repair the situation and to discipline those who must be disciplined.

            Inoffensive utterance aims at improvement. And every faulty person is subject to complaints, so as not to be partner in the dark path of faults. “What communion has light with darkness?”

Translated from Arabic – 10.06.10

Original Text: “النقد البناء” – 26.05.96

Continue reading
1996, Articles, Raiati

Curiosity / January 7, 1996

It is called prying for people meddle in affairs not of their concern. Ethicists accepted the concept of scientific curiosity, which is seeking the knowledge of what lies in the universe, in history and the general knowledge in everything, for knowledge of this world shall release us from the rigidity of mind. However, ethicists do not wish for us to probe into people’s affairs and concerns; for this shows disrespect for others. Everyone has their own friends and their own spiritual father. As for us knowing the sins of others and endeavoring to know them by all means, it shall harm us as it shall harm them. And if we are to distract ourselves with the sins of others, we shall fail to examine our soul and to mend it. We meddle often in other’s affairs in order to defame and tattle about them, and this is the beginning of gossiping.

Instead of keeping their sin to ourselves and forgive them in advance, we spread it and our brother would be hurt because of us and would feel desperation and be ashamed of himself. Tattling does not lead others to repentance, but it deepens their sin, puts them in misery and lets them belittle themselves and loath us. It has been mentioned in the ascetic literature: “What would you do if you saw your spiritual father committing adultery?”  It has been later said: “I shall cover him”. I do not wish to see his weakness. If we seek the imperfections in people, we shall most likely commit the same. Therefore, our fathers have advised us not to mention a misdeed we had committed, for in mentioning lies the power of attraction and recurrence.

Also in the ascetic literature, it has been said that hermits have complained about a hermit among them bringing a woman into his cellm, but the convent’s chief did not pay any attention to what they have said even though they reiterated their complaints. The chief came suddenly upon the hermit while he was at his cell and he saw the woman. He took her and placed her in the necessities’ box. He later called upon the hermits, sat on the box and said to them when they arrived: “Where is that woman?” The sinned hermit felt ashamed and repented, and the others hermits repented of gossiping as well.

We have our eyes on people’s actions. We care to know where did so-and-so go, where did he stay, at what time did he enter this house, who was with him in the car, who sent this letter, and what did the letter say? We are obsessed to know how people live under their roof, where they have spent the night, at what time did they come back, what happened there and what one told the other.

What is wrong with this? First and foremost, curiosity is to take pleasure from the sins of neighbors and colleagues. No one seeks a misdeed done by others unless he was attracted to the misdeed itself. Therefore, to push away his guilt, he enjoys knowing that others have committed the same. Whoever describes the misdeeds of others shall do the same.

The greatest danger is that we shall neglect our own soul, for mending it would cost us too much trouble. The one who repents is the one who watches over his soul in order to mend it. Our sins are numerous and repenting of them shall take all our time. Watching over ourselves leads us to become quiet and calm, whereas curiosity arouses agitation in us. Silence is the best frame for chastity because it puts us right before our soul.

It has been said in the prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syriac in fasting: “…Free me from idleness and curiosity.” Curiosity emanates from idleness. He who does not have anything to do shall enjoy watching others. And he who finds himself watched shall be hurt, isolated and even hateful. There is no spiritual depth in someone who corrupts and burns the world with his tongue. As for the one who places his soul under divine examination, he shall be occupied with repentance. Pay attention to the good deeds only, for they shall make people’s faces shine, and when we see their beauty, God’s face shall also shine to us.

Translated from Arabic – 28.12.10

Original Text: “الفضول” – 07.01.96

Continue reading