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Between Orthodoxy and Catholicism / 08.10.2000

I feel sad to tell you that the relations between our Church and the Catholic Church are now in a dilemma and that they are paused on the level of the international mixed committee for the dialogue between the two Churches.  This committee met between 9 and 19 July in a region next to Baltimore in the United States and 46 delegates attended from around the world (Father Michel Najm from the Archdiocese of New York represented the Antiochian Church). The topic of the meeting was to examine the unity movement (with Rome) from the aspect of ecclesiastic theology and canon law. However, this meeting failed and the participants didn’t reach an agreement because the Orthodox still refused the existence of a theological basis for the existence of Catholics that have Byzantine rituals.

They discussed deep topics with theological and canonic forms that are related to Catholic Christians who come from Orthodox origins. Therefore, no mutual statement resulted from the meeting as before and the members will only send reports to their Churches about the possibility of overcoming the difficulties that block the dialogue. Nevertheless, the mutual committee expressed its hope to continue this quest and dialogue hoping that it would help to bring back the communion between the two Churches. In addition to the discussions, the delegates participated in prayers that were held in the Latin Church and in the Greek Orthodox Church in Baltimore.

The dialogue on this high level became complicated since 1990 when new Eastern Catholics appeared in Western Ukraine and Romania (After the Communist Regime closed their Churches). Also, Russian Orthodox Christians felt that Catholicism is being practiced in Russia – via Latin missionaries – and that it was snatching their people. The latest document on this issue appeared in a meeting of the international committee that was held at Balamand in July 1993. In Balamand, the process of joining Rome as a way for unity was refused. There is another path for the unity of the West and the East. The document spoke about the notion of “Sister Churches”. However, some Churches, especially the Greek Church and the Greek Catholic Church in Romania, refused this notion. Finally, the “Faith teaching” council in Vatican issued in 30 June a decision that refused this notion and this decision was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and was approved by the Pope.

Regardless of this dilemma, the Orthodox representatives expressed their will to continue the dialogue. I have a feeling that the Balamand document was enough and there was no need to add to it another document. It was obvious for us that each addition or adjustment made to the Balamand text would make the issue of Eastern Catholics more complicated. Rome gave us in Balamand more than we expected by confessing that establishing Eastern Catholic Churches was a doctrinal and historical mistake. We didn’t accept the legitimacy of these Churches but we respected their existence and freedom. Canonically, they are a part of the Church of Rome. From this aspect, we deal with the Sacraments of these Churches.

It is normal, while looking at the dialogues of Churches, for every side of us to see that these Churches are raising only one problematic. They are considered as one block although, administratively, they are not. They are considered as one phenomenon in Eastern Europe or in the diaspora. However, some of these Churches have stopped their snatching of believers in a notable and direct way. Also some of them have a brotherly feeling towards us.

It is obvious that an obstacle was created, which isn’t only a psychological one, because of the appearance of these Churches. I feel that our awareness and the ecumenical spirit that have penetrated several places are able to stop the process of “snatching”. Our spiritual renaissance and theirs have proved in some countries – such as ours – that we can cooperate in theological scientific production and in other ways without having a sacramental participation with each other.

Other issues, some that are old and others that are new, have expanded the hole between us. The next official meeting won’t be sooner than two years. How can we continue this mutual strive after the appearance of this obstacle in Baltimore? Only God knows. We pray for Him to let us overcome the barriers.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “بين الأرثوذكسية والكثلكة” –Raiati 41- 08.10.2000

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Mercy / 01.10.2000

The first thing that we read in today’s Gospel (Luke 6: 31–36) is an invitation from Jesus for us to treat others the way we want them to treat us. The other is in the path of my life and God made me responsible for him. I became the person that feeds him when hungry and talks to him when lonely. I ask about him and about all his needs. I initiate in all what is good for him, and do not wait for him to ask me about anything.

I love him and don’t wait for him to thank me. I don’t look for a quality in him as a condition to serve him. He might not be my relative or friend. Love is not based on exchanged feelings. From my side, I should love though he might not love me back. I should love and serve him as obedience to Christ.

I often lend him money and do not hope to get it back. Christian love is not a contract. It is a one-sided giving. It is given to any person that needs it, and once we recognize that, we shall understand the Lord’s expression: “Love your enemies”. If someone antagonized me, he would be harming and saddening himself. If the Lord asked me to save him from this hostility, I should heal his soul. And since I knew that he fell in hatred, spite, jealousy, or gossip, I should become his doctor. I have been assigned as his doctor because I recognized his illness. I should think about his salvation and not about the wound he left in me. If I stayed away from him or hated him, the level of my humanness will decrease; I will become a dwarf and enter his game. However, if we knew that love is unconditioned, it I will become easier to understand the expression: “Love your enemies”. Exactly as God is graceful towards the unthankful and the evil, I distribute myself on those who loved me or hated me without differentiation. My heart should be wide enough for the world; therefore, the Gospel ended this text by saying: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

Exactly as the Lord treats all people with what is good, grace, clemency and fatherhood, I should be. His bosom is wide enough for all his sons, good and evil together. God uses a specific way with every group of people in order to let them reach him. The Lord of the house loves both, the good boy and the bad evil one. He has his own way with every child. In this same way, if we treated all people with the same sympathy, we would be able to manage our life with people in different ways and the purpose is to reveal to them, through our behavior, the divine tenderness.

Man has harshness in him; he has harm, exploitation and love for control. He has all kinds of serpents. You should love the other in order to kill these serpents. Evil is not abolished except through what is good, forgiveness, and constructive work. Negativity cannot be destroyed except through positivity. And what is even better than positivity is to have the initiative in serving, to be the one that washes others’ feet. This is your mission; this is what Jesus did.

A Human relationship is not a contract in which two sides agree on the phrase “I give you if you gave me”. It is a triadic relation in which God is the regulator of the contract. “God loved us first” and he is the one that loves us during our life and the only one that receives us when we die and in the last day. I am merciful with you because I learned the morals of mercy from the Lord, my embracer. And if we looked at people through the eyes of God, we will find out that they are his beloved ones regardless of their sins.

On earth, we should be ready to deal with everyone, and make them elevate from their situation, or at least try to. This is hurtful for the sensitive person and for the pure person that is shocked by the impure. However, the Lord made every person a guard for his brother, and if he didn’t accept this delegation and left the other without mercy, he would be handing him to death.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الرحمة” –Raiati no40- 01.10.2000

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‘I Am For the Other’ / 03.09.2000

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 18: 23 – 35) is an invitation to mercy that happens when you widen your bosom for the other and make him enter, with all his sorrow, deficiencies and misery into it. But before that, you should make him lean back on your bosom as John did on the Lord’s bosom in the Mystical Supper. Every kind of sharing carries a visible or an invisible “leaning back”. This means that if you excluded your brother, you might be killing him through isolating him, and his feelings would be cooled towards you, God and his friends. His heart will become empty from any content and his only content will be hatred and bitterness.

Today’s Gospel tells you to forgive the trespasses of your brother with all your heart. You usually tend to see that your sins are small and that others’ sins are great so that you can always claim that you are right and think that you are great. You want to become a leader in the village or neighborhood even if you were such a small leader that follows greater ones. You frighten a weaker person to convince yourself that you are strong. You want to force your word in order to reject his words and defeat him.

You might not be convinced in anything, but you use your power over the weak in order to prove for the villagers that you are huge. Actually, you just seem huge, i.e. you give yourself a size that’s not actually yours. You want to look high in the eyes or others to abolish the doubt you have about yourself. You are not brave enough to say that the other is also good, that he has good qualities and that he is beneficial. You are not brave enough to say in yourself: “I wish to learn from him and achieve his virtues”, or “I wish that both of us would have good virtues and that both of us would be good people as I am not the only one that carries any good”. You and the people of your parish should all be good together, isn’t that better than having the good qualities limited in you? Life is for all of you and blessings are also for all of you together: Isn’t that better than claiming that you are the only one that has perception and the one with the right opinion?

Why don’t you accept discussion? Maybe the other’s opinion would be better and lead you to life. I am saddened by the fact that all villages are full of familial, personal and political schisms. I am saddened by the fact that these schisms have echoes in the parish especially if the village was pure Orthodox and therefore the entire village forms the parish. All of these schisms come from us not wanting Christ to reign over our souls, from us not wanting to implement his words of salvation and truth that are in his Gospel.

We hear this chanted Gospel as if it is an old story that doesn’t concern us. When it mentions love, we feel that it carries beautiful teaching, but we don’t know that these words are an invitation to all the listeners and not just a reading from an ancient text. We talk about the beauty of Christianity, however, love or mercy obligates us to humble our soul in front of others, make them higher than us, and consider them better than us.

Console me a little bit by forgiving each other’s trespasses and by not asking about them anymore. If the situation continues as it is now, I shall realize that I have built only churches and not hearts. God dwells in people’s hearts, therefore do not sadden them with pride.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الأخر أنا له” –Raiati no36- 03.09.2000

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Decency in Church / 04.06.2000

There is decency in the way men and women dress whether in Church or outside the Church. However, the meeting of the holy community that aims to share the divine sacraments requires a more precise decency because of the goal that we gather for. God’s presence is manifested in the Church through his Word and the sacraments and the Holy Spirit that settles in the faithful during the Divine Liturgy. We build each other and every one of us leads the other to Christ; He is the center of attention of eyes and hearts so that no one of us gets distracted by the other and no one hinders the prayer of the other but helps him maintain the chastity of his sight. We should all obscure ourselves, as much as we can, from the eyes of the brothers in order to be seen only from God.

Yes, we are all within the range of decency. However, according to human nature, this fits women in the first place. If our attraction is towards Christ, this means that none of us should try to attract believers to him except through the piety of his movement and through his silence and reverence. In this reverence the body disappears. Coming from this point, makeup, which is an exaggeration in beautifying, is something undesirable because it drives us away from the only intended beauty, I mean the beauty of Jesus. In the same sense there are the sumptuous expensive clothes that are exposed for show off; and these harm the poor among us. Also there is the noise of shoes when we enter and the perfumes that have no place in a meeting we attended to become spiritually “Christ’s beautiful scent”.

In addition to our commitment to the chastity of sight, humanity focused historically on the fact that decency is required in particular from women. A woman knows her charms. Therefore, I will not talk about what is not proper to expose in Church. Women are more eloquent than me in this domain. And if she wanted to talk seriously, neither summer nor winter would be excuses. God wants from her a way for disappearance. Apostle Paul has talked about this in his first epistle to the Corinthians and said: “Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” (11: 13). Our women had literarily obeyed the apostle for centuries. However, if we went beyond words into the intention, the general idea that stays from Paul’s words is the refusal of the obvious uncovering or the harmful tightening. And women know what is harmful.

We live in the time of sin and we haven’t reached the kingdom yet. In the kingdom, there are no earthly bodies but spiritual bodies that are glorified and statures of light.

As long as we are in flesh and blood, we turn a blind eye and we don’t exploit through our eyes the bodies of the other; also the other shouldn’t expose his body for the pleasure of insatiable eyes.

Everything that violates this is an altercation. I don’t think that a sincere woman, if she was warned, claims that she doesn’t know that. I also don’t believe that a believer would use the ecclesiastic community to seduce. In the recent past, men used to stand in a place and women in another one. Churches had a suite for women. The empress and her maids used to stand up there and not next to the emperor. It seems that the modern mind doesn’t accept this separation. However, I see that this was the trend of the Church. Paul speaks in the first epistle to the Corinthians about the isolation of the man from the woman if he wanted to be devoted for “fasting and praying”. The relationship in the praying Church is neither between man and woman nor between man and man or woman and woman. It is the relationship of every soul with Christ. Mixing is not unity. The peak of harmful mixing is the distraction of the man by the women and of the woman by the man because if they did so, both of them wouldn’t be focusing their sight on Christ.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الحشمة في الكنيسة” –Raiati 23- 04.06.2000

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Clothes of the “Vowed” / 28.05.2000

Since I undertook the service of this archdiocese, I meet kids wearing the gown of St. Anthony or St. Elias (which is usually taken from the Capuchins). I have also seen lately (In the Marian month) women wearing white and blue. Perhaps those women are not from Orthodox origins because this dress is obviously copied from the statue of the Lady of Lourdes.

Sometimes, conflicts occur between enlightened priests and the mothers of such children because the mother asks him to bless this clothing and we do not usually have any blessing for any clothing. What goes on in the minds of those women? They usually say: I have vowed my child for St. Elias or St. Anthony; what does this mean? If she was looking for a power or healing or grace, then this must be asked through prayer and has nothing to do with a piece of rag. No rag contains a divine power; if you wanted a prayer, say it directly. You would be thinking about wizardry if you thought that some material secretes a blessing only because it is in contact with the body. Also, if you took some readings from the Psalms or Gospel and wrapped them together and hanged them from your chest, we don’t believe that they would benefit you. On the contrary, we believe that this is a kind of wizardry. Wizardry is when you believe that doing a specific act would give a spiritual result such as healing. Anything other than a personal prayer from you and believing that you will get a response simply by grace is a kind of wizardry and consequently is harmful.

We only have one kind of blessing and it is the blessing of priestly attires. We say to God: “Bless these clothes that are used to honor the glory of your Holy name and for the beauty and decoration of the servants of your holy altar and your pure sacraments”. Then we sprinkle these clothes with Holy water and ask for those who will wear it to be worthy of serving the holy sacraments.

And for the priest not to think that these clothes carry a sanctifying “power” by themselves, he personally blessed every piece of the attire before the divine service. This happens because the clothing is related to himself; he who is called to fulfill the divine mystery.

It is commonly said among us that we should leave people to their faiths. This is not faith for us but believing superstitions and it is our duty to fight superstitions.

It has been said in the New Testament: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household”. It is meant that He, in whom you believe, the Savior, saves you from sin and sickness. The Other saying: “Believe in a stone and you shall be discharged” is rejected. We have never seen a stone that can discharge someone. We are not interested in the movement of the heart towards anything but Christ. Believing everything would ruin your internal entity and leave you in delusions and deadly ghosts.

In this sense, if a cloth was put around the body of a child or an adult, it wouldn’t be different than any other cloth. Paganism can penetrate into the Church through the minds of naïve people that are eager for healing. What does it mean spiritually to vow your child for a Saint? Every one of us is vowed, in Baptism, to God and our hearts are purified without any physical mean. “Enter your room (your heart) and pray to your Father that is unseen”. Your heart is vowed for the Lord: In this exists your healing and console.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “ثياب «المنذورين»” –Raiati 22- 28.05.2000

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Hatred / 21.05.2000

In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord takes us from the tangible sin into its origin, into what we call lust, i.e. the internal emotion, as he says for example: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5: 21-22). Jesus is interested in the heart; he wants to purify it from the factors that corrupt it. Hatred is one of the things that corrupt man; it is the continuation of grudge and the reasons that activate it.

Hatred is the retraction from others and the isolation of the self that eliminates others mentally as it doesn’t dare to eliminate physically. It is a moral killing of the person that you believe is annoying you or affecting your benefits and pride. We start hating the person that’s different from us, as if his existence eliminates ours; we start considering that he has no freedom to be the person he wants to be.

Hatred is a lust in the soul that many people fall into on all levels, even people that consider themselves spiritual when they are actually not. It is a kind of petrifaction that hits most people. This stubbornness destroys the person that falls into it because he who closes himself in front of others and eliminates them would be threatening and drying his heart.

The Great St. John Climacus recognized the danger of this feeling when he said: “Hatred is the fruit of anger and a desired bitterness”. The bitter person cannot be creative, giving, or serving in his kindness. The wild angry person perishes himself and the others because he doesn’t give them any importance or credit. The danger of hatred is that it takes root in the person and needs grace from heaven to descend on the heart like “dew” and soften it.

When the Scripture talked about God in the Psalms it said that he is “slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever”. The Lord disciplines without hating any of his sons, while the person that gets angry and hates a lot is somehow mad and needs a heavenly power to be healed.

Yes, people do have stupidity and bad intentions towards us and some of them even carry refusal and compulsion. Most of the time, these people do not know why do they hate. Therefore, the Scripture said about those: “they hate me with cruel hatred”. They wouldn’t like your face, speech, appearance, or a word you have said that they interpreted wrongly and got hurt. They wouldn’t say why they’ve been hurt by you, so they become sad and transform their sadness into hatred. After that, they would start abhorring every action you do and add it to what you’ve said before and make a big deal out of those. However, you might be sweet hearted with no evil or hurting intentions, and in this case they would be killing themselves and you would carry no responsibility. They oppress you, and you’d be wondering if you should disappear from their way in order for them not to harm themselves through hatred. However, where shall you hide if they were from your family or environment or colleagues? Should you stay quiet all the time to make them comfortable? And if you did that, how can you witness for the truth?

You wonder why can’t you be different and stay friends? Isn’t diversity the beauty of this world? What would harm them if you were more talented than them? God gives talents and these are for his glory; may God be glorified in whoever he wants. Some have more gifts than others. You might have fought and tried hard in order to purify yourself and know and understand, while others might have stayed in their laziness wanting you to also be with them in this mental poverty.

If you thought that others are envious (envy and hatred are twins), pray for them so that God would take away their sin and let them revive through an effort similar to the one that made you revive too. Remember those weak people in your daily prayer in order not to become bitter yourself. When you do so, perhaps they might taste love and know how to be happy like you.

Perhaps the miracle happens and the “dew” descends on them.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الحقد” – 21.05.2000

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Anastasios / 26.03.2000

This Archdiocese was blessed on Tuesday March 14th by the visit of Mr. Anastasios (Yannoulatos) the Archbishop of Albania. This was a part of his Beatitude’s visit to the Antiochian Church. However, his Beatitude Mr. Anastasios honored and specified for us this day because of his heart and of his early growing.

The secret behind this might be the fact that he comes from the “life” brotherhood that was the whiff of spiritual renewal at the boundary of the previous two centuries. Reviving people happens through the reviving word that comes from the Gospel which is preached through all the methods of delivery. And this brotherhood, through its young members, cooperated with the youth movements in Greece. And this is how we knew this man. His vision to tomorrow’s Church with its emission and openness was similar to our vision. This is what made him a big apostle and a big bishop. Without any doubt, teaching in the University helped him clarify his thinking and support it especially that he was the professor of religions including Islam. But the spirit that was in him led the Albanian Church in the past nine years.

He rose with the Church of Albania from a complete desert (lack of construction, lack of Church unity) into an obvious and active existence. He leaned on the faith preserved in the hearts through a lethal persecution, a persecution that erased all the features of Christianity in a way no other regime did. He challenged all of this without having any money in his hand, and revealed to the whole world that knowledgeable people are able, through the power of the spirit and some intelligence, to do construction.

The people that welcomed him felt that grace is poured on his lips and that this grace is what makes him a great Bishop. He stepped on our land in the monastery of our Lady of Kaftoun. Perhaps the most important thing we saw in him- and this is found in every feature of our features- was him entering the sanctuary and kneeling in front of the altar that he was constantly touching with his head as if it was a part of him. Our gift for him was an icon of St. Joseph of Damascus to tell him that our unity in all Churches is the unity of martyrdom and that we died here so that all generations would live through those who died with love. He started explaining for us the attempt to destroy Christ in his country. However, he emerged from under the ruins of the ugly history so that the youth of Albania’s Orthodoxy is renewed like the eagle’s youth.

We had lunch in the monastery of our Lady of “An-Nourieh”. He got the chance to see quickly in both monasteries the experience of our monastic life as we gathered around him the Abbots of all monasteries in addition to some of their brothers. Afternoon, we visited some displaced villages of the Mount, and he saw there the pains that we tasted that were similar to what his sons tasted. In the two Bhamdouns, Mansouriyeh and Alay, the faithful welcomed him. He prayed, we chanted and he gave us a speech. He never said: “I build and I established…etc”. He gave credit in everything to the Divine Grace.

While accompanying him, I got to know his wisdom in pastoral care and in facing difficulties. We told you previously in “Raiiati” about his interest in displaced Muslim Albanians from Kosovo to Albania: A poor Church like his collected money from the world in order to embrace homeless people that are not even from its religion, taking into consideration that this Church doesn’t have the ability to do charity. However, Christ wanted us to share.

The end of the trip was a visit of his Beatitude to the Church of the Theotokos in Mansouriyeh, Al-Maten. The Great Compline had finished and the man was exhausted but he entered the entrance of kings through the crowd of people that came to pray from the town and from neighboring towns. I felt that the enthusiasm increased and that piety was obvious. The choir of the Eparchy felt that it is nice to chant “Christ is Risen” so we did, while he chanted with his companions the troparion of Pascha in their language.

After dinner, we stood up and didn’t end the Paschal chanting. This way, and without any analysis, we jumped into Pascha to tell ourselves and others that the faithful respond to each other through the love of that who rose from the dead and that they want his eternal Pascha to be a Resurrection for all Churches.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أنستاسيوس” –Raiati no13- 26.03.2000

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Rebuke and Forgive / 27.02.2000

Christianity carries too much kindness to the extent where sometimes we think that we see the wrong and do nothing in front of it. Actually, dealing with things in modesty and smoothness doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a strong position when needed. Therefore, the Holy Book spoke a lot about reproaching. It is written that the Lord: “began to reproach the cities in which most of his works of power had taken place, because they had not repented” (Matthew 11: 20). Warning the mistaken, therefore, might reach severe blaming.

And for the faithful not to be annoyed from the remarks of the responsible, Paul doesn’t only ask the bishop to preach but to also “rebuke those who oppose the word” (Titus 1: 9). Rebuking could be a part of the sermon, according to the occasion and subject, because he, who loves, disciplines. What kind of love doesn’t target reformation? And here we mention John the Baptist who used reproaching with Herod, for the issue of Herodias, although the king was simply listening to him. The loving brother wants to expose his mistakes in front of his friend and confess so that these mistakes go to the top of his soul and don’t stay hidden deep down. Paul said concerning this: “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light” (Ephesians 5: 13). We don’t believe in a friendship in which my mistakes and yours are both hidden and not revealed. This is not a friendship. This is a plot against truth.

A person might reform himself without the help of an instructor. However, man usually loves his sin as he destroys himself. Sometimes he might know what he is destroying, and prefers its destruction over its restoration. We cannot see someone falling into hell and not help him to ascend.

You might think that you shouldn’t blame a person that was wrong towards you in order not to seem annoying and you might also decide to stay silent towards his action because it saddened you. However, the Lord says: “If your brother sins, rebuke him” (Luke 17: 3). Matthew also says that but with a weaker tone: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (18: 15). Why should you rebuke? Because you recognized his sin and you shouldn’t reveal it in order not to turn into gossip. The fact that the sinner disturbed you, hurt and harmed you or caused you bitterness is not the reason to rebuke him. Your self is not what should concern you in this case, and the issue is not an issue of self dignity. You should renounce yourself and your wound. The important thing for you is the other that hurt himself while hurting you. You are concerned with his salvation from his evil and not with your salvation from grief. You are sad for his situation. And this is our philosophy of love that includes the love for enemies and our interest in their salvation.

It is important not to get emotional if you rebuked someone, because anger takes away the benefit from this reprimand. Anger indicates that you are interested in your wound and not in the harm that happened in the soul of the mistaken. In this sense, you shouldn’t be harsh and shouldn’t curse the other because cursing is not rebuking. Show the wrong things and reveal the nature of the mistake so that he recognizes the importance of what he did.

After that, “If he repented, forgive him” as it is enough for you if he came back to God. And From God, he shall come back to you.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “وبِّخ واغفر” –Raiati no9- 27.02.2000

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“First Communion”: Again and Again / 20.02.2000

We have agreed with Catholic Churches on the level of the Patriarchs of the East that the First Communion must not be celebrated in schools but in parishes. The Orthodox side suggested this idea and the Catholic Patriarchs accepted it. We all knew that this decision won’t be easy for schools that hang on to their independence; however, we were told that Catholic schools accept the decision.

Nonetheless, the news that I hear from our region show that some of these schools are asking our Orthodox students to get permission from their parents to have the First Communion “in the parish”, i.e. in the closest catholic parish to them. This way, these institutes would appear that they obeyed the order of their authorities by cancelling the First Communion at school, but they actually took the kids to the parish.  The apparent part of the decision is preserved; however, there is a violation in the spirit of this decision because what we wanted in our agreement with the Catholic authorities is for boys and girls to have communion in their Orthodox parish if they were Orthodox. We don’t only refuse the expression “First Communion” because we take communion with Baptism, but also refuse the participation in the sacraments with non-Orthodox Churches.

I will not remind you today that the decision not to participate is mutual in our Church and theirs, but it often occurs that a Catholic priest acts leniently with his Church’s orders and does what he wants. We are more committed to the orders of the spiritual authority. The basis in Christianity is that a right doctrine is a condition for a person to have communion. In this sense, when a person leaves a doctrine and adopts another one, he won’t be your partner in faith and consequently not a partner in the Holy Grail. A united grail is an image that expresses a united faith.

We could go back and elaborate on the issue if we had to. However, I wish to say a couple of things today: First, that it’s a pity that some school administrations are escaping from the decisions of the Patriarchs. Second, is that I feel wrathful that some parents ask the priest of the Orthodox parish to permit their child to have communion in a Catholic parish as if they have never read this bulletin in which we wrote numerously and as if they didn’t understand that our Church – and not the parents – takes the decisions in religious issues. We have warned schools not to deal with parents this way but to deal with us through their Catholic spiritual authorities.

I also feel sad when some parents feel that their child must feel happy with his friends by doing what they do. Why don’t they tell their child: “You have your Church, and you already had communion in it a month or a year ago… when you got baptized”? How do you accept to have a “First Communion” and it is not your “first”?

I want parents to understand that we have an identity and authenticity and that we show it without being shy. We do not contend anyone for his doctrinal belonging. But why is this disturbance for Orthodoxy? If the school administration’s excuse is either their ignorance of our position or their aware refusal for our position, what would our excuse be for all this approach towards Christian brothers that we love, respect and have dialogue with? However, the conditions of unity between us are not complete yet, and consequently we don’t have the ability to meet together at the Lord’s Table.

Our Church has transparency and loves all Christians. If a person knows that he is a real son of his Church, he would say what it says and act as it wants him to act for the salvation of his soul and for recognizing God through recognizing the truth.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أوّل قربانة» أيضًا وأيضًا” –Raiati 8- 20.02.2000

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On Love / 13.02.2000

Archimandrite Lev Gillet the French, who converted to Orthodoxy in the late twenties in Paris, taught me that one of the best methods to destroy someone’s hatred is to mention his name in your prayers. If you raised his name to the Lord several times, you would be able to bring him into your heart too. He used to tell me: “mention the Lord’s name on him”, this way he will be embraced with the Lord’s presence and might change. As for you, you must change.

In our daily life, we go against someone because we misunderstood a word he said, a behavior he did, or because he hurt us and we considered this as a sin from him. In front of this, blaming might not be beneficial and must be postponed until he calms down. Meanwhile, embrace the offender’s name to Christ’s chest for this shall make you see him on your chest too. After that, you are allowed to blame him mercifully.

When I used to ask one of the faithful if he carried love towards a person that harmed him, he used to answer: “I don’t hate him”. This isn’t love, of course. This is simply being polite. Loving him means paying attention to his tiredness, to his complexes, to his sorrow and joy; it means that you should serve him in the situation that he is in. Love doesn’t wait, love initiates. Remember the Good Samaritan and how he healed the wounds of the wounded and took him to an inn (or dispensary in today’s language) and asked for him to be taken care of. He fully committed to the left-alone person. Of course, you cannot carry the responsibility of tens of people, but you can do that towards those who God put in the path of your life: Starting from the members of your family, the people you work with, friends, and especially the sick and sad. These are your parish, don’t neglect them. Any small gesture towards them, especially during their hardship and when they are hurt or had a shock, would give them a lot of happiness. Every one of us lives in an attention after another. The spiritually strong person is the only one that is satisfied with God’s looking after him. However, God wants us to take care of each other: Wondrous bonds attach our hearts as if we are one person separated through different figures.

Do not consider an incident that happened with your relative as silly; it might be very important for him. Do not say in your mind that you shall visit your friend if he passed through a big distress only. He might only have a small contusion: Take the phone and ask about him. When you get closer to people, they will feel comfortable with their Lord. The important thing is not to keep your friends in order to be consoled through them, but for them to live in consolation. “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much”. Daily details could be, on the level of personal bliss, the most important among all things. This bliss always carries something divine.

These details mean that you should talk gently to your wife and children in the evening and show your care. And if you were an employer and had employees around you, show a word of care concerning the health of each one of them and ask him about his family. This is one example among many. When your responsibilities grow, your soul and you work will push you to be careful from close people. This is normal in work and production. However, minimal decency is required from you: Don’t say a word that has a personal nature to your assistant after a day that saddened him. Every assistant wants to be existent in the eyes of his employer. Your wife, children, and relatives love to be existent in your eyes. Moodiness is allowed only to a small extent. If you heard that a person feels left alone, put an effort to create the opportunities and methods to save him from that.

Sometimes you don’t understand why a person feels that you are treating him with brusqueness. Double your effort and take the initiative to get closer to him and to make him closer to you.  The important thing is for none of us to live alone.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “تقاسيم على المحبة” –Raiati no7- 13.02.2000

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