Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh Remembers Costi Bendaly

Arabic original here. More about Costi Bendaly's life and work can be read here.

Costi Bendaly... Heart and Mind Together

Costi Bendaly has departed. The theologian who did not possess a degree in theology, though he surpassed many who have attained advanced degrees in academic theology, has departed. If the prevalent saying in the Orthodox tradition is, "the true theologian is the one who prays," then,  taking Costi Bendali as an example, we can say, "the true theologian is the one who lives the Gospel, including prayer, imitating Christ Jesus in everything."

Costi Bendali put the heart and the mind together and made the harmony between them a rule for practicing the faith. He did not make an opposition between the "spiritual life" and the affairs of this world. He realized that Christ is in two natures, human and divine, and so he dedicated to each nature the duties and obligations that it requires. He did not fall into the temptation of giving importance to the spiritual life at the expense of ignoring the human condition. Nor did he fall into the temptation of giving importance to social service at the expense of ignoring the spiritual life. Bendaly showed us that the two are inseparable-- if one is absent then the other inevitably is as well.

In practice, there are two heresies among Christians that Bendaly was able to defeat. The first heresy is concern only for what pertains to God and the second is concern only for what pertains to man. These two heresies are relics of the two heresies that the Church combated in the fifth century, the heresy of Nestorianism that denies Christ's divine nature and the heresy of Monophysitism that denies the human nature in Christ. Christ is perfect God and perfect man and this means that the divine incarnation requires each Christian to be concerned with his fellow man and not to be content with prayer, fasting and worship by themselves.

The issue that Bendaly spent his life pursuing was the issue of humanity loved by God, humanity tormented on this earth. He was the model of the Christian intellectual engaged with people's issues. Justice was his his preoccupation and he published a reference book entitled Violent or Non-Violent Struggle? For the Realization of Justice. In it, he did not limit himself with reliance on Christian thought, but also looked to Mahatma Ghandi and adopted his teachings on this issue. He took up the issue of the conquered peoples in Palestine, Latin America and other countries that have witnessed revolutions against occupation and the social injustice practiced by dictatorial regimes. In this context, he despised sectarianism, which he considered to be a form of racism.

Costi Bendaly was a pioneer in using the social sciences, first and foremost psychology, in which he was a specialist, in a true Christian education that combats insularity, isolation and fear of the world, an education open to the age, taking into account the centrality of man in the universe, based on freedom and knowledge: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." He likewise took up the issue of sex, especially in his book Sex and Its Human Significance from a simultaneously Christian and psychological perspective. In this book, he called for sound sexual education that puts an end to the prevalent ignorance and erroneous ideas surrounding this subject.

Costi Bendaly, a son of the Antiochian Church, a son of the Orthodox Youth Movement, a son of Mina in Tripoli, man, teacher, pedagogue, father, brother, fighter was a fisher of men. He heeded the call made by Christ to the Apostles: "I shall make you fishers of men." He left everything and followed Him... However, he who desires to be a fisher of men must first be content to be caught by Jesus, to be a fish in Jesus' net. Blessed are you, for Christ caught you from your harbor* to place you in His sea, where there is the water of life.

*Mina, Costi Bendaly's home neighborhood in Tripoli, literally means "Harbor".

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