Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Fr Touma (Bitar): The Reality of the Incarnation

 Arabic original here.

The Reality of the Incarnation

Today, humanity has arrived at its desire. The Lord God created man, in the beginning, to bring him to this hour. Today, God becomes a man, all while of course remaining God. Thus, He is God incarnate, God and man together. Why did God do this? God was capable, in all simplicity, of saving man from sin and death without becoming incarnate. But He became incarnate. Thus, the issue transcends the issue of sin and death.

God became man because He loved man with perfect love. And because He is love, He wanted to cleave to man completely. Love doesn't give something from itself. Love gives itself. God gave Himself to man completely. This is man's inheritance. What do these words mean? It means that the Lord God wanted man to become god. There is absolutely no necessity for the incarnation, inasmuch as its purpose is for the Lord God to divinize man, to make him god. Therefore, He embraced him into Himself. He took on his humanity completely! He became man in every sense of the word! He made Himself the new Adam. Humanity came from the first Adam in the body. But humanity comes from the new Adam in spirit and body! By "spirit", I mean the uncreated Spirit of God. The expression that our fathers saw fit to use is that God wanted to become man in order to permit man to come to be in Him-- that is, in the Lord Jesus Christ-- god. Thus, today is the feast of feasts and the festival of festivals, because that which was in the mind of God since the beginning is realized today. When I say "today", I don't mean "today" according to the hour and I don't mean next Sunday or last Sunday, but rather I mean the fullness of time that humanity has reached, when the Lord God was pleased to be born in the Holy Spirit of a woman, the Virgin Mary, who became by this dispensation the Mother of God.

God and man, in Jesus Christ, are one. He Himself is God and man. But even if we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ as a single being, a single person, the Lord Jesus' divinity remains distinct from his humanity, not mixed with it but also not separate from it. There is no confusion between the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His humanity. We cannot ever imagine that the Lord Jesus resembles a drop of water mixed with another drop of water. There is a unity that took place between the divinity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, which surpasses anything that man can imagine. There is no unity on earth analogous to or even resembling the unity of divinity and humanity in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we are before a reality that surpasses human perception. But this is precisely what happened. God became man! After God became man, everything changed in the world. Of course, it didn't change outwardly. It changed, however, at the level of a new reality that was achieved in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot treat this reality like we treat a chair or a table or like we treat anything in our world. This reality was given to us to treat with faith, which is a great mystery.

What is faith? Faith is, in reality, a new sort of relationship between man and God. If we wanted to summarize it in a word, then at the level of man, faith is the trust that we need in order to have a relationship with the world, with people, with everything. Man needs to have trust in others. Otherwise, he cannot interact with them. Everything in our life is something we need to have trust in; otherwise, we cannot deal with it. For example, the seat that we sit on, if we do not have trust that there is nothing on it that would hurt us, then we would not sit on it. There is an implicit trust that every person has, without which he could not deal with anything at all. When someone wants to go outside to take his car and go back home, if he has the slightest feeling that there is something wrong with his car, he won't use it until he makes sure that what he thought might harm him isn't there or is something that he can fix. Otherwise, if he acts without trust, if he doesn't fall here he'll fall there. So trust, in human terms, is necessary for there to be a relationship between man and the world he is in. We come to faith in the Lord Jesus. There is no doubt that man, on his part as man, needs to have trust, as I said, in that with which he interacts or in that which interacts with him. But there is faith in the Lord Jesus, there is faith in God. If we have human trust and find ourselves in a place that makes us able to deal with the world, then we cannot, in reality, deal with God with this kind of trust. Human trust is not enough! We need a special grace that the Lord God gives us. In other words, we need faith that the Lord God gives us in order for our faith to be made perfect, and our trust in those we deal with. So we need God's grace in order to enter into a relationship with God. If one is skeptical, then God's grace is not active in him, is not given to him. But if one is prepared and wants to believe, but cannot believe in God because he is incapable, as a human, of reaching God, then God sees the desire of his heart, sees his good preparedness, sees the uprightness of his soul, sees his being open, "Lord Jesus, come", "Let it be for me according to Your word", "Help my unbelief" and then the Lord God touches him, gives him grace, and he believes in God!

So there is faith from man and faith from God. This is very much in accordance with the new reality that was made manifest in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which I mean the reality of the incarnation. That is, divine-human coalescence. In terms of faith, our human faith coalesces with our divine faith. Then, we become capable, by God's grace and by the good will of our heart, of entering into this new reality that was achieved in the Lord Jesus Christ, the reality of the incarnation. Faith is a new language, without which we cannot approach God. If I don't know the alphabet, how can I look at a book in the language of this alphabet? So likewise I absolutely cannot read the book of God, read this divine reality made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ if I do not acquire the alphabet of divine-human faith. Faith, then, enters me into a new state of being, a new reality, a new manifestation. It enters me into a new life! Therefore, God is only pleased with faith. Not one of us has a way to approach God except by faith. Theoretical faith is empty talk. For someone to say that he believes without following the divine commandments is also empty talk, because one who believes believes in spirit and in truth. When one of us believes in spirit and in truth, then his entire life changes, he enters into a new world! If one of us travels to a country that he doesn't know, he doesn't hesitate to learn that country's language, customs, laws, and the systems prevailing there... becoming as though he were from that country. Thus, when we enter into the reality of the divine incarnation that took place in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to become new. We treat things according to what is demanded by this new discovery, this new world, this new reality, this incarnation. If I am not prepared to enter into the reality of the incarnation, to deal with the incarnation, to become myself incarnational, then I remain on the outside. But in order to become incarnational, in order to enter behind the veil, into God's heart, into the reality that the Lord God wants me to enter into-- if I want to enter in every sense of the word-- I must walk in everything that is new that is required by this new reality. The Lord Jesus said clearly, "He who loves Me will keep My word." He who does not love Him, does not keep His word and so does not belong to that new thing that has come to be in Him. The Lord Jesus calls us to follow in His footsteps. "He who wants to follow me must take up his cross every day and follow me." Therefore, when we enter into the reality of the incarnation, we always walk steadily, regularly, completely, in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ who said, "Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart." From him, then, we learn the fundamentals of the new citizenship, citizenship in the kingdom, citizenship in the incarnation. Therefore, absolutely no one can enter into the new reality unless he has completely become incarnational. What does this mean?

When one becomes incarnational, he must treat everyone and everything divinely and humanly at the same time. After the Lord Jesus Christ, we have come to treat everything in a divine and human manner. For example, it is time to eat and we come to the table. We don't go there only to eat. This is something purely human. We go to the table to treat the table in a divine-human way. For this reason, we pray. We stand next to the table, we remember God, we ask Him to bless what He gives us, and we bear in mind that we are not just concerned with filling our bellies with food: our fundamental concern is that this food that we see before us is blessed for the heavenly table that we desire and we work so that it will be granted to us to sit with Jesus there. The Lord Jesus said clearly that we must ask for heavenly bread at all times. "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." When man eats of the bread that is in this age, he hungers again. The important thing is to ask for heavenly bread at all times. We carry all this within ourselves when we stand before the table that we go to to eat of its good things and thank God for them. All this happens in one's mind, in one's heart. Otherwise, if we were satisfied with formalities in prayers, or even with merely blessing, if we only do what is necessary and then sit at the table to enjoy it, we miss the reality of dealing with the table-- and, in fact, everything-- in an incarnational manner. We treat everything divinely and humanly at once! At the table, in reality, we stand before God and we ask, first and last, for the Lord God to grace us with His Holy Spirit. Man is not sated with food. What sates man is heavenly manna. This is what the Lord God gave us and gives us: "Take, eat, this is My body that was broken for your sake. Drink of it all of you, this is My blood." In this way with regard to everything else.

When one enters into the reality of the incarnation, everything becomes sacramental for him. We treat the whole universe, we treat all people, sacramentally, in the sense that we deal with what is outwardly apparent and at the same time, through what is outwardly apparent, that which is not outwardly apparent. Through human things, we deal with divine things, we scrutinize divine things, we bring down divine things, we ask God to give us Himself, His grace, His blessing, His Spirit, through everything that comes from us, through everything that we treat with our hands, our body, our soul, our mind. Our concern, first and last, is to be filled with God's presence, with His love! Therefore, the incarnation overturned the criteria. Man found himself before a new world that the Lord God opened wide to man. Come, receive light from the light that does not fade, and glorify God risen from the dead! Christ, in everything, has become a sign that is marked upon everything in our world, in our souls, in our mind. Our exclusive concern must be with being filled with Jesus: "If we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord." "Life for me is Christ and to die is gain." One who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, who stumbles toward this new reality, sees only Jesus in everything. Therefore, the feast today is the feast of feasts, the season of seasons, Today, we have been entered into God's heart, we have been entered into the Lord's Spirit, we have been entered into a new life, after which it is not fitting for us to treat things as though they were dust. We treat dust as having been filled with divine light, we treat dust as dust and as light at the same time: "We have this treasure in jars of clay." Therefore, let us rejoice in the fullness of time, let us rejoice at this feast for which we are preparing ourselves, then let us extend our joy with it for days. In fact, let us extend it all the days of our life, since after Jesus entered our world as God incarnate, everything has changed. The important thing is that the change which occurred be matched by a change that happens in the heart of each one of us, that Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)

Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Silouan the Athonite

Douma, Lebanon

December 18, 2022

Friday, December 16, 2022

Who is Met Saba (Esber)?

Yesterday, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America announced its list of eligible candidates for the office of metropolitan, in time for the initial vote to be held at the Special Convention on January 13, which will decide on a list of three candidates to send to the Holy Synod. Alongside the list of bishops and archimandrites who are currently active in the Archdiocese, the list also includes Metropolitan Saba (Esber), who has for the past 23 years been metropolitan of Bostra and Hawran in southern Syria, where he has stood out for his remarkable management of the Patriarchate's most materially impoverished archdioceses under almost unimaginably difficult circumstances. I will reproduce below his official biography from the North American Archdiocese's website, in pdf on the site linked above, but I would also like to call readers' attention to some of his writing that has been translated on this blog previously, available here. In particular, I would suggest reading:

Maxims on the Cross

On the Issue of the Orthodox "Diaspora" (written during the preparation for the planned Council of Crete)

Some Words about Going up to Receive 

On His Vision for the Church of Antioch and the Youth Movement

Metropolitan Saba (Isper)
Curriculum Vitae

- Born in Lattakia, Syria in 1959.

- A graduate in Civil Engineering from the
University of Lattakia.

- A graduate of the Saint John of Damascus
Institute of Theology at the University of

- Ordained to the deaconate in 1984.

- Ordained to the priesthood in 1988.

- Served in the parish of Saint Michael in Lattakia
from 1990-1998.

- Elevated to Archimandrite 1994.

- Publisher and Editor of the Orthodox magazine
“Farah” for children in 1993, and the magazine
“Farah” for the family in 1994.

- Elected as an assistant bishop to Patriarch
Ignatius IV in 1998 and consecrated episcopacy
that same year.

- Appointed by the Holy Synod of Antioch as
Metropolitan for the Diocese of Bosra Hauran and
Jabal Al-Arab in 1999

- Teacher of Pastoral Care and Introduction to the Old Testament at the Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology University of Balamand from 1995-2006

- Established a publishing house in the
Archdiocese, the "Al-Arabiya" magazine for
adults, and continued issuing the "Farah"
magazine for children. A special version of it was
issued in English starting in 2010.

- Author of a weekly article on his Facebook page.

-Author of many articles of various topics in "Al-
Noor", "Patriarchal" and "Al-Arabiya"

- Author of many books in different fields of
pastoral life and theology.

- Developmental projects and Charitable
endowments for the Archdiocese include:

A charitable medical clinic in the city of As-

Dormitories for university students in As-
Suwayda and Daraa (150 students)

The House of Love for retirees prepares 48

Agricultural projects throughout the

A spiritual retreat center (Bethany) in the
village of Kharaba

Bread for All, an association for the
distribution of food to the poor of the region
irregardless of religion

The Good Samaritan, a multifaceted
charitable organization for members of the
Archdiocese displaced or otherwise affected
by the recent wars.

Author of the following publications:

- "Words from the Heart"

- "For the sake of a living church"

- "Contemporary Christian reading of the Old

- "Condolences, my people"

- "Beware of idols"

- "His path to Him"

- "On the Way to Salvation" 4 Volumes

- "Orthodox spirituality"

Translator (from English into Arabic) of the

- "Saint Raphael of Brooklyn"
- "The mystery of faith" (Hilarion Elfayeve)

"Lenten Spring", "Winter Pascha" and "A Brief
History of the Church" (Thomas Hopko)

- "From Baptist to the Byzantine World" (James

- "Our Faith" (Elder Ilia Cleopa)

- "In Love" (Olivier Clement)

- "St. Tikhon of Zadonsky" (Nadezhda

- "St. Seraphim of Sarov" (Valentin Zander)

-"The year of the Lord" (five parts) (Theodore

- "Spiritual Talks, My Journey to Orthodoxy"
(Kalistos Ware)

- "I Believe in God" (Anthony Bloom)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Hasan Çolak: Ottoman Central Administration and Primacy in the Orthodox Church

Hasan Çolak, "Ottoman Central Administration and Primacy in the Orthodox Church: Sources and Agents of Knowledge and Inter-Patriarchal Conflicts" in P. V. Ermilov and M. B. Gratsianskii (eds.), Poniatie pervenstva: Istoki i konteksty (Moscow: PTGSU, 2022): 539-562. 

Çolak is one of the only scholars working on the history of the Orthodox Church as an Ottoman institution on the basis of Ottoman archival sources, so anything he publishes is of extreme interest.


Bearing in mind all that has been said above, it may be concluded that, throughout its history as part of the Ottoman state, the Orthodox Church was an active agent in its dealings with the state, rather than a passive receiver of its demands. As part of its interaction with the Otto-man state, the large network of the Orthodox Church, consisting both of clergymen and laymen, Christians and non-Christians, and formal and informal agents, made it possible for the Ottoman state to form its knowledge on the Orthodox Church. As the above examples illustrate, the primacy of the patriarchate of Constantinople was not a point of reference for the Ottoman central administration in its dealings with ecclesiastical matters in its domains between the fifteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


Read the entire article here.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Vevian Zaki on the Arabic Translation of the Epistles in Sinai 151

The website Biblia Arabica has posted a nicely-illustrated piece by Vevian Zaki about MS Sinai Arabic 151, which contains an Arabic version of the Epistles and was copied by its translator, Bishr ibn al-Sirri in Damascus in the year 869.  Read it here.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): ُExile from the World

 Arabic original here, originally published in an-Nahar on March 2, 2019, here.

Exile from the World

I write these words while I am on the Holy Mountain, Athos. For those who do not know, this peninsula in Greece is considered a monastic state and is only inhabited by monks. The monastic life began in earnest on this mountain starting in the tenth century. According to Church tradition, the Virgin Mary visited this mountain and regarded it as a spiritual garden for herself and so women are not permitted to enter it.

One who comes to practice monasticism on this mountain chooses complete exile from the world and, to live out the struggle of spiritual purification. The purpose of exile is to be cut off from everything connected to man's life, that is cutting off the old bonds to the world in order to create new bonds. Just as a man must leave his father and mother to become attached to his wife so that, by God's grace and presence with them, between them and in them, they may constitute one body, so too must one who seeks to be a monk leave his father, his mother, his possessions, his money, his rank and his authority in order to become attached to God and become one with Him. Thus monks are called 'mutawahhidun' [lit.'solitaries'], that is, those who seek unity with God. One of the prayers of the Orthodox Church says, "Blessed is the life of the people of the deserts, for the rise and ascend in divine love," and in another prayer we hear that monks "return love for love."

The principle behind this estrangement is that the Kingdom of God is not food or drink, but rather righteousness and holiness. This means that man leaves what is passing and impermanent in order to seek that which is lasting and eternal. And there is nothing that is lasting except the face of your Lord. This world will come to an end because it came from nothing and it has no existence except by the will of God. But God did not create man out of nothing to return him to nothing, but just the opposite: He created him out of nothing to grant him eternal life. Had man not rejected God as the source of his life, then death would not have entered our body. But the spirit remains, even if the body passes away because God "is the God of the living, not the God of the dead."

What monks experience in estrangement from the world is death to all that is old and a reaching in repentance toward the purification of existence in prayer, fasting and service with voluntary poverty and non-acquisitiveness (that is, renouncing one's own will) in obedience to a pure and illumined spiritual father. "The eye has not seen and the ear has not heard what God has prepared for His chosen ones." This is what the believer seeks and this is what the monk struggles for with greater longing, perhaps.

In general, the experience of serious monks in choosing this life greatly transcends the experiences of those in the world (this is not, of course, to negate the existence of exceptions) in what pertains to knowledge of the human soul and the spiritual war with the spirits of evil and demons and in acquiring the divine love that grants them joy and inner peace with kindness, meekness, humility, patience, chastity, and deep-rooted, firm faith in all circumstances. This makes them beacons that shine in the darkness of this world and attracts to them the weary and heavy-laden who come from every direction to be healed, strengthened and comforted and to face hardships with patience, hope and trust that are not ashamed of God.

The Holy Mountain welcomes to its twenty monasteries and its sketes millions every year. They come to seek a word useful for salvation and return strengthened and comforted by God's presence and activity in the life of man through the power of prayer and unconditional love. The world today is in the greatest possible need of monasteries and monks because those who are sincere and courageous are rarer day by day and those who bear witness to the truth of the Gospel through total renunciation and estrangement from the world and its spirit grow fewer and fewer.

All are called to exile in one way or another because he who seeks to settle down forever in that which is impermanent will be put to shame and he who dies to that which is passing away while seeking what is eternal will not be put to shame unto ages of ages. Who do you think is the wise one?

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Dialogue in Truth and Common Life

 Arabic original here, originally published on March 25, 2019 in an-Nahar here.

Dialogue in Truth and Common Life

Most of the time, people lie to each other and do not dialogue, because dialogue either exists in truth or it does not exist. But there being dialogue in truth does not mean that people are in agreement on what they are dialoguing about, but rather that they understand each other to be different and to gladly and joyfully accept their difference as a gift from above so that they may learn freedom in love for every person, since where there is love from above there is freedom.

The purpose of dialogue is not to establish one opinion over and against another, but to communicate in love to arrive at an opinion upon which this mutual understanding is achieved, if possible, or to accept the difference in respect for the freedom of each of those engaging in dialogue. But those who wish to live together must have dialogue and mutual understanding, even if just on the most basic common denominator between them, in order to lay a foundation for common life. What is required of people is not to apply principles and dogmas, because these differ across different religions and philosophical, dogmatic and social systems. What is required is mutual understanding of human truth in freedom of expression and respect for opinions.

*     *     *

It is certain that there are natural and social axioms tied to man's true reality and respect for his being, his choices and his right to a dignified life according to God's will. These are subject to dialogue in the context of clarification and respecting each other's existence. There exist, however, things that are non-negotiable. This is what comes within the framework of truth and falsehood with regard to everything that distorts man's humanity and deprives him of his rights contained in the constitution and the law. By way of example and not exclusively:

1. Corruption, which destroys the state and increases destitution and injustice.

2. Monopolizing a specific domain, which leads to a handful of people controlling the fates of the majority.

3. Distorting the man's true ontological reality in legislation or practice, under the pretext of personal freedom, etc.

What is intended here is that dialogue between people is for building up the structure of common life upon a single solid foundation, where all people live regardless of their faith or their , political, ethnic or ideological affiliation... on the condition that all of this is based on respect for opinion and belief and the other's freedom to live his life in the manner he sees appropriate which does not affect or injure the image of God in his partner, and so long as it is within the law.

*     *     *

The fundamental issue that impedes every serious dialogue between people is their disagreeing about the truth, even if they are superficially in agreement about seeking the truth or think that the truth is evident. Matters are relative in the eyes of people, but in the eyes of God the truth is one. Thus, when the Lord Jesus Christ answered Pontius Pilate, who was judging Him, who asked Him whether He was a king, He said to him, "You say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Then Pilate responded, "What is truth?" (John 18:37 and 38).

This is the dilemma in dialogue between people: "What is truth?" Hence, true dialogue cannot exist in truth between people except from each side's view of the truth. And is the truth with people pure, or is it based on their passions and their interests?

On account of this, people's dialogue in truth about the good of their common life is based on rules recognized by everyone, which become the universal standard for elucidating and devising the principles by which is erected the common home, that is the nation, in which all come together according to the principle of equality in rights and responsibilities for the good of society and dignified life for individuals in a framework of respecting individual and collective freedom in order to build up a communion of one life in distinction and distinction in unity.

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The War against the Church

 Arabic original here.

The War against the Church

The devil has not and will not cease from waging war against man, or rather, the project of man in humankind because he wages war against God. The war of the evil one is dangerous because it clothes itself in the mark of civilization and human progress.

Why this war on man? Because he is the "church of God", the "temple of the Lord." The war is against Christ Jesus, the sole true man.

This war also bears the mark of exterminating humankind through wars, sicknesses and sterility. It has two aspects: one that is superficially positive but negative in essence and another that is negative in both appearance and actuality.

The devil works in direct and indirect ways. The direct way is through spreading his perverse ideas in weak souls and the indirect way is through people who have been taken captive by him, who spread his wickedness, lies and destruction through false promises of freedom, dignified life and happiness.

*     *     *

The sole bulwark in the world against the devil is the Church, the Body of Christ, the Church that is orthodox in belief, life and tradition. Some think themselves orthodox while they are perverse and accuse others of perversity. This is one of the most difficult wars, because the devil leads these people to believe that they are in the right when they are wrong and they make those who are in the right to appear wrong. The devil's war within the Church is one of distortion because, as the Apostle Paul says after experience with evil spirits, "Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). The measure of orthodoxy in faith is love, that is, tenderness and the renunciation of judgment. One cannot stand in truth without being merciful. The war of fundamentalism against and within the Church is from the evil one who tricks the inexperienced, leading them to believe that they are spiritual because they scrupulously hold to the law to the letter without spirit, casting them into hateful Pharasaism and self-deception, while they are filled with complexes and passions. This is the war from the right.

The standard of spiritual soundness is equilibrium and equilibrium is justice and mercy, exertion and chastisement, judging the self and pardoning the sinner, total obedience to the divine commandment and bearing the other's weakness.

*     *     *

Happiness among humankind is an illusion, for the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "Vanity of vanities... vanity and grasping the wind..." (Ecclesiastes 1:1 and 12). Man seeks happiness in comfort and comfort is tied to development and flourishing. Civilization claims to give man progress and joy. But the so-called civilized peoples have distorted humanity, destroyed the family and the bond of love between brothers with claims of freedom and independence.

Independence and individualism are the fantasy of a deadly freedom, because man does not exist without the bond of love with others and love is not sentiment, emotions and the titillation of feelings. Love is self-emptying, death to the ego and joy for the other in God. Civilization today constructs man on the basis of his being self-subsistent for himself. This leads people and societies to greater self-isolation and collapse, self-isolation because of the centrality of the ego and the cancellation of the other and collapse because of the objectification of the self and the other and their consumption for the sake of some pleasure. The war of the world and the "prince of this world", that is, Satan, is against the building up of man upon the Rock, that is Christ. Everything that is done to man and everything that is offered to him today is so that he will forget Christ. This is the war from the left.

*     *     *

"For to me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). So declared the Apostle Paul and so he experienced after wars, struggles and persecutions. This is the essence of existence: Christ is life. He who has come to know Christ has found what he was searching for and the answers to all his existential questions and has entered into the mystery of everlasting joy and he who has rejected Him has entered into permanent suffering and infinite loss.

Let him who has ears, hear.


Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): The Judgment

 Arabic original here.

The Judgment

"... on the day when God will judge the secret thoughts of all." (Romans 2:16)

The judgment is not according to appearances, but according to the hidden things in the hearts of humankind. People live for people, generally speaking, forgetting that their life is from God and not from a creature. People bow down to things that are not gods, to flesh and blood, because they seek power and authority and when they find it with other people, they enslave themselves to them. Miserable is he who does not know that God will "judge the secret thoughts of all."

People, in general, are judgmental. He who judges is himself judged in the same manner: "for the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Luke 6:38). People do not know the secrets of hearts, but God know everything. He is the one who "tests minds and hearts" (Psalm 7:9).

How does God judge us and for what are we held accountable?

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). One who does not judgements on people, on their persons, but rather seeks excuses for them in their mistakes in order to learn himself and preserve himself, is not judged by God because he himself does not judge others. As for one who holds people's mistakes against them, however, on the basis of his own assessment of the truth apart from love, his truth is false. How can a person judge another when he does not know himself? How can he distinguish truth from falsehood when he has not yet been purified? The foundation for the capacity to judge is discernment and discernment is a gift from God to the pure. He whose heart has not been purified and who has not been cleansed of his passions cannot discern matters with the eye of God. "Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny" (1 Corinthians 2:15).

The foundation of spiritual work is striving to save the sinner, not to judge him. The Lord Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners" (Mark 2:17). One who does not see himself as sick and sinful does not need the Lord Jesus Christ, but is satisfied with himself. This is the one who judges people, the one who is satisfied with, in and of himself. He does not know to seek forgiveness and consequently he is not capable of forgiving.

He who has a law is judged according to the law because the law does not bring salvation, but rather brings condemnation because there does not exist any person capable of fulfilling everything that is in the law: "For 'no human being will be justified in his sight' by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). As for one who is without a law, he has the universe as an earnest of the Creator's love and as proof of His works of surpassing goodness: "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).

In any case, the judgement is in the measure of the gift, so if those who are still under the law or those who are under the judgment of human conscience have no excuse, then how great will be the judgment of us Christians to whom everything has been revealed in Christ Jesus?

*     *     *

Beloved, let us not delude ourselves or claim what does not belong to us, but rather be humble in prayer, fasting and spiritual struggle, for we are in the time of the Apostles' Fast, so let us judge ourselves so that God might justify us, He who knows everything about us more than we do and He is the Merciful who accepts the penitent in every moment. Let us forgive, pardon and not judge people, but rather let us leave judgment to God. In repentance let us enter into the mystery of man and bear all of humanity in our repentance, because our sins extend into the world to increase its evil and our righteousness extends into it too, to increase its good. Our responsibility as believers in Christ is to increase the positivity and light in the world because the evil one sends corruption, destruction and ruin into the world, desiring to destroy the human race, so let us be children of light, bearing the suffering world and nailing our sins upon the cross of Christ, so that Christ may bear us upon the cross, saving the world in us and granting forgiveness to those who seek it.

Christ judgment is a fire of divine love, burning the wicked and granting warmth and tenderness to the righteous. Wicked is one who judges others and the righteous is the one who judges himself.

Let him who can accept, accept.


Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies