Today's Wisdom

When we meet a person truly in need, do we see the face of God?
Pope Francis

Handel's Messiah by Halleluja Chorus

Loading...

An Elegant Hymn

Written by the Late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III (in English My Throbbing Heart; in Arabic قلبي الخفاق )

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Anthropological Reflections

In "The History of Religions" published by the University of Chicago in 1959, Mircea Eliade traces the development of the sacred from primitive cultures. He advances the idea that in the 20th century, symbolism has been found in depth-psychology, especially that "the activity of the unconscious can be grasped through the interpretation of images, figures, and scenarios". He adds other factors that contribute to the study of symbolism such as the rise of of abstract art and "the poetic experiments of the surrealists" as well as the research of ethnologists in primitive societies, and finally the role of researches of certain philosophers, epistemologists, and linguists who wanted to show the symbolic character not only of language, but also of all other activities of the human spirit, from rite and myth to art and science." (Pages 86, 87). In the same book, Jean Daniélou clarifies "The history of religions today confronts us with an immense amount of material dealing with myths, symbols, and rites" (Page 68)



Another finding in "generative" anthropology is attributed to René Girard, retired professor of civilizations at Stanford University and member of l'Academie francaise! 
In his theory of mimetic rivalry, René Girard shows how we are born with a tendency for selfishness. Mimetic rivalry, that is imitative rivalry, exists in human natural relationships. According to him, I desire what "the other" has, not only because it is good, but more importantly because he also desires it. Thus, in effect, by desiring what he has, I want to fulfill myself. He became my model since we both desire the same object, but now I  must surpass him to acquire the object for myself.  I am my god, and will expand my family, my tribe, my nation, my religion, and my culture only because they are mine! When people fight because of rivalry, it becomes contagious, and society descends into chaos and disorder. The only Satanic remedy to restore order found in the early cultures was the scapegoat. In pagan cultures, men would collaborate and exclude or kill a person they accuse of not following them. The act of killing unites them again and order is restored. This is the ritual of sacrifice in archaic religions. Following the exclusion or killing act of the “innocent” person, the band starts feeling guilty as they see the victim not moving anymore. They then attempt to reintroduce him in their memory by making him divine, and celebrating his feast with dance and festivities. This remembrance accomplishes again what Satan wants: a lie. Order is re-established based on a lie (killing an innocent person), and a person is now divine based on another lie. This powerful chain was only broken by the death of Christ. This is the Satanic power that Christ reversed by his death, not because he was innocent but because being innocent he did not retaliate. On the cross he forgave his accusers.(Cf. Frederiek Depoortere;  "Christ in Postmodern Philosophy"; T&T Clark; 2008 - Pages 34-91).

In his research, Girard found that the story of killing an innocent person violently goes back to the earliest human people. Archaic religious texts and mythology are based on the same theme. The exception is the Bible. Contrary to the mythic stories of other religions, in the Genesis story of Cain killing his brother Abel, the author does not condemn the victim but the killer. The victim is also justified in many other Biblical events such as the story of Joseph who resisted the invitation of Egypt’s ruler's wife to intercourse and ended up being imprisoned for his innocence. Joseph was released and eventually became the prime minister of Egypt. As the people of God become more responsive to the Spirit of God, God reveals himself more fully in terms of relationships to His people (e.g. the victim husband Hosea to his people). The full self-revelation of God becomes actualized in Jesus Christ, His Only Son. Only in Christ, the truth is fully revealed and Satan’s lie is revealed. The only way out of the vicious circle of violence is to not retaliate which means becoming like Christ. 
IN PROGRESS


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Children of God

Thanks to Fr. Jim Reposkey for introducing Fr. William Nordenbrock, the Moderator General of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, to the faithful at St. Alphonsus Church. It was an honor to meet this distinguished visitor from the Eternal City, Rome. However, I was most impressed by the words of his homily in today's Mass. Commenting on the Epistle's reading "See what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called the children of God" (1 John 3:1), he drew a comparison to the joy that the parent feels when he/she sees the little child after he/she is born. If we, as limited as we are, can love and enjoy our children, how much more does God love us and receive us with joy as a Father?

On a personal note, it is with much joy too that I was able to attend the wedding of my youngest niece yesterday at Merciful Redeemer Church in Mississauga. The priest who officiated the wedding and celebrated the Mass is the same one who, a bit over 34 years ago, married my twin brother and his wife.  My first son together with the gifted Audra Sharp (PhD. in Music) played the instruments and sang in the Mass.  As the God-father of this youngest niece, it was a special moment for me to see her joy with the very kind bridegroom, parents and many family members around her.  It is written that in the transfiguration of Jesus, Peter cried to Jesus "Lord, it is good that we are here" (Matthew 17, 4). This was my feeling too. At the same time yesterday, my second son made an important milestone in his doctorate program when he played a concert of sacred music at the great Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris in France. I received a report that he was greeted with a standing ovation by the attendees.This too was a special moment for me as a parent.

And in spite of continuing suffering and persecution of Christians in the Middle East as elsewhere, I found joy that the government of Saudi Arabia decided to build a church in Arabia for Christians to publicly worship God. While the Turkish President Erdogan refuses to recognize the genocide of Armenians in 1915 by the Ottomans (Turkey), I found joy too that, following Pope Francis lead, the leaders of Europe joined an increasing international voice that supports Armenian President Sarkisian and Christian Armenians for the international community and particularly Turkey to make up for their long suffering.

It is not because we are children of God that we dare to challenge his mercy. Let us ask God with Hans Urs von Balthasar that in the never-ending love of God, the whole creation, guilty or not. may be offered the possibility of salvation and everlasting joy in heaven. Heaven came to earth so as to bring earth to heaven in Christ.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Resurrection of Christ for the 21st Century

The Resurrection of Christ has many dimensions, because it carries within it the fruits of the history of salvation and promises of eternal life. It is impossible for us to comprehend the mysteries of God without the holy Spirit who guides the Church into the fullness of the kingdom of God.

1. Reconciliation: Is it possible?

First, there is the historical evidence that the Resurrection of Christ was the event that transmitted to the Gentile nations the Jewish concept that God is one but also through Apostolic testimony many Gentiles/Pagans became followers of the light of Christ and understood that God created all out of love. His will to bring his beloved to eternal joy is not for the Jews only but for all peoples - a point clearly made by Fr. Ibrahim El Haddad based on the act of creating us in his image (Genesis 1: 26). Fr. Ibrahim said, in Christ the strangers and enemies were reconciled and together they pronounced the faith of the New Covenant: God who is one is also the eternal relation of selfless love between the Father and the Son in the holy Spirit. This eternal Triune God raises humanity in the Resurrection of Christ as much as we accept his death and resurrection according to the Creed, live it and make it our own. Christians who truly follow Christ are the ones who love God and their fellow brothers and sisters in the world and share with them the joy of serving the needy regardless of religion or ethnicity (see Judgment of the Nations: Matthew 25: 31-46). Fr. Ibrahim stressed too that true Christians do not build political empires that enslave some of us for the empire's economic and military agendas, to sell weapons or usurp resources of conquered countries, but build bridges of the peace of the risen Christ which he uttered to the Apostles (John 20: 19-29). The risen Christ not only appeared to the fearful disciples and gave them his peace but also to them with Thomas who doubted his Resurrection (see reflection here).


Fr. Ibrahim reminded us of the joy that the Resurrection brings and the light that it shines - Christ liberated the captives in Hell and took them to Heaven while Heaven sang in praise and the Church on earth was born! These words were beautifully expressed by St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, in his poetic homily "Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen... (see the full homily here).

2.  The Truth of the Resurrection

I had spoken to the young adults at Jesus the King Church in 2006 about one of the deepest reflections on the truth of the Resurrection of Christ by the well-known theologian and adviser to the German Bishops at Vatican II (and, later,  Pope Benedict XVI). In his "Introduction to Christianity" Ratzinger powerfully shows the failed attempts of human cultures to survive death in another through progeny and fame which remain only a faint echo of the self after the person has died. Using the terminology of Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. for the bios to evolve, my survival of death would be possible only when the biological mutations had been surpassed by my presence in another who is permanent in himself to whom I entrust myself. Since Christ alone totally loved humanity and in the worst death on the cross entrusted himself to the Father, Christ was raised by the Father - and he himself being in the Father rose from death (see the full excerpt here.)


In a world full of inquiries, another relatively recent response has been summarized by the work of the Biblical scholar Gerald O'Collins, S.J. here. A logical approach to evidence for the Resurrection of Christ has been given by Peter Kreeft Professor of Philosophy at Boston College here. Additionally, see my post from a historical perspective including rich evidence from non-Christian early testimonials by such historians as Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, Gaius Suitonius, and Pliny the Younger who admitted that Christians adored Christ and sang hymns to him as to God...This in-depth investigation can be found here.

3. Why today's youth are leaving the Church?

In a recent homily (in French) the charismatic Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J., questioned his listeners "Why did Jesus come to earth? Why did he die on the cross? " He gave the traditional answer that children learn in catechism "To save us by his blood". And why save us by the shedding of his blood? he continued "Because God the Father is angry since his infinite dignity was wounded by the sin of Man." Since he is infinitely divine yet perfectly human, Christ repaid our debt and bought us by his blood. Or in other terms, according to St. Anselm, he made satisfaction for the sins of humanity before the throne of God. But why would God the Father demand the death of his own Son? "This is not a father but a monster" said Boulad. Probably in the Old Testament and in the time of Christ the above language was understood but today's 21st century people (especially the youth) do not understand this language about salvation. It is to a great extent why many left the Church or became atheists.

In the proposed language that Fr. Boulad calls "a new vision of redemption" we find a deep layer of meaning based on the Gospel. In the Gospel, Christ teaches "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12: 24). A grain or a seed, which I can keep to myself and eat alone, will be a huge tree if I let it fall into the earth to die because then, the biochemical ingredients in the soil will work on it and furnish nutrients that from the soil grows a tree and its thirst is quenched by water of rain. In the same way Christ died and his death brought out a huge tree in whose branches the birds find fruits and make nests.The Resurrection is the fruit of death to one's self and desires. After his Resurrection Christ opened the Apostles minds to understand scriptures and said to them "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead" (Luke 24, 46). Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? Because in his death like the grain he will become the great tree for humanity that goes up to heaven. It is not that God is angry. God the Father who loves his creation suffered with Christ on the cross. Henri Boulad's contemporary interpretation of  salvation is shared by other theologians. The contemporary theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote "The Crucified God" in which he thinks of the suffering Father or God while his Son is dying for humanity and the Resurrection of Christ as the promised hope of eternal life for humanity. This same idea of God's love is found in the Fathers such as St. John of Damascus. There is no vengeance nor selfishness in God since the Trinity is a relationship of self-emptying love between the Father and the Son in the holy Spirit. Why blood then? Because blood means life. Loss of blood is loss of life. More profoundly, according to Fr. Boulad, loss of blood means loss of the self or ego! Loss is gain - Death is life. Jesus says "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16: 25). "Death is a natural process but death is not simply the death of the body. It is death of the self or ego. At this point what I lose at this level, I regain at another (more profound) level" said Fr. Boulad. It is difficult to accept death. Jesus himself was troubled in his humanity on Thursday night when he felt he will be arrested and killed. Yet his love for his Father and his human fellows was stronger than death. Jesus is the grain that fell on earth when he came from heaven to be one of us and live among us. He is the grain that was thrown to die in the depth of the earth. The grain died and became a great tree. He dies as Jesus of Nazareth and resurrects as the cosmic Christ.  His body which was limited is in the resurrection the mystical body of the cosmic Christ, the Church. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." said Christ (John 12: 32)!

The global atheism that we see around us is about the picture of God. Atheists reject the picture of a God that leaves no space for human freedom and suffocates human dignity... The response is in living as Christ lived, giving up himself for all. We must die as he died to himself in order to realize the resurrection in him. There is a logic in the mystery of Christ: Lose yourself to find yourself. Love is the essence of eternal life.

4.  A Message of the Resurrection

On Easter vigil night, Fr. Henri Boulad added more insights in his homily (in French) from the Big Bang Theory which is the scientific finding that the universe started with an intense explosion of a "singularity" (according to Prof. Stephen Hawking) that nearly 14 billion years ago expanded rapidly and formed the huge galaxies with stars, which in turn formed planets and one of these planets is the earth that is optimally and uniquely made suitable for the development of life according to the scientific Anthropic Principle (See John Barrow and Frank Tipler; The Anthropic Cosmological Principle; Oxford; 1988). Without turning this lecture into a scientific one, let me only add that recent findings of the LHC at CERN and subsequent published scientific works on black holes point to the "Stamp of God" according to quantum physics (See  my "Quantum Synthesis - An Introduction" here and here). The above scientific theories point to a larger complexity which the Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. called the Omega Point. For Henri Boulad, S.J., the Big Bang with the nuclear energy emanating from such a tiny singularity represented the first victory of God over nothingness and darkness! "To symbolize the victory of God, we have illuminated fire in the night - fire that tears darkness apart."

According to Fr. Georges Farah "the tomb/rock where the corpse of Christ was laid symbolizes the prison of Man where there is no window but only the darkness that blinds humanity and the blind loses sight of any direction". In his Resurrection, according to Fr. Farah, Christ liberates us from this prison of the self and opens the possibility for moving towards humanity's purpose and goal: God! In the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Cyril of Alexandria, it is the work of the holy Spirit that helps us repent and find Christ! And St. Ignatius Loyola does not shy away from telling us that God uses everything to draw us to him who is "lifted up from the earth" (John 12: 32)!

Henri Boulad continues "The rock hides fire whose energy was found to be the nuclear energy in the 20th century" - Today humans can destroy the planet earth with nuclear energy or they can direct this same energy to create cities and advance civilization, but what matters most is not the physical light that is only a symbol of the inner light that shines in men's hearts - It is the light within that can be shut by men...said the Jesuit scholar.  Here it is: Christ is rejected, crucified and killed. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1: 1-5).  How is it that Jesus Christ came to earth in the night of the long Winter darkness, and resurrected from death in the night of Easter? It is because Darkness attempted to hide Light and the rock attempted to hide Christ.

"In Apocalypse, it is the story of Darkness attempting to shut out Light! The conflict between light and darkness is very much brought to our sight in the story of the Dragon. the Monster, and the Devil who sweep down a third of the stars and cast them to the earth aiming to destroy its inhabitants and facing the Woman and her Child - The woman is the Virgin Mary who delivers Jesus Christ, the immolated Lamb of God" (Cf. Leviticus 14: 25; Revelation 12: 1-17). On the "Woman" see the homily of Cardinal Thomas Collins Archbishop of Toronto here. Apocalypse finishes with the victory of Christ. Christ has conquered death, the last power where everything finishes and where everything in Christ starts anew. "And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22: 5). Fr. Boulad then makes final remarks: This is the hope of Easter and Christian faith...Yes, we will all pass by the night of death but there is life after death. Life is stronger than death. God would not have taken the risk of creation if the outcome was darkness and nothing for us. He would not have risked entrance in human history if his human death on the cross would be in vain.

In Easter, we have a message to communicate to everyone around us! It is easy to despair when we see the aggression on human life in the Middle East, in many other countries, and in the so-called civilized world too. The contemporary philosopher Edgar Morin wrote "We have all reasons for pessimism but the surge of the improbable and impossible will anyway happen,"  Yes, said Boulad, eternal life is improbable and impossible (in the eyes of materialism) yet it is the truth; for Christ has risen!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Resurrection of Christ for Today's Children

In June 2013, the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. gave a lecture on “Theosis” or divinization of Man at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Toronto. He reminded his audience of St. Peter's Second Letter "by which [Christ] has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1; 4). While the Christian West emphasized the Cross, the Christian East emphasized the Resurrection, Henri Boulad said. In the Byzantine hymn of the Resurrection of Christ, the Church sings "Christ has risen from the dead, and by his death he has crushed death, and has given life to those who are in the tombs." Near the end of the Creed which is recited every Sunday in Mass in both East and West, we find the words "We await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." As much as carrying the cross with Christ is fundamental to our redemption, the resurrection with Christ is the purpose of our lives. Man is created for a purpose and that is to live eternally in a state of joy which can only be found in union with God our father who loves us. Death is only a passage. Theosis (to be one with God) is the basis of Christian Hope. Not the Augustinian pessimistic view of the evil person, but a Biblical view that God created humans in his image of goodness (Gen. 1, 27). In modern psychology Carl Jung and others found that deep down the human soul the person is good. Fr. Boulad quoted St. Paul “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”(Rom 5: 20). “Sensuality, pride, hate, and refusal of the other exist in the person as a layer, but deeper than evil, grace and goodness exist in the foundation of every person. I believe in the goodness of Man, even if he shouts and rebels.” Sin is a wound in humanity which Christ heals.

Since Jesus considers us not slaves but children of God, Fr. Boulad talked too about his encounter with children such as Marco who was a young student but felt he was left behind in playing with other children since he had a handicap. As a revenge Marco would pull his ears...”I called him to my room. He was surprised that I hugged him rather than rebuking him. Marco changed.” He found his essential goodness - a human person who is loved. “What Jesus is by nature, we are by grace.” He recalled the “beloved Son” the Father uttered to Jesus and said that the Father looks to you and me as beloved sons! He remembered seeing a man playing with his son pulling his father's noze and ears and thought “And my father in heaven surely welcomes me and loves me”. In his recent talk in Toronto, Most Reverend Bishop Ibrahim emphasized our need to make room for our children even if they cry or shout in church. They are our beloved children and God's children!

When a friend died a couple of weeks ago in Toronto and his wife and children were in tears, we could only remember the tears of Christ our God on the cross and the tears of Mary his mother. Jesus tears brought the Resurrection. There is no fear of death but only love in Christ. In the 2nd century St. Irenaeus of Lyon declared that "The glory of God is Man fully alive." In St. Athanasius, the great Alexandrian Father in the 4th century, "God became man so that man may become God." This is the Resurrection!


Today, we need to find the goodness within us and love each other as God himself loves us, because only then can we hope for our resurrection. How can we open ourselves to the goodness that God implants in us? Can we listen to the Spirit of Christ and follow him in our conscience? Can we approach those whom we neglected at home and in the community, ask forgiveness from those we hurt, and find the good in people around us? Can we kindly understand why our young teenagers and children rebel? Our children are precious like we are in God's eyes. They need us but we to need to listen to them. St. Pope John Paul II said “Open the doors “ to Christ! Open the doors of Christ to the young ones for they are the future - our future!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Tears of God

In the past week leading to the memory of the passions of Christ, many people suffered and died. In countries of the Middle East there have been ongoing wars between Sunni and Shiite armies that claimed the lives of many victims that continued to fall at the hands of radical Islamist forces including the recently martyred 21 Egyptian Christians and many more Christian martyrs in Syria and Iraq who could not flee the threat of ISIS but insisted to keep the Christian faith. Last week I was informed by SK Rami Kaai (in charge of Food for Syria at Jesus the King Knights of Columbus Council) that there was a memorial Mass celebrated in Homs Syria for the Jesuit martyr Fr. Frans van der Logt who, in spite of his long services to Muslims and Christians, was killed brutally by ISIS. In the same past week, a Germanwings plane crashed over France killing all 150 passengers in what investigators found the cause to be a deliberate act of suicide by a desperate co-pilot. Over all these victims much tears flowed from families, relatives, and friends who felt the loss of lives dear to them. How important it is to remember each departed person by name. Every human person derives his dignity from God who creates all and loves all.

One particular departure that we felt this week was that of Tony Tinawi who was hospitalized in Toronto, suffered complications to his health, and before his death last Tuesday received the sacrament of the sick administered by Fr. Michel Chalhoub. Fr. Youhanna Hanna too had remembered him in his prayers before the Crucified. My wife and I knew Tony here and dined with him, his wife Amira and a number of friends a few months ago. Amira and Tony, together with their two sons, have been attending Mass regularly at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in Toronto. I knew Amira, a doctor from Egypt, and her two brothers Sherif and Nagui Wassef, partners and owners of the Wassef Design Group. since the 1970s in Cairo. My mother and their mother of blessed memory were friends. This past Friday we saw Amira, her twin sons, her brother Nagui and his wife at Highland funeral home. A crowd of relatives and friends gathered to pay respect to Tony and pray for him and the family. Many friends sent their condolences, and the family in Egypt offered a Mass for Tony on Saturday as the one here on the same dayat Jesus the King Church. On Friday too, members of the Homsy choir chanted as Fr. Michel said the prayers with emotions ascending to God. I talked to Amira and remembered together her mom and mine who sacrificed a lot for their children. My memory shifted also to the day when my dad of blessed memory passed away in Heliopolis, Egypt on the 14th of this same month in 1971. He was probably of the same age as Tony was when he passed away. My dad suffered peritonitis and my mother chocked in tears as she was besides his bed in hospital. My twin and I were almost of the same age as Tony's twin children are today. It is my opinion that as
God allows the departure of fathers and/or mothers, his blessings and presence are felt more intensely in those of the remaining family. God never forsakes anyone.

And where was God when tears flowed over all the victims lost on this earth? Following the Gregorian calendar in the Western hemisphere, this Saturday March 28 is the day the Melkite Catholic Church an other Churches in Canada celebrate the "Raising of Lazarus" by Jesus Christ.  It is written [When Jesus saw (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" ] (John 11: 33-36). The full event of raising Lazarus from the dead can be read here. Here we find the answer to the question: where was God when tears flowed over all the victims lost here? Our God Jesus Christ wept with those who wept and today too God suffers and weeps with all those who suffer and weep. The tears of God bring the resurrection of Man! If we believe that Christ is God then the tears of Christ are the tears of God!
 
[Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.] (Revelation 22: 1-5).

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)







Websites

See Links to Websites Below