In more than one discourse between Michael Neaimi and myself in Baskinta [Hometown of the late Lebanese poet and philosopher Michael Neaimi, in Mount Lebanon], we discussed the subject of the human being. I used to visit him Sunday morning after the Divine Liturgy, where God was the center of the congregation. Neaimi wanted to listen to what my chanter had to chant for him. Despite his submergence in this Byzantine atmosphere, which he adored very much and used to be himself a chanter in his youth, we wondered together concerning this mysterious and unique being that is called human.
He used to see him (the human) in this universe with some relation to the stars or coming after the stars. I felt that he was melting him in this immense world but I rather to see the universe inside the man. He used to see man in time but I rather to read: "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman." As if St. Paul — the author of this quote — did not see any existence of time outside its being poured in Christ and he (St. Paul) felt that everything old terminated to Jesus of Nazareth and that everything new is coming forth from the Nazarene.
I use to say to our great poet and philosopher: "Mr. Michael — I do not care for the planets neither do I care for galaxies. All these (galaxies) do not find a definition (or a meaning) outside this little and small human being, which is (the human) more magnificent and greater than the expansion of universe." I didn't say to him: "Christ is the perfect man" — since I knew that he wasn't far from acknowledging this truth.
I wanted to acquire Christ God — a targeted distance to ascend from the man to the Master of man. I also knew that we ascend to God through Christ and that this entire movement is centered in a point between man, Christ and God. That everything else outside this truth is mere entertainment with concern to the earth and zodiac - even the fact of just discussing it (zodiac) or talking about times is banal - which will never advance us in any 'bit knowledge' of the final truth.
In my belief: "what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world" including galaxies and revolving times, if this man did not understand what is going on in his heart, if he did not know how to deliver his heart from his sins. In a recently published book for the French journalist Jean Daniel, titled "With Time" this writer noticed that the main concern of the Fathers of the Church is the problem of evil. In my turn, I noticed after him, that this problem (of evil) did not really exist for the philosophers of the universe, starting from the century of the old Greeks until our present day.
For Socrates evil was ignorance, for us evil is sin. For the people of 'universality' in the Indian movements and what derives from them, they teach that the effort is to be calm in front of evil — to be delivered through knowledge by understanding the laws of nature — through mental and ascetic exercises which will free you from pain. They think that you can master inner peace if you followed certain techniques and practices until you fit in and melt in the universe.
We Christians do not believe in this, we believe that the Divine generosity, which we call Grace, once descended upon you, will transform you into a Divine being; and you are saved through this Divinity which flows freely upon you. The effort is to obey this Grace and to respond to it, and our many ascetic communities are but attempts to preserve this Grace, but asceticism in itself does not initiate (originate) this Grace in you. This Grace descends upon you because God loved you for free and adopted you a son of Him. Your faith in this son-hood will guide you to obedience. Grace and obedience do not need ‘calming’ techniques, do not require times, succeeding lives nor do they require endless reincarnations.
All what led me to write about this, is my standing on the verge of this ‘New Year’, which we will welcome in few days. And my firm belief is that the expansion of this New Year will not bring you anything new that you didn't have or that you didn't expect from the Divine benevolence.
No doubt those contemplating the New Year, both analysts and political commentators, may draw few lines that may foresee the upcoming of the future months. They will predict its outcomes with all the possibilities of error. The unexpected is in the hands of God, and He wants you to be in the emerging event but not to submit yourself to it — be free from the emerging and free from the expected — to inhabit the eternity of God.
What does time bring to you? This is not your obsession. You welcome the upcoming with patience — by accepting its bitterness and sweetness — as something good for yourself. You sweeten the bitter day with the sweetness of your heart. You remain unchanged by its transitory incidents. You enlighten it, by a light it never knew, or you recognize it a symbol on your pathway — as did the star lead the wise men to a Boy in Bethlehem.
You do not walk in blind ages — you walk in God. You are sanctified by the upcoming event through what it is not in it. You pull it to the end of time, the time of the coming Christ, Who is coming to return back and lift up everything to His God Father.
If you, yourself did transfigure, you then pull the universe to the transfiguration upon Christ’s last coming. This universe, in itself, does not have a meaning. It only acquired its definition after humans inhabit it. The universe speaks only in human existence. Man, despite his majesty, was mere a straw blown in the wind before Jesus of Nazareth did explain to him that he is a container for Divinity, and that he is attracted to it and his entire fate is in it.
Did Neaimi remain alive, I would have told him: "All your planets and universe are but nothing, and null is the man in the limits of his blood and flesh. I only applied him in our discourse in order to move you from the sun, moon and stars and limit you in this little and small human being. I wanted you to follow your universe to this man because I was trying to pull you up to Him who is above the man. I did bring this human to you from the churches of Baskinta, where I understood him rising up from among the dead as a consequence of the Resurrection of the Savior — a Resurrection, which will be meaningless if this Christ, was simply rising from earth to heaven. The same Resurrection which you know, and know its main hymn on tone 5, this resurrection was only possible because "He who descended is also the One who ascended" and has no separator between Him and the Father."
All this does not mean that we don’t care for the wound of this world, for the children of Iraq, the amazingly brave children of Palestine, and for purifying Lebanon from corruption. We can be recruited for these tasks, only through the flow of love and capacity, which we learned from the extended arms of Christ, hugging the world.
What will the New Year bring us? If I knew, I would have written the story. This question comes from curiosity — and curiosity is deadly. I know that I am the beloved of Christ and I will partake of Him in the coming year through His love.
It will be folded — they say! Everything will be folded except His mercy. What matters is how to be a receptacle — not to welcome the days but to receive the Divine Visitation — which you will glow through it and distribute, day and night, to your surrounding after that it did glorify you.
The entire century will be folded — we may want to judge what we ourselves did during it. No one will remain in the year and in the century except the saints. All our sins will be melted in His mercy — we will become whatever the Lord wished to. We will not join the universe in its noise and absurdity, because we are greater. For if we are greater than the angels, which control the creation, then no talk can continue concerning galaxies and ages that turn in circles. This continuous circulation is the philosophy of despondency. All these ages that have no end have no meaning. When God arrests an epoch of these succeeding eras full of saints then this epoch acquires its meaning; otherwise it will be as absurd as all the circles of time.
No, 1999 is only coming in appearance. The people are arithmetic and their brains are mathematical. There is no escape from recording the history in numbers. Man rests only to numbers; he only recorded history because he is intelligent. But in all this there is no salvation.
The main cause remains: "how shall I be delivered from my sin?"
The matter may not be how shall all the people be delivered from their sins — this was taught once and for all on the shores of lake Tiberias — the urgent question is how shall I be saved from what I have committed? How shall I be illumined? How shall I ascend to heaven after that the Savior appeared in the manger?
The coming year will be nice if I became nice. Will this year within me, become the Lord’s acceptance year? Or will I waste it after its arrival? Everything will originate from within my heart if God inhabited my heart. I will become the prisoner of my heart, for there is the place of true freedom. I will start from my heart, full of God, to write the Lord in the core of the coming year. Many will celebrate a false feast for the New Year, for they will rejoice in their hopes of this world: for the happiness of their kids, for a desired spouse and for pre-calculated collected money; they will feast for themselves and call this year 'New.'
But those who submitted to God and made a covenant with Him for humility, forgiveness and meekness -will say that they are expecting the Grace to descend upon them. Those will not feast for a year, which they can’t call new, unless the Newness of Life did descend upon them; those reside in hope.
Hope alone is the content of our feasts.
Published December 25, 1998 in the © An-Nahar, Lebanese news paper (http://www.annahar.com.lb/) -- Translated from Arabic