by Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon
If I may quote an old statement by Pascal, in order to clarify it, I will distinguish that humans belong to three categories: the people of the world, the intellectual people [intelligentsia], and the people of love.
I understand that the people of the world savour their worldliness, this world's attractive belongings, and delicious goodies are tempting, and its pride is enjoyable. This world is their focal attraction and charm, but in the end, it becomes a mere distraction. This world reshapes a material face and substitutes the humane identity with mere belongings—through imbalance between what one really is and what he possesses—and forgetting, that the days may turn around, and we may loose what we possessed. Then we will simply disappear, after the disappearance of the joys we owned. The loss of belongings may seem to us an 'extinction', since our 'inward' soul was formed and shaped through the material 'outward'.
Money, in its abundance, is the rampart of power—in which case, if it led to arrogance—will consequently, lead to the destruction of others. Destruction begins through physical and ideological cancellation. The people of the world do not need 'others' to acknowledge their existence. Their own existence is the sole consequence of their own power, in a way that—the loss of their money—will trigger their own destruction. This fear [of loosing power] explains their greediness, their tyranny, and their suicide in some cases, for he who knows that his existence springs from a different fountain [other than his power] will never kill himself.
On the other hand, the intellectual people are no better, than those who proudly boast with their money, are. They felt [intellectual people] that the knowledge is an extensive existence—because they have put the world in their brain! Then, on a second stage, they possessed the world. They became the world. The pleasure of the book and art, through all its varieties, makes them feel they are constantly invading the unknown and realising themselves: This is why they believed they could change the world. Especially poets, dream about this change [of the world]. Who reads the poems? The educated—and the duties of the educated are a meaningless task—in my opinion. The intellectual people have the same nature of the people of the world. Yes, the intellectual people may have keenness, enthusiasm and openness — and all this may look like a footstep for a possible vision — but the vision, if not descended from above, will become a passion.
The people of love are the highest, unchallenged, beyond any measure. They have [the people of love] not only separated themselves from the world—but also despise much of what this world has to offer—without boasting against others. The people of love yield away education, for they have attained that which is inexplicable. But this does not mean that some of those loving people are not the most educated in their surrounding, and that they may be rich and intellectual—but the money, power and education is not their depth—because they have attained another depth: an irreproachable depth.
These are three ranks, the highest of which you will never reach through your own means. You can never ascend from money and power to erudition. The power, will never become knowledge, and the power-of-intellect will never become sanctity.
He, who yearns for the purity of heart, does not recall his family's genealogy —all this is dead for him—he doesn't pay any importance to his belonging to a noble house, even if he truly was. These 'houses' are all clay for him. He does not see his existence in those who became his relatives, and does not boast by those who he befriends. He doesn't even count himself a part of his family — because he did not emerge from this reality — in his eyes he is but nothing.
He, who felt himself weak, will need help. But he, who did not see himself existing, will not need any support. I am not setting up individuality against the lineage [in the tribal context], because individualism preaches that the individual is the whole and cancels the community. But he, who loves, does not see himself a separate member: he sees himself solely existing in his beloved. He only sets forth him who he loves. He comes. He is always in a state of 'coming'. And if he receives love back, he feels the grace: he, who grace descends upon, is never an 'owner'. The blessings transparently pass through him. The Grace returns back to its Donor, and the inspirer remains bare-naked. He fears his nakedness on Judgement Day. He does not understand how his God will reward him—since he never been anything: God only receives the poor.
But him, who will stand in front of his Creator with his hands-full, what shall he receive? And him, who stood in the Divine presence and felt his great intellect, what shall he understand up there? Maybe, poverty is our last resort up to Him.
This pretty, who will beautify her in front of the Creator? Who will bestow upon her the garment of splendour if she attained the doorstep, aware of her beauty? If all our righteousness were like the "filthy rags" as Isaiah said [Isa 64:6], what would then our beauty look like—except ugliness— in God's eyes?
Knowing that the Baal—the god of power—has died after the manifestation of the God of Righteousness, and that Ashtarout—the goddess of beauty—died among the Bedouins of Merriam. Every power had vanished and every sensation was evaporated: all idols fell down.
I knew that the goddess Artmiss was transformed to a wooden-stick when confronted by Apollon, and I thought that this goddess remained with a perpetual beauty. Until I learned at last, through a tableau by Tiepolo, that this same goddess of beauty did itself extinct, and that we are the victims of illusions. Illusions of our world, of pleasures, of what we've read, and of what we've inspired from the culture of today and also perhaps, of what we have inspired from all the cultures—until we may be freed—by putting-on the nakedness of Christ.
I don't think, if you were rich and illiterate, that you need to be educated in order to escape the foolishness of this world. Education is a power but is not a salvation. I fear upon you, from the power of education, and from your boasting against the simple [poor in spirit]. I do not despise the books, and I want both the ignorant and educated to study it, because the books may be used as a tool for service. Also, I do not despise the money, because you can transform it to a mean for consolation. The power itself may be handed to the saints and may become their way of benevolence. My call to you, is to realise that money and power are mere nothing if measured against the humble and righteous knowledge; my plea to you is to realise that all the heritage of this world is mere nothing in comparison with the residing love in the hearts.
I am not calling the beautiful to shave her hair and to extract her teeth to become ugly, as did a beautiful French girl when she felt that the great writer Leon Bloy started been attracted to her! As well, I am not calling the inhabitants of the palaces to desert their homes. For repentance is not from the beauty, but from the admiration of beauty, and repentance is not from the possession of money, but from the worship of money. And the fruits that consequently follow this repentance, are chastity, respect, benevolence, and meekness of charity.
I said that the sanctity is a grace. This is faith. Those who were sanctified told us, that it is a decision, a great effort following a life-long awareness and perseverance.
What is striking in our days, is that what was before the persistence: People no more believe in the Word of God; they do not believe that He is just in what He forbade us to do, and in what He called us to. They say, without being ashamed, that what the believers call a sin—is not really a sin! The 'feeble' believer—if such can be called—more and less, adores his sin. In the past he [the believer] use to fall in sin, and damn the devil for his slept… Today he commits a sin and boasts with it! He, no longer asks forgiveness — and if he had a bit of timidity not to justify his disobedience — he will then try to explain it by, what he calls, a 'need in the flesh', or his poor financial situation, or the riches of the table—in general, he speaks of an irresistible seduction. Sin died to become a psychological incident. This should explain this epidemic indifference towards sexual immorality, bribery, and fraud. The great fall is not in the sins—these [sins] always existed and will remain—but the greater plunge is in the denial of the concept of sin. What really threaten sanctity in our days, is not corruption, but the mixing [confusion] between good and evil—between black and white.
I am certain that, what attracts me the most in Christianity is not the theology, but the sanctity. All the books of theology, which were written by the great theologians, were only written because these theologians believed that the orthodoxy of faith is an unsubstantial part of the purity of heart. Similarly, the entire heritage of worship has the sole target of supporting our journey to righteousness. I know that all the Christian effort throughout the generations, through pondering, praying, counselling, and organising—had no other reason than to deify us. The 'obsession' of Christianity is to prove to its members and to the world that God can inhabit—despite all the difficulties—a human heart and transform him to shine with splendour. All the 'charisma' of Christianity, which cannot be expressed by words or tunes, is its ability to transform some faces to Icons. The miracle is that Christianity was able—among a number of people, which I don't know its percentage—was able to extinguish the passions in the character. Was able to restore the sweetness of living, the meekness, the transparency, the self-sacrificing for the others. Was able to initiate the total abolishment of the 'I', the abolishment of the tribal loyalty, and the abolishment of the worldly glory of the rite.
He Who came, and can come everyday and in every part of the world, can prove to you all the glories of your world to be meaningless, can reveal that all the books and arts of the world are dim if compared to the joy of the pure ones.
I do not deny anything of the beauty of this universe, and am strongly attracted to the magnificence of the knowledge. But those who are baptised by tears and who love Jesus the Nazarene in His nakedness, and who have attained His crucifixion through their sincerity and daily meekness. In my eyes they are greater than the light of the sun is, than the tenderness of flowers, than all the sensuality of the mind, and greater than the greatest poems are.
Those whom God, himself carved them by His finger, and planted them in this world of our misery witnesses to Him—are my proof to Him.
Because of them, I have closed all the books.
Published January 09, 1999 in the © An-Nahar, Lebanese news paper (http://www.annahar.com.lb/htd/pdfed2.html)—Translated from Arabic.