Saturday, July 26, 2014

True Spiritual Warmth & Illusions





The true beginning of prayer is warmth of the heart, which scorches the passions and fills the soul with joy and gladness, strengthening the heart with an unshakable love and a firm assurance that leaves no room for doubt.

The Fathers say that whatever enters the soul, whether visible or invisible, is not from God so long as the heart is in doubt about it and so does not accept it: in such cases, it is something that comes from the enemy. 

In the same way if you see your mind attracted by some invisible force to wander outside or soar high do not trust it and do not allow the mind to be enticed by it; but immediately force you mind to continue with its proper work. Whatever is of God comes by itself, says St. Isaac, whilst you are ignorant even of the time of its coming.

Thus the enemy tries to produce an illusion of some spiritual experience within us, offering us a mirage instead of the real thing-unruly burning instead of true spiritual warmth, and instead of joy, irrational excitement and physical pleasure which in turn gives rise to pride and conceit and he even succeeds in concealing himself from the inexperienced behind such seduction, so they think his diabolic illusion is really the working of grace.
        
Yet time, experience, and feeling will reveal him to those who are not altogether ignorant of his evil wiles. ‘The palate discriminates between different foods,’ says the Scriptures. In the same way spiritual taste shows all things as they are, without any illusion.
        
St. Gregory of Sinai    


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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Apostles Feast - HH Pope Shenouda III






But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; 
and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, 
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. 
Acts 1:8



The Church celebrates the memory of the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul on the 5th of Abib, which is the 12th of July. This feast is called in our Church by the name of "the Feast of the Apostles." Its date is unchanged in every year.
The Church venerates these two apostles very profoundly; and raises them and honors them exceedingly; especially in the prayer of the partition" or "the division" which pertains to the fast of the apostles and to the feast of the apostles, which we pray during the holy mass.

These two saints represent two distinguished kinds as regards the personality, the mission, and the style. Each one of them has distinct characteristics.

THE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE

Peter was among the first whom the Lord had chosen to work with Him.  (Matthew 10) 

And Paul was not among the twelve, and not even among the seventy apostles, but the Lord chose him lastly, after the resurrection and years after the choice of Matthias......

He did not follow Christ during His predication on earth. He rather said about that: "Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
(1 Cor. 15: 8 -9)

And although he was the last in his call, yet he "labored more abundantly than they all." (1 Cor. 15:10)  That shows that it is not a matter of precedence, but according to the amount of weariness from exertion for God.

A person may not be the most ancient among the workers in ministry, and nevertheless he may be the strongest of all the workers.
John the Baptist was not the first prophet in the Old Testament, but he was the last of them in their chronological order. Nevertheless it was said that "among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist." (Matt. 11:11) 

The apostle Peter was a married man. It was mentioned in the Gospel that Christ healed his step-mother from fever. (Matt. 8: 14-15)  In his journeys for the predication, he wandered accompanied by his wife as a sister. (1 Cor. 9:5) 

But the apostle Paul was a virgin. (1 Cor. 7:7). He called for the preference of virginity. "But each one has his own gift from God", "as the Lord has called each one...... Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called" (1 Cor. 7: 7,17,20). That proves that the Lord calls everybody to His service, whether they are married like Peter, or virgins like Paul.

Peter began his life with the Lord Christ with love, confidence, and faith. But on the contrary:
Paul began by enmity, as a persecutor of the Church and of everyone who followed Christ, so that the Lord, when He met him on the road to Damascus, began his conversation with him by reprimanding him saying: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4) Saint Peter was a simple man, a fisherman (Matt. 4:18). He was ignorant and was not instructed into culture or science. He is one of whom "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise" (1 Cor. 27). It was said of him, of him and saint John, "that they were uneducated and untrained men." (Acts 4:13) But saint Paul was one of the learned of his age, who was educated at the University of Tarsus, and brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3)  He was well-known for his culture and for reading many books. (Acts 26:24) 

That shows us that the Lord equally employs everybody for His kingdom, the learned and the simple. The important thing for them is to be useful utensils for the work of His grace

The Church Rite: The Lakan

Lakan is a Syrian word means basin, and it is the pot of marble or stone placed in the third Khurs of the church where the priests pray on the water to make it a force for healing and Beatification ...

The Mass of Lakan has been Instituted to remember the baptism of Jesus and to exercise of the virtue of humility as bending to wash the feet of His disciples in the holy Thursday as well as to practice the meaning of service.

The mass of the Lakan is prayed three times per year: Epiphany – The Holy Thursday – The Feast of Apostles

H.H. Pope Shenouda III 

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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist





On this day, the church celebrates the nativity of St. John the Baptist. He whom none born of women was greater. He who kneeled to the Lord Christ while he was still in his mother's womb, and was worthy to lay his hand upon the head of the Son of God during Baptism. The Holy Bible said about him: "Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. Now so it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. And his mother answered and said, 'No; he shall be called John.' But they said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.' So they made signs to his father; what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, 'His name is John.' And they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. He prophesied about his son, saying. 'you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.'" (Luke 1:57-76)

When he was two years old, the wise men (Magi) came, Herod killed the children, some divulged about this child and the soldiers searched for him to kill him. Zechariah took the child and brought him to the sanctuary, laid him on the altar and told the soldiers, "I have received him from this place". The angel of the Lord caught up the child and brought him to the desert of Ziphana, so the soldiers became enraged and they killed his father Zechariah. For this reason the Lord had said to the Jews: "That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar." (Matthew 23:35) So the child John grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts more than twenty years living an angelic life, till the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1:80)

And John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4) He lived in the wilderness persevering in prayers and asceticism, until the Lord ordered him, to fulfill the prophesies, to preach to the people about the coming of the Savior of the World. For he was sent from God, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (John 1:6-8)

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being high priests, the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; and the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' " (Luke 3:1-6)

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:1-2)

Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)

While the people were waiting, and thinking in their hearts about John if he was the Christ, John answered, saying to them all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire." (Luke 3:16-17)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17) (Luke 3:20-22)

Then John's disciples came to him and said, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified; behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!" John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:26-36)

But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10) (Luke 3:7-9)

When Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, against all the Laws, St. John the Baptist came to him. He admonished him for his transgression and all the evil things that he was doing. So Herod ordered, according to the instigation of Herodias the adulterer, to seize John, chain him and imprison him in the fortress called Macronda.

John remained in this jail for a year, without Herod being able to slay him. His disciples visited their teacher, frequently and courageously, in prison. As he did not neglect his duties toward them, proving to them that Jesus was the expected Christ. When the news of the wonders that our Savior did noised everywhere, John wanted his disciples to be eye witnesses to the wonders of Christ, to be confirmed in their faith in him.

While he was in prison, John sent two of his disciples to Christ, who said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." (Matthew 11:2-6)

As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.' Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying: 'We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; we mourned to you, And you did not lament.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children." (Matthew 11:7-19)

The Lord Christ, to Whom is the Glory, also said about John the Baptist: "He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light." (John 5:35)

Herodias desired to get rid of John the Baptist, so she executed her scheme during the celebration of Herod's birthday.

When Herod's birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, "Give me John the Baptist's head here on a platter." And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him at the table, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart. (Matthew 14:2-13) The joy of the people celebrating Herod's birthday turned into sorrow. As of the head, it flew up from their hands and was crying out saying: "It is not right for you to take your brother's wife." The martyrdom of St. John took place at the end of the thirty-first or at the beginning of the thirty-second year of the Christ. The life of this Saint was like that of the angels in purity. He was filled with the Holy Spirit while he was in his mother's womb, and was martyred for his witnessing to the truth.

May his prayers be with us and Glory be to God forever. Amen.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

6 - HUMILITY IN Daily Life





If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:
for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen,
how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

 And this commandment have we from him,
That he who loveth God love his brother also.

1 John 4:20-21


What a solemn thought, that our love to God will be measured by our everyday fellowship with men and the love it displays; and that our love to God will be found to be a delusion, except its truth is proved in standing the test of daily life with our fellowmen. It is even so with our humility. It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real; that humility has taken up its abode in us; and become our very nature; that we actually, like Christ, have made ourselves "of no reputation" (Phil. 2:7). When in the presence of God lowliness of heart has become, not a posture we pray to Him, but the very spirit of our life, it will manifest itself in all our bearing towards our brethren.

The lesson is one of deep importance. The only humility that is really ours is not that which we try to show before God in prayer, but that which we carry with us, and carry out, in our ordinary conduct. The insignificances of daily life are the importances and the tests of eternity, because they prove what really is the spirit that possesses us. It is in our most unguarded moments that we really show and see what we are. To know the humble man, to know how the humble man behaves, you must follow him in the common course of daily life.

Humility before God is proved humility before men


Is not this what Jesus taught? It was when the disciples disputed who should be greatest; when He saw how the Pharisees loved the chief place at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues; when He had given them the example of washing their feet, that He taught His lessons of humility. Humility before God is nothing if not proved in humility before men.

It is even so in the teaching of Paul. To the Romans He writes: "In honor preferring one another" (Rom 12:10); "Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to those that are lowly".  "Be not wise in your own conceit."  To the Corinthians: "Love," and there is no love without humility as its root, "vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, seeks not its own, is not provoked." (1Cor. 13:4-5) To the Galatians: "Through love be servants one of another" (Gal. 5:13), "Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." To the Ephesians, immediately after the three wonderful chapters on the heavenly life: "Therefore…walk… with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love" (Eph. 4:1-2); and "Giving thanks always…submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ." (Eph. 5:20-21). To the Philippians: "Doing nothing through faction or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind, each counting other better than himself" (Phil. 2:3). Have the mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and humbled Himself." And to the Colossians: "Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, even as the Lord forgave you." (Col. 3:12-13)


 





It is in our relationship to one another, in our treatment of one another, that the true lowliness of mind and the humility of heart are to be seen. Our humility before God has no value, but as it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow-men. Let us study humility in daily life in the light of these words.

The humble man seeks at all times to act up to the rule, "In honor preferring one another; Serve one of another; esteem others better than oneself;  submit yourselves one to another." It is often asked, how we can we count others better than ourselves, when we see that they are far below us in wisdom and in holiness, in natural gifts, or in grace received? The question proves at once how little we understand what real lowliness of mind. True humility comes when, in the light of God, we have seen ourselves to be nothing, have consented to part with and cast away self, to let God be all. The soul that has done this, and can say, "I have I lost myself in finding You," no longer compares itself with others. It has given up forever every thought of self in God's presence. It meets its fellowman as one who is nothing, and seeks nothing for itself. It is a soul that serves God, and for His sake a serves all. A faithful servant may be wiser than the master, and yet retain the true spirit and posture of the servant.

The humble man looks on every child of God as the son of a king

The humble man looks upon every child of God, even the feeblest and unworthiest, and honors him and prefers him in honor as the son of a King. The spirit of Him who washed the disciples' feet, makes it a joy to us to be indeed the least, to be servants one of another.

The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised and himself forgotten, because in God's presence he has learnt to say with Paul, "I am nothing." (2 Cor. 12:11). He has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and sought not His own honor, as the spirit of his life.

Amid what are considered the temptations to impatience and touchiness, to hard thoughts and sharp words, which come from the failings and sins of fellow Christians, the humble man carries the often repeated injunction in his heart, and shows it in his life, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you." (Col. 3:13).  He has learnt that in putting on the Lord Jesus he has put on the heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and long-suffering. Jesus has taken the place of self, and it is not an impossibility to forgive as Jesus forgave. His humility does not consist merely in thoughts or words of self-depreciation, but as Paul puts it, in "a heart of humility," encompassed by compassion and kindness, meekness and long-suffering, the sweet and lowly gentleness recognized as the mark of the Lamb of God.

In striving after the higher experiences of the Christian life, the believer is often in danger of aiming at and rejoicing in what one might be called the more human virtues. Such verities are boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice, even the old Stoics taught and practised these. Meanwhile, the deeper and gentler, the diviner and more heavenly graces are scarcely thought of or valued. These verities are those that Jesus first taught upon earth (because He brought them from heaven) those which are more distinctly connected with His cross and the death of self, poverty of spirit, meekness, humility, lowliness. Therefore, let us put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering Let us prove our Christlikeness, not only in our zeal for saving the lost, but in our conduct with all our fellowmen, bearing  with and forgiving one another, even as the Lord forgave us. (Col. 3:12-13)

Fellow Christians, let us study the Biblical portrait of the humble man.  And let us ask our brethren, and ask the world, whether they recognize in us the likeness to the original. Let us be content with nothing less than taking each of these Scripture verses as the promise of what God will work in us. Let us take them as the revelation in words of what the Spirit of Jesus will give as a birth within us.  And let each failure and shortcoming simply urge us to turn humbly and meekly to the meek and lowly Lamb of God. Have full assurance that where He is enthroned in the heart, His humility and gentleness will be one of the streams of living water that flow from within us.

“I knew Jesus, and He was very precious to my soul: but I found something in me that would not keep sweet and patient and kind. I did what I could to keep it down, but it was there. I besought Jesus to do something for me, and when I gave Him my will, He came to my heart, and took out all that would not be sweet, all that would not be kind, all that would not be patient, and then He shut the door.”
George Foxe

Once again I repeat what I have said before. I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility, the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power. It has not been long since a Christian, of a humble, loving spirit, acquainted with many mission stations of various societies, expressed his deep sorrow that in some cases the spirit of love and forbearance was sadly lacking. Men and women,  brought close together with others of uncongenial minds, find it hard to bear, and to love, and to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3)  And those who should have been fellow-helpers of each other's joy, became a hindrance and a weariness. And all for the one reason, the lack of humility which counts itself nothing, which rejoices in becoming and being counted the least, and only seeks, like Jesus, to be the servant, the helper and comforter of others, even the lowest and unworthiest.

And what is the reason that men who have joyfully given up themselves up for Christ find it so hard to give themselves up for their brethren? Is the church not to blame? It has so little taught its members that the humility of Christ is the first of the virtues, the best of all the graces and powers of the Spirit. The church not preached humility as needed and possible not placed it first as Christ did. But let us not be discouraged. Let the discovery of the lack of this grace stir us to larger expectation from God. Let us look upon every brother who tries or vexes us, as God's means of grace, God's instrument for our purification, for our exercise of the humility that Jesus, our Life, breathes within us. And let us have such faith in the all of God, and the nothing of self, so that we may, in God's power, only seek to serve one another in love.
Humility - Andrew Murray

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Departure of St. Abraam - Bishop of El-Fayyoum





Anba Abraam, Bishop of El-fayyoum and El-Giza, departed in the year 1630 A.M. (June 10, 1914 A.D) His name was Paul (Boulos), was born in 1545 A.M. (1829 A.D) in the Estate of "Gilda", district of Mallawi, governate of Miniah, to righteous parents. They brought him up in a Christian manner. They sent him to the church school, where he learned religious subjects and church hymns. As he was a very bright student, Anba Yousab, the Bishop of Sunabbo ordained him a deacon for the church of Gilda. His heart longed for the monastic life, so he went to El-Muharrak monastery where he was ordained a monk by the name of Paul Gabriel El-Muharraki. He was nineteen years old.

He was meek, humble, had a pure life, and he prayed much in seclusion. Accordingly, the monks loved him exceedingly. When Anba Yakoubos, bishop of El-Meniah, heard of him, he summoned him. He retained him in the episcopate for a period of time during which he promoted him to a priest. When he returned to his monastery, the monks with a consensus decided to make him the abbot over the monastery after the death of their Abbot. He was then promoted to archpriest (hegumen) in the days of Abba Demitrius the second (111th Patriarch).  He remained Abbot of the monastery for five years, during which the monastery was the refuge for thousands of the poor. So he was called the father of the poor and the destitute.

During his time as abbot, he did not spare an effort to improve the condition of the monastery spiritually and physically. He improved its finances by developing its agricultural land. As he increased his charity toward the poor, the orphans and the widows, some of the monks became more resentful of him, for they considered these charitable works as squandering and extravagant acts. They complained against him to Anba Morcos, Metropolitan of El-Behira, who was the acting Patriarch after the death of Pope Demitrius. Anba Morcos accepted their complaints and deposed him as the abbot of their monastery. Shortly after his dismissal, he left El-Muharrak monastery and went to the monastery of El-Baramous. Several monks from the El-Muharrak monastery went to the monastery of El-Baramous, with archpriest Bolous (Abba Abraam), because they did not like the attitudes of the complaining monks. He stayed there for some time studying the Bible and teaching the monks.

The abbot of the monastery of El-Baramous at that time was archpriest Youhanna the Scribe, who became later on. In the year 1597 A.M. (1881 A.D.), Pope Kyrillos the Fifth chose and ordained him a bishop for the parish of El-Fayyoum and El-Giza. He replaced its reposed bishop, Anba Eisak, and was ordained with the name of Abba Abraam.

During his episcopate, he became famous for two attributes:

The First: His charity to the multitude of poor that came to the bishopric residence. He gave them all what he had of money. He made the bishopric residence a shelter for many of them. He offered clothing for those who had no clothes and food for those who were hungry. He never allowed anyone to offer him food that was better than that offered to the poor. Once he went down to visit the poor while they were eating, and found that the food he was offered that day was better than that offered to them. He became very sad, and immediately relieved the nun supervising the feeding service of the poor from her duties.

The Second: He was famous for his prayer of faith. Many miracles were performed, through his prayers, on his hands. His fame was spread to all parts of Egypt and also to some parts of Europe. Many patients, of different religions, came to him, seeking the blessing of his prayers and were healed. Anba Abraam was well read of the holy books. He always gave to his visitors advice, instructions and sermons which showed the great depth of his knowledge. More important was that he possessed a pure nature and many virtues. Particularly, his severe denial of himself, and his true renouncement of the pleasures of life and its vain glory. His food and clothing were just bare necessities. His ambition never looked up to the glory of higher ranks or positions. When the Patriarch wanted to promote him to the rank of metropolitan he apologized saying that the Holy Bible did not mention any ranks in the priesthood except the ranks of the priest and the bishop.

He was also straightforward in revealing his own opinion, looking only for the truth. He never gave any attention to the rank and greatness of people in higher places, for their greatness was far less than the greatness of the truth. For this reason, all the metropolitans and bishops of the church avoided his anger and sought to please him.

Abba Abraam departed to the heavenly bless on the 3rd day of Baouna, 1630 A.M. (June 10, 1914 A.D.)

More than ten thousand Christian and Moslems walked in his funeral precession. His pure body was laid in the tomb, which was prepared for him in the monastery of the Virgin Mary in El-Ezab. Many miracles were manifested through him after his departure, and his tomb became and still is a pilgrimage for many who have special needs or infirmities.

May his prayers be with us and Glory be to God forever. Amen.


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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost - St. Ephraim The Syrian






“Now the Prophets performed all other signs; but on no occasion supplied the deficiency of members. But the deficiency of the body was reserved, that it should be supplied through our Lord; that souls might perceive that it is through Him that every deficiency must be supplied. It is meet, then, that the prudent should perceive that He Who supplies the deficiencies of the creatures, is Master of the formative power of the Creator.

But when He was upon earth, our Lord gave to the deaf and dumb, the power of hearing and of speaking tongues which they had not learned; that after He had ascended, men might understand that He gave to His disciples the power of speaking in every tongue.”

St. Ephraim the Syrian



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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ascension





Ascension By St. Cyril


For heaven was then utterly inaccessible to mortal man, and no flesh as yet had ever trodden that pure and all-holy realm of the angels; but Christ was the first Who consecrated for us the means of access to Himself, and granted to flesh a way of entrance into heaven; presenting Himself as an offering to God the Father, as it were the first fruits of them that are asleep and are lying in the tomb, and the first of mankind that ever appeared in heaven.

Therefore also it was that the angels in heaven, knowing nothing of the august and stupendous mystery of the Incarnation, were astonished in wonder at His coming, and exclaim almost in perplexity at the strange and unusual event: Who is this that cometh from Edom? that is, from the earth. But the Spirit did not leave the host above uninstructed in the marvelous wisdom of God the Father, but bade them rather open the heavenly gates in honor to the King and Master of all, proclaiming: Lift up the gates, O ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.

Therefore our Lord Jesus the Christ consecrated for us a new and living way, as Paul says; not having entered into a holy place made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us. For it is not that He may present Himself before the presence of God the Father that Christ has ascended up on high: for He ever was and is and will be continually in the Father, in the sight of Him Who begat Him, for He it is in Whom the Father ever takes delight: but now He Who of old was the Word with no part or lot in human nature, has ascended in human form that He may appear in heaven in a strange and unwonted manner. And this He has done on our account and for our sakes, in order that He, though found as a man, may still in His absolute power as Son, while yet in human form, obey the command: Sit Thou on My right hand, and so may transfer the glory of adoption through Himself to all the race.

For in that He has appeared in human form He is still one of us as He sits at the right hand of God the Father, even though He is far above all creation; and He is also Consubstantial with His Father, in that He has come forth from Him as truly God of God and Light of Light. He has presented Himself therefore as Man to the Father on our behalf, that so He may restore us, who had been removed from the Father's presence by the ancient transgression, again as it were to behold the Father's face. He sits there in His position as Son, that so also we through Him may be called sons and children of God.
St. Cyril 


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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Commemoration of Consecration of The Church of St. Demiana





On this day, the church commemorates the consecration of the church of the virgin St. Demiana. This pure and fighting virgin was the daughter of Mark, who was the governor of El-Borollus, El-Zaafran and the valley of Saisaban. She was the only child of her parents. When she was one year old, her father took her to the church that was in the monastery of El-Maima. He offered gifts there so that God might bless this daughter and keep her safe Him.

When she was fifteen years old, her father wanted to get her married. She refused and told him that she had vowed herself a bride for the Lord Christ. When she found that her father was pleased of her decision, she asked him to build her an isolated palace, so that she could worship God with her virgin friends, and right away he did what she asked. He built the palace where she and the forty virgins lived in. They spent their time by reading the Holy Bible and praying fervently to God.

Shortly after, Emperor Diocletian sent for Mark her father and ordered him to worship the idols, but he refused at first. However, after some persuasion, Mark obeyed him and worshipped the idols, forsaking the creator of the universe.

When Mark returned, and St. Demiana knew of what her father had done, she rushed to meet him without a greeting saying: "What have I heard about you? I wished I have Heard the news of your death, and not knowing that you have forsaken God who have created you and worshipped what is made by hands. If you insist on what you have done and you do not relent by denouncing the idols, you are not my father, and I am not your daughter." She also said to him: "It is better for you, O my father, that you die a martyr and live with Christ in heaven forever, than you live as a pagan here and die with the devil in hades forever." Then she left him. Her father was moved by what she said and wept bitterly. He went in hurry to Diocletian and confessed the Lord Christ before him. When Diocletian could not change his mind, he ordered him to be beheaded.

When Diocletian knew that the one who turned Mark away from worshipping the idols was his daughter Demiana, he sent to her a prince to persuade her at first, and if she did not obey, he would cut off her head. The Prince came to her with an entourage of one hundred soldiers armed with all instruments of torture. When he arrived to her palace, he went to her and said: "I am an envoy sent by Emperor Diocletian. I came to ask you, according to his orders, to worship his gods, so he might grant you whatsoever you wish." St. Demiana shouted at the prince saying: "Curse the messenger and he who sent him. Are you not ashamed to call stones and wood gods that only dwelt by devils? There is no other God in heaven or on earth except the one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Creator, Who has no beginning and no end, the Omnipresent, and the Omniscient God, who will throw you in hell for eternal condemnation. As for me, I worship my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Good Father and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. I profess Him, depend on Him, and in His name I die and by Him I will live forever." The Prince became angry of what she said, and ordered her to be placed in the body press. Her blood poured out on the ground, and the virgins were standing, weeping for her. Then they put her in prison, where the angel of the Lord appeared to her and touched her body with his celestial wings and healed her from all her wounds.

The Prince was creative in the ways he tortured St. Demiana, sometimes by rending her flesh, or placing her in boiling grease and oil. In all that, the Lord strengthened her and raised her up whole. When the Prince saw that his efforts were of no avail and the steadfastness of this pure virgin, he ordered her to be beheaded with all the virgins with her. They all received the crowns of martyrdom. (The account of her martyrdom is mentioned in the 13th day of Tubah)

The Prince returned to Antioch, the city of the Emperor. The faithful came and gathered the bodies of the martyrs and kept them until the end of the days of persecution and the reign of the righteous Emperor the Christ-loving Constantine the great. He ordered to destroy the idol temples and built many churches after the names of the martyrs. He gathered the bodies of the martyrs in every place and placed them in the churches. He endowed the churches with the necessary income to maintain them.

When Constantine knew of all what had happened to St. Demiana, and how she endured for a long time in the valley of El-Saisaban, he delegated his blessed mother St. Helena to take burial clothing, go to El-Zaafran, and build a church in the name of St. Demiana and the forty virgins, there.

St. Helena came to the valley, went up to the palace, and found that the bodies were unharmed. She found St. Demiana in the place where she used to sit and around her the forty virgins. She kissed the body, taking the blessing of the Saint and wrapped the bodies with expensive shrouds. She gathered the craftsmen and architects, tore down the palace, and built instead a well built tomb (Cellar) underground. She laid the body of St. Demiana on an ivory bed, and covered her with a precious bedspread and laid the forty virgins around her in it. Then she built a small and beautiful church which had one dome on the top of it. The church was consecrated by Pope Alexandros, the nineteenth Patriarch of Alexandria, on the 12th. of Bashans. He also ordained a saintly bishop, priests, and deacons to serve in the church day and night in prayers.

The bishop of this area, El-Zaafran and El-Borollus, was martyred and his body was placed in this church among the bodies of other martyrs. Abba Yoannis, Bishop of El Borullus, said in his book, The History of the Church: "The church was destroyed in the 8th. century by one of the Arab rulers, who built in its place a palace for his residence."

At this time, the water of the Mediterranean sea flooded the Delta of the Nile river until it reached the city of Samannoud to the western side of the church that called "Zion" by the old citadel. This flooding was caused by the deterioration of the barrier, which held back the sea water. When the news reached the king Hassan Ibn Atahia, he was saddened because this district brought the government much money because it was rich in its highly priced aromatic plants. One of his close aids, who was a Jew, told the king to bring the Patriarch of the Copts and order him to pray in faith to return everything to where they were before the flood.

God assisted this Patriarch through the help of one of the holy men who was known as El-Toffahi in this trying time. The Patriarch prayed in the church at Samannoud in the presence of the king. Then the Patriarch went out of the church raising the Cross. The people were saying Lord have mercy and the holy man, El-Toffahi, behind him. Instantly, the water receded to the north before them. The Patriarch, behind him El-Toffahi, the priests, the people, and the king continued to walk until they arrived to El-Zaafran where they erected tents for the king beside the destroyed palace, under which the body of St. Demiana along with the bodies of the forty martyrs were kept. The Patriarch prayed and knelt to the ground with all the people with him. At this moment, a great miracle and sign occurred that amazed everyone. A great wind blew in the sea and the waves became very high, which caused great quantities of sand to form a great barrier with the power of God almighty which was stronger than the original one. Then the winds calmed down.

The Patriarch returned to the king, who received him with honor and told him: "O Patriarch, ask from me, something to do for you." The Patriarch replied: "I need your assistance in building a church in this place because it contains the bodies of Saints who were martyred, for they refused to worship idols. The king ordered that the place be cleaned. The Patriarch opened the door of the cellar, went down, and found the forty bodies of the martyrs around the bed of St. Demiana. The king ordered at once to build a church with one dome, which was consecrated by the Patriarch on the 12th day of Bashans.

The news of this church spread in all the country and the people came with their offerings to it. The church was consecrated for the first time during the reign of Constantine and the second time was on this day.

The king ordered that no one disturb the Copts, so it was a peaceful and tranquil time in all Egypt. The king returned to his palace in Misr (Cairo) and always asked the Patriarch to visit him periodically. He came to visit the king with great honor till his departure.

The king of Egypt at that time was Hassan Ibn Atahia, who was just, loved the churches, and treated the bishops and the monks with great respect. He loved Pope Khail the first, the forty-sixth Patriarch of Alexandria (743 - 767 A.D.), and came often to visit him. He discussed the affairs of the country with him.

May the prayers of St. Demiana be with us. Amen.

 
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Monday, May 12, 2014

16 - BE RELEASED FROM THE DESIRE TO BE TEACHERS - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III






16 -  BE RELEASED FROM THE DESIRE TO BE TEACHERS         
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III

The following is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written by HH Pope Shenouda III for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 before starting his monastic life.  

These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well.. 

It was his first published book and it gained the approval of many and was reprinted many times.

16 -  BE RELEASED FROM THE DESIRE TO BE TEACHERS     

The desire to be a teacher involves a great danger.. So, avoid it, my beloved brother, and fly from it as far as you can.

You want to teach people.. Well, what things do you want to teach them?

Do you not agree with me, my dear brother, that we are not yet mature enough nor have complete knowledge of all things? There are certain things which we consider from one point of view only and so we misunderstand them. For example when we interfere to teach others religion, we do not teach it to them in its true concept but as we understand it in our age and in our particular level of spirituality and mentality.. But as we grow older and perhaps our spirituality and mentality develop and our understanding of religion differs.. what then would be the state of those who learnt from us in the beginning?

For this and other reasons as well, St. James the Apostle says, ".. let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement. For we all stumble in many things." (James 3:1-2)

Jeremiah the Prophet also says to God, "Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth" (Jer. 1:6). And Isaiah the Prophet speaking about himself says, ".. I am a man of unclean lips." (Is. 6:5)  We have St. Bachomius as another example.. when people used to come to him seeking a word of benefit, he refused to speak but introduced to them his disciple Tadros. And the Spirit of God spoke on the mouth of that holy disciple..

Another old father when one of the young monks came to learn something from him, he said to him, 'Stay in your cell and it will teach you everything'. And the young monk returned to his cell benefiting from those words..

There are many other stories which I leave to you to read by yourself and take the benefit which God gives you through them. Here, before moving to another point I want to remark that many of the teachings of the holy fathers have reached us by one of two means: Either one of the monks wrote down the words of the old father during his talks with other brother monks, or the father himself recorded his meditations for his own benefit and they were found in his cell after his passing away and people benefited from them.

My beloved brother, there is a very great difference between the ministry of teaching which the Holy Bible entrusted to certain persons and the love of being teachers..

The last is of great danger.. It sometimes becomes a disguised devil.. The love of teaching is often accompanied by a hidden or apparent feeling of personal worthiness and of superiority to others.. When such a person who loves to teach is given more chances to teach, this feeling grows within him. He even enters the church not with purpose to have benefit but to criticise and teach even the teachers. He never feels need to take but he always gives.. There will be a time when such a person finds nothing to give, for what he has will dry up...

Unlike this person were the fathers who used to learn continually and benefit from everything..

· St. Anthony the great monk was able to benefit from the words of a woman who was not ashamed to take off her clothes to bathe before a monk..

· St. Macarius also, the father of the desert of Shihit learned a lesson from a young boy.

· St. Arsanius who studied the wisdom of the Greeks and Romans learnt also from an illiterate Egyptian..

All those fathers had souls which flew like an active bee to gather nectar from every flower!
Another danger behind the love of teaching is to become so involved in teaching and you forget yourself. I remember this in regard to a Zealous person who used to read the Holy Bible not with purpose to get benefit but in order to prepare a lesson..

When he gave alms, this was not out of love for the poor but to be as a model to people.. He used to be cautious in his actions not being convinced with doing so but in order not to offend others.. Even when he sat with some people, he did not learn something from them but his only concern was to examine what they said as a master and then wisely explain the proper situation.. He once said that when he stood to pray and it happened that God's Spirit worked within him giving him a certain feeling, or a certain meditation, he did not hesitate to stop his prayer and sit down to record such things to teach them to people.. Hence the means of grace have lost their objective in the life of such a person and teaching became everything to him.

Another word I want to whisper in your ear, is beloved to my heart, ie. What do you want to teach people? Is it religion? Do you think that religion is mere knowledge which one may fill the mind with? I fear most, my dear striver, that this way of teaching religion will turn it into a subject to be studied and people examine it like any branch of learning.. In fact, religion is spirit and life as you certainly know..

The Zealous person then asked me, 'But I am a teacher in the church, what can I do then? 'I answered him, "I wish you to be alive in spirit, my dear brother. I'll tell you the truth, you do not in fact teach those souls entrusted to you but you love them.. Such souls which you see surrounding you are attracted not by your teaching but by love.. the 'love' which never fails because it is God's.

 The Release of The Spirit
 By H.H. Pope Shenouda III



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Friday, May 2, 2014

Praise The Lord







 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!

Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150:1-6  (NKJV)
 

 
Let us praise him on the psaltery and on the harp, supposing that on the harp we may embrace the wood of the cross and on the psaltery we may maintain the universal confession. 

The sound is harsh because the confession is not held in unity. Let us praise on timbrel and with dance, when we, firmly set upon a restored way of life, adorn the timbrel of our body with the models of best behavior. 

Let us praise him on stringed instruments and on the organ as we play the fresh strings that are on our harp. Let us also, as with the narrow needs of modesty make melodious sounds to God, cleansing ourselves from all the blight of sin.

Arnobius the Younger 


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Monday, April 21, 2014

The Glorious Resurrection




 

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.

So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,

and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

John 20: 1-10




Hidden first in a womb of flesh, He sanctified human birth by His own birth. Hidden afterward in the womb of the earth, he gave life to the dead by His resurrection. Suffering, pain and sighs have now fled away. For who has known the mind of God, or who has been His counselor if not the word made flesh who was nailed to the cross, who rose from the dead and who was taken up into heaven?

This day brings a message of joy: it is the day of the Lord's resurrection when, with Himself, he raised up the race of Adam. Born for the sake of human beings, He rose from the dead with them. On this day paradise is opened by the risen one, Adam is restored to life and Eve is consoled.

On this day the divine call is heard, the kingdom is prepared, we are saved and Christ is adored. On this day, when he had trampled death under foot, made the tyrant a prisoner and despoiled the underworld, Christ ascended into heaven as a king in victory, as a ruler in glory, as an invincible charioteer.

He said to the Father, "Here am I, O God, with the children you have given me." And he heard the Father's reply, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." To Him be glory, now and for ever, through endless ages. Amen

Hesychius of Jerusalem 


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Judas Iscariot





Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.
So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, 
how he might betray Him to them.
And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.
So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.

Luke 22:3-6




What was this many-headed serpent's invention? it says, "He entered Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve."

Why did he not rather enter blessed Peter, James, John, or some other of the rest of the apostles? Why Judas Iscariot? What did Satan find in him? Satan could not approach any of those we have mentioned here, because their heart was steadfast and their love to Christ immovable.

There was a place for satan in the traitor. The bitter disease of greed, which the blessed Paul says is the root of all evil, had overpowered him. Satan is crafty in working evil. Whenever he gains possession of anyone's soul, he does not attack him by means of general vice. He rather searches for that particular passion that has power over him and by its means makes him his prey.

St. Cyril of Alexandria


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