Monday, August 24, 2015

Unite Church


God the Father arranged the nuptials for God, His Son, when, in the womb of the Virgin, He united Him to humanity, when He willed that He who is God before all the ages, become Man.

He united the Holy Church to Him, through the mystery of the incarnation.

Now, the bridal chamber of this Bridegroom was the womb of the Virgin Mother. That is why the Psalmist says, "He has set His tabernacle in the sun: and He is as a Bridegroom coming out of His bridal chamber" (Ps. 19: 4 - 6). And it was as a Bridegroom is in fact that He came forth from His bridal chamber, because to unite the Church to Himself, the Incarnate God went forth from the inviolate womb of the Virgin.

Pope Gregory The Great


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rejoicing With Mary






When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary, he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that he wills.

When she hears this, Mary sets out for the hill country. She does not disbelieve God's word; she feels no uncertainty over the message or doubt about the sign. She goes eager in purpose, dutiful in conscience, hastening for joy.

Filled with God, where would she hasten but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, laborious efforts. Quickly, too the blessings of her coming and the Lord's presence are made clear; as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the child leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Mary's voice, but John is the first to be aware of grace. She hears with the ears of the body, but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery. She is aware of Mary's presence, but he is aware of the Lord's; a woman aware of a woman's presence, the forerunner aware of the pledge of our salvation. The women speak of the grace they have received while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons.

The child leaps in the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, but not before her son. Once the son has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for joy, and the spirit of Mary rejoices in her turn. When John leaps for joy Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we know that though Mary's spirit rejoices, she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Her son, who is beyond our understanding, is active in his mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Lord. Elizabeth says: Blessed are you because you have believed.

You also are blessed because you have heard and believed.  A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the word of God and acknowledges his works.

Let Mary's soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God, if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary's soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her savior. In another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.

St Ambrose of Milan 


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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mother of GOD


Mary carried Fire in her hands,
and embraced Flame with her arms.
To the Flame she gave her breasts to suck,
to the Nourisher of all she gave of her milk.

St. Ephrem The Syrian

St. Ephram the Syrian



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Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Blessed Virgin's Place in The Church





By St. Augustine

Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her – did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power. and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Mary heard God’s word and kept it, and so she is blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent – the most eminent – member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine – our head is God.

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church”, I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Power of Psalms


The book of Psalms heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul. Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates immorality

St. Basil the Great

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The Psalms provide a powerful arsenal for spiritual warfare. Chanting the Psalms brings comfort to our spirits and tranquility to our minds. The Psalms are a great cure for anxiety and depression. They possess profound philosophical wisdom, and they reveal the riches of theological truth. The Psalms bring healing to the Christian and agony to the devil. This is why the Psalms pervade our Orthodox worship. So, chant the Psalms boldly and often!

The Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the other books of Scripture have. It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt. It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases. It heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illness and preserves the health of the soul. Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates profligacy

Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God? Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day. It is safety for babes, beauty for the young, comfort for the aged, adornment for women. Every Psalm is the voice of the Church

St. Basil the Great


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Loving Father






Just as a father who loves his children makes his sons dine with him but when he sees they are conducting themselves carelessly with regard to their lessons and distracting themselves with unprofitable matters, expels them from his table and orders his servants not to give them any food, in order to teach them not to be scornful and careless. So does our good Master and God dispose Himself for the sake of those who are His servant and by virtue of His grace and love for mankind, His sons. 

He gives them Himself, "the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:33), and they are nourished continually to satiety from Him and with Him, and through participation are transformed into life everlasting and are sanctified in body and soul. But when they neglect the commandments and by free exercise of their will, conduct themselves scornfully or slothful, and busy themselves with some worldly affair, inclining thus toward what is unsuitable and not proper to piety, then the Nourisher of all deprives them of Himself. 

When they have come to an awareness of that good of which they have been deprived, have turned around immediately, sought it out continually, and not having found it, beat their breasts, weep and mourn for themselves, lay on themselves every kind of suffering, long for every sort of distress, trial and dishonor, in order that their loving Father might see their sorrows, their voluntary woe, and taking pity on them, turn about and give Himself to them once again. Which indeed He does. 

So they are restored to their former condition and glory, with yet greater assurance and the same delight in the good things "which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived." (1Cor 2:9) They revere their Father more than before, and tremble before Him as Master, lest through inattentiveness they be implicated in the same evils as before and so be cast away from Him. 

St. Symeon The New Theologian 


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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Christ is Head to One Body





Since St Paul feels that he is obligated to fulfil the "Mystery of Christ" through the grace, enduring all difficulties for them, it is befitting that they realize the divine call by which they were called.

The servant should not be the only one who works, but every member has to play his role, or in other words, has to keep his church membership through hard work. The focus of that work is to abide in fervent love, which grants the unity of the spirit through the harmony of all the members as one body to the One Head.

Fr Tadros Yacoub Malaty
 



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Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Sending of the Holy Spirit


When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning. If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.

Irenaeus of Lyons


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Today I Rise With Him






Yesterday I was crucified with Him; 
Today I am glorified with Him; 

Yesterday I died with Him; 
Today I am quickened with Him; 

Yesterday I was buried with Him; 
Today I rise with Him. 


But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. 

Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honor our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died. 

St. Gregory the Theologian



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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How To Benefit Spiritually From Pascha Week






By - H.H. Pope Shenouda III


How do we enjoy the most spiritual week of the year?

1. Our behavior inside and outside church:

It is very noticeable that many people during Passion Week act very differently inside church than they do outside church. Inside church… black curtains, sad hymns, solemn readings, and complete concentration on the suffering of Christ. However, outside of church, we often laugh, joke around, socialize, think and talk about many worldly issues. We lose all the spiritual depth that we gained inside church. Let us concentrate our thoughts, conversations, and meditations around the events of this Holy Week and the passion of our Savior.

2. Retreat:

During our regular fasting days, we put the words of the Bible before us, "Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly". (Joel 1: 14) How much more then should we apply this commandment during Holy Week? This week should be characterized by solitude and retreat with God by staying away from idle discussions, various means of entertainment and pleasures. Reserve your time for God and to spiritual activities worthy of this week.

3. Follow the steps of Christ:

Meditate on the events of the week one by one, from Palm Sunday when Christ refused His worldly kingdom and the Jews gave up their hopes in Him, until they crucified and buried Him. On Palm Sunday, ask yourself: Is Christ King and Lord over everything in my life? Do I, like Christ, turn down worldly glory for spiritual and eternal glory? And during the "general funeral" afterwards, consider yourself attending your own funeral (because during this week the church will not hold funeral services). Also, when the church denounces Judas' betrayal with a kiss on the eve of Wednesday's Pascha, ask yourself in prayer, "How often, O Lord, have I betrayed You?" "How many times have I told You words of love in prayers, while my actions show the opposite and my heart is far away from You?"

4. Share in the fellowship of His suffering:

St. Paul said "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death". (Philippians 3:10)  Can we give ourselves an exercise this week to share in the fellowship of His suffering and be conformed to His death? Can we follow Him in His suffering and ascend with Him to the cross? Can we say with St. Paul "With Christ I have been crucified; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, in order for Christ to live in us, we have to carry our cross and follow Him. If you have a cross in your life, don't complain about it, but rather rejoice in it and bear it for Christ’s sake. "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His sake". (Phil. 1:29)

5. Asceticism:

Whoever puts the suffering of Christ before Him will not take any pleasure in eating, drinking or pampering the body. But in order to succeed in pursuing asceticism, we must satisfy our souls with spiritual food so that it may thrive and overcome physical hunger.

6. Spiritual readings:

Spiritual readings are also food for the soul. The church has organized for us a treasure of appropriate readings for every day of Holy Week. This consists of Gospel readings, Old Testament prophecies that correspond to the events of each day, spiritual explanations and sermons of the church fathers and on Holy Saturday (Apocalypse night) the church reads the entire book of Revelation.

7. Hymns:

The hymns of Passion Week are moving and full of spiritual depth. Also, Hymns, like reading, preserve thoughts from wandering and guides them in a spiritual direction.

8. Prayer:

Since the prayers of the Agpeya are not used during Holy Week, we are to substitute personal prayers in their place. This is in addition to the intensive prayers of the church asking the Lord, who bore the sins of the world and died for us, to forgive and have mercy upon us according to His great mercy.


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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Man Born Blind






The word of God is a spring of light. The light therefore fills, and the light shines, and illumines the senses of the faithful. For from Him and in Him shines, and those who partake of Him shine. And He does not only enlighten the minds of the faithful, but grants the name of light. For the divine Scripture, for those who dwell with the ignorant and who live in disbelief, rightly calls them darkness, not receiving the lamp of truth, that they might be sons of light. Therefore, the divine Apostle Paul writes: "We were not sons of the night, nor of the darkness, but sons of the light and day." And regarding the sons of light was the evangelical word spoken from the mouth of God: "I am," as Christ said, "the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

His word is light, that if any of us might believe in him, that they might be made to be born as a son of light. Therefore the Savior said: "As long as you have the light, believe in the light, that you be born sons of the light." For as this sensible light is for the body, thus noetically is the word of God for souls. And as there is the darkness at night, thus is there delusion in ignorant souls. Because of this, the blessed David writes of this, saying: "They did not know, nor did they perceive that they were walking in darkness..."

It is right therefore for good students to imitate the teacher, as Paul says: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." Do you wish to learn how the simple student can benefit from the zeal of piety? Hearken to how Christ healed the man born blind. Likely you have heard this story from the beginning. Among other things, the evangelical word says: "As Jesus was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him..." "And he spat, and made clay, and anointed his eyes and told him: 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.' And having washed, he began to see. The Judeans recognized him and said: 'Was not this the man who was sitting blind and receiving alms?' Some said yes, others said no, but he is like him. He said: 'It is me.'"

The Pharisees therefore and the rulers of the Judeans, beholding that this wonder was drawing many to Christ, overcome with the zeal of impiety, and struck by the sting of the truth, asked him how long he was blind. And behold this evil theater that has gathered to try piety, and the evil judges who judge, and the great gathering that has gathered, to look into and study God. They called him who was once blind, and when the children of the Judeans saw him in the council, they asked him: "How did you see, and who opened your eyes, and who accomplished it?" This they said not that they might learn, but that the form of the question might give way to fear. For many times, by the form of the question, the teacher who is asking [seeks] an answer, or silence. But he told them that he might bear witness to the reality. "Did you see this deed? Were you there? How did you see the reality?" The form of this teaches denial. Therefore they asked: "How did you see? Who opened your eyes?" But he, having cultivated fearlessness, or more so the truth, said: "A man named Jesus took clay and anointed my eyes and told me: 'Go, wash at Siloam.' And I went and washed, and I began to see..."

Because they could not deny the miracle, they hastened to cover it, saying: "Give glory to God. We know that that man is a sinner." The Son is the glory of the Father, and His glory is inseparable. And he fought the good fight against the Judeans to defend Christ ...

Though they spoke with him till now, they then commanded that he be cast out. And they cast him out, as the Evangelist said. Blessed is he who hastens from the council of evil men. And behold what happened. Because he fought the good fight, and gave glory to God, and confessed the Savior gloriously with much boldness, and completed the battle in the stadium, being cast out as a wrestler, without receiving the crown, the Referee called to him outside. Jesus, hearing therefore that they cast him out, found him and spoke to him. The Word found him who spoke of Him, whom He delivered from delusion, and found the Truth...

For when He sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash, He sent him blind. And when he began to see, he did not see the Savior among the multitude that had gathered around him, but immediately, before he saw the Master, he was called to struggle in the contest. For the Master put clay on his eyes before this, that the following might be fulfilled. For when they cast him out, Christ found him and said to him: "Do you believe in the Son of God?" For he did not see him as a prophet and struggle, but as the Son of God. He did not recognize His face, but he recognized His voice. "Do you believe," He said, "in the Son of God?"

He hearkened to the voice, and with joy he said: "And who is He, O Lord, that I might believe in Him?" Why did He ask "Do you believe" of him? "Do you believe in the Son of God?" I see that Your word is truth. However, if you give me the knowledge, I will not neglect to believe You. "And who is He, O Lord, that I might believe in Him?" And the Foreseer was before him. And he looked upon Him, Who spoke to you previously. He Who was with you within the council, and outside speaks with you. "Do you believe in the Son of God?" He who was enlightened in body and in mind said: "And who is He, O Lord, that I might believe in Him?" He replied to him: "You have seen Him, and it is He Who is speaking to you." He, therefore, said: "I believe, O Lord," And he worshiped Him.

I said these things, that all of you might learn, and that I might call all to fall before the teacher, and to imitate the Good Shepherd, and to struggle on behalf of the Truth...

Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's homily: "On zeal and piety, and on the man born blind"



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Monday, March 2, 2015

Sober and Pray


The devil approaches the God-man with temptations. Who among men is free of them?

He who goes according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but is simply turned more and more toward evil. As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God’s will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter good thoughts and the intentions of the repentant one in any way they can.

If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labors of cleansing the heart.

If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on until the end of one’s life. They do not even let one die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where they hover and congregate.

You ask, “What should we do? It is hopeless and terrifying!”

For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because near a God-fearing man demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over him. A sober man of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away from him, not daring to approach, and fearing the defeat which they have already experienced.

If they succeed in something, it is due to our blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly.

If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow.

So be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.

St. Theophan the Recluse


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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jonah The Prophet






The history of Jonah contains a great mystery. For it seems that the fish signifies Time, ‎which never stands still, but is always going on, and consumes the things which are made by long ‎and shorter intervals.

But Jonah, who fled from the presence of God, is himself the first man who, having ‎transgressed the law, fled from being seen naked of immortality, having lost through sin his ‎confidence in the Deity.
 

The ship in which he embarked, and which was tempest-tossed, is this brief and hard life ‎in the present time. Just as though we had turned and removed from that blessed and secure life, ‎to that which was most tempestuous and unstable, as from solid land to a ship. For what a ship is ‎to the land, that our present life is to eternal life.
 

The storm and the tempests which beat against us are the temptations of this life, ‎which in the world, as in a tempestuous sea, do not permit us to have a fair voyage free from ‎pain, in a calm sea, and one which is free from evils. ‎



The casting of Jonah from the ship into the sea, signifies the fall of the first man from ‎life to death, who received that sentence because, through having sinned, he fell from ‎righteousness: “You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
 

His being swallowed by the whale signifies our inevitable removal by time. For the belly ‎in which Jonah, when he was swallowed, was concealed, is the all-receiving earth, which ‎receives all things which are consumed by time.
 

As Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the fish and was delivered up ‎sound again, all of us who have passed through the three stages of our present life on earth—the ‎beginning, middle, and end— rise again. For our present time consists of three intervals: the past, ‎the future, and the present. Thus, the Lord spent three days in the earth as a symbol to teach us ‎clearly that our resurrection shall take place after these intervals of time have been fulfilled. Our ‎resurrection shall be the beginning of the future age and the end of this. In that age, there is ‎neither past nor future, but only the present.
 

Moreover, Jonah having spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, was ‎not destroyed by his flesh being dissolved, as is the case with that natural decomposition which ‎takes place in the belly, in the case of those meats which enter into it, on account of the greater ‎heat in the liquids, that it might be shown that these bodies of ours may remain undestroyed. For ‎consider that God had images of Himself made as of gold, that is of a purer spiritual substance, ‎as the angels; and others of clay or brass, as ourselves. He united the soul which was made in ‎the image of God to that which was earthy. As, then, we must here honor all the images of a king, ‎on account of the form which is in them, so also it is incredible that we who are the images of God ‎should be altogether destroyed as being without honor. Whence also the Word descended into ‎our world, and was incarnate of our body, in order that, having fashioned it to a more divine ‎image, He might raise it incorrupt, although it had been dissolved by time. And, indeed, when we ‎trace out the dispensation which was figuratively set forth by the prophet, we shall find the whole ‎discourse visibly extending to this.‎

St. Methodius

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Changed Water in Jars Symbolize Changed Nature in Womb


You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.
Psalms 77: 14 - 16

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
John 2: 11

Ⲕⲁⲛⲁ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ ϯⲄⲁⲗⲓⲗⲉⲁ̀


Why then did our Lord change the nature [of water] in the first of his signs? Was it not to show that the divinity, which had changed nature in the depths of the jars, was that same [divinity] that had changed nature in the womb of the Virgin? At the completion of his signs he opened the tomb to show that the greed of death had no hold over him. He sealed and confirmed these two uncertainties, that of his birth and of his death. For these waters, with regard to their nature, were transformed into the [fruit of the] vine, but without the stone jars [themselves] undergoing change in their nature inwardly. This was a symbol of his body, which was wondrously conceived in a woman, and, without a man, miraculously formed within the Virgin.

He made wine from water, therefore, in order to give proof concerning how his conception and his birth took place. He summoned "six water jars" as witness to the unique virgin who had given birth to him. The water jars conceived in a novel way, not in keeping with their custom, and gave birth to wine. But they did not continue to give birth. Similarly the Virgin conceived and gave birth to Emmanuel, and she did not give birth again. The giving birth by the jars was from smallness to greatness and from paucity to abundance; from water indeed to good wine. In her case, however, it was from greatness to weakness and from glory to ignominy. Those jars were for the purification of the Jews, but our Lord poured his teaching into them, so that he might make it known that he was coming through the path of the Law and the Prophets to transform all things by his teaching, just as he had [transformed] water into wine.

St. Ephrem the Syrian (306-373) 


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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas Reflection







St. Ephrem the Syrian writes, “The Lord of David and Son of David hid His glory in swaddling clothes. His swaddling clothes gave a robe of glory to human beings.” This week we celebrate this most incredible event where God becomes man and yet is still God. He came in a most humble way delivered in a stable and wrapped in simple clothing. Yet as Saint Ephrem says, this simple beginning gave to all mankind robe of glory. What is this robe of glory?

In today's world it is hard to focus on the true meaning of this mystical event with all the parties and the mad gift giving, the coming of Santa Clause and the unending football games on TV. We are distracted even more now by our cell phones, iPads and instant movies. We no longer complain about not having a television but not having one that is big enough. How do we make this event relevant this week?

When we think of this robe of glory that He gave us we must first think back to His nature and the way He was brought into the world. He came in humility and left this world in humility. His robe was not made of golden threads. His birth and subsequent life had noting to do with material well being. He lived with a pure heart, one that glorified God, one that shone for all to see.

We must begin our reflection on this day with total humility. We must admit our weaknesses, our ways that deviate from what He taught and demonstrated to us. We must acknowledge our pride and our desire to hide our dirty inner clothing with fancy outer clothing. We must admit that we do not have this robe of glory that He brought for all humankind. We must make ourselves feel His humility.

With this reflection we must also remember the unending and limitless love He has for all His children. Acknowledging His love for us we can be joyful that we are held in His loving and merciful arms. We can be joyful that we are so important to God and in our knowledge that He will do anything to guide us towards His perfection.  He holds for us a robe of glory.

Let us rejoice in this glory that awaits us. Let us recognize Jesus for Who He really is, God Incarnate. Let's lay aside all our doubts about God and His Church. Let us for a short moment try on that robe of glory. Let us experience His peace and love of all humankind.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

A Prayer of Praise to Virgin Mary





A Prayer of Praise to Virgin Mary

O pure and immaculate and likewise blessed Virgin,
who art the sinless Mother of thy Son,
the mighty Lord of the universe,
thou who art inviolate and altogether holy,
the hope of the hopeless and sinful,
we sing thy praises.

We bless thee, as full of every grace,
thou who didst bear the God-Man:
we all bow low before thee;
we invoke thee and implore thine aid.
Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin,
from every necessity that presses upon us
and from all the temptations of the devil.

Be our intercessor and advocate
at the hour of death and judgement;
deliver us from the fire that is not extinguished
and from the outer darkness;
make us worthy of the glory of thy Son,
O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother.

Thou indeed art our only hope,
most sure and sacred in God's sight,
to whom be honor and glory,
majesty and dominion,
for ever and ever,
world without end.
Amen.

St Ephrem the Syrian 



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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Truth In Words




For what profit is it to know the truth in words, 
and to pollute the flesh and perform the works of evil? 
Or what profit can purity of the flesh bring, if truth be not in the soul? 

 St. Irenaeus 



Now, since man is a living being compounded of soul and flesh, he must needs to exist by both of these: and whereas from both of them offenses come, purity of the flesh is the restraining abstinence from all shameful things and all unrighteous deeds, and purity of the soul is the keeping faith towards God entire, neither adding thereto nor diminishing therefrom.
For godliness is obscured and dulled by the soiling and the staining of the flesh, and is broken and polluted and no more entire, if falsehood enter into the soul: but it will keep itself in its beauty and its measure, when truth is constant in the soul and purity in the flesh. For what profit is it to know the truth in words, and to pollute the flesh and perform the works of evil? Or what profit can purity of the flesh bring, if truth be not in the soul? For these rejoice with one another, and are united and allied to bring man face to face with God.

Wherefore the Holy Spirit says by David: Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly: that is, the counsel of the nations which know not God: for those are ungodly who worship not the God that truly is. And therefore the Word says to Moses: I am He that is; but they that worship not the God that is, these are the ungodly. And hath not stood in the way of sinners: but sinners are those who have the knowledge of God and keep not His commandments; that is, disdainful scorners. And hath not sat in the seat of the pestilential: now the pestilential are those who by wicked and perverse doctrines corrupt not themselves only, but others also. For the seat is a symbol of teaching.

Such then are all heretics: they sit in the seats of the pestilential, and those are corrupted who receive the venom of their doctrine. Now, that we may not suffer ought of this kind, we must need to hold the rule of the faith without deviation, and do the commandments of God, believing in God and fearing Him as Lord and loving Him as Father. 


St. Irenaeus    



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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Martyrdom of Saint Mercurius





Great-martyr Mercurius (224 – 250) was a Christian saint and martyr. Born Philopateer in the city of Rome, his original name means "lover of the Father". Saint Mercurius is also known by the name Abu-Seifein, which in Arabic means, "the holder of two swords", referring to a second sword given to him by Archangel Michael.

Family

Philopateer was the son of a Scythian officer in the Roman army. One day his father, Yares, was hunting in the forest with his grandfather, where they were attacked by a wild beast. The animal jumped on the grandfather, causing Yares to faint. While Yares was unconscious, he had a vision. He saw a brilliant light and heard a voice saying: "Yares, I am your God Who loves you. I know that you have a good heart and that you hate the pagan idols. I want to inform you that your son, Philopateer, will become like a tree bearing good fruits, and because of him, I will bless you and your wife. Philopateer will be My witness and will defy all prejudice in My Name." 

Shortly after, Yares, his wife, and his son were baptized, and they were given new names. Yares became Noah, his wife became Saphina, and Philopateer became Mercurius. The news of their baptism spread quickly in the city and the prince ordered them to be arrested and thrown to the wild animals. However, the animals did not harm them, and the prince decided to release Noah and his family. 

When the Berbers attacked Eskentos, Noah went to fight them. He was taken prisoner and was brought to their country, where he was kept for seventeen months. When the war finally ended, he went back to his city and joined his family, but died shortly after. St. Philopateer Mercurius is also said to be the cousin of St. George the Cappadocian.

Military career of Saint Mercurius

After the death of Noah, the pagan Roman Emperor Decius chose Mercurius to replace his father. Described as very strong and highly courageous, he managed to earn the respect of his fellow soldiers. When the Berbers attacked Rome, Decius went out to fight them, but when he saw how many they were, he became afraid. Mercurius then came to him and told him, "Do not be afraid, because God will destroy our enemies and will bring us victory."

After several days of fighting, the Archangel Michael appeared to Mercurius holding a shining sword. He said:

"Mercurius, servant of Jesus Christ, don't be afraid. Take this sword from my hand and fight the Berbers with it. Don't forget your God when you come back victoriously. I am Michael the Archangel, whom God sent to inform you that you should suffer for the Lord's name. I shall be with you and support you until you complete your testimony. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you".

The saint took the sword from the archangel, hence the name Abu-Seifein - "the holder of two swords", a military sword and a divine sword. He conquered the Berbers, feeling the assurance of divine strength. When Decius heard the news about the triumphant victory, he appointed Mercurius prince.

Martyrdom of Saint Mercurius

Nonetheless, in 249, Decius began his persecution of Christians, compelling everyone to offer sacrifices to his pagan gods. The Archangel Michael appeared to Mercurius and told him to remember God and not be fearful of the persecution. The saint was encouraged and spent the whole night praying fervently, and confessing his weakness to God.

The next morning, the Emperor sent some messengers to summon Mercurius to the palace, but he excused himself, saying that he was tired. The day after, the Emperor sent for Mercurius again. He told him: "Dear Mercurius, let us go offer incense to the gods who helped us attain victory in the war." Mercurius did not say anything, but as they were leaving he slipped through the crowd and went away. However, one of the guards reported his absence, and the Emperor called Mercurius and asked him, "Is it true that you refused to worship the idols who helped us during the war?"

Mercurius answered with courage:

"Your Majesty, the victory was not due to dumb idols made by human hands. It was accomplished by the grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who sent His archangel to give me a sword and strengthened me. I cannot deny my God and worship statues."

The Emperor was infuriated, and tried to persuade him to no avail. Mercurius' faith was unshaken. He stripped him of his ranks and ordered him to be thrown in jail.

That did not stop the saint from praying and singing hymns in prison. During the night, Michael the Archangel appeared to him and told him: "Do not be afraid of the tortures. Confess your faith in Jesus publicly because He is the only One able to save you".

The next morning, Decius' soldiers hung the saint between two poles so that they could hit him with sharp nails. They tried also to cut his body with sharp blades and burn it, but Mercurius endured all these tortures in silence. Back in jail, the archangel appeared and touched Mercurius' body. He was instantly healed. When the king saw that the saint was in perfect health, he attributed it to witchcraft. Mercurius told him that it was Jesus who is the true healer of the soul and the body.

Fearing a revolt because the people loved him, the emperor had him bound in iron fetters, and sent him to Caesarea.

After Decius tried many different tortures without success, he decided to have him beheaded. Mercurius lifted up his arms and prayed fervently, asking the Lord to accept him in paradise. Then, suddenly, he saw Jesus Christ in a glorified vision, surrounded by many angels, saying:

"My chosen son, Mercurius, come to your eternal rest with the saints. Your prayers have risen up to Me like the aroma of good-smelling incense. Miracles will be performed in any church bearing your name. And I will save those who ask Me through your intercession. Whoever writes or reads the story of your life will have their names written in the Book of Life".

Then, after he was blessed, Mercurius was so happy that he ran to his executioners, begging them to carry out the king's orders immediately. Then he knelt down and said, "Lord, do not count this sin against them." Mercurius was beheaded on 4 December 250 (by Coptic calender 25 Hator). He was only 25 years old.

Other Traditions

After the end of the first persecution, the place of the saint's burial was revealed. Mercurius appeared to a poor man in the city, and told him that he was Mercurius, the Martyr of the Lord. "My body is buried in Cappadocia Gardens, under the old house on the way to the royal palace. My body looks as white as snow, because Jesus was present at the time of my martyrdom," said the saint.

The next morning, the man went to dig under the old house. He began to smell the scent of perfume, seeing the body of the saint. The news spread quickly and many people came to take a look at the blessed body. They moved it to the local church until they built a new church bearing his name, and Mercurius' body was buried there with respect and devotion.

A few years later, the Catholicos of Armenia, the Chief bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church, visited Egypt and met with the Patriarch of Alexandria, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The latter asked him if Egypt could have part of the relics of Saint Mercurius to be placed in the church that bears his name in Cairo:

On the 9th of Baona (June 16) part of the blessed body was offered to Egypt.

According to one tradition, Saint Basil was imprisoned in 363 by his old school-mate, the Emperor Julian the Apostate, upon the beginning of Julian's Sassanid campaign. Basil prayed to Saint Mercurius to help him, and the saint appeared in vision to Basil, claiming to have speared Julian to death.



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Monday, November 17, 2014

Church Peace Prayer






The most repeated prayer in our Liturgy is the litany for the Church's peace, in which we say, 'Remember, O Lord, the peace of Your One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church. Preserve Her in peace.' It is a prayer that we pray from the depths of our hearts. Not just as part of the liturgy, but as living and burning feelings.

H.H. Pope Shenouda III




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Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Martyrdom of Saint Luke the Evangelist


On this day, St. Luke the Evangelist and physician, was martyred. He was one of the 70 disciples mentioned in the tenth chapter of his gospel. He accompanied the Apostles Peter and Paul and wrote their account.

After the martyrdom of these two Apostles, he went through Rome preaching. Those who worshipped idols and the Jews in Rome agreed among themselves and went to Nero the Emperor accusing St. Luke of attracting many men to his teaching with his sorcery. Nero commanded that St. Luke be brought before him. When St. Luke knew that, he gave all the books he had to a fisherman and told him, "Take these and keep them for they will be useful to you and will show you God's way."

When St. Luke came before Nero the Emperor, the Emperor asked him, "How long will you lead the people astray?" St. Luke replied, "I am not a magician, but I am an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God." The Emperor commanded his men to cut off his right hand saying, "Cut off this hand which wrote the books." The saint replied to him, "We do not fear death, nor the departure from this world, and to realize the power of my Master." He took up his severed hand and made it reattach to its proper place, then he separated it. Those who were present marvelled and the head of the Emperor's cabinet and his wife believed as well as many others and it was said that they numbered 276. The Emperor wrote their decree and ordered that their heads be cut off together with that of the Apostle St. Luke; thus their martyrdom was completed.

They placed the body of the saint in a hair sack and cast it in the sea. By God's will, the waves of the sea brought it to an island. A believer found it, took it and buried it with great honor. This saint wrote the Gospel bearing his name and the "Acts of the Apostles" addressing his words to his disciple Theophilus who was a gentile.

His blessings be upon us and Glory be to our God, forever. Amen.

Coptic Orthodox Synaxarium


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