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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Friday, April 11, 2014

Salvation Through the Death of Christ




For Christ suffered all this on our account, that we might be saved. 
And he really suffered, as he really raised himself.

St. Ignatius


Human and Divine

I perceived that you are settled in unshakable faith, nailed, as it were, to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in flesh and spirit.  With firm foundations in love in the blood of Christ, with full conviction, with respect to our Lord that he is genuinely of David's line according to the flesh, son of God according to the divine will and power. 

Really born of a virgin and baptized by John that ‘all righteousness might be fulfilled’ by him. Really nailed up in the flesh for us in the time of Pontius Pilate and the tetrarchy of Herod — from this fruit of the tree, that is from his God-blessed passion, we are derived — that he might ‘raise up a standard’ for all ages through his resurrection, for his saints and faithful people, whether among Jews or Gentiles, in one body of his Church.  

For he suffered all this on our account, that we might be saved. And he really suffered, as he really raised himself. 

Some unbelievers say that he suffered in appearance only. Not so — they themselves are mere apparitions. Their fate will be like their opinions, for they are unsubstantial and phantom-like.

St. Ignatius 
The Early Church Fathers






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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fasting






Do not neglect the Fast; it constitutes an imitation of Christ’s way of life
       
St. Anthony the Great



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Monday, March 31, 2014

A Man Healed at Bethesda




Get up, take up your bed, and walk
John 5: 8 (ESV)


John 5:1-18 (ESV)

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.

In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  

for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.

One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 

And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath.  

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.”  

But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”  

They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”  

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”  

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.  

And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus,because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.  

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:1-18 (ESV)


From The Sayings of The Fathers

The perseverance of this thirty-eight-year paralytic serves as an example to those who give in too easily when their prayers are not immediately answered. Jesus’ question to the man shows Jesus is not like a faith healer who seeks to draw attention to Himself; he wants to heal the man as well as expose the cruelty of those around him. 

His question conveys the fact that He possesses the power at hand to heal him. Despite the immense suffering this person must have gone through, there is no complaint from him; instead there is hope. Jesus heals him with three distinct commands: “Rise,” which confers the cure, “take up your bed,” and “walk,” which shows the completeness of the cure.

He also calls on you to take up your beds, that is, to govern your body, which formerly carried you, and walk in every good work. Or it is as if He is saying: when you were sick, your neighbor carried you; now that you have been healed, carry your neighbor.
St John Chrysostom

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fasting Is A Weapon







Fasting is a weapon the Prophets have used, for Moses, Elijah, David, Ezra and Nehemiah have all fasted. Even the Gentiles fasted, entreating the mercy of God, like the inhabitants of Nineveh who fasted and the Lord did cast His wrath away from them.   

Saint Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI



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Monday, March 24, 2014

The Woman At The Well





The Woman who had come to the well of Samaria as a prostitute returned chaste from the source of Christ. She who had come to look for water brought  back chastity.

As soon as the Lord points her sins out to her she acknowledges them, confesses Christ and announces the Saviour. Abandoning her pitcher she brings not water but grace back to the city.

She seems, indeed, to return without a burden, but she returns full of holiness. She returns full, I say, because she who had come as a sinner goes back as a proclaimer, and she who had left her pitcher behind brought back the fullness of Christ, without the slightest loss to her city.

For even if she did not bring water to the townspeople, still she brought in the source of salvation. Sanctified, then, by faith in Christ, the woman goes back home.  

Maximus of Turin 

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Cross in Christianity







By Fr. Bishoy Kamel
 
The Cross has weak appearance to the uninformed, but to the Christian, it is a weapon to overcome our worldly desires, and threats. With it we defeat Satan. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor 1:18). Our teacher St Paul tells us: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1Cor 1:25)

Let us look at different ways in which the Cross has revealed its power and wisdom:

1. If the Christian faith had spread by the power of weapons or human wisdom it would have been a weak man-made faith. But because it spread with the greatest weapon that is hated by the Jews and Greeks; the weapon that has the appearance of foolishness and weakness, that is the cross.
   
Therefore our faith became Godly and divine, through the power of our Lord and not of humans, as St Paul said: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1Cor 2:1-4)
 
2. The Cross was the strength of the Apostles while they preached:
 
When Jesus sent the disciples to preach He said to them: “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack (food), nor sandals.” (Luke 10:3-4). This is how Christianity spread. Christ asked them not to worry about food, or money or weapons for defence, because the power of the Cross accompanied them and that is more powerful than any worldly weapon.
   
With the Cross they exorcised demons. With the Cross, they turned those who persecuted Christianity, to servants of God and preachers. With the Cross, they loved their enemies, prayed for them and blessed them.
   
Compare that with the amount of money and resources now spent in the Western world to spread different religions, printing books, radio broadcasts, university courses to learn the art of preaching. This reflection helps us realize the divine power that accompanied the disciples during their missionary trips.
 
3. The Cross is a condition to follow Christ:
 
The Lord said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me”. (Luke 9:23). Whoever desires to be Christian, he must endure pain and sacrifice much for the sake of Christ. But he who does not, will receive many earthly delights and rewards.
   
Therefore Christians are Cross-bearers. They chose the narrow way (the only way) to enter the Kingdom of heaven to receive Heavenly rewards. If the Cross was not powerful, then how can people leave their worldly pleasures, desires and ranks and follow Christ?
 
4. The Disciples of Christ were Jews:
 
Most of the Disciples of Christ, as well as St Paul the Apostle, were Jews like Christ. It is well known that Jews reject the Cross. So what attracted the disciples to the Cross? If the Cross was not powerful, then how did the disciples believe in it? How did they preach about it to the Jews and Greeks? “But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” (1Cor 1:23)
 
The apostles preached about the Holy Cross, so they became weak and ignorant in the eyes of people. They had no weapons, they were Jews, they faced so many threats and persecutions. They carried the cross in their lives. They were all martyred, except for St John. Their pure blood became the seed of faith for the rest of the world, through the power of the Lord of the Cross.
 
5. The Church is always in a state of joy:
 
Although the Christian is always carrying his cross, he is always in a state of internal joy that is indescribable. St Paul used to sing and praise God in jail after he was beaten.
 
We cannot forget the story about the governor who asked the Christians to carry Crosses that weighed 5 tones (it was so heavy to the point of bruising, therefore Christians were labeled ‘blue bones’). At night, this governor pried into a Christian house through a hole in the door. He found this specific Christian doing chores whilst carrying the 5 tone Cross on his back. The governor asked him as to why he does that inside his house, where that was not required. The Christian simply answered: “the power and joy that this Cross gives me fills my life, so I do not want it to stop, that is why I continuously carry it.”
 
6. St. John Chrysostom said:
 
The Cross is a powerful weapon
The Cross is a weapon for preaching
The Cross is the basis for following Christ
The church without a Cross, is like a bride without a groom
If you are asked by anyone whether you believe in the Church of the Cross and you say yes. If he then mocks you, you should cry for him, because he still does not know that Christ was crucified for his sake.

Finally …

My brethren, I offer you advice for this era and all times:

The power of our Christianity is closely and deeply tied to our faith and our relationship with the Holy Cross, and its apparition in our lives is a powerful force against the devil, materialism and worldly desires. The Cross is a power that transforms envy to love, revenge to forgiveness and flaunting to simplicity. The Cross then fills you with joy, so we pray with St Paul: “ But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Therefore, the Cross must be clearly seen in the Church, so our church also becomes bearing the Cross of our Lord; the Cross of service and missionary; the Cross of partaking of our Lord’s passions and glory; the Cross of loving EVERYONE and abhorring the world, a cross from which the aroma of love, blessing and peace spreads to the ends of the earth.

May the blessings of the Holy Cross be with us all.  Amen.

  


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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Virtue of Gentleness





Gentleness was one of the most outstanding virtues in the life of H.H. Pope Kyrillos VI.  Fr. Raphael Ava Mina told us this incident that showed his great gentleness. It happened one day that the Patriarchate received a letter that has had words against H.H.  Fr. Raphael was the one who read the letter to H.H. He opened that letter but quickly hid it. 

His Holiness noticed that and asked him: "Why did you hide this letter?"  So Fr. Raphael answered: "Your Holiness, one has a sharp tongue and is also swearing!"  But H.H. insisted on reading the letter.  After he read it, H.H. said to him: "Is that what you call swearing?"  Fr. Raphael was amazed and said: "Of course, your Holiness, all these sharp words!"  But H.H. with all gentleness, said: "Do not worry about it, my son. May be God will look at me and save me!"

The sender of that letter was known to them. One of his relatives passed away and H.H. sent one of the bishops to offer Condolences on behalf of H.H.  It was the custom at that time that whoever receives courtesy from the Pope would come to the Patriarchate and record a few words of thanks in the visitor register.  So this man came and Fr. Raphael asked him if he would like to meet the Pope personally. The man was embarrassed, apologized and left in a hurry.

In the evening, H.H. heard that this man came to the Patriarchate.  H.H. asked Fr. Raphael: "Why didn't you tell me that this man came today?!"  Fr. Raphael explained what happened, so H.H. replied: "You should have left him and came to me immediately so I could have went down and reconciled with him."

This is the gentleness of Pope Kyrillos VI who never met evil with evil but defeated evil by doing good, as it is said in the Holy Bible.  This story was told by Fr. Raphael Ava Mina himself.

May the blessing of Pope Kyrillos VI be with us all Amen. 

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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Start of The Great Lent




And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering 
and laid it on Isaac his son. 
And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. 
So they went both of them together. 

Genesis 22:6



After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
        
He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
        
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
        
On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
        
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
        
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.
        
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
        
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
       
Genesis 22: 1-8

            
        
That Isaac Carries on himself "the wood for the burnt offering" is a figure, because Christ also "himself carried His own cross," and yet to carry "the wood for the burnt Offering" is the duty of a priest.
        
He therefore becomes victim and priest. But what is added also is related to this: "And they both went off together." For when Abraham carries the fire and knife as if to sacrifice, Isaac does not go behind him but with him that he might be shown to contribute equally with the priesthood itself.
       
 Origen
       



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Friday, February 21, 2014

5 - HUMILITY IN THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS





But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest
among you become as the youngest,
and the leader as one who serves.
Luke 22:26


We have studied humility in the person and teaching of Jesus. Let us now look for it in the circle of His chosen companions, the twelve apostles. If, in the lack of it we find in them, the contrast between Christ and men is brought out more clearly, it will help us to appreciate the mighty change which Pentecost wrought in them. It will prove how real our participation can be in the perfect triumph of Christ's humility over the pride Satan had breathed into man.

In the Scriptures quoted from the teaching of Jesus, we have already seen what the occasions were on which the disciples had proved how entirely lacking they were in the grace of humility. Once, they had been disputing about which of them should be the greatest.  Another time, the sons of Zebedee with their mother had asked for the first places -- the seat on the right hand and the left. And, later on, at the table of the Last Supper, there was again a contention over who should be accounted the greatest.

Not that there were not moments when they indeed humbled themselves before their Lord. So it was with Peter when he cried out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"  (Luke 5:8)  The disciples also fell down and worshipped Him who had stilled the storm. (Matt. 14:22-33)  But such occasional expressions of humility only bring out into stronger contrast the habitual state of their mind.  This state was shown in the natural and spontaneous revelation given at other times of the place and the power of self. As we study the meaning of all this will, we will learn several important lessons.

Recognizing Our Underlying Pride 

First, How much there may be of earnest and active religion while humility is still sadly lacking. See it in the disciples. There was in them fervent attachment to Jesus. They had forsaken all for Him. The Father had revealed to them that He was the Christ of God. They believed in Him, they loved Him, they obeyed His commandments. They had forsaken all to follow Him. When others went back, they clave to Him. They were ready to die with Him. But deeper down than all this there was a dark power, of the existence and the hideousness of which they were hardly conscious, which had to be slain and cast out, before they could be the witnesses of the power of Jesus to save.

It is even so still. We may find professors and ministers, evangelists and workers, missionaries and teachers, in whom the gifts of the Spirit are many and manifest, and who are the channels of blessing to multitudes, but of whom, when the testing time comes, or closer intercourse gives fuller knowledge, it is only too painfully manifest that the grace of humility, as an abiding characteristic, is scarce to be seen. All tends to confirm the lesson that humility is one of the chief and the highest graces; one of the most difficult of attainment; one to which our first and greatest efforts ought to be directed; one that only comes in power, when the fullness of the Spirit makes us partakers of the indwelling Christ, and He lives within us. 

Putting Off Personal Effort 

Second, How impotent all external teaching and all personal effort is, to conquer pride or give the meek and lowly heart. For three years the disciples had been in the training school of Jesus. He had told them what the chief lesson was He wished to teach them: "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."  (Matt. 11:29)

Time after time He had spoken to them, to the Pharisees, to the multitude, of humility as the only path to the glory of God. He had not only lived before them as the Lamb of God in His divine humility, He had more than once unfolded to them the inmost secret of His life: "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve"; (Mark 10:45);  "I am among you as one that serves." 
(Luke 22:27)

He had washed their feet, and told them they were to follow His example. And yet all had availed but little. At the Holy Supper there was still the contention as to who should be greatest. They had doubtless often tried to learn His lessons, and firmly resolved not again to grieve Him. But all in vain. To teach them and us the much needed lesson, that no outward instruction, not even of Christ Himself; no argument however convincing; no sense of the beauty of humility, however deep; no personal resolve or effort, however sincere and earnest, can cast out the devil of pride. When Satan casts out Satan, it is only to enter afresh in a mightier, though more hidden power. Nothing can avail but this, that the new nature in its divine humility be revealed in power to take the place of the old, to become as truly our very nature as that ever was.

Taking Hold of the Indwelling Christ 

Third, It is only by the indwelling of Christ in His divine humility that we become truly humble. We have our pride from another, from Adam; we must have our humility from Another too. Pride is ours, and rules in us with such terrible power, because it is ourselves, our very nature. Humility must be ours in the same way; it must be our very self, our very nature. As natural and easy as it has been to be proud, it must be, it will be, to be humble. The promise is, "Where," even in the heart, "sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly." (Rom. 5:20)  All Christ's teaching of His disciples, and all their vain efforts, were the needful preparation for His entering into them in divine power, to give and be in them what He had taught them to desire.

In His death He destroyed the power of the devil, He put away sin, and effected an everlasting redemption. In His resurrection He received from the Father an entirely new life, the life of man in the power of God, capable of being communicated to men, and entering and renewing and filling their lives with His divine power. In His ascension He received the Spirit of the Father, through whom He might do what He could not do while upon earth, make Himself one with those He loved, actually live their life for them, so that they could live before the Father in a humility like His, because it was Himself who lived and breathed in them. And on Pentecost He came and took possession. The work of preparation and conviction, the awakening of desire and hope which His teaching had effected, was perfected by the mighty change that Pentecost wrought. And the lives and the epistles of James and Peter and John bear witness that all was changed, and that the spirit of the meek and suffering Jesus had indeed possession of them.

What shall we say to these things? Among my readers I am sure there is more than one class. There may be some who have never yet thought very specially of the matter, and cannot at once realize its immense importance as a life question for the Church and its every member. There are others who have felt condemned for their shortcomings, and have put forth very earnest efforts, only to fail and be discouraged. Others, again, may be able to give joyful testimony of spiritual blessing and power, and yet there has never been the needed conviction of what those around them still see as wanting. And still others may be able to witness that in regard to this grace too the Lord has given deliverance and victory, while He has taught them how much they still need and may expect out of the fullness of Jesus.

To whichever class we belong, may I urge the pressing need there is for our all seeking a still deeper conviction of the unique place that humility holds in the religion of Christ, and the utter impossibility of the Church or the believer being what Christ would have them be, as long as His humility is not recognized as His chief glory, His first command, and our highest blessedness. Let us consider deeply how far the disciples were advanced while this grace was still so terribly lacking, and let us pray to God that other gifts may not so satisfy us, that we never grasp the fact that the absence of this grace is the secret cause why the power of God cannot do its mighty work. It is only where we, like the Son, truly know and show that we can do nothing of ourselves, that God will do all. 

It is when the truth of an indwelling Christ takes the place it claims in the experience of believers, that the Church will put on her beautiful garments and humility be seen in her teachers and members as the beauty of holiness. 
Humility - Andrew Murray

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Above Essence





But if some say that the body is immaterial, in the same way as the fifth body of which the Greek philosophers speak (which body is an impossibility), it will be wholly subject to motion like the heaven.

For that is what they mean by the fifth body. Who then is it that moves it? For everything that is moved is moved by another thing. And who again is it that moves that? And so on to infinity till we at length arrive at something motionless.

For the first mover is motionless, and that is the Deity.

And must not that which is moved be circumscribed in space? The Deity, then, alone is motionless, moving the universe by immobility. So then it must be assumed that the Deity is incorporeal.

But even this gives no true idea of His essence, to say that He is unbegotten, and without beginning, changeless and imperishable, and possessed of such other qualities, as we are wont to ascribe to God, and His environment. For these do not indicate what He is, but what He is not.

But when we would explain what the essence of anything is, we must not speak only negatively.

In the case of God, however, it is impossible to explain what He is in His essence, and it befits us rather to hold discourse about His absolute separation from all things. For He does not belong to the class of existing things; not that He has no existence, but that He is above all existing things, nay even above existence itself.

For if all forms of knowledge have to do with what exists, assuredly that which is above knowledge must certainly be also above essence; and conversely, that which is above essence will also be above knowledge.

St Gregory of Nyssa


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Friday, February 14, 2014

JONAH IN THE BELLY OF THE FISH - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III




Jonah was thrown into the sea, yet he was not thrown unto death. God's Providence still held him, and God was still with His plan of sending him to the city of Nineveh for the sake of its salvation.
       
Is this man, O Lord, still suitable for this great ministry, after all that he has done?
       
Yes. This Jonah is My son, and My beloved. He is also My prophet, and I will send him to Nineveh. If he sinned I will correct him and make him useful for My ministry. I will save his soul and save the city through him. This unpolished stone, I undertake to chisel until I make it suitable for building.
       
Indeed, God is wondrous in His long-suffering. He does not hastily abandon or become angry with His servants who fall.
       
He received Peter after he had denied Him, and confirmed him in his apostleship. We human beings are characterised by our quick temper, and by our being quick to punish and quick in cut our relationships. Whereas God is not like that. He kept Jonah in his ministry and preserved him safe and sound to accomplish his mission. When Jonah was thrown into the sea, the God of the sea received him to protect him from every evil.
       
When Jonah was thrown into the sea the Divine hand picked him up and carried him delicately that he might not perish or drown. God took him and placed him inside the whale to preserve him safe there.
       
God had “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah" (Jon. 1:17). He did not prepare it to destroy him but to preserve him. The great fish was not a punishment but a shelter. Jonah was safer and more comfortable in the belly of the whale than if he were still in the ship struggling against the waves and the sea, and against fatigue, cold and wind.
       
This whale was sent by God to carry out the Divine will entrusted to it.
       
It did not have authority to eat Jonah nor to secrete digestive enzymes onto him to absorb him. No, but rather it swallowed him in order to take him into its inner bosom and keep him safe there until he would approach his destination. The whale was a free means of transport by which Jonah reached the nearest point to his embarkation stop.
       
It was as though Jonah was in a protected submarine sailing underwater. That great fish was sent to rescue him from the sea and its tumults. It was like tribulations, appearing fearful from the outside whilst entailing within them all benefit. Jonah was inside the fish for three days, sound and not conquered by the whale, just as Christ was in the tomb for three days and was not conquered by death.
       
So should you be, blessed brother. If the Lord prepares for you a great fish to swallow you, do not fear, neither be troubled, nor grieve. From inside the belly of the fish bless the Lord as Jonah did.
       
Be assured that the whale can swallow you but it cannot harm you. It can never touch you without God's sanction. The time will surely come when the Lord will order it to disgorge you onto dry land where you where before. Is God not the Creator of the whale, and are not its life and direction in His hand? If you are in tribulation, brother, then remember Jonah's whale and you will be reassured. You will know that the Lord is the one who has prepared this whale for you to grant you a particular virtue or a special grace. 






Be careful not to complain whenever you are swallowed by a whale, for the whales of the sea of this world are many.
       
Do not say: "Why do You treat me like this, O Lord? Why did You prepare this whale to swallow me? Where were You, O Lord, when it was swallowing me? And why did You not rescue me?"
       
Know that God's answer is one: "Do not be afraid. It is enough for you that you are with Me. Even if you are in the belly of the whale, I am with you. I will not disregard you nor abandon you." Therefore, my brother, do not be afraid. Remember the saying of the righteous Abba Paul, "He who flees from tribulation has fled from God".


      
That whale was extremely huge. It was "a great fish."
       
There are many huge whales, each one of them like a spacious room, able to swallow a boat together with those in it. When the great fish swallowed Jonah, Jonah looked and found himself as if in a large hall or in a pool. What did he do? He returned to his senses, knelt down and prayed in the belly of the whale, and the Lord beheld him and rejoiced:
       
Ah Jonah! I have wanted this prayer from you since the beginning of the story. The reason for all that has happened was to make you kneel down, even if in the belly of the fish, that we may reason together.
       
"For a long time I have wanted to talk to you and reason together, but you were angry, you fled and refused to talk. But now is an appropriate opportunity to reconcile together.
       
Jonah knelt and prayed to the Lord, and returned once again to his prophetic rites. He returned to his former image as an obedient God-loving man, firmly believing in God's promises. He returned to his former state, trusting God and offering Him thanksgiving.
       
I was greatly affected by Jonah's prayer in the belly of the great fish, which is characterised by the spirit of prophecy, wondrous faith and assurance of the unseen.
       
It is one of the greatest prayers I have ever read in my life. If only he had offered it, or a prayer of its like, before he had thought of fleeing from the Lord! Indeed tribulation is a school of prayer.
       
I was deeply affected by his saying: "I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction and He answered me", and I said in myself, "What is all this, Jonah? How has God answered you when you are still in the belly of the great fish? Would it not be more appropriate to say, 'I cried out to You, O Lord, answer me', so that you plead for your prayer to be answered rather than declaring it?"
       
Jonah saw with the eye of faith what the Lord would give him. He saw it as if it were before his eyes, and not as if he would obtain it later on, thus he said joyfully: "I cried out to the Lord.. and He answered me".
       
Jonah continued his wondrous prayer, saying to the Lord: "Out of the belly, of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice... all Your billows its and Your waves passed over me... Yet I will look again toward Your Holy temple". With this faith Jonah could see himself outside the great fish, looking toward the temple of the Lord.
       
With this faith he was able to turn his prayer from petition into thanksgiving whilst he was still in the belly of the great fish, and thus he concluded his prayer by saying: "But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord." (Jon. 2:9)
       
What made you sure, O holy prophet, that the Lord heard your prayer and answered you, sanctioned that you come out of the whale and return once more to behold His temple? How far was that temple from you? It was far away in Jerusalem whilst you were in the belly of the whale, somewhere in the sea, exactly where you could not ascertain. But the prophet replies:
       
"I am completely confident that I will come out of the belly of the whale and accomplish my mission, because God's word is never disproved nor does it return empty.”
       
"So long as God commanded that I should go to Nineveh, then I will go there and carry out His sacred will, undertake my preaching ministry and then return to the temple of God to worship there. I will sacrifice to the Lord and offer my vows. All this I see clearly and without doubt before my eyes. My present temporary state in the whale and the sea has no effect on this at all."
       
How amazing is this man in his faith! Indeed, he is the man of deep faith chosen by the Lord. We do not deny that a cloud engulfed him and he sinned against God, but his essence was still good.
       

He saw the future full of hope as though it were the present. He offered thanksgiving to the Lord for the salvation which he had not yet received according to time, but which he had actually received according to the gift of revelation granted to prophets; the revelation of the man who has eyes open to see the Lord's visions as in an open book, and who enjoys God's promises before they are fulfilled.
       
When Jonah's faith reached that wonderful level, the Lord ordered the whale to vomit him onto dry land.
       
That whale acted with great discipline according to an assuring predestined Divine plan. It appeared in the proper time and at the right place in order to carry Jonah in its belly. It was as though this prophet was being taken from an open ship liable to being covered and drowned by the waves, into an enclosed and protected ship invulnerable to water and waves. In due time the whale vomited Jonah onto dry land at the place which God defined. There it left him unharmed after it had fully completed its errand.
       
Congratulations, Jonah, on this wonderful submarine in whose bosom you lived for a while. It has brought to your mission.
       
Let us turn over this page in the life of Jonah as if it had never happened. As if the first two chapters of the Book have been forgotten by the Lord. O the Lord returned and said to Jonah anew: "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach the message that I tell you.”




Contemplations on the Book of Jonah the Prophet
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III 


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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Do Not Give Up Hope





Since the holy God has promised those who hope in Him a means of escape from every affliction, we, even if we have been cut off in the midst of the seas of evils and are racked by the mighty waves stirred up against us by the spirits of wickedness, nevertheless endure in Christ who strengthens us.

We have not slackened the intensity of our zeal for the churches, nor do we, as in a storm when the waves rise high, expect destruction.

We still hold fast to our earnest endeavour as much as is possible, sensible of the fact that he who was swallowed by the whale was considered deserving of safety because he did not despair of his life but cried out to the Lord.

So then, we ourselves, having reached the uttermost limit of evils, do not give up our hope in the Lord but watch and see His help on all sides.

St Basil The Great



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Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Departure of the Great Saint Anba Paul, the First Hermit


On this day of the year 341 A.D., the great saint Anba Paul, the first hermit, departed. This Saint was from the city of Alexandria, and had a brother whose name was Peter.

After the departure of their father, they divided the inheritance between them. When his brother took the greater share, Paul's feelings were hurt, by his brother's action. He said to his brother, "Why don't you give me my rightful share of the inheritance of my father?" Peter responded, "You are a young man, and I am afraid that you might squander it. As for me, I will keep it for you."

When they did not agree with each other, they went to the governor to judge between them. On their way, they saw a funeral procession. Paul asked one of the mourners about the deceased man. Paul was told that he was one of the noble and rich people of the city, and that he left his riches and his wealth behind, and that they were taking him to bury him with only his garment.

St. Paul sighed in his heart and said to himself, "What do I have to do then with all the money of this temporal world which I shall leave naked?" He looked to his brother and said to him, "My brother, let us return, for I shall not ask you for anything, not even for what is mine."

On their way back, Paul left his brother and went on his way until he came out of the city. Paul found a grave where he stayed for three days praying to the Lord Christ to guide him to what pleases Him. As for his brother, he searched for Paul diligently and when he did not find him, he was very sorry for what he had done.

God sent St. Paul an angel who took him out of this place, and walked with him until they reached the eastern inner wilderness. He stayed there for 70 years, during which he saw no one. He put on a tunic made of palm tree fiber. The Lord sent him a raven every day with a half loaf of bread.

When the Lord wanted to reveal the holiness of St. Paul and his righteousness, He sent His angel to St. Antony (Antonius) the Great, who thought that he was the first to dwell in the wilderness. The angel told St. Antony, "There is a man who lives in the inner wilderness; the world is not worthy of his footsteps. By his prayers, the Lord brings rain and dew to fall on the earth, and bring the flood of the Nile in its due season."

When St. Antony heard this, he rose right away and went to the inner wilderness, a distance of one day's walk. God guided him to the cave of St. Paul. He entered, and they bowed to each other, and sat down talking about the greatness of the Lord.

In the evening, the raven came bringing a whole loaf of bread. St. Paul said to St. Antony, "Now, I know that you are one of the children of God. For 70 years, the Lord has been sending to me everyday, half a loaf of bread, but today, the Lord is sending your food also. Now, go and bring me back in a hurry the tunic that Emperor Constantine had given to Pope Athanasius."

St. Antony went to St. Athanasius, and brought the tunic from him and returned to St. Paul. On his way back, he saw the soul of St. Paul carried by the angels up to heaven. When he arrived to the cave, he found that St. Paul had departed from this world. He kissed him, weeping, and clothed him in the tunic that he asked for, and he took his fiber tunic.

When St. Antony wanted to bury St. Paul, he wondered how could he dig the grave? Two lions entered the cave, bowed their heads before the body of St. Paul, and shook their heads as if they were asking St. Anthony what to do. St. Antony knew that they were sent from God. He marked the length and width of the body on the ground, and they dug the grave with their claws, according to St. Antony's directions. St. Anthony then buried the holy body, and went back to Pope Athanasius and told him what had happened. St. Athanasius sent men to bring St. Paul's body to him. They spent several days searching in the mountains, but they could not find the place of his grave. St. Paul appeared to the Pope in a vision and told him that the Lord would not allow the revelation of the location of his body. He asked the Pope not to trouble the men, but to have them brought back.

Pope Athanasius used to put the palm fiber tunic on three times a year during the Divine Liturgy. One time, he wanted to let the people know about the holiness of the owner of that tunic. He put it over a dead man, and the dead man rose up instantly. The news of this miracle spread all around the land of Egypt.

His prayers be with us all. Amen.


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Abba Pawli - St. Paul - Hermit
http://orthodoxsocities.blogspot.com/2014/02/abba-pawli-st-paul-hermit.html


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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Grace of God






“If you see a man who has sinned and you do not pity him, the grace of God will leave you. Whoever curses bad people, and does not pray for them, will never come to know the grace of God.”

~ St. Silouan the Athonite 


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Sunday, February 2, 2014

15 - LEARNING FROM GOD - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III




15 -  LEARNING FROM GOD         
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.

15 -  LEARNING FROM GOD    

There are some people who did not obtain any education. There are some who were taught by people and those are more ignorant.. But the true educated people are those who are taught directly by God.

When God created man, He gave him plenty of knowledge.. and whenever He needed more knowledge he was taught by God Himself.. If man has continued along this path, he would have become a scholar and would have deserved to eat of the tree of life and live for ever.. But the man accepted to take knowledge from another source than God and so he began to be ignorant.. His first lesson was from the serpent, and it resulted in eating of the tree of the knowledge and thus he became ignorant. Man seeks knowledge away from God and he only gains ignorance upon ignorance..

Man is God's temple and God's Spirit dwells in him.. the Spirit whom the Lord Jesus Christ said of, "He will guide you into all truth" (John. 16:13) and St. Paul said about Him, "For the Spirit searches all things. Yes, the deep things of God."  (1 Cor. 2:10) 

However, due to the great misery and ignorance of the man, he seeks knowledge not within himself, from the Spirit of God dwelling in him, but seeks it outside, with people, and in the books which he thinks can give him life ... ! 

Thus, there are many scholars and wise men in these generations while the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the sight of God.. St. Augustine walked along this path for a long time, seeking God outside himself, but when he found God, he sang to Him this everlasting song which says * *,

‘Too late did I love You,
O Fairness so ancient and yet so new!
Too late did I love You!
For behold, You were within,
and I without, and there did I seek You..
I unlovely, rushed heedlessly
among the things of beauty You made..
You were with me,
but I
was not with you..'
 





 When Augustine found God within him, he became a saint...

You also, my beloved brother, will lose the way if you try to seek God outside yourself .. But sit alone, consider and meditate, go deep into yourself and seek God.. You will find Him there, in your innermost depths. You will see Him face to face and feel Him as a pouring and overflowing fountain of love.. Only then you will be greatly astonished and cry out in silent joy 'I have seen God'

This was the means which our father saints resorted to. They went out of the world leaving behind its crowd, tumult and noise. They left everything and sought God within themselves and they were able to see Him through continuous

Praise and meditation.. On the other hand, the ideologists, philosophers researchers and scientists sought God in the books and with people and could only suffer ignorance, mystery and weariness.

While I mention this I feel pain for them.. and also for some fathers who left the world to the desert but began to seek God in the books or in projects and ministry. In fact God was within their hearts wishing them to leave all these occupations and sit with Him. He wanted to reveal to them secrets which no one else knew and show them what no other eyes have ever seen.,

This applies not only to the monks but to all people.. Do you know, dear brother, what is the proper way for spiritual education? Certainly it is not to teach a person something new, for he possesses everything and the Spirit abiding in him knows much more than what you want to teach him.. But a proper way is to free a person from any wrong knowledge he actually has, ie. from any knowledge he obtained from the world or from people.

A child is born with a great beautiful idea about God within his heart, mind and imagination.. Then society begins to teach this poor child and provide him with ideas about God which differ from what he knows, and present to him certain pictures of God and the saints that limit his open imagination.. Thus the idea of the child about God and holiness is replaced by customary idioms concerning good and evil as known by people. The child takes of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which Adam and Eve ate from and he becomes ignorant like them.. Here comes the role of the true spiritual guide who must not provide the child with more knowledge but must drive out any false knowledge he had obtained from customs and from the wrong concepts of people regarding religion.. When his spirit is released from all this, he would know God the true knowledge because God is not far from him but dwells in him.

* * The confessions of St. Augustine, Book X. Ch. Y-XVII-38.

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



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