Friday, August 22, 2014

The Assumption of The Holy Virgin




O You who did not desire that the body of the Virgin, 
the Mother of Salvation, who became a holy ark in whom You dwelt in flesh, 
remain on earth but You raised it up to heaven after her death, 
upon the hands of the holy angels and archangels.


Fraction Prayer of St. Mary's Feast:

O God, who dwells in the highest and looks upon the hearts of His humble servants, who willed to visit us with mercy and come to us incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the holy Virgin Mary.

O You who promised our father Adam with salvation and confirmed His holy promise to all the fathers by His virginal Birth in the fullness of time from a pure and chaste, first-born Virgin.

He sanctified her, purified her, filled her with grace, and preferred her above all women of the world. She is the ever-virgin, Mary, the new Eve, the pride of our race and the second bodily heaven.

O You who loved us, and out of the fullness of His love and mercy, out of signs to His righteousness and justice, and out of His wisdom and fairness, He desired to save us from the death of the original sin and rescue us from its eternal punishment, by dying on our behalf in a human flesh which He took from the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Salvation.

While the first Eve was the source of destruction, the new Eve became the gate of heaven.

O You who was incarnate of the first-born Virgin, You honored her everlasting virginity and perfect chastity through Your Birth from her, for she is an image of the original glory, on which God created our forefathers Adam and Eve when they were together in the Paradise of joy.

O You who honored the second Eve by dwelling in her womb for nine full months and was formed of her by the Holy Spirit, who dwelt upon her.

He took flesh, having a human soul, uniting with it in one hypostasis and one nature and the Logos was born of her, who was and is, the blessed God forever.

O You who came out of the womb of the Virgin, while her virginity is sealed.

You who was nursed by the milk of the Virgin, while His is the Fountain of grace to all the creation. He was nurtured in her bosom, He slept in her arms, and sat in her lap while also sitting on a cherubimic chariot and is worshiped by the holy angels and archangels.

O You who honored Egypt by Your coming to it, riding on a swift and light cloud. The idols of Egypt were shaken in Your presence and the heart of Egypt melted. Oh, what was this swift and light cloud except the Virgin Mary, in her purity, kindness and everlasting chastity?

O You who desired to honor motherhood in Mary the Virgin by always obeying her, answering her calling, accepting her intercessions and responding to her prayers.

O You who entrusted Your Mother the Virgin with Your disciple, John the Beloved, and made John her son. And through John, You granted us Your Mother as our own, and through the faith we became her children.

O You who did not desire that the body of the Virgin, the Mother of Salvation, who became a holy ark in whom You dwelt in flesh, remain on earth but You raised it up to heaven after her death, upon the hands of the holy angels and archangels.

O You who honored us and our race, as You took flesh from Mary the Virgin, and ascended with it into the heaven, performing an eternal redemption, He sat on the throne, and thus in You we are able to sit on the right hand of the Father.

O God of mercy, have mercy upon us and forgive our sins. Accept the intercession of Your Mother, the Virgin, on our behalf. Make us worthy to touch Your holy Body and precious Blood, so that, with a pure heart, an enlightened soul, an unashamed face, a faith unfeigned, a perfect love, and a firm hope, we may cry to Your holy Father who art in heaven, and pray thankfully: 


Our Father Who art in heaven; 
hallowed be Thy name. 
Thy kingdom come. 
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread.  
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil, 
in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

For Thine is the kingdom, 
the power and the glory, 
forever. 

Amen.



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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ




By St. Cyril of Alexandria 

Luke 9:27-36

THOSE who are skilful in the combat rejoice when the spectators clap their hands, and are roused to a glorious height of courage by the hope of the chaplets of victory: and so those whoso desire it is to be counted worthy of the divine gifts, and who thirst to be made partakers of the hope prepared for the saints, joyfully undergo combats for piety’s sake towards Christ, and lead elect lives, not setting store by a thankless indolence, nor indulging in a mean timidity, but rather manfully resisting every temptation, and setting at nought the violence of persecutions, while they count it gain to suffer in His behalf. For they remember that the blessed Paul thus writes, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy of the glory that is about to be revealed in us.”

Observe, therefore, how perfectly beautiful is the method which our Lord Jesus Christ uses here also for the benefit and edification of the holy Apostles. For He had said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day, and follow Me. For he that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” The commandment is indeed both for the salvation and honour of the saints, and the cause of the highest glory, and the means of perfect joy: for the choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ is not a thankless duty, but on the contrary makes us sharers in everlasting life, and the glory that is prepared. But as the disciples had not yet obtained power from on high, it probably occasionally happened, that they also fell into human weaknesses, and when thinking over with themselves any such saying as this, may have asked “how does a man deny himself?” or how having lost himself does he find himself again? And what reward will compensate those who thus suffer? Or of what gifts will they be made partakers? To rescue them therefore from such timid thoughts, and, so to speak, to mould them unto manliness, by begetting in them a desire of the glory about to be bestowed upon them, He says, “I say unto you, there are some of those standing here, who shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God.” Does He mean that the measure of their lives will be so greatly prolonged as even to reach to that time when He will descend from heaven at the. consummation of the world, to bestow upon the saints the kingdom prepared for them? Even this was possible for Him: for He is omnipotent: and there is nothing impossible or difficult to His all-powerful will. But by the kingdom of God He means the sight of the glory in which He will appear at His manifestation to the inhabitants of earth: for He will come in the glory of God the Father, and not in low estate like unto us. How therefore did He make those who had received the promise spectators of a thing so wonderful? He goes up into the mountain taking with Him three chosen disciples: and is transformed to so surpassing and godlike a brightness, that His garments even glittered with rays of fire, and seemed to flash like lightning. And besides, Moses and Elijah stood at Jesus’ side, and spake with one another of His departure, which He was about, it says, to accomplish at Jerusalem: by which is meant the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh; and of His precious suffering upon the cross. For it is also true that the law of Moses, and the word of the holy prophets, foreshewed the mystery of Christ: the one by types and shadows, painting it, so to speak, as in a picture; while the rest in manifold ways declared beforehand, both that in due time He would appear in our likeness, and for the salvation and life of us all, consent to suffer death upon the tree. The standing, therefore, of Moses and Elijah before Him, and their talking with one another, was a sort of representation, excellently displaying our Lord Jesus Christ, as having the law and the prophets for His body guard, as being the Lord of the law and the prophets, and as foreshown in them by those things which in mutual agreement they before proclaimed. For the words of the prophets are not at variance with the teachings of the law. And this I imagine was what Moses the most priestly and Elijah the most distinguished of the prophets were talking of with one another.

But the blessed disciples sleep awhile, as Christ continued long in prayer:—-for He performed these human duties as belonging to the dispensation:—-and afterwards on awaking they became spectators of changes thus splendid and glorious: and the divine Peter, thinking perchance, that the time of the kingdom of God was even now come, proposes dwellings on the mountain, and says that it is fitting there should be three tabernacles, one for Christ, and the others for the other two, Moses and Elijah: “but he knew not,” it says, “what he was saying.” For it was not the time of the consummation of the world, nor for the saints to take possession of the hope promised to them; for as Paul says, “He will change our humble body into the likeness of His,—-that is, Christ’s—-glorious body.” As therefore the dispensation was still at its commencement, and not yet fulfilled, how would it have been fitting for Christ to have abandoned His love to the world, and have departed from His purpose of suffering in its behalf? For He redeemed all under heaven, by both undergoing death in the flesh, and by abolishing it by the resurrection from the dead. Peter therefore knew not what he said.

But besides the wonderful and ineffable sight of Christ’s glory, something else was done, useful and necessary for the confirmation of their faith in Him: and not for the disciples only, but even for us too. For a voice was given forth from the cloud above, as from God the Father, saying: “This is My beloved Son, hear Him. And when there was the voice,” it says, “Jesus was found alone.” What then will he who is disputatious and disobedient, and whose heart is incurable, say to these things? Lo! Moses is there, and does the Father command the holy apostles to hear him? Had it been His will that they should follow the commandments of Moses, He would have said, I suppose, Obey Moses; keep the law. But this was not what God the Father here said, but in the presence of Moses and the prophets, He commands them rather to hear Him. And that the truth might not be subverted by any, affirming that the Father rather bade them hear Moses, and not Christ the Saviour of us all, the Evangelist has clearly marked it, saying, “When there was the voice, Jesus was found alone.” When therefore God the Father, from the cloud overhead, commanded the holy apostles, saying, “Hear Him,” Moses was far away, and Elijah too was no longer nigh; but Christ was there alone. Him therefore He commanded them to obey.

For He also is the end of the law and the prophets: for which reason He cried aloud to the multitudes of the Jews: “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me also: for he wrote of Me.” But as they persevered even unto the end in despising the commandment given by most wise Moses, and in rejecting the word of the holy prophets, they have justly been alienated and expelled from those blessings that were promised to their fathers. For “obedience is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” as the Scripture saith. And thus much then of the Jews: but upon us who have acknowledged the revelation, all these blessings have necessarily been bestowed, by means of and as the gift of the same Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
 
Homily  of St. Cyril of Alexandria 


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Friday, August 8, 2014

St. Mary's Surnames And Symbols - HH Pope Shenouda III



A. Surnames as regards her greatness
and her relation with God:


1. We give her the surname of The Queen who is by the right side of The King.

In this, we mention the words of the psalm "At your hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir" (Ps. 45:9). That is why, in her icon, she is portrayed at the right hand of the Christ our Lord. And we say about her in the divine mass "the Lady and the Queen of us all"......

2. Also we say about her: "Our mother the Holy Virgin".

When the Christ our Lord was on the Cross, He said about that to his disciple the beloved saint John: "Behold your mother" (John 19:27).

3. The Virgin is also compared to the ladder of Jacob"

That ladder which "was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven" (Gen. 28:12). That is the symbol of The Virgin who, by her giving birth to Christ, made the inhabitants of the earth reach to heaven.

4. She was also called "the bride"

because she is the true bride of the Lord of glory. The word of the Lord in the psalm was realized in her: "Listen, O daughter consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father's house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him" (Ps. 45:10-11). That is why she was called the friend of Solomon, who is the virgin of the Song of Songs.

It was said of her in the same psalm: "The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; her clothing is woven with gold. She shall be brought to the king in robes of many colors" (Ps. 45:13-14).

5. We also give her the surname "the beautiful pigeon"

in remembrance of the beautiful pigeon that carried to our father Noah a branch of olive tree, as a symbol of peace, bringing to him the good news of the deliverance from the waters of the flood......... (Gen. 8:11). With this surname, the priest burns incense in front of her icon when he goes out of the sanctuary and says: "Hail to you, O Virgin Mary, the beautiful pigeon".

The Virgin is compared to the pigeon in her simplicity and her purity and the action of the Holy Spirit in her. She resembles the pigeon which brought the good news of the deliverance after the flood, because she brought the good news of the deliverance by Christ.

6. The Virgin is also compared to the cloud

because of her height on the one hand, and because the prophecy of her coming to Egypt, compared her in this manner. It was mentioned about this in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
"The burden against Egypt. Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst" (Is. 19:1). The expression "cloud" is a symbol of the Lord who will come upon the clouds.
(Matt. 16:27).

B. Her surnames and symbols
as regards her motherhood to the Christ our Lord:


7. One of the surnames by which The Virgin has been described is "Theotokos"
that is: "the mother of God". This surname has been called upon her by the sacred œcumenical council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Saint Kirillos the Great insisted on that surname in his response to Nestorius......
Saint Elizabeth addressed her with that surname "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43).

8. One of her surnames is also: "the golden censer".

We call her "Te shury" that is the censer in Coptic; and sometimes "the censer of Aaron".......... As for the fire which it contains inside her, coal in it symbolises the human nature of Christ, and fire symbolizes His divine nature, as it has been said in the Holy Bible: "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).

The censer symbolizes the womb of The Virgin where divinity was united with humanity. The censer being of gold, that points to the greatness and the purity of The Virgin. Regarding the purity and the sanctity of The Virgin, we call The Virgin in her hymns "the golden censer" (Te shury ennub, in Coptic).

9. The Virgin is also surnamed "the second heaven"
because as heaven is the abode of God, so The Virgin Mary was an abode of God during the sacred pregnancy.

10. The Virgin is also surnamed "the city of God":

The prophecy in the psalm is realized in her: "Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God" (Ps 87:3). Or what was said of her "the city of the great King", or certain prophecies which were said about Jerusalem, are realized in her..........or Zion as it was also said in the psalm: "And of Zion it will be said, "This one and that one were born in her; and the most High Himself shall establish her" (Ps. 87:5).

11. In this quality, she was surnamed "the vine where was found the cluster of life"

that is Christ. The Church asks for her intercession with that surname in the prayer of the third hour, saying to her: "O mother of God, you are the true vine who bears the cluster of life"........

12. By this quality of motherhood, she has other surnames of which we mention:
The mother of the true light, considering that it has been said of the Christ our Lord, that He is "the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9).
Likewise she was surnamed "the golden lamp" because she bears the Light. And also: "the mother of the Holy One", considering that the angel, when he announced her with the birth of Christ, said to her: "also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
"The mother of the Savior", because the Christ our Lord is the Savior of the world: "and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

13. Among her symbols also: "the bush which the prophet Moses saw" (Exodus 3:2).
We say in the song: "The bush which the prophet Moses saw in the desert, is the symbol of the mother of Light, blessed be she. She has carried the fire of divinity in her womb, without being touched by any harm". It was said of the Lord that He is "a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29) to which the fire which is burning inside the bush, is a symbol, and the bush symbolizes The Virgin.

14. Also among her symbols: "the ark of the Testimony".
This ark was made of acacia wood that cannot be moth -eaten, and was covered with gold from inside and outside (Ex. 25:10, 22), as a symbol of the purity and the greatness of The Virgin. It also symbolized the things which were inside the ark that were a symbol of the Christ our Lord.

There was kept "the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant" (as a symbol of the incarnated Word of God).

15. The Virgin is also compared to the pot of the manna;

because the manna was a symbol of the Christ our Lord, as being the live bread who came down from heaven, everybody who eats from him lives by Him, that is also the bread of life (John 6: 32,48,49). Since the Lord Christ is compared to the manna, so it is possible to compare the Virgin to the pot of the manna, who carried this celestial bread inside her.

16. The Virgin is also compared to the rod of Aaron which germinated:
that is: she miraculously sprouted and carried the buds of life, (Num.17:6 -8); although a rod has of course no life in it that can produce blossoms and yield fruit. This symbolizes the virginity of The Virgin who could not sprout or produce posterity; but she gave birth through a miracle. This description is mentioned in the hymn of Sunday.

17. The tabernacle of meeting (the dome of Moses).

The tabernacle of meeting was the place upon which The Lord used to come, and The Virgin is she upon whom The Lord came. God manifested his love for his people in the two cases. That is what we say in the book of the hymns (Al Ipsalmodia): "You have been compared, O Virgin Mary, to the tabernacle which Moses made on the mountain of Sinaï, where God was inside".

18. The Virgin is compared to the gate in the East.
That which the prophet Ezechiel saw, and of which the Lord said: "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut" (Ez. 44: 1 -2). The prophet saw the glory of the Lord at this gate which is in the East, and the house was filled with it (Ez. 43: 2,4,5).

That symbolizes the virginity of the Virgin who was from the countries of the East; and how this virginity remained sealed. Because she was that gate from the East, she was qualified as:

19. The gate of life, the gate of deliverance:
 
It was said about our Lady the Virgin in the book of Ezechiel: "As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way" (Ez. 44:3).

Since the Lord is the Life, then she is the gate of the Life. The Lord said: "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). That is why the Virgin is the gate of the Life, that gate out of which the Lord came out, granting life to all those who believe in Him.......

It is not astonishing that we surname the Virgin "the gate", because the Church also was surnamed "the gate". Our father Jacob said about Bethel: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (Gen. 28:17).

20. She was compared to the "Holiest of all"

That in which the chief priest entered once a year, to make atonement for all the people. The Lord of glory came once inside the Virgin Mary for the redemption of all the world.

By H.H. Pope Shenouda III


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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Church Attendance





Don’t be tempted to indulge yourself in not coming to church at the beginning of the service or leaving before it is over. Remember, each service is a complete unit and it can provide its full benefit only in its entirety. Just as food is tasty only when it is fully seasoned, so the service can completely satisfy the spiritual taste only when it is heard in full. Thus, he who misses the beginning or does not remain until the end is laboring, but he deprives himself of the fruit of his labor; he creates with one hand and destroys with the others.

Further, one must go to church not inattentively. For, it is always possible that one may go to church not in a way worthy of praise but rather of condemnation, i.e., by going and not receiving any spiritual benefit. Approaching the church, you must leave every care and worry about your affairs at the threshold in order to enter with a serene mind. Entering the church, you must put on reverence like a garment, remembering to Whom we are coming and to Whom we intend to address our prayers.

Having taken your place in the church (best of all, the same place each time), you should gather your thoughts and mentally stand before the face of the omnipresent God, offering Him reverent worship in body and spirit, with a contrite heart and in humble reverence. After this, you must follow, without wandering thoughts, everything that is going on — what is being sung and read in the church — all the way to the end of the service.

That is all! In this way, we won’t be bored in church, looking here and there and starting conversations, and we won’t be wishing that the service be over soon. Instead, passing from one prayerful feeling to another and from one reverent thought to the next, we will be like those in a fragrant garden, moving from one group of flowers to another.

St. Theophanes The Recluse



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Saturday, July 26, 2014

True Spiritual Warmth & Illusions





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

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

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

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


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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Apostles Feast - HH Pope Shenouda III






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



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

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

THE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Church Rite: The Lakan

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

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

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

H.H. Pope Shenouda III 

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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 30, 2014

6 - HUMILITY IN Daily Life





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

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

1 John 4:20-21


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

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

Humility before God is proved humility before men


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

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


 





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Departure of St. Abraam - Bishop of El-Fayyoum





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

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

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

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

During his episcopate, he became famous for two attributes:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost - St. Ephraim The Syrian






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

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

St. Ephraim the Syrian



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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ascension





Ascension By St. Cyril


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

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

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

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


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