Sunday, May 10, 2009

How should we love God? (7) Take Him as a friend; Set Him always before you

How should we love God? (7) Take Him as a friend; Set Him always before you
Pope Shenouda III
Translated by Dr. Wedad Abbas

[Pope's Article of 26 April, 2009] (450) by Dr. Wedad Abbas

Reveal to Him your heart; let Him into all your affairs
Let everything remind you of Him

If you want to love God, take Him as a friend.
You ought rather to make of Him your chief friend whom you seek before anyone else, reveal to Him your secrets and tell Him everything, feel deep comfort in being with Him, reveal to Him all your thoughts very frankly and very honestly with all trust and with a clear heart, and never get bored of speaking with Him.

Say to Him, 'I have words to say to You, O Lord

I am sure of Your love for me and of Your good intentions towards me, and I know that You are able to realize all this for me. Shall I not then talk with You as I do with my beloved? Do I find pleasure when I open my heart to those who are mere dust and ashes (Gen18: 27), and keep away from You, the Creator of everybody?! Is it proper when You call upon me that I get involved in other things and find no time for You?!

We certainly feel comfort when we speak with God.

We feel comfort because we put on Him our troubles, seeing in Him a loving Father. We love Him as He loves us, and we do not conceal anything from Him. We let Him into everything we do, and in love we submit our thoughts to Him that He may lead them and correct them if they were wrong.

To love God, set Him always before you.

The feeling that He is before you gives the heart faith, trust and peace. Therefore David the Prophet said, "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." And he immediately said after that, "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices." (Ps 16: 8, 9; Acts 2: 25)

Elijah the Prophet was aware of the presence of the Lord, so he said, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand …" (1 Kgs 18: 15)

If you do the same the Lord will fill all your senses, your heart, and your mind. You will be on your guard and do what pleases Him. Not only you will feel His company and reveal your doings to Him, but He also will work with you or call you to work with Him for your benefit or for His Kingdom.

The feeling that God is present before you will give you the power not to do wrong.

Joseph the Righteous was aware of that, and God never departed from his mind even for a single moment, so he said, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God." (Gen 39: 9)

You adorn your home with various pictures which you see all the time, why not put God's image with them or rather above them?

Let Him be before you all the time, on the way, at home, or while with others. No doubt the Lord's image was not before the eyes of Peter the Apostle when he denied Him, but when the rooster crowed he remembered the Lord and the words He had said to him. So he went out and wept bitterly (Mt 26: 75).

In your love for God, you do not only see Him before you, but rather you see yourself in His bosom.

Say then with the Bride of the Song, "His left hand is under my head, and His right hand embraces me." (Song 2: 6) You are His child whom He loves and has done all this for your sake. If you remember how much He loves you, you will love Him in turn and will never do wrong, but will rather sing His praise every day. You will say with the Bride of the Song, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine. He feeds his flock among the lilies." "I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." (Song 6: 3; 2: 3)

How beautiful it is to feel that God is with you, holding your hand, before you, on your right hand, and around you!

You are in His right hand; He has inscribed you on the palm of His hands; no one can snatch you out of His hand; even the hairs of your head are all numbered (Rev 2: 1; Isa 49: 16; Jn 10: 28; Lk 12: 7). If you remember this loving God and set Him before your eyes, you will certainly love Him and feel secure in His presence.

Can you love Him without feeling His presence?

It is unreasonable. We do not love an unknown God, for the apostle says, "… we have heard … we have seen with our eyes … we have looked upon, and our hands have handled." (1 Jn 1: 1) And David the Prophet says, "I have set the Lord always before me." (Ps 16: 8) If those had seen him, we now see Him through faith.

What is God's position in your life, that you may love Him?

Is He before your eyes? Are you always aware of His work in your life? Or days may pass without you remembering Him till you go to church? Do you remember that Sunday is the Lord's Day, or you call it "the weekend"? Try to feel His presence all the time. St. Augustine, before his repentance, meditating on his past life, said to the Lord:

You were with me, O Lord, but for my deep misery I was not with You!

When the Lord appeared to the disciples of Emmaus after the resurrection and spoke to them they did not know Him (Lk 24). Mary Magdalene likewise did not know Him and thought Him the gardener (Jn 20). Therefore if you are aware of His presence and His care, and that with Him you will not want, such feelings will implant love in your heart.

Try also to let the Lord into every act or work you do.

For instance when you go to your work or to your studies or anywhere else, say to Him before you go out, 'I am going to such and such place, be with me. I will meet so and so, give me wisdom, and put words on my mouth. I leave my house under your care.' Even though you are very smart and experienced, let Him into whatever you do, and say to Him, 'Without You, O Lord, I can do nothing.' (Jn 15: 5) And when you succeed say to Him, 'I give thanks to You, O Lord, because your hand was with me in what I did. I ask You to be always with me.' Or in case of a successful surgery to you or to one of your beloved, say to Him, 'Your hand was with the surgeon and with the hospital. Your love is revealed to us, O Lord, and we love You in turn.'

Do not only set God before you or with you, but let Him be within you and you within Him.

Be within Him like a branch abiding in the vine that it may give fruit (Jn 15: 4, 5) And He will be within you because you are God's temple and God's Spirit dwells in you (1 Cor 3: 16), for the Lord also says, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." (Jn 14: 23)

Ask yourself whether you still keep God within you.

Is God still in your heart, in your mind, on your tongue, in your whole life, in your house, and in your work? Are you aware of His presence and pleased with that, and have communion with Him in everything? Or have you moved away from Him, grieved His Holy Spirit, and separated yourself from Him with all ways?

A woman bearing a child feels it moving in her womb and nourished with her blood, so she feels it is her duty to eat so that it may find food. You have also got a spiritual child created within you from the Holy Spirit since you knew God, so, do you feed yourself that it may be nourished? Its food is the divine love by which it lives and moves, as the Psalmist says, "I will lift up my hands in Your name. my soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness." (Ps 63: 4, 5)

If we are nourished with God's love, we will grow in the spirit.

If we are nourished with God's love, we can say to the others, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34: 8) And when we are nourished with every word coming from His mouth, we will have life in Him through partaking of the Eucharist Sacrament. We will feel His life within us, and say with St. Paul the Apostle, "To me, to live is Christ," "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2: 20)

Do you really feel the life of Christ in you, the victory and the glory He gives you? Are you aware of the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13: 14) in every work you do? Do you not enter any place of do any work unless God's name is glorified in it?

Do you bear God's name and action everywhere you go?

When David entered the battle field he brought God's name in it and said, "The battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands." And he said to Goliath, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts … This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand." (1 Sam 17: 45 47)

In this way the Lord's name was on David's mouth, the Lord's power in his arm, and the Lord's name a cause of comfort, victory and joy to the army.

I like the name of St. Ignatius of Antioch "Theophorus" i.e. "bearer of God". You also, if you love God, you will bear His name on you to whoever you meet, and wherever you go. God will work with you, so you will succeed, your heart will rejoice, and you will love God who gave you success. The Lord was with Joseph the Righteous and made all he did to prosper in his hand (Gen 39: 3) God actually can do everything alone, because everything was made through Him (Jn 1), but He likes to work through us so that we may be glad that He work through us and that He chose us for His work.

You ought then to do the Lord's work and say to Him, 'Wherever I go, I will find for You a place to lay Your head.' (Lk 9: 58) It will be exchanged love between you and God. He works in you, and you work for Him. Due to His great love He sends you to work in His vine, and you in your love say to Him, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3: 30) However, God does not want you to decrease, but in His love He makes you a lamp that gives light to all who are in the house (Mt 5: 15), and He says to you, "I will bless you … and you shall be a blessing." (Gen 12: 2) You, on the other hand, in your love will say with the Psalmist, "Not unto us, O Lord, but to Your name give glory." (Ps 115: 1) Whoever loves God ought to hide and let God appear, as John the Baptist did. If you deny yourself, you will attain God's love. But if you focus on yourself, you will be occupied with yourself rather than with God. If you deny yourself all your focus will be on God who fills your heart and mind, so you will love Him.

One more point in this article, that is, try to make everything remind you of God. But there is no space for it here. We shall explain it in next week's article – God willing


His Holiness Pope Shenouda III Patriarch 117th of the See of Alexandria and Successor of St. Mark. Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He is the head of The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.


WATANI International – 3 May 2009 – 25 Baramouda (Bermodah) 1725 (Coptic Calendar) – 8 Gamada al-Awwal (Arab Calendar) 1430 – Year 9 - Issue 429.
WATANI - 3 May 2009 - 25 Baramouda (Bermodah) 1725 (Coptic Calendar) - 1st Issue Year 51 - No. 2471 - 2nd Issue Year 9 No. 437
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