Friday, May 29, 2009

Signs Of Love For God Nothing Tastes Beside Him

Signs Of Love For God Nothing Tastes Beside Him
By Pope Shenouda III
Your sole occupation – Work with Him
Everything reminds of Him
Translated by Dr. Wedad Abbas

Having talked much about how we should love God, let us talk about the signs of such love and its results in one's life.

The greatest sign is that God's love in your heart removes away everything, and nothing else may give you pleasure. All the pleasures of the world have no taste compared to God's love.

Everything seems trivial and insignificant as Wise Solomon said, "All was vanity and grasping for the wind." (Eccl 2) Therefore the more you grow in God's love, the more you disdain all worldly pleasures and say with St. Paul the Apostle, "I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him." (Phil 3: 8)

Imagine a professor of mathematics, shall he find pleasure in small arithmetical calculation? They will seem to him very trivial. The same applies to the worldly matters in the sight of whoever is filled with God's love.

Moreover, a person who is occupied with God's love will forget even himself and feel only God's presence in him.

Such a person says with Paul the Apostle, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2: 20) Wonderful indeed are these words! They express deep self-denial. It is the image of one denying himself for God's love, and he finds it only in God, like a branch in the vine. The branch is alive and bears fruit so long as it is abiding in the vine (Jn 15).

Through love a person can reach the level of abiding in God.

The Lord Himself says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." But how can we abide in Him? He says, "Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love." (Jn 15: 5- 10)

God's love is not mere vague emotions, but it ought to be fruitful. It appears in keeping His commandments.

St. John the Beloved says clearly, "By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." (1 Jn 2: 3- 5; 5: 3) On the contrary he who breaks God's commandments does not love Him, but is disobedient. He is treacherous and can even be counted among His adversaries. Therefore keeping the commandments is a main sign for those who love God. Does a child who loves his natural father not obey his commandments?

However, abiding in God has a deeper meaning.

As a branch abiding in the vine feels itself a member of the vine, you likewise, if you abide in the Lord, will feel yourself a member of the body of Christ. It is a great mystery (Eph 5: 32). Why then do you feel a stranger from God saying like the Bride in the Song when she was away from Him, "Why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions?" (Song 1: 7)

Brother, you are not a stranger from God, nor is He a stranger from you.

You are in His heart, and He is in your heart. He is in you, and you in Him. You are in Him as the branch in the vine, and He in you because you are a temple of His Holy Spirit and His Spirit dwells in you (1 Cor 3: 16). He and the Father dwell in you as He Himself said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him," "Where I am, there you may be also." (Jn 14: 23, 3) He considers us His brethren, as himself. That is why when Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church, the Lord said to him, "Why are you persecuting Me." (Acts 9: 4) He considered any persecution to the church as persecution to Him personally. And on another occasion He said, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Mt25: 40?)

Among the signs of our love for God is our attachment to Him.

As David the Prophet says, "It is good for me to draw near to God," "My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me." (Ps 73: 28; 63: 8) If we hold to God we will move away automatically from sin and even hate it. It will be against our nature, for there is no communion between light and darkness (2 Cor 6: 14). Whoever holds to God will never get bored of talking with Him, but will say with David the Prophet, "Early will I seek You; my soul thirst for You." (Ps 63: 1) He rejoices at being in God's presence as the Bride in the Song, "We will be glad and rejoice in You," "Your love is better than wine." (Song 1: 4, 2)

Because of rejoicing in being in the Lord's presence, our father monks left everything that they might be alone in the wilderness with God whom they loved. So if you feel bored of praying and like to conclude the prayer quickly, you will not have reached God's love.

Our holy fathers the martyrs at the time of their martyrdom had God's love reigning over their hearts far deeper than their feeling of pain. So they endured suffering, and even loved it, because it brought them nearer to God.

Among the signs of love for God is the love of everything pertaining to Him.

Whoever loves God will love His church and say, "How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes faints for the courts of the Lord," "Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You," "One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord." (Ps 84: 1, 4; 27: 4)

Whoever loves God will love His law and His commandments and finds them like honey and better to his mouth. He will repeat His words all the time, and will find pleasure and happiness in them as one has found many treasures. The Lord's words are a lamp to his feet and light to his way (Ps 119). Whoever loves God will love His heavens, His saints, and His kingdom.

Whoever loves God will be led by this love in all his spiritual practices.

He reads for God's sake to enjoy Him, prays or ministers for His sake to meet with Him and to enjoy His Life-Giving-Sacraments, goes to church, attends spiritual meetings, speaks with people for His sake to speak to them about Him. For God's sake he keeps silent to meditate on His beautiful attributes. For His sake he lives to minister to Him and to spread His name. For His sake he dies to meet with Him in Paradise then in the kingdom, as St. Paul says, "If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord … whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." (Rom 14: 8)

Whoever loves God has risen above struggling against sin.

The lust of the flesh against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh is for the beginners who have not yet attained God's love. But who loves God will glorify Him in the body and in the spirit, cannot sin, and the wicked one does not touch him, because God's love abides in him (1 Cor 6: 20; 1 Jn 3: 9, 5: 18). Whenever sin draws near he says: "How then can I do this great wickedness mans sin against God?" (Gen 39: 9)

Whoever loves God and attaches his mind to Him will take everything as a reminder of God whom he loves.

He watches heaven, but not to watch its planets and stars or the sun and the moon, but to say, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork," 'Heaven is God's throne, and the earth is His footstool,' 'The tabernacle of God with men." (Ps 19; Mt 5: 34, 35; Rev 21) He remembers the words of the Lord's Prayer, "Our God in heaven" and remembers that the heaven we see is not everything, for there is also the third heaven where St. Paul the Apostle was taken up (2 Cor 12: 2), and the heaven of heavens of which the Lord spoke, saying, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven … the Son of Man who is in heaven." (Jn 3: 13)

He watches the beautiful nature, not to admire its beauty, but to glorify God who created such beauty. Indeed, it is not proper that God's gifts to us take us away from Him who gave them. They rather give us an idea about His love, His generosity and His power.
When he sees the lilies of the field he would say, "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." How amazing is God's power who so clothes them! The same applies to the butterflies with their colors, the birds with their singing, the bee which makes honey, and the ant with its activity. How God has endowed this creation with the most amazing and wondrous gifts!

If even a person sees a cat pursued by a dog which cannot catch it, he will say: 'How compassionate is God who gave such a weak creation the means to escape from the powerful. The cat in this case has the ability to climb a tree, whereas the dog cannot. The lion likewise, though much stronger than the deer, the latter has the power to run much faster than the lion to flee from it.

So, a person can glorify God's love if he saw a lion or a deer.

He remembers God's love if he sees a tree casting down its leaves in winter and putting them on in summer, giving us the chance to enjoy the warm sun in winter or the shade from heat in summer. The same applies to many kinds of trees. It is good to turn the material things to spirituality or to take spiritual lessons from material things. Consider for instance how God adorns the polar bear and fox with beautiful fur that keeps them warm in such ice regions, while the camel or the horse are not burdened with such fur because they live in hot regions.

So many are the things that remind us of God's works, but we do not remember because we have not yet attained this level of meditation! But the hearts that love Him find in everything a reminder of Him. They have the exercised senses (Heb 5: 14). This is enough, dear reader, for this topic on our love for God. We shall move next week, God willing, to love for people.

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 – 17 May 2009 – 9 Bashans 1725 (Coptic Calendar) – 22 Gamada al-Awwal (Arab Calendar) 1430 – Year 9 - Issue 431.
WATANI - 17 May 2009 - 9 Bashans 1725 (Coptic Calendar) - 1st Issue Year 51 - No. 2473 - 2nd Issue Year 9 No. 439


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