Thursday, September 27, 2012

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Exaltation of the Holy Cross 

Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She razed the Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus' head: Then "all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on."

To this day the Eastern Churches, Orthodox and Catholic alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica's dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.

The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewellery. To the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome's authority—including Christians who refused sacrifice to Roman gods. Although believers spoke of the cross as the instrument of salvation, it seldom appeared in Christian art unless disguised as an anchor or the Chi-Rho until after Constantine's edict of toleration.

"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life"  ST.Theodore of Studios


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

6 - HE WAS FAST ASLEEP - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III

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.


He was fast asleep when the angel whispered in his ears, 'Till when will you live thus, a mere shadow of another person who dominates own you as he wills?' The voice was lenient and sincere, so the sleeping person was not disturbed by it but replied calmly, 'What do you mean, my master the angel?' The angel replied, 'I mean that you have lost your personality with regard to your thoughts and your spiritual life.. and now you have the personality of another person.  That person exalted himself and became exalted in your eyes to the extent that you took him for an example.  You began to follow his steps in everything; if he is elevated, you are elevated also and if he falls, you fall with him.  You adopt his views and follow his deviations.  Moreover, you defend his views more than he himself .  You take his principles as incontestable; suffice you that the person whom you worship has uttered them once.'

The person who was sleeping felt that all the words said by the angel were true but he tried to justify himself and said: 'Is there any harm, my master the angel, if I follow him as long as his views are sound and faultless?' The angel answered him, 'How do you know that all his views are sound?  Do you think that your master is infallible?  Is it not possible to find that he is at fault, being a human being?  And if he is wrong, how would  you know since you listen only to his views and accept nothing else?  You even refuse to listen to any person who may oppose the ideas of this (master); and if you do listen, it is with the spirit of argument.  You try to criticize and refute any idea without understanding it just because it contradicts your master's views!!'

Here, the sleeping person rubbed his eyes bashfully to realize whether he was awake or asleep while the angel went on, 'Your spirit is imprisoned; it wants to be set free but is not able to because it is tied up with the fetters of that person... He gives you only the knowledge he wants you to learn and reveals to you whatever facts he wants.  Even your own knowledge which you acquire from other sources must be reviewed by him.. You have completely lost your personality and behave no more by yourself.  Whenever you face a problem, you seek his help; and whenever anything befalls you, you do not try to find a solution for it but wait till your master comes and solves it.  Even if you take a decision concerning such a matter, he may cancel your decision in any way and whenever he wants without any objection on your side.  The utmost thing you can attain in your life is to be a faded image of that person.  You have lost the personality which God gave you when He created you.. and at the same time you cannot adopt his personality fully because the spiritual, mental and social circumstances which formed your personality differ from those which formed his. I imagine you rocking unsteadily between both ways.'

The sleeping person listened to all this speech feeling that it had touched his heart.  He even felt within himself that he had become weary of the authority of that (master).

This gave him the courage to ask the angel to find him a solution; he said, 'Oh my master the angel, how dare I argue with my master?' The angel replied, 'I tell you, though the case is different, that God likes His children to be of strong personality and He even allows them to discuss with Him.  Remember how Jeremiah addressed God saying, "Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments.  Why does the way of the wicked prosper?  Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?  (Jer. 12:1)... Listen also to Abraham arguing with God - glory be to His name-says, "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this... Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen.18:25).  Moses also spoke to his creator in the same manner; he said, "Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.." (Ex. 32:12).

Here, the sleeping person asked the angel, 'Now, my master the angel, what do you want me to do?  'The angel replied, 'Do not be under the control of a certain person.  Listen to many, and read the writings of many, consider whatever views you want but have a discerning spirit which can distinguish between a sound opinion and a wrong one.  Adopt only what conforms with your spiritual and mental nature, and what fits your social and practical circumstances and your age also.  Know that there are various paths that lead to God but perhaps the path which fits the others does not fit you in particular.. Yours is the path which the Lord has chosen for You - in particular - not any other path.'

At this point the sleeping person got up of his sleep to find himself a new person having his spirit released and set free from any bonds, seeking truth wherever it is and giving no worship to a human being..

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


Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Full Assurance of Faith - Verses

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10: 19 - 22 ESV


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Holding Patterns

Holding Patterns 

Many times, God will allow a painful situation or a painful circumstance in our life to "swallow us up".   In our spiritual growth, this is a holding pattern. We can't move to the left or the right.  All we can do is sit, like Jonah sat in the belly of that great fish, so God can have our undivided attention and speak to us.

God put Jonah in a holding pattern because He needed to speak to his heart. Jonah was all alone. There were no friends to call, no colleagues to drop by, no books to read, no food to eat, no interference, and no interruption. He had plenty of time to sit, think, meditate, and pray.

When we're deep down in the midst of a difficult situation, God can talk to us. When He has our undivided attention, He can show us things about ourselves that we might not otherwise have seen.

A few of God's holding patterns:

1. When you are sick in your physical body and you have prayed but you're not yet healed, .. you are in a holding pattern.

2. When you are having problems with your children and you have put them on the altar, but God has not delivered them yet, .. you are in a holding pattern.

3. When you have been praying for a loved one to return to God, and they have not come back yet, .. you are in a holding pattern.

4. When you are in a broken relationship and you have given it over to God, but it has not been restored yet, .. you are in a holding pattern.

5. When the doors slam shut before you can even knock on them, .. you are in a holding pattern.

When we are deep in the belly of a difficult situation, there are no interruptions.  God has our undivided attention.  All we can do is Sit, Think, Meditate, and Pray.  Like Jonah, we cannot run from God, because there are no mountains that are high enough, valleys that are low enough, rivers that are wide enough, rooms that are dark enough, or places that are hidden from Him.

We must remember to praise Him while we're waiting, and remember three things:
1. The pattern has a purpose.
2. The pattern has a plan.
3. The pattern has a process.

So stop struggling and start listening, praying and trusting.  He'll keep you right where you are until you can clearly hear Him say, "I love you."

Father, forgive my unbelief.  I know you love me and I will come to see the benefit of everything in my life, even this holding pattern, and the manifestation of my Good is assured through You. 
You have planned nothing for me but victories; and I am ready to receive them regardless of how difficult the path.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Quote From Abba Anthony, Anthony The Great

Quote From Abba Anthony, 
Anthony The Great

Someone asked Abba Anthony, saying, 

What must we keep in order to be pleasing to God? 

And the elder answered, saying, Keep what I tell you. 

Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes. 

And whatever you do, do it from the witness of the Holy Scriptures. 

And in whatever place you live, do not leave quickly. 

Keep these three things, and you will be saved


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