Monday, April 30, 2012

2nd Sunday - Sunday of the Bread of Life



CHRIST is Risen - Truly He is Risen  
Khristós Anésti! Alithós Anésti!


Sundays of the Holy Fifties


Meditation on Church reading during the Holy Fifties:


The fathers of the church arranged and named Sundays of the Holy Fifties as they did with the Sundays of the Great Fasting.


 + 1st Sunday of the Holy Fifty Days  is the Sunday of Faith (Thomas Sunday).
 +  2nd is the Sunday of the Bread of Life.
 +  3rd is the Sunday of the Living water. 
 +  4th is the Sunday of the True Light.
 +  5th is the Sunday of the Only Way.
 +  6th is the Sunday of spiritual asking.
 +  7th is the Sunday the Pentecost.


2nd Sunday - Sunday of The Bread of Life: 
John 6:35-45


Our reward on 2nd Sunday is the Bread of Life
“I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall never hunger.”  John: 6: 35
The Lord Meant His Holy Body that is offered to us at the Altar during the Holy Eucharist. God by His unlimited love sacrifices His Only Begotten Son for our salvation. (John 3:16). Limitless Love    


We live as sojourners on earth hoping to be granted eternal life through the forgiveness of our sins after repenting and confessing. Reading the Words of God guides us to spiritual living on earth. All humans eat material bread, other earthly food like material bread, is the differce between the rich and poor in various countries. The Lord  told us that not by material bread  we live but:
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"' 
(Matthew 4:4 & Deuteronomy 8:3)


“ Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  John  6: 68


Material food is for nourishing our bodies. Heavenly food is for nourishing our souls. Many of us spend a lot of time laboring for the material food for ourselves, our kids and our families, while we forget to dedicate a reasonable  part of our time for God.


We must put God first. God is all in all. We must pray continuously.
"Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." Luke 18:1


God the Creator who made every thing; " All things were made though HIM and without HIM nothing was made that was made."   John.: 1:3
Even when we pray we frequently ask for material things. 


"Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you.” John 6: 26-27


The hunger of our souls comes from failure to fulfill God’s Will and to labor for this willingly and joyfully. How much is the world engaged about thinking of hungry bodies?  And what about our hungry souls?
If we sow for  the flesh we reap corruption.  What we feed will grow, so to grow in spirit we must  feed our spirits.


O God help us to follow your commandments and make this our daily bread. Our strength originates from seeking eternal life.
“But He Said to them: I Have food to eat which you don’t know." John 4: 32


O God let  our bodily eyes see your Way and follow the right paths .. Amen!


Have a blessed Holy Fifty days.



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Thursday, April 26, 2012

1st Sunday - Sunday of Faith (Thomas Sunday)‏


Doubting Thomas


CHRIST is Risen- Truly He is Risen 
Khristós Anésti! Alithós Anésti!

Sundays of the Holy Fifties

Meditation on Church reading during the Holy Fifties:

The fathers of the church arranged and named Sundays of the Holy Fifties as they did with the Sundays of the Great Fasting.
The readings of Sundays of the Great Fasting, encourage us on doing the virtues and to repent. After the Passover (Pascha) when we are freed from the chains of sins and bondage, to walk in the Light of the Lord, "We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation".  (Romans: 5: 11)

After our true repentance we shall enjoy our spiritual resurrection on earth " Most assuredly I say to you, the hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voices of the Son of God; and those who hear will live". (John: 5: 25)

"But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Corinthians: 15: 57).
The Glorified Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ awards us this:  
"For if we have united together in the likeliness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeliness of His Resurrection". 
(Romans: 6: 5)

The reading of the Sundays of the Holy Fifties focus on the rewards we get.

1st Sunday, Sunday of Faith (Thomas Sunday):

Thomas had doubt about the Glorified Resurrection of the Lord. It is a sin not to fully trust in the Words of God.  Satan tempted Eve to fall in this sin by introducing doubt in her thoughts by saying to her: "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree in the Garden'?" "You will not surely die". (Genesis 3:1,4)
This caused humanity to fall in the original sin.

Disciple Thomas also doubted, and today's reading shows us the reward of fully trusting and not doubting.
The Lord allowed His Disciple Thomas to doubt so that the Glorified Resurrection is confirmed to all His sons and daughters. Some fathers of the church prefer to call this Sunday (Sunday of the confirmation or Sunday of Faith).
The Lord Blessed  the true believers; "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John: 20: 29)

Have blessed Holy Fifty days,

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Easter Story

 Christ Is Risen 

Easter celebrates Jesus' resurrection. His cruel death by crucifixion took place at the same time as the Jewish holy celebration of Passover. What they had been symbolizing for over 1000 year with the killing of sacrificial lambs and the passover supper was now happening to the lamb of God.
On that very day and at that very hour when people throughout the land were selecting and slaughtering passover lambs, Jesus was crucified. 

The way Jesus died also fulfilled many other Old Testament prophecies in amazing detail.


Prophecy:

"He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)


Fulfillment:


When Jesus stood trial for His life before the governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus didn't speak in His own defense.  (Matthew 27:12-14)


About 1,000 years before crucifixion became a usual means of execution in the Roman Empire, King David wrote of the Messiah:
"All my bones are out of joint …. They pierced My hands and My feet" (Psalm 22: 14,16)
In death by crucifixion, the weight of the victim's body pulls his arms out of their sockets. Most of the condemned were tied to their crosses, but Jesus was nailed to His -- Through the hands and feet.


It was also customary for the Romans to break the legs of those who had been hanging on their crosses for hours but hadn't died yet. The lack of support for the body caused the windpipe and lungs to collapse, and hastened their deaths. But when the Roman executioners came to do this to Jesus, they found that He was already dead.


Thus another Bible prophecy was fulfilled:
"(God) guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:20)


Instead, just to make sure Jesus was dead, one of the Romans thrust a spear into Jesus' side, piercing His heart. "And immediately blood and water came out"  (John 19:34)
This fulfilled the scripture, "I am poured out like water … My heart has melted within Me" (Psalm 22:14)


One would expect blood to flow from a spear wound, but not water. Where did that come from? Medical science has found that people who die in great anguish of heart often have an accumulation of water around the heart. Jesus died of a broken heart -- for you and me.


Jesus also died feeling like the lost sinner. He went through an experience that, thank God we will never have to go through--not just crucifixion, not just agony of body, but agony of mind and spirit, feeling that God had deserted Him. As He died, "Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'"  (Matthew 27:46)


Had God forsaken Him? Yes, momentarily He had. He had to, that Jesus might die like a sinner dies, without God.
Think of it: Jesus died the death of the unsaved, in agony! God had to temporarily turn His back on His own Son so Jesus might die the death of the sinner, to sacrifice His Son for our sins.


Did God answer Jesus on the cross?
There's no record of an answer. Jesus felt that God had deserted Him at that moment when He needed Him most.


Jesus suffered the spiritual agony of the dying sinner--lost, without salvation, without God, dying for his sins.  Only in Jesus' case He was dying for our sins, the sins of the whole world. He was willing to go through all that so we could be forgiven and have eternal life.
Such Love!
"And they made His grave with the wicked--But with the rich at His death" (Isaiah 53:9)
Jesus was unjustly condemned and crucified between two common criminals. (Matthew 27:38)
Yet after His death, a rich man who was among Jesus' followers, Joseph of Arimathea, laid Jesus' body in his own new tomb. (Matthew 27:57-60)


After Jesus' body was laid in the tomb, to make sure His disciples didn't steal His body and claim He had risen from the dead, the tomb was sealed and some Roman soldiers stood guard. (Matthew 27:62-66)    


Three days later, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came at dawn to the tomb, and an angel appeared and rolled the stone away.
When the Roman guards saw the angel, "they shook for fear of him, and became as dead men. "But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid. … Jesus is not here; for He is risen, as He said."
And the angel showed the women where Jesus' body had lain. (Matthew 28:1-8).


Jesus had risen from the dead!


Three days after His lifeless body was buried, something happened that shocked His enemies and proved to all of His followers that He really was the Son of God: He arose from the dead, the victor over death and Hell forever!


Come back to God!


All the love of the world from Our Lord!
Have faith, and know for sure that this Man of love, Jesus Christ, really is the Son of God, the way to salvation and eternal life! All you have to do is believe that Jesus died for you, and accept Him and His free gift of forgiveness for your sins.


You can receive Him and His salvation by simply and sincerely praying a prayer like the one which follows:


Dear Jesus, I believe that You died for me and arose from the grave. I need Your love to cleanse me from my mistakes and wrongdoing. I need Your light to drive away all darkness. I need Your peace to fill and satisfy my heart. I now open the door of my heart and I ask You, Jesus, to please come into my life and give me Your free gift of eternal life. Thank You for suffering for all of the wrong I have done, and for hearing my prayer and forgiving me, Amen.
(Copied)


Happy Easter To All.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus



Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which assured us that You are Truly Human and Truly Divine for by Your Free Will You Rested in the grave to Make it a place of rest to all who believe in You.
(John: 10:18)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which declared to us that You do not Disdain to Accept our condemnation to change our life and our destiny to Raise us from dust to heavenly dwelling
(Phil:2:7-8).

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which Has Made the grave no longer a place of darkness but full of the Light of Your Glorified Resurrection, for Accepting our burial to Release us from the terror of death
(1Corinthians:15:20-22)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
..which Has Proved Your Unconditional Love for You Have Assumed our birth, our infancy, maturity, death and the grave because there is no limits to your Ministry of Salvation.
(John:3:16-19)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. because You Are like a fruitful tree which gives its fruits in due season. Your Cross Produced Your Burial and Your Burial Produced Your Resurrection and Your Resurrection Produced Incorruptibility and Glory Everlasting.
(Gen:3:22; John:15:1-8 & Rev:22:2).

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which Runs like a River of Living Water to Water every grave till the time appointed for the resurrection of all us.
(John: 4:14 & 7:38)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. because Your Body was buried wounded but emerged from the grave New and Incorruptible.
( Ps: 16:10).

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which we receive in our baptism as a seal this seals our life in sickness and in danger and blossoms which the hope in eternal life.
(2 Corinthians 1:22 & Ephesians 1:13)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
 .. which Gives our post baptismal anointing the shining light of the life to come. There in the sign of the Cross which the holy Oil, we see the birth of new life that breaks like the light of day(Matthew:13-17 & John::5-7)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which we taste in the great mystery when we eat Your Holy Body and drink Your Precious Blood to participate in the eternal joy of your submission to death to change our death to life. The shroud of Your Burial spread the fragrance of Your Immortality
(John:6:35 & 53-58).

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. which Made You Laid in the grave like all the dead, I wonder at the astonishment of the Angels and the Grief of the Father and the Endurance of the Holy Spirit. But you Creator of life Took the curse of death which we embraced to change it to restful time before we rise up in the Glory of Your Resurrection.
(Luke:24:4-7)

Blessed Be Your Burial Lord Jesus...
.. for at  Your Baptism You Were Anointed by the Lord the Giver of life to Give us a share in Your Life and when You Were Buried in the grave your anointing carried the seal of life by which your body was sealed to give us the same seal of life
(Romans:6:3-14).

Quoted with adaptation-Author Unknown


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Thursday, April 5, 2012

FASTING - Part 4 - By Pope Shenouda III

THE BENEFITS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING
HH Pope Shenouda III

Part 4: 

MIXING FASTING WITH VIRTUES:
 
For one to benefit from fasting and to enter into the spirituality of fasting for his body as well as his soul, one has to mix his fasting with specific virtues that suit fasting and agree with him.

+ Fasting has to be accompanied by prayer. Why? Because when we fast, it is not only to discipline the body and bring it into subjection (1 Cor 9:27), but it is also to give the spirit a chance to be nourished by all the spiritual nutrition that is good for it: prayer, spiritual readings, contemplation and love for God. In the Fraction of the Holy Lent, during Mass, we repeat the phrase: “With fasting and prayer...” And for sure, the spirit that has received its nutrition, would be able to sustain the body during its fasting so it would not get tired. We notice that during the Passion Week, we never feel the burden of fasting because during this period, the spirit is being fed by readings, hymns and holy memories. And so we can say about the spiritual fasting:

The fasting of the body is a chance to nourish the spirit.

And the fasting that is accompanied by God’s fellowship turns into a spiritual enjoyment so that the one who is fasting would tire if he stops his fasting. This is what used to happen to the fathers who lived in solitude and to the monks, to whom fasting became a spiritual nourishment that made their hearts rejoice and brought them closer to God.

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+ Fasting also has to be linked to repentance.
 
Because what is important in spirituality is the pure heart and not just the hungry body. It also makes our fasting acceptable to God and we feel that we benefit from it.
And so says the divine inspiration in the Book of Joel: “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly” (Joel 2:15). Fasting then is a holy period. And how could it be holy without repentance?! And what we acquire from feelings of repentance during fasting should remain with us.

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+ Fasting is also accompanied by humility before God.
 
And so the Prophet David said: “I humbled myself with fasting” (Ps 35:13). And in the fasting of the people of Ninevah, they put on sack cloth and sat in ashes (Jon 3). And as the body is crushed by fasting, so the spirit should be crushed. Therefore, fasting is accompanied by prostrations. It is not enough for your body to bend, but also for your spirit to bend. As the Prophet David said: “My soul clings to the dust” (Ps 119:25). He did not only say: “My head clings to the dust” ...
In this humility, the soul asks for God’s mercy, for itself and for others. The soul also confesses its sins and asks for forgiveness. And as the Prophet Joel said: “... Rend your heart, and not your garment; Return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13).

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+ Fasting is also accompanied by almsgiving.
 
The one who asks for God’s mercy during fasting must have mercy on others and give alms. How beautiful is the Lord’s saying about this in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness.... Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Is 58:6,7).

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The topic of fasting and its spirituality is long.
 
If you want more details, you can read a book I published for you under the title “Spirituality of Fasting.” May God grant us all a holy fast that brings our spirits closer to Him, that we may feel the enjoyment of fasting.

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From the book - The Spiritual Means
 By HH Pope Shenouda III

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FASTING - Part 3 - By Pope Shenouda III

THE BENEFITS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING 
 HH Pope Shenouda III

Part 3: 

THE ACCEPTABLE SPIRITUAL FASTING: 

But maybe some would ask the Lord, as it happened at the time of Isaiah the Prophet: “Why have we fasted and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls and You take no notice?” (Is 58:3). And the Lord would reply as He did to those and say to them: “Is it a fast that I have chosen?” (Is 58:5).

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You must know, my brother, that not every fasting is acceptable before God. The Pharisee who used to fast twice a week, was not justified like the tax collector (Lk 18:12,14). The same with fasting that does not have repentance. Likewise the fasting of the sinners at the time of Jeremiah the Prophet, about whom the Lord said: “When they fast, I will not hear their cry:
and when they offer burnt offering, I will not accept them” (Jer 14:11,12). The same with the fasting of the hypocrites, who want to appear to men to be fasting (Mt 6:16-18).

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Do not say then: I fasted but did not benefit spiritually!!

If this happens, may be your fasting was not done in a spiritual way or atmosphere. Or maybe you fast but at the same time live in sin!! Then we have to learn how to fast? And what is the true meaning of fasting? And how do we benefit spiritually from it?

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Many are concerned about the formalities of fasting, or they understand it as just eating vegetarian food and they do not care about the spiritual side during fasting!! I say to those: the definition of fasting with regard to the body is abstaining from food for a certain period of time, followed by food that is free from animal fat.

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Do you practice this abstinence from food and drink?

And do you reach a stage of hunger and you endure it?

This is the first exercise, I mean enduring hunger... It was said about the fasting of the Lord Jesus Christ that: “He was hungry” (Mt 4:2) and (Lk 4:2). And St Paul the Apostle said about his fasting with his fellow apostles: “In hunger and thirst, in fasting often” (2 Cor 11:27). And about the fasting of St Peter the Apostle, it was said: “Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat” (Acts 10:10). So, do you experience hunger in your fasting?

When you become hungry, you feel your weakness so you do not show off your strength but rely on God’s strength to support you. And when you become hungry and endure hunger, you acquire the virtue of endurance and self-control. Therefore do not eat whenever you feel hungry during fasting but persevere and endure. Take the blessing of feeling hungry, persevering and enduring it. Also when you experience hunger, you will feel the pain of the poor who have nothing to eat, so you will be sympathetic towards them and give unto them... This is what is meant by abstaining for a period of time during fasting.

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Another advice is to abstain from whatever you desire...

Remember the saying of the Prophet Daniel about his fasting: “I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth” (Dan 10:3)... I say that because many eat a lot of desirable vegetarian food and enjoy it. Therefore, they do not really feel that they are fasting, and then they do not benefit from their fasting, especially if there was a mother or a wife who is expert in cooking vegetarian food and makes it more appetizing than ordinary food.

Therefore, place before yourself two observations during your fast: the first is that you do not ask for specific types of food that you enjoy. The second is that if desirable food is placed before you, do not satisfy your desire and eat from it. Or else take a small amount and leave the rest and control yourself. Or mix the desirable with the undesirable, so that the desirable will not taste that good.

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With that you advance in your fasting till you reach, not only the hunger of the body, but the ascetic body.

In this way, your body renounces all the enjoyment offered by food. The element of abstaining comes first. But when you train yourself and get used to it, then it would not be a great effort to stop yourself, because by that time, you would have renounced what you used to long for. This ability to restrain yourself from food and drink will grow and develop in you until you renounce many other pleasures, such as those of the senses, and the various desires of the body... At that time, your spiritual level will be elevated...

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The element of restrain comes into many fields.

As you train to restrain yourself from eating and drinking, you will gradually restrain your tongue from bad talk and from any talk that is not constructive. You also restrain your mind from vain and wrong thoughts.
You restrain your heart from all sinful feelings, all desires and impure emotions. And so you will progress from the fasting of the mouth to the fasting of the tongue, the fasting of the thoughts, and the fasting of the heart.

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Not only would your body be fasting, but your soul also...

Fasting becomes a mere expression of the inner purity that you have reached and a spiritual period that you have lived... The more you practice, the more you will be used to it and its virtues for you will become a way of life. I mean that what you spiritually gain during fasting, you do not lose when fasting is over, but it continues with you. It is true that your food has changed by the end of fasting, but the virtues that you acquired during fasting would not change...

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Here you differentiate between breaking fast and lack of restraint.


Many control themselves during the fast, but when it is over and it is feast time, they lose all that they acquired, thinking that breaking a fast means loss of restraint and self control!! Therefore, the one who takes fasting as one of the spiritual means, keeps in his heart, his soul and his will all that he acquired during the fast, and the benefit continues with him. If fasting helped him to get rid of a bad habit or a specific habit, he does not go back to it even after he breaks his fast.



From the book - The Spiritual Means
 By HH Pope Shenouda III

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