Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Return of The Relics of The Great St.Mark The Apostle




The Return of The Relics of The Great St.Mark The Apostle 
To The New St.Mark Cathedral

On this day, of the year 1684 A.M., that coincided with the Monday 24th of June, 1968 A.D., and in the tenth year of the papacy of Pope Kyrillos the Sixth, 116th Pope of Alexandria, the relics of the great saint, the beholder of God, St. Mark the Apostle, the Evangelist of the Egyptian land and the first Patriarch of Alexandria, were returned to Egypt. Pope Kyrillos had delegated an official delegation to travel to Rome to receive the relics of St. Mark the Apostle from Pope Paul VI. 
The papal delegation consisted of ten Metropolitans and Bishops, seven of them were Coptic and three Ethiopians, and three of the prominent Coptic lay leaders. The Alexandrian delegation received the relics of St. Mark the Apostle on Saturday the 22nd of June, 1968 A.D. from Pope Paul VI. The moment of handing over the holy relics, after eleven centuries, during which the body of St. Mark was kept in the city of Venice, in Italy, was a solemn and joyful moment. 
The next day, Sunday 16th of Baounah (June 23rd), the Alexandrian Papal delegation celebrated a festive pontifical liturgy in the church of St. Athanasius the Apostolic in Rome. The ten Metropolitans, Bishops, and the Priests accompanying the delegation, all served in the liturgy. Members of the Roman Papal delegation, the Copts who accompanied the Delegation, and those who lived in Rome, newspaper and news agency reporters, and many foreign dignitaries attended the liturgy.


The Alexandrian Papal delegation carrying the holy relics, on Monday the 24th of June, 1968 A.D., went to the airport in an official procession, preceded by the motorcycles and police escort. They boarded a plane which came especially from Cairo. The plane arrived at Cairo airport at ten thirty P.M. of the same day. 
Awaiting the arrival of the relics were, Pope Kyrillos the Sixth, Mari Ignatius Yacoub, the Antioch Patriarch for the Syrian Orthodox, a great number of Coptic and foreign bishops, the head of various denominations and religions, Egyptian and foreign, and thousands of the Egyptian masses, Christian and Muslims. They sang and chanted enjoyable religious songs, waiting for the arrival of the plane. 
When the plane landed, H.H. Pope Kyrillos went up the stairs of the aircraft, and received the precious box that contained the relics of St. Mark the Apostle, from the head of the delegation. Many, and especially those who were in the balcony of the airport, at this particular moment, saw three white doves flying over the aircraft. Since pigeons do not fly during the night, these were not ordinary pigeons. 
Perhaps, it was the spirits of the saints welcoming the relics of the great St.Mark. It is worthy to note also that the plane was suppose to arrive at five o'clock but it was delayed for no apparent reason till it was dark. Perhaps also, it was just for the spectators to witness and see these flying doves.


The Pope disembarked the aircraft carrying the box on his shoulder in the middle of the chanting and singing of the deacons, followed by a tremendous procession of thousands chanting with the deacons in joy and jubilation. 
The head of the Roman Papal delegation, Cardinal Doval, Cardinal of Algeria, was amazed by this tremendous religious rally. He also expressed that he was deeply touched by the devoutness of the Copts and their great honor and veneration for St. Mark. He said that what he saw far exceeded his expectations, especially that the masses had to wait from five o'clock P.M., the expected time of arrival of the aircraft, till ten thirty or even later. 
Pope Kyrillos returned to the old St. Mark Cathedral in El-Azbakiah with the box of the relics. He placed the box on top of the main altar which was consecrated in the name of St. Mark the Apostle. The box remained there till the third day of its arrival, then the Pope carried it to the new St. Mark Cathedral in its inauguration.


May the blessings of St. Mark be with us all. Amen.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

7th Sunday - Sunday of The Pentecost




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


Sundays of the Holy Fifties


Meditation on Church reading during the Holy Fifties:
Reading: John 15: 16-26

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 the Joy of Spiritual Asking.
 +  7th is the Sunday the Pentecost.

7th Sunday - Sunday of The Pentecost : 
John 15:16-26

At the end of the Holy Fifty days following the Resurrection of Our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples.  "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."   Acts 2:2.-4

There were a number of signs and prophecy that accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples.

- A Sound of A Strong Wind: The gushing and loud sound of the strong wind, represents the warning and the reminder from the Holy spirit to us to redeem our souls by repentance and confession of our sins. The Lord wants us to become pure and cleansed of our sins to be able to receive the Holy Spirit. He wants us to work for our own salvation for the everlasting life, the life of eternity.

- The Divided Tongues of Fire: Fulfills the prophecy of John the Baptist that Christ would "baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."  (Luke 3:16)  This fire is a manifestation of the uncreated energy of God.

- The Different Languages Spoken: Fulfills the prophecy of  Joel 3:1
The Holy Spirit shown to have overwhelming power to unite, even in diversity. A key lesson of Pentecost is that the people hear the gospel in their own language.

It was the first Christian Pentecost, the unity of assembling with one accord in one place, in which the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, as we became temples of the Lord.  It is also an indication that the Holy Spirit is the truth, that will give us guidance.
"However when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth;" John 16:13

The decibels were Chosen, Appointed and Commanded by the Lord to go out to the whole world, preach and teach the word of the Lord and be witness to the Lord's Crucifixion and Resurrection. They were blessed with bountiful gifts; the gifts of the Holy Spirit to speak with other tongues.
"but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you."  John 15:16-17.

At the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gave them complete power. Go and bear fruit, and "Whatever" you ask in My name will be given to you.. whatever is eternal and redeemable in God's creation. With this bountiful gifts and with the power of the Holy Spirit, "that your fruit should remain" John 15:16 
On the first Pentecost, St. Peter managed to bring three thousands people to Christ during his first sermon.
"Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them."  Acts 2:41

Peter's sermon focused on two prophetic themes:

1 - The promised Coming of The Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:14 & 21)
2 - The Resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2:22 & 40)
This method of preaching led directly to the multitude's repentance, baptism, and reception of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 2:38-39)


Their job was not an easy glorious task. The Lord warned them that they will find obstacles along the way. He warned them that the "WORLD" will hate and persecute them.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."  John 15:18-19

The rebellion of the world against God reveals several things:

1- While union with Christ brings love, truth and peace, it also brings persecution, because the world "HATES" love and truth " 
John 15:19"

2- The world hated Christ; therefore, it will hate all who try to be Christlike "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you."  
John 15-20

3- The world hates Christ because it neither knows nor desires to know the Father. "But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me." John 15:21
"If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father."  John 15:24

4- Hatred for Jesus Christ is irrational and unreasonable, for Christ brings love and mercy; thus, Christ is hated "Without A Cause"  John 15:25

The Son sends the Holy Spirit from the Father. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father alone. In other words, the Holy Spirit receives His eternal existence only from the Father. 
In conformity with Christ's words, the Nicene - Constantinopolitan Creed confesses belief "in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father." While the Son is begotten of the Father alone, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone; the source, the Fountainhead, of both Persons is the Father.   

The Promise of God includes both our union with Christ in Holy Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Chrismation.

May we all be always united with Christ, and fulfilled with the Holy Spirit. May the fruit of the Spirit guide us to always live with pure love, peace and truth. 
Amen!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Feast of Pentecost - By Pope Shenouda III



The Feast of Pentecost 
By Pope Shenouda III

The Glorified Lord Christ lived with them in His body until He rose to Heaven then promised them the Holy Spirit to stay with them forever, the Spirit of truth, the Comforter. So what should we know about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, therefore it existed since ever. We read about it in the first verses of the Genesis Book. The divine response says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gn 1:1, 2).

And Isaiah talks about the Holy Spirit and gives Him names in his saying: “The Spirit of the LORD…The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” (Is 11:2).

And we add to that in the third Hour Prayer (Terce) of every day and say: “a spirit of prophecy and chastity, a spirit of holiness, justice and authority” and call Him by saying: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who is present in all places and fills all, the treasury of good things and the Life-Giver”.

And the Lord says about Him in the St John’s Gospel “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (Jn 15:26). And the doctrine of being proceeded from the Father was mentioned by the Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in the Faith Creed. Yet our brothers, the Catholics add to it “Filioque” meaning “and from the Son”. And this is opposing to the Holy Trinity Doctrine. In assimilating the Holy Trinity to Fire we say: "Fire brings forth heat; and light proceeds from it” and we do not say that the light proceeds from heat! But the light and the heat both come from the origin, which is the fire and not one from the other.

The Holy Spirit used to work in the Old Testament as well.

In the story of Samson we read that “the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan” (Judges 13:25). And we also read that after Saul was anointed as king that “the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied” (1 S 10:10). This also happened when David was anointed by Prophet Samuel to be king “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:13). And the way the Holy Spirit came upon both Saul and David was through the Anointing Oil that the Lord ordered them to prepare in Exodus Book (Ex 30:22-31). And Aaron was anointed as a high priest when Moses poured from this holy anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him (Lv 8:12), as we say in the psalm “It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.” (Ps 133:2). And with this anointing oil the tent of meeting along with the altars and the utensils were anointed and became holy (Ex 40, Lv 8). With this anointing oil also kings and prophets were anointed (1 Kings 19). And as a result to the anointing, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and so comes His gifts as well.

And we read in prophet Joel the Lord’s saying: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)

And this is what happened on the fiftieth day (the Day of Pentecost), as St Peter the Apostle explained this verse from Prophet Joel’s Book (Ac 2:16, 17)

The Holy Spirit also could be transferred from one person to another.

 
This happened to the seventy elders on the days of Prophet Moses when the Lord said to him: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them” (Nm 11:16, 17). And here the bible says: “Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied” (Nm 11:25)

We notice that before Moses, when Joseph the Righteous interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, “Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?"” (Gn 41:38). And here was the Holy Spirit’s gift interpreting dreams, i.e., the Spirit of knowledge.

Also there is another work for God’s Spirit in every art, so as to what the tent of meeting needed “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.” (Ex 31:1- 5)

Here we see that the Holy Spirit works even in the talent of workmanship that is given to some even in jewellery and carving woods.

Among the most important characteristics of the Holy Spirit is that it is Who spoke in the prophets.

This is a statement in the content of the Faith Creed. This means that the Holy Spirit is the source of the divine response of the Holy books. the Holy Spirit was the source of all what the prophets and apostles said in the holy books.

In this St Peter the Apostle said in his second epistle “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  (2 P 1:21)

Nowadays, In The New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given through three ways: 
The Holy Anointing, Laying Priests’ Hands and The Holy Breath.

As for The Holy Breath, it was written in St John’s Gospel that our Lord Jesus, after His Resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples, the saints, in the upper room, He told them “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."” (Jn 20:21-23)

In the ordination of the bishop or the priest we breathe in his face and say “Accept the Holy Spirit”, so he opens his mouth to accept the holy breath and says with the psalm “I opened my mouth and accepted myself a spirit”.

As for Laying Hands, the Holy Spirit in the time of our fathers the apostles was given through the apostles laying hands. This was mentioned in giving the Holy Spirit to the People of Samaria. The Apostles Synod in Jerusalem sent them St Peter and St John “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Ac 8:14-17)  And the same was done to the People of Ephesus “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Ac 19:7). Same applied to the Priesthood Sacrament, St Paul the Apostle said to his disciple Timothy “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Ti 1:6)

The Holy Anointing was also known in the apostolic age. St John the Apostle says about that: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One…” (1 Jn 2:20) “… But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you.” (1 Jn 2:27)

We, in anointing children after baptism: we anoint them with the Holy Chrism (Myron) and lay hands on them and breathe in their faces. And say to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

With the Holy Anointing Sacrament, we become temples for the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit dwells in us. St Paul the Apostle talks about that in his first epistle to Corinthians and says: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Co 3:16), and “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Co 6:19). Then every one of should remember that on the day he was anointed with the Holy Chrism (Myron) that he became a temple for the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit became dwelling in him.

The Holy Spirit works in priesthood and priesthood is granted through the Holy Spirit. It has the power of forgiving sins. But someone may say: How is that? And no one can forgive sins except God alone! We say: Yes, the Holy Spirit that is in the priest is one who forgives sins. As we say in the Holy Liturgy “be absolved by my mouth through the Holy Spirit,” so it is the Holy Spirit that forgives sins. And this forgiveness comes from the priest’s mouth. And the absolution that the priest gives through the absolution prayer in which he says: may God absolve you, may God pardon you, may God forgive you. And the Holy Spirit is present also in all the Church Sacraments. He also is present in all the Holy Synod decisions. In the first decision that came from the Synod in Jerusalem on the days of our fathers the apostles, they said: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.” (Ac 15:28)

The Holy Spirit works in the Service too. The Church fathers, the apostles did not start the service until the Holy Spirit came upon them and the Lord’s promise saying: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Ac 1:8) was fulfilled in them. The Holy Spirit was the One choosing the servants, like when He said: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Ac 13:2, 4). And it was Him who directed the servants in their paths and worked in them and using them.

Asking for the Holy Spirit is a point of our daily prayer of the Third Hour (Terce). We ask it to come upon us and purify us from all defilement of body and spirit. And we cry to God saying: Your Holy Spirit, O Lord, do not take away from us.

It is part of our freedom to accept the Holy Spirit, work with Him, and go into the “Holy Spirit Partaking”. And we are also free to reject and quench the Spirit and fight the Spirit. And the most serious thing is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, meaning to reject it completely all through the life. But how beautiful is the bible’s saying: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Ro 8:14) 

Here I would like to warn those who are deceived and think that every spirit that leads them is God’s Spirit!! The apostle says: “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jn 4:1)

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

6th Sunday - Sunday of The Joy of Spiritual Asking



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


 Sundays of the Holy Fifties 

Meditation on Church reading during the Holy Fifties:Reading: 
1 Peter 1:12

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 the Joy of Spiritual Asking.  
7th is the Sunday the Pentecost. 

6th Sunday - Sunday of The Joy of Spiritual Asking:   
1 Peter 1:12


Our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for our redemption and to restore our joy, by which we were born to a living hope.  The sanctification of the Spirit that we got as redemption for Christ's sacrifice for us, to be born again by the resurrection from the dead ..  Jesus said: "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."  John 16:24  
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:11 

Our Lord Has given us hope by teaching us to rejoice even in sufferings and tribulation and also through the resurrection. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3 

We are begotten .. again to a living hope in baptism. As Jesus told Nicodemus, we enter the Kingdom of God by being "born of water and spirit." John 3:5 This new birth in baptism unites us with Christ and His Resurrection "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" Romans 6:3 

The following verses also confirmed to us this sacramental reality: 

"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them." 
Acts 2:37, 38, 41 


 Also 


"To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

“Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”


"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days." 
Acts 10:43, 47,48  


"Washing of regeneration" In Titus 3:5, where baptism and God's mercy are coupled. The sacrament of baptism is the power by which we suffer faithfully. Being regenerated, given new life in Christ, we have a hope by which to live. This grace of God sustains us in the trials of life. 

To reach the Joy of blessing of eternal life in Christ, we first experience the sadness of the passing world, along with the afflictions we must face. (James 1:1-12)  To the watching world, the perseverance of the faithful during affliction appears foolish and even contemptible. But having strengthen our faith during or under trial is precious indeed. Bearing more glory and honor as it continues to stand under trial.(Mat 25:31-46 ; 1 Co 3:10-15)

St Peter knew by experience the failure to perceive the truth until he saw it with his own eyes. (Luke 24:8-12 ; Acts 10:39-43)  
This is the faith of baptism and the faith of eternal life. The sufferings of Christ, His Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming.  



We must be obedient to Jesus Christ to be able to receive the joy of the new birth and the eternal life with Him. In contrast to the disobedience of the first Adam, the second Adam, Christ, fulfilled the Law completely and performed all righteousness. Through His obedience, corrupt human nature will be transformed into incorrupt human nature.    


Stay on the right path, follow the word of God, to harvest the Joy of the Holy Resurrection: 


In Your presence is fullness of joy; 
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
Psalm 16:11

Sing, O heavens!
Be joyful, O earth!
And break out in singing, O mountains! 
For the Lord has comforted His people.
Isaiah 49:13

May the Lord Grant us His Divine Peace that we can enjoy the internal peace and the joy that no one can take away from us …. Amen!


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