Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Assumption Of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this day, was the assumption of the body of our pure Lady St. Mary, the Mother of God. While she was keeping vigil, praying in the Holy Sepulcher, and waiting for the happy minute of her liberation from the bonds of the flesh, the Holy Spirit informed her of her forthcoming departure from this vain world. When the time drew near, the disciples and the virgins of the Mt. of Olives (Zeiton) came and the Lady was lying on her bed. Our Lord, surrounded by thousands and thousands of angels, came to Her. He consoled her, and announced her with the everlasting joy which was prepared for Her. She was happy, and she stretched out her hands, blessed the Disciples, and the Virgins. Then, she delivered up her pure soul in the hand of her Son and God, Jesus Christ, Who ascended her to the higher habitations. As of the pure body, they shrouded it and carried it to Gethsemane.

On their way, some of the Jews blocked the way in the face of the disciples to prevent the burial. One of them seized the coffin. His hands were separated from his body, and remained hanging until he believed and repented for his mischievous deed. With the prayers of the holy disciples, his hands were reattached to his body as they had been before.

St. Thomas was absent at the time of St. Mary's departure, but he came after the burial. On his way back to Jerusalem, St. Thomas saw angels carrying St. Mary's pure body and ascending with it to heaven, and one of the angels said to him, "Hurry and kiss the pure body of St. Mary." When he arrived to the disciples, they informed him about St. Mary's departure. He told them, "I will not believe, unless I see her body, as you all know how I did doubt the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ before." They took him to the tomb, to uncover the body but they did not find it, and they were perplexed and amazed. St. Thomas told them how he saw the pure body ascending to heaven, carried by angels.

The Holy Spirit then told them, "The Lord did not Will to leave Her Holy body on earth." The Lord had promised his pure apostles that they would see her in flesh another time. They were waiting for the fulfillment of this truthful promise, until the sixteenth day of the month of Misra, when the promise of seeing her was fulfilled. They saw her sitting on the right hand of her Son and her Lord, surrounded by the angelic Host, as David prophesied and said, "At your right hand stands the queen." (Psalm 45:9) St. Mary's life on earth was sixty years. She spent twelve years of them in the temple, thirty years in the house of the righteous St. Joseph, and fourteen years in the care of St. John the Evangelist, as the Lord commanded her saying, "Woman behold your Son," and to St. John, "Behold your Mother."

May Her intercession be with us. Amen.

Coptic Synaxarium (Mesra 16, August 22)


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Transfiguration of our Lord and Saviour

The Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior 
By St Gregory Palamas  

The Prophet Isaiah foretold in respect of the Gospel that “the Lord will give a concise word on the earth.” (Isaiah 10:23)  A concise word is an utterance containing an abundance of meaning in a few phrases. So let us look again at the Gospel passage, which we examined earlier, and add what we left out, that we may take our fill of the incorruptible meaning stored up in it, and all receive divine inspiration.

“At that time Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun.” [Matthew 17:1-2; see also Mark 9:2-3] “Behold, now is the acceptable time,” brethren, “now is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:2; see also Isaiah 49:8] a divine, new and eternal day, not measured in hours, never lengthening or shortening, uninterrupted by night. For us it is the day of the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow nor turning. (James 1:17) That Sun, since the day when, by the good pleasure of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, He lovingly shone upon us and led us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) continues without setting to shine upon us for ever.

As the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) and truth, He does not consent to give light to, or be known perfectly by, those who cultivate lying and either extol injustice or demonstrate it in their deeds. But He shines upon those who act righteously and love truth, is believed by them, and delights them with His rays. Therefore the Scripture says, “Light has dawned for the righteous, and its companion, gladness”  (Psalm 97:11) And the Psalmist and Prophet also sings to God, “Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name” (Psalm 89:12) foretelling the joy that those who later saw that illumination would experience. Isaiah tells us “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free” (Isaiah 58:6) What then? “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health as shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shall compass thee” (Isaiah 58:8 ) Again he says, “If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke and the stretching forth of the hand, and murmuring speech, and if thou give bread to the hungry from thy heart, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in darkness, and thy darkness shall be as noonday” (Isaiah 58:9-10) For that Sun makes other suns of those upon whom it brightly shines. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43)

Let us cast off, brethren, the works of darkness, and let us perform the works of light, that we may not only walk honestly, as in the day (Romans 13:12-13) but also become children of the day. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)  And come, let us go up the mountain where Christ shone forth, that we may see what happened there. Or rather, if we become children worthy of that day, the Word of God Himself will take us up when the time comes. Now, I beseech you, strive to lift up the eyes of your understanding towards the light of the Gospel message, that you may be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2) and having acquired the divine brightness from above, be conformed to the likeness of the glory of the Lord (Romans 8:29) Whose face shone like the sun today on the mountain.

From a sermon by Saint Gregory Palamas


Monday, August 12, 2013

Think Of Others

A man died and St. Peter asked him if he would like to go to heaven or hell. The man asked if he could see both before deciding. 

St. Peter took him to hell first and the man saw a big hall with a long table, lots of food on it and music playing. He also saw rows of people with pale, sad faces. They looked starved and there was no laughter. And he observed one more thing. Their hands were tied to four-foot forks and knives and they were trying to get the food from the center of the table to put into their mouths. But they couldn’t. 

Then, he went to see heaven. There he saw a big hall with a long table, with lots of food on the table and music playing. He noticed rows of people on both sides of the table with their hands tied to four-foot forks and knives also. 

But he observed there was something different here. People were laughing and were well-fed and healthy-looking. He noticed that they were feeding one another across the table. 

The result was happiness, prosperity, enjoyment, and gratification because they were not thinking of themselves alone. The same is true of our lives.


Thursday, August 8, 2013


There is no woman about whom the prophets prophesied, and about whom the Holy Bible cared, like the Virgin Mary.......There are numerous symbols about her in the Old Testament. In the New Testament also, there are her biography, her praise, and the miracles. How many are the glorifying expressions and the contemplations, which were cited about the Virgin in the books of the fathers.........How full of praise are the surnames by which the Church calls her, and which are inspired from the Spirit of the Holy Bible.......!

She is the mother of all of us, the lady of all of us, the pride of our kind, the queen at the right side of the King, the Virgin with perpetual virginity, the pure, the filled with grace, the saint Mary, the powerful and helpful compassionate mother, the mother of the Light, the mother of mercy and salvation, the true vine.

This is the one whom the Church elevates over the rank of archangels, so that we say about her in her hymns and songs: 

"O Mary, you have been raised above the Cherubim;
And have become higher than the Seraphim, O Mary."  

Mary who was bred up in the temple, and lived the life of prayer and contemplation since her childhood, and who was the sacred vessel whom the Lord has chosen to come inside her. 

Long generations waited for the birth of this Virgin, so that the fullness of the time would become complete by her (Gal.4:4)........... 

She has removed the shame of Eva, and saved the reputation of women after sin. 

She is the mother of God, in perpetual virginity. 

She is the Virgin who came to our country during the childhood of Christ, and inhabited our land for years, during which she sanctified it, and blessed it......... 

She is the Virgin who appeared in Zeitoun in the year 1968, and attracted to her the feelings of the crowds, with her light, her appearance, and her visit to us......... 

She is the Virgin who makes miracles in numerous places, where we celebrate feasts for he. The stories of her miracles are innumerable..... 

The Virgin is not a stranger to us; because she is profoundly assimilated with the feelings of Copts that come out from faith to special experience and emotion. How great an honor is it for our country and our Church, to be visited in past times by our Lady the Virgin! How great an honor is it that our Lady appeared on her domes many years ago! 

There is not a human being whom Christians have loved so much 
as our Lady the Virgin Mary.  

The majority of churches in Egypt celebrate her feast. 
In the rites, how many are the compliments, the songs, the veneration, the psalms, the doxologies, (glorifying blessings), which are dedicated to her, especially in the month of Kiahk! The catholics have a month for her, which is called the Mary's month......... 

Among the monasteries of monks in Egypt, there are the monastery of El Baramous, the monastery of El Sourian, the monastery of El Moharrak, which are all dedicated to her name; they represent the quarter of the number of present monasteries. 

There is a monastery for nuns which is dedicated to her name, in Haret Zuwalah in Cairo. How many are the monasteries and the schools which are dedicated to her name in the Western Churches. 


The oldest church which was built and dedicated to the name of the Virgin in the apostolic times, is the church of Philippi. The oldest church which was built and dedicated to her name in Egypt, was in the times of the Pope Theonas, the 16th patriarch (year 274 AD) 
Among the most reknown of her churches, there is the church of the monastery El Moharrak, which was inaugurated in the times of the Pope Theophilus, (the 23rd pope), at the beginning of the fifth century, on the 6th of Hator. 

Also the churches which were built in the places that she visited in Egypt. 

On this occasion, we have two churches in Europe with the name 
of "The Virgin of Zeitoun"; one is in France, and the other is in 

The greatness of the Virgin has been decreed in the sacred ecumenical council of Ephesus, which was assembled in 431 AD. Two hundred bishops from the world were present. They formulated the prelude to the creed of the Christian Faith, in which it is cited: "We venerate you, O mother of the true Light, and we glorify you, O Saint Virgin Mother of God, because you gave birth for us to the Saviour of the world, who has come and delivered our souls". What are the foundations upon which the ecumenical council formulated this prelude? That is what we shall explain now: 

The Virgin
is the blessed saint, whose blessing is continuous throughout the generations, as it has been mentioned in her hymn: 

"For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed" 
(Luke 1:46) 
The Church calls the Virgin by the surname of "The Queen". This was mentioned by the psalm, about her: 

"At Your right hand stands the queen" (Ps. 45:9) 

That is why, many artists, when they draw the pictures of the Virgin, they put a crown on her head, and she appears in the image, on the right side of the Lord Christ. 

The reverence of the Virgin appears in the salutation of the archangel Gabriel to her: 
"Peace to you, O you full of grace, "the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women" (Luke 1:28). That is, with a special blessing, to which also saint Elizabeth gave testimony. "Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Luke 1:42)  

Saint Elizabeth found herself small in front of the greatness of the Virgin, and she spoke with the feeling that she was not deserving, although she knew that her son "will be great in the sight of the Lord", and that "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah."  (Luke 1: 15-17)  She said: 

"But why is it granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43)
Probably the most evident proof of the greatness of the Virgin, and of her position in the sight of the Lord, is that when her mere greeting arrived to Elizabeth, the latter was filled with the Holy Spirit, and her babe felt it and leaped in her womb for joy. The divine Intuition says in that: 
"And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit." (Luke 1:41) 

It is really an amazing greatness, that her mere greeting makes Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit! Who is he among the saints, whose greeting caused another to be filled with the Holy Spirit?! But here is Elizabeth testifying and saying: "For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."  (Luke 1:44) 

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, by the greeting of Mary, and she also obtained the gift of prophecy and revelation: 

She then knew that this is the mother of her Lord, and that she believed " those things which were told her from the Lord", and she also knew that the leaping of the babe was "for joy". This joy, of course, was because of the Blessed One who was in the womb of the Virgin, "blessed is the fruit of your womb."  (Luke 1: 41-45) 

The majesty of the Virgin shines brilliantly in the choice of her by the Lord, from among all the women of the world....... 

The only human being for whom the divine providence waited thousands of years, till He found her, and judged that she deserved that immense honor which the angel Gabriel explained saying: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35) 

The Virgin excels all women in her eminence: 

For that reason, the divine Intuition said about her: "Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all" (Prov. 31:29). It is probably from this divine text, that the song of the Church was taken: 
"Many women have obtained honors, but no one of them obtained like you"......... 

This Saint Virgin, was in the thought and in the providence of God, since the beginning. 

He said to our first parents, in the salvation which He promised them, that the Seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15)  This woman is the Virgin, and her Seed is Christ, who has crushed the head of the serpent on the Cross....... 


In the life of The Virgin, miracles begin before her birth, and continue after her death. From these: 

1. She was generated with a miracle, from sterile parents, with an annunciation from the angel. 

2. The miracle of her betrothal, in a divine manner which determined who will take her and care for her. 

3. The miracle of her conception of Christ while she is a virgin, and the continuation of her virginity after giving birth. 

4. The miracle during her visit to Elizabeth who, when she heard the voice of her greeting, the babe leaped for joy in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

5. Innumerable miracles during her visit to Egypt, one of which is the fall of idols. (Is.19:1) 

6. The first miracle which the Lord did in Cane of Galilee, happened through her request. 

7. The miracle of the dissolution of iron, and the deliverance of the apostle Matthias, happened through her intervention. 

8. The miracle of Christ receiving her soul, at the hour of her death. 

9. The miracle of the striking of the Jews by the Lord, when they wanted to attack her corpse after her death. 

10. The miracle of the ascent of her body to heaven. 

11. The miracles which happened everywhere by her hands, about which books were written. 

12. Her apparition in numerous places, and especially her wonderful apparition in our churches in Zeitoun, and in Papadopoulo. 

Miracles are still happening everywhere, and will happen as a testimony to the honor of this saint.

Please refer also to this related link:


Friday, August 2, 2013

10 - BE RELEASED FROM YOUR 'SELF' - 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.


If you are still concerned about how people may judge you trying by any means to make them have a better idea about you, it will be difficult for you to attain the eminence of the release of the spirit.. 

Sometimes, people do not praise you or they praise others more.. In such a case, instead of being pleased and rejoicing because the devil of vain glory is unaware of you even for some time.., I see you seeking to trouble yourself.. You beg the praise of people in such a way that does not fit your dignity as a son of God.. by proceeding to talk about yourself..
Would you, dear brother, let me discuss the matter with you with the same frankness we used before?

1. Why do you talk to others about yourself ? Do you want them to admire you? Then tell me frankly, 'Do you, in your heart, admire yourself No doubt, there are many defects in you which you are in fact bothered about.. Why then do you want them to glorify a personality which you yourself are not convinced that it deserves to be glorified?' 

2. If we do approve the principle of talking about oneself.. let me ask you, 'Do you give a true picture of yourself ? Or do you mention only the bright points and leave the shameful and vile points which would make them hate you? My friend, do you not know that half the facts are not all facts? Does not your talk about yourself include then some deceit and lies? Do you not present only one side of a picture which has its defects.. those defects which you know well and your spiritual father also knows?

3. No doubt, you know also that talking about your 'virtues' would deprive you of the reward.. And certainly you have read the Sermon on the Mount and saw what the Lord said, ".. do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" and, ".. your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly" (Matt. 6:3,4). I feel pity for you, my beloved brother because you strive much for a certain virtue and in a moment of rashness, in which the cursed self-righteousness prevails, the devil comes and robs you of all your striving.. And behold, all your labour is wasted in vain...

When I see you talking about yourself, I imagine you as a person who planted some plant and when God gave the fruit you set fire to it instead of reaping the fruit and rejoicing.. or you let the devil reap it for you!

My dear friend, whenever you feel a desire to talk about yourself, listen to the divine words singing in your ears, "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward".  (Matt. 6:2)

4. Another harm results from talking about yourself which is obvious in the following story: Once, on a certain occasion I was talking with enthusiasm and admiration about a blessed person whom I love and esteem.. But one of my spiritual fathers said to me, 'Please do not proceed in this talk, because by this you gather the devils around him to fight him.. Leave him to labour calmly, for he is still a beginner and needs many prayers'. Thereupon I stopped talking, feeling that I did something wrong against such a person..

The devils cannot bear to hear about a person doing something good. So, if God does something great through you, let it be in secret between you and God. Do not talk about it lest the devils should envy and fight you; in which case you will not only lose your reward, but will also be subject to a hard war the results of which are unknown..

5. Those were some of the harmful results that befall a person who talks about himself..  But can you tell me of one advantage on the other hand that may be gained from praising yourself ? Of course the sinful feeling which a person feels when he sees the admiration of others for him is not an advantage.. It is in fact a sin which needs to be cured!! But there is a real advantage which I draw your attention to, ie. If the desire to talk about yourself presses hard on you and you are unable to resist it, then tell the others about your weakness and your shortcomings.. Tell them about your falling in sins and how you would have been like the people of Sodom had it not been for God's help.. Ask them insistently to pray for you that God may have mercy upon you..

6. Another word I want to tell you frankly though I hesitated long before whispering it in your ear is that people feel disgusted of anyone who talks much about himself .. They even call him the boastful or self-conceited.. Thus such a person shall gain neither heavens nor earth..

7. Lastly, I want you to remember that the works which fight you with self-righteousness are not all due to your efforts.. There are the surrounding circumstances which help you to perform such works, the role played by others in this concern and the abilities given you by God..
No doubt you would be exaggerating if you ascribe to yourself all this forgetting God's work through you..
I am afraid I have annoyed you, my beloved brother, with my frankness? Forgive me then this weakness and pray for me.

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


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