Sunday, June 23, 2013

THE MIRACLE OF PENTECOST - BY ST. JOHN CRYSOSTOM



"This day the earth became Heaven for us. Not because the stars descended from the heavens to earth, but because the apostles ascended to Heaven by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which was now abundantly poured forth, and so the whole world was transformed into heaven; not because human nature was changed, but because there was a change in the direction of the will.

For there was found a tax-gatherer, and he was transformed into an evangelist.  There was found a persecutor, and he was changed into an apostle.  There was found a robber, and he was into Paradise.  There was found a prostitute, and she was made the equal of virgins.  There were found wise men, and they were taught the Gospels. 

Evil fled away, and gentleness took its place.  Slavery was put away, and freedom came in its stead.  And all debts were forgiven, and the grace of God was conferred.  Therefore Heaven became earth; and from repeating this again and again I shall not cease." 

St. John Crysostom 

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Holy Synod Declares Two New Saints




The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church 
Under the auspices of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II



Is proud to declare two new Saints into the Congregation of Saints in our beloved Church on this day of June 20th, 2013. 
They are:



+ His Holiness Pope Kyrillos VI (Departed in 1971) 

+ Archdeacon Habib Girgis (Departed in 1951)



Their biographies will be soon added to the Synaxarium, their names added to the Commemoration of Saints in the Divine Liturgy and Midnight Praises, and soon, churches will be named after them. 

May their blessings be with us all, Amen.
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST



Excerpt from Homily III on the Ascension of Christ by St. John Chrysostom

The theater of the Church is joyous to me, not amusing men working futility, but causing great weeping to the devil. He sees above those who were dead below, as roots of the Resurrection. He sees Him Whom he delivered to the cross below, beheld in the heavens. He sees angels on earth in fulfillment. He sees Him paradoxically passing through the air. He sees the heavenly powers all gathered together to say: “Open the gates, our princes, and the King of glory shall enter”, and others saying in reply: “The Lord strong and mighty in war.” Which war? That against the common foe of all men, which neither men, nor prophets, neither the righteous were able to conquer....

For all, today's feast becomes even more serious, as we behold all the ranks of angels everywhere dancing, some following Him, other going before, others gathering around, others further with the choir of the apostles, telling them: “O Gallileans, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus Whom you see ascended from you into heaven, He will come again in the same manner as you saw Him ascend to heaven.” This is Jesus Who showed a multitude of wonders. At this feast of the Master, the day of the Ascension, the devil is wailing, as we said, while the faithful are joyful. Now has the joyous spring dawned, and the beauty of flowers blossomed. The branches of vines are pruned, the olive trees give their sweet fragrance, the fig trees give their immature fruit, and the wind blows rustling the leaves, mimicking the dancing of the waves: all things rejoice with us at the ascension of the Master. Bring, therefore, with us the words of David, that we might rightly cry out to the Master Who has ascended: “Let all the nations clap their hands, crying to God with a voice of rejoicing. The Lord ascends with the sound of the trumpet, to where He was.” He ascends, but is not separated. For he who descended, has ascended above the heavens. The prophets saw no other, nor did the apostles eat with another. No other was in the bosom of the Father, nor was another judged by Pilate. No other was nailed to the cross with nails, nor was another carried by the Cherubim. No other was wrapped in a shroud by Joseph, nor does another hold creation in the palm of His hand. No other was laid in a tomb, nor was another hymned by the Seraphim. No other is seated with the Father, Who took root in the virginal womb. God ascended with a shout, the Lord with the cry of the trumpet, He Who is the Creator from the ages, Who brought all things into being, Who fashioned Adam, Who generated human nature, Who translated to life Enoch who pleased Him, Who preserved Noah together with the world, Who called Abraham from the land of the Chaldeans, Who made Isaac to be a sign of the mystery of the cross, Who granted Jacob the twelve-pillars of offspring, Who granted Job patience, Who made Moses to become the leader of the people, Who filled Samuel with prophecy from his mother's womb, Who anointed David as king from the prophets, Who granted Solomon wisdom, Who took up Elias in a flaming chariot, Who instilled the prophets with foreknowledge, Who granted the apostles gifts of healing, and Who cried to them: “Take heart, I have overcome the world.”

This is the Lord of glory Who is ascended into the heavens with a shout, and is seated on the right hand of the Father. Under His authority are angels, and dominions and powers, and it is He Who receives our pained prayers, and makes us victors over the pirates of this world. Under His dominion is every rank of the unclean spirits, as He says to us: “Behold, I have given you authority to trample upon snakes and scorpions.”

Unharmed and spotless, healthy and whole, preserve us in soul and body and spirit, filling us with the fruits of righteousness and fruitfulness, You Who are the God of all, You Who didst make us worthy to gather to celebrate this feast, for to You belong all glory, honor and worship, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


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Saturday, June 8, 2013

9 - YOUR SELF AND THE OFFENCES - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III




9 - YOUR SELF AND THE OFFENCES 
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.

9 - YOUR SELF AND THE OFFENCES 

My beloved brother, unless you are released from your "self" which you worship in place of God, and which you exalt and elevate in front of people, you will never attain the eminence of the release of the spirit... 

Perhaps you sometimes like to be praised by people.. and we have discussed in a previous article what you ought to do when others praise you.. Now, in this calm meeting I'd like to ask you, 

'What do you feel and how do you behave when others offend you or mistrust you?'

Perhaps you would think that you are insulted.. and perhaps you would be much concerned about your dignity and the awe and respect due to you.. This would make you angry and furious.. You may avenge or defend yourself.. I do not deny you this right, for I am in the flesh like you and have experienced all such feelings or rather have been tempted by them... But come, let us discuss the matter together.. 

What benefit does anger avail you?.. It disturbs you, and destroys your nerves.. Moreover it deprives you of the peace of heart and of comfort.. Do you not remember the words of St. James the Apostle,

"For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. " (James 1:20) 

Getting angry for the sake of your self is no doubt that kind of anger meant by St. James the Apostle.. I hear you saying that such anger relieves your sorrow and gives vent to the agitation suppressed within you! But why do you have such suppressed agitation which needs to come out? Of course the reason is obvious which is that you are much concerned about yourself! Be released, my beloved brother, from this self and you will have comfort.. 

If anyone insults you, do not think of yourself being insulted, but of the person who insulted you.. He is your brother.. and you-being a spiritual person full of love ought to think what can you do for that brother who sinned against you..

Of course, you do not want his precious soul to descend into hell, or that your insult stand in the way of his salvation.. Therefore you have to ask God not to count that sin on his behalf or punish him for it.. You have to pray that God may deliver him of such sin so as not to commit it again against you or others.. 

When you think of the brother who insulted you, try to find out the reason which led him to do so.. Perhaps he was ill, or nervous, his mind agitated or his strength exhausted or overloaded with social, scholastic or financial problems.. Consider what you can do for him.. Perhaps you can arrange for him a nice journey or a picnic or try to provide him with some means of amusement or entertainment.. If you find yourself unable to do anything for him, at least show compassion for him and ask God to give him special help..

People, my dear brother, are not wicked by nature, because when God made man, "God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good". As for evil, it comes to people from without; it is alien to them...

There may be other reasons which led that person to insult you.. He might have misunderstood you.. In such a case you can argue with him to convince him gently and lovingly..

However, there may be some persons who insult others merely because they like to do so, depending on their tolerance, to make of them a subject of their jokes and fun.

Avoid dealing with such persons, or address them, in a severe and firm but polite way to show them their faults and warn them against falling in such faults again..

This, you have to do not with purpose to avenge yourself or to retain a personal dignity but out of love for the person at fault. This would give him no chance to repeat the fault or fall again and destroy himself... 

There is a great difference between blaming a sinner with a desire to take vengeance in such a way as to arouse his wrath against you, and blaming him out of love in a firm but calm way so that he may feel that you love him...

This concerns your attitude towards the person whom you feel has insulted you.. but let me go a little deeper into your self to argue concerning your inner feeling..

1. Why do you consider the words of the others an insult or an abuse?  Why do you not consider such an insult - as you take it to be - a plain word useful to reform yourself 

If you get annoyed due to this, that is because you like to be praised and want all people to speak well of you.. You ought to rejoice, my brother, when people criticise and rebuke you.., because this is for your good. It purifies and benefits you in your coming life.. 

When someone criticises you, you thank him, for perhaps his voice is the voice of God..

I mean that God who loves you may have sent such a person to you to guide you and reveal to you your wrongdoing so that you may stop doing it.

2. Perhaps God is punishing you with such insults for other sins which you have committed in the far or near past..  When David the Prophet heard an insult, he said humbly, "Let him curse, because the Lord has said to him: 'Curse David?"  
(2 Sam. 16:10)

My beloved brother, when someone insults you, remember your past sins and know that you are not perfectly pure so as to be beyond reproach...

3. Sometimes, God performs a successful act through you, but you take such success as a weapon to vaunt and right yourself with, feeling self-righteousness. So, God fearing that you may fall through pride, permits someone to insult you.. This may make some equilibrium within your feelings and eliminate your pride a little. Many of the persons who are insulted by others are proud.. while the Bible teaches us that the meek are raised by God from the dunghill and seated with the princes of their people (Ps. 113:8)

4. Perhaps your conduct has offended others though you are not aware, and so they insulted you... Therefore it is good to know the point of view of the person who insulted you for he may be right..

5. Such an insult may be a lesson for you to teach you love and long-suffering.. One of the spiritual fathers said about some monk who lived in seclusion not mixing with the brethren, 'Being with the brethren in the assembly is necessary for a monk, because if he cannot endure the quarrels of the brethren, how can he endure the wars of the devils in his solitude as St. Isaac says!!'

6. What harm is caused to you if someone judges you wrongly or thinks you are at fault? Would this hinder you from attaining God's Kingdom or would God judge you according to what the people say!

7. Or do you like to be praised and favoured by human beings who are created of dust like you?  My friend, remember that your Master, ".. was oppressed and was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth." and, "He was numbered with the transgressors." (Is. 53:7,12).. He accepted that cross..

8. Lastly, my beloved brother, when you are insulted and when you feel annoyed and resent the insult though you are a sinner like myself, remember then how we insult God and how He endures patiently, loves us and accepts us! How great our compassionate God is! He has no likeness among gods...

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


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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sayings of the Desert Fathers - St. Anthony The Great





Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons.

They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, 'How was it that the little donkey died on the way here?'

They said, 'How do you know about that, Father?' And he told them, 'The demons showed me what happened. So they said, 'That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.'

Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons. 



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Sunday, June 2, 2013

EASTER HOMILY - ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM



If any be a devout lover of God, let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant, let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting, let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour, let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third, let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth, let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth, let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh, let him not be afraid because he comes so late. For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour in the same way as to him who has laboured from the first. He accepts the deed, and commends the intention.

Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord. First and last, receive alike your reward. Rich and poor, dance together. You who have fasted and you who have not fasted, rejoice today. The table is fully laden: let all enjoy it. The calf is fatted: let none go away hungry.

Let none lament his poverty; for the universal Kingdom is revealed. Let none bewail his transgressions; for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb. Let none fear death; for the death of the Saviour has set us free.

He has destroyed death by undergoing death.
He has despoiled hell by descending into hell.
He was filled with bitterness when it met thee face to face below;
             filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;
             filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;
             filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;
             filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.

It received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and confronted heaven. 

             O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory?
             Christ is risen, and thou art cast down.
             Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
             Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
             Christ is risen, and life reigns in freedom.
             Christ is risen, and there is none left dead in the tomb.
             For Christ, being raised from the dead,
             has become the first-fruits of those that slept.
            To him be glory and dominion to the ages of ages."

St. John Chrysostom


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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Used With Permission



A few years ago on a late Spring day a soft wind was blowing through the trees in the park. I went there that day not expecting anything more than just a few moments of solitude. Oh, there were a few people there doing various things and the usual scurrying of the resident squirrels; but overall, it was fairly quiet. I was a little surprised with myself. I didn't usually go to the park alone, but I felt no apprehension going and being there alone that day. I had spent all morning at work and for some reason, I'm not certain of, I decided to take the afternoon off to go to the park.

As I sat there at the picnic table, I watched two squirrels playing on a nearby tree. I wondered what it would be like to live such a seemingly, carefree life as they. Those two squirrels appeared to belong together, a bond was there, they belonged with each other. Oh how I wished I had that sense of belonging in my life. As a child, and into adulthood, I didn't feel like I was where I was suppose to be. The parent-child bond was there for me; but, I had always felt like there was something missing in my life. I took a deep breath, slowly exhaling, and watched the two squirrels run off to play elsewhere.

I was so immersed in my thoughts and feelings that I did not hear my visitor approach my table.

"Excuse me Miss, could I sit here with you?" asked the elderly man, his voice barely above a whisper. Oddly, I wasn't surprised that he approached me and had no problem with granting his request. I smiled and motioned for him to be seated.

He sat across from me, his hands clasped in front of him, resting on the table, he had such a calm expression on his face. I saw a familiarity in that old man's eyes but I couldn't place him, and was certain I had never seen or met him before. It seems like we sat there for the longest time, each looking at the other with a slight smile and an aura of peace about us. Across from me sat a stranger, but not a stranger, or so it seemed.

He broke the silence by saying to me, "We all belong even when we don't feel like we do. We all have a place to go."

I was taken back by his words and said, "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are trying to say."

"Even as a child, you've felt that way." He replied and explained to me.

I was stunned and could not speak, but still felt no apprehension due to his words or his presence. He extended his hand, so warm and soft, and gently laid it upon my clasped hands. He squeezed my hands with that hand and said, "He wants you to come home."

And with that, he slowly rose to his feet and left. I sat there for hours, stunned. I thought about what he had said the rest of the day, and for days thereafter, but eventually I filed his words away. I never truly listened to the words of that stranger; at least, not until the day of my father's funeral four years later.

Daddy was raised Catholic, as were my siblings, and I was baptized Catholic as a newborn. It seemed only natural to have a priest at his funeral. As I sat before daddy's coffin I saw the priest; but, did not hear his voice or words spoken. Although the priest and the stranger in the park were not the same man, I heard that whisper of a voice of the stranger and remembered his calm expression and the gentleness in his eyes. Those words spoken to me four years prior I heard once again.

This time I 'listened' to the words, to the message that stranger delivered to me that day in the park.

"He wants you to come home." 

 
About a month or so after daddy's funeral, I inquired and signed for a program at the parish where I was baptized as a newborn. I had made it to the place where I belonged, in God's loving embrace.

I realized there's a difference between 'hearing' and 'listening'...finally... I 'listened' to the message from the stranger...and now... I'm home.

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