Monday, March 31, 2014

A Man Healed at Bethesda

Get up, take up your bed, and walk
John 5: 8 (ESV)

John 5:1-18 (ESV)

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.

In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  

for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.

One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 

And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath.  

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.”  

But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”  

They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”  

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”  

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.  

And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus,because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.  

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:1-18 (ESV)

From The Sayings of The Fathers

The perseverance of this thirty-eight-year paralytic serves as an example to those who give in too easily when their prayers are not immediately answered. Jesus’ question to the man shows Jesus is not like a faith healer who seeks to draw attention to Himself; he wants to heal the man as well as expose the cruelty of those around him. 

His question conveys the fact that He possesses the power at hand to heal him. Despite the immense suffering this person must have gone through, there is no complaint from him; instead there is hope. Jesus heals him with three distinct commands: “Rise,” which confers the cure, “take up your bed,” and “walk,” which shows the completeness of the cure.

He also calls on you to take up your beds, that is, to govern your body, which formerly carried you, and walk in every good work. Or it is as if He is saying: when you were sick, your neighbor carried you; now that you have been healed, carry your neighbor.
St John Chrysostom


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fasting Is A Weapon

Fasting is a weapon the Prophets have used, for Moses, Elijah, David, Ezra and Nehemiah have all fasted. Even the Gentiles fasted, entreating the mercy of God, like the inhabitants of Nineveh who fasted and the Lord did cast His wrath away from them.   

Saint Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI


Monday, March 24, 2014

The Woman At The Well

The Woman who had come to the well of Samaria as a prostitute returned chaste from the source of Christ. She who had come to look for water brought  back chastity.

As soon as the Lord points her sins out to her she acknowledges them, confesses Christ and announces the Saviour. Abandoning her pitcher she brings not water but grace back to the city.

She seems, indeed, to return without a burden, but she returns full of holiness. She returns full, I say, because she who had come as a sinner goes back as a proclaimer, and she who had left her pitcher behind brought back the fullness of Christ, without the slightest loss to her city.

For even if she did not bring water to the townspeople, still she brought in the source of salvation. Sanctified, then, by faith in Christ, the woman goes back home.  

Maximus of Turin 


Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Cross in Christianity

By Fr. Bishoy Kamel
The Cross has weak appearance to the uninformed, but to the Christian, it is a weapon to overcome our worldly desires, and threats. With it we defeat Satan. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor 1:18). Our teacher St Paul tells us: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1Cor 1:25)

Let us look at different ways in which the Cross has revealed its power and wisdom:

1. If the Christian faith had spread by the power of weapons or human wisdom it would have been a weak man-made faith. But because it spread with the greatest weapon that is hated by the Jews and Greeks; the weapon that has the appearance of foolishness and weakness, that is the cross.
Therefore our faith became Godly and divine, through the power of our Lord and not of humans, as St Paul said: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1Cor 2:1-4)
2. The Cross was the strength of the Apostles while they preached:
When Jesus sent the disciples to preach He said to them: “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack (food), nor sandals.” (Luke 10:3-4). This is how Christianity spread. Christ asked them not to worry about food, or money or weapons for defence, because the power of the Cross accompanied them and that is more powerful than any worldly weapon.
With the Cross they exorcised demons. With the Cross, they turned those who persecuted Christianity, to servants of God and preachers. With the Cross, they loved their enemies, prayed for them and blessed them.
Compare that with the amount of money and resources now spent in the Western world to spread different religions, printing books, radio broadcasts, university courses to learn the art of preaching. This reflection helps us realize the divine power that accompanied the disciples during their missionary trips.
3. The Cross is a condition to follow Christ:
The Lord said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me”. (Luke 9:23). Whoever desires to be Christian, he must endure pain and sacrifice much for the sake of Christ. But he who does not, will receive many earthly delights and rewards.
Therefore Christians are Cross-bearers. They chose the narrow way (the only way) to enter the Kingdom of heaven to receive Heavenly rewards. If the Cross was not powerful, then how can people leave their worldly pleasures, desires and ranks and follow Christ?
4. The Disciples of Christ were Jews:
Most of the Disciples of Christ, as well as St Paul the Apostle, were Jews like Christ. It is well known that Jews reject the Cross. So what attracted the disciples to the Cross? If the Cross was not powerful, then how did the disciples believe in it? How did they preach about it to the Jews and Greeks? “But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” (1Cor 1:23)
The apostles preached about the Holy Cross, so they became weak and ignorant in the eyes of people. They had no weapons, they were Jews, they faced so many threats and persecutions. They carried the cross in their lives. They were all martyred, except for St John. Their pure blood became the seed of faith for the rest of the world, through the power of the Lord of the Cross.
5. The Church is always in a state of joy:
Although the Christian is always carrying his cross, he is always in a state of internal joy that is indescribable. St Paul used to sing and praise God in jail after he was beaten.
We cannot forget the story about the governor who asked the Christians to carry Crosses that weighed 5 tones (it was so heavy to the point of bruising, therefore Christians were labeled ‘blue bones’). At night, this governor pried into a Christian house through a hole in the door. He found this specific Christian doing chores whilst carrying the 5 tone Cross on his back. The governor asked him as to why he does that inside his house, where that was not required. The Christian simply answered: “the power and joy that this Cross gives me fills my life, so I do not want it to stop, that is why I continuously carry it.”
6. St. John Chrysostom said:
The Cross is a powerful weapon
The Cross is a weapon for preaching
The Cross is the basis for following Christ
The church without a Cross, is like a bride without a groom
If you are asked by anyone whether you believe in the Church of the Cross and you say yes. If he then mocks you, you should cry for him, because he still does not know that Christ was crucified for his sake.

Finally …

My brethren, I offer you advice for this era and all times:

The power of our Christianity is closely and deeply tied to our faith and our relationship with the Holy Cross, and its apparition in our lives is a powerful force against the devil, materialism and worldly desires. The Cross is a power that transforms envy to love, revenge to forgiveness and flaunting to simplicity. The Cross then fills you with joy, so we pray with St Paul: “ But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Therefore, the Cross must be clearly seen in the Church, so our church also becomes bearing the Cross of our Lord; the Cross of service and missionary; the Cross of partaking of our Lord’s passions and glory; the Cross of loving EVERYONE and abhorring the world, a cross from which the aroma of love, blessing and peace spreads to the ends of the earth.

May the blessings of the Holy Cross be with us all.  Amen.



Monday, March 10, 2014

The Virtue of Gentleness

Gentleness was one of the most outstanding virtues in the life of H.H. Pope Kyrillos VI.  Fr. Raphael Ava Mina told us this incident that showed his great gentleness. It happened one day that the Patriarchate received a letter that has had words against H.H.  Fr. Raphael was the one who read the letter to H.H. He opened that letter but quickly hid it. 

His Holiness noticed that and asked him: "Why did you hide this letter?"  So Fr. Raphael answered: "Your Holiness, one has a sharp tongue and is also swearing!"  But H.H. insisted on reading the letter.  After he read it, H.H. said to him: "Is that what you call swearing?"  Fr. Raphael was amazed and said: "Of course, your Holiness, all these sharp words!"  But H.H. with all gentleness, said: "Do not worry about it, my son. May be God will look at me and save me!"

The sender of that letter was known to them. One of his relatives passed away and H.H. sent one of the bishops to offer Condolences on behalf of H.H.  It was the custom at that time that whoever receives courtesy from the Pope would come to the Patriarchate and record a few words of thanks in the visitor register.  So this man came and Fr. Raphael asked him if he would like to meet the Pope personally. The man was embarrassed, apologized and left in a hurry.

In the evening, H.H. heard that this man came to the Patriarchate.  H.H. asked Fr. Raphael: "Why didn't you tell me that this man came today?!"  Fr. Raphael explained what happened, so H.H. replied: "You should have left him and came to me immediately so I could have went down and reconciled with him."

This is the gentleness of Pope Kyrillos VI who never met evil with evil but defeated evil by doing good, as it is said in the Holy Bible.  This story was told by Fr. Raphael Ava Mina himself.

May the blessing of Pope Kyrillos VI be with us all Amen. 


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