Friday, August 22, 2014

The Assumption of The Holy Virgin

O You who did not desire that the body of the Virgin, 
the Mother of Salvation, who became a holy ark in whom You dwelt in flesh, 
remain on earth but You raised it up to heaven after her death, 
upon the hands of the holy angels and archangels.

Fraction Prayer of St. Mary's Feast:

O God, who dwells in the highest and looks upon the hearts of His humble servants, who willed to visit us with mercy and come to us incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the holy Virgin Mary.

O You who promised our father Adam with salvation and confirmed His holy promise to all the fathers by His virginal Birth in the fullness of time from a pure and chaste, first-born Virgin.

He sanctified her, purified her, filled her with grace, and preferred her above all women of the world. She is the ever-virgin, Mary, the new Eve, the pride of our race and the second bodily heaven.

O You who loved us, and out of the fullness of His love and mercy, out of signs to His righteousness and justice, and out of His wisdom and fairness, He desired to save us from the death of the original sin and rescue us from its eternal punishment, by dying on our behalf in a human flesh which He took from the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Salvation.

While the first Eve was the source of destruction, the new Eve became the gate of heaven.

O You who was incarnate of the first-born Virgin, You honored her everlasting virginity and perfect chastity through Your Birth from her, for she is an image of the original glory, on which God created our forefathers Adam and Eve when they were together in the Paradise of joy.

O You who honored the second Eve by dwelling in her womb for nine full months and was formed of her by the Holy Spirit, who dwelt upon her.

He took flesh, having a human soul, uniting with it in one hypostasis and one nature and the Logos was born of her, who was and is, the blessed God forever.

O You who came out of the womb of the Virgin, while her virginity is sealed.

You who was nursed by the milk of the Virgin, while His is the Fountain of grace to all the creation. He was nurtured in her bosom, He slept in her arms, and sat in her lap while also sitting on a cherubimic chariot and is worshiped by the holy angels and archangels.

O You who honored Egypt by Your coming to it, riding on a swift and light cloud. The idols of Egypt were shaken in Your presence and the heart of Egypt melted. Oh, what was this swift and light cloud except the Virgin Mary, in her purity, kindness and everlasting chastity?

O You who desired to honor motherhood in Mary the Virgin by always obeying her, answering her calling, accepting her intercessions and responding to her prayers.

O You who entrusted Your Mother the Virgin with Your disciple, John the Beloved, and made John her son. And through John, You granted us Your Mother as our own, and through the faith we became her children.

O You who did not desire that the body of the Virgin, the Mother of Salvation, who became a holy ark in whom You dwelt in flesh, remain on earth but You raised it up to heaven after her death, upon the hands of the holy angels and archangels.

O You who honored us and our race, as You took flesh from Mary the Virgin, and ascended with it into the heaven, performing an eternal redemption, He sat on the throne, and thus in You we are able to sit on the right hand of the Father.

O God of mercy, have mercy upon us and forgive our sins. Accept the intercession of Your Mother, the Virgin, on our behalf. Make us worthy to touch Your holy Body and precious Blood, so that, with a pure heart, an enlightened soul, an unashamed face, a faith unfeigned, a perfect love, and a firm hope, we may cry to Your holy Father who art in heaven, and pray thankfully: 

Our Father Who art in heaven; 
hallowed be Thy name. 
Thy kingdom come. 
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread.  
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil, 
in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

For Thine is the kingdom, 
the power and the glory, 



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ

By St. Cyril of Alexandria 

Luke 9:27-36

THOSE who are skilful in the combat rejoice when the spectators clap their hands, and are roused to a glorious height of courage by the hope of the chaplets of victory: and so those whoso desire it is to be counted worthy of the divine gifts, and who thirst to be made partakers of the hope prepared for the saints, joyfully undergo combats for piety’s sake towards Christ, and lead elect lives, not setting store by a thankless indolence, nor indulging in a mean timidity, but rather manfully resisting every temptation, and setting at nought the violence of persecutions, while they count it gain to suffer in His behalf. For they remember that the blessed Paul thus writes, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy of the glory that is about to be revealed in us.”

Observe, therefore, how perfectly beautiful is the method which our Lord Jesus Christ uses here also for the benefit and edification of the holy Apostles. For He had said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day, and follow Me. For he that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” The commandment is indeed both for the salvation and honour of the saints, and the cause of the highest glory, and the means of perfect joy: for the choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ is not a thankless duty, but on the contrary makes us sharers in everlasting life, and the glory that is prepared. But as the disciples had not yet obtained power from on high, it probably occasionally happened, that they also fell into human weaknesses, and when thinking over with themselves any such saying as this, may have asked “how does a man deny himself?” or how having lost himself does he find himself again? And what reward will compensate those who thus suffer? Or of what gifts will they be made partakers? To rescue them therefore from such timid thoughts, and, so to speak, to mould them unto manliness, by begetting in them a desire of the glory about to be bestowed upon them, He says, “I say unto you, there are some of those standing here, who shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God.” Does He mean that the measure of their lives will be so greatly prolonged as even to reach to that time when He will descend from heaven at the. consummation of the world, to bestow upon the saints the kingdom prepared for them? Even this was possible for Him: for He is omnipotent: and there is nothing impossible or difficult to His all-powerful will. But by the kingdom of God He means the sight of the glory in which He will appear at His manifestation to the inhabitants of earth: for He will come in the glory of God the Father, and not in low estate like unto us. How therefore did He make those who had received the promise spectators of a thing so wonderful? He goes up into the mountain taking with Him three chosen disciples: and is transformed to so surpassing and godlike a brightness, that His garments even glittered with rays of fire, and seemed to flash like lightning. And besides, Moses and Elijah stood at Jesus’ side, and spake with one another of His departure, which He was about, it says, to accomplish at Jerusalem: by which is meant the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh; and of His precious suffering upon the cross. For it is also true that the law of Moses, and the word of the holy prophets, foreshewed the mystery of Christ: the one by types and shadows, painting it, so to speak, as in a picture; while the rest in manifold ways declared beforehand, both that in due time He would appear in our likeness, and for the salvation and life of us all, consent to suffer death upon the tree. The standing, therefore, of Moses and Elijah before Him, and their talking with one another, was a sort of representation, excellently displaying our Lord Jesus Christ, as having the law and the prophets for His body guard, as being the Lord of the law and the prophets, and as foreshown in them by those things which in mutual agreement they before proclaimed. For the words of the prophets are not at variance with the teachings of the law. And this I imagine was what Moses the most priestly and Elijah the most distinguished of the prophets were talking of with one another.

But the blessed disciples sleep awhile, as Christ continued long in prayer:—-for He performed these human duties as belonging to the dispensation:—-and afterwards on awaking they became spectators of changes thus splendid and glorious: and the divine Peter, thinking perchance, that the time of the kingdom of God was even now come, proposes dwellings on the mountain, and says that it is fitting there should be three tabernacles, one for Christ, and the others for the other two, Moses and Elijah: “but he knew not,” it says, “what he was saying.” For it was not the time of the consummation of the world, nor for the saints to take possession of the hope promised to them; for as Paul says, “He will change our humble body into the likeness of His,—-that is, Christ’s—-glorious body.” As therefore the dispensation was still at its commencement, and not yet fulfilled, how would it have been fitting for Christ to have abandoned His love to the world, and have departed from His purpose of suffering in its behalf? For He redeemed all under heaven, by both undergoing death in the flesh, and by abolishing it by the resurrection from the dead. Peter therefore knew not what he said.

But besides the wonderful and ineffable sight of Christ’s glory, something else was done, useful and necessary for the confirmation of their faith in Him: and not for the disciples only, but even for us too. For a voice was given forth from the cloud above, as from God the Father, saying: “This is My beloved Son, hear Him. And when there was the voice,” it says, “Jesus was found alone.” What then will he who is disputatious and disobedient, and whose heart is incurable, say to these things? Lo! Moses is there, and does the Father command the holy apostles to hear him? Had it been His will that they should follow the commandments of Moses, He would have said, I suppose, Obey Moses; keep the law. But this was not what God the Father here said, but in the presence of Moses and the prophets, He commands them rather to hear Him. And that the truth might not be subverted by any, affirming that the Father rather bade them hear Moses, and not Christ the Saviour of us all, the Evangelist has clearly marked it, saying, “When there was the voice, Jesus was found alone.” When therefore God the Father, from the cloud overhead, commanded the holy apostles, saying, “Hear Him,” Moses was far away, and Elijah too was no longer nigh; but Christ was there alone. Him therefore He commanded them to obey.

For He also is the end of the law and the prophets: for which reason He cried aloud to the multitudes of the Jews: “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me also: for he wrote of Me.” But as they persevered even unto the end in despising the commandment given by most wise Moses, and in rejecting the word of the holy prophets, they have justly been alienated and expelled from those blessings that were promised to their fathers. For “obedience is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” as the Scripture saith. And thus much then of the Jews: but upon us who have acknowledged the revelation, all these blessings have necessarily been bestowed, by means of and as the gift of the same Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Homily  of St. Cyril of Alexandria 


Friday, August 8, 2014

St. Mary's Surnames And Symbols - HH Pope Shenouda III

A. Surnames as regards her greatness
and her relation with God:

1. We give her the surname of The Queen who is by the right side of The King.

In this, we mention the words of the psalm "At your hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir" (Ps. 45:9). That is why, in her icon, she is portrayed at the right hand of the Christ our Lord. And we say about her in the divine mass "the Lady and the Queen of us all"......

2. Also we say about her: "Our mother the Holy Virgin".

When the Christ our Lord was on the Cross, He said about that to his disciple the beloved saint John: "Behold your mother" (John 19:27).

3. The Virgin is also compared to the ladder of Jacob"

That ladder which "was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven" (Gen. 28:12). That is the symbol of The Virgin who, by her giving birth to Christ, made the inhabitants of the earth reach to heaven.

4. She was also called "the bride"

because she is the true bride of the Lord of glory. The word of the Lord in the psalm was realized in her: "Listen, O daughter consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father's house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him" (Ps. 45:10-11). That is why she was called the friend of Solomon, who is the virgin of the Song of Songs.

It was said of her in the same psalm: "The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; her clothing is woven with gold. She shall be brought to the king in robes of many colors" (Ps. 45:13-14).

5. We also give her the surname "the beautiful pigeon"

in remembrance of the beautiful pigeon that carried to our father Noah a branch of olive tree, as a symbol of peace, bringing to him the good news of the deliverance from the waters of the flood......... (Gen. 8:11). With this surname, the priest burns incense in front of her icon when he goes out of the sanctuary and says: "Hail to you, O Virgin Mary, the beautiful pigeon".

The Virgin is compared to the pigeon in her simplicity and her purity and the action of the Holy Spirit in her. She resembles the pigeon which brought the good news of the deliverance after the flood, because she brought the good news of the deliverance by Christ.

6. The Virgin is also compared to the cloud

because of her height on the one hand, and because the prophecy of her coming to Egypt, compared her in this manner. It was mentioned about this in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
"The burden against Egypt. Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst" (Is. 19:1). The expression "cloud" is a symbol of the Lord who will come upon the clouds.
(Matt. 16:27).

B. Her surnames and symbols
as regards her motherhood to the Christ our Lord:

7. One of the surnames by which The Virgin has been described is "Theotokos"
that is: "the mother of God". This surname has been called upon her by the sacred œcumenical council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Saint Kirillos the Great insisted on that surname in his response to Nestorius......
Saint Elizabeth addressed her with that surname "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43).

8. One of her surnames is also: "the golden censer".

We call her "Te shury" that is the censer in Coptic; and sometimes "the censer of Aaron".......... As for the fire which it contains inside her, coal in it symbolises the human nature of Christ, and fire symbolizes His divine nature, as it has been said in the Holy Bible: "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).

The censer symbolizes the womb of The Virgin where divinity was united with humanity. The censer being of gold, that points to the greatness and the purity of The Virgin. Regarding the purity and the sanctity of The Virgin, we call The Virgin in her hymns "the golden censer" (Te shury ennub, in Coptic).

9. The Virgin is also surnamed "the second heaven"
because as heaven is the abode of God, so The Virgin Mary was an abode of God during the sacred pregnancy.

10. The Virgin is also surnamed "the city of God":

The prophecy in the psalm is realized in her: "Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God" (Ps 87:3). Or what was said of her "the city of the great King", or certain prophecies which were said about Jerusalem, are realized in her..........or Zion as it was also said in the psalm: "And of Zion it will be said, "This one and that one were born in her; and the most High Himself shall establish her" (Ps. 87:5).

11. In this quality, she was surnamed "the vine where was found the cluster of life"

that is Christ. The Church asks for her intercession with that surname in the prayer of the third hour, saying to her: "O mother of God, you are the true vine who bears the cluster of life"........

12. By this quality of motherhood, she has other surnames of which we mention:
The mother of the true light, considering that it has been said of the Christ our Lord, that He is "the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9).
Likewise she was surnamed "the golden lamp" because she bears the Light. And also: "the mother of the Holy One", considering that the angel, when he announced her with the birth of Christ, said to her: "also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
"The mother of the Savior", because the Christ our Lord is the Savior of the world: "and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

13. Among her symbols also: "the bush which the prophet Moses saw" (Exodus 3:2).
We say in the song: "The bush which the prophet Moses saw in the desert, is the symbol of the mother of Light, blessed be she. She has carried the fire of divinity in her womb, without being touched by any harm". It was said of the Lord that He is "a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29) to which the fire which is burning inside the bush, is a symbol, and the bush symbolizes The Virgin.

14. Also among her symbols: "the ark of the Testimony".
This ark was made of acacia wood that cannot be moth -eaten, and was covered with gold from inside and outside (Ex. 25:10, 22), as a symbol of the purity and the greatness of The Virgin. It also symbolized the things which were inside the ark that were a symbol of the Christ our Lord.

There was kept "the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant" (as a symbol of the incarnated Word of God).

15. The Virgin is also compared to the pot of the manna;

because the manna was a symbol of the Christ our Lord, as being the live bread who came down from heaven, everybody who eats from him lives by Him, that is also the bread of life (John 6: 32,48,49). Since the Lord Christ is compared to the manna, so it is possible to compare the Virgin to the pot of the manna, who carried this celestial bread inside her.

16. The Virgin is also compared to the rod of Aaron which germinated:
that is: she miraculously sprouted and carried the buds of life, (Num.17:6 -8); although a rod has of course no life in it that can produce blossoms and yield fruit. This symbolizes the virginity of The Virgin who could not sprout or produce posterity; but she gave birth through a miracle. This description is mentioned in the hymn of Sunday.

17. The tabernacle of meeting (the dome of Moses).

The tabernacle of meeting was the place upon which The Lord used to come, and The Virgin is she upon whom The Lord came. God manifested his love for his people in the two cases. That is what we say in the book of the hymns (Al Ipsalmodia): "You have been compared, O Virgin Mary, to the tabernacle which Moses made on the mountain of Sinaï, where God was inside".

18. The Virgin is compared to the gate in the East.
That which the prophet Ezechiel saw, and of which the Lord said: "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut" (Ez. 44: 1 -2). The prophet saw the glory of the Lord at this gate which is in the East, and the house was filled with it (Ez. 43: 2,4,5).

That symbolizes the virginity of the Virgin who was from the countries of the East; and how this virginity remained sealed. Because she was that gate from the East, she was qualified as:

19. The gate of life, the gate of deliverance:
It was said about our Lady the Virgin in the book of Ezechiel: "As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way" (Ez. 44:3).

Since the Lord is the Life, then she is the gate of the Life. The Lord said: "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). That is why the Virgin is the gate of the Life, that gate out of which the Lord came out, granting life to all those who believe in Him.......

It is not astonishing that we surname the Virgin "the gate", because the Church also was surnamed "the gate". Our father Jacob said about Bethel: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (Gen. 28:17).

20. She was compared to the "Holiest of all"

That in which the chief priest entered once a year, to make atonement for all the people. The Lord of glory came once inside the Virgin Mary for the redemption of all the world.

By H.H. Pope Shenouda III


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Church Attendance

Don’t be tempted to indulge yourself in not coming to church at the beginning of the service or leaving before it is over. Remember, each service is a complete unit and it can provide its full benefit only in its entirety. Just as food is tasty only when it is fully seasoned, so the service can completely satisfy the spiritual taste only when it is heard in full. Thus, he who misses the beginning or does not remain until the end is laboring, but he deprives himself of the fruit of his labor; he creates with one hand and destroys with the others.

Further, one must go to church not inattentively. For, it is always possible that one may go to church not in a way worthy of praise but rather of condemnation, i.e., by going and not receiving any spiritual benefit. Approaching the church, you must leave every care and worry about your affairs at the threshold in order to enter with a serene mind. Entering the church, you must put on reverence like a garment, remembering to Whom we are coming and to Whom we intend to address our prayers.

Having taken your place in the church (best of all, the same place each time), you should gather your thoughts and mentally stand before the face of the omnipresent God, offering Him reverent worship in body and spirit, with a contrite heart and in humble reverence. After this, you must follow, without wandering thoughts, everything that is going on — what is being sung and read in the church — all the way to the end of the service.

That is all! In this way, we won’t be bored in church, looking here and there and starting conversations, and we won’t be wishing that the service be over soon. Instead, passing from one prayerful feeling to another and from one reverent thought to the next, we will be like those in a fragrant garden, moving from one group of flowers to another.

St. Theophanes The Recluse


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