Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ascension





Ascension By St. Cyril


For heaven was then utterly inaccessible to mortal man, and no flesh as yet had ever trodden that pure and all-holy realm of the angels; but Christ was the first Who consecrated for us the means of access to Himself, and granted to flesh a way of entrance into heaven; presenting Himself as an offering to God the Father, as it were the first fruits of them that are asleep and are lying in the tomb, and the first of mankind that ever appeared in heaven.

Therefore also it was that the angels in heaven, knowing nothing of the august and stupendous mystery of the Incarnation, were astonished in wonder at His coming, and exclaim almost in perplexity at the strange and unusual event: Who is this that cometh from Edom? that is, from the earth. But the Spirit did not leave the host above uninstructed in the marvelous wisdom of God the Father, but bade them rather open the heavenly gates in honor to the King and Master of all, proclaiming: Lift up the gates, O ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.

Therefore our Lord Jesus the Christ consecrated for us a new and living way, as Paul says; not having entered into a holy place made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us. For it is not that He may present Himself before the presence of God the Father that Christ has ascended up on high: for He ever was and is and will be continually in the Father, in the sight of Him Who begat Him, for He it is in Whom the Father ever takes delight: but now He Who of old was the Word with no part or lot in human nature, has ascended in human form that He may appear in heaven in a strange and unwonted manner. And this He has done on our account and for our sakes, in order that He, though found as a man, may still in His absolute power as Son, while yet in human form, obey the command: Sit Thou on My right hand, and so may transfer the glory of adoption through Himself to all the race.

For in that He has appeared in human form He is still one of us as He sits at the right hand of God the Father, even though He is far above all creation; and He is also Consubstantial with His Father, in that He has come forth from Him as truly God of God and Light of Light. He has presented Himself therefore as Man to the Father on our behalf, that so He may restore us, who had been removed from the Father's presence by the ancient transgression, again as it were to behold the Father's face. He sits there in His position as Son, that so also we through Him may be called sons and children of God.
St. Cyril 


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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Commemoration of Consecration of The Church of St. Demiana





On this day, the church commemorates the consecration of the church of the virgin St. Demiana. This pure and fighting virgin was the daughter of Mark, who was the governor of El-Borollus, El-Zaafran and the valley of Saisaban. She was the only child of her parents. When she was one year old, her father took her to the church that was in the monastery of El-Maima. He offered gifts there so that God might bless this daughter and keep her safe Him.

When she was fifteen years old, her father wanted to get her married. She refused and told him that she had vowed herself a bride for the Lord Christ. When she found that her father was pleased of her decision, she asked him to build her an isolated palace, so that she could worship God with her virgin friends, and right away he did what she asked. He built the palace where she and the forty virgins lived in. They spent their time by reading the Holy Bible and praying fervently to God.

Shortly after, Emperor Diocletian sent for Mark her father and ordered him to worship the idols, but he refused at first. However, after some persuasion, Mark obeyed him and worshipped the idols, forsaking the creator of the universe.

When Mark returned, and St. Demiana knew of what her father had done, she rushed to meet him without a greeting saying: "What have I heard about you? I wished I have Heard the news of your death, and not knowing that you have forsaken God who have created you and worshipped what is made by hands. If you insist on what you have done and you do not relent by denouncing the idols, you are not my father, and I am not your daughter." She also said to him: "It is better for you, O my father, that you die a martyr and live with Christ in heaven forever, than you live as a pagan here and die with the devil in hades forever." Then she left him. Her father was moved by what she said and wept bitterly. He went in hurry to Diocletian and confessed the Lord Christ before him. When Diocletian could not change his mind, he ordered him to be beheaded.

When Diocletian knew that the one who turned Mark away from worshipping the idols was his daughter Demiana, he sent to her a prince to persuade her at first, and if she did not obey, he would cut off her head. The Prince came to her with an entourage of one hundred soldiers armed with all instruments of torture. When he arrived to her palace, he went to her and said: "I am an envoy sent by Emperor Diocletian. I came to ask you, according to his orders, to worship his gods, so he might grant you whatsoever you wish." St. Demiana shouted at the prince saying: "Curse the messenger and he who sent him. Are you not ashamed to call stones and wood gods that only dwelt by devils? There is no other God in heaven or on earth except the one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Creator, Who has no beginning and no end, the Omnipresent, and the Omniscient God, who will throw you in hell for eternal condemnation. As for me, I worship my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Good Father and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. I profess Him, depend on Him, and in His name I die and by Him I will live forever." The Prince became angry of what she said, and ordered her to be placed in the body press. Her blood poured out on the ground, and the virgins were standing, weeping for her. Then they put her in prison, where the angel of the Lord appeared to her and touched her body with his celestial wings and healed her from all her wounds.

The Prince was creative in the ways he tortured St. Demiana, sometimes by rending her flesh, or placing her in boiling grease and oil. In all that, the Lord strengthened her and raised her up whole. When the Prince saw that his efforts were of no avail and the steadfastness of this pure virgin, he ordered her to be beheaded with all the virgins with her. They all received the crowns of martyrdom. (The account of her martyrdom is mentioned in the 13th day of Tubah)

The Prince returned to Antioch, the city of the Emperor. The faithful came and gathered the bodies of the martyrs and kept them until the end of the days of persecution and the reign of the righteous Emperor the Christ-loving Constantine the great. He ordered to destroy the idol temples and built many churches after the names of the martyrs. He gathered the bodies of the martyrs in every place and placed them in the churches. He endowed the churches with the necessary income to maintain them.

When Constantine knew of all what had happened to St. Demiana, and how she endured for a long time in the valley of El-Saisaban, he delegated his blessed mother St. Helena to take burial clothing, go to El-Zaafran, and build a church in the name of St. Demiana and the forty virgins, there.

St. Helena came to the valley, went up to the palace, and found that the bodies were unharmed. She found St. Demiana in the place where she used to sit and around her the forty virgins. She kissed the body, taking the blessing of the Saint and wrapped the bodies with expensive shrouds. She gathered the craftsmen and architects, tore down the palace, and built instead a well built tomb (Cellar) underground. She laid the body of St. Demiana on an ivory bed, and covered her with a precious bedspread and laid the forty virgins around her in it. Then she built a small and beautiful church which had one dome on the top of it. The church was consecrated by Pope Alexandros, the nineteenth Patriarch of Alexandria, on the 12th. of Bashans. He also ordained a saintly bishop, priests, and deacons to serve in the church day and night in prayers.

The bishop of this area, El-Zaafran and El-Borollus, was martyred and his body was placed in this church among the bodies of other martyrs. Abba Yoannis, Bishop of El Borullus, said in his book, The History of the Church: "The church was destroyed in the 8th. century by one of the Arab rulers, who built in its place a palace for his residence."

At this time, the water of the Mediterranean sea flooded the Delta of the Nile river until it reached the city of Samannoud to the western side of the church that called "Zion" by the old citadel. This flooding was caused by the deterioration of the barrier, which held back the sea water. When the news reached the king Hassan Ibn Atahia, he was saddened because this district brought the government much money because it was rich in its highly priced aromatic plants. One of his close aids, who was a Jew, told the king to bring the Patriarch of the Copts and order him to pray in faith to return everything to where they were before the flood.

God assisted this Patriarch through the help of one of the holy men who was known as El-Toffahi in this trying time. The Patriarch prayed in the church at Samannoud in the presence of the king. Then the Patriarch went out of the church raising the Cross. The people were saying Lord have mercy and the holy man, El-Toffahi, behind him. Instantly, the water receded to the north before them. The Patriarch, behind him El-Toffahi, the priests, the people, and the king continued to walk until they arrived to El-Zaafran where they erected tents for the king beside the destroyed palace, under which the body of St. Demiana along with the bodies of the forty martyrs were kept. The Patriarch prayed and knelt to the ground with all the people with him. At this moment, a great miracle and sign occurred that amazed everyone. A great wind blew in the sea and the waves became very high, which caused great quantities of sand to form a great barrier with the power of God almighty which was stronger than the original one. Then the winds calmed down.

The Patriarch returned to the king, who received him with honor and told him: "O Patriarch, ask from me, something to do for you." The Patriarch replied: "I need your assistance in building a church in this place because it contains the bodies of Saints who were martyred, for they refused to worship idols. The king ordered that the place be cleaned. The Patriarch opened the door of the cellar, went down, and found the forty bodies of the martyrs around the bed of St. Demiana. The king ordered at once to build a church with one dome, which was consecrated by the Patriarch on the 12th day of Bashans.

The news of this church spread in all the country and the people came with their offerings to it. The church was consecrated for the first time during the reign of Constantine and the second time was on this day.

The king ordered that no one disturb the Copts, so it was a peaceful and tranquil time in all Egypt. The king returned to his palace in Misr (Cairo) and always asked the Patriarch to visit him periodically. He came to visit the king with great honor till his departure.

The king of Egypt at that time was Hassan Ibn Atahia, who was just, loved the churches, and treated the bishops and the monks with great respect. He loved Pope Khail the first, the forty-sixth Patriarch of Alexandria (743 - 767 A.D.), and came often to visit him. He discussed the affairs of the country with him.

May the prayers of St. Demiana be with us. Amen.

 
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Monday, May 12, 2014

16 - BE RELEASED FROM THE DESIRE TO BE TEACHERS - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III






16 -  BE RELEASED FROM THE DESIRE TO BE TEACHERS         
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.

16 -  BE RELEASED FROM THE DESIRE TO BE TEACHERS     

The desire to be a teacher involves a great danger.. So, avoid it, my beloved brother, and fly from it as far as you can.

You want to teach people.. Well, what things do you want to teach them?

Do you not agree with me, my dear brother, that we are not yet mature enough nor have complete knowledge of all things? There are certain things which we consider from one point of view only and so we misunderstand them. For example when we interfere to teach others religion, we do not teach it to them in its true concept but as we understand it in our age and in our particular level of spirituality and mentality.. But as we grow older and perhaps our spirituality and mentality develop and our understanding of religion differs.. what then would be the state of those who learnt from us in the beginning?

For this and other reasons as well, St. James the Apostle says, ".. let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement. For we all stumble in many things." (James 3:1-2)

Jeremiah the Prophet also says to God, "Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth" (Jer. 1:6). And Isaiah the Prophet speaking about himself says, ".. I am a man of unclean lips." (Is. 6:5)  We have St. Bachomius as another example.. when people used to come to him seeking a word of benefit, he refused to speak but introduced to them his disciple Tadros. And the Spirit of God spoke on the mouth of that holy disciple..

Another old father when one of the young monks came to learn something from him, he said to him, 'Stay in your cell and it will teach you everything'. And the young monk returned to his cell benefiting from those words..

There are many other stories which I leave to you to read by yourself and take the benefit which God gives you through them. Here, before moving to another point I want to remark that many of the teachings of the holy fathers have reached us by one of two means: Either one of the monks wrote down the words of the old father during his talks with other brother monks, or the father himself recorded his meditations for his own benefit and they were found in his cell after his passing away and people benefited from them.

My beloved brother, there is a very great difference between the ministry of teaching which the Holy Bible entrusted to certain persons and the love of being teachers..

The last is of great danger.. It sometimes becomes a disguised devil.. The love of teaching is often accompanied by a hidden or apparent feeling of personal worthiness and of superiority to others.. When such a person who loves to teach is given more chances to teach, this feeling grows within him. He even enters the church not with purpose to have benefit but to criticise and teach even the teachers. He never feels need to take but he always gives.. There will be a time when such a person finds nothing to give, for what he has will dry up...

Unlike this person were the fathers who used to learn continually and benefit from everything..

· St. Anthony the great monk was able to benefit from the words of a woman who was not ashamed to take off her clothes to bathe before a monk..

· St. Macarius also, the father of the desert of Shihit learned a lesson from a young boy.

· St. Arsanius who studied the wisdom of the Greeks and Romans learnt also from an illiterate Egyptian..

All those fathers had souls which flew like an active bee to gather nectar from every flower!
Another danger behind the love of teaching is to become so involved in teaching and you forget yourself. I remember this in regard to a Zealous person who used to read the Holy Bible not with purpose to get benefit but in order to prepare a lesson..

When he gave alms, this was not out of love for the poor but to be as a model to people.. He used to be cautious in his actions not being convinced with doing so but in order not to offend others.. Even when he sat with some people, he did not learn something from them but his only concern was to examine what they said as a master and then wisely explain the proper situation.. He once said that when he stood to pray and it happened that God's Spirit worked within him giving him a certain feeling, or a certain meditation, he did not hesitate to stop his prayer and sit down to record such things to teach them to people.. Hence the means of grace have lost their objective in the life of such a person and teaching became everything to him.

Another word I want to whisper in your ear, is beloved to my heart, ie. What do you want to teach people? Is it religion? Do you think that religion is mere knowledge which one may fill the mind with? I fear most, my dear striver, that this way of teaching religion will turn it into a subject to be studied and people examine it like any branch of learning.. In fact, religion is spirit and life as you certainly know..

The Zealous person then asked me, 'But I am a teacher in the church, what can I do then? 'I answered him, "I wish you to be alive in spirit, my dear brother. I'll tell you the truth, you do not in fact teach those souls entrusted to you but you love them.. Such souls which you see surrounding you are attracted not by your teaching but by love.. the 'love' which never fails because it is God's.

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



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Friday, May 2, 2014

Praise The Lord







 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!

Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150:1-6  (NKJV)
 

 
Let us praise him on the psaltery and on the harp, supposing that on the harp we may embrace the wood of the cross and on the psaltery we may maintain the universal confession. 

The sound is harsh because the confession is not held in unity. Let us praise on timbrel and with dance, when we, firmly set upon a restored way of life, adorn the timbrel of our body with the models of best behavior. 

Let us praise him on stringed instruments and on the organ as we play the fresh strings that are on our harp. Let us also, as with the narrow needs of modesty make melodious sounds to God, cleansing ourselves from all the blight of sin.

Arnobius the Younger 


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