Words of Spiritual Benefit | 11-20

11. HUMAN ANGER

Sometimes, a holy anger happens for God's sake, but it does not have nervousness and loss of temper, it is a holy zeal.

James, the apostle, said about human anger "...for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:20)

Our saintly fathers, have many sayings on rebuking anger.

St. Aughoris said, "The prayer of the angry is a defiled and rejected incense and the offering of the angry is unaccepted." He also said: "Anger is an action of the insane... It makes humans like beasts... the eyes of the angry are evil, full of blood, while the face of the gentle is radiant and his eyes look with dignity."

St. Agathon used to say, "Even if the angry raised the dead, it is not accepted by God and nobody will come forward to him."

An elderly man said, "The one whose heart is not saddened when his brother disputes with him is like the angels.  If he disputes with him, too, he later and reconciles immediately. This is the action of strugglers. On the other hand, he who upsets his brothers, gets angry with them and hatred settles in his heart, is a follower of the devil, disobedient to God and God will not forgive his sins as far as he does not forgive the sins of his brothers... "

St. Ephram, the Syrian said, "The wrathful kills himself.  He is a stranger to blame and has poor health because his body withers all the time.  His spirit is sad and is hated by all."

St. Ephram also said, "he who hides envy in his heart is like the one who keeps a serpent in his lap.  Smoke drives the bees away and hatred drives knowledge away from the heart."

St. Isaiah said, "Anger is desiring to achieve what you want by force, without exercising humility."

St. Augustine said, "What is anger?  It is the desire for revenge... If God, despite our offences, does not wish to wreak vengeance on us... do we ask for revenge for ourselves and sin against God every day?!"

St. Gregory, the Bishop of Nyssa said, "Anger makes the black bitterness spread all over the body."

St. John of Assiut said, "the weapon of anger hurts its possessor... anger in the heart is like a woodworm in timber."

If we refer to the Holy Bible, we will find that it says, "Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry.  For anger rests in the bosom of fools." (Ecce. 7:9). It also says, "Make no friendship with an angry man.  And with a furious man do not go." (Prov 22:24).


12. STUBBORNNESS

A humble person may give up his opinion and would possibly admit that he was wrong, and rectify the error...

A meek person deals simply with everyone and never argues much or acts stubbornly.

He considers the other opinion with respect and dignity as an unbiased person, not as an opponent.  He honestly searches for what is good in it and if he finds it right, he accepts it...

Some people, when you talk to them, make you feel that their minds are completely locked us to any understanding.  Nothing is acceptable to them except their own opinion, and in a stubborn way they reject anything else without any discussion...

A person may continue in his stubbornness, no matter how many are opposing his opinion, no matter what their positions are and whether their talk is convincing or not...

This obstinacy could be due to buried pride, which considers giving up one's opinion against dignity and self respect.

One might continue in one's stubbornness for a long time.,

One might see the bad effects of insisting on and sticking to one's wrong opinion and, in one's stubbornness, would not care.

The heretics are an example of those stubborn people who did not listen to neither the churches nor the synagogues and carelessly split the church.

A stubborn person loses people as well as himself.  He could also lose his faith and consequently lose his eternity.

At the same time he loses the purity of his heart... no humility, no love, no understanding and no gentleness.

There is a big difference between stubbornness and firmness in what is right. Stubbornness is the persistence on what is wrong...

It is amazing how stubborn people justify their stubbornness as strength of personality, and they might imagine themselves heroes in their resistance...

Some people, with a weak personality, might admire them. When they see themselves surrounded by many, their stubbornness grows more and more.  They might think that many support them, or it is an evidence of the rightness of their opinion and attitude...

The Bible connects stubbornness to hardness of the heart...

The stubborn sinners who insist on their faults, are hard in heart and the work of grace does not soften them... The Apostle says to them, ".. if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." (Heb. 3:7)


13. THE CROSS IN OUR LIFE PART A

On the occasion of the feast of the Cross, we mention the following points:

=> Our first relationship with the Cross starts by baptism, where our old Adam is crucified so that sin will never enslave us.

=> The Church has carried the Cross during the martyrdom period and in all the persecutions that followed it during the lapse of time...

=> The beauty of the Cross is that the Church carried it with joy and patience,... without any complaint or grumbling...

The Cross changed into a longing that the Church desires and proceeds towards. The way in which the Christians received death puzzled the pagans.  It was a reflection of the Christians' faith in eternal joy and disdain of the world, with all its pleasures and enjoyment's...

The prisons turned into temples, where hymns and prayers echoed from the Christians who were joyful to receive death.

=> The third field where we carry the Cross is the narrow gate...

A person might constrain himself for the sake of God.  He isolates himself from the world and all its desires.  He disclaims everything for God's sake... by fasting, devoutness, self control and enduring others' offences.

=> The Cross of weariness could also be included in this field...

One toils in one's services for God and labours (in crucifying the flesh with its passions).  The Apostle says that, "He toils in struggling and crucifying the thought and overcoming oneself," knowing all the time that he "will receive his own reward according to his own labour." (I Cor. 3:8)

Christianity could never be separated from the Cross...

The Lord Jesus told us plainly that "... In the world you will have tribulation" and he also said, "and you will be hated by all for My name's sake." (Matt. 10:22)

=> We welcome and rejoice with the Cross, and see our strength in it.  As the Apostle said, "For 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." (I Cor. 1: 18)


14. EARNESTNESS

Perhaps our relationship with some people could be described as earnest.  But would our relationship with God have the same seriousness?

Are our promises to God earnest?  Are our personal decisions about our spiritual life serious decisions?  Or do we promise and never keep our promise; decide and never take action, as if we are not committed to anything?

Are our vows to God firm and serious?  Or do we take important pledges with God at critical moments of our life and when the crisis is over, we cancel these pledges or try to change them?

When we proceed to receive the Holy Communion, with wholehearted intentions to lead a holy life with God, do we keep this feeling or do we forget the undertakings of our hearts and seriously neglect the life of repentance?!...

Do we have a clear cut line that we firmly follow, or are we like a feather that the wind shifts without seriousness?

Is this seriousness, in our spiritual life, bound to certain principles of purity without going astray, no slackness in the means of grace and serving without being slothful?

The saints who repented, like St. Moses the Black, St. Augustine and St. Mary the Egyptian, were serious about their repentance.  They never turned back to their old lifestyle, which they deserted with no return...

Those who formed friendship and companionship with God never betrayed this friendship.  They seriously remained loyal to Him, feeling an emotional and practical commitment towards His love...

Those who are serious in their spiritual life are never moved by tribulations or temptations.  They never forget that they are the temples of God and His Spirit dwells in them.  They never forget that they are the children of God and they must keep His image and example...

Those who are serious in their spiritual life show this seriousness in each aspect of their life: in their talk, their behaviour, their service, their worship, their relationship with others and their firm stand towards the thoughts and feelings that fight the heart.

They have principles and they are committed to these principles.

Let us all then live in earnestness... It is one of the qualities of God's children.  It is an evidence of steadfastness...


15. GENTLE WORDS

=> The spiritual person never uses harsh words, but gentle ones, because gentleness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Are you known by the gentleness of your words and dealings?

=> Look at the Lord Jesus when He was talking to the Samaritan woman.  Although she was very sinful, Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband', for you have had five husbands and the one whom you now have is not your husband.." (John 4:17-18) The word "husbands" is very gentle, as they were not husbands but the Lord did not use the other harsh word.  His saying, "The one whom you now have is not yours" is the most gentle expression that does not include any word that could hurt her feelings...

=> Instead of hurting people, try to win them...

=> St. Paul, the apostle, when he entered Athens, became angry as he found the city full of idols.  Still he addressed them gently, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious... "

=> When God talked about Job, he praised him by gentle words, saying to the devil, "... that man was blame-less and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil." As a matter of fact, nobody is blameless except God alone...

=> How gentle was God's talk about Nineveh, the sinful city of the gentiles, whose people did not know their right from left.  God said, "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city." Was Nineveh really great or is it God's gentleness?...

=> The names God gave to people are another example of His gentleness.  He called Simon (Peter) which means rock and called Abram (Abraham) which means the father of multitudes... They are all names that carry praise...

=> Among the saints who were famous for their gentle words is St. Didymus the Blind, head of the Theological School in the 4th century.

He never aimed at overcoming people but winning them.  He never tried to destroy them but convince them.

=> God condemned harsh words by. saying, "... whoever says to his brother, 'Raca' shall be in danger of the Council. But whoever says, 'You fool', shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:22)

God does not accept harsh words as He is gentle and loving, His mouth is full of sweetness and his lips drop honey.


16. AMBITION

Man is created in God's image and likeness.  God is unlimited. Therefore, although man is limited, he has deep inside him, a longing for the unlimited.  For the same reason, man longs for immortality and eternal life.  It also explains man's longing for perfection and that is why people have ambitious feelings in them...

An indolent person is not in God's image while the one who has the godly image says, like St. Paul, "...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." (Phil. 3:13)

This is a spiritual ambition, where everyone seeks spiritual perfection.  And according to his perfect idealism, whatever he reaches seems as nothing, so he forgets it and keeps on progressing...

That is how the saints' humility originated and their toil in struggle.

That is also how the spiritual growth originated...

This type of ambition is acceptable and is needed as a virtue and nobody objects to it.

But there is the wrong ambition for material things.

For example, the rich fool who said, "I will pull down my barns and build greater.. and I will say to my soul you have many goods laid up for many years." (Luke 12:18)

What are the faults in the materialistic ambition?

[1] The first fault is that the heart becomes attached to material things in a way that controls its feelings and time, and kills any other spiritual desire.

[2] The second fault is that a person gets involved in competitions that would cause him the loss of his love for others and tempts him to build his own personal glory on the rubble of others, clashing with people and destroying them. Like a person whose ambition is to be first or to be head, so he tries to get rid of all his rivals...

[3] The third fault is when ambition turns into greediness or avidity that is never satisfied, no matter how much this person gains or achieves.

[41 The fourth fault is when the means to reach one's ambition is wrong or not spiritual.  By this, man destroys some of his ideals and spiritualism to reach his target...

[51 Ambition could be for authority and changes the person into a dictator, destroying whoever stands in his way of influence...

[6] One might forget his eternity in all these types of ambitions and his bearings become completely worldly.


17. YOUR LANGUAGE REVEALS YOU

Your talk shows and reveals your personality.  It uncovers what is inside you, "For by your words, you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned!" (Matt. 12:37)

Talk is not to be taken slightly.  By judging you could be judged and by the word 'fool', you might be in danger of hell fire. Some talk says the Lord ,defiles the person.  James the apostle describes the tongue as 'fire' that "kindles from hell."

The faults of the tongue are many.  They made the saints favour silence:

There is blasphemy, lying, abuse mockery, scornful talk, harsh and angry words, bitterness and envy, talk of pride and boasting, exaggeration, words of hypocrisy and deceit, false witness and repudiating others, foolish disputes and prattle... etc.

There are faults that affect the person himself and faults that are stumbling blocks for others.

For example, the talk a person pours into the ears of others defiles the purity of their hearts and thoughts or spoils their faith and the soundness of their knowledge.  It could also damage their relationship with others and cause friction between them.  It could also make them change their minds about their friends.  Many are the victims of talk!

The Bible advises us to slow down in speaking, at least to get a chance to think... St. James, the Apostle said, ".,.let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." (James 1: 19)

The one who hastens or rushes in his talk, is bound to err.  He might regret it, but after being recorded against him, he cannot get it back...

However, there is useful talk.  The spirit-borne used to come to our fathers from the farthest ends of the world, asking for a word of benefit...

There are words of the spirit and words of grace, like the words that God puts in the mouth of people to pass on to others, "It is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father, " who spoke through the prophets...

Therefore, the Psalmist says, "O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall show forth your praise." Is it then God who opens your lips?...

Among the gentle words: a word of blessing, a word of comfort, a word of encouragement, a word of solution, a word of guidance, a word of teaching, and also a word of rebuke, if it is said with love.

The word which is from God never returns empty.  It is strong, live and effective.  It penetrates the heart, bears fruit and changes souls.

Talk then when it is right to talk and know how to talk and when.


18. THE PRACTICAL PERSON

There are people who live in a fantasy, floating in hopes created by imagination, building castles in the air and living in day dreams.  They never achieve anything because they are not practical.

On the contrary, there are people who are practical, living in reality and acting according to facts...

He who lives in imaginary expectations is not practical.

Likewise:

The one who cries over the past, without working for the present, is not practical.  Crying would not help him.

He who collapses when faced with a problem, without thinking of its solution, is not practical.  Collapsing is not going to save him...

He who acts without thinking of the outcome or the reaction to what he is doing, is not practical.

He who deals with people according to his own mentality, without taking into consideration their own mentality and way of thinking, is not practical.

The one who believes those who praise him, and makes friends with whoever smiles at him, thinking that as far as he is convinced of something, it must be true (and the others must be convinced of it)... is not practical.

He who thinks that he has to win and be obeyed, just because he is Mr so and so... is not practical.

The practical person lives in reality with all its surroundings, obstacles and problems, without ignoring anything...

The practical person deals with people as they are, not as they ought to be.  He does not expect fanciful idealism in those with whom he deals, but he realises they are human, like everybody else, with all the weaknesses and defects of the human nature.

The practical person does not tackle his problems by weeping and lamentation, clamour and complaint.  He faces his problems with composed thought and wisdom as well as practical solutions.  He prays that God may bless his work and grant him success.

The practical person does not live on the word (IF)... He does not spend his life in the past, but he learns a lesson from it and works for the present and the future, with all his might...


19. LEARNING

Learning starts during the person's life, but it never ends...

This learning takes different shapes, which vary according to the stages of life that one experiences...

Childhood represents the type of learning that believes in everything...

It is the type of learning that requires education, asks and seeks knowledge, accepts everything without argument and picks up many things by following the example of others.

During the primary and preparatory period, another type of learning takes place, which understands and absorbs.  In secondary school, learning is based on discussion and argument, then storing information after examining it...

During the university period, it is another type of learning which partakes in examining and preparing information and, to a certain extent, depends on itself.

After the university years, another type of learning begins, when the person sets out to practical life.

This period does not follow defined programmes or fixed dates for exams.  One is practically tested at any time, in anything and without previous preparation or readiness...

You too, need to be prepared for the trials of life...

You might be able to learn from others' experiences, beside learning from the elderly, the instructors and spiritual fathers. You can also learn from books...

Man needs to drink from all springs of knowledge, with wisdom and care, by examining and sifting information.

You need to know life and learn how to act and deal with people and superiors and how to talk to them:

When does a person talk and how; when does one need to be firm and when to be flexible; when to be precise, when to punish and when to forgive...

The one who loves learning learns from everything...

He learns from the ant how to be active, and learns to have faith from the birds who neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet our Heavenly Father feeds them...

Happy is the one who learns throughout his life...

He learns more than what others teach.  He increases every day in knowledge and insight.  He will acquire the humility by which he accepts learning from anyone and from everything…


20. REAL JOY AND FALSE JOY

The real joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The Bible says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace... " (Gal. 5:22)

It is a joy in the Lord, as the Apostle said. But there are many examples of false joy: Jonahs joy with the plant that gave shade for his head and Solomon's joy with all his toil under the sun. He finally realised that all is vanity and grasping for the wind. And he also said, "The heart of fools is in the house of mirth." (Eccl. 7:4)

Another example of the false joy is when the elder son said to his father, "You never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends." (Luke 15:29)

There is another type of joy which is considered a sin:

Solomon said, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls." (Prov. 24:17) The Apostle, when talking about joy, said "Love does not rejoice in iniquity." (1 Cor. 13:6)

The Lord Jesus rebuked his disciples when they were joyful that the devils were subject to them.  He said to them, "...do not rejoice in this... but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:20)

The real joy then is the holy joy in the Lord...

It is also the joy of spiritual life with all the means of grace...

The Psalmist says, "I was glad when they said to me 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'" (Ps. 122: 1) He also says, "I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure" (Ps. 119:162) and also says, "I will lift up my hands in Your name.  My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness." (Ps.63:4,5) Therefore, he sees his joy in whatever draws him to God.

Man also rejoices in repentance as it is reconciliation with God...

Heaven also shares in this joy with salvation, "there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance... " (Luke 15:7)

Hope is also another source of joy, "Rejoicing in hope." (Rom. 12:12)

Nevertheless, tribulations themselves, make the faithful rejoice, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." (James 1:2)

The greatest joy is meeting God in His Kingdom, when the Lord says to the faithful, "Enter into the joy of your Lord.