Words of Spiritual Benefit | 131-140
131- Grace and Vengeance
How astonishing are the persons whom God gives them grace and they turn it into vengeance.
Money is grace, beauty is grace, art is grace, also freedom, science, power, discipline. But, how easy - practically - all these can be changed into vengeance's, by different means!
By the improper use, such pleasures could turn into vengeance's.
Money buys and sells conscience. Beauty becomes a tool of enticement. Art turns into entertainment. Freedom becomes means of rashness and inattentiveness. Power develops into an instrument of tyranny. Science is used in destructible and harmful inventions. Discipline - by misuse - turns into routine and an implement of delaying!!
These pleasures - by competition - could be converted into vengeance's!
In the course of competition in the fields of money or science or power or art, how easy a person contracts the hostility of his brother. Hatred and rumours spread; and struggle occurs - in which a person loses his humanity and love for others.
Nevertheless, what can I say? Even the service, the service of God!!
Satan can also penetrate into the sphere of the service and change it into vengeance. If there are differences of opinion, it will turn into disputes; aspirations for improvement will change to destruction and defamation.
There will be competition for leadership as in the worldly affairs too!
As the one invention could be used for good and evil, likewise all the other possibilities.
Thus it all depends on the person himself, on the heart, mind and will by which the matter becomes a grace or a vengeance.
At the martyrdom period, persecution seemed to be vengeance, but the saints changed it into grace and they received its blessings and crowns. The bloods of the martyrs became the seeds of faith. The church grew greater in spirituality and became more attached to God and deeply involved in holiness in preparation for eternity.
Trials and diseases were changed into blessings by the saintly.
Therefore, do not say this is a grace or a vengeance, but say it can be changed into a grace or into a vengeance.
The wise heart can convert vengeance into grace, even sin!! he takes from it contrition, humility, keenness and sympathy for sinners.
132 - The Spiritual Life
=> It is a permanent walk towards God. It is a continual progress towards infinity.
It is an uninterrupted effort to perfection and perfection is boundless. Therefore, the spiritual life is not meant for the one who stops, sits or sleeps. It needs a person who always go forward with all his power.
=> It is a transition from perfection to better perfection it is always connected with growth.
The spiritual life does not mean that you live a good life but to move from a good to a better and a far better life with no limitation. It is summarised in one phrase said by the Apostle Paul, " ... reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press towards the goal."
=> Poor is the man who spends all his life to combat sin.
It is assumed that he brings sin to an end and enters the life of righteousness, then he grows until he reaches perfection. He proceeds gradually from the proportional perfection pressing towards the absolute perfection which he will not attain the righteous feels that he is always at fault and negligent because the target before him is still far away.
The spiritual person does his utmost - which he considers not enough - Thus he widens the circle of his abilities trying to find new skills for himself.
In all of this he struggles with himself and battles with the grace in him striving with God to lead him as He guided the saints.
=> Do not move slowly in the way of spiritual life. Do not stop or be distracted by the sceneries of the road. Do not allow your enemies or friends to hinder you.
Tell them as Lazarus of Damascus said to Rebekah's parents, "Do not hinder me, since the Lord has prospered my way." (Gen. 24:56). Remember the Lord's saying," ... greet no one along the road." (Luke 10:4). Do not preoccupy yourselves with a relative or a friend, but repeat the saying of the Apostle Peter to the Lord, "We have left all and followed you." (Matt 19:27).
=> The Samaritan woman did not want to be hindered by her water-pot, she left it by the well and hastened to the city to preach Jesus to them.
We have many water-pots, when one becomes empty we fill it again. We did not leave the well, the pots or the water. We did not go down the road and we did not preach Jesus
=> Believe me the whole life is not enough to get across our way to God. How much is our loss; the years we wasted from our lives, which were the best of our times with more energy and greater reward.
=> Very often, our best times are those in which we talk about the way, its beauty and its spirituality, without walking in it!!
Merely, we are learned and well informed, we prepare lessons and give them to the people!!
133 - Places of the Saints
What is your feeling when you visit the places of the saints; for example, when you visit a monastery for the feast of a saint?
1. The trip to the monastery is not a visit to look at or to promenade but to seek the blessing and the spiritual benefit.
2. Therefore, the singular visits are more deeper and beneficial than the excursions where many crowd together.
3. In your visit to the monastery, bear in mind all the spiritual memories and thoughts relating to this sacred place.
4. Remember that you are in a place full of reverence and silence, not noise and loud voices which occur in the cities. The saints used to keep silent and devote themselves to contemplation and praying. You too, keep silent and enter into the depth of your soul so that you can go into the depth of God.
5. Do not waste the time of the excursion in laughs and fun with your companions, in your way to and from the monastery, in order not to lose the spiritual benefit.
6. Do not make comments on all what you see or hear. Do not judge this or that lest you receive condemnation instead of blessing.
7. Remember the names of the saints who lived at that place and the virtues of each of them, meditate on their lives and their deep relation with God and what you can do to follow their footsteps.
8. Take with you a prayers book and a notebook to write your contemplations. Contact those from whom you can benefit spiritually.
9. Remember that every span of the ground was watered by the tears of the saints and that your are moving on holy land.
10. Seek the intercession of the saints of the monastery and utilise your visit by pouring out your prayers before God, asking for their prayers to support you.
11. Benefit from the quiet nature and calm atmosphere and sit and examine yourself in depth.
12. Ask yourself openly what did you benefit from the trip.
134 - The Elements of Continuance
The element of continuance is very important in the spiritual life.
It is easy that man begins a relationship with God, but can he continue or not?!
The Galatians "have begun in the Spirit" but they did not continue and concluded by the flesh (Gal 3:3). Demas served with the Apostle Paul and did not continue "for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." (2 Tim 4:10).
How easy it is to live the life of love for a certain period. It is important to carry on as the Lord said to the angel of the church of Ephesus, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." (Rev 2:4). And so the Lord said, "Abide in my love" (John 15:9).
Starting is easy but the strength is to continue.
If Satan finds out that you had begun a spiritual work, he will do his utmost to make you stop and not to continue. Therefore, the continuance in the spiritual work needs from you seriousness, strong will and self-control.
Continuance shows the sincerity of your wish to live with God, also it provides spiritual experiences.
If you continue with a certain virtue, you will realise its features, wars and obstacles and how to triumph over all this.
For the sake on continuance, the Lord said, " ... he who endures to the end will be saved." (Matt 10:22) because the good beginnings are not everything, its strength is to carry on to the end, until death.
The Apostle said, "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follows, considering the outcome of their conduct." (Heb 13:7).
If you started a spiritual work and failed to continue, search for the reason. Perhaps you have begun with a level beyond your ability. In this respect the saints said, (little continuous work is better than a bigger one that stops after a time).
135 - Manners at Church
=> You come to church with a special spiritual readiness.:
In olden times they used to come reciting the psalms on the way saying, "I was glad when they said to me: Let us go into the House of the Lord." (Ps. 122:1) "How lovely is your tabernacle, O'Lord of hosts." (Ps. 84:1) "My soul longs for the courts of the Lord." (Ps. 84:2) "One thing I desired of the Lord that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life." (Ps. 27:4) "Blessed are those who dwell in your house. They will still be praising you." (Ps. 84:4).
=> A person enters the church saying, "But as for me, I will come into your house in the multitude of your mercy; In fear of you I will worship towards your holy temple." (Ps. 5:7); so he worships and sits in reverence.
=> Among the rules of respect of the church, it is not permissible to sit at the time when you must be standing.
=> It is not allowable to enter the church with newspapers or magazines in your hand; the worst thing is to keep yourself busy with it.
=> It is not permissible to raise your voice, but if you talked for necessity, you speak in a quiet voice.
=> Do not engage yourself looking here and there but concentrate your senses and mind on the prayers, contemplations and listening as if you are standing before God.
=> In reciting the chorus and the tunes, it is not allowable to raise your voice over the others or be different from them in the tune.
=> It is appropriate to come to church in decent clothes worthy of the house of God. Also, those who are receiving communion, they must take off their shoes, and women to cover their hair and do not put makeups.
=> It is not permissible to leave the church except after hearing the final blessing from the priest, especially on days of Holy Mass.
=> You must come early to the church, the Lord says, "And those who seek me diligently will find me."(Prov 8:17).
=> It is assumed that who will partake in communion must attend the early raising of incense (Matins) or at least at the presentation of the offertory and hearing of the absolution of the servants.
=> It is improper to crowd together during communion or when taking (The Holy Bread)
but to go forward in order, giving preference to one another.
136 - Righteous in His Own Eyes
=> The problem of Job was being a righteous man and he knows of himself that he is upright. The Bible said about him that, " ... he was righteous in his own eyes." (Job 32:1). So, perhaps for this reason, his known adversity brought upon him.
The ordeal remained with Job when he was righteous in his own eyes, but it was taken away when he said to the Lord, "Behold I am vile: what shall I answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth." (Job 4O:4). Also, "Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know ... therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:3 & 6).
And when he repented in dust and ashes, the ordeal was lifted.
=> The Bible said, "And lean not on your own understanding." (Prov 3:5). It also said, "Do not be wise in your own opinion." (Rom 12:16). And, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." (Prov 26:5).
=> God wants us not to be wise in our own eyes, therefore he asked us to get discipleship and counselling. It is said,
"Those who are without guide, fall like tree leaves."
He also asked us to obey and consult the grown-ups, like the parents, the spiritual guides, especially the confession fathers as well as the elderly who have experience of the matured.
In order not to be wise in your own eyes, consult others, and in order not to be righteous in your own eyes, remember your sins.
The upright in his own eyes does not accept blame from anyone and sees himself always right. He tries to justify or find excuses for all his mistakes and never admits that he made a mistake. Therefore he falls in pride, stubbornness, obstinacy and argument.
He abides by his mistakes, does not change it because he does not admit it. In the meantime, he loses God's help and His grace might abandon him, so he falls down to feel his weakness.
137 - Why Do We Pray?
We pray in compliance with an order or carrying out a duty. NO, because prayer is an expression of the love in one's heart towards God.
The righteous person loves God, and through his love for Him, he enjoys talking with Him, the same as a friendly relation between you and a dear friend; you talk together, speak of any subject mainly you enjoy talking with him.
David the Prophet is a practical example of the prayer of love. The Lord says: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God. When shall I come and appear before God." (Ps. 42:1-3). He loves God and pants for Him, so he prays.
Therefore if we pray, that is because we feel this love towards God, and while the prayer seems a burden to us, we spend hours talking with our friends without boredom because there is love between us.
Prayer therefore means love. it is a relation with God; it is holding fast to the Lord; it is lifting the heart and mind to God.
There are persons who only pray to seek something from God; if there is nothing to ask for they do not pray as if the personal benefit is the motive for such relation with God! Those are rebuked by St. Basil in his saying [ If you stand to pray, do not begin your prayer seeking something, lest it is thought that you pray only because of what you require]. Be sure that all your needs will come to you without seeking them and let your prayer be for love and not a petitionary one.
What did the Lord Jesus ask for when He prayed? He used to spend the whole night in prayer. He does not need anything as everything is in His hands. Isn't He who said," All things that the Father has are mine." (John 16:15) then, His prayer was an expression of the love between Him and the Father.
When a person loves God, he loves His Kingdom "But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matt 6:33). With these supplications the Lord's Prayer begin: "Hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. You will be done. Give us day by day our daily bread". The heavenly bread which is for our eternal future, the spiritual bread - Your Body and Blood - give us today. It is a supplication based on love. O Lord give us Yourself as we nourish on You. Give us Your sweet words because we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Now brother, if you have not yet reached the prayer which is full of love, seek from God what you need: Be frank with God, open your heart to Him.
And if such love is not in you, pray that God may give it to you. Say to Him constantly, "Grant me that I love you Lord."
138 - What is Suitable
It is difficult to say the same words to everyone. As each person has what suits him and fits for his purpose.
You might need a certain practice today, but might need its opposite tomorrow or even after one hour.
Perhaps you need not to talk, while on another occasion, it is important that you speak, and you feel in your depth that you will be judged on your silence, if you hold your tongue.
A person who is not good with words, or his talk is understood or interpreted differently to what it is meant for a practice of silence is good for such a person. Another person who is asked to testify: if he ceases to talk, his silence is considered a sin.
Therefore, do not read all what is written and carry it out without thinking! but take what suits you and leave the rest to others.
A person, desperate of his salvation, might come to you; and you have to comfort him, explain to him that all his sins are nothing next to God's mercy and love.
If you see a person who exploits God's patience and turns it to inattention, then you talk to him about the ugliness of sin and the fairness of God. Here, you repeat the saying of the Apostle, "Therefore the goodness and severity of God ... " (Rom 11:22).
This means there is a time for goodness and a time for severity.
And the wise person uses each in the situation which deems fit.
Gentleness has its time and firmness is necessary at times.
A wise person does not use firmness when it needs gentleness, and gentleness when firmness is a must. His life will not be one without the other; as the perfect personality combines both.
And you, in your life, see many dispositions and numerous cases, and with such contrarieties you need wisdom to study the case and select what it fit for it; firmness or gentleness, silence or talk.
And when you read, read wisely and selectively as deemed suitable for your nature and circumstances.
139 - Exercises on Self-Control
During the period of fasting it is appropriate that you practise self-control as well as the control of your body.
=> Self-control clearly shows when you keep yourself from something you desire or be affected with, so you do not submit to a certain feeling or internal motive but you control yourself. And the wise man said, "He who rules over himself better than who rules over a city."
=> As an example, you can try to control yourself at the time of anger and control your inner heart from spite, rage and hatred, and control your tongue from conviction, fury, nervousness and harsh words.
=> Also you can control yourself over rage, hastiness and rashness and try to be calm; do not speak or give your opinion fast. Do not interrupt others or pronounce a decision unless you are sure it is right.
=> You can control yourself over any desire that comes into your heart and you long for doing it, do not submit to every desire but restrain your feelings, instincts, wishes, and impulses. Do not make your desires dominate over you but you master over it and bring it under the power of the mind and soul.
=> Also control yourself in defending your honour or revenging for yourself and remember the saying of the Apostle, "We then who are strong ought to bear the scruples of the weak." (Rom 15:1).
=> Control yourself with regard to your thoughts; if you were thinking improperly or in trivial, try to stop it or change it to another course.
=> Control your senses especially your hearing and sight; do not allow yourself to hear or see something indecent.
=> Control yourself at the time of prayer so that you do not wander or stand without reverence before God.
=> Try to control yourself with regard to time; do not waste it at pleasures when your time is more valuable.
If you have controlled yourself completely, you have succeeded in your fasting.
140 - You and the Truth
God is the truth. He said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6). He also said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). The Bible said of the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of truth." (John 15:26).
Therefore, if you walk in the way of truth, you are in God's way and if you say the word of truth, you are telling the word of God.
If you keep back from the truth, in thought, tongue or in deed, you are departing from God.
Some turn away from the truth because of ignorance; and those are the less far. By consciousness and knowledge they return to the truth as long as the heart is sound from inside.
Others turn away from the truth or say the untruth for fear of people, or being shy of them, or becoming weak before them or to flatter them. They need their hearts to be purified.
Some say the untruth to cover themselves like those who conceal their mistakes by lies or insincerity. Undoubtedly those need repentance, as well as to get rid of the sins they committed.
Some say the untruth to side with a friend whom he wants to protect, or as a resentment to a person whom he dislikes. They are like those who bear false witness or trump up charges to hurt others.
Therefore, hatred can turn man away from, the truth, also the wrong love keeps him away from the truth too.
The spiritual person is an upright person, gives everyone his right without injustice or partiality.
Also the spiritual person is fair, even with himself, he does not make compliments at the expense of the truth.
He who loves the truth does not submit half the facts in a deceiving way but tells the truth, the whole truth.
I wonder, in which category do you place yourself?