Words of Spiritual Benefit | 151-160
151.STATE OF BALANCE (EQUILIBRIUM)
Many are those who, in their spiritual lives, tend to the extreme right or to the extreme left, swinging between two opposites.
And few are those who keep the balance and stay firm in it.
For example, the spiritual persons who fast in devoutness during the passion week, loosen their will completely and eat without control in the fifty days which follow Easter; what they gained during fasting they entirely lose because there is no balance in their lives.
The same applies to silence and talk: they may go on a complete silence exercise, talking to no one. And when such exercise comes to an end, they return to talking with all its wrongs and without vigilance.
The right procedure for a spiritual person is to keep his balance in silence and talk; to know when to stop and when to talk and if he speaks, what are his limits.
Also, a person needs balance in the handling of people. Many cannot keep the balance between humility and courage in their life.
They might exaggerate in their humility until it turns into weakness and leniency, or exaggerate in their courage until it turns into rashness and imprudence. A spiritual person must be humble in his courage and courageous in his humility and combine wisdom with both.
Also, in the upbringing of children, there has to be a balance between pampering and harshness.
Some see love as pampering and continual giving without wisdom or control; and compassion which encourages the continuity of wrong doings without mindfulness. But, balance is in the loving firmness and in the firm love.
Balance holds in itself a lot of wisdom, understanding what it should be without right or left exaggeration.
It is said by some wise men that virtue is the middle position between two opposites, between intemperance and temperance.
Balance helps one to be firm because extravagance based on rashness cannot be stable and it is easy to change to the contrary.
Search for such balance in all details of your spiritual life.
152. THE TRUTH
He who loves and always defends the truth, before he takes God's rights from people, he must first take God's right from himself.
He who loves the truth, never favours himself or any of his beloved ones on the account of truth, because he loves the truth from all his heart more than he loves anyone.
The lover of truth has only scales to weigh for all, he does not strain out a gnat for one and he does not swallow a camel for the other.
He does not condemn anyone for something which he justifies for another because of his feelings towards this or that.
He has no objection to take the blame and refuse to justify himself as he considers that self-justification does not agree with the truth and it puts in front of him the Lord's saying: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” (Prov. 17:15).
He who loves the truth never oppresses anyone and does not accept someone to suffer injustice, even those who are against him.
He loves the truth far from any denomination and discrimination, with no difference between a relative or a stranger. To him, the truth does not differ because of religion, sex or relationship.
Truth is one of God's names and he who loves the truth, loves God and who keeps away from the truth, keeps away from God.
He who is led by the truth will be pleased with its leadership and nourishment and lives by it.
153. YOUR COMFORT AND THE COMFORT OF OTHERS
A noble person does not build his comfort on the weariness of others. But the noble one is he who sacrifices his comfort in order to comfort others.
= A mother might feel comfort in having her son by her side while the son, at the same time, might find comfort in being far from home. He might travel, migrate, become a monk or live on his own with a wife. Here, the noble mother would let him go without insisting on her comfort by his side.
= Your comfort could be in amusing yourself, raising your voice, raising the volume of your radio or television. But the noble one sacrifices all that if others need quietness to study, to sleep, or to recover from sickness. It is not proper to deprive others of their comfort for your own enjoyment.
= You might find comfort in releasing what is inside you through criticism; then you hurt the feelings of others. But the noble one would not do this.
= Many noble persons with big hearts never wish to compete with others in any field. Because of their love for others and forsaking what they want, they leave the field for them.
As said by one of the saints, “Forsake what is in people's hands, people will love you.”
= A noble person remains silent to give others a chance to talk. But if others wanted to listen to him, then he speaks.
= That does not mean a noble person acts according to peoples wishes, whatever they are! Of course not. If people find comfort in what is wrong, he would not share it with them, because to please God is more important than pleasing people. And because he wants the real comfort for people, it would not be by encouraging them to do what is wrong.
Therefore, try to gain people according to your capacity, provided that you gain your conscience too. Avoid pampering that could spoil those who are younger than you, or obedience that could corrupt those who are older than you. If you fail to comfort someone by fulfilling his wrong wishes, try to comfort him morally by conviction or by a cheerful word.
As the Bible says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom. 12:18).
154. MANY WATERS
The Song of Songs tells, “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.” (Song 8:7).
The same applies to the love between God and man and also to the love between man and his brother.
If love is strong and firm, the outer factors will never shake it, no matter what they are; it is like a house built on the rocks. Look at Christ's love for His disciples. It never changed or weakened. Peter denied Him thrice and the Lord still told Him, "Feed my lambs”, "Tend my sheep”. Thomas doubted Him but He did not become angry with him. He appeared to him and strengthened his faith, the same with Mary Magdalene. The disciples scattered when the Lord was arrested, but His love for them remained as it was.
It is the same with God's love that He showed towards the world that sinned. And towards those who rejected Him, he continued offering His hand, knocking on their doors and sending His prophets to them.
Finally, "God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5: 8).
As for you, is your love for God firm? Or does your love shake when faced by many waters? Such as a trial, tribulation, sickness, death or when confronted by some concerns or doubts? Or may be some sins, desires or stumbling blocks?
Look at St. Paul the Apostle who says, "who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... Neither death or life, nor things present nor things to come, nor tribulation or distress or persecution." (Rom. 8:35-39).
Is your love for friends and favoured ones: also firm?
Or could any specific event make your heart change towards a love that you had for many years? That is what sometimes happens in a family which makes it collapse and separate after many years. It fails to hold fast against the water, even if it is not many waters.
Does your love change because of a word that did not please your ears? Or a behaviour that annoyed you? Or the effect of others on you? Or for external circumstances, or financial reasons? Then the words of the Bible echo in your ears, "nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love." (Rev. 2:4).
155. LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS
Everybody could respond to the type of love that gives and sacrifices that comforts and cheers all who meet with it.
But could everybody endure others if they do wrong against them, without losing love because of an offence, or what was considered to be an offence?
The apostle Paul says, "love bears all things .... love never fails.” Many waters cannot quench love. (1 Cor. 13:7-8). All the sins of people did not change the love of God, who, while we were still sinners died for us. Peter's denial of Jesus could not change the Lord's love for Peter and it remained as it was.
All the wrong doings of Absalom, his betrayal and war against his father, never changed David's love for him. David not only tolerated him but said, "Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom .... the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber and wept." (2 Sam. 18:12).
As David's love endured Absalom, it also endured the king and all his troubles. How touching was David's lamentation of Saul who repeatedly attempted to kill him .
Look at the mother's love for her son it never fails, no matter how the son would err. She endures everything he does and her love remains as it is. It is the love that does not seek its own and bears all things.
As for the one who is self-centred, he never knows love as it should be. And if he does love, his love would not be capable of enduring as it should be.
Bear the faults of others as God bears your faults.
Bear, but not in distress and bitterness of heart but in love, feeling that everyone has his own weaknesses. Maybe he also has his own excuses that you do not know.
Examine your love by endurance, to know the extent of its soundness.
156. THE TEMPLE OF THE SPIRIT
The apostle said, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). He also said, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and you are not your own?.... therefore glorify God in your body and in your Spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
How does one keep himself as a temple of God?
How can it be a holy house of God? When we would say with the Psalmist, "Holiness adorns your house, O Lord.” (Ps. 93:5).
On the negative side, one avoids whatever defiles the body; not only well-known sexual sins but even other sins, as the Lord said, ".... what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man ....but those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts .... these are the things that defile a man.” (Matt. 15:11-20).
If one lived in communion with the Holy Spirit, he will avoid all these negatives because there is no association between light and darkness.
And if one lived in sin he would not be acting according to the Spirit and he would not have given the Holy Spirit a chance to work in him. But he would have ".... grieved the Holy Spirit." (Eph. 4:30) and, ".... quenched the Spirit." (1 Thess. 5:19).
Would man in this case be a temple of God?
Or would the apostle's saying apply to him, "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is Holy, which temple you are." (1 Cor. 3:17).
And if one is a temple of God what comes out of this temple would be, "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." (Eph. 5:19).
As well as that, if man is a temple of God, all his life will be transformed into a holy sacrifice, a pleasing aroma for God. And as the apostle said, "present your bodies a living sacrifice.” (Rom. 12:1).
And if one is a temple for the Spirit the fruits of the Spirit will show in him. His whole life becomes holy. Spirituality will show in everything he does and God will be glorified through him. He will also be given the power about which God said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8).
157. GOD AND MAN
The most ancient and the most permanent relationship is that between God and man.
It is an eternal relationship since we were an idea in His mind and a pleasure in His heart. It is an everlasting relationship because it never ends.
As for the relationship between human beings they are bound to a certain period of time, a specific place on earth and a special purpose.
The relationship between humans could remain forever if they share in doing what is good and in pleasing God. By doing this they will be allowed to meet together in the bosom of God, in eternity.
Therefore, a firm, permanent relationship is that with God.
The relationship among humans could also be firm and permanent if God is one party in it. Also, if this relationship is connected to one of God's commandments, or one of the sublime values that God set as a rule for dealings between people; otherwise anything else is perishable.
If that is how the relationship with God is, then it should be placed on top of our concerns, giving it priority over everything and everyone else, also choosing it before the self and all its demands.
If God's love clashes with any other type of love, place God before all, as He said with His pure mouth, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:37).
Therefore, we should not love a person or try to please somebody on account of our love for God. As the apostle said, “For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (1 Gal. 1:10).
For God's sake one should even be prepared to deny himself and carry his cross.
Those who love God with all the heart and all the thought, according to the commandment, devote themselves completely like the ascetic fathers. Their motto was, "Leaving everyone for the ONE."
Let God be to us, not only first but all. He is the one with whom we will live in eternity. Our love for Him decides our destiny and outlines the nature of our lives.
158. THE STRONG HEART
The strong heart is the firm heart which exterior factors cannot overcome. It does not shake because of anything on the outside.
The strong heart does not change from a word, no matter how cruel it was, it would not be disturbed by any treatment, no matter how unusual. This heart would not be enticed by any temptations and is never shaken by any agitations. It is persistent, controlled only by the principles that he believes in and the ideals that he holds fast to.
The strong heart never changes because of pride, money, position, materialistic or spiritual dignity. At the same time, the opposite of all these would not make it fall into little spirit. The strong heart is never overcome by worry or despair, nor by disturbance or fear. But it listens to the apostle's saying, "Be steadfast, immovable.” (1 Cor. 15:58).
The strength of the heart has reasons, some of it natural and others a blessing.
There is a person whose heart is strong by nature. He is like a lion with courage and bravery without fear. But he might be spiritual and he might not. He might show strength on certain occasions only, then he might weaken when faced by external factors. He might also weaken because of a desire he could not resist.
Another person would have the reason of his strength centralised in his spirituality.
The one who abandons everything is always strong. He does not covet anything or long for anything. He does not have a point of weakness that the enemy could take advantage of. As St. Augustine said, “I sat on top of the world when I felt that I desired nothing and feared nothing.”
One's strength could be in love for eternity since death itself never frightened him. Or his love for the truth could be the reason for his strong heart. Truth is always strong, no matter what clashes with it.
And the reason for strength of the heart could be Faith.
Faith in God's power that is with you, guards and protects you and gives you help from the Holy Spirit. As the Lord said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." (Acts 1:8). And as St. Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13).
Man's limited life on earth, if compared with eternity which is unlimited, will revert to a zero, as if it is nothing.
In spite of that, people worry about their life on earth as if it is everything for them. They devote their emotions, time and effort for it. They even give it the first place in their hearts, whether it is their life on earth or it is the life of their dear ones, relatives, friends or acquaintances.
In all that, they forget their eternity and the eternity of others. To pay attention to eternity, you have to be convinced of it and think of it. You have to labour for it with all your strength and make it your heart's concern.
The holy church puts this aim in front of us in the Agbia prayers, especially in the compline and midnight prayers. It is also in the sunset prayer and in many psalms. All of that is meant to keep this subject of eternity always in our mind.
For that reason, the Lord Jesus Christ said, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
St. Paul the apostle also said, "While we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:18).
For this eternity that is not seen now, our fathers the saints lived a life of deprivation and death to the world. They concentrated with all their hearts and emotions on the love of God alone. They longed for Him and for an eternal life with Him. And so they started their way towards eternity and departure from this world. They were rewarded by tasting God's kingdom.
The one who works for his eternity does not love the world or the things that are in it; confident that the world is passing away and the lust of it too.
The one who works for his eternity always acts carefully in everything, lest he loses his crown through a mistake or neglect.
And the one who prepares himself for eternity thinks much of the world to come, of God, His angels and His saints. He thinks of God's dwelling with people, in the Heavenly Jerusalem, in the release of the Spirit from the heaviness of the body. He sees that this is much better and longs for it.
Silence, in its primary stage, is avoiding the mistakes of the tongue. As the Book says, "In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking." (Prov. 10:19). "Many a time I have spoken and regretted it” says St. Arsanius, “but as for my silence, never did I regret it."
Silence, from another point, is leaving aside human effort, giving God a chance to work. As the Bible says, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." (Exo. 14:13). And, "The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace." (Exo. 14:14).
Silence is sometimes a kind of composure and not to revenge for oneself or repay evil for evil. The Lord Jesus Christ was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth, (Is. 53:7). And during His trial, He was silent both when He faced the Sanhedrin, Annanias, Caiaphas and Pilate.
There was power in His silence to the extent that Pilate, the governor said, "I have no fault in this just Man.” (Luke 23:14). Silence also gives a chance for prayer and contemplation. The one who talks much never gets a chance to pray and does not have the capacity for interior spiritual work.
One of the saints was right in saying, "The one who talks much proves that he is empty inside," which means void of interior spiritual work.
When St. Arsanius was asked about his silence and isolation he replied, "I cannot be with God and with people at the same time."
What a beautiful saying is that of St. John saba "Silence your tongue to let your heart speak and silence your heart to let God speak."
Silence covers many types, such as: silence of the tongue and silence of the senses, because if the senses were occupied without the control of man, they would bring thoughts that would hinder him from prayer and contemplation. The one who wants to be silent in a spiritual manner, has to guard his sight, hearing and the rest of his senses.
Silence teaches one to be serious and quiet. It keeps him far from clamour, uproar and noise. It also avoids him mixing with many ideas that could distract the thought making it hard to be recollected at time of prayer.
Silence also goes with being alone, without too much mixing with others.