Words of Spiritual Benefit | 191-200
191. THOSE WORKING WITH THE LORD
It is enough for one to be certain that he works with God then after that he should not have any worry. The Lord that he works with will work out everything.
We do not defend ourselves, as the Bible says, "The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace" (Exo. 14:14), "War is for God" and "The Lord executes justice for the oppressed" and He "establishes justice on earth".
We do not support ourselves. God is the One who cares for everyone. He is the One who lets the water flow from the rock and "out of the eater came something to eat and out of the strong came something sweet." (Judg. 14:14). He satisfies the needs of all who live from His grace and ".. gives to the beast its food and to the young ravens that cry." (Ps. 147:9).
We do not protect ourselves, because, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Ps. 127:1).
God is everything we have. He is our whole life. He organises everything. We are just tools in His hands. We do His work, but we do not work from ourselves. He works in us, He works through us and with us.
The Lord opens and nobody shuts, He shuts and nobody opens. He provides for the universe, not the human. He is wise in his provision. We see the work of the Lord and rejoice. We do not question what He does, but be glad because He works.
Happy is the one who works with the Lord and could see how God looks after everything.
God is the Almighty who controls all. He created the universe but did not leave it. He still provides for it by Himself in wisdom and justice. He might leave people for their free will, to do what they like. But, "... a book of remembrance is written before Him." (Mal. 3:16). Then He interferes to establish justice on earth.
How wonderful you are, God. Who is like You?! We have felt Your hand in everything we do, so we abandoned our life for You in confidence. We fear nothing and we fear nobody, because You are with us. You are the hope of the hopeless and the help of the helpless.
192. THE ABANDONMENT OF GRACE
Success or failure in one's spiritual life depends on the work of grace and the extent of one’s acceptance or refusal of it.
Grace always helps man, assists him in leading a spiritual path, warns and lifts him up if he falls.
The divine grace does not force man to do good.
His free will is still in power, sharing in the work with grace or not; resisting the work of grace until he falls or continues in his fall.
Therefore, one sometimes abandons sharing in the work of grace. Sometimes grace abandons him. But it is a kind of partial abandonment. Complete abandonment would definitely lead to one's destruction.
What are the reasons for this abandonment? What is the wisdom behind it?
The reason for the abandonment could be negligence on the side of the faithful and continual rejection of the work of grace. Therefore, grace abandons him until he feels the need for it.
This abandonment leads to greater depth in one's prayers and fastings, repentance and attachment to God.
Pride could be the reason for this abandonment, or it could be one's superiority over those who have fallen. Grace would then leave him for a little while so he would fall, realise his weakness and stop his arrogance. He would also feel the heaviness of war against those who fall and have sympathy on them instead of judging them with secrecy or in the open. Grace might forsake one for a while to experience spiritual combats and realise its depth and the faithfuls need for the divine support, as one would never win by relying on a human hand without grace.
Grace might also forsake a person to get him accustomed to cautiousness and scrutiny, patience and victory of the Lord.
During all that, the Lord says to the human soul, "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you." (Is. 54:7).
Many ideological disagreements could be solved if we reach a correct definition for some of the words that are the subject of disagreement.
1. For example, what is the correct definition of the word "freedom"?
Does it mean one does whatever he likes without control?
Or does it mean one should act freely but should not violate the freedom of others or break the general order?
If we realise that the last definition is acceptable, then we get into another definition, that is: the conditions mentioned before, would they be considered limits of the freedom or restraints? If we consider it restraints, then there would not be disagreement about the meaning of freedom.
2. Another matter needs scrutiny in understanding, that is:
What is the correct definition of obedience? Is it blind obedience?
Some confession fathers enforce obedience that abolishes the personality of the confessor? They do not give him a chance to discuss what is said to him. They might consider such a discussion as a kind of insolence! Then he will do what is not accepted by his thought or by his conscience!
We do not accept the obedience that the conscience turns against, because: "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29).
Obedience then is necessary, but within God's commandments.
The discussion between the follower and the guide should not be considered as insolence.
3. Disagreements arise in the subject of faith and deeds, due to the definition:
If we understand the meaning of "deeds", the disagreement will dissolve. Are they the deeds before the faith or the deeds of the Law, or the human hand or these deeds are in communion with the Holy Spirit after faith? Also, what is faith? Is it the one who works with love?
4. "Man", the name itself, needs to be defined. And many matters depend on this definition.
If we realise that man is a living creature with an immortal soul and that his life extends after his death, then one should prepare himself for eternal life and respect his humanity. Therefore, he has to be defined as the image of God. Many other matters need to be defined, such as: what is sin? What is pleasure? What is love?
On the spiritual path, a traffic officer stands with two flags in his hand, one green and the other red, to indicate who should pass and who should not, putting limits between what is lawful and what is unlawful.
There are many questions in one's mind concerning this matter.
1 For example, what are the spiritual limits between silence and talk? When should one remain silent and when should he talk? When would silence be considered a virtue and when would one be judged for it?
2 Joking, for example: When to beware of it? When is it unlawful? What are the limits that separate between innocent joking and that which is not innocent?
3 The same when separating between resting and idleness, between firmness and cruelty, between love and lust, between literality and scrutiny, between humility and being mean-spirited???
4 Other questions about the limits: When is it lawful for one to complain and when is it not? When is it lawful for one spiritually to ask for his rights and when does he give it up and not ask for it?
When do we rebuke sinners? When does this rebuke become harmful for them?
Would that traffic officer raise one of the flags and give the direction? Where are the limits between good and evil in the midst of blurred vision?
5 The one who committed suicide, was he aware of what he was doing? Should the Church pray for the one who killed a soul? Or was he completely unconscious and is clear of the responsibility?
6 The same with this question: Does a child know what he is doing? Should we question him or treat him as one who knows? Or should we let it simply pass as if he has done nothing?
Where is good? Where is justice? Where is the duty of the educator?
7 Sometimes, the confessor comes to his spiritual guide and says: I do not know what to do, a the guide may stand in the same bewilderment!
How could he guide him? The good is not clearly showing! He would then say, "Let us pray, my son, until God shows us."
What a difficult job is that of the judge, the guide and the educator! How difficult it is too, the job of the traffic officer? When should he let the traffic go without an accident, making sure that the road will be leading?
195. THE ATTRACTION OF NUMBER
Many get attracted to number, any number!
They think that success in life depends on the number.
Some priests are delighted because of the number of those who confess, or the number of those who come to Church and not with the number of repentants among them. Maybe those who repent are very few!
Many Sunday School servants are happy with the number of their students. Many preachers also think the measure of their success is the number of those who attend their meetings while many of these listeners may have never carried out any of what they heard in their personal spiritual life.
The number is not a measure of success. The real measure is the depth and spirituality and whatever concerns salvation of the soul.
Then what is important is not the number of prostrates (Metania) that you do everyday but the spiritual manner in which they are done. Is it with a contrite heart, accompanied by ardent prayers? Or isn't like that?
The number of Chapters you read in the Bible is not important, but it is the understanding, contemplation and application.
It is not the amount but the spirituality of the fasting. The outside appearance is no judge in spiritual matters. The number is no doubt an outside appearance. But the fair judgment is the heart and the spirit and how they are connected to God.
The temptation of the number could be a war from the self!
The self that thinks it might get bigger because of the number!
The Lord Jesus Christ concentrated on a few disciples, just twelve, then another seventy. He could have had thousands. The twelve were more powerful than thousands. They were a lesson to us for concentration.
When would the time come where we care for the perfected few more that the many without perfection.
If the two matters are combined, then it is good and a blessing.
196. OCCASIONS TO SEIZE
There are important occasions that pass by and one should stop there, not letting it depart easily without taking a decision that would raise his spirituality and his relationship with God. We mention here:
The beginning of the new year or a new year in his life.
The beginning of the Holy Fast.
A specific incident that affected him and shook his inside.
An illness that left him bedridden, thinking about his destiny.
A serious problem that faced him, so he turned to the Divine help.
A sermon that he heard or read and it strongly attracted him to God.
All these occasions usually carry the voice of God, who calls with the Apostle saying, "If you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Heb. 3:8).
These occasions could also carry one of the visits of grace, seeking one's soul should to wake up and heed.
If one received it carelessly or with momentary effect that ends with the end of the occasion, then he will definitely lose spiritual feelings that he might never find again. He will then say in regret, missing God's voice, "But my beloved had turned away and was gone. I sought him, but I could not find him." (Song 5:6).
Truly, how many occasions passed by without us seizing them?! How many spiritual revivals God called us to, without us seizing them?!
The grace is present, working in us and we do not respond to it! It is really a tragedy, that love between us and god is a one sided love, on God's side only!
"Therefore, you are inexcusable, O man!" (Rom. 2:1). Do not say that God has left you and did not send a helping hand to your life with Him. God has talked in your heart repeatedly and you did not hear or respond. Is He going to force you to love Him?!
In your relationship with God, it should be a spontaneous love that does not need such occasions!
At least, if this love went to sleep, let us hear on such occasions a voice that wakes it up and if it grew lukewarm, to find what inflames it.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt. 11:15).
197. YOUR NATURE
Do not say when you sin: What can I do, it is my evil nature!
Your nature is not evil. Evil is an intruder.
God created man pure and simple to the extent that Adam and Eve were naked in Paradise without being aware of it, "and they were both naked". (Gen. 2:25).
Then Adam and Eve fell through the temptation of the serpent and not because of their evil nature. And man knew evil. And evil remained an intruder as it was never part of his original nature.
Jesus then sanctified our nature when he became unified with it in the Virgin's womb. And this nature was renewed in the baptistery with the worthiness of the holy blood.
We became members in the body of Christ, which is the Church and became a dwelling for the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of the holy anointment. We received the gifts of the new Testament that were not for us before. Evil remained an intruder.
Truly, how beautiful is the priest's saying in the Liturgy of St. Gregory, "My nature was blessed in You." And so it became a blessed nature.
Truly, it is still a nature that could drift, due to the free will. But this inclination is not forced on it and falling is not part of its characteristics. The will could be directed to the good.
With this human nature, our fathers the saints were able to reach high levels in loving God, with our same nature.
One could here read lives of the monks and recluses, the spirit- borne, the martyrs, the confessors and heroes of faith and stories about the righteous in all ages, those who lived in celibacy or those who married.
Even those who drifted and fell, the same nature helped them to repent and grew to high levels of a life of holiness.
These repentant’s cast away evil that was an intruder in their nature and returned to the purity that God created in them since the beginning and even turned to the holiness that God wished for them.
Sin might spoil your nature and falling repeatedly might make sin part of your characteristics but not your nature. This remains as an intruder on the image that God created for you and turned you back to it.
Return to this holy image, it is your original nature.
198. REPEATED FALLING
Due to man's weakness, he might fall, as he is not infallible. But he has to repent and learn a lesson from his fall, so he wouldn't fall again, as said by one of the saints, "I don't recall the devils making me fall in the same sin twice."
This is real repentance, as one does not go back to the sin that he has repented. All the stories of the repentant saints refer to this meaning: that repentance was a line separating between two lives and they never turned back to their old sinful life.
It is not true repentance when one, every time he repents, keeps on falling repeatedly, as if he has not repented!
Repeated falling has its danger and its indication.
It shows the lack of seriousness in one's life with God. It may also indicate carelessness and lack of interest in the spiritual principles.
It is also an evidence that the heart has not been purified yet and it still has the love of sin, with weakness and attraction to it.
Repeated falling proves the lack of understanding confessing one's sin, as if it is just a way to get out of the punishment for this sin without getting rid of the sin itself.
Repeated falling makes one lose his dignity before the devils. It gives them authority over him as they discover his incapability to resist sin, or his unwillingness to leave it!
Repeated falling could change the sin into a habit, or characteristic and could make its roots in the heart and the mind.
By repeating the sin, it remains in the subconscious and becomes a source of dreams, thoughts, doubts and desires. It could also become dangerous for the person, if it turns into unconscious deeds or slavery to sin!!
Every time one falls, his will gets weaker.
His ability to live a righteous life becomes less. Thus he becomes less affected by the spiritual means, or refuses to accept them!
In spite of all that, the grace of God is always ready to raise him, if he wishes. But the way to repentance becomes harder.
Hesitation is a psychological disease or a weakness in the personality.
St. James, the Apostle, says, "He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8).
The one who hesitates might say I am thinking and studying. But there is a big difference between thinking in depth and being hesitant.
There is a difference between the one who studies in depth and the one who, after deciding on one thing, changes his mind to another then goes back to the first one and leaves it later on, without settling on any.
Maybe hesitation is due to fear and fear has its reasons. It could be the fear of failure or acting wrongly that is causing hesitation. It could be fear because of weakness and incapability, or the fear of results and responsibility. It could also be the fear of choosing badly and more than one solution is being offered.
As one in cross-roads, afraid of choosing a road that gets him lost!
Hesitation could also be due to lack of self-confidence.
Maybe the hesitant is one who is not used to depend on himself and has no self-confidence.
Therefore, he does not trust his thinking, his decision or his good choice. He also does not trust his capability. He has no experience to trust in himself. Maybe he lacks the knowledge to trust in himself. He is the image of a man.
The reason for hesitation could also be for lack in courage and valour.
He is unable to make a decision. Every time he progresses, his courage fails him. Usually, his will would be weak. Whenever he decides on a matter, he finds that everything looks the same and fails to choose one. He is not sure of the results and maybe of the means also.
Hesitation causes confusion, maybe due to lack of understanding.
He may have two matters, both are good. But which one is better? Or both are bad, but which one is less bad? Or maybe he is faced with a matter that he does not know if it is good or bad? The vision is blurred.
The reason for hesitation could also be due to many advisers and consultants.
He who has one adviser finds it easy to take one path. As for the one who asks many, there is a chance each of them leads him to a way different from the other, or gives him advice that contradicts that of another. Therefore, he stands hesitantly between contradicting advice, not knowing which is better.
Contradictory readings could also be the cause of his confused thinking.
200. THE OTHER PARTY
If you want to be just in your judgments on people, you should always listen to the other party and not to take facts from one side only.
Everyone has the right to explain his situation. He has also the right to defend himself against all accusations. We should not pass a judgment on anyone by just listening to what has been said about him.
Maybe the one who talked against him did not see for himself or hear from a trusted source. Or maybe he misunderstood the matter. He could have also added to what he heard, his personal comment and speculations. These could all be wrong and there are circumstances that he does not know.
If a woman says that her husband treats her badly, ask her: Why? What have you done to deserve such treatment? Then ask the other side: What happened? Why? And so you form a complete picture about the matter and would have listened to both parties.
Imagine God Himself, who knows everything, asking Eve, Adam and the serpent before passing His judgment. He also asked Cain.
He gave the other party the chance to talk for himself, explain his situation and defend himself if he wanted.
Asking the other party is not meant only to know the truth with all its sides or to know the circumstances and reasons.
Asking the other party could give him a chance to apologise or correct his situation and work out the results of his action, adding understanding to his own.
When Abigail spoke to David, she gave him a chance to change his mind and not to revenge for himself, "..You have kept me from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand." (1 Sam. 25:33). He confessed, saying, "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Sam. 12:13).
In your relationship with people, try to understand the other party even if he opposes you. Understand his point of view, his mentality and his psychology. You'll then know how to deal with him.
Do not always look to the other party as an enemy. Try to study his point, understand him and reach a solution, in love.