Words of Spiritual Benefit | 51-60

51. IN THE WILDERNESS AND QUIETNESS

Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, with its many worries, how beautiful it is for one to devote even a little time, to sit with God, in an atmosphere of contemplation, prayer and open his heart to the Lord.

Here one resorts to calmness and quietness...

It is appropriate, when talking to God, to be alone with Him...

For this reason, God moved Abraham from his own country and people, to the mountain where he became alone with God... There, he had to build the Altar...

In the seclusion of the Holy Mountain, Moses spent forty days alone with God, till he took the Law and the Commandments and the instructions on how to build the tabernacle.

Also, in the seclusion of the mountain, the Lord Jesus met with His Disciples and sometimes He took them to an isolated place...

The prophet Elijah, was trained in the quietness of Mount Carmel.

John the Baptist, was brought up in the wilderness for thirty years.

The Prophets were also trained in quietness and calmness.

Moses, before he became a prophet and was chosen by God for leadership, spent forty years in quietness.  He stayed far from Pharaoh's palace, with all its clamour and politics...

The Lord Jesus Himself, in spite of the unlimited tranquillity deep within Him and the eternal relationship with the Father, set the example for us by staying alone on the mountain for forty days in a state of quietness with the Father, before He started His public ministry.

The mountain had its place and position in the life of the Lord, as goes the beautiful saying of the Bible, "And everyone went to his own house.  But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives" (John 8:1).

The garden of Gethsemane was a place of quietness as calmness for Christ, where He spent periods of deep contemplation.

Mary, the sister of Martha, was an example of the life of quietness, sitting calmly at the Lord's feet.  As for her busy and worried sister, who was far from the life of quietness, the Lord rebuked her by saying, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed..." (Luke 10:40-41).

Then, will you search for the centre of quietness in your life?

Are you worried and troubled about many things... When will you calm down ... ? When?


52. PREJUDICE

You might be a son of God, a servant of the Church, regular in doing spiritual deeds, but you are under the influence of prejudice, yielding to its effects ... !

Prejudice is to attack someone, without knowledge, without thinking and probably without reason ... !

At the same time, you support and defend someone, in the same way which is void of knowledge, thought or reason!

Prejudice has Paul and Apollos, which the Apostle criticised by rebuking the Corinthians, saying, "For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Cor. 3:4).

Prejudice does not agree with the spirit of love...

The person you criticise, attack and oppose, you definitely do not love... "and love does not behave rudely, thinks no evil." (1 Cor. 13:5).

Prejudice does not agree with truth and justice...

Mostly, attacks which fall in the sphere of prejudice, are not all true or just... At least they have a touch of exaggeration or incrimination, which is the outcome of spite in the heart...

Prejudice does not build but destroys...

It weakens strength and splits unity.  It uses energy not in a natural course... but wastes it in quarrels, splits, criticism and contradiction.

Prejudice is against the unity of spirit and thought...

It is an embodiment of one's self... and does not agree with the Holy Church about whose children it was said "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul." (Acts 4:32).

Prejudice is against the command of the Apostles who said, "...endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one God, one baptism." (Eph. 4:3-5).

Prejudice could adopt the spirit of competition or contradiction or contradiction to others and the spirit of boasting to oneself...

It could take an aspect of "worshipping of heroes" or belonging to the public.

All that remains in your sight is our group, our society, our branch, our church (on the district level), our country, our village...


53. DIVISION

One of the saints once said, "If ten thousand angels assembled together, they would have one opinion, but when few humans gather together, they disagree!..

Division could be an evidence of the existence of the self...

The self that works on its own, far from the Spirit of God:

=> which aims at enforcing its own opinion, no matter what the outcome would be...

=> which does not care about the dangerous results that are caused by division!

What are these consequences?... A writer once said, "Two eagles had a fight over a prey, it was taken by the fox".

For this, the Lord Jesus said, "Every city or house divided against itself will not stand." (Matt. 12:25).  Splitters always forget this saying.

Very often, a group would take an act of division and leave behind a ruined atmosphere, then goes its own way as if it has done nothing!  But God seeks the blood of what its actions destroyed...

Division among brothers is a sign of lack of love...

The division of the young against the old means rebellion, lack of obedience and lack of respect to superiors... These are all sins.

Division also proves pride in oneself or self-importance.  Most likely, the confession Father is left out of all this; he is not consulted...

In St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, he rebuked them for their division and described them as being carnal (1 Cor. 3), as the splitters are far from the unity of the Spirit.

Members of the one body collaborate together for the good of that body.

If they all felt this unity, they would work jointly for the good that everyone is aiming at.

Unity needs respecting others' opinion, or at least training oneself to do so, without revolt, anger, defamation of others or destruction...

A piece of advice to anyone who leads a way of division:

=> Try to gain others instead of splitting from them.
=> Be objective and stay away from personal affairs.
=> Train yourself to cooperate with the spirit of a group.


54. HE WHO LIKES TO BENEFIT

The one who likes to benefit always searches for profitability. Too much talk does not profit him, but one word could change his whole life... He even benefits from silence, as St. Paphnoti said about one of his guests, "If he does not profit from my silence, then he would not profit from my talk either."

St. Anthony heard one phrase and it was the cause of his monasticism and the foundation of this angelic rite.  Another phrase made him go to the inner wilderness and the life of solitude.

God does not stipulate to teach you by many words, one phrase will suffice.  The Ten Commandments are all short sentences, but carry all the teachings.

The Lord's prayer has short phrases that carry the depth of supplications.

The one who likes to benefit seeks the profitability at any price.

The spirit-borne used to endure the hardships of long travels to hear one word from one of the Fathers.  The Fathers themselves used to benefit from any one or even from their children.

The one who asks for good always finds it...

Even in a passing word, from anyone, in a casual incident that accidentally happened to him or others.  He profits from his own and other people's mistakes.

One of the Saints once said, "I don't remember the devil tempting me to the same sin twice," because he benefited from his fall and was careful in the second...

The Lord Jesus asked us to learn from the lilies of the fields and the birds of the sky and learn a lesson in faith and in God's care.

Sources of profit are available: not only in the words of a preacher, or in spiritual books, but they are also everywhere and at any time.  The main point is: do you want to profit or not.

God's voice reaches everyone, in different ways.  But, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matt. 11:15).


55. SERIOUS WORK

The Bible says, "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully." (Jer. 48:10)...

The one who works for the Lord must, "Be faithful until death." (Rev. 2:10).  Faithfulness is a principal condition for service...

With this seriousness, the Apostles witnessed for the name of Christ and they were, "Preaching the Kingdom of God... with all confidence, no one forbidding them." (Acts 28:31) "And with great power, the Apostles gave witness... and great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33).

As a result of this serious, honest and faithful work, the kingdom of God spread.  Listen to what God said to the angle of the Church of Ephesus.

"I know your works, your labour, your patience... and you have persevered and have patience and have laboured for my name's sake and have not become weary." (Rev. 2:2-3).

Serious work is built on faith...

The more your faith in the weight and importance of your work is true and complete, the more the seriousness of your work will be.  Lenience in work is an evidence of lack of faith and its importance...

Serious work indicates a sense of responsibility:

Just as what Joseph, the faithful, did, stockpiling wheat, fully aware that the life of many depends on his honesty.

So it is with the spiritual service: the life of many depends on the honesty of the servant.  If he neglects his service they are lost.

Serious work is controlled from one's inner self...

It is controlled by one's own conscience and the voice of God inside him.

This control is due to his live feelings and holy zeal...

He works seriously because "Time is short" and every minute counts, with any delay or negligence having its danger...

Serious work is always successful...

It is a perfect work because seriousness brings work to perfection...

Perfect work is a successful work.  It was said about the righteous men, "And whatever he does shall prosper." (Ps. 1:3).

Serious work does not slow down till completed...

It does not believe in fatigue and does not seek rest ...

Its performer does not rest until the work is finished and he tastes its fruits... Like Lazarus of Damascus who would not rest till he took Rachel as wife for his master's son.  And when they asked him to rest, he answered "Do not hinder me." (Gen. 24:56).


56. I ALONE

At one time, Elijah thought that he was the only one worshipping God, as he said, "... And I alone am left..." But God told him that seven thousand men have not bowed the knee to Baal.

How dangerous is the feeling that we are the only ones worshipping God, or the only ones with principles!!

We tend to forget that there are seven thousand knees (which is the multiple of an even number) who worship God and we are not aware...

There are those who judge the whole generation and judge all people as being lost and corrupted!!  They forget that there are those who are chosen by God, whom they might not know, but God knows them.

The scribes and pharisees used to think that they were the only ones who knew the law and stuck strictly to the statute. Therefore, they were struck by pride and arrogance of the heart and raised themselves above others.  They began to judge others and describe them as being sinners.  They even accused the Lord Jesus of breaking the Sabbath and violating the Law. They also criticised Him for humbly sitting with tax collectors and sinners...

When St. Anthony was attacked by self-righteousness and thought that he was the only monk, God sent him to where St. Paul was, to show him the one who was better than him...

When St. Macarius the Great was attacked in the same way, God sent him to two married women in Alexandria who according to God's words were on the same spiritual level as him.  He was not the only one and these two were of the seven thousand hidden knees...

How painful is this sin, when one thinks that he is the only honest servant, the only one who has talents, principles and ideals, while others have none.  He is the only right person for leadership and nobody else!

The one who has love rejoices at having many like him or even better than him... As Moses said, "Oh, that all the land's people were prophets..." (Num. 11:29).  As for the self-conceited, this matter troubles him, or at least does not cheer him ... ! He thinks it is a challenge to him.  He does not even care about God, but about himself...


57. DREAMS

1. Some dreams are from God:

Such as what happened with Joseph, the Carpenter and the Magi.  Joseph, in a dream, was told to take the child and his mother and go to Egypt.  The Magi were asked, in a dream, to return by a different route.

Further the dreams that were seen or interpreted by Joseph, the righteous, or Daniel the Prophet.  They were all dreams predicting future incidents.

2. There are dreams from Satan:

They deceive man and lead him astray, make him take a sinful way or disturb him by certain dreams.  In "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers", there is a long chapter about such dreams.

3. Some dreams are the outcome of the subconscious:

Whatever you see, hear or read, is gathered by the senses from different sources and what the thought collects... all remains stored in the subconscious... It comes out, even after years, in the form of thoughts, doubts or dreams...

This is a very natural reaction...

This stock in the subconscious could come out in different forms... Names, times, places or some details might differ, but it presents something that is deeply rooted inside you, like a recorded tape...

4. Dreams could be a reflection of a physical position:

When an exhausted person goes to sleep and the alarm clock rings, since he does not want to wake up, he dreams of sitting next to a ringing telephone...

A wise person does not let dreams lead him.

He would not believe each dream and consider it from God, because if the devils knew that he would believe in dreams, they will deceive him by appearing in false dreams.

Evil dreams happen for many reasons...

Some reasons are physical or psychological, others are attacks from devils.  It is better if one does not think of these dreams after waking up, lest his thoughts result in its confirmation and cause others...


58. PERSONAL THOUGHTS

Many people are fond of publishing their personal thoughts and presenting them to others as spiritual principles or beliefs essential to be followed...

The more these thoughts are new and unknown, the more they become pleased as they are presenting something new which makes them knowledgeable in the eyes of others!

The more this new knowledge is different from what people know and believe in, the more these thinkers are happy.  To them it is like abolishing a general concept which is wrong and setting a new, correct one in its place.

This system might work in any type of knowledge, but never in beliefs; by destroying an ancient belief to build a new one on its ruins...!

The older a belief is, the firmer it is...

Whatever is new in a belief could be a heresy if it destroys an old one that has been passed to us by our forefathers.

Therefore, those who favour their own thoughts, try their best to find old manuscripts to back them... And if they fail they fabricate it...

Such people do not read the "Sayings of the Fathers", to understand their thoughts... but they only read, hunting for a saying or a phrase to support them...

They cut off this text, separating it from what is before or after it, isolating it from the occasion in which it was said and the general line of thought of the father from whom it was taken... They use this quotation as a means of confirming their thoughts, even though the writings of this saint could be contradictory to the sayings they related to him.

They do not search for the truth but for what supports their thoughts, no matter how this evidence could be fabricated and incorrect.

As for you blessed son, when it comes to matters relating to doctrine and faith, do not publish a personal thought, but what the church believes in...

Do not spread any new idea that comes to your thinking but refer it to those responsible in the church to have their say before it is spread to the people.

Teaching in church is not a field for displaying personal thoughts, but it is a field for a unison teaching which takes its origin from the Apostolic tradition, one faith for all...


59. QUIETNESS

St. Peter, the Apostle, talked about, "... a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Pet. 3:4).

St. Paul also advised us about this quietness by saying, "...that you also aspire to lead a quiet life...” (1 Thess. 4:11).

There are many types of quietness, one of which is quietness of nerves.

Such nerves do not turn to anger or get agitated quickly. They do not become enraged but handle problems quietly and by a gentle answer, eliminate anger, as the wise man said.

The Bible says, "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked." (Is. 57:20-21).

Another type of quietness is that of the heart..

One might control his outer reactions, while his heart is in fury inside.  A truly quiet person would be quiet on the outside as well as on the inside.

Quietness of the heart includes being quiet when facing anger, fear, doubt, jealousy as well as other emotions, desires and inner wars that cause violent struggles inside a person.

This quietness is part of the inner peace…

And from quietness of the heart, springs quietness of the thought …

A quiet, balanced thought that work without excitement or disturbance, enables one to think far from any clamour or agitation.

This quietness of thinking enables one to reach wisdom and as said in the Bible, "Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools." (Eccl. 9:17).

Quietness of the senses helps to achieve quietness of the thought.

Therefore, our Fathers sought a life of quietness, knowing that by a quiet body, one obtains a quiet spirit.

One of the most beautiful sayings of the Bible about the usefulness of quietness is, "For thus says the Lord God.  In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." (Is. 30:15).

Let us be eager to live a life of quietness and seek it from God.


60. THE GOOD MEANS

It is not enough that the work we do is good in itself or in its objectives, but the means we use must be kind and good.

For example, violence and extreme strictness and cruelty are not all good ways of upbringing or achieving discipline and obedience.

Mostly these are displeasing means that do not suit every person.  One might arrive at his aim without violence or cruelty... by adopting good means...

Swearing, also, is not a spiritual way of answering those who disagree with you in faith or in opinion.

By doing this you lose the one whom you agree with and if you were a writer or an author you will also lose your readers.  The correct way is to be objective in the discussion of matters concerning faith and beliefs, without swearing or insults, because, "... nor revilers nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:10).

Destruction, bitter criticism or trying to ruin others, are not good means of expressing holy zeal.

Zeal could be shown in a positive and constructive way that handles matters deliberately and objectively.  It could also be shown by quiet study and submission of acceptable solutions that are done in love.  As it says in the Bible, "Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Cor. 16:14).

Division is not a good way for ecclesiastical work or even for social and national work.

Division weakens the ranks and proves lack of cooperation and inability to deal with the other point of view.  It could also be an evidence of failure in convincing and gaining the other side.

The Bible says, "And he who wins souls is wise." (Prov. 11:30).

The wise chooses right means for his good deeds.

Wrong means do not go with good work.

And the good work, if achieved through improper means, becomes a combination of light and darkness or mixture of virtue and sin and would not prove to be spiritual.

Let our means be good, quiet and spiritual, at least, let them not be harmful or a stumbling block.