Words of Spiritual Benefit | 61-70

61 THE BASIC VIRTUES

Some virtues are partial and one struggles hard to attain them, but there are basic virtues which include various merits within them; ...

Above all virtues is: Love.

The Lord Jesus Christ said that all the Law and prophets are concerned with this virtue.

St. Paul explained the various sorts of the virtue of love and said, "Love suffers long and is kind, love does not envy, love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails." (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Therefore, whoever has love, has all these virtues.

All that St. Paul mentioned was our love to our neighbours...

As for our love to God, no doubt, it includes various matters:

It includes Prayer with all its levels, contemplation, deliberation, reading the Bible, loving the church and its sacraments, spiritual gatherings, fasting, prostrating... it also includes following all commandments as God says, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me." (John 14:21).

Another leading virtue is the life of submission...

Submission means the complete surrender of one's self to the Holy Spirit that works in his heart, to run his life...

This person will show the fruits of the Holy Spirit that St. Paul explained in Galatians 5:22, by saying, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

One of the mother virtues is also humility...

A humble person acquires gentleness quietness, stays away from anger and judging others and keeps himself from cruelty...

Humility also includes contrition of heart, self-reproach, the virtue of tears, love, blessing everyone, seeking the blessings of everyone, listening more than talking, never boasting or elevating oneself or self-praising, contentment with everything, satisfaction, thankfulness and simplicity.


62. THE LOVE OF PROFIT

The one who loves to profit would benefit from everything, from everyone and from any incident.

He finds an advantage in everything he experiences.

He profits from the good and also from the bad...

From the righteous person, he takes a good example, love and good treatment.  From the evil person he attains the virtues of patience, endurance and forgiveness... Also, you can learn any virtue when you know the harms and disadvantages of the corresponding vice.

A wise man said, "I learned silence from a prater."

Therefore, realising the disadvantages of prating enabled me to know the advantages of silence and to avoid such evils...

We can learn from our mistakes as well as from the faults of others...

The wise person knows how to profit from mistakes so he will not fall into them once more and gains experience in life.  A person with many experiences is a source of benefit.

The one who wants to profit can also profit from nature, not only from those he meets.

The wise man said, "Go to the ant you sluggard, consider her ways and be wise."  It is really beautiful to see the ant as a source of benefit for us.

As we benefit from nature we can also benefit from incidents... either what happens to us or to others.  They are all useful lessons in life, for those who are keen to learn...

The story of the rich fool was a lesson for many... All the stories and events recorded in the Bible are also lessons, just like historical incidents.  As the poet says, "whoever keeps history in his heart, adds ages to his age."

Spiritual fathers are not the only source of benefit.

As far as the heart is searching for benefit, God will surely send it in various ways and means...


63. THE CROSS

The Cross is a symbol of suffering and three crosses symbolise three cases:

The Cross of Christ is a symbol of suffering for righteousness' sake, while the other two crosses refer to suffering as a penalty for sin.  These are divided into two kinds: one suffers because of his sins then repents and returns while the other suffers because of his sins but complains and grumbles, then dies in his sins...

The Cross which is for righteousness' sake is also of a different kind:

The cross of love and sacrifice is like the Cross of Christ who endured suffering to save us, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).

There is another cross in offering.  And the greatest offering is that given from the needs where you prefer others to yourself.  You become in need to let others take, like the widow who gave all that she had, her whole livelihood.

Another Cross is that of endurance: turning the other cheek and walking the second mile.  It is not only bearing people's abuses, but being good to those who spitefully use you and also loving them!...

Who can do that?... It is a cross...

There is another cross in the Spiritual Struggle: in the victory of the spirit over the body, in enduring the hardships and wars of the world, the body and the devil... It is also in crucifying the body and its desires,... having victory over oneself.... entering through the narrow gate...

It is a Cross to suffer for righteousness' sake.  This is only for beginners... As for the perfect, the cross turns into joy and pleasure...

We feel the narrowness of the gate at the beginning of the way. But later on, we find pleasure in carrying out the commandment and love it.  By then the way would not be distressful and what at first was a cross becomes a pleasure...

Martyrdom used to be a Cross, then it turned to be a joy. Saints began to desire martyrdom and long for death and rejoice in it...

Labouring and suffering for God's sake became a pleasure and an enjoyment.

Therefore, the Bible considers suffering a gift from God...

"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Phil. 1:29).

When will the cross be a joy in our life?


64. FAITH

Faith is not just a set of rigid beliefs that we learn by heart from theology and the teachings of the church.  Rather faith is a deep inner conviction and complete confidence in God, His attributes and His work.

Our faith in God, His existence, care and protection gives us inner peace and comfort in the heart and in the mind.  It gives us confidence that as far as God exists.  He cares about us more than we do about ourselves.  Therefore we have to live in this peace and continue in it.

The faithful never become disturbed because anxiety contradicts faith... faith in God's love, care and protection...

If one believed in God's existence everywhere, one would have an inner feeling of the holiness of any place, since God is always there.  As he feels secure in the presence of God, he also feels the necessity to be precise in all his actions, knowing that God sees, hears and observes all his deeds...

In every sin, one says with the righteous Joseph, "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9).

One's faith that God reads one's thoughts and knows the secrets of his heart, his intentions and feelings; such faith grants him modesty in his thoughts and feelings, making him bashful of God who examines all these emotions...

One's faith in the world to come and the day of judgement when he gives an account of all his deeds, thoughts, feelings and sayings, makes him sure of this perishable world.  One then sees the need to be prepared for that fearful day working for eternal life after death...

One keeps this thought in his heart saying with David, "Lord make me to know my end and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." (Ps. 39:4).

Faith is not just to be mentally convinced but is an action inside the heart, to lead one through his whole life...

It is not a specific moment where Man accepts God.  It is a life- time job, where one lives in confidence that, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1).

Therefore, the word faith in most cases means the whole Christian life with all its beliefs and deeds...


65. PRAYER

Prayer, in its simple meaning, is a talk with God... In its deeper meaning, it is a relationship with God...

It is a relationship of love and emotions before being words.
A talk without love is meaningless.

Therefore, God says in reproach, "In as much as these people draw near to me with their mouths and honour me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from me." (Is. 29:13).

For this reason, the prayer of the evil is not accepted before God.  It is hated by God because it is not the outcome of love, except if it is a contrite evil person who is asking for forgiveness like the tax-collector.

God said about those who pray without being pure in heart, "When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you, even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.  Your hands are full of blood.  Wash yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes.  Cease to do evil." (Is. 1:15-16).

Prayer is a bridge connecting Earth to Heaven.  It has been compared to Jacob's ladder that connected Heaven to Earth.  Prayer is a key to Heaven, it is the language and job of Angels and it is the life of the spirituals.

Prayer is one's longing to be with God.  It is the longing of the limited to the unlimited, the creature to the Creator, the soul to its source and its satisfaction...

In prayer, one is elevated above materialism to meet with God.

As a measurement for the success of prayer, one feels unable to finish and stop praying.  The opposite happens with the one who is happy to conclude his prayer and say amen.

The one who is successful in his prayers would be unable to leave it.  Instead, he sings his favourite song with the Angels, "I held him and would not let him go." (Song 3:4).

Whoever succeeds in praying would never prefer any other work whatsoever to it.  For prayer's sake, saints escaped the world and all worldly things searching for quietness and silence, which they loved with all their hearts, to be alone with God.

Prayer is a taste of God's Kingdom, which starts here and finishes there.

If one becomes attached to it, prayer becomes a life to him and his life becomes a prayer...

There is a saint whose whole life is written in one phrase, so we say, "His life was a prayer."  It is a continuous, uninterrupted prayer that has not stopped for a second to give the singer time to say "selah".  Even in his sleep one's talk with God does not stop, in the conscious and the unconscious.  Does it explain the verse, "When I remember you on my bed?" (Ps. 63:6).


66. LIFE OF SACRIFICE

All that God asks from you is your heart, "My son, give me your heart." (Prov. 23:26)... When He asks for your heart, He asks for your love.  The evidence of love is sacrifice.

Therefore a spiritual life is a life of sacrifice, offering everything even life itself. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35).

You have to give up something for the sake of God, to move your love for Him.  Your love is as great as what you give up for God's sake.

Look at Abraham, the father of fathers, how did he start his relationship with God ...?  It started with God saying to him, "Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father's house, to a land I will show you." (Gen. 12:1).

For God's sake, Abraham left his family and his country.  Was God satisfied with that?  No!  Even in the strange land, God said to him, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and offer him as a burnt offering." (Gen. 22:2). Abraham obeyed and went to offer his son...

Moses also sacrificed his princely position, the royal palace and all the riches and authority "...esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." (Heb. 11:26).

The Apostles said to the Lord Jesus "We have left all and followed you" and St. Paul the Apostle said, "... for when I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (Phil. 13:8).

Sacrifice reaches its peak when you offer everything: like the widow who paid the coins and the widow who gave the prophet Elijah all the food she had. "Go sell whatever you have and give to the poor and come take the cross and follow me." (Mark 10:21).

God himself gave us this love as an example of sacrifice, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son." (John 3:16) "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).

The martyrs gave themselves up to death and did not love their life because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about you dear reader?... What have you sacrificed for the sake of Christ who gave Himself up and became man and died on the cross?

We do not ask you to sacrifice your life like the martyrs, as it was a special time. The most important thing to give up for His sake is your favourite sins.


67. COMPLETENESS IN VIRTUE

Being literal in virtue spoils it.  Wisdom gives virtue a stronger and practical meaning...

The virtue of tolerance and patience is an example, "In your patience possess your souls." (Luke 21:19) And by giving yourself time, you will be able to solve many problems.  Being hasty and impatient could be devised by the devil, beside making one disturbed and restless.

Nevertheless, there are matters that need prompt action...

Without being quick, a matter would lead to tragedy or loss...

For example, seeking and saving sinners, removing a person from a sinful place, solving a family problem before it gets more complicated and reaches court, reprimanding a person guilty of sin, before he becomes a danger to others and get more in delinquency... all such matters need urgent action.

Repentance also does not work with patience and waiting...

The virtue of patience and tolerance, on its own, would not be beneficial without wisdom, as being literal does not work...

Many are the faults that we fall in if we separate wisdom from the virtue of gentleness and quietness, without considering the surrounding circumstances...

There are certain situations of holy zeal for which patience and gentleness would not work but they require some holy anger. Such anger must be mingled with purity of the heart to comply with the Bible's saying, "Be angry and do not sin." (Ps. 4:4).

For this reason there must he completeness in virtues and none of them should go alone.

Zeal completes wisdom and wisdom completes patience.

As we talk about God's attributes by saying: God is just in His mercy and merciful in His justice.  God's justice is full of mercy and His mercy is full of justice.

In God, perfection is found and in Man, there is completeness...


68 FEASTS OF THE SAINTS

Feasts of the Saints are occasions for gatherings of many of the faithful who seek the intercession of these Saints in the fullness of faith:

They have faith in the Saints’ intimacy with God, and God’s acceptance of their prayers and intercessions. It is also faith in the eternity of the spirit and its work after death and the continuous relationship between the church on earth and the spirits of the Saints who have departed.

Many miracles happen during the feasts, as result of people’s faith and God granted them their hearts’ desire. It would have been very proper to record all the miracles that happened during the feasts of the Saints, as evidence to strengthen everybody's faith and show them that the age of miracles is not over yet and it is not restricted to the early ages...

The church has benefited from these large gatherings during the feasts of the Saints by having a spiritual revival and useful programmes to deepen faith and lead people spiritually.

Therefore, the church stopped all kinds of amusement and play and performed daily Masses.  An internal broadcasting unit has been organised for the feast of each Saint, to broadcast hymns, sermons and spiritual teachings for different walks of life... These programmes vary to cover subjects which concern families, children, youth, women and workers...

There has also been expansion to benefit from audio visual aids by showing interesting religious films and slides.  This resulted in building necessary halls for such shows...

The church also prints and distributes useful pamphlets and displays souvenirs such as crosses, icons and pictures.

People started spending consecrated spiritual periods during these feasts from which they gain great spiritual benefits.

Feasts of the Saints are also occasions for the faithful to become united. It is one of the characteristics of the practical orthodox life...

It is an evidence that the church is one, in Heaven and on Earth, in this life and the life to come...

Feasts of the Saints are a great blessing, especially after the attention given to them by the Bishops, particularly the historical churches that our people visit, to feel their holiness and spiritual effect.


69 WORKING WITH GOD

The Lord Jesus said, "My Father has been working until now and I have been working." (John 5:17).  Let us concentrate on the last phrase...

St. Paul said about himself and his companion Apollos, "For we are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor. 3:9).

God can do everything on his own, but he wants you to work with Him, not only to work, but to toil and strive, "And each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour." (1 Cor. 3:8).

The fact that God works does not mean than Man becomes slack...

God, in Revelation, blessed the Angel of the church in Ephesus for labouring and toiling, saying, "I know your works, your labour, your patience and that you cannot bear those who are evil and you have persevered and have patience and have laboured for my name's sake and have not become weary." (Rev. 2:2-3).

Work for the spiritual person, is an association with God and the Holy Spirit.  It is a partnership with the Divine Nature in work... It is the readiness of one's will, not only to associate with God but to become actually a partner...

Therefore we say to God in the Liturgy of the travellers, "Share in the work of your servants."

Depending on God does not mean idleness or carelessness but it is an association with God; relying on God's strength.

Through work, God tests the extent of our love and obedience to Him. And as St. John the Apostle said, "Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18).

In spite of David's faith that, "the war is for God" and his confidence that God is going to work with him, he took his sling and stones and progressed to the front to face Goliath...

Therefore, you must work and ask God to be with you in what you are doing.  But beware of idleness, as God does not like the sluggard...

You have to plant and water then God will make the plant grow...

Truly, you could humbly say, "So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God gave the increase." (1 Cor. 3:7).


70. EXAMINE YOUR WAY

There is a kind of person who rushes on his way and would not change it, no matter what happens!

He stubbornly insists on his way, even after it is proved wrong and would not lead to any satisfactory result.

He thinks that dignity is to be firm, even in what is wrong, as Herod did when he killed John the Baptist!

He considers changing one's way a kind of hesitancy that does not go in line with strength and firmness!

It is a type of stubbornness that some people adopt and never change despite the fact that it becomes obvious that it is harmful for them and their followers.

Some might continue in such a way for years... It might be a conflict or a lawsuit that drags for years... It could be a lost case, but he would not give up... Or, it could be a matter of a relationship that some would keep, even though it would not end well...

As for you, examine your way from time to time...

There is nothing wrong in evaluating the situation and its surroundings and the anticipated consequences.  Then one would be able to see the necessary action, suitable for the time being, not the past...

Examining one's way is wise...

The important thing is not to stick to one, but to make sure that this is the right way.

The way is merely the means to reach an aim.

You have then to be more concerned about the aim and objective, choosing the suitable means to achieve it.

Many wasted their life because of obstinacy and stubbornness...

Others destroyed many with them, following the same course...

Both groups probably lived without guidance...

They depended on their own thoughts, or more correctly on their emotions.  So they wasted life unwisely and in vain...