Words of Spiritual Benefit | 71-80

71. BENEFITING FROM MISTAKES

Everyone is liable to err but a wise person benefits from his mistakes.  He gains spiritual experience, knowledge and care not to sin in the future.  In this respect, one of the fathers said, "I do not remember the devil agitating me with the same sin twice."...

A spiritual person attains humility through his faults...

He realises and becomes aware of his weakness and how he is liable to make mistakes like others.  He would not be proud or arrogant or think himself special.  As St. Paul the Apostle said, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:12).

When the ignorant person falls, he could weaken and continue in his fault becoming used to falling.  He might despair, gets depressed and collapses.

As for the wise man, he understands the devils' tricks and combats through his sin. He learns how the devil gets to the human soul and becomes more precautions and precise.  It might even help him to guide others, as he becomes more aware of the way...

A spiritual person benefits from his mistakes through sympathy with others, as the Apostle says, "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also." (Heb. 13:3).

Therefore, when the spiritual person fails, he becomes more sympathetic towards others without judging or rebuking, as he himself knows the power of devils and the weakness of human nature.

The spiritual person benefits from his mistakes by the practice of praying for himself and others.  He is completely certain that man's victory does not depend on his strength and cleverness, but on God's help, as He leads us to victory.  Therefore, one gets more attached to prayer, saying to God, "Hold me up and I shall be safe." (Ps. 119:117) and "Our God will fight for us." (Neh. 4:20).

The one who searches for benefit, profits from his mistakes as well as others' mistakes...

Therefore, God permitted in His Holy Bible to mention others' mistakes, even those of prophets and righteous people, so we may benefit from their mistakes...

Our God who said, "And out of the strong came something sweet" (Judg. 14:14) is also able to give us a useful lesson from each sin, for the salvation of ourselves...

Thus we benefit from all those we meet in life, from the righteous we take an example and from our sins and those of others, we gain experience and cautiousness...


72. GROWTH

One of the characteristics of the spiritual life is continual growth...

Man starts his relationship with God through repentance then he grows from the fear of God to His love.  The growth in love continues till it reaches holiness, as it is said in the Bible..."you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy for I am holy'". (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

Would one stop after reaching holiness?

No he has to strive for perfection.

The Bible says, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48).

The one who endeavours on the road to perfection never reaches its end, no matter how far he gets, perfection has no limits...

There are levels of perfection, each level is higher than the other...

Look at St. Paul, who was a saint.  He was caught up to the third heaven and he made wonders and miracles.

In spite of all that, he says, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on... I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." (Phil. 3:12-13).

The Apostle concludes his saying about this growth, "Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind."

We can see that even the righteous must always strive, "to reach forward."

God has compared the faithful to a grain of wheat that becomes a seedling and grows.  He said, "... and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head and after that the full grain in the head." (Mark 4:27-28).

Are you like the wheat that grows continually, starting as a seedling becoming an ear of corn then full grains of wheat?...

Try to grow as growth gives continual warmth.  To stop growing means no warmth in the heart which leads to one's lukewarmness.

If you feel you are unable to grow, try at least to stop where you are.  Beware of going backwards.


73. THE LATE THOUGHT

Sometimes, one takes an action instead of thinking of its results first; he works without any consideration of the consequences. Then after it is done, he starts thinking of the outcome when it is too late.

This kind of late thinking is wrong...

Another person makes vows without thinking if it is within his ability to fulfil them or not... And after making the vow, he starts thinking, tries to change it or declares his inability...

It is late thinking that happens after its proper time.

A wife could lose her husband, through certain ways of treatment, or taking the wrong advice from a relative, making her lose his love.  Then she refuses any interference for reconciliation.  After her husband reaches the point that his life with her is unbearable, she begins to think that losing him is not in her favour...

But this is a late consideration which comes too late.

A father fails in raising his son properly, thinking that pampering is a sign of love.  So the child grows up used to disobedience, recklessness and carelessness.  These faults become deeply rooted in his personality, causing bitterness in the heart of his father, mother, sisters and all those connected to him.  By that time, the father starts thinking of changing his method of upbringing and turns to strictness after it becomes too late...

The father fails because his thinking was late.

It is not enough for one to have good thoughts.  This thinking ought to he alert, right from the beginning, not after missing the chance...

The foolish virgins returned to God with their lamps, but after the door was shut... They did not enter.

The virgin of the song arose to open the door for her beloved, but after he had turned away and was gone.  Therefore she says, "My heart went out to him when he spoke.  I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." (Song 5:6).

Many started thinking late, so they did not benefit and lived in continual regret and sorrow... It is like what happened to Esau who cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry of repentance but it was not given to him.  Esau came after Jacob took away his birthright and his blessing.  The matter was all over.

How beautiful is the psalm that says, "Early will I seek you" (Ps. 63:1) and how it is that, "... those who seek me diligently will find me." (Prov. 8:17).  They think early.


74. AT THE END OF THE YEAR

We do not want the New Year to take you by surprise without being prepared for its beginning.  We are drawing your attention to this matter so that you can make yourself ready...

=> Sit first with yourself, to know its sincerity... it is not only to know its faults, but mostly to know its basic areas of weakness... its causes and its substances...

According to the outcome of this sitting with yourself, you become prepared for confession especially the deep confession that deals with everything in your life, more than the parts... the roots more than the branches...

=> At the end of the year, study what should be done to make it a holy year in everything, then say the beautiful phrase by which we start the morning prayer in the Agbia, "Let us enjoy a fresh start..."

=> Let us observe the characteristics of the Christian life, the basics, not the deviations in the daily life.

Where is the centre of God's Love in your life?

Where is the centre of Faith?  Gentleness?  Humility?  Hope?

How deep is your relationship with God?

Enter into the depth and do not be shallow in your spirituality or superficially estimate yourself.

=> Look at yourself as a whole and the extent of its development...

Which way does the spiritual side in your life go?

Are you taking a clear, firm way, in which you are progressing and growing day after day?

Or is there a change, an alteration and a deviation from the holy path; new things that came into you, when they shouldn't!

=> A principal piece of advice I give you to keep in your mind while sitting with yourself and with God:

Be honest to the fullest...

Beware of justifying yourself, finding excuses and putting the blame on others or on circumstances!

On the day of judgement, God is not going to ask you about the circumstances or about others.  He is going to ask you about yourself.

Enter then inside yourself and yourself only, nothing else.


75. THE FAITHFUL OVER A LITTLE

Be faithful over a little, God will set you over much...

Be faithful over what you can do, then God will set you over what you can't...

Be faithful in controlling your thoughts while you are awake... And when God sees your faithfulness, He will set you over the dreams that come against your will and you can't control...

Be faithful over one talent, God will set you over ten or the reward of the one who was set over the ten talents.

Be faithful over combats that come from the outside, then God will set you over springs of spiritual contemplation that flow in your thoughts and heart from the inside.

Be faithful over your loyalty to Leah, God will set you over Rachel.  Have sympathy towards the son of Hagar, God will grant you a son for Sarah.  Rid yourself of the Sinai wilderness, then God will enable you to enter Canaan.

When you are faithful over the house of Potiphar, God will set you over the palace of Pharoah and all the treasures of Egypt... Be faithful over the palace of Artaxerxes, God will set you over building His temple in Jerusalem... (Nehemiah).

Be faithful to God over the seen things, God will set you over the unseen, over what no ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man...

God is testing your faithfulness over anything.  It could be a simple commandment or one fruit that you abstain from ...

If you proved to be faithful over the Tree of Knowledge, then God will set you over the Tree of Life and the hidden Manna.

Do not belittle the few talents that you possess, but be faithful over them; God is not going to look if you have little or much, but to your faithfulness over them...

According to your faithfulness, God will reward you...

Anba Abraam, Bishop of El-Fayoum, was faithful over merciful deeds and whatever money he had.  God set him over an extended range of mercy, including healing the sick and casting out devils.


76. THE WHOLE TRUTH

The talk about God's love might make you joyful, while the talk about his justice troubles you.  However, you have to face the whole truth.

This is the divine truth... that does not separate God's justice from God's love. God's justice is merciful and God's mercy is just.  God's justice is full of mercy and His mercy is full of justice...

The two together are the whole truth, the complete truth...

We do not act in spiritual matters according to half the truth...

Articles about hope might cheer you up but you would be troubled by articles about righteousness, purity, the Commandments and the duties required of you.

No matter how you try to avoid the talk about purity, you are required to possess it whether you listened or not.  You have to put the whole truth before your eyes.  Rejoice in God's commandment like David who found it light for the eyes.

You have to know the whole truth and face it, whatever comforts you or moves you to tears.

No matter how difficult the commandment looks in your eyes, face it.  It is God's grace which is in you that will help you to carry it out.

The Lord Jesus also followed the way of the whole truth with us.  He told us, "In the world you will have tribulation."  This is half the truth.  The other half follows, "But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

Therefore, we do not escape from the phrase, "You will have tribulation" and be comforted by leaving it out.  No, we remember it, no matter how difficult it gets.  But we also remember its second half, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."...

In spite of the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit, it is still half the truth. The other half is our part by sharing in the work.

Half the truth is the great salvation granted to us by christ.

The other half is how to obtain the salvation.

Half the truth is that you are God’s son. The other half is that he who is born of God does not sin.

This is the whole truth….


77. HOW TO CONFESS

Confession is not to sit and tell stories. You might spend a long time talking about your tales with people, without referring to what wrong you have done!

But confession is to judge yourself...

It is condemning yourself in front of God and within the hearing of a priest...

You say: I sinned by doing this and that...

Confession is not to complain about others and to explain people's wrong doings to you.  It is to condemn yourself...

Therefore, confession is not to sit with your confession father and blame him and reproach him for neglecting to visit you or direct you, how he did not follow your case or ask about you or give you any spiritual training.  In all this you are not judging yourself or referring to your faults... you are in fact judging your confession father!!

Confession is not just being freed of old sins to fall in new ones, without changing your spiritual state.

Confession means repentance, therefore it is called the Sacrament of Repentance.

Confession is not determining in your heart to do something and asking your confession father to agree with you.  Otherwise you become upset and persist in asking for his approval, pretending that you are not acting according to your wish, but on the advice of your confession father!!

Confession is to explain your case and humbly ask for guidance. Confession is not just sitting with the priest anywhere, even in a friendly way.  It is not a matter of talking to him and letting him use his intelligence to guess what fault you fell in.

Confession is a holy sacrament that has its reverence. In practising it, you feel that you regret what you did and confess to God your sins, while the priest is listening.

Confession is to sit with yourself first, to examine and know all its faults and weaknesses.  Then you rebuke yourself for all of that and determine to lead a virtuous life, asking for God's help...

Then, you come to your confession father with a contrite heart. You tell him what you have done wrong, ask for forgiveness and remission, seek advice and guidance and prayer for yourself...


78. CONTEMPLATION ON THE EPIPHANY (EL GHETAS)

Adam sinned and did not ask for forgiveness or seek it...

As for the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy and the only one without sin, He stood in front of the Baptist as a repentant, representing Adam and his descendants.  The Lord offered on their behalf, a baptism of repentance in its most sublime form.

He carried their sins not only during his crucifixion, but in His life as a Son of Man.  Therefore, God was pleased with Him and said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17).

It does not please God to see one justifying himself, finding excuses as Adam and Eve did.  Instead of judging themselves in front of God they started blaming someone else.

The Lord Jesus did not blame anyone.  He took the sin of another, carried it instead of him and offered a baptism of repentance.  Therefore, He pleased the Father who said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17).

The one who is without sin, carried sin for our sake... He did not feel ashamed to walk forward with the sinners and ask his servant, John, to baptise Him.  When the great prophet became shy of the situation, He gently said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." (Matt. 3:15).

By doing this He gave us a practical lesson. He gave a lesson to carry the sins of others...

To happily pay the price on their behalf...

Not to justify ourselves, no matter how innocent we are...

And by this we fulfil all righteousness...

Would you be able to train yourself to gain this virtue?

St. John Chrysostom says, "If you are unable to carry the sins of others and relate them to yourself, try at least not to judge another and let him carry your sins...

If we fall to carry the sins of other people, try at least to endure their failings towards us and forgive them...

In this manner, we become like Christ and become worthy of being called sons of God.  And with the same kindness that we deal with people, God is going to deal with us...


79. VIOLENCE OR FIRMNESS

Many, in their behaviour, mix violence and firmness.

Firmness is acceptable, when needed but violence is disliked...

When Rehoboam consulted the elders and the young men, the elders advised him to take a gentle and good stand while the young men advised him to be violent.  He followed the suggestion of violence and lost much and the kingdom scattered. (1 Kin. 12:6).  And so failed the policy of violence that Rehoboam followed.

God stood up against the violence of Pharoah.  Owing to this violence, the people's cry was heard by God and He saved them.

Esau and Jacob were brothers.  Esau was a model of violence while Jacob was gentle and quiet.  The Bible says that God loved Jacob, even before his birth...

A violent person might have cruelty in the heart, but the gentle is always distinguished by compassion, love and kindness.

A violent person might have inner pride supporting his violence.  As for the gentle, he is usually humble in his ways.

God praised gentleness and humility by saying, "...and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart." (Matt. 11:29).

Violence could enable you to control people by force and silence them.  But it will never make you gain their love.

It is fit to use violence to control the evil who need to be curbed for fear of them harming others.  But it is not fit to use it in dealing with those who are quiet and gentle.  Violence also fails completely with those who are sensitive.

Violence is the last resort of the wise, when all other quiet means fail.

There is a big difference between "a violent person" with whom violence becomes part of his nature and another person who is generally quiet but turns to violence for necessity, when nothing else works.  This is called firmness...

Sometimes, there is firmness with violence...


80. TWO LEVELS

In the life of virtue, there are levels.  Here we refer to two:

The spiritual level and the social level.

A person who is spiritually distinguished must be socially distinguished.  A social person, however, does not necessarily have to be spiritual.

A social person might be able to gain the love of those around him, by means the spiritual person cannot handle.  It could be through jokes or entertainment... or a way of flattery or lying. He might help others by using means that the conscience of a spiritual person would not accept...

Therefore, a social person succeeds in gaining people by non-spiritual means...

A spiritual person likes gaining people but in a way that does not make him lose God or lose his purity...

Therefore, there are differences in measuring what is fit or unfit...

The aim of a spiritual person is not just to gain people for himself, but for God before anything.  The spirituality means much to him, just as his own spirituality.

An idealistic person combines both levels together:

He is socially successful, loved by all, at the same time, he uses a correct spiritual and faultless way.

It is easy for a spiritual person to train himself to be silent so that he would not err by the tongue...  Stronger than him is the spiritual person who talks, not only without fault, but in a positive way to benefit others.  He is a tactful speaker whose talk people enjoy...

It is quite easy for a spiritual person to abstain from joking and become always serious.  Few will be able to harmonise with his continual seriousness.  They will be pleased to see a spiritual person who is at the same time cheerful and happy, laughs with them without any fault on his side or theirs.

Spirituality does not mean being grave, it turns people off...

Spirituality has nothing to do with isolation from society and its faults.  Otherwise, religion would not be good for society...

To become adapted to society is a side of spirituality.  It is a higher level than the social.  It is not wise for some to put it on a lower level, or else that could be one way of self- centeredness...