Words of Spiritual Benefit | 91-100
91. GOD EXISTS
A problem, by itself, without God, could cause trouble for some. But the problem, with the presence of God, would not cause trouble...
Hope in God and His interference gives the heart joy and confidence. As the Apostle said, "Rejoicing in hope." (Rom. 12:12).
=> Was the lions' den fearful to Daniel? Surely it was not, as far as he knew the phrase, "My God sent his Angel and shut the lions' mouths." (Dan. 6:22).
=> Was the fiery furnace a source of loss for the three youths? No it was a different case, with a "fourth" like the Son of God, walking with them in the midst of the fire.
=> Did Goliath, the giant, look fearful to David?
He was like that to the army of soldiers who faced Goliath without God. As for David, he was strong and did not fear Goliath and his threats because he had God with him in the battle. He said, "For the battle is the Lord's. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand." (1 Sam. 17:48).
Our feeling that God is with us is the reason of our confidence. God's name is a strong fortress that the righteous take for a refuge.
"The Lord shall preserve you from all evil, He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in." (Ps. 121:7-8).
"I have set the Lord always before me; because He is my right hand and I shall not be moved." (Ps. 16:8).
Truly, letting God in a problem solves it...
=> In God's name, Elijah faced Ahab.
And in God's name, Moses and Aaron faced Pharaoh... And in God's name, Paul faced Festus and Agrippa.
=> The Lord was the strength for these Saints and others like them.
The Psalmist said, "The Lord is my strength and song and He has become my salvation." (Ps. 118:18). And, "The Lord is my light and my salvation." (Ps. 27:1).
=> We deal with God and not with people... We set God in front of us in all our problems and He gives us strength.
If you weaken one day, it means you forgot God's strength.
92. ANOTHER VIEW
We look at matters in a specific way and from a special angle and see them from a certain point of view. But what we see is not everything.
There is another view through faith, that agrees with what God sees.
=> What do we see in Joseph being sold as a slave by his brothers?
What do we see in his imprisonment after all his loyalty while in Potiphar's house?
All we can see is evil, jealousy and betrayal...
We also see injustice and ill-fate.
As for God, He has another view of all these matters.
That was the way for Joseph to be glorified.
How would we describe what Judas Iscariot did except betrayal in the lowest form?!
The way Pontius Pilate acted, could it be anything but cowardice, injustice and yielding to evil?!
What would we say about Annas and Caiaphas except envy, lying and conspiracy?!
We look at these things and say they should not have happened.
But God has another view.
He could see the Salvation as a result of the Crucifixion which was caused by all of these people.
It is God, who changes evil into goodness.
It does not mean that their evil was good!
Of course not, but the other view is that God is able to make sweet out of the bitter and make all matters happen for the glory of His Holy name.
=> Jonah boarded the ship but a mighty tempest was about to turn it over. The mariners threw the cargo into the sea and were afraid... Was that all evil? Or was there another view of this sea tragedy?
The other view was that the waves of the raging sea caused the mariners to believe in the Lord.
=> There is no doubt that we have limited sight... You might he able to see the tribulation but not the blessing that God will positively achieve as a result of this trial.
But through faith we see the blessing, trusting that, ".. all things work together for good to those who love God." (Rom. 8:28).
Sincerity is purity of love, truth of emotion and feelings of loyalty presented by someone you trust in his friendship.
Sincerity shows during tribulations and its metal is tested at a time of distress.
In such sincerity St. Peter said to the Lord Jesus, "If I have to die with you, I will not deny you!" (Mark 14:31). And the Lord Jesus said to His Disciples, "But you are those who have continued with me in my trial." (Luke 22:28).
With this sincerity, the Marys and John, the beloved, stood around Jesus during the crucifixion. And with the same sincerity Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate that he might take the body of Jesus to be shrouded with the help of Nicodemus.
Through their sincerity, none of these people gave a thought to what might be said about them or what might happen.
Sincerity is characterised by sacrifice. One might forget himself and remember nothing, except his love and the one who he loves.
The Bible tells us about Ruth's sincerity towards her mother-in- law, Naomi and how she said to her, "wherever you go, I will go, where you die, I will die." (Ruth 1:16).
Jonathan lived with David in sincerity, even enduring his father's reproach and anger, because of his love for David.
And with the same sincerity, David was good to all the members of Jonathan's family after his death.
With sincerity, the martyrs offered themselves for the love of Christ. The Confessors endured all types of torment for the Lord's sake...
There are those who were sincere to their families, their teachers, their spiritual and worldly fathers, their nations or to specific principles they lived with... It was sincerity till death.
There are other types of sincerity, such as the doctor to his patient, the lawyer to his client, the teacher to his students, the writer to his readers and the guard to those whom he is protecting.
Some are sincere because of their duty and conscience, others because of love and loyalty and some because sincerity is part of their nature. They treat everyone with the same sincerity, especially those they love.
How beautiful is sincerity. It is nobility, love and a golden crown...
94. THE PEACE OF THE CHURCH
The most repeated prayer in our liturgy is litany for the Church's peace, in which we say, "Remember, O Lord, the peace of Your One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church. Preserve her in peace."
We pray it at the beginning of all the Litanies and in the raising of incense during Vespers, the early morning raising of incense and in every circuit the Priest performs around the Altar while praying the Litanies.
At the beginning of Mass, during the Offertory, we pray saying, "Grant peace and holiness to the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church of God." We also pray the same litany during the ordination of Priests.
In the litany of the King or President, we also pray for the peace of the Church saying, "Touch his heart, for the peace of Your One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church."
The peace of the Church was one of the most important concerns of our Fathers the Apostles and all the Saints.
For all of them, the Church represented the Kingdom of God on earth, which will be extended to the Heavenly Kingdom.
It represents the source of faith and God's dwelling with the people.
Its peace and safety are the essence of everybody's prayer, more than one prays for his own requests. It is the centre of contemplation in the Lord's prayer, in which we say, "Hallowed by your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done.."
Praying for the peace of the Church is the prayer that survived for centuries, in the mouth of the Faithful, shepherds and flock, clergy and congregation. Even in the liturgy for the ordination of monks who split themselves from the world, we pray for the peace of the Church.
It was beautiful of St. Paul the first hermit, the greatest of the solitaries and spirit-borne, to ask St. Anthony about the peace of the Church.
It is a prayer that we pray from the depths of our hearts.
Not just as part of the liturgy, but as living and burning feelings.
Let everyone expend all his emotions in this prayer. Amen.
95. CAUSING OTHERS TO STUMBLE
A stumble is a fall. The one who causes others to stumble is the one who causes the fall of others, either by action or by thought.
The Lord Jesus Christ said, "It is impossible that no offences should come but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." (Luke 17:1-2).
The little ones could be young either in age or in thought and the ability to distinguish. They could also be little in soul or in faith or in their spiritual level, so that any offending action may trouble them.
Very often, older members of the family talk in the presence of children, with words not suitable for children to hear. They think that the children do not understand, but most probably it offends them or remains in their minds.
The same thing happens when parents fight or argue in front of their little children. It offends them since they expect adults to be idealistic. Divorce also causes offence to children.
There are several means of entertainment that a family buys, then they tempt the children to sin: It could be a radio or television programme or some magazines or books. Certain parties held by the family could also be offensive for their children.
The bad example also tempts the little ones to sin either in words, deeds, clothes or the type of treatment.
Often children learn lying from members of their own family. They also learn to make fun of others and to exaggerate. They might even imitate their actions, expressions and voices. Children are fond of imitating.
The temptation to sin or fall might come from education and thoughts that the children receive from adults. It could happen at home, at school or from neighbours. It is the type of education that implants subversive ideas or creates wrong feelings of hatred towards some people.
If the principles taught to a child by different people, contradict each other, the child will suffer from confusion, conflict and doubt. This contradiction or clash of views in education would cause the child to stumble.
The little ones are put in our trust. If we fail to implant good in them at least avoid offending them...
96. THE GLORY OF SUFFERING
St. Paul, the Apostle, says in his Epistle to the Romans, "If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." (Rom. 8:17).
Thus, suffering for the Lord becomes a measure of the glory that awaits the faithful in the eternal Kingdom.
Therefore, the Church places the martyrs above all the Saints.
They are mentioned in the Church's prayers before the spirit- borne and the solitary fathers, who filled the wilderness with prayers and contemplation. They are also mentioned before our fathers the Patriarchs and Bishops, with all their services in spreading the Word. This is all because of the sufferings they endured for the sake of God.
Even in service, the measure of suffering is also obvious, as the Apostle says, "... and each will receive his own reward according to his own labour." (1 Cor. 3:8). Therefore, the Lord says in his letter to the Angel of the Church at 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), putting labour at the beginning.
It is also said in the Bible that, "God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love..."(Heb. 6:10).
Love expresses its existence by labouring for the beloved one, as the Apostle says, "... Let us not love in word or in tongue." (1 John 3:18).
The depth of love also shows in suffering, when the level of love is raised up to sacrifice and redemption.
Therefore, God's love was shown to us in its deepest form when the Lord was on the Cross, sacrificing himself for our redemption, the just for the unjust.
Christ was at the peak of His glory when He was in His deepest passion.
For this reason, He said about his crucifixion, "Now the Son of Man is glorified." (John 13:13). The picture of His crucifixion is the picture of His glory...
St. Paul, the Apostle, considers suffering as a gift from God. In this, he says, "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).
St. Peter, the Apostle, also talked about suffering saying, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps." (1 Pet. 2:21).
97. THE ASCENSION
The Lord ascended in glory, defying all the law of gravity. He also gave us hope of being lifted up like Him, defying the law of gravity and joining Him, by saying, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32).
He was lifted up on a cloud and disappeared from their sight. But He will come again on the clouds of Heaven, with His Angels and Saints, to lift us up on the clouds with Him and be with God all the time.
As He sat down at the right hand of the Father, we will sit down with Him in His glory.
The One they crucified at Golgotha and was counted as a sinner, enduring many reproaches and insults, has risen from the dead in glory, ascended to Heaven in glory and sat down at the right hand of the Father in glory.
Golgotha was not a sad ending of His life. It was the beginning of His glory.
Therefore, whoever suffers with Him will surely be glorified with Him...
The Ascension was the last picture of the Lord seen by His Disciples. It lifted up their eyes to where Christ is sitting down. It is what the Apostle meant when he said, "Received up in glory." (1 Tim. 3:16).
Thus Christian suffering became inseparable from its glory.
Christ who suffered for our sake, appeared to St. Stephen during the suffering of his martyrdom "He gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. He then cried out with a loud voice, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
The one who descended has also ascended...
We too, would not be able to ascend, if we do not first descend...
We, also, must humble ourselves, endure suffering and he lifted up on the cross, before the ascension to the right hand of the Father...
As Christ has been lifted up, we always lift up our eyes to where Christ sits on the right hand of the Father, till he comes back once more on the clouds, to take us to Him.
Then, we will he lifted up with no descent... Amen.
98. THE APOSTLES FAST
Nobody should think lightly of the Fast of the Apostles', as it is the most ancient fast the Christian Church has known through generations. The Lord referred to it by saying, "But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them and they will fast." (Matt. 9:15).
Our Fathers, the Apostles, started their service by fasting. The Lord Himself started His service by fasting forty days on the mountain.
The Apostles' Fast, therefore, is dedicated for the service and the Church.
It is said about our teacher, St. Peter, the Apostle, that he fasted, "...then became very hungry and wanted to eat." (Acts 10:10). During his hunger, he saw heaven open and saw a vision about the acceptance of the Gentiles.
As their fasting was accompanied by vision and divine guidance, it was also associated with the work and coming of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said "Now separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
Then, having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down Seleucia... " (Acts 13:2-4).
There are certain aspects that mark out the fast of our Fathers, the Apostles, such as: fasting, praying, serving and the work of the Holy Spirit.
It pleases us that the Holy Spirit works during fasting...
The divine call also comes during fasting...
Ordination of ministers is done during fasting and ministers start by fasting before they begin their service.
There are fastings related to repentance, such as Jonah's fast and the fast related to humility as mentioned in the book of Joel.
Other fastings are for specific requests, such as Esther's fasting.
Fasting for casting out evil spirits, as the Lord said, "However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." (Matt. 17:2 1).
There are fastings before we receive any of the Lord's Graces, in the sacraments such as Baptism, Confirmation (Myron), Holy Communion and Priesthood.
As for the Apostles' Fast, it is for service and the Church, at least to teach us the necessity and benefit of fasting for the service.
We fast that God may interfere in the service and support it. We also fast to serve while we are in a good spiritual condition being aware of our weakness...
How we longed for this fast to come while we were during the Holy Pentecost Season "Khamasein".
99. A WORD OF BENEFIT
Many search for benefit from a word...
If they do not read it or hear it they feel that they have not benefited!!
=> The wise person sees a word of benefit in everything.
=> Even in the silence of others, he sees benefit and wisdom... He might benefit from their silence more than he benefits from their talk.
=> Every incident you experience in life, your life or the life of others, holds a word of benefit for you... Therefore, many benefit from incidents more than they benefit from books, articles or talks...
=> Life experience is also full of countless words of benefit, for the one who knows how to benefit from such experience.
For this reason we have been called to benefit from the wisdom of elders as they have experienced much and each experience bears a word of benefit.
=> Sickness in many cases is a word of benefit in itself... It whispers in the ear of the sick sayings that are not found in books.
Also, sickness could be a word of benefit for those around the sick person, either relatives, friends or visitors...
=> Death is also a word of benefit for many well known Saints, such as St. Anthony and St. Paul... many used to visit the tombs to listen to the word of benefit death whispers in people's hearts... while he is silent.
=> Tribulation is also a word of benefit for those who are good at profiting from it, either the one who experiences it or who witnesses it in others. Do not take from tribulation its trouble but its lessons.
=> Nature also has words of benefit though it seems to be silent. Therefore we have been asked, in the Bible, to learn from the lilies of the field and birds of the air. Even the lazy can learn from the ant.
=> The word of benefit is there, nobody is deprived of it. But people generally need the gift of contemplation and depth to be able to extract a word of benefit from whatever comes their way...
It could be either a spoken or a silent word of benefit, written or inferred... he who has ears to hear let him hear...
100. THE LOVE OF ONESELF
The true love of oneself comes by training ourselves to love God, His permanent dwelling in us and our submission to the work of His Spirit...
There is no way for the self to enjoy God's dwelling in it except through purity and humility so it would not resist the work of the Spirit or prefer its own ignorance to the wisdom of God.
In that way, self-love truly shows, in self-denial.
Self-denial in working, where you say, "'... yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor. 15:10). Self-denial means also abandoning self-praise and honour, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us. But to your name give Glory." (Ps. 115:1). Self-denial in striving, where the faithful person sacrifices his comfort and all his wealth to build the Kingdom of God...
Self-denial also shows in dealing with God and with people.
Here, one prefers others to himself in everything, "in honour giving preference to one another." (Rom. 12:10).
This is the basis of practical love to all others, not only in honour but also in giving, sacrificing and labouring for the sake of others. One sacrifices for others' sake to the extent of sacrificing oneself. One would not even object to carrying others' sins and relating them to himself, depriving himself from everything to give others..
Some, however love themselves in a wrong worldly way. While trying to build, they will destroy it and instead of lifting it up, they will lose it.
The Lord Jesus Christ said, "He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 10:39).
Those who left worldly pleasures for the sake of God are considered lost by people of the world, although they have actually found the real way to build the self. Among such people are the monks, the spirit-borne and all those who consecrated themselves to serve the Lord. They are all those who said with Peter, "...we have left all and followed You." (Matt. 19:27).
The one who loves himself walks in the narrow path for the sake of God, carrying the Cross every day...
This person does actually love himself...
As for the one who satisfies all his worldly and physical desires, he does not love himself but loves the world and its desires...