Words of Spiritual Benefit | 101-110
101- Lessons from the River Nile
Do you know that the origin of this river derived from drops of water which fell as rain, accumulated and became a river?
Could not we learn that any major project might start with a simple thing, perhaps an idea? It is said in proverbs that "the longest journey begins with a step".
The first sin started with a simple sitting with the serpent. Perhaps the biggest fight begins with a word.
We can learn from the Nile that the soft drops of water, if it fell orderly and continually on a rock or mountain, it can carve a way in it: an important lesson on patience and perseverance.
This water carries the clay from the mountains of Ethiopia. At the first sight it looks unclear, but it contains the silt which causes the fertility of Egypt and covers its sand with silt.
This muddy water sings with the Bride in Song of Songs, "I am dark, but lovely" (Song 1:5). In spite of such murkiness, this water carries in it good sweetness to its drinker, as the sweetness of the lives of Augustine and Moses the Black, which appeared after their repentance.
Before the cutting of the channel of the Nile, the water was flowing on the sides making swamps. But, later its channel has deepened, bit by bit, and the water became stable.
This gives us an idea on the grading in the spiritual life, and the patience of the soul until it reaches its stability after a while. We we are not to judge those who are in the "swamps" stage and have not yet reached the deep and stable channel.
We must also praise the two banks of the river (between which the river runs ). They are not two barriers which limit its freedom but they are two protectors for its safe - keeping; like the Commandments, they do not restrict but protect freedom.
It is a long journey the Nile has made until it reached us, giving its riches to the countries it passed, Ethiopia, Nuba, Sudan, Egypt and all the surrounding deserts. This teaches us to give or make good to whoever we pass by.
102- The Truth
As God is Love, He is also the truth. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6).
About Himself the Lord said, " ... And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32).
He who adheres to the truth, he adhere to God Himself. He who keeps away from the truth, keeps away from God.
Therefore, we say of the faithful that he is a truthful person.
He knows the truth, goes in the way of truth, says the truth and accepts nothing but the truth.
For the sake of truth, he fears no blame.
He says the truth, whatever the consequences are to him, as it happened to John the Baptist who said the truth and paid the price.
The truthful person says the truth even against himself, or his dearest ones; he does not treat anything with partiality.
God sent the prophets to witness for the truth in a world where evil prevailed among people. He also sent the shepherds, priests and teachers to witness for the truth.
Judiciary on earth was set to witness for the truth.
The Faculty of Law is named in Arabic "Faculty of Rights" because the word 'right' is more effective than the word 'law'.
How nice is the Bible's saying about judgement in truth, even in the normal dealings among people it said, "He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord" (Prov 17:15).
Look at yourself; are you always with the truth?
Are all your words true and sincere, whether in what you utter or in what you want your listener to understand?
Do you favour any of your friends, relatives or beloved ones, and for his sake you do not mind telling the news in a way which is good to him, even if it hurts the others?
Do you follow the truth in your practical life, principles and beliefs, and not only in your talks?
Do you take the right of others from yourself to give it to them. Is the truth lost in your exaggerations, jokes and justifications?
103- The Spirit of the Service
In remembering the style of our Fathers the Apostles in their service, we learn practical and ideal lessons in the spirit of service, out of which we mention the following:
1. The Warmth of the Service:
How nice is the saying of the Apostle Paul in this respect, "who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation." (2 Cor 11:29). His saying, " I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more. To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor 9:19 - 22). His zeal, in flaming love, prevailed over all.
2. Visits in the Service:
Our Fathers, the Apostles, did not establish services and leave them without a follow up, but on the contrary, they pursued their service by all means: by epistles, by disciples sent by them - as Paul used to send Titus or Timothy. Frequently, they used to make special visits, as expressed by St. Paul in his saying, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are going." (Acts 15:36).
3. Service Filled with Spirit and Power:
The Apostles did not serve except after they received the Holy Spirit, as the Lord said to them," But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me." (Acts 1:8).
How nice is the Bible's saying in this respect, "And with great power the Apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33).
It is also beautiful what was said about St. Stephen, that he was," Full of faith and power." (Acts 6:8). He stood against synagogues, "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke." (Acts 6:10). The nature of the spiritual service is powerful as it is from the Spirit, " for the word of God is living and powerful." (Heb 4:12).
4. Service Filled with Love:
The Lord Jesus "Loved His own ... to the end." (John 13:1), and with the same love He served the Apostles. It was not a mere official service.
=> Remember your weakness, then you will be more cautious and you will not submit to the thoughts of pride and false glory.
=> Remember the loving kindness of the Lord bestowed on you, and you will always be in the life of thanksgiving. Faith will grow in your heart as well as the trust in God's love and work. Your past experiences with God would be an encouragement in the life of faith.
=> Remember people's love and their good past with you. Should you doubt their sincerity or find out they have done something wrong to you, their old love will make intercession for them and your anger will fade away.
=> Remember death, so all worldly temptations will disappear and you feel that," all is vanity and grasping for the wind." (Eccl 1:14).
=> Remember that God is standing in front of you, looking at you, then you cannot sin because you see him
=> Remember God's promises, and you will be comforted in all your troubles. But, if you forget them, say with David the Prophet, "Remember the word to your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction. For your word has given me life." (Ps 119:49-50).
=> Remember the Blood of Jesus which was shed for your sake and you will definitely know the value of your life; it becomes dear in your eyes, so you will not waste it with prodigal living, "for you were bought at a price." (1Cor 6:20).
=> Remember the vows you made to God at the Baptistery, which your parents undertook on your behalf; to renounce the devil, all his evil deeds, all his thoughts and tricks, all his forces and powers.
=> Remember always that you are a stranger on earth and that you will return to your heavenly home: then you will not put all your hopes in this world.
=> Remember that the narrow gate leads to the kingdom of heaven. If you see the wide gate open before you, escape and keep away from it, as all those who go in by it, have perished.
=> Remember your eternity and work for it at all times.
=> Remember that you are a child of God, and ought to have His image. You walk as is fitting for the Children of God who are apparent.
=> Remember that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God in you. Be always a holy temple.
=> Remember all what I said to you on this page and if you have already forgotten, please read it again.
105 - To Keep in Mind
God wants you to keep in mind certain matters, which are important and not to be forgotten, such as:
=> His commandments, He said to Joshua, the son of Nun, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it." (Josh 1:8). He therefore, summed up the Law in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Old Testament was divided to be read in the Synagogues on Saturdays, in order to be remembered by the people. A copy of the Law was to be given to the new king to remind him.
=> In order to remind us, God set down feasts and high days to remember Him, as in the Feast of the Passover.
=> God does not want us to forget the salvation which was completed by the blood of the Lamb, so he made it a yearly feast.
In order not to forget His help in sending the Manna, He kept some of it in the Ark of the covenant in the tabernacle.
In order not to forget the crossing over the Jordan. Joshua took twelve stones and laid them down there, in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests stood. (Josh 4:8-9).
=> Similarly, the church puts some facts before us to make us remember and to learn from it, for example:
The benefit of remembering God's love for us, which appeared in giving Himself for us on the Cross. The church performs a yearly commemoration in the Passion Week. Nevertheless. a Mass is performed weekly on Friday to remember the sufferings of Christ and His Crucifixion in the prayer of the sixth hour.
=> As remembering death is beneficial, the Prophet David says, "Lord, make me to know my end, and what the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am."(Ps. 39:4).
=> For the benefit of its children, the church reminds them of death in the Compline, also of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for judgement, in the midnight prayer.
=> Besides, in the canonical hours, in the readings as well as in the Holy Mass, the church reminds us of many things which are profitable to our life.
Sermons are reminders of matters we probably knew before.
I wish we would remember, otherwise, we will be lost through forgetfulness and unawareness.
106- Nights of Prayer
Among the beautiful things in our Church are the nights of prayer.
It started as a thought among the servants and it quickly spread among the people. No church is free from it especially in the nights of Kiahk (the Coptic month before Christmas). It became an established custom on New Year's Eve.
Every church does its utmost to prepare an interesting spiritual programme for the night of prayer, to help the faithful to stay awake and keep their thoughts, feelings and hearts within the spiritual act.
The programme includes prayers from the Agpia, other prayers, hymns, chants, spiritual readings, questions and answers.
The choirs at certain churches present some of its popular hymns.
The night ends with Raising of Incense and Holy Mass. Most of the congregation partake in communion and they all leave after spending a spiritual night with God, which encourages them to request its repetition.
The idea of the nights of prayer is very old. The Lord Jesus Himself put its basis as He used to spend the whole night praying. It has roots in the Old Testament, as David the Prophet says, "Behold bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who by night stand in the house of the Lord …Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord." (Ps 134:1-2).
The church laid out the midnight prayer in three divisions. The monks are used to perform the midnight prayer in the rites of Praises, but for the people to spend the night in prayers is a great evidence which shows the spirituality of the church.
While the world spends its nights in fun and pleasure, the church stays up to pray, awake with God, lifting the hearts of her children to Him. Participating with the angels and the spirits of the Saints in praising.
The martyrs and confessors - even when in prison - were spending the night in prayer. Paul the Apostle used to do so.
The prayers of all these people were a kind of preaching ; which gave an idea of the God-loving and prayer-loving heart.
It is nice to train our children to keep awake during the night of prayer. They will take an example from their parents as well as from the church and the picture will reflect in their minds and hearts.
107 - Effects of Association with Others
A person is greatly influenced by those he associate with.
Easy is the absorption of their attitudes, thoughts and psychological condition.
If you associate with a person who always suspects, suspicion would soon get to your heart. The opposite happens if you associate with one who has deep faith; he might be able to plant this faith in your heart.
The one who has many fears, who always expects harm and evil, could easily spread fear among those who associate with him. As for the courageous one who has a strong heart, he strengthens their hearts and his courage and firmness flow to them.
It is enough for a group of people to have one person who very often complains, curses all situations, grumbles from everything till those who sit with him leave with hearts full of complaints and grumble!!
This shows the effect of rumours and news on people.
It is another kind of effective association, either of the thought, opinion, news or feelings that surround them.
That explains the effect of friendship, relationship and marriage. Even companionship and neighbourhood. As the proverb says (Ask about the neighbour before you ask about the house).
Therefore, you ought to be selective in choosing your friends. Outline the limits of your relationship with friends, neighbours and those you associate with.
It would be even better if you associate with those who are in a better position than you. You will be able to benefit from them, as they could lift you up with them.
Do not think that you are too bright to be affected. Very few are those who do not get affected by people surrounding them.
Many a time one talks to you and you understand from his way and thought that it is carried from another friend that you know!
Many are like a mirror that gives you a reflection of the one who sits in front of it!
Others get affected in a hidden way that shows only after a while.
Some distinguished characters could be affected by their own attendants and helpers. One member of the attendants could be the main key of the personality.
Poor is the man, who has a sensitive system that picks us quickly!
108 -Seek Faith
St. Paul the Apostle says," Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves." ( 2 Cor 13: 5 ).
The faith here is not that of the mind or just the name. It is the real faith, a life-style that one lives in God and shows in all his deeds and all his feelings. The life of faith means complete submission to God and extreme trust in His work with you and the Church.
Faith cuts a road in the sea and lets water flow from the rock. It is enough to see that the Bible says," With God all things are possible." ( Matt 19:26 ). Do you have the practical faith by which you can do everything in Christ? Or your faith is weak and could not stand tribulations?
If you were like that, what should you do? The Lord says," According to your faith, let it be to you." ( Matt 9:29). The only solution is to pour yourself before God and openly say to him: Lord, I believe, but my faith has not reached the practical level yet. My faith is like the bruised reed that You, due to your love, wouldn't break; and like the smoking flax that due to Your compassion, You would not quench. Accept me Lord, with my weaknesses. Grant me this faith, a gift from You. Do not say," I'll give you according to your faith, and do not make faith a condition for the gift. Let faith be the gift itself.
Grant me to believe in You, submit my life to You and be at Your disposal. It is sufficient for me to believe that you will grant me faith. Isn't faith also " a gift granted from above," from You, and nobody can believe without Your blessing?
You say," Only believe". Even this faith I want from You so I would not think that my humanity has done anything without You.
I am still waiting for this faith by which I could do everything through Your grace.
I believe that You will give me, and I wish after being in Your presence, to say," I believe that You have given me."
My faith then changes from a desire and a request to a reality and a life.
109 - The Ideal Day
All our days are supposed to be ideal, following the Lord's saying," Be perfect, be holy." But as a matter of practice, there could be what is called " the perfect day."
The perfect day has two directions, one negative in being far from any sin and the other positive in virtue and service.
The programme of the perfect day differs from one person to another.
Some spend that day in worshipping, praying, reading, singing hymns, contemplating and fasting, in seclusion as much as possible.
Others consider it a perfect day that is spent in doing what is good for others.
Another group prefers a mixture of the two.
Some concentrate on purity of the heart. They try their best not to sin either by tongue, thought or action; no matter what the reasons are.
Others prefer to start such a day by attending the Holy Mass and receiving the Holy Communion. Certain groups of servants take it as a practice, where they all get together and they call it " A Spiritual Day".
The perfect day is offering one's complete self, with the heart and the will, for the work of the Divine grace, with keenness for self-control.
There are examples of what some practise on the perfect day:
1. God is to be the first One you talk to on that day, by a deep , diligent prayer from the heart, "And those who seek me diligently will find me."
2. Praying all the hours in the Agbia completely, with understanding, depth and warmth.
3. Never uttering a sinful word, or a word that has no benefit.
4. Do not get angry with anyone and do not anger or sadden anyone.
5. Start every work with a prayer and through prayer, work and talk.
6. Do your best to keep your thought pure. It would be better if you continually occupied your thought with spiritual work such as spiritual readings, prayer and meditation.
7. Act in humility, gentleness, meekness and love with all.
8. Respect all and give preference to others over yourself.
9. Do not judge others, especially those who would not be idealistic like you on that day.
10. Keep your heartly feelings pure and free from evil desires and emotions.
If the day's experiment succeeded, repeat it as often as possible.
110 - The Transfiguration
The first transfiguration of our nature is that God created us in his own image and likeness.
The second transfiguration is what took place on the Mount of Tabor. During the transfiguration, the Lord Jesus Christ did not appear on His own, but Moses and Elijah were with Him, representing humanity. It is the transfiguration with which our nature will be crowned in glory.
The third transfiguration is the forthcoming resurrection, when we rise in spiritual bodies of light, like the Lord's body of glory! We will be like God's angels in Heaven.
The feast of the transfiguration reminds us of the glory that our nature will receive.
God has not deprived us from glory. He has taken us from one glory to another," For whom he foreknew, he also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son ... He also glorified." (Rom 8: 29-30).
In the transfiguration that is to come, we will be completely free from sin and from spiritual combats.
We will be free from the material, as we take off this body and leave the whole materialistic world. The corruptible will be clothed in incorruption," because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," and, " ... eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (Rom 8: 21 & 23) "We will be free from sin when we receive the crown of righteousness". ( 2 Tim 4: 8 ).
This righteousness will make us forget whatever relates to sin. There would not be sin and we would not know it, remember it or fight against it. We will be completely free from it and we will live in righteousness, "in the glorious liberty of the children of God."
That illustrates accurately the saying that, "Whoever is born of God does not sin, and the wicked one does not touch him." ( 1 John 5: 18 ).
We are not going to transfigure alone, but the whole city if God’s Heavenly Jerusalem that had no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it," for the glory of God illuminated it." ( Rev 22: 5).
Permanent joy is the characteristic of this transfiguration.
Sorrow, pain and fear, the effects of sin, will all disappear.