Words of Spiritual Benefit | 161-170
161. MULTITUDE OF WORDS
There are people who concentrate heavily on their talk, in a way that makes it need more clarification and analysis to be understood by the listener.
To the opposite of that, there are those who carry on talking unnecessarily and what is said could be summed up in a quarter or a tenth or even less. That is what we want to talk about. The reason for a multitude of words could be repetition, by repeating same words, same phrase, same expression or the whole story.
The reason could also be to explain and clarify what has been said, as if the listener lacks good understanding and comprehension! Or the lengthening could be from inside, by too many boring details.
Maybe the whole topic is not important, or at least is not worth the time spent on it.
And the reason for a multitude of words could be the enthusiasm of the speaker for a specific matter and he or she wants to pass this enthusiasm to the listener, thinking that by a multitude of words on that topic, the listener will be convinced and show interest!
The listener maybe convinced but the speaker continues talking, either to stress confirmation and conviction or because he believes that what he will say is important and he must say it. It could also be energy inside him and he will never rest without emptying it.
Maybe it is just the nature of the speaker, to repeat and increase in his talk, about anything!
Extending the talk could lead to boredom and weariness, so the listener loses interest or tries to get rid of that talk somehow. He could also try to avoid the speaker whenever he meets him, if it is in his nature to use a multitude of words.
Using a multitude of words means lack of concern for the time and commitments of the listener. It also means ignoring his psychology, nerves and his way of understanding.
Therefore, train yourself to measure your words. Notice your listener and do not allow him to get bored of your talk. And if he understands your aim, there is no need to repeat or extend.
Do not give a topic more time than it deserves. Avoid talking about trivial matters.
162. WHY DID THEY LOVE MARTYRDOM?
Our fathers the martyrs received martyrdom, not only in tolerance and satisfaction, but mostly with joy. Thousands of the faithful travelled from Damanhore to Alexandria to be martyred. Along the way they sang chants joyfully.
It was also said about the twelve Apostles that when they were flogged and thrown in prison, “They departed, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41).
St. Abu Pham the soldier, when he was called for martyrdom, he dressed up in his best attire saying, "This is my wedding day."
Why were our fathers joyful about martyrdom?
= They considered martyrdom the shortest way leading to the joys of heaven. It is a matter of moments or hours, then one will be in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the assembly of the saints.
Therefore, in the story of the martyrdom of St. Ighnatios of Antioch, when the people of Rome wanted to kidnap him to save him from death, he sent them a message to stop them from doing that, saying "My beloved, I am afraid that your love will do me harm and after I reach my destination, I'll turn back my life-journey all over again."
= They also looked at martyrdom as means of sharing in Christ's passion, in His death and subsequently in His glory.
They used to look at the Bible's saying, "If indeed we suffer with Him, we may also be glorified together.” (Rom. 8:17).
Some of them personally saw the crowns that they were striving to receive.
Or saw the crowns of those who were martyred before them.
And without seeing anything, they were confident through faith, of what God has prepared for those who love His Holy name, those who accept suffering for His sake.
They also used to look at martyrdom as the best way to express their love for God and the truth of their faith. And as it says in the Bible, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down His life for His friends." (John 15:13). How much more deserving then for faith.
= They loved martyrdom because they were certain of being strangers in this world. They also loved eternity in a way that took hold over their hearts and they never looked at death except as a release from the prison of the body.
One may fail in his relationships with others, not because of bad intentions but because of bad expression.
Good intentions alone are not enough, if one does not express them in good words that will leave good effect on oneself.
Therefore, the one who knows how to choose expressions in his talk is most of the time successful in his relationship with people.
As the Bible says, "For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:37). These words could also mean that "By your words people will love you or hate you."
Many beneficial and sincere advices were rejected by people in spite of their wisdom and benefit. That is because the advice was offered in harsh words that turned them off. They could not find in it the love that would make them listen to it.
What matters most is not the specific and correct meaning of what you are saying but putting it in an appealing manner that makes it acceptable by the listener.
Some might ask, "Is it permissible to criticise the behaviour of others, justify it or comment on it if we are in a responsible position and it is meant for the general good?" Or we should avoid that for fear of provoking those we criticise? This, in fact, also depends on the expression used.
One could say exactly what he wants without anybody getting angry with him. They will probably thank him, as it happened with Abigail and David. She managed to give him rebuke, warning and advice in an atmosphere of pure praise, love, respect and gratitude, till he said to her, "Blessed are you and blessed is your advice." (1 Sam. 25:33).
Another person would only say a few words, but the world would turn upside down as a result of that, causing problems and crises. That is just because these words were not well chosen and the expression was bad.
Therefore, I advise you to choose your expressions and be specific in using words, because "Your language reveals you."
That is not only to develop good relations with others but also for the sake of having a pure heart, as God's son.
164. THE LIFE OF FAITH
Many people believe in God just on the surface, or through the mind only. As for the practical side, this does not exist.
One is counted among the faithful but does not have the heart of the faithful.
What is faith then? And how do we live in it? "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1).
It is then a level higher than the senses.
The senses are too weak to understand. Faith does not contradict the senses but has a higher level than them.
We believe in God without seeing Him. We believe in the angels surrounding us without seeing them. We believe in God's work and promises without linking that to our senses, our mind or our thought.
Faith also has a higher level than that of the mind. Therefore, we also believe in miracles and wonders.
The mind might not understand the miracles but would accept them without linking acceptance to understanding something on a higher level. It was given the name miracle because it indicates the inability of the mind to understand or analyse what happens.
By having faith in God and His protection, we depend on Him confidently.
This dependence could reach complete submission where our life is fully handed over to God in confidence that what He does is for our good. We don't have to see what He does. It is enough to believe without seeing, as God says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29).
The faithful is the one whose heart is always comforted and has no fear.
When Peter feared, the Lord said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31). The doubt and fear are the outcome of a weak faith. The faithful is strong and never weakens before any situation.
How beautiful is the Bible's saying, “All things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23).
St. Paul the faithful says, "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13).
What else could be said about faith?
The life of faith could include the whole spiritual life.
165. THE WORD IS A RESPONSIBILITY
Any intelligent person searches, with all his might, for a word of benefit. As the word is for benefit, it is of responsibility.
The Bible says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." (Luke 12:48).
Ignorance is the sin of the one who does not know. As for the one who knows, his sin is premeditated and is of an evil intention and his responsibility is greater. Therefore, the sin of preachers, teachers and priests is greater than the sin of the congregation. The priest says in the offertory, "For my sins and the ignorance of Your people". To him, they are sins but to those who didn't know, it is ignorance.
What then? Is it better for one not to know so his sins will be less? St. Augustine here says, "There is a big difference between the one who does not know and the one who refuses to know. The one who rejects knowledge will be judged for his rejection."
The one who refuses to know God and His ways also proves that he does not love God and does not deserve Him.
What about the responsibility?
It is true that knowledge is a responsibility. But with knowledge comes a divine support that helps those who know to carry out and apply.
With the word comes strength, therefore it is said that the word is alive and effective. "For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword." (Heb. 4:12).
When one accepts the word of knowledge, he also accepts God who gave it and also the Holy Spirit that gives strength and encouragement to carry it out. That is how God's word was at the time of the Apostles. With one word from Peter, three thousand believed. And the word said by St. Stephen could not be resisted by the three councils. Therefore, ask for the strength of the word to work in you.
God's word has its effect on the conscience. It illuminates and also kindles it. It stimulates it to do good and protests against any mistake.
God's word will always follow you pressing you. No matter how much you shall resist, it will surely come back to you even after a long time and stand before you.
The Lord says, "So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void." (Is. 55:11).
166. THE TRANSFIGURATION
The transfiguration of Jesus Christ with both Moses and Elijah was a token for the transfiguration of humanity as a whole.
This transfiguration is a release for our nature from materialism and its weight.
It is also a promise from the Lord to save our nature from the slavery of corruption, the slavery of the substance, to become spiritual and luminous. Then we become worthy of living in the kingdom that is prepared for us.
In eternity, we will be free from the slavery of flesh and blood and what they demand. We will be like God's angels in heaven.
But this transfiguration will be granted only to the one who never submitted to substance during his life on earth. He will become luminous in eternity.
There are also those who will become luminous because during their life on earth they acted as the children of light and never dealt with acts of darkness that are fruitless. On the contrary, they followed the saying, "Walk as children of light. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Eph. 5:11).
That is because those who had fellowship with the works of darkness will be thrown out in the outside darkness of eternity, far from the city of light and the fellowship of the luminous in heavenly Jerusalem.
Transfiguration in eternity is not going to be only for the body but also for the spirit. And so we will be released from the defile of the body and spirit. Transfiguration of the spirit means to be crowned with righteousness, so fault and sin would not have any authority over man any more.
This transfiguration is our return to God's image.
Adam and Eve were created to God's image in purity, righteousness and simplicity. But the transfiguration in eternity will take a more sublime way than the nature of Adam and Eve. Humans will be released from the materialism of the body and become spiritual and closer to God's image as on the Mount of Tabor.
Would we prepare ourselves now to become worthy of this transfiguration, by acting according to the spirit. So we become worthy of having spiritual bodies in eternity, like God's angels in heaven.
The Feast of the Transfiguration calls us to the spiritual life.
167. RESPECTING OTHERS
Respect others and others will respect you.
Respect others for their humanity, whatever the age, position or social status, just for being humans like you.
Respecting the old is a matter that all people practically practise. They feel it is a duty and obligation neglected only by the rebellious.
As for respecting the young, it is a matter urged by nobility.
When do you feel spiritually obliged to respect your son, your subordinates at work, your servant and those who are lower than your cultural or economic level?
Your respect to people makes you gain their love and you don't lose your reverence.
Respecting people has two sides: one is negative and the other is positive.
As for the negative side, it is by avoiding insulting words and sarcasm. It is also refraining from using cruel words or behaviour that could hurt feelings.
The positive side is making the other person feel the love and respect that is in your heart towards them. It is also by making him feel how much he means to you and that you hold him higher than what he thinks, due to humility.
The Lord Jesus Christ said about the negative side in respecting others, "And whoever says to his brother 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:22).
As for the positive side, the Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends." (John 15:15). "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5:14). "You are the salt of the earth." (Matt. 5:13). "Whoever honours you, honours Me." (Luke 10:16).
It is a great shame to say, that some consider using expressions of respect between intimate friends or relatives as an artificiality that should be overcome!
In fact, expressions of respect don't ever stop feelings of love and intimacy. On the contrary, they increase love between people, make the relationship stronger and stop fraction.
It is advisable that mutual respect should be the most outstanding aspect among those who are married. It does not only link hearts, but also sets a good example for the children, teaching them how to be polite in words and in action.
168. HOW MANY ARE OUR TEACHERS?
The one who has the spirit of discipleship and likes learning and gaining a word of benefit would in no way be able to count the number of his teachers, or in other words the sources of his knowledge.
We do not mean by that, those within the family circle as parents and relatives. Or teachers at schools and universities which are many. We don't even mean those in the Church circle such as a confession father, spiritual father, clergy, church servants and all preachers or teachers of the theological college, if one had the chance to deal with them.
For each person there is a countless number of people that we learn from, about all aspects of life. It could be intentional or unintentional, whether we realise it or not.
Would anyone deny that many have affected him by their life- style, ideals, principles and behaviour, without intentionally trying to teach him. They left a permanent mark on himself and provided him with models of life that became printed on his mind?
Would you be able to count those whose lives were a beneficial lesson to you? It could be either their style of speech, their way of treating others or how they solve problems.
Would anyone deny learning from others' mistakes as well as others' ideals? Their mistakes and their outcome became loud bells, cautioning, warning and frightening him, giving him an unforgettable lesson!
As one learns from others' mistakes, no doubt he also learns from his own mistakes and from what he receives in his life of punishments, words of rebuke or words of reproach. One even learns from words of sarcasm, criticism or insult. That is, if he wants to learn.
Social relationships, with all their results are also lessons. How many times did you learn a lesson from your dealings in life? How many advices or comments have you received from a friend or a passer by? How many lessons have you learned from those who deceived, exploited or fought you? How many lessons have you learned from those who helped you without making you aware of their help, or those who put up with you without complaining?
How many benefits have you gained, by passing by a discussion between two?
Then how many would be our teachers from the friends and enemies, alive or dead, righteous or evil, right or wrong?
There are other lessons one learns from his readings and they are many. That could be either from books, newspaper, magazines or other types of media. There are lessons from stories, plays and even jokes and comedies. Many of these have a lesson deep within.
Events are also teachers as we learn lessons from them.
How many are the lessons that people learned from death, wars, catastrophes, fraction and their outcome or from all events that God allows?
The news that we hear or read everyday has a lesson if dealing with life.
We even learn lessons from animals, birds and insects.
We learn from the ant how to be active, from the bee how to be organised, from the dog loyalty, bravery from the lion, intelligence from the serpent, patience from the fox and fasting from the camel.
Sources of knowledge are everywhere. But who is the one who wants to learn?
The world and life are large schools full of lessons.
169. SPARE TIME
The one who knows the value of time would use it for his benefit. This person would never have spare time, because his time will never be enough for the responsibilities that he has.
The one with spare time must have empty space in his life that has not been filled yet. Having emptiness in life, in aim or in ambition is really a sad matter!
Therefore, those with great endeavours never have spare time.
Those with ambitions in life, either spiritual or academic or even materialistic would have no spare time.
Spare time is the result of man's failure to know how to use his time. Once he does, this problem would not be there any more.
The problem of spare time could face the old or those who reached the retiring age and thought that their message in life has ended. Their life became without job and without aim!
Those people need to search for a job so their world does not become boring and a burden on them.
The spiritual concept of using the spare time is not to look for a way to pass time! It is looking for a way to benefit from time.
Time is a part of life and it is unlawful to kill it or waste it uselessly. That would mean that life is cheap in your eyes, as if your time has no value!!
Spare time is a problem that faces students during the summer vacation, as they finish their studies and find nothing to keep them busy as studying did before.
It is the duty of educators to organise activities to keep students busy during the summer holidays. It is also the duty of parents, the church and Sunday school.
That is why summer activities took an important scope in the mind of those in charge of the youth and the children. They put programmes for them to benefit from. By doing that, the young would not feel that the church has neglected them and left them to their own devices to pass time in any way, where they could cause themselves great harm.
The mind always works. It does not slow down or stop. If it does not think of good then it could think of evil or at least in trifles that would not build it. And so instead of facing emptiness of time, it would be facing emptiness in life and in thoughts!
The problem of spare time could face many ladies or house- wives who do not have children or their children are grown-up. Here, we repeat the question: How do we spend our spare time?
170. HOW DO WE SPEND OUR SPARE TIME?
1. There is no objection at all in having some enjoyment or relaxation. One can't continually be concentrating, serious or tense. God Himself gave days for rest and specified it to be "for man".
2. One of the useful things for spare time is reading for those who are good at it and enjoy it. The important point is choosing what is good for building one's personality, intellectually, spiritually and socially. Reading is a weapon with two edges, it could benefit and it could harm.
3. There is another method for enjoyment. It could be added to reading or replace it for those who can't read much.
Enjoyment could be obtained from spiritual gatherings or the cassette tapes that you listen to in your car while on the road, at home while you are relaxing, when the family is all gathered or when you meet some friends.
4. In your spare time, you may view some religious films or video tapes that are shown at some churches and religious societies. Some even buy such tapes to keep at home. Some methods of passing spare time: Service.
By serving you benefit and others benefit with you. What you have missed during the year could be done during the summer vacation such as visiting, meeting those you serve, preparing lessons and visual aid for the future plus many other activities.
: Group visits could be organised to look after the poor, orphanages, disabled, poor local districts plus sharing experiences among servants through visits, camps and conferences for the service.
: Another method of spending spare time: Memorising, either verses from the Bible, hymns, psalms and prayers, parts from the Psalmody or the regular church chants and those used for certain occasions.
: One of the beneficial ways for spare time is: periods of retreat. One may spend these periods either at monasteries or other places. But there has to be a spiritual programme to be followed so one would spiritually gain from it.
: Others may use their spare time in social obligations such as delayed visits or courteous duties.