Wisdom of the Oriental Orthodox Fathers

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Apa Longinus (5th-6th Century):

Abba Longinus experienced great compunction in his prayer and psalmody, and his disciple said to him one day: "Abba, is it a canon of the spiritual life for the monk to weep while saying his Office?" And the old man said to him: "Yes, my son, It is the law required by God. God did not in fact make man for tears but for joy and happiness, just like the angels. But since he fell into sin, man needs tears. Where there is no sin there is no need to weep".
 
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St Sargis Shnorhali (11th-12th Century):

Disease came forth as a result of sin. Thus, when a disease is healed through the prayers of worthy men, the sins which caused the disease are annihilated also.
 
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The late Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Ignatios Ephrem Barsaum (19th-20th Century):

Let your prayer be based on seeking God’s good pleasure, His glory, the extension of His Kingdom and all other graces that are in harmony with the Divine Will. However, if the object of your prayer is to realize worldly expectations or empty pleasures, it will only bring disappointment.
 
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St Severus of Antioch (6th century):

What logic is it, tell me, that rational man who sinned of his own accord should…be raised to incorruption, while creation which is inanimate and without perception, which for his sake was made subject to vanity, should be delivered to final destruction, and not partake of the incorruptibility and the glory of those for whose sake it was made subject to corruption in the first place?
 
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St Apa Besa the Archimandrite (late 5th century):

If we despise our brother, we despise God who made us, since man was made in the image of God.
 

Amdetsion

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Bitsue Abuna Abrham Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in New York and North, East and west United States (October 28, 2007 21st Century at Holy Trinity EOTC Diocesan Headquarters Bronx, NY):

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church can teach in all three languages English, Geez and Amharic. The differences in the languages do not separate us but binds us. This is not a distraction for us but a purpose.
 

Sophia

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  "It is not spiritual wisdom to try to conquer the enemy with evil than with virtue.  If you depend on the God of Truth and go out with a truthful heart, God will accomplish things for you ".

"Avoid arrogance, quarrel and pride while dealing in Church matters; instead, let your humility shine before others.  Those who place their trust in God, and satisfy the people are blessed ".


Mor Gregorios Geevarghese - (St. Gregory of Parumala)



May the grace and peace of our Lord Christ Jesus be with you!

Sophia
 
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Mar Gregorios Bar Hebraeus (+13th century):

And by experience diligent people know that the intellect [at times of prayer], though in the beginning it attains concentration with difficulty, can easily be brought to concentration and be collected in the store-house of the heart after a long period of time, after it has received solid training. This is especially so when it receives a small part of the sweetness of prayer, for then it climbs higher than anything on earth and in heaven and hurries simply to wonder at its Lord and to converse with Him.
 
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Abouna Athanasius Iskander (21st century):

Sometimes the devil, in order to confirm one in their delusion, will inspire a false sense of warmth in the heart...He simply instructs his demons not to disturb or tempt the wrongdoer in order that they may be deceived into thinking that they are doing the right thing. Here is an actual example of how he does so: a long time ago I met two young people who were living together in sin. They would tell me, "Abouna, we both pray the hourly prayers together, and we read the Scriptures together; how can our living together be wrong?!"

There is an old song with the lyric: "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right." Everytime I hear this song I think to myself, "the devil himself must have written this song!"
 
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St Severus Ibn Al-Muqaffa, Bishop of Al-Ashmunein (9th century):

The reason for [the] existence [of sorrow] is that although the human being who has been made to dwell in the world of generation and decay for the most part inclines towards that which conforms with the sensual part of his being, always preferring the total attainment of his desires and the fulfilment of all his wishes, Wisdom decrees that he should not have his own way in regard to what he prefers and chooses since that would not be to his advantage or profit and would cause him harm and injury. Wisdom always brings about what is required by providence and dispensation and engenders what is more salutary and beneficial. But the wretched man is grieved, sad, dejected, and sorrowful if he fails to attain everything for which he has a predilection, desire or preference. Thus he is the one who brings this pain upon his own soul, and infects it with this disease.
 
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St Stephen, Bishop of Heracleopolis Magna (6th century):

As the birds that fly aloft, when they look down on the earth and see on a green patch their fellows of the same species as themselves, slacken their flight and come down and alight by them, so do the angels, when they see those who have chosen for themselves purity in temptation, come quickly and help their fellows.
 
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H.H. Pope Shenouda II (21st century):

There are matters which cannot be judged today, but can only be judged tomorrow. For today, such matters may be bound up with various feelings, emotions and considerations, which tomorrow they will be quite free of so as to enable one to be better able to remember the Truth as it was...

That is why history is not usually written in its own lifetime. Historians usually write after a time, when scholars attempt to strip it of all influence of time and place, and investigate its facts from different sources according to their different standpoints. All that is the work of tomorrow...

Happy is the person whom Tomorrow bears witness for him and not against him, and whom Tomorrow holds in good regard upon which all who are uninfluenced by place, time and circumstances agree.

Happy is he who works for his tomorrow from now onwards, not just for the sake of having a good reputation in the eyes of the people, but principally for the sake of the judgement of his conscience and the judgement of God.
 
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St Yusab, Bishop of Fuah (18th century):

Do no fast with bread and salt whilst you eat the flesh of your brethren through judgment and slander.
 
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Although this reads like a typical entry from the AP, it is in fact a modern day (though I couldn't pinpoint when exactly the incident occured, but certainly within the last century) anecdote orally transmitted from within the Coptic Church (just as the entries from the AP once were!) and which concerns the monastic tradition of Scetis (again, just as with the entries from the AP!)--although I am not sure which of the three monasteries in Scetis it relates to:

During the Nativity Fast, it was the custom of the monks of the desert of Shiheet to leave the bread exposed for fifteen days before eating it, by which time the bread would be almost rock hard. A certain Abba had a sore tooth and decided to pour water on his portion of bread before eating. When an Old Man saw this he rang the bell of the monastery and cried out saying, "Brethren, the desert of Scetis is in danger of being corrupt for the monks are having soup with their bread now!"
 
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Today I had someone I know offline ask me about the moral of the above spiritual anecdote, so I thought i'd share my response here for those who are wondering the same thing. The anecdote was related to us by a priest within the context of a discussion on those who go out of their way to try and compensate, in a sense, for the strictness of the fast diet. For example, there are many who regularly use available substitutes for non-fast foods which taste very much alike, and at times, even better, than the original non-fast foods. Others simply go out of their way to cook up meals which deliver roughly the same, and possibly even better, taste and energy than non-fast meals. In a nutshell, the anecdote is just a lightly humorous reminder that the restrictions of the fast are there for a reason--a reason we undermine when we practically try to bypass those restrictions.

 
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Archdeacon Habib Guirgus (early 20th century):

Beware of vainglory, O beloved, for it is the evidence of boasting, and the imprint of pride! Beware, lest you be leading the right path in your virtues only to have vainglory come as a thief to rob you of all the fruits of your efforts. Beware lest it cause you to sink, just like a man who fills his ship with precious goods, only to find a small hole in the hull, threatening the ship's safety and dooming it to sink and vanish with all the precious goods onboard!
 
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Abba Abd El-Messih the Ethiopian (20th century):

Simplicity without wisdom is stupidity; wisdom without simplicity is satanic.
 
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St Sophronius the Hermit (10th century):

God is Love because He is Trinity; or is He Trinity because He is Love? Love and Trinity are one and the same. In the Godhead there is the spring of love, the Father; the revelation of love, the Son; the giving and the communion of love, the Holy Spirit.
 

Salpy

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St. Gregory of Nareg (10th century,) from prayer 72 of his book of Lamentations:



A

Now to you, monastic brothers,
communities of disciples,
you who, bared-handed, have enlisted
as the Lord’s soldiers, in expectation
and hope of infinite good gifts,
for you I set this table with
my burnt sacrifice of words.

Accept this testament of confession
for the edification and salvation of your souls.
Know through it the frailty of the body.
Remember the warning words of the prophet
and the apostle: “No flesh should exult
before God.” And, “No one,
not a single person, is just.”1
Do not forget the word of the Lord:
“Even when you have done the things commanded,
admit, we are useless servants.”2
Do not permit yourselves to become the prey
of the Deceiver. Take heed from the scriptures.
“The chosen are also Devil’s food.”3
For even I, who nourish you with these meager fruits,
willingly blaming myself
with myriad accounts of all the incurable sins,
from our first forefather through the end
of his generations in all eternity,
I charge myself with all these, voluntarily,
taking the debt of all your wrongdoing upon me.4

B

I heard an innocent person once speak
in a most unfitting manner to the One
before whom no earthly being can be justified,5
and it was not pleasing as he boasted,
“I have never committed adultery
or fornication or tasted any other mortal pleasures
of this world.” Saying this is no less impious
than those deeds. May God forgive him,
for even if what he said were true
by bragging he shows he has not progressed
as far as he has fallen.
Repeating Zechariah’s words to the people of Israel:
“Praise the Lord that we are great,”6
echoing the voice of the Pharisee who exalted himself.7

C

But since I am condemned before the all-knowing God,8
who has placed the unseen passions of the mind
onto the scale of justice, and seeks to judge me
by these in the most just way, I shall not
pretend before the all-seeing,
deceive the one who scrutinizes everything,
lie to the one who counts faults when conceived, not
      when committed,
use trickery to favorably impress the Great One,
mask my unruly debauchery with the appearance of
      a good person,
take on airs of self-discipline while being
      forever weak,
dress in other’s costumes,
bask in other’s splendor,
put on finery to cover the ugliness of my body.
No one is so sinful as I,
so unruly, so impious,
so unjust, so evil,
so feeble, so misguided,
so foolish, so crafty,
so mired, so embarrassed, so blameworthy.
I alone, and no one else,
I in all, and all in me,
not the pagans, for they did not know,
not the Jews, for they were blind,
not the ignorant, for they were confused and
lacking wisdom.

D

I was dubbed, “Master,” which testifies against me.9
I was called, “Teacher, teacher,”
detracting from the praise of God.
I was said to be good because of my miserable plight.10
I was considered a saint by men,
though I am unclean before God.
I was proclaimed just, though by all accounts
I am ungodly.
I reveled in the praise of men,
thus becoming a mockery before the tribunal of Christ.
I was called, “Awake” at the baptismal font,11
but I slumber in the sleep of mortality.
On the day of salvation I was named “Vigilant,”
but I closed my eyes to vigilance.
So here are judgment and blame,
new reprimands and old sentences,
shame to my face and turmoil to my soul,
pleas about seemingly small things and very
grave matters.



Translated by Thomas Samuelian

http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/book.php?id=73&parent_id=73

St. Gregory of Nareg was probably the greatest ascetic in the history of the Armenian Church, and yet he was so humble.  He was one of the holiest men, and yet he really thought he was the greatest sinner.  May God have mercy on us all.
 
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The Late Bishop Gregorius (+1919-2001):

For mankind to get in touch with the power of God that elevates him spiritually, he has to prepare a channel that allows him to freely receive, without obstacles, from the ultimate Source, God Himself. Silence, stillness, meditation and contemplation define the beginning stage of such a connection, yet these "skills" are not exclusive to Christianity, but are accessible to non-christians as well. It is the "enlightenment" spoken of by pagans, Sufis (muslims) or Hindus, and it is merely human in the sense that it stretches the limits of the human soul to its higher end.   

Yet the goal of Christian monasticism, and Christian ascesis in general, is not to achieve the natural, but to go beyond the natural, although it incorporates the natural means listed above as the first step towards the super-natural. This is done through partaking of the Holy Sacraments, the work of the Holy Spirit and the Grace of God  by which The Transcendent (God) bestows Divine gifts upon man that are ineffable to the recipient. Even the deeds and works of the mortification of the flesh acquire a new dimension and are transformed beyond human abilities. 

Therefore, the true Christian ascetic is elevated far beyond the pagan or Hindu monk, to a state in which such comparison even seems unnecessary. This is not possible through mere human struggle, although it cannot be set aside, but through the atonement of the blood of Christ and the talents of the Spirit. 


(The last two quotes and their translations have been made accessible thanks to the efforts of forum member Stavro)
 

Salpy

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Another from St. Gregory of Nareg:


For a small teardrop from the eye
can cause an entire evil platoon of the Tempter’s
army to shrink away,
like the squirming of centipedes or earthworms,
drowning in a puddle of oil or a drop of
some lethal potion.
And the faint groan of a sighing heart,
rising from the soul,
is like a warm southerly breeze, mixed with sun,
that melts the fiercest blizzard,
for like storms, they are easily born and when
opposed, quickly die.


http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/book.php?parent_id=8&type=2&type_1=none

 

ma2000

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I was wondering if there are any books in the Oriental Church like the Patericon, Everghetinos or Limonarion in the Eastern Church.
 

Salpy

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The big question is what exists in English.  For the Armenian Church, I am just aware of a couple of books in English collecting the lives of saints.  I'm not aware of anything specifically collecting sayings, like we are doing in this thread.  Another thing for the wish list...
 
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I am not aware of any within the Coptic Church since the Paradise of the Holy Fathers, which, unbeknowest to many, in fact originated as an OO collection and which in fact contains the sayings of many post-Chalcedon OO Fathers.

Another thing for the wish list...
Of the number of major projects--that are far beyond my league--that I have been struggling to do something about, one has been based on a similar, if not better, idea than the one in question. Forget the wish list, and put it on your prayer list. One earnest prayer can do miracles. I urge anyone who has benefited from this thread to spare just a moment to offer a heartfelt supplication to God on behalf of His Saints for the success of the projects I have had in mind. As I have just suggested, they require skills, knowledge and expertise that are far beyond what I can offer, and possibly can ever offer.
 
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Pope Kyrillos VI (20th Century):

The virtues are analogous to separate individual pearls in need of being bound together with string; love is the string that binds all virtues. Without love there is no cohesiveness or consistency amongst the various virtues.
 
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Since the Coptic Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany in a few days, I will share one patristic quote pertinent to the Orthodox understanding of the great mystery of Christ's Baptism each day till the day of the Feast:

Pope St Theodosius I of Alexandria (535-567):

[Abba Theodosius paraphrasing a segment of the dialogue between the Lord Christ and St John the Baptist:]

"O John, arise and baptize me in order that I may purify all creation; it is for this reason I came unto mankind." The blessed attendant answered and said: "I am thy servant, my Lord, what is this that thou sayest unto me? Dost not thou purify all creation, and shalt thou be baptized with your creation?" "Yea," said Jesus, "I will be baptized with water that my baptism shall be for all a well of water giving eternal life."
 
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Next patristic quote on the Orthodox understanding of Christ's baptism:

St Philoxenus of Mabug (6th century):

The return of all to God--the gathering up and the making anew, that everything might become in him and he in all: these mysteries commenced at Christ's baptism.
 
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H.H. Aram I (21st century):

It is by reaching out to the people that the Church acquires its real identity and fulfils its God-given vocation. The church is not a fortress to be protected, but a mission to be taken to the world.
 

falafel333

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When evening comes, collect your thoughts and ponder over the entire course of the day: observe God's providential care for you; consider the grace He has wrought in you throughout the whole span of the day; consider the rising of the moon, the joy of daylight, all the hours and moments, the divisions of time, the sight of different colours, the beautiful adornment of creation, the course of the sun, the growth of your own stature, how your own person has been protected; consider the blowing of the winds, the ripe and varied fruits, how the elements minister to your comfort, how you have been preserverd from accidents, and all the other activities of grace. When you have pondered on all this, wonder of God's love towards you will well up within you, and gratitude for His acts of grace will bubble up inside you.
(John the Solitary, Letter to Hesychius in The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, p. 94-95)
 
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St Stephen of Heracleopolis (7th century) speaking of St Apa Apollo (6th century) the Archimandrite of the Coptic Monastery of St Isaac:

"Many times," said Apa Apollo..."when I was about to offer up the holy, spiritual sacrifice, after I had broken that heavenly bread, I would see each portion with the face of the Saviour perfect in them all. And when someone holy would come forward to commune, I would see them [i.e. the portions] urging me to give to him. But when someone unworthy would come forward to partake of the holy mysteries, I would see them withdrawing, not wishing to be given to him. Therefore when one of this sort came forward once to receive, I was at a loss about this one. All the same I inclined towards charity. And when I had given to him the holy mystery, I saw at once one of the angels in attendance who took it from the man's hands and put it once more upon the table." You have seen with what sort of reverence and purity we shall be able to come forward to the setting forth of the holy mysteries....Since I have recalled [Apa Apollo's] vision, I shall not leave out on this matter. For the story is full of profit. It is grief yet full of joy. It is encouragment for new plants; it is assurance for those who stand firm.
 
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Archbishop Hovnan Derderian (21st century):

The Earth is before us as the creation of God's Hand in which humanity is given the burden of stewardship. In other words, it is mankind's responsibility to guard and maintain the rest of God's creation. In a way, this is a mission to which we are all called, failure of which would be considered sin.
 
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H.H. Pope Shenouda III (21st century):

We can see all things as beautiful with the vision of faith, love and simplicity. Do you think that the mother ape sees its child as being less beautiful than that of a gazelle? Not at all; but if it were transformed into a gazelle she would mourn over him.
 
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H.H. Pope Shenouda III (21st century):

I will remain silent, so that the Lord may speak. The Lord hears our silence.
 

Amdetsion

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To all who reads this blessed thread:

Please help to continue it as our good brother EkhristosAnesti who started this wonderfully beneficial thread will be away for a short while attending to a personal matter. I have benefited immensly from this thread and hope that it may continue.

God Bless.

Dcn Amde Tsion


---------------------------------------------------------------------------

St John Chrysostom

Humble yourself before the Lord to help you in your struggle against sin and He will answer. When we ask things of the Lord and strive for Holiness we can have assured faith in answered prayers.
 

Amdetsion

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Saint John Chrysostom

The Catholic Church is one body, and we are commanded in the holy Scriptures to maintain ‘the bond of unity and peace'.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The above written 600 years before the Roman Catholic Church was seperated form the Holy Orthodox Church. At time the world had only 'one' church. We refer to this church today as the Orthodox Church
 

Amdetsion

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Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

"If the first man formed out of the earth brought in universal death, shall not He who formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, being Himself the Life?"
 

Salpy

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St. Gregorios of Parumala (19th-20th centuries):

Prayer brings forth truth, religious faith, honesty and respect among the people.

http://jtsoftware.tripod.com/fparumala.htm
 
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Abouna Mikhail Ibrahim (+1975):

Sometimes the most profound and sublime of lessons can be learned from the simplest of acts and gestures:

Abouna Mikhail Ibrahim was a man of very little words. As far as words/sayings of wisdom are concerned, he, as with quite a few other contemporary Saints (e.g. Abouna Youstos El-Antony) was known for the persistence and consistency with which he resorted to a very simple one-liner. In Abouna Mikhail's case, that simple one-liner was, "let us pray." He seldom gave any advice whatsoever when confronted by others in regard to their problems. Having absolute trust that in the silence of prayer God would resolve any difficulty, he would deliver the almost automated response, "let us pray."

The Lord's positive response to Abouna's simple faith was clearly evident to all who dealt with him. H.H. Pope Shenouda III, being one personal witness amongst many of Abouna's holiness, thus had no hesitation in appointing him to the Clerical Council to assist with family difficulties, even though one would presume that only a clergy member with effective communication skills would be suitable for such a delicate position. 

On one occasion he sat in the presence of a Bishop, the head of the Council, and some priests to discuss a flaring dispute between a married couple which threatened to separate them.  Those who were present tiresomely discussed the issue with the couple, seeking by any and all means to find a suitable solution, but to no avail.  The presiding Bishop then asked Abouna Mikhail what his opinion on the matter was since he had remained silent throughout the entire ordeal. Abouna Mikhail delivered his stock response: "let us pray."  The Bishop responded, "we already prayed prior to this meeting as we always do", to which Abouna Mikhail "yes, but we did not pray for this specific problem." They all therefore accepted Abouna's suggestion and stood up to pray; the Bishop asked Abouna Mikhail to lead the prayer. Once they had completed prayer, the spirit of peace immediately filled the couple and all of the sudden, after what seemed to be a failed desparate last-minute attempt to solve their issues, they were found embracing eachother and without hesitation dropped their complaints. Amazed at what he saw before his eyes, one of those present looked to Abouna Mikhail and light-heartedly commented: "Abouna, why did you remain silent until now? Why didn't you just save all of us the headache and offer your suggestion before anyone opened their mouth?!"

I'm sure many of us pray in regard to the difficulties we face, and for the difficulties faced by others, but how many times do we postpone prayer until after we have sought to resolve it ourselves either through discussion, action, or even mere thought? How many times has our immediate response been, "let us pray"? I know I myself am a miserable failure in this regard; I sometimes tend to overthink things at first, and only think of praying once I begin to feel the burden such thoughts have on my mind. May the Grace of God give us the faith and wisdom of Abouna Mikhail, so that our immediate impulse may always be to pray before we even have a chance to think of a solution to a problem or advice to give to others. May Abouna's prayers and blessings be with us all, and glory be to God forever, Amen.
 
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Abouna Elia of St. Bishoy's Monastery, (Scetis) Wadi El-Natrun (21st century):

In Mary, Christ Jesus began his descent into our humanity, into our suffering, so it is also in her that we begin our ascent to his love. Our sufferings have become the place of his visitation ever since she accepted his coming into her troubled heart, into her womb. Our desert becomes a watered garden by his visit. There is, in the desert of our suffering, a secret fountain, the hidden spring of her prayer, just as in the desert of the Wadi Natroun, the ancient subterranean rivers of the Nile are still providing
water these thousands of years later.

A moral point to all of this is that we must accept the pattern of the great commute in our life. We must enjoy the feast of divine affirmation when it is presented, most especially in the Eucharist. On every occasion of grace and mercy, we must enjoy the blessing. But at the same time, we must be willing to be driven by the Spirit into the desert, into the work that we must do for others in compassion. We must go out into the desert of our own purification and sanctification. We must accept the eventualities
of Divine Providence which come to us with the same Spirit of affirmation who came over Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, the Spirit who likewise drove him into the desert where he was alone and abandoned, the Spirit who drove him even to the Cross. We do these things in union with Christ Jesus in the prayer of Mary, for it was by her prayer, her Fiat, that this process was initiated. God came to visit us to make this fountain of life flow into our desert.
 

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EkhristosAnesti said:
Abouna Elia of St. Bishoy's Monastery, (Scetis) Wadi El-Natrun (21st century):

In Mary, Christ Jesus began his descent into our humanity, into our suffering, so it is also in her that we begin our ascent to his love. Our sufferings have become the place of his visitation ever since she accepted his coming into her troubled heart, into her womb. Our desert becomes a watered garden by his visit. There is, in the desert of our suffering, a secret fountain, the hidden spring of her prayer, just as in the desert of the Wadi Natroun, the ancient subterranean rivers of the Nile are still providing
water these thousands of years later.

A moral point to all of this is that we must accept the pattern of the great commute in our life. We must enjoy the feast of divine affirmation when it is presented, most especially in the Eucharist. On every occasion of grace and mercy, we must enjoy the blessing. But at the same time, we must be willing to be driven by the Spirit into the desert, into the work that we must do for others in compassion. We must go out into the desert of our own purification and sanctification. We must accept the eventualities
of Divine Providence which come to us with the same Spirit of affirmation who came over Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, the Spirit who likewise drove him into the desert where he was alone and abandoned, the Spirit who drove him even to the Cross. We do these things in union with Christ Jesus in the prayer of Mary, for it was by her prayer, her Fiat, that this process was initiated. God came to visit us to make this fountain of life flow into our desert.
Dear EA,

I had the great blessing of meeting and spending some time with Fr. Elia during my 40 days at St. Bishoy's monastery...I cannot describe to you his humility and simplicity, and yet his deep interior life which easily manifests itself in his words. He aslo gave me some very good advice on priesthood.

God bless.

Kyrillos
 
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