Without You I am a stranger to everything – The Spiritual Elder

Coptic monk praying in original cave of St. Anthony.

O You who wept and shed tears of sorrow over Lazarus, receive my bitter tears; may my passions be allayed by Your Passion; may my wounds be healed by Your wounds, my blood be blended with Your Blood, and the lifegiving fragrance of Your Holy Body be mingled with my body. May the bitter drink that was given to You by your enemies soothe my soul, which has been made to drink wormwood by the evil one. May Your Body, which was stretched out on the tree, expand my mind to You, which has been shrunk by the demons. May Your head bent on the cross lift up my head, which has been buffeted by impure men. May Your pure hands, which were transfixed with nails by unbelievers, draw me up to You from the abyss of evil, as your mouth has promised. May Your face, which has received the shameful spitting of accursed men, cleanse my face, which has become odious through it’s sins. May Your soul, with you did commit to the Your Father on the cross, bring me to You by Your grace.

I have no tears of supplication, Lord; I have no contrite heart for seeking You; I have not the repentance and compunction that turns sons back to their inheritance; my intellect is darkened through the things of this world and has not the strength to lift its gaze towards You with moaning; my heart has grown cold through a multitude of evils and cannot become warm through tears of love. O Christ, treasure of all goodly things, grant me perfect repentance and an aching heart that comes out in love to seek You. Without You I am a stranger to everything; grant me, O Good One, Your Grace. May the Father who begot You, from his bosom where You were concealed from eternity, renew in me the features of Your likeness.

Though I have forsaken You, do not forsake me; though I have abandoned You and gone away from You, come out to seek me and restore me to Your fold; add me to the dear lambs of Your flock, and feed me with them in the pasture of Your Holy Mysteries, whose source is a pure heart wherein is seen the light of your revelations; that is the repose of the toilers who labour to that end through sufferings and torment of every kind. Our Saviour, may we all be counted worthy of it through Your gracious loving-kindness.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 4]

Temptation is for today, worry not for tomorrow – Abba Poemen

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A brother asked Abba Poemen, saying, “For what purpose were spoken the words, ‘Take no thought for the morrow?’ (Mat 6:34) The old man said unto him, “For the man who is under temptation, and is in affliction; for it is not right that such a man should take thought for the morrow, or should say, ‘How long shall I have to endure this temptation’, but he should think upon patient endurance, saying: ‘It is today, and the temptation will not remain thus for a long time.'”

[Abba Poemen, Apophthegmata Patrum]

Anger and slander – The Spiritual Elder

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You who desire for yourself purity whereby the Lord of all may be seen, do not slander nor listen to words of calumny concerning your brethren. If a quarrel is going on near you or if you hear angry words, stop up your words and flee, lest your soul perish. The soul of an irascible man is devoid of the mysteries of God, but any one who is innocent and peaceable is a fount of the mysteries of the New World. Indeed Heaven is already inside you if you are pure, and there you see angels rejoicing and their Lord with them and within them.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 3]

Abase yourself so that you never fall – Abba Poemen

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Abba Poemen used to say, “As the earth falls not, because it is fixed from below, even so he who abases himself shall never fall.”

[Abba Poemen, Apophthegmata Patrum]

Pure prayer – Mar Isaac the Syrian

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Prayer is a beseeching for, a caring for, a longing for something, either a liberation from the evil things here or [in the world] to come, or a desire for promised things, or a demand for something by which man wishes to be brought nearer to God. In these emotions are included all habits of prayer. But its being pure or not depends upon the following circumstances. 

If, when the spirit is prepared to offer one of the emotions we have enumerated, any foreign deliberation or distraction mingles itself with it, prayer is called non-pure, because it has brought upon the altar of the Lord an animal which it is not allowed [to offer], the altar which is an upright, intelligible heart. 

But when the spirit gives itself with longing to one of these emotions, in accordance to the necessity of the case, at the time of beseeching, and when on account of its alacrity the gaze of the emotion is directed by the eye of faith beyond the curtain of the heart, the entrances of the soul are closed thereby against the foreign deliberations which are called strangers, whom the law does not allow to enter the tabernacle. This is called the accepted offering of the heart and pure prayer. Its boundaries are to this point. What lies beyond cannot be called prayer.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, XXII]

Love to discipline yourself – Apophthegmata Patrum

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A brother asked an old man a question, saying, “What shall I do?” And the old man said unto him, “Go and learn to love putting restraint upon yourself in everything.” 

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

God is here, God is everywhere – Abba Bessarion

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[On this day, 25th Mesra, the Coptic Church commemorate the great ascetic father St. Bessarion, his blessings be with us.]

Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion said, ‘One day when we were walking beside the sea I was thirsty and I said to Abba Bessarion, “Father, I am very thirsty.” He said a prayer and said to me, “Drink some of the sea water.” The water proved sweet when I drank some. I even poured some into a leather bottle for fear of being thirsty later on. Seeing this, the old man asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, “Forgive me, it is for fear of being thirsty later on.” Then the old man said, “God is here, God is everywhere.” ‘

[Abba Bessarion, Apophthegmata Patrum]

Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you – H.H. Pope Shenouda III

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Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. (Song of Songs 1:3)

Therefore virgins love you. Spiritual life depends solely on love. Many people claim that faith, righteousness or godliness are the basis of a sound spiritual life. That is untrue. A sound spiritual life is based wholly on love. There is no other way, God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (1 Jn 4:16). Spiritual life resolves around this verse, Therefore the virgins love you. No matter how hard one tries to expound or illustrate the many different aspects of righteousness or sanctity as they occur in the Bible, the few words, the virgins love you, are more powerful and poignant. 

They explain these aspects better because the verse here depicts the human soul as a virgin soul, hardly concerned with the material world, neglectful of the love of matter, oblivious of the self and completely unattached to and unmindful of the desires of the flesh. The soul’s main objective and ultimate desire is the love of God. So if you love the Lord, then you are a believer and you are on the right track. If you do not, then you still do not know Him, nor have you started your journey with Him. Love is the key. Even if you try your hardest to keep the commandments, obey the Lord, and give (your) body to be (1 Cor 13:3), without love, it profits you nothing. If you pray day and night without love, it leads you nowhere.

If you fast all the fasts of the year and you do not have love, it avails you nothing. If you read the Holy Gospel and even memorise it without love, it is of no use. If you preach day and night and you do not have love, you have, become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal, (1 Cor 13:1). The pivotal point of a sound spiritual life lies in the love of virgins. Your love for the Lord indicates that you are well on your way to the Lord’s path. If, however, you do not love the Lord, then you are still outside and away, in a far country (Luke 15:13).

God seeks love; He yearns for that love that springs from the hearts of virgins. It is inconceivable to try to win the Lord’s love when you are not completely devoted to His love. It is unthinkable to mix His love with the love of the world. This simply indicates that your soul is not a virgin. You are not consecrated and dedicated to Him. Rather, you are like the Samaritan woman who was married to five husbands: the world, the devil, carnal lusts, the desires of the flesh, the ego… etc. What makes the soul a virgin is the capacity to love the Lord from all the heart.

Two questions come to mind in this respect. The first question is, Do you have that “virgin” soul? And the second is, Do you love the Lord? The two questions are closely related; they are two faces of the same coin: if you love the Lord, you will have a virgin, pure and chaste soul. Conversely, if you have a pure, chaste and virgin soul, you will naturally love the Lord.  

[H.H. Pope Shenouda III of thrice-blessed memory, Have You Seen the One I Love?]

 

Those who are with us are many – Abba Moses the Black and Abba Isidore

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On one occasion Abba Moses of Patara was engaged in a war against fornication, and he could not endure being in his cell, and he went and informed Abba Isidore of it; and the old man entreated him to return to his cell, but he would not agree. And having said, “Father I cannot bear it,” the old man took him up to the roof of his cell and said unto him, “Look to the west,” and when he looked he saw multitudes of devils with troubled and terrified aspects and they showed themselves in the forms of phantoms with fighting attitudes. Abba Isidore said to him, “Look to the east,” and when he looked he saw innumerable holy angels standing there, and they were in a state of great glory.

Then Abba Isidore said unto him, “Behold those who are in the west are those who are fighting with the holy ones; and those whom you have seen in the east are those who are sent by God to the help of the saints, for those who are with us are many.” And having seen these, Abba Moses took courage and returned to his cell without fear.

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Flee from love which comes from corrupt things – Apophthegmata Patrum

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An old man used to say, “Flee from that love which subsists by means of the things which are corrupt, for with them a man also passes away and is destroyed.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]