Monday May 23, 2022 a.d.Pashons 15, 1738 a.m.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Blessed or happy?

People attribute the source of happiness to different things. The Romans, for example, thought it could be found in authority, wealth, glory, and grandiosity. They were sure that it couldn’t be found in being poor in spirit. The Jews also miscalculated and sought after their freedom of slavery from the Romans, believing that it was the road to happiness. They too couldn’t believe that happiness is being poor in spirit.

Let us see how others perceived blessings. Blessedness, from Abraham’s point of view, meant, a child, land, cattle... etc. The Old Testament promised materialistic blessings. In the book of Exodus, the Lord said, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exud3:8). The same in the book of Deuteronomy, “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving to you” (Deut28:8).

Christ our Lord tells us come to Me and I will open to you the doors of joy, happiness and blessing. As we know, the Gospel is the joyful message, the Good tidings, as the Angel told the Shepherds saying, “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Lk2:10).

Our Lord Jesus sat down on the mountain side to explain the spiritual importance of poorness in spirit. For those who seek it, blessings and happiness shall be their reward.

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Life of St. Anthony

St. Anthony the Great

Most of what is known about the life of Anthony comes from the Life of Anthony, written in Greek around 360 by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Sometime before 374, it was translated into Latin by Evagrius of Antioch. The Latin translation helped to spread the concept of monasticism, particularly in Western Europe.

His Early Life

This righteous man was born in the year 251 A.D. in the city of Qimn El-Arouse, Egypt to wealthy landowner Christian parents who loved the church and the poor. They raised him up in fear of the Lord. When he was twenty years old, his parents departed, and he had to take care of his little sister.

Once, he entered the church and heard the words of the Lord Christ in the Gospel, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21) He returned to his house, decided to fulfill this commandment and considered it directed to him personally. He gave his wealth to the poor and needy, reserving a little however for his sister's sake. And again as he went into the church, hearing the Lord say in the Gospel, “be not anxious for the morrow,” he could stay no longer, but went out and gave those things also to the poor. Having committed his sister to known and faithful virgins to be brought up, he henceforth devoted himself outside his house to discipline, taking heed to himself and training himself with patience.

At that time, monasticism had not yet been established. All those who wanted to live a solitary life went and lived on the outskirts of the city. This was what St. Anthony did as he dwelt alone, worshiping and living an ascetic life.

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Life of St. Mary

St. Mary & Christ - Coptic Icon

Her Pious Parents

Joachim and Hannah, his wife, were both pious from the house of David (Luke 1:27) of the tribe of Judah. Both were regularly worshiping, and well advanced in years with no child. Archangel Gabriel appeared in a dream to Joachim, announcing that his wife will have a child who will please his heart. Hannah believed this vision when she heard it, and this vision was fulfilled by the birth of St. Mary. As a devoted virgin, she entered the temple at the age of three to live the life of ministry, devotion and worship among the other devotees at the women’s court. She lost her parents before leaving the temple at the age of 14 when the Lord chose her to be the mother of the Word incarnate. She was betrothed to St. Joseph, since it was not allowed to stay at the temple after this age.

The Lord blessed them with another daughter afterwards, and they called her Mary, like her sister who became a devotee for the temple. This Mary became the wife of Clopas or Alphaeus (John 19:25). She is also the mother of James, Joses, Judas, Simon and their sisters (Mark 6:1-3) who were called the brothers of Jesus. James and his brother Judas (Judas1:1), whose surname is Labbaeus or Thaddaeus (Luke 6:13-16; Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:13) were among Jesus’ disciples.

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He Appeared to Peter

Denial and repentance

The Lord who knows the weakness of mankind knew that Peter, His enthusiastic and zealous disciple, would betray Him three times within a few minutes in front of a servant girl with other servants, and not in front of dangerous authorities. Thus, He warned him saying, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Lk 22:31,32). Peter, being self-confident much more than in his weakness, responded saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death” (Lk 22:33). He was confident in himself, in his love to God, in his steadfastness, and that he was the most steadfast among all the disciples. Therefore, he argued with the Lord when He said, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times”. But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”… and they all said likewise (Mk 14:30,31; Matt 26:34,35).

Maybe Peter thought that denying Christ is impossible for him, or may be, through humility, he may think that he could fall in other sins - but not this one, he did not believe that he could reach this level. Who could think that this great saint could deny Him? He who was praised by the Lord when he declared the divinity of Christ by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:17-19); received the authority of binding and loosing sin as one of the twelve (Matt 18:18); was considered as one of the pillars of the church (Gal 2:9); who was full of zeal and enthusiasm, who cut the ear of the high priest’s servant to defend Christ a while ago (Jn 18:10)… Could he deny Christ?! If this saint denied, shouldn’t we humble ourselves?! Shouldn’t we feel that we are not stronger than those who fell and be watchful? If there were times we didn’t fall it was because God was and is always supporting us, so we should realize that it wasn’t because of our personal power, capabilities and resistance. Let us say with the Psalmist. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side… then they would have swallowed us alive… Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth” (Ps 124:1,2,6).

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On Fasting

His Holiness Pope Kyrillos the 6th wrote to one of his spiritual sons saying:

Because it is a fact of life that a man will go through different temptations and spiritual wars, God arranged Fasting to deal with temptation and spiritual wars. As God commanded his people in the Old Testament to fast, He also commanded us in the New Testament to fast as the Lord said, “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He was hungry” (Matt. 4:2) The faithful is a soldier in the spiritual wars, our weapon, we the Christians is prayer and fasting.

As a horse got a bridle, the body also has to overcome its lusts and pleasures. This is what the apostle says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if the Spirit leads you, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal. 5:16-24)

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