Sept 2017 | Church Fathers

Tears and Joy | St. John Chrysostom

And how saith Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always?” (Phil 4:4) The joy he is speaking of is what springs from those tears. For as men’s joy for the world’s sake hath a sorrow in the same lot with it, even so godly tears produce perpetual and unfading joy. In this way the very harlot became more honorable than virgins when seized by this fire. That is, being thoroughly warmed by repentance, she was thenceforth carried out of herself by her longing desire toward Christ; loosing her hair, and drenching with her tears His holy feet, and wiping them with her own tresses, and exhausting the ointment. And all these were outward results, but those wrought in her mind were far more fervent than these; which things God Himself alone beheld. And therefore, every one, when he hears, rejoices with her and takes delight in her good works, and acquits her of every blame. But if we that are evil pass this judgment, consider what sentence she obtained from that God who is a lover of mankind; and how much, even before God’s gifts, her repentance caused her to reap in the way of blessing (Luke 7:36-50).

For much as after a violent burst of rain, there is a clear open sky; so likewise when tears are pouring down, a calm arises, and serenity, and the darkness that ensues on our sins quite disappears. And like as by water and the spirit, so by tears and confession are we cleansed the second time; unless we be acting thus for display and vanity: for as to a woman whose tears were of that sort, I should call her justly condemnable, more than if she decked herself out with lines and coloring. For I seek those tears which are shed not for display, but in compunction; those which trickle down secretly and in closets, and in sight of no man, softly and noiselessly; those which arise from a certain depth of mind, those shed in anguish and in sorrow, those which are for God alone; such as were Hannah’s, for “her lips moved,” it is said, “but her voice was not heard;” (1 Sam 1:13) however, her tears alone uttered a cry more clear than any trumpet. And because of this, God also opened her womb, and made the hard rock a fruitful field.

If thou also weep thus, thou art become a follower of thy Lord. Yea, for He also wept, both over Lazarus, and over the city; and touching Judas He was greatly troubled. And this indeed one may often see Him do, but nowhere laugh, nay, nor smile but a little; no one at least of the evangelists hath mentioned this. Therefore also with regard to Paul, that he wept, that he did so three years night and day, both he hath said of himself, and others say this of him; but that he laughed, neither hath he said himself anywhere, neither hath so much as one other of the saints, either concerning him, or any other like him; but this is said of Sarah only, when she is blamed, and of the son of Noah, when for a freeman he became a slave.

An excerpt from: St. John Chrysostom. Homilies on Matthew. Homily 6.8, taken from The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers. First Series. Volume 10.

Sept 2017 | Book Review

713y9ag1gklI Am N: Inspiring stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists | the Voice of the Martyrs

Huffington Post named Christianity as the most persecuted religion of 2016, with about 90,000 people having gained the crown of martyrdom last year and millions more not being able to freely practice their religion. Specifically, the Coptic Church can make a pretty good case as among the most persecuted churches in history. Yet, often in the craziness of our lives, we forget about our ancestors and our brothers and our sisters who have chosen death for the sake of their love for Christ. Christ our Love told us that “in this world [we] would face persecution” but sometimes it’s hard to identify with this persecution in the bubble of our lives. We hear it in the news, and amongst our Church folk, but how many of us hear it from a first hand account? I Am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists by the Voice of the Martyrs offers these first hand stories of people who have survived persecution and those relatives of those whom have given their lives for Christ.

This unique book offers us a glimpse of what it’s like to suffer horrendous persecution. The reader is brought into the world of a few remarkable characters: a young mother who witnesses the death of her husband and children; a jihadi in northern Nigeria who killed countless Christians before turning to Christ himself; a young child who is abused by his parents for being Christian; and many other first hand accounts. One particular story that touched me was of a woman who witnessed a soldier barrage into her house and kill her husband. The soldier left the house, leaving the now widowed woman unharmed only to return to her home as a Christian himself. Upon his return, she immediately served him drinks and fed him, showing him a love and forgiveness he had never before experienced.

I Am N is a book like no other I have read and I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to learn more about the plight of our brothers and sisters undergoing persecution all across the world . Our Lord and Savior warned us of persecution and trouble but we must remember that “neither death nor life…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” because to us “to live is Christ and to die is gain”.

Book Review by Bivin George

Sept 2017 | Extra Works

Carrying the Cross | Bishop Serapion

Our Church celebrates two feasts for the Cross. One is on Parmhat 10th (March 19th), which always falls during Great Lent. The other is on Tout 17th (September 27th), which falls at the end of our celebrations of the The Coptic New Year (The Feast of Nairouz), and this latter Feast of the Cross is celebrated for three days.

Our celebration of the Cross is actually a celebration of Christ’s victory over Satan and conquering both sin and death. Also, in celebrating the Feast of the Cross, we are reminded that we are called to carry the cross. As our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, we also must be crucified; we must have fellowship in the likeness of His death so we may enjoy the blessings of His resurrection, as St. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to carry the Cross. This calling is illustrated in the following sayings of our Lord:”If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:24). “And he who does not take his cross, and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:38). “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Lk. 14:27) “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” (Lk. 13:24). “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 13-14)

What Does It Mean to Carry the Cross?

  1. Carrying the cross is bearing suffering for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Carrying the Cross is partaking in Christ’s suffering. St. Peter considered that bearing suffering for the sake of Christ is the same as partaking in Christ’s sufferings; he wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet. 4:12) Those believers, who bear sufferings for the sake of Christ, partake of His sufferings. Therefore, St. Peter called them to rejoice and added, “If you are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Pet. 4:14) But St. Peter also warns the believers not to consider all sufferings as a partaking in Christ’s sufferings. The person, who bears suffering as a result of his own mistakes, is not considered to be suffering for the sake of Christ or partaking in His sufferings; he wrote, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Pet. 4:15-16)
  2. Carrying the Cross in the form of spiritual struggles and self-control. The person, who strives in his spiritual life to control his thoughts and senses, as well as struggle in the ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and prostrations (metanoias), is carrying the cross of spiritual struggle. The early Church, especially in the first few centuries, experienced persecutions and presented thousands of martyrs. Then the life of monasticism appeared and thousands raced to struggle in the ascetic life by living in the wilderness and deserted places, because of their great love for Christ our King. These ascetics, as they struggled in their spiritual life, presented a new and renewed form of martyrdom without shedding of blood.
  3. Struggling in the service and seeking the salvation of all souls is another form of carrying the Cross.
  4. Enduring with thanks the trials of illness and poverty is yet another form of carrying the Cross.

Carrying the Cross with Joy:

It is not sufficient that we carry the cross, but we must follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who carried the Cross with pleasure, as St. Paul wrote, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) St. Paul himself endured the cross in all its forms and wrote, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

We ask our Lord, Who joyfully carried the Cross for our sakes, to grant us the endurance to carry, with pleasure, the Cross behind Him that we may have fellowship with Him and can say with St. Paul, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Phil. 3:10)