Our spiritual Father Hegumen Matthew the Poor on the topic of repentance and holiness. This homily was about the Gospel of the second Sunday of the Month of Tobe and was given in the church of the 49 Elders of Shiheet in the Monastery of St. Macarius the Great in the year 1978.
In the Arabian Peninsula there is a a place called which is a part of Yemen. This is where Sheba is. This is Sheba, the queen of the south. She is a woman that is full of herself, but one day she heard that there is a man in a country called Israel, a man of God, who speaks divine wisdom. So, she said to herself, “I deeply desire to listen to spiritual things. I’m tired of the banquets, the ornate crowns, houses, and palaces.” So, she rode a camel and traveled, probably for not anything less than a month to get to Jerusalem. When she arrived there, she met Solomon and asked him questions that were in her heart about God, about life in the world, and how one can be pleasing and acceptable to God. He told her a lot of good words and she repented. Christ is telling us today that this queen of the south will come in the last day and judge each one of us. Oh really? Why? She is a queen that has done nothing other than ride a camel and travel to hear the wisdom of Solomon! Yes, because I came to you on Earth – Christ came – with Heavenly wisdom, with exceedingly simple, kind words.
The wisdom of Christ is not at all like philosophy, the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of Christ is very simple words like, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s a short phrase. You can meditate on it for a lifetime and many have spent time writing books about it, teaching it in theology courses, and getting a DD degree – Doctor of Divinity – in it, and it is composed of five words. But how do you love your neighbor as yourself? This is the wisdom of Christ. It does not need the intellect, but a heart, courage, and boldness on the part of the person.
A woman came to me one time and said, “My daughter” – she is a woman of a very important family in Egypt of high social status. Her daughter came and was crying. She had never come to a monastery. She heard and came to the monastery. She said, “I would like to meet ….” I came to her and said, “Yes, what can I do for you?” Her eyes got really wide and were red. She asked, “Can I confess?” So, I said, “Sure, go ahead.” She said, “I have an only daughter who is not going down a good path. I fear God and she is my only hope in the world. She is my only daughter and walking down an awful path. I’m going to kill myself. The whole family will go down and the family name will be ruined.” I looked and said, “What do I do, Lord?” I felt in my heart that this was an atonement for sins. I don’t know if you know what this means or not. The girl coming out bad is an atonement for sins. So, I told the woman, “Can you repent?” She said, “I am speaking to you about my daughter.” I told her, “I am talking to you about yourself. Can you repent?” She said, “What do you mean?” I told her, “There is no conversation or dialogue. My words are simple and very few. Can you repent?” So she looked down to the ground and understood. And she wept. So, she told me, “Tell me how.” I told her, “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus?” She said, “I believe, but what do you mean by faith? Please explain this to me.” I told her, “Faith in Christ is something very big. To believe in Christ is amazing.” She told me, “Tell me what to do and I will do it. Just tell me how to believe in Christ.” I told her, “If you believe in Christ, you will be saved and your daughter will return to your bosom. I will describe to you how faith in Christ is. Faith in Christ is like me or you standing on the third floor. You are standing on the third floor and I am on the ground floor.
So, I look up at you and say, ’Throw yourself down.’” “Throw myself down? Impossible!” I told her, “Faith in Christ is to throw yourself down.” “Then, I cannot have faith in Christ.” I told her, “Change it from me standing there to Christ standing there and He is saying, ’Throw yourself down.’ Will you throw yourself down? Christ is standing there and His arms are open, ready to catch you. Will you throw yourself?” She gave me an intent look, thought for a long while on this, and got the sense of what I was saying. She said, “I will throw myself down.” I told her, “That is faith.”
Faith is that a person does not think. Since we have followed after Christ, there is no thinking, calculations, or intellect. There is no 2+2 equals what. 4? No, it can equal 6, 10, etc. This is following Christ. “How much money do you have in your pocket?” “It is not enough to get through the month. What will me and my children eat? Rocks? I don’t have money.” I tell him, “Do you believe in the Lord?” “Yes, I do.” “Go, and do not be afraid.” He goes and finds that the money was enough and there was a surplus. These are not mere words I am saying or a perspective, but living experiences that I have seen and those of many people that confessed to me their wondrous experiences with their faith in Christ.
Let us go back to this woman. She said, “I believe in Christ.” I told her, “If you go back to your house, close the door of your room, stop going out, read the Bible, and pray a lot. The girl will come back to you and abandon all that she has fallen into.” She said, “Are you sure about this?” I said, “Yes, with my life.” She was perplexed. How can a priest say this to her? “Okay, Abouna.” She went and took the Bible in her hands, and began a new life. Her daughter stared at her for she had never held a Bible. She was a woman that was into saloons, big parties, cinemas, and her daughter was like her. Where else did she get these habits from? But she went much further astray and went so deep into the wrong. So, her daughter looked, knocked on her mother’s door, and she would not open for a while. When her mother would open the door, she would find her eyes red. “What are you doing, Mom?” “Nothing, my daughter.” The girl would go back in afterwards and find her mother praying. She continued to spy on her mother for a day, two, three, five, the entire week.
The girl burst into tears and started crying. She ran into her mothers arms while weeping and saying, “I want to live with you, Mom, in the same manner that you are living. I want to repent and live with you.” She answered her, “I have nothing to do with you. Repent by yourself.” I told her that. I told her not to say anything to her at all. “Leave her to Christ whom she will follow and He will drag her along. But you will not be able to drag her along.” The girl, after she used to dress in short skirts, went and got a long dress. The girl’s mother is the one who told me. She kept looking through all her mother’s clothes until she found a dress that was well below the knees. She wore it, went to church, confessed, and took communion. Then, she came to me rejoicing. She said, “The miracle has happened, Father! The miracle has happened, Father!”
Yes, it can happen – and without any effort, rules, or anything. The mother repented and the daughter repented. If the father repents, all the children will repent. If the priest leads a good life, the entire congregation will live a life of repentance. The king repented – Nineveh. The king repented and the entire city repented, and the Lord forgave Nineveh, and Nineveh became a model for all generations.
Beloved, we have read the Bible. The words of the Bible are simple and easy. We can understand these words without sermons and homilies. The monks told me that there are people outside who tell others to go up and preach. Does the Bible need preaching or sermons? They said, “For the sake of Christ, so that the people can hear a word.” Is the Bible not a word? I do not want to give a sermon today and I do not give sermons.
I want to give you the Bible today. Can we read the Bible as I read it to you today? Did I say difficult words right now? Did I say anything philosophical? No, not at all! The words of Christ are very simple. He said, “An evil generation seeks a sign.” Anyone who seeks a sign is evil. Why seek a sign when Christ is present? Christ is the sign! He makes the dead man alive! He makes him alive! “Lazarus, come forth!” Who was He saying this to? Who was this story written in the Gospel for? Lazarus? The past generation? The generation that was 1,978 years ago? No, it is for us. Lazarus was raised for me and you.
When I first became a monk and went to the monastery, I said, “Listen, Lord. I am Lazarus. Can you raise me from my tomb? Lord, I am rotten and all I am asking you for is to raise me from my tomb.” I spent a long period of time – which I know by the hour, minute, and day – 28 days exactly. Lazarus was only 4 days. I spent 28 days with unceasing tears and praying, “Lord, I am Your new Lazarus. Raise me.” At the end of the 28 days, I felt an extraordinary power. He raised me like He raised a dead man from the tomb. He told them, “Loose him and let him go.” I found that I was loosed from the world, people, the universe, all thoughts, from everything. I became Lazarus raised from the dead. I can never forget this. It’s impossible! 28 days was the beginning of a life with God that cannot be forgotten. The first life with God.
When He said to Lazarus, “Arise!” was He telling Lazarus? Or to Mary and Martha? No, Lazarus has died. He is telling you. He is telling each one of you. You are Lazarus and He can raise you with one word if you like! Mary wept. She wept and told Him, “If You were here, my brother would not have died.” Really? I am here! Mary’s faith is good, but so small. “If you were here 3 days ago, he wouldn’t have died.” “But I am here! I can raise him.”
The Gospel wants us to make this transition and recorded this story for us. It was not written for the sake of just a mere story to be written in the Gospel. They told him, “Lazarus, the one You love is sick.” He said, “So what? Leave him.” “He will die!” “So what?” These words are for us, for me, for you. He left him to die so that He shows that He cannot only heal – for if He went, He would not have died since He would have healed him – but that He can raise from the dead. He does not only heal the sick, wounded soul. He does not only heal the soul of sin, but heals the person when he is in the depths of the sin of death. He raises him a new person.
In simple words, if a person goes astray and down a sinful path, but returns to Christ, he becomes like a newborn. After repentance and coming out of the bosom of Jesus, the tears that wash sins, and after the sinner hears from the mouth of the Lord Jesus, “Lazarus, come forth,” the person arises from the tomb of death as newborn from his mother’s womb or from the womb of the church, from baptism. If she was a virgin who lost everything, repented, and returns to Christ, she turns as a girl who is coming out of the baptismal font, a newborn, or as a pure virgin from her mother’s womb.
Christ raises from the dead. He does not heal sin or wounds, but raises from the dead. The One who raises from the dead does not raise him from the dead after an hour or two, or a day or two, but by the witness of his sister who says, “Lord, by this time there is a stench. Do not embarrass us! We will take away the stone and not be able to bear it. This our brother. His body has dissolved and rotted, and we will not bear it.” “Be quiet. Lazarus, come forth!” Is it possible?
I told the woman I was speaking to, “Jump from the third floor and Christ will carry you up in His arms.” We are not on the second or third floor, but in the bosom of the Lord and He is ready. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Believe me! It is not the third floor at all! I painted a horrifying picture of faith and really terrified this woman because I wanted to scare her. She feared and repented. But, I do not want to scare you today. It’s not even the second or first floor, but He is at the door. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
Whoever hears Me and opens the door, I will enter in to him. I will give him. I will dine with him and he with Me. This means that I will eat of the dish of his suffering, share with him in his sorrow. What else will He have when He dines with me? What do I have? He stands at the door and knocks. I will open the door and welcome Him in. What will I offer Him? I will offer Him the plate of my afflictions, my pain, my problems that I am unable to fix. He will dine with me, and I with Him. He will give me. You know what He gives. I will not jump from the second or third floor, but will open the door. Is it hard for us to open our hearts to Christ?
This I must conclude with because the Gospel concluded with it and has a purpose for doing so. After it spoke about Nineveh and all these things, it came back and said some very strange things. “The lamp of the body is the eye.” It’s a strange transition and could be a different transition for the one who does not read with attention. After He speaks about Nineveh and repentance, He says, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.”
Such wondrous words! These are words that are directed at all of us. The lamp of your body is your eye. The lamp that lights the entire body is the eye. “When your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.” I want this good eye. Who does not want a good eye? Like these brothers that are sitting here. They have asked me several times and I said, “God-wiiling I will tell you.” They told me, “Father, you have spoken to us about circumcising the eye. Won’t you keep your promise?” “When the time comes for it.” I was not at all aware at the time that the time for it is today. All the members of the body are circumcised by Christ Jesus. There is a circumcised heart, eye, and circumcised ears. Circumcised means that they have the sign of Christ. That is enough because explaining it is not easy.
We greatly desire the good eye because if the eye is good, the whole body will be full of light. If it is evil, the whole body will be full of darkness. Our complaint is that the body is full of darkness and that the eye is not good. We would like to have a good eye. It is connected to Nineveh, the verse, the prophet Jonah, the woman who said, “’Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!’ But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” Are you chasing after the stomach and this and that? Blessed are the open ears, the ears that are open to the Word, the circumcised ears. These are the ones that will hear the words of eternal life and the whole body will be illumined. The good eye, I want this good eye.
I was a youth and I could say that my eye was normal. One day, I found that it was not good. The eye erred and I was terrified. I cried to God. I was a youth who was walking in Alexandria on the beach and my eye sinned. I was very afraid and felt like something made my whole being wrong. I feared and returned to my room. I told Him, “Lord, I want to live for you. If I am going to live my life with an eye that looks here and there, then I am lost and there is no hope for me. Why not just take the short way since its all done and I am not living with You? Why struggle? I might as well go astray and not live with You, pray, go to church, or take communion. If my eye has the freedom to look here and there, then it is not good. I plead with You to grant me” – I did not know what a good eye was at the time. Then, I gained experience and it began to increase. I began to understand what the good eye is.
What is the good eye? The good eye, beloved, is the eye that does not desire. The eye that is content and blesses. It does not take and store inside. This is the good eye. Woe to the eye that is open to everything and takes it all in. You might ask me, “Do I walk with my eyes closed then?” No, the good eye is the one that is content with what belongs to it and what God has granted it from goodness and gifts. It is content with the internal gifts of Christ. This is the good eye. Nothing dirty ever enters into it.
The eye that is open without any discernment or control is the one that is not good. Filth consistently enters into it. The body is continually defiled and darkened. I want to go back and talk about how the eye can be good.
“’The Lord is my portion’, says my soul” (Lamentations 3:24). You might say, “Yes, because you are a monk. Are we all going to be monks like you? Do you want us to walk in the streets wearing a black tunic and hat? You are a monk.” Believe me, I see the world better than you see it. I honor all those in the world more than you honor them. I value all those in the world more than you value them. How? Look, beloved, the person who is satisfied and content with the Lord, is not deprived of the world. The one who takes Christ inside of him is not deprived of the world at all. This is a wrong interpretation and the one that prevails in the world. They think that the person who follows Christ is deprived of everything. So, I won’t follow Him. If I follow Him, listen to homilies, read the bible, etc. then I will deprive myself from going to the movies, staying out late, going to parties, etc. So, there. It’s hopeless. I might as well take monastic orders.
No, not at all! The truth is the exact opposite of this. I will tell you a small experience of mine and later apply it to this. The monk is not given in marriage and does not have children. So, there are many who believe that monks don’t like children. This isn’t at all true. The reality is that after we became monks, leaving behind wives and children, we found that this entire world is ours. I will ask you a question. You have small children that are really good kids. Your neighbor also has children like you, but they are a little better and smarter. His kids are very intelligent and successful, taking the top ranks. What would happen? Even though you have children and they are good and successful, but because your neighbor has children that are a little better and smarter, you cannot stand to see them.
When your eye falls on them, you turn it away. You hold within you so much jealousy and envy, finding it all unbearable, choked by the jealousy and envy. This is a small example of acquisition. When you have something, it possess you, not you possessing it. When a man has a field or garden and his neighbor has a field or garden next to him, his field is not growing well, but the one next to him is, oh my God! He passes by and looks at the field that is growing well, tears fill his eyes, and he is filled with hatred and bitterness. He looks at his own field and says, “Woe is me! Why, Lord?” He might even blaspheme. Why? Because when he bought the field, the field bought him. When he acquired the field, it swallowed him up.
Acquisition, beloved, the material acquisition of the world, possesses us and we do not possess it. The guy who has 1,000 pounds is always counting them to make sure his money is all there. In like manner, the one who has 1 million. The one who has 1,000 might be an employee who has 1,000 left over at the end of the month. You would think that he would be happy. No, not at all. He thinks to himself how he can make them double the amount. He works more in the evening, pushing himself hard even though his body is weak. He labors the extra hours, returning in a state of extreme exhaustion just acquire some extra money. What about the one who has a million? Really, would he go exert himself when he has 1 million? No, he is looking at the one who possesses 2 million. He spends day and night making calculations, looking at his accounts, looking at the bank, what is going in and out, and calls for his employees and assistants, and yells at a lot of people. Why is this man yelling at these people?
Poor guy, what about his time? He left work and went home at 10. He spends from 10-12 until he sleeps calculating. Long ago, in the days of the cotton merchants, you would see them coming and carrying a radio. He would put the radio close to his ear and listen to the station that announced the changes in the stock market. It would say this or that stock gained a piaster or half of one. I would see them a lot and have lived with them. What a disaster it was when the stock went down! The radio would fall out of his hand. He would put in his pocket and leave. I would see him and ask, “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” It’s as though he died. He died when he was walking. Why? Because there was a loss of 500 or 1,000 piasters. His face would be pale. Believe me, I saw them with my own eyes. He would stay up until 1 or 2, even though he came back at 11. What about the time? He needs to sleep so that he can wake up the next day to wake up at 5 am, but he is unable to. What does he do? He takes sleeping pills. What about the Bible? “The Bible? I don’t have time, Father.” Oh my God!
I will imagine that I am Christ. I will say, “My son, where is your Bible?” He says, “What Bible?” He doesn’t know that I am Christ. “I don’t have time. I am a working man.” “Beloved, I am the One who has given you this money. I gave you this money to give Me My due. In the Old Testament, I have a share of one-tenth.” What is one-tenth of 24 hours? 2 hours and 24 minutes. This is officially according to the Old Testament law. The tithes from your time. You might say, “Am I free? I have work and so many other things to do. I am overwhelmed all day at work. Come and see what it’s like. I want to rest awhile.” I say, “Get up. I am the one who gave you all this money and can take it away from you.” He says, and I have heard this with my own ears, “If poverty chased after me, even an airplane would not be able to catch up to me. I am so and so. It is impossible for this to occur.” I heard this with my own ears from a merchant from “Meet-Ghamr.”
God knows that this story is true. I am saying this to those who will hear me. This man was my neighbor in Meet Ghamr. He was an extremely wealthy man and would invite over aristocrats and pashas. We would honor him and salute him, to avoid any potential confrontations or conflict with him. His son was my friend. He is a Muslim man. His son was a friend of mine and we were colleagues. Then, one day, his son came and was dressed in black. So, I told him, “What’s the matter? Why are you wearing black?” He said, “My father has died.” “Really?” “Yes.” I saw some very weird expressions on his face. “No way, Mustafa! He died? I just saw him walking in the city.” “Yes, he did.” “My condolences.” His mindset began to change. I was a very good friend to many of my peers. Mustafa came to me one time and told me, “I want to tell you something. I need to get it off my chest, but I need you to keep it a secret.” “Sure.” He said, “My father did not die. He went and took his goods, the deed for the land, and sold the entire village. All the houses were detained and he escaped. He escaped in the middle of the night. They came, detained us, and kicked us out of the house.” “Really?” “Yes.” “When?” “This month.” Oh my God! The council of Salom is very huge and believe me, I heard this story myself. “If poverty chased after me with an airplane, it would not catch up to me.” Look at what happens to him. About four or five months later, days before school ended, during our final exams, Mustafa came and told me, “Come, I need to tell you something. I got news from the police department that my father was found dead.” We went to find him. This man had his wallet in his pocket and is a powerful personality. He had his wallet in his pocket. When he dropped dead, they opened it and found out his name, pictures of his children, the college his son is in, etc. So, they called him and we quickly went to find him. We found that he was carrying a cage of chickens, selling them. He could not tolerate this.
Christ says, “All these things are Mine. Your money is Mine. Your youth is Mine. I am the One who gave it to you and can take it back tomorrow. Your health is also Mine. If you will not give Me My share of it, I will take it from you. This money is Mine, not yours. You must tithe and, if you don’t, I will take the 9/10ths. I won’t even leave you the 1/10th.”
Did you hear the story about the man selling chickens? Sadly, Christ is very tired. He says, “The queen of the South will arise and judge this generation” because they heard Christ speaking and refused to listen to Him. Are you or are you not listening to the words of Christ? The judgement is impending. God is not a liar. Certainly not! He can never say something and not follow through with it. I have begun to strike fear into you, but I am obligated to say this because these are the words of the Gospel. It says that this queen will rise up and judge this generation because they did not heed the words of Christ. We should, then, open our ears to His words.
I will go back and speak about the good eye to conclude. The man who possesses millions of Egyptian pounds, but he lives with God, his heart is with God, and there is nothing at all that impedes his relationship with Him, is ready to leave all things for the sake of Christ, is ready to sell all things as was said, “Sell all that you have and come follow Me.” Is it hard for a man that possesses 1 million EGP to sell all and follow Christ? No, it is not. Selling is inward and not outward. Selling is inward. Have you sold or not? Some people have sold inwardly and are living in the world as wealthy people. They are considered to have followed Christ and are perfect. There are others who outwardly sold.
He is a monk, sold all things outwardly. He left everything and came, but he did not sell. He is still in the world, desiring a profession, honor, and the things of the world. Did he sell? No, he did not. Is his eye good? No, it will not be. The desire for acquisition will possess it. Woe to the person that is possessed by his money! Woe to the woman that is possessed by her beauty! Woe to the man that is possessed by his power and strength! He is accustomed to saying, “Get away from me or I will do this or that.” He can say this because he still has strength.
You know when he is sick and unable to walk, and gets up after a fever or other illness, he is unable to say it. He can’t say, “Get away from you or I will do this and that. Don’t you know who I am? I am so and so.” He can’t say this. Why? Because he is weak, sick, and trembling. He (God) gives us health and we abuse it. He gives us money and we become arrogant.
This Gospel reading is dangerous, very simple, but dangerous. Woe to the person who acquires. Any kind of acquisition. You can have 1 million EGP, but do not acquire it to yourself. It does not possess you. You can be the most powerful person, but having the utmost humility. There are so many possibilities. Each one of us has so much and can think how he can offer it to Christ. If I talk about it all, there will not be enough time, not even to speak about just one or two skills. Each person needs to look within himself and think how he can offer to Christ what is most precious for him. There is a power, I speak in the presence of God, every youth, male and female, that offers their youth to God will never age. Every powerful person that offers their strength to God, will never be weakened. Every rich man who has offered all his wealth to God from his heart will never be poor.
Christ is an insured bank, that is great and mighty, which sadly we have not known. He becomes very saddened by this and when this lack of knowledge occurs, He says, “Woe.” “Woe to you scribes and pharisees! Woe to you lawyers! Woe to you!” God’s wrath is very fearful! God wants what is on the inside and not the outside. We have accustomed ourselves to give God the outward things, but today, we want to turn this around. Forget about outward appearances! God wants the heart and the inner life. He does not want anything at all from the outside! He wants what is from the inside.
In this manner, I can conclude today’s word with this word, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light, not having any darkness at all.” To God be the glory in His church now and forever, Amen.
An answer to a question posed by a servant about holiness and sanctification.
It is to provide a more complete understanding of reacting to the light, which like we said before, is feeling salvation and truly partaking of life with God. This goes with the feeling of being consecrated. He has been set aside and become for God alone. This is the understanding of holiness. To the extent that we isolate ourselves from the world, as the verse says, “‘Come out from among them and be separate’, says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you’” (2 Cor. 6:17). This is a state of voluntary separation from the world. This is the negative aspect of sanctification or holiness. Every voluntary distancing of one’s self from the world for the sake of Christ, is a kind of sanctification. This cannot happen except by the person being drawn by God. It is not possible for a person to distance themselves from the world, unless they are simultaneously entering into a life with Christ.
For this reason, the experience that is often cited is that of being a stranger as a spiritual practice. This is not a practical or possible situation. We need to find God as our nation and homeland, in order to purse becoming strangers to the world. Sanctification has two aspects which are the positive and negative. The positive aspect is entering into the light, an eternal communion with God through prayer, worship, piety, prostrations, praises, joy, and service. This is the positive aspect of sanctification and holiness. The negative aspect is separating one’s self from the world, the desires of this age and lust of the flesh.
We began this talk by contemplating the body and what pertains to the flesh. If a person enters into moving away from the body and thinking of matters that pertain to it, he is moving into sanctification through the negative aspect. The positive aspect, as we have said, is meditating on God. Contemplating God gives us consecration and our lives become consecrated to God. He feels that his entire life is dedicated to God. This is holiness.
That leads us to another important issue which is “These are not of the world.” Are we truly not of the world? This is judged by our works. The positive aspect of works is whether or not I follow God with all my heart, soul, power, and strength. This reveals whether I am of this world or not. It does not matter if I am officially consecrated or not as a deacon, servant, priest, or other ecclesiastical office. It does not give me consecration to God. What truly grants this is my works. Is my life in God? Is my joy in God? Is it everlasting? The scale which measures whether I am living with God or the world, living by the spirit or the body, is my everlasting joy. It is a thermometer. It is the thermometer that determines for you and judges whether you are of God or the world.
Your everlasting joy in the Lord. My everlasting joy means that I am living a life of fellowship, the Spirit and its outpouring. Everlasting joy means that I meditate on God. The moment that joy ends means that the meditation has moved from God to the body and matters of the flesh. Among the causes of lack of joy, the measure that my partaking in the Spirit has ceased, my relationship with God and the Light is stopped, is reacting to darkness which is the complete opposite of light.
The greatest negative effect that darkness has is fear of death and what leads to death. The extent to which I fear death is the degree that darkness prevails or the prince of this world rules. The one thing that causes the devil to rejoice is man’s fear of death. This means that he has reigned. This is what assures the devil that he has possessed a person’s life, that he fears death. This means darkness has prevailed or the ruler of this world, the ruler of darkness, dominates a person. This is the negative thermometer that reveals to me how healthy my relationship is with the light, Christ, salvation, and eternal life. It is the extent of my disturbance by and planning for what comes before and after death.
Fear means that there is fellowship with darkness. It can be a sin within the heart that has not been exposed to the light, and the person is purified in this way, or being rooted to the earth – money and acquisition of it, inheritance and inheriting, honor, or anything that ties me down to the world and this age. If a person is tied down to the world and worldly things and contemplates them, then he will certainly fear death and be disturbed as well.
This reveals to us our state. The treatment is clear, which is to entirely change his approach and goals for life. The fact that fear exists, means his priorities and approach are completely askew – his sole care and contemplation is on the body and what pertains to the body. A person needs to always cut off and unite. He needs to cut off the world and unite with God, without any losses. It is impossible for a person to unite with God or cut off his attachments to the world and body to unite with God, and loses something. This applies whether he has responsibilities or not, has a wife and kids or not. Every cutting off of the world for the sake of uniting with God causes us to enter into a life of fellowship with the light and cultivating a living relationship with God. It is a full assurance for the soul.
Like we said, contemplating the body and matters pertaining to it is not merely a simple concept, but is also divided into two categories: the bodily and the psychological which tie the person down. The thing that pulls the person most in terms of the body is desire for food and adultery. These are considered to be the most powerful elements that pull the person to the body. We also examine two elements of the psyche which push us towards the dust and draws us to the bodily life: enmity and pride. Hatred and enmity, or enmity, and pride.
These are the most powerful elements in the mind that pull a person towards the bodily life. Any pull or care given to the stomach, eating and drinking – of course meaning desire for food, gluttony – and the desire for adultery means that the person cannot be freed of death and fear of death. Likewise any movement or inclination in the heart towards enmity or pride, immediately pulls a person to the ground and makes him to highly fear death. He is disturbed and greatly fears any movement or sign that his days are numbered. This prevents him from the light. It is possible to contemplate both God and the body. We cannot contemplate both light and darkness.
We cannot keep both light and darkness in the same room. The Gospel describes that there is no fellowship between light and darkness. The believer and unbeliever are not equally yoked. There cannot be God and Baal. There cannot be the chalice of God and that of the devil. There cannot be light and darkness. There cannot be a spring that produces both bitter and sweet water. We cannot curse and bless with the same tongue. All of these are impediments to a life with God for God is good and there is no division found in Him.
This is the meaning of unity. Whoever desires to unite with one, must also be one within himself and not divided. He does not have any dichotomy to him. He does not have light and darkness. He does not have the eye of the body and the eye of God, or contemplation of God and of the body. Here, being freed from the body is from the two aspects of the body that we discussed – the desires the stomach, eating and drinking, and desire of adultery as well as the mental wars of enmity and pride. It is impossible for a person to cling to his dignity – pride – and glorify God. It is impossible for a person to receive his honor and glory and glorify God. It is impossible for a person’s heart to be moved with enmity and have a relationship with God because God is love. If God moves in the heart, there is love. There cannot be any enmity with love.
There is utmost simplicity in unity with God. I mean simplicity in terms of unity and becoming one with God. It is impossible for us to draw near to love and have any feeling of enmity. It is impossible to glorify God when we have any sense of pride. It is impossible to unite with God and the stomach possesses the most care in the life of the person. We cannot draw near to God in holiness when there is contemplation of the body and the impurities and lusts of the flesh. This is simplicity. We need to rid ourselves of this dichotomy in order to prepare ourselves for uniting with God, to be ready for entering into the mystery of love, into the mystery of holiness. We have spoken about what is against love and holiness. We need to be prepared for glorifying God. God is very simple and we need to rid ourselves of these contradictions or the dichotomy we have within. We need to prepare ourselves for this simplicity that we may be able to unite with God.
God is faithful, the one who has invited you into a life of fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the Father’s gift to us. Christ came to grant us this simplicity and goodness. He gives it to us in a mystery – the mystery of prayer, the mystery of baptism, as we have already said before that the mystery of being illumined begins with baptism, the mystery of the eucharist, and all the mysteries of the church. They prepare us for entering into a life of fellowship with God. We must strive to be freed of dichotomy.
I would like to say that it is not a struggle of strength, but striving in prayer. The strife and effort that is based and carried out through prayer, contemplating on God through prayer, entering into the light. This is the effort that is required of us. We must always enter into prayer, not just seven times a day, but as much as we can. Whenever we can stand and pray, we should stand and pray. If we are unable to stand, we should pray in whatever situation we may be in. This is what I call contemplating on God. This is the effort that is required of us. It is simple effort in regards to the fruit. The fruit is that I will gradually enter into fellowship with this simplicity.
The obstacles to fellowship and uniting with God are like scales falling from the eyes that they may see the Light in its absolute purity. The desires and lusts fall away from the body and the inclination of the soul to its selfishness which is manifested in pride and enmity fall away. The soul begins to be purified from standing before God and entering into His presence. We begin to take on this attribute of simplicity and rather than be preoccupied with pride, we glorify God’s glory. We glorify God’s pride rather than our own. We enter into love with God that is outpoured on all people, in place of the enmity that was inside of us. Why? Because the self wants to control and be above all else.
Our fellowship with and entering into the presence of God gives us the attributes of God – the simplicity of God that He grants us and by which we enter into eternal unity with Him. The body and soul are purified, and we enter into fellowship with Christ. Amen.
We ask You, Lord, that You pour into us Your simplicity which we have spoken about with such great longing. Fulfill for us the desires of our heart in You.
We have a living hope, O our Master, that what we have said this day be fulfilled in our lives in regards to the simplicity of our hearts and absence of internal division. Do not allow for the movements of darkness to interact with the light. But, rather, cause for the light to cast out darkness. This love which casts out fear. We ask You to encompass our hearts with love that we may comprehend the meaning of Your church, the one heart, one Spirit, and one Body.
In these days that we all suffer from division of soul and thought, we speak to You, Lord, with a humble heart, for the sake our salvation and eternal life, that we may drink of the One spring. Grant us to lead a life that is straight before You. Grant that Your Holy Spirit move us from the life that we are leading to Your light, that we may speak of the greatness and wonder of Your light.
Yea, Lord, we ask You to cease all division within the church, between individuals, and within our souls. Grant us to be upright in heart and mind that we may turn to You in purity and good conscience. That we may be able to stand before You with boldness and feel the spirit of sonship that You have granted us.