By night on my bed I sought the one I love – H.H. Pope Shenouda III

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“By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him but I did not find him.  ‘I will rise now,’ I said, ‘and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.’ I sought him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, ‘Have you seen the one I love?’ Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go. “

(Song of Songs 3:1-4)

These verses indicate that even though this human soul is being slothful, sinful, and lazily wasting time in bed rather than prayers, the love of the Lord is manifest nonetheless. Despite the distance, there is love. The many shortcomings, misdeeds, and faults do not extinguish this love. Love exists. This is a surety. As St. Paul the Apostle says, “for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:8). So even though I may love the Lord from the depths of my heart, I may oftentimes commit sins because of my inherent weaknesses or addiction to certain habits, not because love is nonexistent.

O Lord  there are obstacles that prevent me from coming closer to You. But You O Lord know that I love You. It is true that I am asleep, but I love You. It is true that I err and commit sins, yet I still love You. Even though I do not do the things that reflect this love to You, yet love exists. 

Do you know to what we can liken this? It is similar to a deed that has in it all the various elements of life. However, in order for this seed to give forth fruit and blossom with life, certain conditions ought to exist. Life exists in this seed, albeit dormant. There is life but proper conditions must be present in order for life to spring forth.

I am similar to this weed. My love for you O Lord is dormant like a seed waiting for the right moment and the propitious circumstances; the fertile soul, the right nutrition, and a wise farmer for care for it. I will be able to bring forth fruit once You bestow Your grace upon me. Then I will bring forth leaves, branches, flowers, fruits and everything.

By night on my bed I sought the one I love. I sought Him in the dark of night. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, also sought God at night in bed, in sheer darkness. He did not resign his job to seek the Lord. Rather, he sought the Lord while he was still in the midst of darkness as a tax collector. The thief on the right also called Jesus at night and on his bed. St. Augustine also sought the Lord in the midst of the darkness of the night and on his bed. St. Moses the Black, St. Pellagia, St. Mary the Egyptian; all sought the Lord in the pitch dark of the night, in the midst of the darkness of sin.

These people sought the Lord and found Him. However, this virgin did not. There are those who lead a life of sin and still seek the Lord. They do not wait until they become pure and sanctified. On the contrary, they seek the Lord to become pure and sanctified. Rather than trying to become sanctified in order to seek the Lord, they seek the Lord in the condition in which they are in, in order for the Lord to help them become pure, holy, and sanctified. They do not wait until they have the spiritual zeal and are active in worship; rather they seek the Lord while they are still slothful and lazy so that the Lord may rid them of this laziness and grant them this sought-after spiritual zeal and fervour.

I am seeking the Lord while I am I’m bed, lazy and slothful. I seek You while I am lazy so that You may wake me up. I see You while I am in bed to help me get out of it. I seek You in the midst of my sins so that You may rid me of my sins; and I seek You now that I am distant and far so that You may draw me closer to You. There is a desire, a willingness, but the path is yet untrodden, novel and new. As of yet, I have not started the race. By night on my bed I sought the one I love.

Also the prodigal son sought the Lord while he was on his bed, in a far off country amongst the swine. What profound darkness! What an unfathomable pit! He said, “I will rise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18). This is the condition in which the Lord wants you to come to Him: in dirt, in filth, just the way you are.

Some people may opt to wait until they can attain a pure state and then pray. However, we urge such people to start to pray while they are still lost, lacking in understanding, lukewarm and lacking in spiritual zeal. Even when your thoughts are uncontrollable, you should pray. We urge you to pray and God will grant you the means to purity and cleanliness. Pray while you are in the night and on your bed. By night on my bed I sought the one I love.

[H.H. Pope Shenouda III of thrice blessed memory, 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, “Have You Seen The One I Love”]

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Rise above your trials – St. Basil the Great

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I have, therefore, determined to address your excellency in writing, to remind you that these afflictions are not sent by the Lord, Who rules us, to the servants of God to no purpose, but as a test of the genuineness of our love to the divine Creator.

Just as athletes win crowns by their struggles in the arena, so are Christians brought to perfection by the trial of their temptations, if only we learn to accept what is sent us by the Lord with becoming patience, with all thanksgiving. All things are ordained by the Lord’s love. We must not accept anything that befalls us as grievous, even if, for the present, it affects our weakness.

We are ignorant, perhaps, of the reasons why each thing that happens to us is sent to us as a blessing by the Lord but we ought to be convinced that all that happens to us is for our good, either for the reward of our patience, or for the soul which we have received, lest, by lingering too long in this life, it be filled with the wickedness to be found in this world. If the hope of Christians is limited to this life, it might rightly have been reckoned a bitter lot to be prematurely parted from the body; but if, to them that love God, the sundering of the soul from these bodily fetters is the beginning of our real life, why do we grieve like them which have no hope? (1 Thessalonians 4:12).

Be comforted then, and do not fall under your troubles, but show that you are superior to them and can rise above them.

[St. Basil the Great, Letter 101]

New wings when fervor fades – John of the Ladder

To lag in the fight at the very outset of the struggle and thereby to furnish proof of our coming defeat is a very hateful and dangerous thing. A firm beginning will certainly be useful for us when we later grow slack. A soul that is strong at first but then relaxes is spurred on by the memory of its former zeal. And in this way new wings are often obtained.

When the soul betrays itself and loses the blessed and longed for fervour, let it carefully investigate the reason for losing this. And let it arm itself with all its longing and zeal against whatever has caused this. For the former fervour can return only through the same door through which it was lost.

[John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent]

Pity gives freedom of speech before God – Abba Pambo

 

Abba Theodore of Pherme asked Abba Pambo, “Give me a word.” With much difficulty he said to him, “Theodore, go and have pity on all, for through pity, one finds freedom of speech before God.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

[Icon of “Tilakani”  by the hand Fadi Mikhail in the Neo-Coptic Style]

On Meditation – The Spiritual Elder

Hold him in your arms like Mary his mother. Enter with the Magi and offer your gifts. Proclaim his birth with the shepherds. Proclaim his praise with the angels. Carry him in your arms like Simeon the Elder. Take him with Joseph down to Egypt. When he goes to play with little children steal up to him and kiss him. Inhale the sweet savor of his body, the body that gives life to every body. Follow the early years of his childhood in all its stages, for this infuses his love into your soul. Cleave to him: your mortal body will be scented with the spice of the life in his immortal body. Sit with him in the temple and listen to the words coming from his mouth while the astonished teachers listen. When he asks, when he answers, listen and marvel at his wisdom. Stand there at the Jordan and greet him with John. Wonder at his humility when you see him bow his head to John to be baptized.

Go out with him to the desert and ascend the mount. Sit there at his feet in silence with the wild beasts that sought the company of their Lord. Stand up there with him to learn how to fight the good fight against your enemies.

Stand at the well with the Samaritan woman to learn worship in spirit and truth. Roll the stone from the tomb Lazarus to know the resurrection from the dead. Stand with the multitude, take your share of the five loaves and know the blessings of prayer. Go, wake him up who is asleep at the stern of you boat when the waves beat into it. Weep with Mary, wash his feet with your tears to hear his words of comfort. Lay your head on his breast with John, hear his heart throbbing with love to the world. Take for yourself a morsel of the bread he blessed during supper to be one with his body and confirmed in him forever.

Rise, do not keep your feet away that he may wash them from the impurity of sin. Go out with him to the Mount of Olives. Learn from him how to bend your knees and pray until the sweat pours down. Rise, meet your cursers and crucifiers, surrender your hands to the bonds, do not keep your face away from the slapping and spitting. Strip your back to be lashed. Rise, my friend, do not fall to the ground, bear your cross, for it is time for departure. Stretch your arms with him and do not keep your feet from the nails. Taste with him the bitterness of gall.

Rise early while it is still dark. Go to his tomb to see the glorious resurrection. Sit in the upper room and wait for his coming while the doors are closed. Open your ears to hear the words of peace from his mouth. Make haste and go to lonely place. Bow your head to receive the last blessing before he ascends.

[John of Dalyatha, Homily on Meditation on the Economy of the Lord]

The importance of struggle and the help of Christ – John of the Ladder

Those who aim at ascending with the body to heaven, need violence indeed and constant suffering especially in the early stages of their renunciation, until our pleasure-loving dispositions and unfeeling hearts attain to love of God and chastity by visible sorrow.

A great toil, very great indeed, with much unseen suffering, especially for those who live carelessly, until by simplicity, deep angerlessness and diligence, we make our mind, which is a greedy kitchen dog addicted to barking, a lover of chastity and watchfulness.

But let us who are weak and passionate have the courage to offer our infirmity and natural weakness to Christ with unhesitating faith, and confess it to Him; and we shall be certain to obtain His help, even beyond our merit, if only we unceasingly go right down to the depth of humility.

[John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent]

What is your desire? – The Spiritual Elder

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If your lust is earthly, you share it with dogs and swine – I mean gluttony and fornication. But if it is for God, then you share it with the angels.

[John of Dalyatha, Homily on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit]