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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A prayer for a new year – H.H. Pope Shenouda III

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[Today marks the first day of the Coptic New Year, the Nayrouz, the Feast of the Martyrs. God send you all a year like that below:] 

Lord, make it a blessed year,
A pure year to please You
A year in which Your Spirit prevails
And joins in working with us
Hold our hands and guide our thoughts from the beginning of the year till its end.

Let this year be Yours, to please You
It is a New Year, spotless; let us not spoil it with our sins or impurities
Lord, be with us in every work we intend to do this year
Let us rejoice in all Your deeds, and say with John the Evangelist: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (Jn 1:3).

Let this year, 0 Lord, be a happy year
Put a smile on each face and gladden every heart
Let Your grace emerge in our trials and help those who are tempted
Grant us peace and quietness of mind
Give those who are in need, cure the sick and console the grieved.

We do not ask You, God, only for ourselves
But we ask for the all, because they are Yours
You created them to rejoice in You, then make them happy with You
We ask You for the Church, for Your mission, that Your word may reach every heart
We ask you for our country, for the world’s peace that Your Kingdom may come everywhere.

Let it be a fruitful year, full of goodness
Everyday and every hour has its own work
Do not allow a futile moment
Fill our life with activity, work, and production

Grant us the blessing of a productive and holy toil. Let the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us in all our deeds.

We thank you, God, for you have kept us till this hour and granted us this year, that we may bless You. Amen

[H.H. Pope Shenouda III of thrice blessed memory, 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, Words of Spiritual Benefit]

I too am a sinner – Abba Bessarion

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

A brother who had sinned was turned out of church by the priest. Abba Bessarion got up and left with him saying: “I too am a sinner.”

[Abba Bessarion, Apophthegmata Patrum]

There are no bad days and good days – H.H. Pope St. Cyril VI

“There are no bad days and good days, but there are days of prayer and days without prayer. Those without prayer are empty and void because they have been filled with our desires and lusts.”

[H.H. Pope Cyril VI, 116th Pope of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark]

You who have begun do not shrink back – The Spiritual Elder

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You who have begun this course, in which the shining ones are all running, do not shrink back at the beginning when your intellect strives to penetrate within you but cannot, so you turn backwards and flee for relief in distraction outside of yourself. Those that are against you know that through asceticism you defy their knowledge, frustrate their devices and check their pride. You have begun, and they are pouring forth into your unpractised mind hardship, depression, gloominess, darkness and suffocation of soul, until they make the mystical fountain of all mysteries loathsome in your eyes.

Yet if you persevere in afflictions at your heart’s door and endure when you fix your gaze, even if there is no rest or repose, only adversity, you will call upon the Mercy of him who said: Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Mat 5.8), as long as you do not regard your labour in vain. He gives light to the blind: the sun of joys rises within you and draws you upwards in release of everything. And who will draw away from him? Not the angels, when it is better that you should be with their Lord within yourself than with them in Heaven.

Here I have set down before those who are weak like myself, now standing outside the mystical door of light, how they should seek it. He who seeks diligently shall find, but he who is negligent will continue blindly in darkness, in that he separates himself from the Light, the Life and the Truth, which is Christ; to whom be praise from all, and grace to him from all be prolonged in the directing of those who love him. Amen.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 17]

Love covers a multitude of sins – Abba Poemen

[On this day, the Church commemorates the departure of the great Abba Poemen, a shining star of the wilderness. This Father is the most heavily quoted in the Apophthegmata, his intercessions be with us all].

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Some old men came to Abba Poemen and said to him, “When we see brothers who are dozing at the synaxis (services), shall we rouse them so they will be watchful?” He said to them, “For my part when I see a brother dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest.”

[Abba Poemen, Apophthegmata Patrum]

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]