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  • Sunday ,15 August 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (5)

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,15 August 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (5)

  Spirituality is walking in the Spirit.
 St. Paul put it clearly, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit." (Rom 8: 1) "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, the things of the spirit … for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God … So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8: 5- 8) Spirituality then is going beyond the carnal level.

   Man is composed of body, soul, and spirit, as St. Paul says, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may you whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless …" (1 Thess 5: 23) So, a spiritual person walks not according to the soul or the body.
   Walking according to the flesh is clear in walking in the lusts of the body like adultery, greed, appearances, and the like.  
   What can we say about sensual persons? The father apostles fought and judged sensual people. St. Jude, for instance, says, "There would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit." (Jud 18, 19) By this he meant that the lusts of the body ensue from wrong sensual factors far from spirituality.
   St. James distinguishes between the divine and the worldly wisdom, describing the latter as earthly and demonic, not descending from above. "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there." (Jas 3: 15- 16) Nobody normally is aware of such distinction.
   A sensual person is led by the natural impulse, mentality, and emotions, without spirit, whereas a carnal person is led by the desires and lusts of the body. Both imply faults and sins. 
      A spiritual person, on the other hand is distinguished for:
1. Overcoming the body and the soul, and walking according to the   spirit, 
2. submission of the spirit to the Spirit of God.
   Some people have a struggle between the lusts of the body and the desires of the spirit (Gal 5: 16, 17), but a spiritual person has the body in complete submission to the spirit. However, this is not enough, because the wrongdoings of a person is not due only to the lusts of the flesh, for they may be due solely to the spirit. We should not be amazed, because Satan though a spirit fell, being a rebellious and evil spirit.
   The Scripture speaks much about evil spirits.  
   The Lord Christ gave His disciples authority to cast out evil spirits, that is, demons, which means that spirits may sin. Man also may sin with his spirit, but not a spiritual person whose spirit submits completely to God's Spirit.
   The soul and body of a spiritual person both submit to his spirit, and his spirit submits to God's Spirit.
   How beautiful are the words: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Rom 8: 14) Those are obedient to the Spirit of God. He leads them, because He dwells in them.
   God made His Spirit dwell in us. 
   "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor 3: 16) The Spirit of God within us gives us knowledge and guidance, and leads us on the way, rebuking for a sin, urging to do good, and brings to our remembrance all things that He said (Jn 14: 26).
   The church therefore gives us the Holy Anointing of the Spirit through the Holy Chrism "Myron", whereas in the apostolic era it was given by the laying on of the hands.
   St. John the Beloved speaks twice about this Anointing: "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things … the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you." (1 Jn 2: 20, 27)
   We ought to rely on the leadership of God's Spirit, rather than on human wisdom alone.
   Human wisdom is foolishness, as St. Paul says clearly in (1 Cor 3: 9).
   The lust of the body is sin, such as carnal lusts, adultery, and greed, whereas the lust of the soul sometimes is a kind of the ego and self-love. Take for instance Solomon the Wise who submitted to such lusts, as he said, "Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them." (Eccl 2: 10) "I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools … I acquired male and female servants … I also gathered for myself silver and gold … I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men …" (Eccl 2: 4- 8)
   All such lusts of the body, the eyes, and the other senses he found vanity and grasping for the wind.
   About the lusts of the soul Solomon said, "I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor."
   Such was sensual rejoicing, not spiritual at all. What then is the spiritual rejoicing? 
   The Scripture says about it, "Rejoice in the Lord always." (Phil 4: 4) The rejoicing of Solomon (Eccl 2) had no mention of the Lord at all! It was only rejoicing at gardens, fruit, silver and old, male and female singers … nothing had any relation to God … but all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
   Rejoicing in the Lord is spiritual rejoicing.
   It is rejoicing in the knowledge of God, in attachment and communion with Him, in the dwelling of His spirit in us and His guidance, in the taste of the kingdom, in the victory of our spirit which the Lord has freed (Jn 8: 36), and rejoicing in being able to lead people to God.
   The Lord's disciples sometimes fell in such sensual pleasure.
   Although their pleasure was more sublime than that of Solomon, yet still unacceptable. The seventy returned with joy, saying, ''Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.'' But He said to them, ''Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." (Lk 10: 17, 20) With these words the Lord distinguished between two kinds of rejoicing, the one He rebuked, and the other He called for.
   Another example is rejoicing in gifts, like the gift of tongues.
   It is a kind of rejoicing in something that brings glory and grandiosity through God's gifts. Better is being concerned about one's purity of heart and fullness of the fruit of the Spirit, as the apostle says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." (1 Cor 13: 1)
   Therefore, rejoicing in the fruit of the Spirit is better than rejoicing in gifts.
   "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Gal 5: 22, 23) These will lead to the kingdom, while gifts, wonders, and visions may not, for the Lord says, "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Mt 7: 22, 23) Furthermore, John performed no signs (Jn 10: 41), yet the Lord testified to him that, "among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist." (Mt 11: 11) And he was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb, as mentioned on announcing his birth (Lk 1: 15)
   St. Paul the Apostle felt afraid of the many visions and revelations, lest they lift up his heart, as he said, "Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure." (2 Cor 12: 7) He prayed thrice that the Lord might remove it away, but the Lord did not respond.
   The mother of James and John the apostles fell in this vain sensual rejoicing.
   She asked the Lord to grant that her two sons may sit, one on His right hand and the other on the left in His kingdom (Mt 20: 20, 21) The Lord answered, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Mt 20: 22) Nevertheless, the Lord responded to that saint's request, and her son became the first martyr among the twelve apostles, so he sat on the right hand of the Lord.
   Indeed, rejoicing in suffering is part of spiritual rejoicing!
   After they had put the disciples in prison and whipped them, the apostles departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name! (Acts 5:41) St. Paul the Apostle likewise said, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake." (2 Cor 12: 10) That is why the holy martyrs and confessors rejoiced in suffering and death. It is spiritual rejoicing!
   A person who rejoices in receiving a gift like miracle or wonders working is still in the level of sensual rejoicing. Whereas spiritual rejoicing is to rejoice in the Lord, not in His gifts and the glory they may bring. A prominent example is the great saint who had her five children slaughtered on her lap while she kept encouraging them to be martyred so that they might rejoice with the Lord in the Kingdom. She also rejoiced in their martyrdom. These are only a few examples.