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Before God,Where and When?

Pope Shenouda III | 26 September 2009

Our problem is that we think that we stand before God only in prayer or in worship in general.
Actually we are in God’s presence all the time. That is why Elijha the prophet said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand…” (1 Kgs 18: 15), though he was not standing in prayer, but was talking with Obadiah. He felt always that he was before God.
It is also to think that we are before God in the church, before the sanctuary or the altar, or in a monastery, or in any other place of worship.
We should rather feel that we are before God everywhere, because we believe that He is everywhere.
Yea! God is everywhere. He sees, hears, and observes.
We read in the Book of Malachi the prophet, “The Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him…” (Mal 3: 16) The people of Sodom were evil, but more serious still, they used to sin before God! And “the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord.” ( Gen 19: 13)
It is awful to sin before God!

Sinning before God:
A person usually feels ashamed to sin before people.
He cannot sin before an old person, or even before his enemies lest they reproach him. Therefore, sinners prefer to commit their sins in secret, in darkness, so that no one may see them. Hence, it is said, “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (Jn 3: 19)
If then sinners are ashamed to sin before others, should they not feel ashamed to sin before God who sees them?
Certainly, if they were aware-while sinning – that they are before God, they would be ashamed and afraid; unless their love of sin or their recklessness is much greater than the feeling of being before God!
Perhaps sinners forget, or try to forget, that they are in God’s presence. Probably, when sinning, they eliminate any though about God! So, David the prophet said about his enemies that they “have not set You before them.” (Ps 86: 14)
That is why the saints who fell in sin were very troubled, seeing that they sinned before God, as David the prophet said in the Psalm of repentance:
“Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” (Ps 51: 4)
David’s conscience pricked him hard, because he did that sin before God without being ashamed or restrained by God’s commandments and benefits.
Likewise, the lost son, in his sorrow and repentance, said to the Father, “I have sinned against heaven and before You” (Lk 15).
Feeling ashamed:
In the sins of act, you should be ashamed before God who sees you. In the sins of tongue, you should be ashamed before God who hears you. In the sins of mind and heart, you should be ashamed before God who examines the heart and the mind, before whom everything is revealed.
You should be ashamed before God who said to each of the angels of the seven churches in Asia, “I know your works” (Rev 2,3)
You should also feel ashamed before the angels who see and hear you.
There are angels around us (Ps 34: 7); angels sent to minister for us (Heb 1: 14). And angels in God’s houses as we say in the praise song “Peace to you, O church, the house of the angels” one should be ashamed before them, lest they cannot bear one’s awful sins and forsake him. Then the devils will encompass around such a person!
Or, are you not ashamed before the souls of the saints who see you as well?
Do you not feel ashamed before the souls of your relatives, your friends, and your colleagues who departed and now see what you do and say! Some of those had trust in you, and certainly you have never sinned before them, and would never do what you are doing now in front of them! Sure they are greatly amazed at what is happening. Truly said the apostle, “we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” (1 Cor 4:9)

Forgetfulness:
When committing sin, a person forgets that he is before God, before the angels, before the saints, and before his relatives and acquaintences. a person, in such a case, forgets that he is separated from God with mind and hearts is not aware of His existence and His holiness, and is forgetful of all His commandments.
A person, in his sin, is forgetful of the kingdom and of God’s just judgment.
The church therefore tries to remind us everyday of the judgment to come, in the Compline Prayer which says: [Behold, I am about to stand before the Just Judge, terrified and trembling, because of my numerous sins! The years wasted in entertainment deserve judgment.]
You are before the Just Judge, not in heaven only, but also on earth.
When David committed his awful sin, the Just Judge sent him Nathan the prophet, saying, “Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight” (2 Sam 12: 9). Though on the earth, he was before God. So David stood before God to hear His judgment and the punishment on the mouth of Nathan.
In one’s sin, one forgets one’s partaking of the Lord’s body and blood.
Maybe a few days ago, you stood before God, before His holy altar and His holy body to partake of the Holy Sacrament promising to abide in Him and waiting for His promise to abide in you (Jn 6:56). You may have forgotten the words of the apostle, “whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11: 27).

Awe:
If a person is aware of being before God all the time, he will be in awe. In the holy Mass, we remember how the angels and the archangels stand in awe before God. And the Revelation describes how the heavenly hosts fall down before Him who sits on the throne, casting their crowns before the throne, and saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power.” (Rev 4: 10,11) Likewise the Cherubim and the Seraphim stand in awe before Him, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa 6: 3)
The word “holy” reminds us of God’s holiness, so, we feel awe.
How could we do such sins before this Holy God? How could we no be ashamed and feel as nothing before Him? We repeat the word “holy” everyday in the Trisagion in the Mass, and in each prayer of the seven daily prayers with awe. We say it also even in the prayer for the Departed and for the monks, admitting that God alone is holy (Rev 15: 4). It is the song of the conquerors in the Revelation.
We feel awe before God’s power, divinity, and holiness; not only in the church, but also everywhere.
We are astonished that some sit in the church without due respect! Peter the apostle, while fishing at the Sea of Tiberias after the Resurrection, recognizing that He was the Lord who appeared to them, put on his outer garment and plunged into the sea (Jn 21: 7)
Do not think that a woman should be modest only in the church or at the holy communion, but should be modest also in her private room.
She should be modest in her closed room, before God and the angels and the souls of the saints. If she could do so, she will never lose her modesty before people!
Humbleness:
If one is aware that he is before God, the Almighty, he will feel humble, and will refuse any greatness.
When Abraham interceded with God for Sodom, he said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes…speak to the Lord.” (Gen 18: 27) Indeed, a person should always remember and never forget that whatever greatness or high positions he may attain, he is but dust and ashes.
He should not sit, walk, or speak haughtily, being before God who is not pleased with such haughtiness.
Remember King Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and accepted glory from people, an angel of the Lord struck him, and he was eaten by worms and died. It was because he did not give glory to God (Acts 12: 21-23). Unlike him was David, who after conquering Goliath, said about himself, “I am a poor and lightly esteemed man.” (1 Sam 18: 23). And in the psalms, he said, “I am poor and needy;” “He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with the princes of His people.” (Ps 70: 5; 113: 7,8)
In prayer:
Say, “who am I. O Lord, to stand before You. But I stand in awe feeling all the time that I am before You, as David said, “I have set the Lord always before me.” (Ps 16: 8).

In confession:
You should be aware that you are standing before God to confess your sins, in the hearing of the priest.
Then you will confess in awe and contrition of heart, feeling that God sees and hears and observes all our thoughts and emotions. This would make us more careful, and with this faith we can overcome the world (1Jn 5: 4)                           
 

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