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Monday, October 31, 2011

Egypt: Christian student murdered for refusing to remove crucifix


October 31, 2011.

   



Ayman Nabil Labib, a 17-year-old Coptic Christian student, was murdered by Muslim classmates after refusing to remove a crucifix he was wearing, the Assyrian International News Agency is reporting.

The murder, which took place on October 16 in the central Egyptian town of Mallawi, took place after a teacher asked Labib to cover up a tattooed cross on his wrist. Labib refused, instead uncovering a cross necklace.
“The teacher nearly choked my son, and some Muslim students joined in the beating,” said Labib’s father.

“They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault,” the victim’s mother added. “When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later.”

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Monday, October 17, 2011

St. John of Kronstadt


 

If, being in an assemblage of men, you call a person known to you, and he comes to you; if you ask one or many men subservient to you to do anything for you within the limit of his or their capability, and they fulfill your request, satisfying it according to your desire, and even beyond your desire, then be assured that, likewise, in God's Church, in that great house of God divided into two halves - the heavenly and the earthly - any of the members of the Church in Heaven whom you call upon will come to your spiritual help conformably to his grace and the abundance of his love. Ask him to do anything for you that you please, especially anything relating to the Kingdom and righteousness of God, and he will do it through his close association with God, the Source of grace and power. God's saints also hear you - as, for instance, the whole congregation hears you when you pray or speak the Word - for they are in the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is everywhere present, and fills all things.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

St. John Climacus

I saw others among these wonderful fathers who had the white hair of angels, the deepest innocence, and a wise simplicity that was spontaneous and yet directed by God Himself. The fact is that just as an evil person is two-faced, one thing in public and another in private, so a simple person is not twofold, but something whole. There is no one among them who is silly and foolish in the way that some old men in the world are, as they say, senile. No indeed. They are openly gentle, kindly, radiant, genuine, without hypocrisy, affectation, or falsity or either speech or disposition - something not found in many. Spiritually, they are like children, with God and the superior as their very breath, and with the mind's eye on strict lookout for demons and the passions.

Holy Father and Brothers in God, a lifetime would not be enough to allow me to describe the virtue of those blessed men, or the heavenly life they lead. Still, in their great struggles rather than my meager suggestions should adorn this treatise and should rouse you to be zealous in the love of God. After all, the lowly is adorned by the excellent, and I would only ask you to refrain from thinking that what I write is something made up, for a suspicion of this kind would only take away from its value.

So, then, let us resume.

In this monastery to which I have been referring, there was a man named Isidore, from Alexandria, who having belonged to the ruling class had become a monk. I met him there. The most holy shepherd, after having let him join, discovered that he was a trouble maker, cruel, sly, and haughty, but he shrewdly managed to outwit the cunning of the devils in him. "If you have decided to accept the yoke of Christ," he told Isidore, "I want you first of all to learn obedience."

"Most holy Father, I submit to you like iron to the blacksmith," Isidore replied.

The superior, availing of this metaphor, immediately gave exercise to the iron Isidore and said to him: "Brother, this is what I want you to do. You are to stand at the gate of the monastery, and before everyone passing in or out you are to bend the knee and say, "Pray for me, Father, because I am an epileptic.'" And Isidore obeyed, like an angel obeying the Lord.

He spent seven years at the gate, and achieved deep humility and compunction.

After the statutory seven years, and after the wonderful steadfastness of the man, the superior deemed him fully worthy to be admitted to the ranks of the brethren and wanted to ordain him. Through others and also through my feeble intercession, Isidore begged the superior many times to let him finish his course. He hinted that his death, his call, was near, which in fact proved to be so. The superior allowed him to stay at his place, and ten days later, humbly, gloriously, he passed on to the Lord. A week after his death the porter of the monastery was also taken, for the blessed Isidore had said to him, "If I hve found favor in the sight of the Lord, you too will be inseparably joined to me within a short time." That is exactly what happened, in testimony to his unashamed obedience and his marvelous humility.

While he was still alive, I asked this great Isidore how he had occupied his mind while he was at the gate, and this memorable man did not conceal anything from me, for he wished to be of help. "At first I judged that I had been sold into slavery for my sins," he said. "So I did penance with bitterness, great effort, and blood. After a year my heart was no longer full of grief, and I began to think of a reward for my obedience from God Himself. Another year passed and the depths of my heart I began to see how unworthy I was to live in a monastery, to encounter the fathers, to share in the divine Mysteries. I lost the courage to look anyone in the face, but lowering my eyes and lowering my thoughts even further, I asked with true sincerity for the prayers of those going in and out."

Once when I was sitting in the refectory with the superior, he asked me in a whisper if I would like to see holy prudence in someone very old. When I said I wished that very much, he summoned from the second table a man called Lawrence who had been about forty-eight years in the monastery and was second priest in the monastery.

He came, genuflected before the abbot and received his blessing. When he stood up the abbot said nothing at all to him but left him standing beside the table and not eating. It was just the start of the midday meal so that he was left standing there a full hour, probably two. I was embarrassed to look this hard-working man in the face, for he was completely white-haired and all of eighty years. He stayed there until we had finished eating, and when we got up, the holy man sent him off to the great Isidore to recite to him the beginning of the thirty-ninth Psalm.

Being myself a bad character, I did not let slip the chance to teas the old man, so I asked him what he had been thinking about as he stood by the table. "I thought of the shepherd as the image of Christ," he said. "I thought of the command as coming not from him but from God. And so, Father John, I stood praying as if I were in front of the altar of God rather than the table of men; and because I trust and love my shepherd, I had no malevolent thoughts concerning him. It is said that love does not reckon up injury. But be sure of this much, Father, that anyone who freely chooses to be simple and guileless provides the devil with neither the time nor the place for an attack."

+ St. John Climacus +

+St. Symeon Metaphrastis paraphrase of the homilies of St. Makarius of Egypt+

 

Whenever anyone loves something belonging to this world, it will burden his mind, dragging it down and not allowing it to rise up. In such people the weight, bias and balance of the will, that is, of the heart, are inclined to what is evil. It is in this way that torment and trial afflict the whole human race, whether they are Christians living in cities or on mountains, in monasteries, in the country or the desert. For if one is willingly enticed by what one loves it is clear that one has not yet dedicated all one’s love to God. Whether one likes possessions, or gold, or serving one’s stomach, or indulging in fleshly desires, or wordy wisdom designed to gain men’s praise, or authority, or honors from men, or anger and wrath, or useless speeches, or merely day-dreaming and listening to idle words, or acting as a teacher for the sake of men’s esteem-in each and every case to give oneself to a passion is manifestly to love it. One person surrenders himself to sluggishness and negligence, another delights in extravagant clothes, another in sleep, another in silly jokes: whatever the worldly thing, big or small, by which one is bound and held fast, it prevents one from raising oneself up. Clearly, we indulge ourselves in whatever passion we do not resist and fight against bravely: like some shackle it binds us and drags us down, degrading the mind so that it does not dedicate itself to God and worship Him alone. The soul that truly directs its desire towards the Lord focuses all its longing on Him, denying itself and not following the desires of its own intellect.

Example makes it clear that man is destroyed by his own free choice: for out of love for some worldly thing he throws himself into fire, is drowned in the sea and gives himself into captivity. Let us suppose that someone’s house or field has caught fire. The person who wanted to save himself fled without anything as soon as he noticed the fire, leaving everything in it and concerned only with his own life. But someone else thought he would take some of the goods with him, so he stayed behind to collect them; and as he was taking them the fire, which had already overwhelmed the house, caught him as well and burnt him. In this way, through his attachment to some transient thing, he was destroyed in the fire by his own free choice. Again, two men were shipwrecked. One of them, wanting to save himself, stripped off his clothes and threw himself into the water; and in this way he was able to save his life. The other, wanting to save his clothes as well, was drowned, destroying himself for the sake of a slight gain. Or again, let us suppose that news of an attack by an enemy was announced. One man, as soon as he heard the news, fled as fast as his feet would carry him, without a thought for his possessions. Another, either because he distrusted the news, or because he wanted to take with him some of his goods, waited until later, and when the enemy arrived he was caught. Thus, through his lack of alertness and his attachment to worldly things, he lost body and soul by his own free choice.

Few are those who really acquire perfect love for God, looking upon all worldly pleasures and desires as nothing and patiently enduring the devil’s trials. But one must not despair on this account, or give up hope. Even if many ships suffer shipwreck there are always those that come safely through to port. For this reason we need great faith, endurance, attentiveness, struggle, hunger and thirst for what is right, as well as great understanding and discrimination, together with clear-sightedness and lack of shame in making our requests. As we have said, most men want to attain the kingdom without toil and sweat; and although they praise the saints and desire their dignity and gifts, they are not willing to share with them in the same afflictions, hardships and sufferings. Everyone - prostitutes, tax-collectors and everyone else - wants this. For this reason, trials and temptations are set before us, so as to make it clear who in truth loves their Lord and deserves to attain the kingdom of heaven.

+St. Symeon Metaphrastis paraphrase of the homilies of St. Makarius of Egypt+

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