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Vol: 7 Issue: 4

Baramhat 1729 / April 2013

Asceticism His Grace Bishop Serapion Asceticism is to live with satisfaction on your minimal needs without experiencing delight and getting away from materialism,. St. Paul the Apostle reminded his disciple Timothy in his first epistle, “But godliness with contentment is great gain”; “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” and “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Timothy 6:6 - 9)St. Paul talked about those who were seeking wealth as a goal in their life and he named them as “money lovers”, the essence of all evil, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”.(1 Timothy 6:10) The Lord of glory, our Lord Jesus Christ, warned those who took wealth as their master instead of worshipping God, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) How difficult is it, for those who depend on their wealth to enter the Kingdom of God?. St. Paul asked Timothy to advice the rich, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gave us richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17) Living a devoting life, my brothers, is to live away from the greed for money and not to worship it. It means also, don’t go after your wealth and become dependent on it. It does not mean that a person can’t have money, he can, but he shouldn’t be possessed by money itself. He can use his money and not to be used himself by that money. Let the money serves him without becoming a servant to that money. An ascetic person must become the master of his assets, whether these are too much or too little. Many people leave money, but they


don’t abandon loving it. Many gave money to others, literally, from their pockets only, without experiencing the pleasure of giving it cheerfully. Don’t we hear about people who struggle about money and go into financial disputes, at a time they are living and acting like the poor? Let us lead our true devoted life, as we were instructed by God, using our hearts and avoiding false display. Our fathers, the Apostles, had lots of money, collected at their feet!, and were distributed to anyone in need.” (Acts 4:35) Our greatest model, Lord Christ, used money, he asked Peter to pay taxes for Him and Peter. He accepted the women to serve Him with their money and permitted His disciples to distribute the money for their needs and for the poor. (John 13:29) Our Lord Christ showed us the real meaning of asceticism in the tenth chapter of the Gospel after St. Mark, when a rich man met the Lord. He defined to him, the perfect path by saying, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”; “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”; “Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” ; “And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” [Mark 10:21 - 25] In spite of the true desire of this rich man to have the eternal life and in spite that he met Lord Christ, observed the commandments, yet he didn’t gain a thing and left in sadness. It was difficult for him to enter the Kingdom of God as he was enslaved by his money. The Kingdom of God is reserved only for the free people! Those who worship the money and worldly lust have no place in that Kingdom. The true ascetic life requires you to be free from the mastery of money and wealth. God has ordered us to be completely liberated from slavery, love dependence on money and not to have it as a goal in our life. This is the Lord’s call to everyone without exception. Asceticism thus, is a liberation from the influence of money and wealth. This call is to the monks as well as to the married people and also to both the clergy and the laymen. Whoever becomes liberated from the compulsives of money, usually can live a true ascetic life leaving everything to Christ. Asceticism starts within the heart and reflects every external feature of one’s life. However, who is concerned by appearance only, will never succeed in a devoting life. Alone those who are liberated, in their hearts, from the “love of money”, can have this perfect life. http://lacopts.org/articles/asceticism

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Fr Kyrillos Prays his first Liturgy Fr Kyrillos Farag, prayed his first liturgy with the priest and congregation of St George Church where he will be serving as well as priests and congregation from St Abu Sefien Church where he used to serve. His Welcome ceremony will be on Thursday 18th of April at 6pm at St George Church. May God bless his service.

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Abba Poemen, the Moderate Ascetic By: William Harmless Many of the Desert Fathers experimented with harsh ascetic regimens, severely limiting their sleep and their intake of food and drink. For example, Abba Arsenius claimed that “it is enough for a monk, if he is a real fighter, to sleep only one hour”; Abba Dioscorus boasted that he never ate cooked food or fruit or vegetables; and poor Abba Isaiah found himself publicly chided for daring to mix the daily ration of bread and salt with water. Poemen, by contrast, was critical of extremes: “Many of our Fathers have become very courageous in asceticism, but in fineness of perception there are very few.” Once a monk approached St Poemen to ask him about fasting, for he had heard about those who ate only every other day. Poemen admitted that in his younger days he had met those who practiced even more severe regimens eating only every three, four, even seven days. But he advised against it: “The Fathers tried all this out as they were able and they found it preferable to eat every day, but just a small amount. They have left us this royal way, which is light.” On another occasion, one of Poemen's disciples teased him about washing his feet: “How is it that others practice austerity and treat their bodies harshly?” Poemen's reply was poignant: “We have not been taught to kill our bodies, but to kill our passions.” Poemen did not deny the rigors of desert life: “Poverty, hardship, austerity and fasting: these are the instruments of the solitary life.” He stressed that one did have to control one's appetites. Just as King David had seized a lion by the throat and killed it, so the monk had to seize himself by the belly to destroy the invisible lion (presumably, the devil). Once, when a monk admitted to eating lots of vegetables, Poemen told him to eat bread instead, with a few vegetables. Poemen also insisted that wine was not part of a monk's diet and argued that one can hardly acquire “fear of God when our belly is full of cheese and preserved foods.” As Poemen saw it, too much effort spent on meeting physical needs distorted one's spirituality: “Because of our need to eat and sleep, we do not see the simple things.” What was needed was discernment and a balance of exterior and interior disciplines: “To sit in the cell is, externally, to work with the hands, eat once a day, keep silence and meditate; and internally, to make progress by... keeping the hours of prayer and keeping a watch on the secret thoughts of the heart.” Among the sayings attributed to Poemen, twenty deal with such ascetic matters. It is not easy to situate Poemen's ascetic views vis-a-vis others in the Apophthegmata. Burton-Christie claims that Poemen's moderate asceticism is expressive of the Apophthegmata's basic approach; but it is clear that the ancient editors also preserved voices that taught harsher views. (From: Remembering Poemen Remembering: The Desert Fathers and the Spirituality of Memory.) Page 4


Fasting as the Beginning of All Virtues By: Patrik Hagman “In a full belly there is no knowledge of the mysteries of God” By: Isaac the Syrian Of all forms of ascetic techniques that Isaac employs, fasting is probably the one that is most difficult to understand for modern man. This is due to some important differences between our time and that of Isaac. First, the understanding of how the body works, and the use of food, is completely different. While we today understand that there are certain parts of our diet that are bad for us (like sugar and saturated fats), we take for granted that food on the whole is essential and good for us. Ancient man had a completely different view. Peter Brown gives a good description of the understanding of the ancients: The ascetics of late antiquity tended to view the human body as an ‘autarkic’ system. In ideal conditions, it was thought capable or running on its own ‘heat’; it would need only enough nourishment to keep that heat alive. In its ‘natural’ state ― a state with which ascetics tended to identify the bodies of Adam and Eve ― the body had acted like a finely tuned engine, capable of ‘idling’ indefinitely. It was only the twisted will of fallen men that had crammed the body with unnecessary food, thereby generating in it the dire surplus of energy that showed itself in physical appetite, in anger, and in the sexual urge. In reducing to which he had been accustomed, the ascetic slowly remade his body. He turned into an exactly calibrated instrument. In other words, for the ancients, eating as little as possible was not seen as a way to destroy or harm the body, it was considered a way to give it back its natural health. There is the famous description of Antony the Great, who, when coming out of the desert fortress after twenty years of serious fasting, looked exactly the same as when he entered. The successful ascetic was probably regarded with the same envy as those who today are constantly able to keep a balanced and healthy diet. Isaac considers fasting to be the foundation of all virtues. Fasting makes it hard to sleep, which means it will be easier to practise vigils. Out of fasting, the will to pray is born. It helps to preserve chastity. Fasting makes the ascetic penitent. The person who despises fasting will also be weak in all the virtues. All this known to everybody, Isaac says, indicating the strong tradition of fasting he is living in. Isaac sums up the importance of fasting thus: This means that a man, who is wise, shall lay down a fair law for his belly, by

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sitting alone, untroubled, constantly. Proceeding from here he will reach the subduing of the senses, then watchfulness of the mind, then calming of brutish passions moving in the body, then quiet thought, then enlightened impulses of the spirit. Then application to excellent works, high and subtle images in the mind. In brief: the liberation of the true man and the renewal of the soul and the resurrection with Christ in the Kingdom. So fasting For Isaac the Syrian, lays down the foundation on which the entire ascetic project is built. If this foundation is weak, then everything that follows it will be unstable as well. (From: Patrik Hagman “The Asceticism of Isaac of Nineveh� Oxford University Press)

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Holy Week Contemplations By: H.H. Pope Shenouda On the first anniversary of the departure of H.H. Pope Shenouda III, we would like to present to you a collection of books written by His Holiness titled Holy Week Contemplations. This book is made up of five different booklets that H.H. published in different years. This book takes you through the events of this great and holy week and helps the reader to participate in every step of Christ’s passions.

Also a great read this Holy Week

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St Shenouda monastery is in the process of publishing a bible study series for teens. It involves the rewriting of some of the classic bible commentaries to suit teenagers. Skills required 1. 2. 3.

Good knowledge of the Bible Good writing skills Demonstrate some level of Interaction with teenagers through Sunday school service etc.

We will provide you with sufficient material to help you with this task. So if you think you have the required skills and want to be part of this project please email us on Email: pimonakhos@copticmail.com. Also if you   

Have an unfinished manuscript of a Christian book A book that you wrote that you did not get around to publish Have the writing skills but do not have the resources to write about a certain topic

Then drop us an email and we can make an arrangement to utilise your talent.


Pimonakhos Vol 7 Issue 4