Christ is Risen : Truly, He is Risen

Written by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III on . Posted in Feasts

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The resurrection of Jesus is the strength of the church. It is the strength of a new life given to us by Jesus, to whom is the glory. When He trampled death and subdued Hades, He was victorious for us against the fearful enemy. The feast of the resurrection is a new chance for everyone. It is the strength of our resurrection, which we received in baptism, when we were buried with Jesus in the baptism of death. So as Jesus rises from the dead, then that is how we dwell in the new life.

Who will role over the stone?

It is the dawn of the resurrection… The women are on their way to the tomb in the early hours of the morning. They are carrying incense. They were saying among themselves, “Who shall roll us away the stone?” (Mark 16:3). There was a big stone placed against the door of the tomb. It could not be perceived by the human mind that these women could reach the body of the savior.

Numerously, it seams that Jesus is imprisoned in my soul, as if motionless, as He was in the tomb before the resurrection. This great stone of my numerous sins kept Him as a prisoner. How many times my soul lingered to see Jesus rising in His light and might! How many times I have tried to role over the stone, but without prevail? For the weight of the stone, bound by habits, was heavier. Many times I have said in despair, “Who shall roll away the stone?” (Mark 16:3).

Despite that, the women are on their way to the tomb. Their approach is a work of faith. So whether that was faith or craziness, still it will be rewarded. Then I will have to continue in my overwhelming desire, so that the stone would be rolled away. But the women didn’t go to the tomb empty handed they brought sweet spices for the Savior’s body, (Mark 16:1). Therefore, I have to bring something with me – at least as my good gesture – that is if I desire that the stone be rolled over from my soul. This gesture should be of value, even if it was a token, but it has to constitute a sacrifice. And now… The women have found that the stone was removed in an unexpected way. “There was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door.” (Matt. 28:2).

To remove the stone, there should have been an amazing miracle – An earthquake – because a push or a snug was not enough. It is the same for that stone within me, which seems to paralyze the movement of Jesus. It requires an earthquake… That is an internal overhaul, a full uprooting change. The matter requires an illuminated projectile that will shake me. This is how Jesus rises within me to subdue the old and make room for the new. This surpasses the arrangements and organizations, for it requires death which is followed by birth. The angel has announced to the disciples that Jesus, who is risen, is waiting for them in Galilee. Jesus Himself asserts the fact, saying, “Go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.” (Matt. 28:10).

Why is the return to Galilee? Is Jesus trying to protect his disciples from the adversity of the Jews? Or does He want to confirm that after the turbulence of His sufferings, there will come days of peace and tranquility? Maybe… But it seems that there is a more deep reason than that. Jesus met His disciples in Galilee. There they heard His call and started to follow it. Therefore, the memories of those days will stay with our souls youthfully and refreshingly. This was after some of them were weak and hopeless, without faith during His sufferings. Jesus wanted them to return once more to their first vigor and their old warmth… He wanted to renew their emotions and their will, which were there when they first met. In the atmosphere of the Galilee, which the Lord has returned to, was for the new life, which He will fulfill and declare to them. There is a ‘Galilee’ in the life of each of us. Or at least among those who, one day, met the Savior and loved Him. The ‘Galilee’ is the time, during which I felt the Lord is looking at me, and calling my name. Since that time, long years have passed, maybe burdened with a lot of sins, during which it seems that I have forgotten Jesus. But despite this – whoever meets Jesus – even once – will never forget Him. Here is Jesus calling on me to go to the ‘Galilee’ of my life, to reconfirm that love, which I was characterized with during my early days. There I will see Him anew.

My Master… I would like to return to the ‘Galilee’, but will I meet You there? How will my heart illuminate, that which was dim? Is it just by mentioning the ‘Galilee’, my life will be content, will I regain my emotions, with my first meeting with You? “And, behold, He goes before you into Galilee.” (Matt. 28:7). My son, don’t think about the new meeting in pain. I will be honest in the promise that I will strike with you. I will do more, just for the intention of your waiting, in the ‘Galilee’ of memories. I will be there before you, to guide you. When you stead fast your heart anew in ‘Galilee’, then He is the One who will guide you, He will know you and will talk with you…

The different features of Jesus

Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. He came to them. He didn’t spend time in scolding them for their weak belief, and they didn’t waist time to apologize, or explain their excuses. But everything happened in simplicity and love giving, He said unto them, “Have you here any meat?” (Luke 24:41). “And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.” (Luke 24:42).

So life returns to its original nature, to that time from when it ceased. If I betrayed Jesus and left Him, when I set a time to return to Him, I don’t have to worry or prepare for such a meeting. I only have to let Him return into my daily life. I would place Him in my current events. Get Him involved in my problems and my wishes. It is enough to offer Jesus His share of the fish and honeycomb. At this instance Jesus will be present at the table. He will share our lives anew. This happens in the blink of an eye. But we have to act in humility and repentance. The exterior condition is simple and easy, but we require an overhaul from within We require to surrender, and be humble. “After that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.” (Mark 16:12). Jesus, after His resurrection, appeared to individuals who knew Him (John 20:20).

We beseech Jesus our Lord, who has risen from the dead, to give us the spirit of the resurrection from within, to renew our lives and our repentance. We desire Him to enter unto us, even if the doors were closed, so that we can hear His divine voice.

Seventh Sunday of Great Lent | Palm Sunday

Written by Fr. Louka Sidarous on . Posted in Feasts, Sunday Contemplations

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“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9)

This is how the Lord invites us to rejoice and be extremely glad, through the words of Zechariah the prophet, on the day Jesus Christ enters Jerusalem. Hence we hope to take our share and enjoy that spiritual happiness on this day. Jesus has entered unto us this day to reign over us. Then rise O beloved ones with praises and rejoice and spread your clothes, take off the old, raise the banner of victory in your life and hold the palm branches in your hands. Say to the Lord: Amen, come O our Lord Jesus, reign over us, reign over our heart, like the temple in Jerusalem. Drive out those who hinder our worship…for our hearts have become the den of thieves. The world has entered it in negligence and has ruined its beauty, though it was once the house of prayers. O Lord drive out those who sold doves, overturn the tables of the money exchangers. Purify our hearts so that they can return to you. Once more fill our heart with the incense of prayers and the offerings of praises.

Hosanna

This is our praise for today. This is our asking of the Lord, ‘Save us…save us.’ Today is the day of salvation. On the dawn of this day the Lord entered the house of Zacchaeus and said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:9). Today Timaeus the blind cried out saying, “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48). So the Lord opened his eyes. Do not stop repeating the name of salvation that is for our Lord Jesus Christ…experience the power of His salvation and the strength of His arms.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

The Lord has preceded that by saying, “I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 13:35). This phrase benefits our hearts to accept the kingdom of Jesus. Then we can welcome Him to reign in our hearts. We hope to always say it to the Lord so that we can see His face….we always say this phrase before the reading of the Gospel, in every liturgy, to welcome the words of the Gospel in a prepared heart. For he who accepts the Word accepts Christ the King, because He is the incarnate Word of God.

The characteristics of the Kingdom of Christ as it has been declared unto us today:

The King of Peace:

The first thing that was declared in the Kingdom of Christ was the great rejoice and the peaceful heart. Since the first moments of His birth, the multitude of angels rejoiced with the everlasting praises, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14). Hence, today the multitudes glorify the Lord saying, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:38). Peace is just one of the signs that Christ is among us, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” (John 14:27). Therefore, if we miss this peaceful heart and the spiritual joy, then we are not ready for Jesus to live within us.

The King of victory:

Christ has come to destroy the deeds of Satan. Our faith in Jesus is a victory over the world, over death, over bodily desires and over the love of the world. Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead, so we were victorious over the fear that threatened our lives. That is why the multitudes rejoiced on this day and went out to meet Him, for they heard that he carried out those miracles, “The justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26) He who accepts Jesus as King on this day will never be enslaved, for Jesus has reigned over us and gave us freedom to become the sons of God.

The King of Tears:

He who was victorious over death, cried over Lazarus who died. He who sanctified the temple has cried over Jerusalem. This day Jesus is in our midst. He is the King who is crying for those who are laying around us in the desire of the world and sins, the ones who have ignored the time for their salvation. This day Jesus is in our midst crying for those slain by sin. Those are the ones who have rejected to shelter under the spread of the cross and the shadows of the wings of His love. On this day, we hope to recognize the extent of His tears, enter into the partnership of His love and sacrifice for mankind.

The King of meekness:

Jesus neither reign with the sword, nor with the power of mankind. The kingdom of Jesus is not spread by wars, or by a materialistic power….Jesus is a meek King, gentle and lowly at heart. He gently reigns, not with vehemence. He who accepts the kingdom of Christ learns to be like his teacher. He does not shout, does not feud and no one on the streets hear his voice. Every time we lose our meekness and humility, then we have lost the characteristics of Jesus and we are no longer in His likeness.

The law of Christ is, “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” (Matt. 10:25)

Christ is the King over the children

One of the major characteristics of the Kingdom of Christ is the likeness of children. That is why the Lord has previously said, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)
John the evangelic witnessed in the Revelation one hundred forty four thousand children in heaven…a large band with amazing secrets. Also Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” (Luke 10:21) This day the children are like the angels praising without ceasing. Today, we need to return to our childhood, the warmth of love, which is pure without question and without glamor or pride. The closer we approach our first childhood we recognize the kingdom of Christ.

Jesus Reigned with Love

Today, Jesus entered Jerusalem to be crucified. This is the objective. He set his sight toward Jerusalem. For Jesus, the cross was His secret throne, on which the Lord has reigned with love. He has stretched His arms to encompass all mankind, and has sacrificed Himself for the whole world.
The cross is the sign of the kingdom of Christ. It is the sign of the Son of Man and at the same time it is the sign of the overwhelming love. It is the sign of sacrifice…through the cross there is no room for selfishness, self esteem or a place for hatred, detest or resentment. When we enter the kingdom of Jesus on this day it means our acceptance to become deep in love, every day, not only for our kin or close ones but for everyone. Here, love does not know any distinction or peculiarity.

If only, on this day, we persistently ask, ‘Your Kingdom come…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…save us.’

Meditations upon the Glorious Feast of the Epiphany

Written by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III on . Posted in Feasts

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The month of January brings to us several feasts: the beginning of the new year, the Nativity, the Circumcision, the Epiphany.
We thank God who gave us the blessing and the efficiency of all these feasts, in our lives. While we celebrate the glorious feast of the Ephiphany, we are glad to stop sometime for meditation:

The feast of Epiphany is the feast of Baptism …… This feast is also called the feast of the divine manifestation (the Theophania).
Because the Holy Trinity appeared in it: The Son is baptised, The Father says from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, and The Holy Spirit appears “like of a dove” (Matt. 3: 16-17). Hence the baptism of the Lord Christ shows the creed of the Holy Trinity.

Thus the baptism is always in the Name of the Holy Trinity
According to the word of the Lord to His disciples before His Ascension: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). He did not say in the names, because the three are one, as it was mentioned in (1 John 5:7): “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one”.

It is well that the Church has called this feast: “Eed El Ghetass”, or the feast of the Immersion, (in Arabic: Eed means feast, and “ElGhetass” means immersion).

Because in it, the Church reminds the people that the Lord Christ was baptized by being immersed, as it was said that after being baptized, “When He has been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water” (Matt. 3:16). The Church also reminds the people that the faithful in the New Testament are being baptized by being immersed, (and not by being sprinkled with water, as it is done in some communities). The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized in this manner, at the beginning of the apostolic era, at the hands of Philip: “Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away” (Acts 8:39).Also because Baptism is a tincture, (Baptisma in Latin), and tinting is accomplished through immersion; and because Baptism is a burial with Christ (Col. 2:12), and burial is accomplished through placing inside the tomb (immersion), and cannot be represented by sprinkling with water ……

Likewise in all the ancient vestiges, we see that baptism was accomplished inside a recipient that was called the baptistery.
That proves that baptizing was accomplished through immersion, and not by sprinkling water. We remember, during this feast, many spiritual and doctrinal meanings, whether as regards the baptism of the Lord Christ at the hands
of John the Baptist, or as regards the importance of Baptism in the Church…….

We remember also that the Lord came to the baptism of John, while He was not in need of it.
But that was in order “to fulfill all righteousness”, so that He would be without blame before men, even while He is not in need. That also establishes before us the principle of obedience and the principle of loyalty, without asking what profit it is to us?

He entered the baptism of John also in order to be our representative, or to take our place, just as He fasted instead of us, and just as He was crucified instead of us.

Many of His actions were for the others and not for Himself. He took our place to present to God the Father an image of the perfect man, who satisfies the Father by His life, as well He satisfies Him by His redemption of the human kind.In His baptism, we remember his humility …..

We remember His love and His fidelity, and His tenderness in His conversation with John, when He says: “Permit it to be so now”.

The baptism of Christ also reminds us of our baptism , and of the care of the Church for Baptism.

Baptism is the first sacrament of the Church, and is the door through which we enter to the other sacraments.
We say vulgarily: “we have Christianized so and so”, that is: we have baptized him; because he has become a Christian through baptism. …..That is an expression which is sound in its doctrinal meaning, and which reminds us of the word of Christ: “He who believes and is baptized will
be saved” (Mark 16:16).

Therefore the day of baptism is a feast as regards the child and his family.
In that day, the Church gives him three sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist also; and makes him ready to participate in the life of the Church. He becomes a member in it, and takes the first ecclesiastical certificate in his life.

The Church assigns a sponsor to the child, who will care for him spiritually, and very often it is the mother who is the sponsor to her child.

The mother is engaged before God and the Church to take care of her child in the fear of God, and to be his first teacher, who instructs him, and who gives him the practical training for all religious matters.

Questions About the Nativity

Written by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III on . Posted in Feasts

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In the Name of the Fr., the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

In this booklet we present to you some answers which are related to certain questions about the Nativity, of which there are:

  1. The sequence of the genealogy, and the mention of some sinful women in it;
  2. the difference between the two gospels of Matthew and Luke in regards to the names and the ascending and descending order in that sequence.
  3. Are there 41 or 42 genealogies?
  4. Elizabeth your relative.
  5. The son of David the son of Abraham.
  6. The difference in the celebration of the day of the Nativity.
  7. The wise men (the Magi) and the nature of the star of the wise men.
  8. The difference between the (Magi) wise men and the shepherds.

Pope Shenouda III

PREFACE

Some people ask many questions about the subject of The Nativity of Christ, and they need answers. I undertook to answer from the sayings of the saintly fathers, which I had translated, or which I had taken from some manuscripts.

I relied in that, on many books, the most important of which are:

  1. Saint John Chrysostom’s interpretation of the Gospel of St. Matthew (manuscript, and translation).
  2. The Homilies of Saint Severus of Antioch , which were published in “Patrologia Orientalis: Homilae Cathedrales”
  3. The Sermons of Saint John Chrysostom.

There are other questions about the virginal nativity and the virginity of the Holy Virgin, to which I answered in our book “The Comparative Theology”, to which it can be referred.

But now, I congratulate you for the Nativity of the Lord Christ.

Many happy returns.


QUESTION #1: The Sinful Women in the Genealogy Sequence

Why did the evangelist neglect the names of some saintly women like Sara, Rebecca, and others, in the sequence of genealogies, while he mentioned adulterous women like Tamar, Rahab, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Ruth who is a woman of a foreign race?

ANSWER

He wanted to annihilate the haughtiness of the Jews who boast about their grandfathers. He showed them how their grandfathers had sinned. Judah committed adultery with Tamar, his son’s widow, and engendered Perez and Zerah from her. David fell into adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Boaz, the great grandfather of David, was engendered by Salmon from the adulteress Rahab.

Even if their grandfathers were virtuous men, the virtue of their grandfathers would not have been profitable to them; because the deeds of a person, not the deeds of his sons, are those which determine his destiny at the last day.

Saint John Chrysostom said about this:
“The Lord Christ did not come to run away form our disgraceful actions, but to obliterate them. He is not ashamed of any of our defects. And just as those grandfathers had taken adulterous women, in the same way our Lord and God has betrothed for Himself our nature that had committed adultery.

The Church is like Tamar.
She was at once delivered from her wicked actions, and then she followed Him.

The condition of Ruth resembles our condition.
Her tribe was a foreigner to Israel ; and it went down to exceeding poverty. Nevertheless, when Boaz saw her, he did not despise her poverty, neither did he reject the vileness of her race. In the same way, the Lord Christ did not reject His Church that was an alien, and poor as regards good deeds. And just as Ruth, if she had not left her people and her house, she would not have tasted that glory, in the same way, the Church about which the prophet said: “Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty” (Psalm 45: 10-11)…

Our Lord mortified them with these matters, and made them realize how not to be haughty.
When the evangelist registered the genealogy of Christ, he mentioned those sinful women; because it is impossible for any of us to be virtuous by the virtue of his grandfathers, or to be wicked by the vice of his grandfathers. I rather say that the person whose grandfathers were not virtuous and became virtuous himself, then the honor of that person’s virtue would have been great.

Let no one boast about his grandfathers, and be puffed because of them, when he thinks about the grandfathers of our Lord; and let him look at his own deeds, and even let him not boast about his virtues; because it is through such boasting that the Pharisee became less the Publican. (Luke 18).

Do not then falsify your pains by vain talk. Do not loose all your effort after having covered a long distance; because your Lord knows the virtues which you have attained, better than you, because if you give a glass of cold water, God will not neglect that, and will not forget it. (Matt. 10:43).


QUESTION #2: Ascent and Descent in the Genealogical Sequence

There are three differences in the sequence of genealogy, between what was registered by St. Matthew the Evangelist and St. Luke the Evangelist. These are:

  • There is a difference between the names in the two gospels.
  • Saint Matthew begins the biography of the Lord Christ with the genealogical sequence. As for Saint Luke, he does not speak of it before telling the story of the Epiphany.
  • Saint Matthew mentions the genealogy descending from the first fathers to the sons, while saint Luke mentions the genealogy ascending from the Lord Christ to Adam to God.

Is there an explanation for all of these differences?

ANSWER

A. The Difference in Names.
As a matter of fact, Saint Matthew mentions the natural genealogy of the Lord Christ, while Saint Luke mentions the legal or official genealogy. To explain this, we say:

The law of Moses specifies that if a man dies without posterity, the brother of the dead man must take the widow of his brother, and marry her, and engender a posterity for his brother from her. (Deut. 25: 5-6), or that the son whom he engenders becomes from the legal point of view, an official son to his brother, although he is considered a natural son to that brother who has engendered him.

Hence such a son would have two fathers: a natural father who has engendered him, and a legal father who is his uncle who died without posterity. If this dead man without posterity has no brother, the nearest relative to him will take his wife and engender a posterity to him; because the son who is born is counted a son to this dead man, according to the law. If the nearest relative does not want to take the wife of the dead man according to what he has been charged of, the next relative must necessarily accept this marriage, because the law is eager to raise a posterity to that dead man who has not engendered a son.

That kind of marriage is called “redemption.” A clear example of this is mentioned in the story of Ruth with Boaz.

In his interpretation of this, Saint Severus of Antioch said:
In this manner, Joseph the betrothed to the Holy Virgin is related, as a matter of fact, to two fathers: Because since Heli took a wife and died without posterity, Jacob, who was the nearest relative to him, married his wife in order to engender a posterity to him from her according to the commandment of the law. When he engendered Joseph, that Joseph became a legal son to the dead Heli, and at the same time a natural son to Jacob. Therefore saint Matthew, from his part, said that Joseph is the son of Jacob, and saint Luke, from the other part, said that he is the son of Heli. One mentioned the natural genealogy, and the other mentioned the legal genealogy.

On one hand, Saint Matthew mentioned the natural fathers of Joseph; while Saint Luke mentioned the legal fathers.
Saint Luke went on with the genealogical legal sequence until Nathan son of David. Saint Matthew went on until Solomon son of David. The two met in David…Then the course was sometimes similar, and some other times, it was variously divided, then it was united again, and then separated. Hence the genealogy of Christ is confirmed, from the natural and from the legal point of view…that He is the son of David, the son of Abraham, the son of Adam.

B. The Difference in Ascending and Descending, and the relation between this and the baptism.
Saint Matthew began his gospel by saying: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham…” Then he explained the genealogy saying: “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob”. And after having mentioned those who were engendered through faulty relations, he came at last to the census of the generations. Then he said directly: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows…”

Thus after having explained the corruption and the death through which all these generations had passed, he arrived at the pure birth of the Lord Christ from the Holy Spirit and from the Virgin saint Mary.

As for saint Luke, he narrated the Annunciation, the birth of the Baptist, the Nativity of Christ, and gradually reached the baptism of Christ at the age of thirty; and then he mentioned the legal genealogy.

Saint Severus of Antioch explains this matter saying:
“Luke explained the legal genealogy, that reminds us of Him who died without posterity, then his name was raised after his death, by a son who is attributed to him, in a way that has some similarity to the adoption and to the resurrection.

He mentioned this genealogy after having narrated the story of the Nativity; because baptism gives the true heavenly adoption, in manifesting us as sons of God. Therefore he mentioned the legal genealogy which gives the adoption; in order to show that this representation has been truly confirmed, and that the sickly condition of the people has been returned to health by means of grace.

It is for this reason that he ascended with the genealogy from down upwards, till it arrived to God, in order to show that grace which comes from baptism raises us up and elevates us to the divine relationship, making us sons to God.

Exactly just as the union of marriage which happened after the disobedience of the commandment by Adam and Eve, and the engendering of sons, which resulted from that, made us descend downwards. And to complete this image he descended with the natural genealogy downwards…

Saint Augustine says:
Matthew goes down with the genealogy, pointing to our Lord Jesus Christ who descended to bear our sins. Because in the posterity of Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Thus he did not begin with Adam.


QUESTION #3: The Number of Generations

Saint Matthew says: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations” (Matt. 1:17). But when we count them, we find them to be 41 only. What then is the secret?

ANSWER

The reason is that Jeconiah was counted twice, because he is like the angle stone, an intermediate between two generations, and so he was counted with each of the two. From David who had sinned, they went down to the captivity to the age of Jeconiah, And from Jecohiah, they went up to the generation of Christ who has emancipated them. Jeconiah was in that matter, a symbol of Christ, who was described as “the stone which was rejected by the builders, which has become the chief cornerstone”.


QUESTION #4: The son of David, the son of Abraham

Why did the Apostle Matthew say in the genealogy sequence: “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1); and mentioned David firstly, although Abraham precedes David as regards time?

ANSWER

Saint John Chrysostom said about that:

“He mentioned David firstly, because he was prominent in the mouths of all the people at that time, in view of his dignity, and his majesty, and also because he was more recent in time.

Thus they said: “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem , where David was?” (John 7:42).

Nobody called Him the son of Abraham, but they called Him the son of David…because of his kingdom, and because they honored the kings who reigned after him.

And God said to Solomon: “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son.” (1 Kings 11:12).”

We note also what the angel said in his annunciation to the Holy Virgin of the birth of Christ:

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1: 32:33).


QUESTION #5: Elizabeth Your Relative

The angel of the Annunciation said to the Holy Virgin : “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived in her old age” (Luke 1:36). How can this be, since the Holy Virgin St. Mary is from the tribe of Judah from the posterity of David, while Elizabeth is from the daughters of Aaron from the tribe of Levi; and the mixing among tribes was forbidden, in order to safeguard the inheritance, lest it would be transferred form one tribe to another?!

ANSWER

It is true that it was said in the book of Numbers:
“So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers. Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance” (Num. 36: 7-9).

Nevertheless there are some who interpret the word “your relative” in a general meaning, or that she is like one from the daughters of Israel , according to the word of the apostle saint Paul :
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants…” ( Rom. 9: 3-4).

But Saint Severus, Patriarch of Antioch , presents another interpretation. He says:
“As a matter of fact, the book of Exodus was written before the commandment that forbids taking a wife from another tribe. Aaron, the first chief priest according to the law, took a wife from the daughters of Judah, “Aaron took to himself Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon, as wife” (Ex. 6:23), and Amminadab is from the posterity of the tribe of Judah…Consider the very wise arrangement of the Holy Spirit, who ordained that the wife of Zacharias, the mother of the Baptist and the relative of St. Mary the Mother of God, was called Elizabeth. We recollect the past until Elizabeth whom Aaron married, and the union of the two tribes which happened through her medium. The Holy Spirit obviously declares to us that it is through the medium of Elizabeth , that the relationship with the Holy Virgin was established.”

QUESTION #6: Genealogy From Joseph

Why the Registration by Genealogy From Joseph?

ANSWER

This question was asked and answered by Saint John Chrysostom: “How is it declared that Christ is from the posterity of David? since he was not born of a man but from a woman only; and the posterity of the Virgin was not counted?…… and what is the objective in that the evangelist mentioned Joseph who was not a cause for the Nativity of Christ?”

It was mentioned in the gospel that “the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth , to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1: 26-27). According to the law, it was not permitted that one could marry from a tribe which is not his own tribe (Num. 36: 7-9).

Since Joseph is from the house of David and from his relatives, it was not possible for him to take Mary as a wife from another tribe than his tribe, and from another ethnic group than his.

What would happen if he had disobeyed the law in that matter?
The gospel testified to him that he was “a just man” (Matt. 1:19).

Why is it according to the genealogy from Joseph and not from the Virgin?
It was not a custom among the Jews, to count the genealogy from women. Therefore he was silent about the mention of her grandfathers, and he counted the genealogy of Joseph. If he had counted the genealogy from a virgin, he would have invented an innovation. And if he had been silent about the genealogy of Joseph, we would not have known the grandfathers of the Holy Virgin……..

Also it was because he did not want to manifest before the time, to the Jews, that Christ was born of a Virgin…since in that, there is a deliverance of the Virgin from a malignant accusation…lest the Jews would have lapidated the Virgin with stones.

Since after numerous miracles, they called Him the son of Joseph (Matt. 13:55), how would they have believed before His miracles, that He is the son of a virgin?!


QUESTION #7: THE “WISE MEN” (THE MAGI)

Who are the wise men? Why did the star appear to them? How did they overcome the Jews? Was the star a natural star? Or was it a heavenly power in the form of a star? What are the symbols which the story of the wise men bear, and what are their relationships with the Gentiles and the Jews?

ANSWER

The wise men came from the East, probably from the countries of Persia . They were from the rank of princes, scientists, or priests. They worshipped the ancient eastern gods, probably the fire; and they may have been among the followers of Zaradesht. They were experts in astronomy and in the stars. Perhaps they had heard from the Jews in the dispersion about a Savior who will come to deliver them and to become the king of the Jews.

Saint John Chrysostom says:
“My brothers, we urgently need long watching and many prayers in order to be able to answer these questions, and to know who are those wise men? and where did they come from?

Because Satan suggested to the enemies of the truth to say: “When Christ was born, His star appeared: Is this not a sign which proves that astrology is a true industry? If He was born in this manner, why did He eradicate astrology, fortune-telling, and magic, and did he render the devils to silence?!

Let us then examine what was that star: was it one of the numerous stars? Or was it an alien to them, from another nature than their nature? Or was it that only the person who looked at it, that thought it was a star? If we know the answer to these questions, we shall know the other matters with greater facility.

That star was not one of the numerous stars; and it is more convenient to say, according to what I think, that it was not a star. But it was one of the invisible powers, and was transformed to that aspect.

The evidence is clear:
Firstly: from the way of its movement: Because there is no star which can possibly move in that manner. If you consider the other stars, you will find that their movement is from West to East. But this star went in its course from the North to the South, because that is the direction from the countries of Persia to Palestine .

Secondly: as regards the time of its appearance: because it did not appear by night, but rather in the daytime when the sun has risen. And this appearance is neither due to the strength of a star, nor to the strength of the moon, nor was it due to all these astral bodies which hide and set down when the sun rays appear. But this star had overcome the sun rays by the abundance of its brilliancy, and was more visible and more glittering than all of them.

Thirdly: this truth becomes obvious from that the star appeared for some time and then disappeared for some other time.
Because it appeared in order to show them the way to Palestine . When they came to Jerusalem , it hided itself. And when they left Herod after he had questioned them, and intended to walk to Bethlehem , the star reappeared to them again. This appearance and disappearance does not happen in the movement of an ordinary star, but it is due to a power which is, above measure, different from others. Because it did not march in a special way. But when it was necessary that they would march, it marched. And when they needed to stop, it stopped, thus controlling all the conditions of their march according to what was convenient for them. It was like the column of clouds in its conduct of the Jewish people.

When they entered Jerusalem , the star was hidden from them, so that having lost their guide, they were compelled to ask the Jews, in order that the matter would become notorious and well-known to everybody……. Thus the appearance and the disappearance brought a determined providence that had a special wisdom.

Fourthly: by its descending downwards:
The meditator must in an obvious manner, necessarily find out another characteristic from the guidance of the wise men by the star. Because it was not possible to show them the way while it was high over them, but it achieved that action by coming downwards. Because while it was high over them, it could not determine precisely a narrow place like a hut where a small baby is lying down. We can know this from the example of the moon, which appears greater than many stars, and how it appears to all the inhabitants of the world in all its vastness, and everyone thinks that the moon is near to him.

Tell me how would the star have shown them a small place like a hut and a manger, if it had not left this high place, and gone downwards till it stopped over the head of the child.

That is what the evangelist indicated saying: “and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” (Matt. 2:9).

When the star recognized the Child, it stopped, and its stopping there, while it was descending downwards, is a great testimony.
It had a great influence upon the wise men and guided them to the worship of the Child. They did not worship Him as an ordinary human being. That is obvious from the gifts which they presented to Him, and which are not convenient for a small child in its swaddling clothes…..

Did you see with what arguments, it has been shown that this star was not one of the ordinary stars?…

Why did the star appear?
The appearance of the star symbolizes the end of the choice of the Jews; destroying all their arguments of self-sufficiency, and calling all the world to His worship.

Thus He opened the door to the Gentiles from the principle of the coming of the Lord, willing to educate His people through the foreigners. Because if He had sent to them many prophets who explained to them His coming, and nevertheless they did not listen to them, therefore He let the foreigners (the Persians) come from a distant land asking for the vision of the way. Let the Jews learn from the words of the inhabitants of Persia , what they refused to learn from their prophets. If they persist and discuss after that also, they will loose every excuse and every argument.

What have they to say, they who have refused to accept the Christ in spite of His having sent to them the prophets, while the wise men accepted the Lord and worshipped Him, merely because they had seen a single star?

Just as He convicted them with His acceptance by the wise men, He also convicted them with the faith of the pagan inhabitants of Nineveh . Therefore He said to them that “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41). Likewise He convicted them with the Samaritan woman, and the woman of Canaan , and the queen of the South; because all these have at least believed; but the others, not even at most, did not believe.

Why did He attract the wise men in this manner?
Perhaps someone would ask: “Why did He attract the wise men by means of a star? We answer that it was not possible for such people to listen to a prophet if He had sent to them one of the prophets. And it was not convenient for them that He would have talked to them from above or by sending an angel. Therefore He called them by the means to which they were used, condescending to their great weakness; and He showed them a great and strange star, in order to amaze them by its beautiful aspect, and to lead them by its way of marching.

The apostle saint Paul followed this method, when he mentioned a testimony from the poets (Acts 17:28). He argued with everyone with the style to which he was used (1 Cor. 9:19-22). With the Jews, God firstly utilized the statutes of sacrifices and purification and the rest of the ordinances and prescriptions by which He began, in view of the dullness of their minds. Then He replaced them, attracting them little by little, until reaching the high philosophy.

He did this with the wise men. He permitted to call them with a star which they saw, in order to render them more discerning and more perceptive than they were. When He led them to the manger, and when they saw the new-born, and became in their spiritualities, better than they were, then He did not let them go back to their countries by means of a star, but He “divinely warned”them “ in a dream” (Matt. 2:12).

Why did He manifest Himself to those wise men, and not to others?
Perhaps someone would ask: “How did they reach such a great zeal? Who had incited them to such a long journey from their country?” According to my opinion, what they did was not merely to be guided by a star, but it was God who had awakened their souls; just as He had done with the king Cyrus, when He incited him to build the house of God. (Ezra 1:2).

Why did He not unveil this manifestation to all the wise men? Because He was not expecting that all of them would believe Him. But He unveiled the matter to those who were more ready to accept Him. Many nations had perished, but the prophet Jonah was not sent but to the people of Nineveh alone. There were two thieves hanging on crosses, but only one of them was saved.

It is astonishing that these wise men come from distant countries to see the Christ! What good things did they expect?…..Did they come to a king? Nevertheless they did not see a king, but a child in swaddling clothes. Did they treat Him as a king, considering what would be happening? No, because afterwards He did not surround Himself with any kingly appearance, He did not possess neither horses nor slaves, and He was accompanied only by twelve unknown poor men.

They did not expect Him to be a king over them, but a king over an opposing country, which was very distant from their country. Undoubtedly they realized the dangers which surrounded them in meeting Him.

They had seen how king Herod trembled, and how the whole congregation was troubled, when they heard the words of the wise men. So they were heading for a king over a country over which there reigned another king…What kinds of deaths were then awaiting for them?! And what did they expect from that king to whom they were directed?

What good thing did they hope to take, when they saw before them a hut, and a manger, and a child in his swaddling clothes, and a poor mother. What then was their aim in worshipping Him and in giving Him presents?

Did they expect good things from Him, when he would become a king in the future? And how could they know that this child would, when he would be grown up, remember what they did, so long as he was in His swaddling clothes?!

How marvelous is the virtue of those who had thrown themselves into many dangers, leaving their country and their people, without any apparent aim but that they obeyed what the Lord had placed in their hearts; then they believed, came, worshipped, and gave presents.

We see the virtue of these wise men, not only in their mere coming, but also in their publicly saying:“we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2). They did not fear neither the anger nor the exasperation of the king.

Hence, I believe that these wise men became the teachers of their countrymen in their lands…especially that they had known from the Jews, that this one whose star they had seen, is the one whom the prophets had announced long ages ago.

The shepherds and the wise men are symbols of the Jews and the Gentiles:

Saint Augustine explains this point saying:
The wise men from the Gentiles, were the first to believe in the Lord Christ. It is evident that the first fruit of the belief in Christ, was the belief of the shepherds. The shepherds came to Him from a near place, and they saw Him on the same day, because the news had come to them by means of angels. But the wise men came to Him from a distant place, and by means of a star. Nevertheless both of them met at the corner stone, “who has made both one…” those “who were afar off and …those who were near” (Eph. 2: 14-17). It was said to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), and the expression: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1), was realized with the wise men.

The shepherds came from a near place to see, and the wise men came from a distant place to worship.
Grace reached the shepherds before the wise men, but these last were more humble. This is the humility that rendered the wild olive tree deserving to be grafted into a cultivated olive tree (Rom. 11:17). The Holy Bible glorifies this humility more in the Gentiles, than in the Jews. Examples of this are what has been said about the centurion (Matt. 8: 5-10), and about the woman of Canaan (Matt. 15:28).

The Jews manifested to the Gentiles the Christ whom they did not themselves want to worship. We note in regards to the wise men, that in not returning through the same way, they symbolize the change in life; since those who arrive at Christ, do not return again to their first way.

Saint John Chrysostom says again:
“Let the Jews be ashamed, because they had seen wise men and ignorant people preceding them, while they did not come to Him, not even after these. That which had happened at that time was a token of what happened later: that the Gentiles preceded the Jews… Thus those who were from the land of Persia preceded those who were from Jerusalem . The apostle saint Paul mentioned this meaning when he said to them: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

The Jews should have worshipped with the wise men, and should have glorified their God, but they trembled and were troubled.

“Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared”, desiring to kill the new-born.

Between Herod and the wise men:
Herod did not care for all that had happened. He was not persuaded, neither by the prophecies of the prophets which he had heard, nor by the story of the extraordinary star, nor by the coming of the wise men from distant countries to worship the new-born.

It is clear that he was in a strange position. Whether he had believed the prophecy which had been said, it is evident that he acted contrarily. And whether he had denied it and had not expected that what was said in it would be realized, why then was he afraid and terrified?

Among the matters which demonstrate his lack of understanding, is his delusion that the wise men would prefer him to the new-born whose star they had seen, and for whom they suffered the pains of that long journey!

The astonishing thing is that “he had secretly called the wise men”, and said to them: “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also” (Matt. 2:8).

And we ask him: “If you truthfully say that, why then do you ask the people secretly? And if you want to kill Him, do you think that the wise men had no doubts about you, because or your trouble and your calling them secretly? ……. But when the malignity of a person traps him, he becomes less intelligent than everybody……

Beware of becoming like Herod who said: “that I may come and worship Him also”, while his heart was not sincere to Him, but he wanted to kill Him. Because those who worthlessly take part in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist , resemble Herod.

The wise men, before their sight of the Child, were hammered by tribulations and fears from every part. But after their worship, He filled them with peace, and they became His priests through their worship, because they presented gifts and offerings to Him…..

“Why did the wise men run away from Herod’s face? And why did the Child Jesus run away too?
It was not convenient to show His miracles in that early age, lest people would not have felt that He was a human being…There is another meaning, which is that we must expect difficulties and pains since the beginning of the way.

Here is Jesus who, while He was still in His swaddling clothes, was chased by Herod, and ran away. And His mother who had not committed any evil, who had not gone away from her house for a long distance at any time, she was alienated and suffered the pains of a long journey…..and Joseph likewise, and also those Persians who secretly departed running away.

That happened so that, when you hear these events, and you become prepared to serve a spiritual service, and then you meet calamities and hardships, you do not tremble a little and do not say: “I should have been crowned because I have accomplished the service of my Lord.”

When the wise men had been divinely warned not to return to Herod, they “departed for their own country another way” They did not doubt, but they promptly obeyed, and they did not think in themselves: “If this Child is greatly powerful, and possesses such wonders, what need have we to run away and to depart secretly!”

Likewise the just Joseph did not argue with the angel, while doubting…

And he did not say to him: “You said before, that He will save His people, and behold, He did not save Himself, but we are in need of journeying and running away. What happened to us is the contrary of what He had promised us…”

He did not pronounce any of these expressions, because he was believing. And he did not ask about the time of his return from there, although the angel did not specify it, not even by saying “until I bring you word” 


QUESTION #8: THE DIFFERENCE IN THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

Why do we celebrate the feast of the Nativity on the 7th of January, while some other churches celebrate it on the 25th of December. What is the reason for this difference?

ANSWER

It is not a doctrinal or a theological difference, but it is a scientific difference.

It is known that the year is 365 days and a quarter of a day. Therefore a day is added once every four years; and the year is called a leap year. But in the Gregorian western calendar, it has been said that the year is 365 days and a quarter of a day and approximately 11 minutes. This calendar was established about fifteen centuries AD.

If this difference of eleven minutes every year, is multiplied during those centuries since the birth of Christ until now, it will result into a difference of approximately thirteen days which is the difference between the 25th of December and the 7th of January.

We have confidence in our Coptic calendar, because of the great excellence of the Pharaohs in the science of astronomy, and we celebrate the Nativity on the 29 th of Kiahk which corresponds to the 7 th of January. There are some other churches who share with us this date.

But the question in not a question of faith and doctrine, nevertheless it can be exploited to impress the simple, when the date is changed.

Feast of the Nayrouz (Coptic New Year)

Written by Fr. Tadros Malaty on . Posted in Feasts

martyrs_maurice_005

The Coptic New Year is the very first calendar ever known by man on planet earth! It goes back 4241 BC.The word “Nayrouz” is of Coptic origin. The stem is niiaro-oo meaning: “the rivers.” The suffex “ouz” is Greek, thus, the word “Niiaroouz.” Mid September is usually where the waters of the Nile river rises, so the prayers are lifted to God for the rising of the waters of the rivers for irrigation and ask for His blessings at the beginning (crown) of the Coptic Calendar year. When the Persian ruled Egypt from 525-405 BC, they adopted the word and incorporated it in their language and took it to mean “the beginning of their Persian year,” and called it “Nayrouz.” The word “Nayrouz” in Persian, means “the new year.”

On celebrating this feast three things are stirred in our minds.

  1. Honoring the millions of martyrs who sacrificed their lives as sacrifices of love for our Lord who sacrificed Himself on our behalf.
  2. Joyfully celebrating the beginning of the Coptic New Year.
  3. Expressing of our flamed eager for the last advent of Christ. Through the last two weeks before the feast the readings of the liturgies of the Eucharist concentrate of the Parousia of Christ.

I asked myself; What is the relation between honoring the martyrs, the celebration of the new year and the Parousia of the Lord?

The Opened Gates of Paradise

As I started to speak to our kids in the Church about El-Nayrouz I asked, ?Is there a sun in the Paradise??

Truly the Sun of Righteousness, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the ever shining Sun. There is no place for sunset in Paradise; there is no night, no days, no weeks, no months, no seasons, and no years. But we attain a unique day without night, an everlasting day. In it we receive the brightness of the Sun of Righteousness that reflects on our souls and our risen bodies.  From St-Takla.org

Through the celebration of the Feast of Nayrouz, we start a new Coptic year. At the same time we declare our eagerness to share with the martyrs, a new Day which they attain in Paradise. They have the experience of brightness, through which the brightness of the glory of Christ shines on them; they have no need of a sun nor a moon. There is no room for various seasons, nor of night and day. They are not in need of food. In the Feast of El-Nayrouz we are longing for the eternal life.

In the feast of El-Nayrouz we behold the opened gates of Paradise. We see our Christ coming to carry us on the clouds, together with those who already entered the Paradise. All of us will enjoy the divine throne in heaven.

O Lord, grant us to celebrate El-Nayrouz,
So that we may ask for a blessed year for all mankind.
And that every believer has the experience of Your marvelous Day.
Thus, all will enjoy the brightness of Your glory.
Yes, Come quickly O Lord Jesus.
Our hearts are enflamed with Your love.
Our hearts ask for none except You.
Let me, O God, celebrate the Feast of El-Nayrouz unceasingly.
Let me experience this joyful gospel, the gospel of everlasting unity with You.
Wondrous is the Son who paid the price of my trip to Your divine bosoms,
And Your Holy Spirit who forms me to become a heavenly bride,
Carrying me as if with the wings of a dove that heaven may celebrate my wedding!
I see You my beloved Christ, coming to me personally,
You have chosen me to share in Your glory,
You offered Yourself, a joyful sacrifice of love.
Grant me to become an icon of You,
With a big heart, full of love to all humans,
That, I may become a source of joy to everyone.
Your dwelling in me, O Holy Spirit renews my nature,
He transforms my dark tomb into a holy sanctuary,
He converts my darkness into exceeding brightness! 

Grant me with all my brethren, to fly and be with You in heaven!
Let me celebrate the feast of the martyrs as fit, that I may practice witnessing for You.
Change my life to be full of joy with You, even at the moments of my daily repentance.
You see me my Lord rejoicing in You, and You become delighted in me.
The heavenly angels see me coming to You, and they welcome me.
They receive me with exceeding joy to join them in praising You.
The sinners see me full of joy, and they get filled with hope.
They see me rejoicing, and they join me in my continuous repentance.
The prophets and the apostles and all the martyrs see me.
And they praise You for letting me accompany them in Your kingdom!
What a wonderful thing, You delight in me,
And so do all Your creation, in heaven and on earth!
But the devil runs away in front of me
As he sees Your divine joy enlightens me and shines upon my face!
Glory is to You, the source of joy and victory.
Grant me O Lord that I may celebrate the feast of the martyrs all my life,
That, I may witness to Your joyful gospel,
That, I may always be in touch with Your tremendous fatherly love,
I see You anticipating with longing for me too.

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