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Coptic Orthodox Church
Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions
St Mary and Archangel Michael Church
Perth - Western Australia

Youth Magazine

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Previous Literatures
The Great Lent
The Holy Bible And I
Homosexuality And The Church
How to face the Challenges of the 21st Century
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Great Lent, By His Grace Bishop Serapion

Diocese Of Los Angeles


Great Lent is considered the holiest fast since our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had fasted it. Therefore, during Great Lent we follow the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who fasted on our behalf forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4: 2). Also during Holy Week, which comes after the 40 days, we live the Passion of Christ day by day and hour by hour. Because of the significance and holiness of Great Lent, the Church designated a week of preparation to precede the 40 days. The Church is teaching us to prepare for Great Lent in a spiritual manner. We fast to prepare ourselves for the 40 holy days. In fact, the preparatory week is not the only fast which the Church designated to get us ready for Great Lent and Holy Week. Two weeks prior to Great Lent there is Jonah’s Fast, also known as Nineveh’s Fast. It is a short fast, only three days, and it is a fast of repentance. During this fast, we live with Jonah his fasting and repentance in the whale’s belly. We also live with the Ninevites their fasting and repentance. Just as the fasting accompanied by repentance saved Jonah and the Ninevites from perdition, also our fasting accompanied by repentance will save us from eternal destruction and death due to sin. Great Lent is an Apostolic Fast:

It is mentioned in the Didskalia (chapter 18) the following: "Great Lent should be honoured before Holy Week. It starts on the Monday following the Saturday and is completed on the Friday preceding Holy Week. After it, you must pay great attention to Holy Week and fast it with fear and piety." In Canon 69 from the Canons of our Fathers the Apostles, the following is mentioned: "Any bishop, priest, deacon, reader, or chanter who does not fast Great Lent or Wednesdays and Fridays shall be excommunicated, unless he has a physical ailment. As for a lay person, he shall be excluded."

Great Lent is an Ascetical Fast:

The Church teaches us to fast until sunset. Fish is not allowed during this period. Also married couples should refrain from physical relations to give themselves time for fasting and prayer (1 Cor. 7: 5). We would like to emphasize the importance of the period of strict abstention during fasting. It is refraining from eating and drinking for a period of time, followed by eating vegetarian food.

Some people practice fasting by abstaining from meat and they eat vegetarian food, disregarding the period of strict abstention. These people should actually be regarded as vegetarians and not as fasting. A vegetarian eats only vegetarian food, but is not considered a fasting person. True fasting must be accompanied by abstention from food and drink until sunset as designated by the Church. However, due to variations in people’s physical and spiritual abilities, the Church gave the father of confession the authority to designate to his children the length of their strict abstinence. He determines what is suitable for their spiritual benefit according to the nature of their work, as well as their physical ability to endure fasting.

Great Lent is a Period of Prayer:

The period of Great Lent is distinctive for its many Liturgies. They become the spiritual treasure for the fasting person to help him throughout the rest of the year. In addition to the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, which have specific readings, hymns, and tunes, the Church also arranged special readings for the daily Liturgies during Great Lent. Also, during the weekdays, there are special hymns. 

The Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy almost daily during Great Lent. It is preferred that these Liturgies start late in the day to offer those fasting the opportunity to practice strict abstinence.

 

 

It is not permitted to have the Divine Liturgy on weekdays early in the morning, since we pray the hours until the Complin Prayer. How can we pray the psalms of the Complin Prayer at 5:00 A.M.? Also, having an early morning Liturgy means there will not be abstention from food, since we can not abstain from food following the Divine Liturgy. The proper time to end the Divine Liturgy during the weekdays of Great Lent is at sunset. Due to the inability of the elderly and the sick, it is permitted to have it end earlier, but not before noon. That way everyone may receive the blessing of Holy Communion, while benefiting from abstention. We hope that the fathers of confession will take great care in guiding their children as to the importance of strict abstinence and how to struggle to keep it for as long as they can.

Great Lent is a Period of Repentance:

Fasting without repentance and changing one’s life becomes useless. Unless the fasting person changes his life during fasting, he will only be hungry and exhausted without gaining anything else. Therefore, the Church constantly reminds us of the importance of repentance during fasting. Before Great Lent, we fast Jonah’s Fast and we live the story of Jonah and the Ninevites’ repentance. During the third Sunday of Lent, the Holy Church offers us the Gospel reading of the Prodigal Son as a model of repentance, which requires an awakening, confession of sins, leaving the place of sin, and returning to the Heavenly Father with confidence in His mercies and acceptance. This parable reveals to us the depth of God’s love for sinners and how He accepts them no matter how horrendous their sin is. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (John 6: 37) Christ "has come to save that which was lost." (Matt. 18:11) God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1Tim. 2:4). Christ is the True Physician who is needed by those who are ill by sin. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2: 17). Repentance is a result of divine action; it is the Spirit of God, Who moves the hearts of sinners to repent.

It is written in the Holy Bible, "For it is God who works in you both to will and do for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2: 13) God’s pleasure is in the return of a sinner so that he will not die in his sin. When God sees his sinful child returning to Him, He has compassion and goes to him, kissing him, and welcomes his return by saying, "It is right that we should make merry and be glad." (Luke 15: 32) The return of a sinner and his repentance results in joy to God, as well as all those in heaven, because, "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15: 7)

During Great Lent, we praise God for His many mercies. The Doxology of Great Lent presents to us a magnificent hymn in praising God on His mercies, as well as asking for His mercies. The first Doxology of the Sundays of Great Lent starts with the following:

I will praise you, O Lord, for your mercies are forever. From generation to generation, my mouth shall declare Your truth.

In this beautiful doxology, we praise God for His mercies. Then the chanter remembers his many sins and transgressions by saying, " My sins are heavy over my head." As his sins are revealed in front of him, he then remembers the stories of those who repented and were accepted by God, so he won’t lose hope. Therefore, he remembers the publican, the adulteress, and the thief and asks God to make him like any one of them.

Again, he recalls God’s attributes by saying, "I know You are good, kind and merciful. Remember me in Your mercy forever." God does not wish the death of a sinner but that he should return and live. Then the chanter remembers his sins once again and says:

I have sinned , O Jesus, my Lord, I have sinned, O Jesus, my God, O my King, do not count the sins I have committed.

He asks for God’s mercies and not to be punished like Sodom and Gomorrah, but to have mercy on him like the Ninevites. The chanter ends his praise by saying:

But absolve and forgive My many transgressions As good and lover of mankind Have mercy on us according to Your great mercy.

This doxology is beautiful poetry, through which the human soul expresses her feelings resulting from the heaviness of her sins. At the same time, she shows her great hope in our kind and merciful Lord, Who is happy with the return and repentance of the sinner. Yet, He punishes the unrepentant sinners. Therefore, repentance is the means by which we enjoy God’s great mercies.

Great Lent is a Period for Doing Mercy:

The Church reminds us of the importance of doing merciful acts during fasting. Therefore, during Great Lent we chant together praising those who have mercy on the poor. The Holy Bible teaches us that the fasting which is accepted by God is the one in which we do acts of mercy to others. "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from you own flesh?"

Fasting is a beautiful period to do good deeds by helping the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and taking care of the needs of others. The person who fasts by not yielding to the needs of the flesh, will feel the needs of others and his heart will be moved to serve them. Also, the asceticism of fasting teaches us to care for the heavenly and not be concerned with the earthly. Thus it becomes easy to forsake our material possessions and offer them to the needy.

Great Lent is a Period of Reconciliation with Others:

Fasting is an act of worship presented to God, and God does not accept the offering and worship of a person who quarrels with others. Instead, He asks him to go and make peace with his brother before coming to worship and present offerings in front of God’ altar. Fasting is an appropriate time to evaluate our relationship with others. As we ask God to forgive us our sins, we must also forgive those who have sinned against us.

May God grant us a blessed fast by which we can grow in a life of prayer, asceticism, and repentance. May we always increase in doing acts of mercy and living in peace with one another.Top

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The Holy Bible And I, By Father. Tadros Y. Malaty 

H.H Pope Shenouda


Almost every human being complains: “I am in need of love. No one can understand me, and share my deep feelings with me.”

The young man, as the little baby and the elder finds his (or her) satisfaction in love. He (or she) needs to love and to be loved by someone who can share and understand his (or her) real feelings. Even the criminal desires to find someone who is sincerely interested in him. 

The Holy Bible has the real solution for this problem. It reveals God as the true Lover of Mankind.

God desires to speak with Man, face to face. According to St. John Chrysostom Man was not in need of the written word of God, the Holy Bible. For God could speak with us as He spoke with Adam, face to face, in the Garden of Eden.

Now, after our fall in sin, we cannot practice that. God grants us the natural Law and the written Law, so that we may hear His gracious voice and respond to it.

What is the goal of the Holy Bible for me?

God grants me His written word, and prepares me to receive the Word of God Himself.

In Him I have the right to enjoy the unity with the Father through His Holy Spirit.

Through the Bible, I discover the reality of God. He is Love. He is not separated and isolated in His heaven. He seeks me.

He loved me, even before my creation. His love is practical. He sacrificed His Only-Begotten Son on my behalf.

God is interested in me. I am not one of the billions of His creatures. I am special to Him.

God does not issue orders so that I have to obey. He grants me His commandments to give me the chance to have a good response to His love, by my obedience.

The Holy Bible is not a monologue, but it is a dialogue, through which God reveals His pleasure not only in His speech with me, but also in hearing me. It declares the mutual love between God and me.

God truly descends to establish a covenant with me, as a man with a man. What great humbleness He shows to me!

God created me in His image and He is still working for my glorification. He wants me to be free and not to be a slave.

God grants me His Holy Bible to enjoy the personal contact with Him, and at the same time the membership in His One Church.

The Holy Bible is the ladder through which I have the right to practice the heavenly life, the risen life with Christ, the communion with the heavenly hosts, and the unceasing inner joy. 

He promises me a share in His heavenly glory. Now, it is the time to have the pledge of these promises.

The Holy Bible reveals our life as a continuous celebration of our spiritual and everlasting marriage. 

Through it, my Heavenly spouse reveals His mysteries to me, and I speak with Him openly.

By His Holy Spirit, I open my heart to Him, who opens His heart to me. The Books of the Holy Bible

The Holy Bible was written over more than 15 centuries, but it represents one contemporary book. I feel it is a recent message sent especially for me from my beloved One.

I cannot separate it into Books. I can say that the Books of the Bible are chapters of one Book.

Now, I will try to mention the principal idea of each Chapter to discover the divine plan of my existence.

 

 

1- Genesis: God has chosen to make me a father. God has created humans so that they become fathers and mothers, with hearts full of love, for their God loved mankind.  

Adam is the father of mankind. “God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Gen. 1:28). 

Eve is the mother of the human race. “Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” (Gen. 3:20).

Abraham is the parent of the believers. “You shall be a father of many nations.” (Gen. 17:4). Jacob is analogous to all of Israel. Jacob's children are fathers of the tribes.

2- Exodus: God has chosen me to serve the sinners.

While all the people were evil, Moses tried to free them, offering his life as a sacrifice, for their love. This book is for the love to mankind, through tireless work. “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin… and if not, blot me, I pray You, out of Your book which You have written.” (Exodus 32:32).

3- Leviticus: In order to exercise and offer love to all humans, I have to carry God's holiness. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (Lev. 11:45). That is obvious through:

1- the blood of the Lord Christ: Sacrifices. (1-7)

2- Priesthood of Christ: The Mediator and as the Bishop for our souls.(8-10)

3- Obedience to the Law of God:

The Laws 0f Purity (11-15). The Laws of Atonement (16-17). The Laws of Sanctification for the People (18-20). The Laws of Sanctification for the Priesthood (21-22) The Laws of Sanctification in Worship (23-24). The Laws of Sanctification in the Land of Canaan (25-26). The Laws of Sanctification through Vows (27).

4- Numbers: God wants me to be happy when I depart.

Both my love to humans and my life itself are just a journey through the narrow path of God. It is the way to the eternal feast. “You shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days” (Num. 29:12)

5- Deuteronomy.

God has chosen me and promised that I will be His son and will enter in a new covenant with Him. “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” (Deut. 5:3).

My journeys in this narrow way are full of joy, as I believe in His Divine promise.

My words are inspired by the Holy Spirit to reflect God’s words. (Moses gave three departure sermons concentrated on the Divine Covenant. I am as His son; I talk with the Father's words.

6- Joshua: God has chosen me to be a commander. "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Josh 1:5-6)

All my thinking and the feelings of my heart were concentrated on my vision, seeing all mankind crossing the Jordan River with Christ, to enjoy heavenly Canaan, as inheritance and the glorification with Christ.

7- Judges: God has chosen me to be an honest judge.

The life of love forces everyone to share in the fight against unfairness, like judges, so every body enjoys the victory. “The Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.” (Judges 11:27)

8- Historical Books: Where God likes to crown me a king.

Through it, I see God as the King of Kings, looking after His people with grace and making out of me, as well as of every believer, a real king with authority.

1 & 2 Samuel

Saul: a king according to human thinking.

David: Was a king according to God. “The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you." (1 Sam 13:14). God wants us to be David's sons, carrying the royal blood, with the distinction and the greatness of royalty.

Do not get scared of Satan, who thinks he is the king of the world. A young believer can fight him as young David fought strong Goliath. “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:45)

He is “The sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam 23:1), and beside his royal duties together with the jubilant songs, he conquered the hearts through gracefulness and joy.

He ruled with the spirit of love and not with the spirit of authority. He practiced since his youth to love Saul. But Saul used all the power of the state to kill David. With love he conquered the hearts of the people and ruled!

1& 2 Kings

These Books are the continuation to Books 1 and 2 of Samuel, where kings were introduced to us, so that we can learn from their holy lives and avoid their mistakes.

A wise king (1 Kings 3): He wishes to give me his wisdom so I can be a wise king, who can follow God's will [as Solomon's wisdom].

A wealthy and glorified king as Solomon (1 Kings 4): The King of Kings became poor, to enrich us with his poverty.

A Genius King (1 Kings 4): Solomon designed his government and wrote songs and parables, showed his ability and enhanced his people's inclinations.

A king who made his heart an altar to the King of Kings. {Solomon built the Altar 1 Kings 5-8).

A king who feared mistakes: [Solomon's marriage to foreigners (1 Kings 11)], and not to burden his brothers [Solomon's use of slaves in the building of his palace and other institutions].

A humble king surrounded with wise counselors (1 Kings 12): [Rehoboam son of Solomon refused the advice of the elderly and the kingdom was divided into Israel and Judah].

A king who advanced by the Spirit of God: [Jeroboam built strange altars and put two golden calves and made priests from a tribe other than Leviticus (1 Kings 12)].

A king who was a believer in God [Ahab married Isabelle, daughter of a pagan king and permitted a pagan priest to worship calves among the people (1 Kings 16)].

A king, who listened to men of God: [Ahab resisted Elijah the prophet (1 Kings 18).

A king who follows the grace of Christ: [Sin broke down the kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17) and the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 25)].Top

 

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Homosexuality And The Church

H.H Pope Shenouda


"I am very glad to have the opportunity to speak to the pastors of the Church of England, I mean, to speak to the angels of the Church and to the ministers of our Lord; those who were mentioned in the Book of Revelation as stars in the right hand of our Lord. I thank God because He has given me a chance to speak to those to whom the Lord said, ‘You will be witnesses to Me.’ ‘Witnesses to Me’ means witnesses to the truth, to the Holy Bible, to the commandments of God, to what the Holy Spirit has said to the churches. I want to speak to you about many things, and hope that should you desire to discuss any point, we will have time to do so."

"
The first matter is the holiness of the Church. In the Holy Creed we say, ‘We believe in One, Holy Church.’ This Holy Church is Apostolic and Katholik. In the apostolic age, all believers were called saints. A believer in the language of the Bible means a saint, because we are sanctified with faith, sanctified in baptism, sanctified in the holy Chrism, sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts." We are not merely human beings, we are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is abiding in us as it is written in the first epistle to the Corinthians, chapters three and six. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we should have communion with the Holy Spirit. The work of any believer is not only the work of a human individual, but is actually the work of the Holy Spirit.” 

"
We are also the image of God and we carry the image of God to the world. They see in our conduct, in our behaviour, the proof that we are the real children of God. If we read the beginning of some of the epistles of St. Paul to the Romans for example, he writes, ‘Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God" to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.’ The Apostle is writing to the saints of Rome, and in another epistle he writes, ‘To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.’ Again he also says in his second epistle, ‘To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia.’ When he writes to Ephesus, he sends his greetings to all the saints in Ephesus. To the Philippians he says the same, and when he writes to the Hebrews in chapter three he writes to those who are called to the ‘Divine call who are saints also.’ If we are supposed to be saints, how must we behave as saints, charged as we are with carrying the holy iconic image of our Lord to the world?"

"
In the Apostolic age, not everyone was allowed to enter the church; only those who were worthy to attend  the holy Eucharist and partake of the Blood and Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. This holy life is what we are called to, because we are the children of a holy Father. St. Peter speaks about this point and says, ‘as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy.’ Holy persons do not live in the lust of the flesh, but they walk according to the Spirit. Holy persons have two characteristics. The first is that his flesh is guided by the spirit, by his human spirit. The second characteristic is that his spirit, his human spirit is guided by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God then is guiding the whole person, guiding the spirit and the body, and that person should be holy both in body and in spirit."

"
Let me remind you of some verses from the eight chapter of the epistle to the Romans about the body and the spirit. The holy Apostle says, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.’ And again, ‘For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.’ Then he says, ‘if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.’ ‘Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.’ St. Paul mentions here that the sons of God are those persons who are led by the Spirit of God."

"
I am sorry to have to speak about an issue that has become a topic of popular discussion in the church of late. This subject is homosexuality, and it ought not to be a matter of discussion."

"
First of all, homosexuality is against nature. Sexual expression is permitted only within marriage, between man and woman, male and female. Anything else is an abnormality and is against nature. When our Lord Jesus Christ discussed this matter with the scribes and Pharisees in St. Matthew chapter nineteen and St. Mark chapter ten, He said ‘From the beginning, God made them male and female,’ man and woman. This is the will of our God from the beginning of creation. When people walked according to the lust of the flesh in the Old Testament, they received severe punishment from God. At the time of the Flood, only the pure, only eight persons in the Ark of Noah were saved. All the people who were not clean, who walked according to the flesh, perished. Also, the people of Sodom, who were not clean, were burned with fire. They walked according to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the body; they were not clean in their spirit."

"
Carnal persons cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. They cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We read this in the book of Revelation chapter twenty-one. It speaks about the heavenly Jerusalem saying, ‘But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination.’ Those who defile themselves with abominable acts cannot enter the city of God. In the Old Testament homosexuality is described as an abomination worthy of the punishment of death. For example, Leviticus chapter eighteen, verse twenty-two reads, ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.’ In chapter twenty, verse thirteen, ‘If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them’."

"
Of course, the New Testament is not less pure than the Old Testament, and we find a proscription of homosexual acts there as well. In Romans chapter one it is written, ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.’ How? Verse twenty-four teaches, ‘Therefor God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves.’ ‘Gave them up’ means that the grace of God left them, abandoned them and left them to their uncleanness to dishonour their bodies. In such abnormality, they dishonour their bodies. The honour of the body is to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. But if it is abused then it is a dishonour to the body. ‘For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Like wise also the men, leaving the natural use of woman, burned in their lust for one another, man with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due’."

"
St. Paul spoke about the debased mind of the homosexual using the phrase ‘exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.’ We take this to clearly mean that homosexuality is clearly against nature. This he avers is uncleanness and dishonour of the body, also receiving penalty. Again, ‘Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use’ means that this is abnormal and against nature, ‘committing what is shameful.’ What I would like to ask is how such a matter which is so shameful and against nature have become such an important matter of discussion in the Church? If there were an attempt to make such acts lawful, it would be a disaster. If we change something shameful and worthy of penalty, something clearly against nature, to a thing accepted and lawful, we deserve the punishment of God both on earth and in the world to come."

"In the first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter six, the Apostle says, ‘Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, will inherit the kingdom of God.’ None of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 

 

 

How is it then that some employ unimaginable devices in an attempt to circumvent a Biblical text so clearly written? Have we come so far as to challenge the Apostle of God who writes, ‘do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?’ Your body is not your own; your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

The homosexual is sinning against the temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes, ‘Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.’ When a person sins against the Holy Spirit, that means he is separating himself from the Holy Spirit. Light and darkness cannot exist together in one place. From the beginning God separated light from darkness. The Holy Spirit cannot abide in such a case.’

"
The apostle exhorts, ‘glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s,’ because the body is for God and the spirit is for God. In chapter three of his epistle to first Corinthians he adds, ‘Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.’ Further along in chapter six St. Paul writes, ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!’ These are the members of Christ because we are His body and His bones. ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’ If Christ then lives in me, how can we abuse the body or the members of Christ or the temple of the Holy Spirit? How can we abuse or dishonour the image of God and lose our holy image and live in the lust of the flesh? This is against a holy life and against chastity."

"
In his epistle, St. Jude writes, ‘as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’ And in his first epistle to St. Timothy, St. Paul reminds, ‘knowing this: that the law is not make for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites.’ St. Paul includes this word ‘sodomites’ or homosexuals among the murderers, among the lawless, among the ungodly. This sin then was condemned in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. So can we disobey God in order to please some sinful persons? Is it not better to correct them?"

"
In our present day I believe that our Lord has given all of us something quite remarkable to consider. AIDS has come to many that persist in a lifestyle that places them in both temporal and eternal risk. Death, as a predictable consequence of infection, usually comes slowly. It is possible that those who have been infected may reflect upon what God has willed for them, rather than what they have willed for themselves. I do not mean the disease itself, but rather the holy life to which they have been called. Unfortunately, many do not even fear such a warning, even though they suffer a defilement of the body."

"
What may be said of Christianity in its supreme ideology? Christianity teaches the sublime ideas of spirituality. How can other religions have any idea about this spiritual life if they know that there is homosexuality in the Church and that the Church is discussing whether it is wrong or right? The life of the Church should be a life of holiness. A holy person is a member of the Church, but the unholy one is not considered a member of the Church at all. In Acts chapter two it is mentioned that ‘the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.’ To add to the Church those who were being saved, means exclusion from impure forms of living for the Church is a group of saints. Homosexuality is against the good name of Christianity."

"
I believe that homosexuality is against the Mysteries of the Church. What can we say about the renewal of life, the transfigured life in Christianity if such defilement exists within the Church? How can we claim to have been received into a new life in Christ, clothing ourselves in Christ from the baptismal font, and carrying the stain of a defiled, fallen life? If the new birth that we have received includes defilement amongst its members, what can be said of salvation itself? Baptism is called into question. Chrismation is called into question. Marriage is called into question. And further as we will see, Holy Orders is called into question. Persons who suffer from a homosexual orientation should be ashamed. If they truly know the meaning of spiritual life, they cannot confess or otherwise advocate a deviant lifestyle."

"
What rights are there for homosexuals? The only right is to be led to repentance. To live in such defilement of the body, in such dishonour, in such abomination, while all the time asking for liberties the Church cannot grant , is unbelievable. But what is even more unbelievable is that these purported rights are being encouraged by misguided members of the Church. For their part, and emboldened by such misplaced demonstrations of allegiance, homosexual rights advocates have even called for ordination to the priesthood."

"
The nature and character of a homosexual priesthood as icon is against everything that holy Tradition has handed down to us as Orthodox. Members of this Tradition, the laity, charged with the responsibility of confessing the worthiness of the candidate for ordination by replying Axios, Axios, Axios, could hardly preserve the centuries entrusted them by admitting such a one. How could an individual incapable of repentance himself, lead another to repentance? If he cannot control himself, how can he guide others to such control? If he finds no peace or beauty in the holy life, how can he speak with confidence to others about the holy life? Will he rely upon the experience of others, speak of it as theory, or what’s even worse, as fantasy, a thing for the childish? If he is carnal, how will he guide others to the spiritual? Moreover, what will people say about Christianity if such abomination happens in the Church?"

"
It is claimed that homosexuality is a kind of love between man and man. No, my brothers. Love should be spiritual; love should be pure. We love others in purity. We love others in the Spirit. And loving others should not be against our love of God, because our Lord Jesus Christ has said, ‘He who loves father, son, wife, sister, or brother, more than Me, is not worthy of Me, is not worthy to be My disciple.’ We cannot love any other person more than our Lord Jesus Christ. Every love which we have, should be love in the Lord. We love in the Lord, not against. The homosexual love is not love, but lust, and there is a great difference between love and lust, lust of the flesh. The word love is not suitable for such a relation, because in the Gospel we say, ‘God is love.’ How can we say, ‘Homosexuality is love?’ It is not love; it is a bodily lust, a deviated lust of the flesh, a lust that should be corrected. If a man loves another man, can he abuse the man whom he loves? Is this love or destruction? If a person loves a man, can he lead this man to lose his eternity and be punished in the next life? Is this a kind of love, to lose ones image, the image of God?"

"
Some people try to provide an excuse for the homosexual saying that he was born in this manner, that there was no express choice, and so unfairly burdened, he should not be held accountable. I tell you that if he was born in the manner described, we need to heal him, to purge him, to correct him, to pray for him, to guide him to repentance, to treat him medically and spiritually. But we may not say to him, all right, we accept you as a member of the Church and give you the Body and Blood of our Lord. While he remains in such a state, he is an abomination. I personally do not believe that one is homosexual by nature, certainly not in the way that is claimed by social theorists.

We have had too many saints throughout the history of the Church who were fornicators before repentance, and they were corrected. They may not have been homosexuals, but they were fornicators, essentially the same sin, but without the deviation. St. Augustine is a good example, St. Moses the black another, and St. Pelagia still another. 

Through the grace of God, through the work of pastoral care, they were corrected. But we cannot say to the homosexual, your case is exceptional, your case is lawful.

This cannot be accepted at all. Because if we give him this lawful status, that means we permit him to remain in sin and not to repent."

"We must keep in mind, my beloved, that we cannot flatter persons at the expense of the commandment of God. May I read you one or two verses from the first epistle to the Galatians, ‘For do I now persuade men, of God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.’ If I go on pleasing men in contradiction with the commandment of God, then I will not be the servant of Christ. If I want to please men in a correct way, then I should guide them to repentance. This is the spiritual way of pleasing others. We should persuade them so that they do not remain in sin and perish. There is no way to reconcile the pleasure of man, if it comes at the displeasure of God. What then is the benefit of pleasing men? In the kingdom of heaven no person who lives in defilement is allowed to enter. No fornicator can enter the kingdom of God. No sodomite can enter the kingdom of God. Or can we cancel all the words of St. Paul and St. Jude, and St. Peter, and all the others?"

"
Once I read a book written by one of the clergy, I am ashamed to say, a Bishop, who was defending homosexuals. He began to attack the doctrine of St. Paul, to say that St. Paul was abnormal. Can it be that we, in our desire to please men, have sunk so low as to speak against the Apostle, against those elect, elected by God Himself in a miraculous apparition and chosen to be the Apostle for the Gentiles, to be our Apostle, in order to please homosexuals? To please men more than God? Is this acceptable? Let me now return to the first words I said to you. I said I am happy, I am glad to be among the persons who are chosen to witness to the Lord. Our Lord said, ‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me.’ Of the homosexual He said, without repentance, you will perish. This judgment of our Lord was repeated twice in the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of St. Luke in verses three and five. He said, ‘I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’ Can we find excuses for the homosexual in spite of all that the Lord has said? Is this love? No. It is not within the power of the Church. It is not within the power of the Church to justify the case of sinners, or to please sinners. We must guide them to repentance."

"
The clergy is bound with this responsibility. In St. Matthew chapter eighteen, God, our Lord Jesus Christ, gave His servants the Apostles, the priests, authority saying, ‘I say to you whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Now we know that the authority to bind or to loose must be in harmony with the Bible, in obedience to the commandment of God. But if one should bind or loose in disobedience, then it will most certainly not be accepted by God. This is known to us from the epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, chapter one, verses eight and nine. ‘But even if we (the Apostles), or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.’ And again, ‘If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.’ We are pastors to guide people through the commandments of God. We have not any power, nor any, to give any law contrary to the law of God. Why did our Lord give this authority, of how can this authority to bind and loose be explained? I think we may put beside it what was written in the prophecy of Malachi, chapter two, verse seven. ‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.’ The people take the law of the Lord from his lips, from his mouth, because he is the person who knows quite well the law of God, more than any member of the congregation. He is the teacher. He is the guide. So he binds according to the law of God which he knows, and he looses according to the law of God. But again, not in contradiction. St. Basil reminds us that the holy Apostle St. Paul dared to anathematise angels if another, or contrary gospel were preached."

"
The responsibility of the clergy to the people is grave. It is repeated twice in the prophecy of Ezekiel, in chapter three and also in chapter thirty-three. ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, You shall surely die, and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.’ We are pastors. How can we suffer that the blood of these wicked persons who will perish be required from us? We should warn them and say to them that their present course will lead to destruction. And at the same time God says, ‘Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, not from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.’ The same words are again mentioned by our Lord in chapter thirty-three emphasizing this point. ‘So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die! and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.’ We should fear such condemnation. We should warn wicked persons and say to them that their path leads to death. If you continue to walk in the way of flesh you will die. You should obey the commandment of God."

The lecture of HH. Shenouda III concludes, and at this point he begins to field some questions. These questions were polite and did not bring any aspect of the discussion more clarity, so we will depart from the format we have been using to now address some issues that the intervening years have brought into sharper focus. Another voice will be heard, consonant not dissonant, but the reader should know that we in the Coptic Orthodox Church have no provision for an ‘Ex Cathedra’ declaration. Our Patriarch obviously is at the centre of all things in the Church. He is our most able theologian, but even he would tell you that dogmatic positions of faith must have their genesis in the Holy Synod. At this time, there has not been any official pronouncement from that body on the subject of homosexuality. Additionally, it seems that the West is continually talking only to itself. There is a growing distance in the perception of some as to what is demonstrably real when societies look at one another. In the Church this same problem develops because of a lack of a common hermeneutic. Virtually everything may be called into question, and the defence of a single issue requires a reasoned agreement on what the least constituent part will contain. We need to begin with a new lexicon, because whoever will control the vocabulary will control the debate.

The use of the word love is central to any discussion. We learn about love, wholly and completely, from God. All of the meaning of love is contained in and through His relationship with us. Love defines us and is the common currency in any Christian exchange. The type and nature of God’s love is clearly outlined in biblical text. We are taught to distinguish God’s love from every other sort. We experience the care and the protection of God’s love, never exploitation There are numerous cautionary tales that speak to the consequence of abandoning, or being abandoned. To be separated from God’s love is in fact the essence of Hell. Given that this is true, any distortion of the image of that love is not an innocuous, or alternative or subjective experience, but rather an attack on the revealed identity of God Himself. Orthodoxy in its eastern or oriental expression, divided since the middle of the fifth century, has developed a parallel theology surrounding the use of icons in the Church. We stand before them and they confess to us both a history and living presence. They have their own language and are written with utmost care and precision. It is the bishop’s responsibility to oversee the placement of each icon in his diocese; it is for him to judge the written truth of each holy image. There is no equivalent anywhere else. Sacred art seems to have degraded to a matter of personal taste, and when this is allowed to occur, a general laxity in other matters is the consequence.Top

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How To Face The Challenges Of The 21st Century

H.G. Moussa


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A word with Father Abram
© Emad A. Manious - 12 April, 2002
Last Updated: 05 April, 2004

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