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Life of Faith, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

50- The relationship of faith with purity of the heart

 

No doubt you are ashamed to err in front of an innocent person you respect.

You may be very cautious in his presence and are ashamed to commit anything terrible in front of him. You don't like that he takes a bad impression about you, or that you fall lower in his eyes You even take care not to err in front of any of your servants or chiefs lest they contempt you, or even lessen their respect of you.

Consequently most of the sins are committed in secret either because of fear or shame. It was said about the sinners that they “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). The Lord said about His enemies who conspired against Him “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).

If you shame yourself or fear from a person who sees you, so how is it then in the presence of God?

If you completely believed that God is present in every place you are, He sees you, hears you and watches over you, no doubt you will be ashamed or afraid to commit anything wrong

in front of God. That is why, when Joseph was offered the sin he refused it saying “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen.39: 9).

He considered it wrong against God to break His commandments and it is disrespectful to God, if he did evil in front of Him without bashfulness. Do you have these feelings? Do you place God in front of you in every sin you fight to do? Do you remember what the Lord said to each of the angels of the seven churches (Rev.)? He told each of them “I know your deeds” (Rev. 2:2,9,13,19 & Rev. 3:1,8, 1 5).

If you knew this you will be ashamed, afraid and will refrain from sin because the fear of God will always be in front of your eyes every time you try to do wrong.

You will even feel ashamed from the spirits of the angels and saints.

If you believe, from all your heart, that God's angels roam around us (Ps 34:7) and that we “made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9) then you will, no doubt, be ashamed of yourself from the angels around you. He will not bear to see your sins due to his holiness, so he will leave you... You no doubt will be ashamed of yourself from the spirits of the saints, your relationships and acquaintances... with this shame you will part from sin and approach the life of purity.

If you believe that God is holy, you will be apprehensive to show your uncleanliness in front of this unlimited holiness. Every time you say 'holy, holy, holy' in your prayers you will feel disgrace in your heart due to your past, and you will not venture to commit any sin in the future. When Isaiah the prophet, heard the Seraphim glorify the Lord with this Hymn “Holy, holy, holy” he cried out “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Is 6:2-5).

If you believe that God is the examiner of hearts and reader of minds and that He knows all that goes on in your mind and heart with respect to feelings, plans and plots, then you will be afraid of His knowing your inside. You will be ashamed from His Holiness and by leaving these ideas and feelings you will reach the life of purity.

May be you will say: I believe in all these; that God exists, that He sees and hears everything, that He examines hearts and reads minds... and in spite of that I am still in sin... And I answer you: may be you believe in all these theoretically but you don't live a life suitable to your faith!

He who lives this faith that God sees him, the angels see him, the spirits see him... If he practically puts this idea in his heart he will be ashamed, his soul will lessen in his own eyes, and he will not dare to continue committing sins. According to one of the fathers every sin is preceded by lust, negligence or forgetfulness.

St-Takla.org Image: Warren - Painted worlds - Awkward age صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: لوحة للفنان وارين - عوالم ملونة، وسن مرتبك

St-Takla.org Image: Warren - Painted worlds - Awkward age

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: لوحة للفنان وارين - عوالم ملونة، وسن مرتبك

Maybe the person, during sin, forgets God and His kingdom. Maybe he also forgets that he is created in the image and the likeness of God, if he really believed in that. Maybe he is also forgetful of all God's commandments and warnings although theoretically, he believes in all that but he does not live it. He, as we have already said, has the name of a believer but not the life of one.

Consequently, if you believe in eternity then put it in front of you so as not to err.

He who believes that the day of the Lord will come like a thief (1 Thes. 5:2), that God is just, that He'll give everyone according to what he has done (Rev. 22:12), and he who believes in life after death, judgment, repentance, punishment, standing before God in that day when the books will be opened, that ideas and wishes will be revealed, and the works of everyone will be declared in front of all... he who believes in all that, with a practical faith, it will be difficult for him to err but will find a restraint inside him which dissuades him, fearfully and shamefully... and you see him looking forward to meeting God on that day.

Why do I speak about Eternity, I could say from another point of view: If you believe in God's love you will be ashamed to hurt His love.

Many times you say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). During sin you are not in a state of practical faith in His love, or may be this love is not at all in your mind, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. If you really believe that love is the holy bondage that binds you with God, how will you err? “Whoever has been born of God does not sin” (1 John 3:9).

You will not err if you believe in virtue as a way of life. Many speak about virtue. They invite others to it and glorify it a lot. But they do not live it. They do not practically believe that virtue can be their way of life. If they practically believed in that, then they would have lived a pure life and reproved themselves for their weaknesses.

He who also believes in the evanescence of the world will renounce it and will not err.

As David the Prophet, said “I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.” (Ps 11 9:19), “For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner, as all my fathers were.” (Ps 39:12). That's how the men of faith lived “they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. … they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.” (Heb. 11:13,16). They renounced everything in this world and obeyed the apostle's saying, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it” (1 John 2:15, 17).

With this faith, they lived in the world without that the world living in them.

They were those “And those who use this world as not misusing it.” (1 Cor. 7:31). With this faith -on a larger scale- lived the monks, hermits, and he mountain inhabitants in devotion and seclusion “Of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb. 11:38).

 

This is how faith purifies the heart. As the apostle said “And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faiht." (1 John 5:4). Our faith, that we live on earth “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). Yes, faith in the evanescence of the world lets us overcome it and to become purified from it and what it contains.

Faith in eternity gives the person wakefulness in his conscious. This is how the person will always have a living conscious: to judge every work, not only according to success or failure, or according to its results in our lives... but to judge the matters according to eternity... because every thing he does has an effect on his eternal destiny and may be on the destiny of others... every good he does is kept for him in Heaven, but he will have to give an account of every wrong he does to people or to himself on the judgment day.

Faith in the existence of God in front of us gives the heart humility.

It grants the person humility in the heart and in action, and it grants him fear and solemnity because he stands before God. As it was said about Saint Peter during fishing (after the resurrection of Christ) when he knew that the Lord came “He put on his outer garment for he had removed it” (John 21:7).

In the presence of the Lord, every person stands in solemnity. According to the person's feeling in the existence of God is his measure of solemnity. That is how people differ one from the other in their feelings during prayer, there are those who kneel and those who prostrate in front of God's unlimited greatness... but he who sits during prayer, what can I say about him?

The perpetual feeling that God exists -even not during prayer- makes the person humble because majesty is only to God alone haughtiness of a person is against faith.

Thus, we see angels in this perpetual solemnity.

The Bible says about the Seraphimeach one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” (Is 6:2). If the Seraphim covers his face and feet in the presence of God due to His beautiful majesty, then what shall we say? And how shall we be solemn and humble in front of Him?

To this degree we see faith purifying the heart and granting it fear, bashfulness and humility.

He who believes in God's importance to him will fear to err wrong, because it is separation from God. How dangerous is it to a person to be separated from God.

As for he who does, not believe in the danger of sin, and the danger in its spiritual results, becomes lenient with it, falls, and loses his purity. See to what extent the feelings of David were concerning the danger of sin when he told the Lord “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight” (Ps 51:4). See also Joseph, he believed that if he did anyone wrong then it was against God (Gen. 39:9).

All these spiritual feelings either they prevent the person from sin like Joseph, or they cause a contrite heart like that of David's. Both are signs of purity of heart.


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