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The Spiritual Means, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

21- Remarks Concerning Spiritual Training

  

Be certain that when you start, the grace of God will definitely start with you:

God will never leave you alone in your training, but He will work with you, because you proved to be committed in your attitude towards life with God. The Divine help will respond to this feeling. And if the devil tried to fight you to break your training, the grace will support you to succeed. The main thing is never to draw back, to slacken or become idle, but to be firm with yourself...

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If you trained yourself for acquiring a virtue, you must know that remaining firm in virtues is much more important than acquiring them.

It is easy to follow a specific virtue for one, two, three days or even a week... But what is important is to continue, till this virtue becomes a habit or part of your nature. That needs training for a long time until it is rooted in one’s depth. And as Mar Isaac said, any planning that you don’t remain steadfast in for long, will be fruitless...

That is because time and continuity are the practical measure to know the depth of the virtue in you. Time also gives you a chance to test the obstacles that hinder the training and the way to overcome them.

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Therefore, quick shifting from one type of training to another does not benefit spiritually.

St-Takla.org Image: Paper boy saying: who wants to benefit?! صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صبي بائع جرائد ينادي: من يحب أن ينتفع؟!

St-Takla.org Image: Paper boy saying: who wants to benefit?!

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: صبي بائع جرائد ينادي: من يحب أن ينتفع؟!

Many try to reach perfection in a very short period of time. The result is achieving nothing...!! Or they put before themselves many types of training at the same time so they forget some of them or fail to concentrate on all of them. As for you, train yourself wisely and gradually in order to attain. Here, I place before you some remarks.

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+ Let the training be defined and clear.

Do not say, for example, I will train myself on all fourteen aspects of love, as St Paul the Apostle defines in 1 Corinthians 13, but be satisfied with one aspect at a time and concentrate on it. Do not say I want to train myself in the life of humility, gentleness or faith, while the details of each of these words are not clear before you. So you end up doing nothing... But, for example, say I want, in the life of humility, to train myself on one matter only, that is not to praise myself. When you master that, you say: I want to train myself not to seek the praising of people. When you master that, you say: I will train myself on something else, that is when somebody praises me, I immediately remember my sins and shortcomings. Then I convict myself from within.

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+ Let the training be within your ability, so you will be able to practically carry it out.

Sometimes one selects for himself a type of training that is above the level of his capability or his circumstances would not enable him to do it, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. Or he may leap in his training to a high level where he would not be able to continue or maintain it, and so it would make him gradually retreat.

For example, don’t put for yourself a training for fasting that is more than what your health can endure. Or a training in silence that does not suit your work circumstances, your meetings or your family life. Or a training in prayer or in service that your time does not permit...

+ You can progress in training if you take one step at a time.

As with silence, it is hard to train yourself in it, when you live in a society where you have to communicate.

But you can progress and say: I will train myself to make my talk short. What needs a word I will not give a sentence and what needs a sentence I will not give a lecture. If my listener understood my intention, then there is no need to increase my words...

When you master that, you may say: I will not talk except when it is necessary. Then you may move to another type of training, which is to abstain from speaking loudly. And you will say: I will train myself in speaking with “a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) . Then you will begin resisting mistakes of the tongue one by one...

+ Let your training be from the depth of your practical life.

The type of training that suits others might not suit you. As for your training, let it spring from resisting your personal mistakes, your spiritual shortcomings and what suits you in the life of virtue according to your spiritual ability. Your training should be in harmony with your internal and external circumstances.

A book for training

+ Let there be a book especially for your training.

You write in it the type of training, a verse or a number of verses from the Bible to encourage you and motivate you in this specific type of training. Memorize these verses and repeat them continuously, so they become inscribed in your mind whenever you are being fought by something that is against your training. Remember also the stories of the saints who are virtuous role models for us in our own spiritual training.

+ If you fail at a time in your training, find out the reason so that you may avoid it in the future.

By doing that, you gain spiritual experience in all your practices, learn the wars of the enemy and the way to overcome them. Through such training, some became guides for others. It is like a mother who experienced life then was able to give her daughter practical advice for her benefit.

+ Try to benefit from the occasional failure that you experience in your training.

Let that be a reason for your humility so that you would not become proud due to repeated success.

Let it also be a reason to have sympathy on the weak and the sinners. Let your falls become a subject for prostrations before the Lord, where you offer a contrite heart and an opportunity for prayers to be raised to God, asking Him to grant you strength and grace.

Struggle

And so, training in its visible picture is a struggle to reach purity of the heart till it becomes worthy of God to dwell in it. But it is not just a mere struggle, but a petition presented to God, asking for His intervention. But how?

Many are those who present their spiritual desires to God in a theoretical manner, in the form of heart-feelings or words in prayer. As for the spiritual training, they are desires presented to God in a practical manner...

It is a practical struggle that cries to God asking Him to interfere and grant victory to this struggle...God is the One who works in us both to will and to work on behalf of His good pleasure.. It is the pleasure that His name is being glorified in us whenever we succeed in our struggle and our training.

May the name of the Lord be blessed, now and forever more. Amen.


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