• Once St. John the Short asked the brothers in the monastery, 'Who sold Joseph the righteous?' When they said, 'His brothers,' he said to them, 'No, not his brothers, but his humbleness, because he could say to those who bought him that he was the brother of the sellers, but in humbleness he kept silent, and was sold, yet he became governor of Egypt!'
Humbleness does not mean that you descend from a higher to a lower level, nor to feel that in spite of your greatness you undervalue yourself or conceal your greatness, for such feeling of being great yet willing to descend, or concealing it, does not reveal humbleness, because although you conceal it, you see it clearly.
God alone is the Highest, and He alone condescends from high, while all human beings are dust and ashes.
Humbleness in truth, as the church fathers say, is to know oneself, to know who you are: You are of the dust of the earth! Rather, the dust is older than you are, for God created it first, before creating you!
What is humbleness, and what is its significance? What did the fathers say commending it? What does the Holy Scripture say about it? What is its place among and its relationship with virtues? What is its relationship with high gifts, with grace, and with trials? How can a person be humble?
All this and more we would tackle – God willing – in a series of articles on this important topic, so that you may know what this great virtue is, and what other virtues it implies.
He has authority: What authority was that? It was the authority of the Legislator.
• The words "You have heard that it was said … But I say to you" repeatedly came on the Lord's mouth, when speaking about murder, about adultery, about divorce, about oaths, about any eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and about the relationship with the neighbor and the enemy (Mt 5: 21, 27, 28, 31, 32- 34, 38, 39, 43, 44)
• In His words about the Sabbath, He said, "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mt 5: 12: 8) As Lord of the Sabbath, He put its rules as He willed.
• When He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” the scribes grumbled within themselves, so He said to them, "… that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins … 'Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.'" (Mt 9: 2- 6)
These words are repeated thrice in one paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount in (Mt 6: 25- 34).
The Lord says, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on …" "Do not worry about tomorrow …" "Do not worry about tomorrow … Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Mt 6: 25- 34)
In case each master has a different tendency, one cannot serve both equally, or with the same degree of honesty. One's service will be true from all the heart to the one, and in flattery or hypocrisy to the other.
In case both have the same tendency, anybody can serve them equally. A person can serve God, the church, the community, the state, and knowledge, but cannot serve two opposite or competing masters, whether the master is a person or a thing.
A meek person is kind, calm, peaceful, and gentle-voiced, neither argues nor quarrels, does not break up with anyone, nor behaves rudely.
In both the New and Old Testaments, it is said of Christ the Lord “ He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench(Matt 12: 19-20) (Isia 42: 2-3). He does not deprive anyone of hope. He does not quench smoking flax; perhaps a wind blows two years later and it may be kindled!
The wise never builds his house on the sand, on moving and unstable land, as the foolish does (Mt 7: 5), but rather builds it on the rock.
Building on the rock:
It signifies building on deep faith in God, on sound understanding of His commandments, or on strong firm foundation of love for God, for people, and for good.
Such strong and firm foundation never falls.
As engineers do, build houses on deep foundation of reinforced concrete, which no winds or rains can shake or move from its place. This is the difference between building on the rock and building on the sand. Some people go to church and listen to God's word, just for knowledge, while others listen, with the intent to act accordingly. While the former turn the mind into a store of knowledge or a moving encyclopedia, having answers to any question, the latter listen, act, and turn the word into life.
The Lord says, "Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." (Mt 7: 24- 27)
He promised His disciples to be with them always, even to the end of the age, and He fulfilled His promise. He presented Himself alive for forty days after His resurrection, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1: 3). He gave them peace and joy as He had promised (Jn 16: 22; 20: 20) and comforted them after the crucifixion they witnessed.
The period between the crucifixion and the resurrection:
In His resurrection, He sanctified the mortal human nature, giving it power to rise.
Before rising, with His body lying in the tomb, He was working for us.
Death caused His spirit to separate from His body, but His divinity never separated from His spirit or from His body. His spirit, united with His divinity, accomplished wonderful salvation for those lying in hope.
The journey back & Jacob's fear of his brother Esau
After settling his family issues, whether the wrestling of his two wives, or the pursue of his uncle Laban, Jacob set on his way back to his father's house.
Terror from Esau:
He was afraid, or rather terrified and trembling, in spite of all God's promises and support.
Probably the words of Esau were still ringing in his ears, "I will kill my brother Jacob" (Gen 27: 41), or he remembered how he seized the opportunity of his brother's hunger and took his birthright, and made him swear (Gen 25: 31, 33). Maybe he recalled the deceit with which he took the birthright when he said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn", and how his father said to Esau, "Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing." (Gen 27: 19, 35)
Lessons from the Lord's Resurrection
So many miracles happened at the time of the Lord's crucifixion: there was darkness over all the land, the veil of the temple was torn in two, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; but did everybody benefit from these lessons?
Jacob the Patriarch (8)
Back to his home country
& wrestling with his uncle Laban
Our father Jacob submitted to the actual state, and accepted Leah as wife, then he married her sister Rachel, gathering between both sisters. He lived with the wife he loved, and the wife who loved him and sought his love. Both wives wrestled together.
Our father Jacob avoided taking wives from unbelievers lest they turn his heart away from God as happened to Solomon the Wise afterwards (1 Kgs 11). He went to take wife from a holy family of his parents' relatives, not knowing that problems might follow him even with those holy people, from his uncle Laban who deceived him, and from his two wrestling cousins, Leah the weak sighted, and the pretty Rachel.
Jacob met his cousin Rachel by the well where the shepherds watered their sheep. As there was a large stone on the well's mouth, they used to wait until they all gather and roll the stone away. When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of his uncle, he went near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his uncle (Gen 29: 3, 10).
The covenant with God in Bethel
So many are the covenants made between God and man, among which was that with Jacob, where God said to him, "Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth … and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land." (Gen 28: 13- 15)
Jacob fled from the face of his brother Esau who had intended to kill him. Strange indeed was such hatred and strange his ignorance! Could he prevent the blessing that went to Jacob, that peoples serve Jacob, and nations bow down to him, that he become master over his brethren, and his mother’s sons bow down to him, that the older serve him though the younger? (Gen 27: 29; 25: 23) Esau was defying the divine dispensation, unlike his father who despite intending to bless Esau, submitted to the divine will when he remembered God's promise. Isaac said affirming, "Indeed he shall be blessed." (Gen 27: 33) Esau nevertheless disobeyed and showed ignorance, for the blessing implied the coming of Christ from the offspring of the firstborn, how then would he kill Jacob before the coming of Christ from his offspring! How would he kill him before the fulfillment of the other blessing Isaac had given him, that he multiply and be an assembly of peoples (Gen 28: 3)? It was impossible, but Jacob in fear fled from his face.
Jacob succeeded in obtaining the blessing of his father, a great treasure sought by the sons at that time.
Blessings throughout human history came directly from God, from Him alone.
He blessed Adam and Eve (Gen 1: 28), Noah and his children (Gen 9: 1), and our father Abraham (Gen 12), the first to whom God said, "You shall be a blessing" (Gen 12: 2).
Birthright was a great desirable thing in the days of our early fathers.
The firstborn before Aaron served as priest of the family after the decease of his father, as the Lord commanded Moses, "Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb … it is Mine." (Ex 13: 2) Christ was expected to come from the firstborn, according to the Lord's promise to our fathers Abraham and Isaac, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 22: 18; 26: 4)
God chose Jacob before his birth, and gave him blessing and authority while still in his mother's womb, for God said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." (Gen 25: 23) The older is Esau, and the younger Jacob.
Ahram Online visits the Hanging Church, one of Egypt’s oldest churches, after 16 years of restoration.