Developing the tendency towards love for purity, holiness and chastity; “Be faithful unto death”
“Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)
“Martyrdom in Christianity,” Bishop Youannis
“The Paradise of the Purity,” Fr. Anistasi El Samoueli
Was the personality of our forefathers, the martyrs, only characterized by boldness and courage? What is the difference between martyrs of the Church and the martyrs in other domains (e.g. for the motherland, for science, or for a humane principle)?
Our forefathers, the martyrs, died for one and only one Person whom they loved with all their hearts. They gave themselves completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why they felt that any sin would be considered unfaithfulness. They wanted to keep themselves and their bodies pure till the day on which they would meet Him. That is why they were not only characterized by boldness and bravery but also by complete faithfulness, unto death, of the heart and inner life. That is also why pagans did their utmost to make them fall, especially, in the sin of lust; but our forefathers kept their life pure through chastity and purity till death.
Let’s listen to a historian who witnessed the struggle of our grandfathers, then let’s make an imaginary tour among a group of those martyrs and listen to their eternal stories and life history. Eusabius the historian said, “Women were not less bold in defending the teachings of the Divine Church than men. They shared men in their struggle and attained with them an equal number of crowns for chastity, and when they drew them for defiled purposes, they preferred death to defiling their bodies.”
I. The young man who cut off his tongue to keep a bad woman away
Decans, the governor during 249-251AD, wanted to defile a Christian young man by force. They tied his hands and feet and brought him a girl to tempt him. The young man couldn’t bear the fierce fight. He could not keep himself away from her, so he had to push her away and there was no way to do so. He cut his tongue with his teeth and spat it with the blood at the girl’s face. The girl was astonished and filled with fear and left him. Thus, the young man preferred the loss of his tongue to the loss of his chastity.
St. Butamine was a young girl who received tortures that the strongest of men could not bear. The governor ordered his soldier to burn her in a boiling tar. All she wanted was that no one should see her naked body. She said to the governor, “I ask you, by the head of the emperor whom you fear, not to make them strip me of my clothes. I’ll get into the tar little by little so that you may see the power of endurance given to me by Christ whom you do not know.”
III. She shunned sin, not death
Theodora, who was 17 years old, lived in Alexandria during the reign of King Diocletian. She lived in virginity and devoted her life to her heavenly Bridegroom. The governor sent her to a bad place because he intended to compel her to commit the sin. Dedimus, a Christian young man decided to save her. He disguised himself in the clothes of a soldier and met her. He advised her to change into the soldier’s clothes and escape, and he would remain in her place. She agreed to his plan and was able to escape. Next morning, the matter was discovered so Dedimus was led to death. There, from among the crowds, came a sharp voice of a young girl crying, “I do not agree to your having my place in martyrdom. I only agreed to your plan so that my chastity might not be defiled.” That was Theodora who preferred to attain the crown of martyrdom with Dedimus.
IV. Death is better than this
This story took place in 749 AD, when the soldiers attacked a nunnery near Akhmim. After looting the nunnery, they got hold of a young nun called Verona and decided to take her away with them. She understood that they would defile her chastity, so she entered her cell and prayed to Christ. She went out carrying some oil, which, as she said, would protect anyone who used it from being struck by a sword. She said that she would give it to them if they left her. To prove that what she said was true, she anointed her neck with the oil and asked them to strike her neck with the sword. One of them struck her neck, and her head was quickly cut off. They understood that she preferred death to going with them. They were greatly surprised. They left what they looted and left the nunnery quickly.
To die with pure and clean heart, body and mind is better than living a life of shame, guilt and humility. The Lord Jesus has bought us with His precious blood, and we ought to maintain our freedom from sin, even if it costs us to shed our own blood.
Keep on praying, reading the Bible and receiving the Communion so that you may enter into a relationship with the Lord. The Lord will purge you with hyssop and you will be clean. Your life will be whiter than snow.
Keep reading the stories of the saints, especially those who were martyred in the cause of chastity. This will give you power in your spiritual life and motivate you to insist on being chaste.
Make a wall sheet and write about those who were martyred in the cause of chastity.
Make use of the Multimedia Center and show your children the various films about the pure martyrs in the church hall, especially on the Nayrouz Day (Coptic New Year Day), to celebrate those saints.
Let the students collect the stories of those martyrs from the Synaxarium and Church books; put them in an album and keep them in the Library for the benefit of all.
THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE THOUGHT AND EVANGELICAL LIFE
Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
CHASTITY APPLIES TO EVERYONE
Chastity is a principle that does not specifically apply to a certain group, nor does it only concern abbots or monks in a monastery; rather, it is a principle that is shared by all good people, whether they are married or are struggling youth.
Chastity is a way of life offered to everyone. Struggling youth can taste it as they battle their passions by holding the Lord's strong hand so that He may save them. Good husbands experience chastity by conceiving Christ the Lord as the only true Bridegroom of their souls. Consequently, they feel that the wife is not a mere tool that satisfies temporary passions but is a holy vessel. She is the partner who shares with her husband unity in Christ's Holy Body. Monks experience chastity as they are carried away from this world and by living in God's love.
FIRST - THE THOUGHT AND ITS SANCTIFICATION
I wish to achieve sanctified thoughts but my attempts are futile, as I even fail to get rid of the evil corrupt thoughts. They stealthily creep in or arise from within, without my will. I try to overcome them but am unable... they even dominate me when I am asleep and relaxing, and often impose themselves as I work or am wide-awake. What can I do?
1. First of all, you should never despair. Corrupt thoughts must necessarily come to you as long as you are living in the flesh. “The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit lusts against the flesh, each struggles against the other” (Gal 5: 17). However, a person who loves God, and who is resolved to walk in the way of Christ, refuses entertaining these thoughts or surrendering to them. He dismisses them at once and never negotiates. This is what St. Paul meant when he told his disciple Timothy, “As for youthful lusts, flee them” (2 Tim. 2:22). The safest way, then, is escape. If however you surrender for even a few moments, you will find it harder to fight or dismiss lustful thoughts the following day. They are like an unwanted guest who is hard to get rid of once he has arrived. By surrendering, corrupt thoughts gain a stronger footing in the heart day by day. It will mean that you have surrendered the driving wheel of your own self to them! Once you have given in to corrupt thoughts, they will be entitled to reappear occasionally and recur often. This is because they have become ingrained in the subconscious and it is difficult to tear them out.
What we have said in relation to our thoughts is also applicable to our instincts. Every instinct that is exposed to a corrupt experience retains its memory in the subconscious, and it is used repeatedly to tempt a person to fall and surrender. This is what drove a youth to say bitterly, “Don't you find that once you have started to practice sex you are unable to stop? What you do is just go on, and on, and on.”
Therefore, escape is a sort of strength, which enables a person to cut himself off from an endless chain of mental and physical experiences. A person needs to tell himself, “NO” by the help of Jesus Christ, remembering all the while that sin is a murderer whose victims are strong.
Here is an incident that happened to us in the early years of our priesthood: A respectable and elderly man came up to us and confessed he was guilty of adultery. We thought he was referring to a passing idea he considered as adultery. When he insisted, we believed he had been tempted to touch or draw near the subject. However, he clarified how he had actually committed the act. We were terrified inside and the tormenting silent question was: “How can such an old respectable man commit such a sin?” On meeting the late Fr. Michael Abraham, he said, “You have been exposed to this incident at the start of your service for two purposes: first, to make you aware of human frailty, whatever a person's age; and the need to be tender in treating it, especially when dealing with youth. Secondly, so that you are cautious yourself, since as long as we exist in the flesh and however pure we've always been on account of our purity, or our age, or work (as priests), we've always got to distrust our bodies.”
Another time, when God wanted to teach us a lesson about escape, a young girl in her twenties confessed bitterly that she had committed a sin with a seventy-year old man. She said, “He has sent me to confess as he is embarrassed to meet you. Through carelessness, he had submitted to the temptation.”
Let us therefore flee from any temptation as long as we live in the flesh. We should escape regardless of position, experience, or age and in order to avoid the corruption of our thoughts.
Now, if you have actually surrendered to corrupt thoughts and they dominate you, do not despair; instead, be cautious so that you do not complicate matters through accepting, willingly, more ideas. As for those that already dominate you, you need to fight them courageously. You’ll be strengthened by knowing that the Holy Father sees your humility and accepts you. He takes account of every sacrifice you make, however small, to keep your thoughts pure. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication.” (1 Thes. 4:3)
At first, the thought of death and the Day of Judgment may be useful training. The purpose is that a careless person may not be convinced by love and needs to be driven to repent by using a mixture of fear and trust and then, finally, by being loved.
2. Thoughts may not be lustful at first. In fact, they are often deceptive and may take the form of dreaming, to which a person surrenders during his waking hours. Thus, he thinks endlessly about the future, his dreams and hopes. Usually, however, he ends up leaving the real world and stays in a dream world filled by a mixture of passionate and lustful feelings!
3. One of the factors that lead some people to corrupt thinking is anxiety and having no trust in God. No wonder, then, if many complain about the dominance of unclean thoughts, especially before examinations. In spite of their great preoccupation with their studies, their anxiety drives corrupt thoughts into their minds. They wish they could find the pleasure to escape their actual circumstances. In such cases, prayer is essential to receive peace from God. He alone can fill you with inner joy and confidence by His support. He is the strong medication that heals a believer from these thoughts.
4. There is a traditional saying that “A lazy mind is Satan's workshop.” Naturally, the mind is an active faculty that works within us. It either builds or destroys; it either does good or evil.
Peace-of-mind is not achieved by doing nothing, since the mind cannot, in normal circumstances, take leave of work. Yet, in the intervals when the body is resting or sleeping, the mind chews over all what its owner has experienced and offered as food during working hours.
Young people who get too involved in pleasure and entertainment, who spend time in provocative places and corrupt gatherings, cannot be expected to develop sanctified thought. During periods of rest or sleep, their wills weaken. In contrast, young people who have served themselves spiritual food (inspired not only by observing Godly pictures in the world but from their inner being) can be expected to enjoy sanctified thought during periods of rest or sleep.
Therefore, spiritual readings, studying the Psalms and reciting them, as well as studying the history and lives of the saints are greatly strengthening. All these exercises are stored within a person and can be drawn upon in times of need and hunger.
SECOND: THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE SENSES
The spiritual elder, St John Saba, spoke about the sanctification of the senses and said, “Dear brother who seeks earnestly to live in God and be in touch with the Holy One Who knows no sin. Listen to me lovingly, and forgive my frailty. Organize your thoughts, dear brother, and beware of them, since through them the death of the inner person may enter... Turn away from contemplating human beauty that does not last by contemplating on God. Close your ears from listening to all that is corrupt by listening to the mysteries of the Most Powerful! Beware of corrupt smells, replacing them by the sweet smell of Christ! Close your mouth cautiously and protect it; speak with God and talk to the Creator! The fifth sense is the touch; it should be entrusted to God the Keeper. And you should pray for chastity in all your movements and contacts, that God may protect you from unclean thoughts!”
Everyone who now wishes to preserve himself and his conscience from evil has to preserve these senses; he has to entrust them into God's hands since He is the Supporter of the weak.
Dear one, God has blessed you with instincts. Without them, you would lose your vitality as a human being, with instincts and feelings. Your instincts differ from any other earthly living thing because God has specially given you a will. This will is an outstanding power and is largely responsible for controlling your instincts.
If you want, you can develop these five instincts or senses so that they operate as powerful potentials. Ultimately, they will drive you to enjoy living with the Lord. On the other hand, you can, if you want or if you surrender, lower them into the depths of degradation by dawdling in corruption and believing that chastity is not a trait that can be enjoyed by beings that have such instincts as yours.
What I wish to stress is that if you, as a youth, suffer due to sex and have no will to control your eyes, ears and the rest of your senses, know that the defect does not arise due to their existence but due to whether they are controlled and promoted to work in their proper context.
But how can I direct my senses to operate in a Godly way when my whole being is burning with passion?
First: We do not demand you to shut your senses or repress their energy within you. On the contrary, we ask you to liberate them after you have been sanctified. This will sanctify your instincts and will lead you to spiritual growth. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctities the senses and instincts, and He is not far away but within you. He lives within you, yet you do not respond to Him!
There is a need, therefore, to interact with the Holy Spirit. You can do that through prayer and by asking Him to fill your heart and illuminate your senses. The Church teaches us to pray daily and to recite in the third hour, “Thy Holy Spirit, O Lord, which you have sent to your holy disciples and honorable apostles in the third hour, O Good Lord, do not tear away from us, but renew Him within us.”
St. John Chrysostom likened the spirit of man (a child) to a city. Its doors are the senses through which citizens come and go. By that, he meant that through the senses, thoughts could be corrupted or improved. The keeper at these doors is the Cross of Christ that is decorated with precious stones and gold. These are the good gates through which only righteousness passes. (Ps. 118:20)
St Anthony said, “The Holy Spirit helps a person carry out the commandments that he learns and helps him drive away the passions arising out of his ‘self’ and independently of the body, or the passions that have been attained through the body. The Holy Spirit also teaches a person to preserve his whole body, from the head to the toes, in harmony. Therefore, it preserves the eyes so that they see purity! It preserves the ears so that they listen in peace and do not enjoy gossip or the slander of others! It preserves the tongue so that it only says what is good and gives due importance to every word, so that nothing lustful or corrupt is mixed in with the words! The Holy Spirit preserves the hands so that they move naturally, are raised in prayer, and are charitable and generous. It also preserves the stomach so that it sets proper restrictions for food and drink that are sufficient to feed the body. In these ways, greed or lust do not lead to sin. The Holy Spirit preserves the feet so that they walk according to God's will and do good works. In this way, the whole body gets used to doing good and becomes subjugated by the power of the Holy Spirit. It will gradually develop and share, to a large extent, the features of the spiritual body, which it will achieve on the day of the Great Resurrection.”
Test: Study the prayers of the third hour and say them aloud privately, or say parts of them, especially in the periods between classes or lectures.
Second: Struggle to sanctify the senses. In the same message, St. Anthony stressed that although the Holy Spirit is the source of sanctification, the struggle to achieve perfect purity necessitates the joint struggle of the soul and body, as they both assist each other to repent.
St. Paul also said, “You have not yet resisted unto blood” (Heb. 12:4). It is clear that the Holy Spirit will operate within us according to our interaction with Him, and that is evident in our effort and struggle. We have said that the first element in our struggle is prayer and fervent request that the Holy Spirit fills our lives endlessly. Fervent prayers and our own effort and struggle to preserve our senses from all that may expose them to temptation, will enable us to liberate them while we know that they will find fulfillment in doing God's holy will.
Different ways to train our senses are suggested below:
Train Your Sense of Sight: St. Augustine considered sight as the first link in the chain of sin. The following are some practical instructions to avoid evil sights:
Avoid places that expose and weaken you to certain people, even if that arises out of your own inner impulses rather than as a result of the other person's presence. Such escape is not a sign of being a coward. On the contrary, it indicates courage since you are opposing strong inner impulses. Do not, however, stop at this negative stage but be keen to repent, pray and seek to enjoy living with Jesus Christ. In this way, your eyes will become humble and will never stumble by anyone.
Do not search, with your eyes, provocative sights, and remember that even David, the prophet and singer of the Psalms, sinned as he surrendered to one careless glance.
Do not linger with your eyes, which arouse your passion, but always remember that you are looking at your brothers and sisters. When a girl tempted St. Pakhomius in his youth, he told her, “Are my eyes those of a dog so that they would lead me to sleep with my sister?”
Do not cheat yourself by saying that you are contemplating beauty for its sake because beauty lies in ultimate benevolence. Therefore, be cautious because lust may be concealed within it and you never know!
When you feel your eyes are not comfortable when they see a certain person, which you meet daily at work or under certain circumstances, lift your heart up and call upon the Name of Jesus Christ, who will sanctify your sight.
Put pictures of Jesus Christ and the holy saints in your bedroom and on your desk. These will remind you of the holiness and pure lives of those portrayed.
Beware of cheap books, magazines, and films that exploit provocative and uncouth incidents and sights. Your time is too precious to be wasted over such things!
Do not depend on your actual spiritual strength so that you confidently allow your eyes to stray; you believe that you are strong, so do not stumble. A spiritual youth once confessed to us that he had gone to provocative places but that he felt that all the women were his sisters. In spite of their exposed bodies, he never felt any temptation. A few years later, the same youth confessed and complained bitterly how he was now struggling against the old sights he had seen years ago and which had not affected him then. A time of weakness had now come, and they were imposing themselves. They danced before his mind's eye and led him powerfully to destructive, evil thoughts. It was like a deposit of corrupt experience, which he had accepted in the belief that he was strong.
Train Your Sense of Hearing:
Avoid the company of reckless, scornful people as much as possible; otherwise, your hearing will be filled with evil sarcasm, provocative jokes or words. These words will creep out upon you in moments of weakness when your inner will is off guard, such as when you are asleep, sick, physically worn out or indulging in day dreams!
If you love music, you have found a way that has led many into a deep union with God. Through the beautiful Church hymns, especially those repeated before Easter, during the week of Christ's sufferings, the soul could find self-redeeming and fulfilling food!
Train Your Sense of Taste: You should observe a balance between the needs of your stomach, your health and the physical work that you do; seek the advice of your confession father.
Train Your Sense of Smell: Remember not to overdress or indulge in earthly matters. Rather, seek to pray and try to sit with the Lord through the night. This will transform you to become the beautiful smell of the Lord to all who are saved (2 Cor. 2:15).
Train Your Sense of Touch, especially in crowded places; lift your heart towards God and preoccupy your thoughts with Him. Call upon His Name.
Finally, may the Lord constantly remind us that all our members and all our senses are His possession... that we are His children… that we have been bought with a precious price; that is how much we are worth? This understanding will encourage us to transform all our potentials so that they may function according to the perfect will of God.
Coptic New Year
Church Calendar: Coptic New Year is on Thout 1 (September 12)
“If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:17
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29