The Pillars of Worship
His Grace Bishop Mattaous
Abbot of Deir Al Suryan
The pillars of worship as mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel according to St. Matthew are:
Charity --- Prayer --- Fasting
These three constitute the pillars of worship according to the rules, for as St. Paul says, "And also, if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." (2 Tim. 2:5) And just as a bird soars on two wings, so prayer rises and soars on the wings of charity and fasting.
First Sunday of Lent: Sunday of the Kingdom:
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you." (Mt. 6: 33) The one who seeks the Kingdom of God is not concerned about the matters of the world or the body. As the Lord said, "do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on." (Mt. 6: 25) "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow." (Mt. 6: 28)
He who seeks the Kingdom is a spiritual individual who no longer pays attention to the body, causing him to love giving. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, …….but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." (Mt. 6: 19-20) We should not only be concerned about our own brothers and children, but also about our little brothers, the poor and needy. "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Mt. 25: 40)
Second Sunday: Temptation in the Wilderness:
+ The lust of the flesh.
+ The lust of the eye.
+ The pride of life.
"For all that is in the world ---- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life --- is not of the Father but is of the world." (1 Jn. 2: 116)
These are the three things that Satan tempted the Lord Jesus with, and they are also what the whole world is tempted with. But just as Christ was victorious, so shall we be. "For in that he Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." (Heb. 2: 18)
The word of the Lord is a two-edged sword, and prayer and fasting are important. One of the saints said, "Prayer is a weapon and fasting is a fortress." With the help of God, we can gain the victory.
The Lord Jesus used to pray and read the Scriptures in the wilderness and He won the victory. "Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him." (Mt. 4: 11) He who is victorious deserves the promises made to those who win; "to those who win …. and to the seven churches" (Rev. 1: 4)
Third Sunday: the prodigal son:
He is a manly example of repentance, for sin destroys man and tears him apart. How great was the father's joy at his son's return! In the same way, heaven and the angels of God rejoice over the return of the sinner. "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Lk. 15: 7) That is why there is the saying: "Do you know of anyone who has entered heaven without repentance?"
Repentance is the source of life for it softens God's heart towards us when we tell Him, "I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called Your son." (Lk. 15: 21) This is repeated in all the Lent hymns.
Fourth Sunday: the Samaritan woman:
She is a model of repentance. She was far away from Christ, but Christ's words caused her to gain knowledge of Him. She started out by saying, "You are a Jew; how can you ask me for water?" When she listened to His sweet words, she began to improve her manner. "I see you are a prophet," she said. She went back to the town people and told them, "Come see a Man who told me all things that I ever did." (Jn. 4: 29) This is how Jesus gradually led her until she realized He was the awaited Messiah, Incarnate God.
The power of Jesus' words took her from one extreme to another. His gentle words attracted her in the beginning, when she was like a fish that tries to escape the angler. However, with patience, He was able to catch her and won her as well as the whole of Samaria to the Kingdom.
Fifth Sunday: the man paralyzed for 38 years:
Sin paralyzes the sinner. This man's family had become fed up with him and abandoned him at the pool at Bethesda. (Jn. 5: 2) This is the way with sinners; fate smiles on them for a while giving them wealth and friends, but it all ends in bitterness and denial by his friends. Christ comes during the fourth watch, but He does not impose Himself on man, for the Bible says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (Jas. 4: 8) Through Christ, he was healed without preamble, without medicines, and without the need for convalescence later on, but got up and carried his bed. However, the Lord warned him, "Sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you." (Jn. 5: 14) The man was strengthened, for the word of God strengthens the man who holds on to it.
Sixth Sunday: Baptismal Sunday or the man born blind:
This is the Sunday of enlightenment through the Gospel. You need to obey the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to obtain enlightenment. The man born blind accepted to have mud placed over his eyes in faith and went to wash in the pool of Slilom in all obedience, and so obtained inner and outer light. Although his faith was new, he stood as firmly as a rock and staunchly defended his new faith. Despite being cast out of the synagogue by the Jews, he held on to his faith just like St. Policarpus who lived ninety years with the Lord and was never shaken, even when evil people wanted to burn him.
Each one has to accept Christ as King of his life and must cast out of his heart the love of the world. He must give his whole heart to the Lord in response to His call, "My son, give me your heart." (Prov. 32: 26) The life of the monk and the consecrated must be wholly placed on His altar like the burnt offering which goes entirely to the altar, which is not the case with the other offerings of which only a portion is burnt. "There is none upon earth that I desire besides You." (Ps. 73: 25) Christ satisfies man.
The one who relies on the Lord needs to experience and live with Him day by day Let us rise with Him, for "if you have risen with Christ, seek what is above where Christ is seated." Be concerned with what is heavenly, not with what is worldly.
Repentance is resurrection. "Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection; (repentance) the second death has no power over them."
Many talk a great deal about the general resurrection and the Lord's Second Coming. We need to pay attention to the first resurrection, which is the life of repentance.
The Fifty Days after Easter:
This is a spiritual peak reached after Lent. We need to be grounded in this light and spirituality so that we can attain the ascension and serve along with the apostles.
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