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i.e., The Weighing Scale Of Hearts

Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)




OD OFFERED US THE GRACE of calling and accepting us in the sacred wilderness i.e. the wilderness of ‘Sheheet’, in other words the wilderness of the weighing scale of hearts. With its name the Holy Spirit draws our hearts to this designation’s implication concerning our life together in this holy wilderness, and offering our lives to God the Weigher of hearts and souls.

The origin of this designation, mentioned in the book of ‘Coptic Monasticism’ is found in the Biography of Saint Macarius pages 208, 209. The meaning stemmed from the time when Saint Macarius first arrived in this wilderness, slept on top of the cherubim hill, and the blessed saint of the cherubim appeared to him. When the saint started to fall asleep on this hill, he felt the cherubim’s hand palpate his heart as if wanting to weigh it. Saint Macarius said to him: What is it? The cherubim answered: “I am measuring and weighing your heart aisi mpekh/t.” Saint Macarius then said to him: “What does it mean?” The cherubim answered: “As I have acted within your heart thus will be named this mountain, but Christ will demand the fruit.”

Now, my loved ones, I mentioned this narrative as an introduction to the main subject that is: in this wilderness our hearts, consciences, and deeds will be weighed by God’s spiritual weighing scale. This article is an important part of the previous one in which was mentioned: “Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9, 10 NRSV).[1]

But all these different kinds of sins are not weighed with God’s sensitive scales, but all the thoughts and hearts’ intentions that the devil stirs up in the mind stirring later the heart, our yielding to these thoughts, and the heart’s reaction to them, that immediately makes them counted as sins duly fulfilled, as Christ’s depiction: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). The sin of adultery was counted here as if it had been consummated, while it was only in the realm of the mind and heart.

Thus sins begin with the senses and thoughts, consequently stirring the heart, to become counted as sins.[2]

Here I will begin to explain the meaning of “the weighing scale of hearts”, which is our work in this sacred wilderness. The devil instigates the wicked thoughts specific to every type of sin mentioned by St Paul, who said that those who committed them would not witness the Kingdom of God.

Now, according to the weighing scale of hearts, mere thoughts if alive in the mind, with the mind at ease with them for barely a second, the heart responding, stirred in reaction to them; immediately become counted as if they had been fulfilled in the heart without the action of the flesh. This is the danger of the ascetic life, the proof of piety, and the sincerity of a sacred living with the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

For it is impossible for a monk to be counted a true ascetic, or considered a pious monk, or a truthful believer in a life of communion with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, led by the Holy Spirit, while leading a life receptive to, and engaged in evil thoughts whether those of impurity, anger, envy, hatred or slander, carnal appetites, money, food or anything else of the heart’s desires be it only for a moment, then finding an approving response[3] in his members, immediately moved by the impure thoughts, the heart stirred in response, although for a moment, to the thought. The impulse of an undisciplined thought, and of the heart affected by the thought reacting to it, is counted an actual response, and a sin that has been completed, entering into the sphere of judgment and eternal denial of the pure, ascetic and pious worshippers’ share, who are living the life of communion through the Spirit rejoicing in the grace of God, with the Kingdom open to them, an opportunity and eternal share in a feast beyond words.[4]

What should be done?

Here comes the practical part of the article that is based on two parts:

The First Part:

“I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27 NKJV).

And the same:

“Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things” (1 Cor 9:25 NKJV).[5]

At this point we have reached the essence of a hermit’s work, the beginning of the work of monks who have entered the monastery to attain a life of piety and acquire the taste of life with the Lord through the Holy Spirit.


To begin with, control the flesh with all its appetites that start in the mind and imagination, instigated by the enemy to novices for them to fall in the devil’s hands. If the monk responds to these thoughts and gives in to the imagination, with the mind starting to take pleasure in it and responding, then sin will live in the flesh. I say that responding to the mind, even for a second, makes the heart respond to the evil power, becoming impossible to erase the effect of the evil thought, and hence the reaction of heart and members. For Christ says that the sin was thus fulfilled in the heart.


Then, what is to be done?

Work in this holy wilderness is our only occupation, as follows:

1. Repudiate evil thoughts completely, forcefully, willfully, and stubbornly for them not to extend to the heart, members, and the rest of the flesh.

2. Beware; beware of evil thoughts and imaginations that infiltrate the heart to find delight, or acceptance and consent, no matter what. At this point I include that the hungry body and empty compressed stomach are the greatest help in controlling the body, mind and imagination. Hunger in ‘Sheheet’ is an official work and honor.

3. The monk busy with reading, the drone of books and psalms, is the owner of a mind armed against evil imaginations. Reading sacred books continuously is an effective factor in disciplining the flesh, mind, and evil appetites (Acts 20:32).

From that we reach the conclusion of the greatest importance: to refute the devil’s counsel, playing with the mind and acquiring the heart. This is the only work required of us for God to fulfill His work.


The Second Part:

If the monk as human being seeking asceticism, worship and piety fulfills his officially required work, which is to refuse the devil’s counsel from the first impulse in the mind, no matter how persevering and repetitious, with a total refusal in mind, heart, and body then the result will be that the Spirit of God will enter at once, and with His power put a stop to the expansion of the idea, thus cutting it off, stopping its movement instantly for man not to be tried beyond his endurance. Thus the heart becomes joyful and the spirit enveloped in a feeling of victory and joy.[6]


Insomuch as the devil repeats his work and the monk repeats his refusal, the Spirit continues its work in all confidence and certainty.


1. An example of the sin of lying:

It is the devil’s easiest sin to make great people fall into. If a spiritual man starts his life with God in truth, honesty, and strictness especially in relation to all the kinds of lies, he feels a spiritual force surrounding him, protecting, helping, and leading him. If it happens and he distractedly commits a lie unintentionally and unheedingly, he will immediately feel that the power surrounding and protecting him has left him, and that he has become ashamed of himself like a man naked. If he can at once correct his mistake and ask God’s forgiveness and the person he lied to, acknowledging his lie, then the protective power will return as it had been and increase.


2. An example of the sin of fornication:

The ancient fathers say that the stirring of the sex members is the first to be influenced by the action of the mind’s devil, to the extent that they said that the devil is ‘the holder of the members’. Here I draw the ascetic monk’s attention to his eyes and feelings that must concentrate on any of the members stirring so as to realize that the devil has entered the body and is on the point of spoiling it. With all awareness and care he must forbid their stirring, not even for a second, even if he must terrified and disturbed wake up in control of his members. Herein lies an involuntary relation between the mind, heart, and members, but is put a stop to by invoking the name of Jesus even up to one hundred times, till the members calm down and the devil departs. It is a temptation all youth undergo, but under discipline and restraint, the vigilant Spirit will swiftly answer, for sure, to the sons who cry out day and night.


3. An example of anger and hostility:

They are two inseparable sins. Man’s anger makes the devil lead him to hostility. Antagonism is darkness and death according to St. John in his First Epistle. He who is angry with his brother for invalid matters Jesus Christ says: “shall be liable to judgment” (Matt 5:22). The word “anger” here means the “violation of Christian love.” The devil lies in waiting, so that when man’s heart is stirred by anger he on the spot stirs the heart to hatred. Antagonism in Christianity equals falling into the devil’s arms.

Therefore if the enemy begins to stir the mind to anger remember that the devil is waiting to embrace you to become his own by leading you to hatred.

It is for that reason that Christ said: “Love your enemies” to sever the devil’s line of return7.

I leave you now in the love of Christ and the care of the Holy Spirit to be children of His grace, the sons of ‘Sheheet’, the weighing scale of hearts.


The commemoration of the return of Saint Macarius’s body to the wilderness of ‘Sheheet’



7 “For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me” (Col 1:29). “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).





The Monastery of St Macarius

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* “Sheheet” is a Coptic word meaning the weighing scale of hearts.

[1] This is according to the scale of curses, while in the scale of beatitudes there are the blessings: blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. So is the life of the monk who bears the cross, not of him who rejected and renounced it.

[2] St Macarius the Great says:

[The monk seated in his cell must limit his inner thoughts to exclude all worldly interest, not allowing them to stray to the lies of this age, but restraining them to his only aim; which is thinking only of God at every moment. He must remain steadfast throughout every hour, without worry, and not allow anything-worldly sneak in to disturb his heart: neither the mention of his relatives nor an interest in his fathers nor the willing of time by thinking of his relatives! But he must be in spirit, and with all his senses as if in the presence of God.] (Coptic Monasticism, p 260).

[3] [Abba Amoun who is from Raythee (Al-Tur mountain) asked about impure thoughts, Abba Poemen who answered saying: The enemy drives them to us, but we must not accept them.] (Coptic Monasticism, p 260). St Paul the Apostle explains it: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).

[4] Therefore our thoughts and heart must be occupied with the words of the Gospel: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The Gospel’s word is the Gospel’s weapon that fights the enemy.

[5] [It is not therefore the type of life that renders a man a saint or perfect, for there exists only one kind of sanctity, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit along with man’s effort] (Coptic Monasticism, p 141).

[6] [I have spent 14 years in ‘Sheheet’ (Abba Amoun speaking) begging God, day and night, to give me victory over the spirit of anger] (Sayings of the Fathers, p 276; Coptic Monasticism p 263).


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