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||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

Perfection and Feasibility


All of us are required to be perfect, as the

saying of the Glorious Lord Jesus Christ:

“You shall be perfect, just as your Father

in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48)

God is the only who has absolute perfection. As

for us, the best we can achieve is considered

relative perfection; relative to our capabilities and

God’s Grace given to us. What we are required to

achieve is the feasible, what we can achieve.

When a child starts to learn Mathematics, they

first teach him addition and subtraction. He passes

his exam and gets the full mark. We say that he

has achieved perfection in Arithmetic according to

his level, though his level is considered nothing

compared to high levels in Arithmetic, but still he

achieved relative perfection.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

While discussing relative perfection, I would like

to recall the saying of St. Paul the Apostle:

“If it is possible, as much as depends on

you, live peaceably with all men." (Ro. 12:18)

The Apostle does not ask for absolute perfection

but for what is feasible as he says: “as much as

depends on you”…

We are supposed to live in peace with all

people. But sometimes a wife can’t live in peace

with her mother-in-law if they were living at the

same house. So instead of them having a fight

daily, they better separate: each of them should

live in a house. As Abram said to his nephew Lot:

“Please let there be no strife between you and me,

and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; ...

Please separate from me. If you take the left, then

I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then

I will go to the left.” (Gn. 13:8, 9).

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ was blaming

Scribes and Pharisees when saying:

“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear,

and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they

themselves will not move them with one of

their fingers.” (Mt. 23:4).

And for they have asked people for the

impossible, the Lord told them: “You shut up the

kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go

in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are

entering to go in.” (Mt. 23:13).

This obliges all spiritual mentors, speakers and

all teachers not to ask people for more than they

can bear, in the area of the commandments and

teachings. We would like to say the same to fathers

and mothers and all those who work in the field of


Ask them for what is feasible for them; what

they can do…

The Lord once said to his apostles: “I still have

many things to say to you, but you cannot bear

them now.” (Jn. 16:12)

And in temptations St. Paul the Apostle says:

“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be

tempted beyond what you are able, but with the

temptation will also make the way of escape, that

you may be able to bear it.” (1Co. 10:13).

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

In the Parable of the Talents he gave “to each

according to his own ability” (Mt. 25:15)…

He was not distinguishing when he gave one five

talents, the second two and the third one. But he was

giving “each one according to his own ability”. In the

gain he did so too. The one who was given two talents

gain the same blessing that was given to the one with

the five talents; “Well done, good and faithful servant;

you were faithful over a few things, I will make ruler

over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Mt.

25:21, 23). If the one with the single talent had traded

and gained another talent, he would have gained the

same blessing..!

God then repays everyone according to his or her


And the same blessing will be given to everyone if

they come with outcomes according to their capabilities.

We see the same situation again in the Parable

of the Sower (Mt. 13: 3-9-23).

The Lord said that: that who sowed on good ground

“yielded a crop: some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some

thirty.”. Everyone was considered to have yielded a

crop even the one who only yielded thirty! Each of the

three according to his potential reached the possible

perfection, according to the ground’s nature, the

fertilizer and irrigation, the seed nature and the sower


􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

As God repays people he definitely takes into

consideration the differences in their levels and


Each has a certain level. And strives according to

this level.

We read a nice phrase by St Isaac the Syrian:

“Because God knows the diversity in people’s

characters, he created so many ways for salvation. So

that if someone could not follow a certain, can follow

another way…”.

St Isaac the Syrian was a monk representing very

strict solitude. And yet he did not ask everyone to reach

the same level of solitude that he lived and taught

through. He gave standards: “the monk living among

monks, the novice solitary monk, the one who can lock

up himself for weeks, then the hermit… On steps…”.

Not every monk can live in a cave, and not every cave

inhabitant can live a hermitic life. But each according to


his potential. And there are good monks living in the

monks’ community like St. Tudor the student of St

Bachomious the Great…

All these reach the possible perfection level…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

There are also those who do not follow

monasticism; they get married and get children

and they reach the relative and possible

perfection level.

This is how our great fathers: Noah, Job, Abraham,

Isaac and Jacob. Among the prophets there was

Moses who was married and Elijah the virgin. Among

the apostles there was Peter the married and John

the virgin.

Among those who were famous for their kindness

to the poor: There was Bishop Abram the bishop of

Fayoum city and Ibrahim El-Gohary the holder of a

State job.

Each, according to his potential, circumstances and

mission, lived a possible perfect life. With good

spiritual life that can be accepted by God.

There is also that who gets married then his wife

dies, so he gets widowed, then gets married again

(after his wife dies) and his life gets accepted by the

Lord and sometimes reach the relative perfection.

There are many examples among prophets like

Abraham the Father of fathers (Gn. 25:1).

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

God looks to the capabilities of each person

and not to those of other people. People vary in

their levels even the spiritual ones:

There is the novice person, the one who is not

experienced and mature, and both are different than

the spiritual person with has gifts given to him by the


People also differ from the age point of view: what

a Youngman can do is different than what an old man

can do, which is also different than what a child can


Also the capabilities of a sick person, is different

than those of a strong healthy one.

And a person who received a special grace from

the Lord is different from an ordinary person.

And possible perfection for each type of all these

people differs from one to another “each according to

his own ability.” (Mt. 25:15).

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Furthermore, the level of the commandments

in the Old Testament is different than in the

New Testament… According to people’s abilities

to fulfill.

The Lord is the same and his measures of

perfection are the same…

But the level of people living in an pagan

atmosphere where people worship so many Gods is

different than the atmosphere of the New Testament

where paganism has vanished and the New

Testament age had the prevailing of the act of grace,

and the Holy Spirit dwelling in People (1Co. 3:16)

guiding them to what is righteous and aiding them…

This is an age different than that at which Moses

was delayed coming down from the mountain

because he was with the Lord, so they fashioned a

golden molded calf and worshipped it!! (Ex. 32:2-6)

So the level of the commandments given to people

in the Old Testament was according to their

potentials… So it was said that Moses allowed them to

divorce because of the hardness of their hearts (Mt.

19:8) although that “at the beginning it was not like


And Prophet David has married eight wives. And

yet it was said about him that his heart was loyal to

the Lord (1K. 11:4). This is possible relative


All these matters that were allowed in the Old

Testament became forbidden in the New Testament

because the all the conditions changed, under grace

possibilities and the end of the pagan atmosphere

that affected even Solomon the wise (1K. 11:3, 4).

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Now let’s talk about some virtues. Let’s see

perfection in then and what is possible taking

into consideration differences in levels:

Absolute perfection in giving can only be achieved

by God.

But what is the relative perfection that a person

can achieve? And what are its levels?


Relative perfection can be found in the Lord’s

saying: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you

have and give the poor, and you will have treasure in

heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mt. 19:21).

St. Anthony achieved this commandment to its

perfection in his perfection.

Not everyone can do like St Anthony did.

So no one may say: “I am totally lost because I

did not do this commandment”!!

No, God only asks you for the possible, which has

levels as well.

You give what you can. Give out of your musts

like the poor widow, who paid the two mites, did; she

was praised from the Lord for that. (Lk. 21:3, 4).

If you can’t give out from your necessities, then

act according to another commandment, which is:

“Give to him who asks you” (Mt. 5:42). Or do as was

said in the Old Testament: “Do not withhold good

from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power

of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor,

“Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,”

When you have it with you.” (Pr. 3:27, 28)

Notice the sentence “When it is in the power of

your hand to do so” meaning the (possible). Also the

part “When you have it with you” is the same. If you

could not do all this:

At lease pay your firstlings and your tithes and

this is an Old Testament commandment.

At least also pray for those needy, and try to

redirect them to charity institutions that take care of

them. Doing so you would be giving them indirectly.

But if you do not do this or that, meaning: you go for

neither the relative perfection, the possible, nor the

indirect giving, then your conscience is neglectful.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿


Perfection in prayer is to always pray and not lose

heart (Lk. 18:1).

If you could not achieve this perfection, then go

for the possible, which is the seven daily prayers


If this is more than you can do, at least start your

day with a prayer and end it with a prayer before you


sleep, you can also raise your heart with a fast short

prayer all the time, even if it is only made out of one

or two words… Asking God for blessing, help, or

forgiveness, or expressing your feelings towards the


Pray as much as you can. If you cannot reach the

perfect, then do not ignore the possible.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿


Fasting is an abstaining from food, followed by

eating food that is free from animal fats. Perfection in

fasting is measured by the duration of abstaining

from desirables, as Prophet Daniel said: “I ate no

pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth,

nor did anoint myself at all” (Dn. 10:3)

Yet, if you cannot do that, the church – as of the

possible – gave permissions – in the reasonable

boundaries – to the sick, old, pregnant women,

breastfeeding mothers and children. But these

permissions should not be taken a reason for

exaggerating in abandoning fasting if the health of

one is ok.

Once, St Pishoi fasted around 20 days with hard

abstaining. Then he looked out of his room and saw a

young novice monk who had abstained from food for

one day and he cannot walk straight. He asked God

about the reward of that poor youngster and he was

told: “He gets exactly the same reward as you.

Because if he was given the grace that was given to

you, he would have fasted the same way you do”

So the amount of grace a person gets from

God is taken into consideration while measuring

the possible perfection that can be reached.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿


Perfection in service is that a servant reaches the

life of full dedication, so that his whole life is fully

dedicated to God. Not every person can reach the

level of full dedication. The family and social

circumstances of each person differ than others, and

have to get an extra job to be able to support his


So what is the (possible) then?

It is to use his free time to serve God. If one

cannot, then at least one hour a day. If he cannot,

then at least whenever God puts someone who needs

serving on his way, he gives him as much as he can.

And to be ready in his heart to serve each as much

as he can.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Dealing with hurtful people

Perfection in that is what is described by the Lord’s

saying: “love your enemies, bless those who curse

you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for

those who spitefully use you and prosecute you” (Mt.

5:44). If you cannot do that, then what is the


It is what is said in the bible: “If your enemy is

hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his

head.” (Ro. 12:20). Meaning that by you doing so, he

will be embarrassed from you and your charity will

capture him.

If you could not turn your other cheek to the one

who slaps you (according to the Lord’s

commandment) (Mt. 5:39), then at least bear the

first slap, don’t get even and slap back. And pray that

God forgives him and keep his evilness away from


􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

The last word I would like to say to you in the


If you go for (the possible), and not for

perfection, do not turn (the possible) into


Do not neglect the commandment, and cover up

that neglect with excuses and by saying that it was

more than you could have done. No, let your

conscience be righteous in front of God and in front of

yourself honestly and with careful inspection. So that

you do not be spoiling yourself in running away from

the commandment and loosening up.

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