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Tag Archives: Egypt

ST SHENOUTE: THOSE WHO STUMBLE OVER FAULTS AND SINS CAN DRAW ENCOURAGEMENT FROM HIM

“On … 1st July, one of the saints remembered by the wider Christian Church is St Shenoute. He was born around the year 340 in Shenalolet in Egypt. St Shenoute became a monk at the Dair-al-Abiad monastery near Stripe. In 385, after the death of the abbot, St Shenoute was chosen as the new abbot.

He ruled the monastery in a very strict way

He ruled the monastery in a very strict way. A new innovation he brought in was the requirement for every monk and nun to sign an oath to adhere to a strict pattern of life that led to holiness. Any violation to the rule was severely punished. As well as running a strict rule of life in the monastery, St Shenoute saw to it that outside the monastery any vestiges of paganism or heresy were eliminated. Despite this harshness, or because of it, over 2,200 monks and 1,800 nuns joined the religious communities of St Shenoute. He became the head of all the other monastic abbots in the area and became known as one of the outstanding figures of monasticism in Egypt at that time.

Although very strong in certain matters, St Shenoute had a compassionate streak as well. When prisoners and property were taken in a local war, the King promised St Shenoute some property. However, St Shenoute asked instead for the prisoners, whom he released. He provided them with some money to enable them to return to their loved ones. We are told these prisoners went away glorifying God and his saint, St Shenoute.

If we believe the biographer of St Shenoute, he lived to be 118 years old. He is recorded as dying in the year 466. Many suggest that St Shenoute doesn’t come across as positively as some of the ‘nicer’ saints like St Therese or St Francis. But perhaps his personality and harshness shows us that sanctity is possible for people with character flaws and faults. Thus, for those of us who stumble over faults and sins, we can draw encouragement from St Shenoute.”

– Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris/June 2015

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (JEREMIAH 31:31-34)

I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT AND WILL NEVER CALL THEIR SIN TO MIND.

Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda:

Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: the covenant which they made void, and I had dominion over them, saith the Lord.

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying: Know the Lord: for all shall know me from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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MAUNDY THURSDAY, BIBLE READING I (EXODUS 12:1-8, 11-14)

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: “This month is to be the first of all the others for you. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons required. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.

That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord!

The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.'”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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“EVEN A FEEBLE LENT OF BROKEN RESOLUTIONS MAY BY GOD’S GRACE BRING ABOUT A CHANGE IN ME”

“THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS

Jesus’ own period of 40 days in the desert introduces us to the meaning of Lent, for the experience of Jesus can itself only be understood in relation to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert. Exodus recounts the story of how, by a gratuitous act of love on God’s part, in fidelity to a promise he made long ago – a promise which would seen to be all empty by reason of the years and the suffering which have intervened – God allows Israel to escape from the slavery of Egypt to worship him in the wilderness. There the Lord offers them a covenant on Sinai. He feeds them miraculously and even overlooks their worshipping a golden calf to bring them at last to the Promised Land.

NOT SEEKING TO ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM GOD BY MATERIAL SECURITY

Now we have the key to understanding the temptations of Jesus: the temptation to worship the Devil, the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptations to power. These would all be temptations like those of his ancestors, to somehow want to be self-reliant, whereas the wilderness experience is about discovering the only true freedom: a total reliance on God expressed in worship of him, fidelity to his law and an essential love of poverty, of a depending on him for my how am I to live, not seeking once to isolate myself from him by material security.

THE ONLY TRUE FREEDOM: TOTAL RELIANCE ON GOD

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all to teach me reliance on God and solidarity with those who suffer. They are to make space in me for knowledge of my poverty and tame my ego a bit. Even a feeble Lent, a Lent of broken resolutions, might by God’s grace bring about a change in me if I am forced to admit how weak is my will, how shallow my religiosity, and how deep and real my need for God’s mercy. Remember that wonderful Chesterton paradox used to describe a saint: ‘A saint can be recognised by the fact that he knows himself to be a sinner.’

‘LOOK NOT ON OUR SINS, BUT ON THE FAITH OF YOUR CHURCH’

Just as Jesus needed to immerse himself the story of Israel, the story of God’s miraculous saving in history, so Lent is a time of identifying myself more fully with the Church, to experience in this time the miraculous effects the saving God wishes to bring about in my own history, particularly through the miraculous signs and wonders of the sacraments. This is not merely a personal journey, but also a collective one for the whole Church, a time to remember the prayer which precedes Communion which asks God to look ‘not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. It is also a time to remember that however weak or sinful I may feel I am supported by the merits and intercession of the whole Church. Together as part of the Chosen People we will rejoice in the arrival at the Promised Land of Easter.

LOOK TO THE HORIZON AND JUST KEEP GOING

We will welcome the newly baptised at Easter and share in the joy of the salvation they have been promised. Exodus also reminds us that salvation has a history: it does not happen all at once. We are on a journey. The direction of travel is all-important, and the wonderful promise of the destination allows one to lift the eyes to the horizon and slog on, even when the going is touch and we lament what must be left behind.”
– This is an excerpt of “Diary of a City Priest”, by Pastor Iuventus, (available from Amazon) which was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 14 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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22nd MARCH, BIBLE READING (MICAH 7:14-15, 18-20)

TREAD DOWN OUR FAULTS TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.

With shepherd’s crook lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.

As in the days when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.
What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.

Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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21st MARCH, BIBLE READING (GENESIS 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28)

HERE COMES THE MAN OF DREAMS. COME ON, LET US KILL HIM.

Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.

His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. “Here comes the man of dreams,” they said to one another. “Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.”

But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. “We must not take his life,” he said. “Shed no blood,” said Reuben to them, “throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him” – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with the long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.

Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.” His brothers agreed.

Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE TIMESPAN BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF GOD BEING PART OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S EMPIRE UNTIL WHEN KING HEROD WAS IMPOSED ON THEM BY THE ROMANS

THE PRECEDING POST – WHICH EXPLAINS THE MEANING OF THE RETURN FROM BABYLONIAN EXILE – “THE STORY OF THE REPATRIATION IN THE BIBLE; ANOTHER STORY OF GOD’S GREAT LOVE (FROM 538 B.C. ONWARDS)” WAS POSTED ON THIS BLOG ON OCTOBER 10, 2013.

“After the reforms of Esdras [Ezra] and Nehemias [Nehemiah] the loyalty of the people of Jahweh seemed to have been established. The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The true worship of Jahweh had been reinstituted in the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem. The people could feel that once again they were the people of God and that God was with them. It is only natural to suppose that this feeling was associated with the hope that the glorious promises of God would be fulfilled, especially the promise that through them God would establish a glorious kingdom on earth and lead the nations of the world to worship at the Temple.

RELATIVE FREEDOM UNDER PERSIAN RULE

But still the nation, the people of God, remained subject to the domination of the Persian rulers. After the efforts of Esdras and Nehemias and until the period of the Macchabees, the history of God’s Chosen People is for the most part shrouded in historical silence. Except for an unsuccessful rebellion under Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-337 B.C.), there is no evidence to show that the people did not remain politically submissive to the Persian rule. The fact that the Persian rulers allowed the free worship of Jahweh may account for this relatively peaceful period.

THE APPEARANCE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT

In the fourth century before Christ a new factor appeared on the political horizon. Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, began his reign in the summer of 336 B.C. After consolidating his rule in Greece, Alexander set out in 334 to conquer the empire of Persia. In a series of victories Alexander defeated Darius III, the great king of Persia, and assumed control of the Persian kingdom in 330 B.C. After the death of Alexander in 323 his empire was divided among the more powerful of his generals. Egypt and Palestine fell to the rule of the Ptolemies. Thus the Chosen People came under the domination of the rulers of Egypt.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE’S JAHWEH WORSHIP UNDER THE PTOLEMIES

The Ptolemies respected the religious views and practices of the Jews and the Jews seem to have been content with their rule. But in the meanwhile a new threat appeared. In the year 200 (or 198) Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.C..) Defeated Ptolemy IVPhilopator and took over control of Syria and Palestine. Antiochus belonged to the family of the Seleucids, who had gained possession of the Mesopotamian portion of the empire of Alexander. After the reign of Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 B.C.), Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C.), another son of Antiochus the Great, succeeded to the throne.

THE GREEK GODS AND CULTURE ARE FORCED ON GOD’S PEOPLE

Antiochus IV was an ardent Hellenist, that is, he was anxious to spread Greek culture throughout his kingdom. The most stubborn resisters to the process of Hellenisation were the Jews, with their worship of Jahweh. Antiochus was determined to succeed in the Hellenisation of the Jews.

A MORE GREEK-FRIENDLY HIGH PRIEST IS PUT IN PLACE BY ANTIOCHUS IV

About 173 Antiochus IV deposed Onias III, high priest at Jerusalem, and made Jason, a brother of Onias, high priest in his place. Jason had already manifested to Antiochus a willingness to cooperate in the Hellenisation of Jerusalem. His efforts were aided by the Tobiads, an influential family at Jerusalem. The people, however, were not friendly to these plans and Jason did not have the courage to wipe out the worship of Jahweh in the Temple at Jerusalem.

ANTIOCHUS ENTERS THE TEMPLE AND ERECTS THERE A STATUE OF ZEUS

In the year 168 Antiochus entered Jerusalem himself and took from the Temple the golden lampstand, the altar and other furnishings. In 167, at his orders, the ‘Abomination of desolation’ was erected in the Temple. The ‘Abomination’ was probably a statue of Jupiter Olympus. The sacrifices to Jahweh were stopped and a Greek altar was erected and pagan sacrifices were offered there. Altars were also set up throughout the countryside and sacrifices were offered there also. Participation in pagan sacrifices and festivals was made obligatory on all.

THE HASIDEANS, FORERUNNERS OF THE PHARISEES, FORMED TO UPHOLD BELIEFS

Unfortunately many Jews gave up their faith and participated in this pagan worship. Others, however, of a sterner mould left the cities and retired to the country or the desert where it was possible to retain their ancient religious beliefs. These devout followers of Jahweh were known as the Hasideans, that is, the ‘Pious’. They were the forerunners of the later Pharisees.

THE JEWISH FUGITIVE

Among those who remained faithful to the true religion was a certain Mathathias, a priest. He lived at Modin, a village nineteen miles northwest of Jerusalem. When asked to sacrifice to idols he killed the royal official who made the demand and fled to the desert with his five sons.

THE SUBSEQUENT JEWISH UPRISING

This courageous act proved to be the beginning of a successful rebellion against the Seleucid dynasty. Faithful followers of Jahweh rallied to the cause of Mathathias and his sons. On the death of Mathathias the military leadership of the movement passed to Judas, his third son. Judas, called Macchabaeus, in 164 reached an agreement with Lysias and Antiochus V Eupator by virtue of which the Temple was restored to the faithful Jahwists.

THE INSTITUTION OF THE JEWISH FESTIVAL HANUKKAH

Exactly three years after its profanation by Antiochus IV the Temple was rededicated to Jahweh. Judas ordered that a yearly festival should be celebrated to commemorate the victory of Jahwism. This festival is known as the Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights.

THE HIGH PRIEST HENCEFORTH IS GIVEN CIVIL AS WELL AS PRIESTLY AUTHORITY

This victory of Judas Macchabaeus was neither complete nor permanent. At Jerusalem itself there remained a strong faction favourable to Hellenism. The Greek monarchs at Antioch still desired absolute rule over the Jews. The struggle therefore continued. In 160 Judas himself was killed. His youngest brother Jonathan assumed military leadership of the Jahwist party.

The intrigues and wars between the various claimants to the throne at Antioch aided the Macchabees to achieve their aims. Jonathan was made high priest in 152 by Alexander Balas, one of the claimants to the Seleucid throne. In 142 Simon Macchabaeus became military leader and high priest. In 140 the people themselves regularised the high priesthood of Simon and the civil and priestly authority were united in one person.

CIVIL WAR AMONG THE JEWS

Under John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, the territory subject to the Macchabaean family was enlarged until it approximated the kingdom of David. But the Jahwistic spirit which had animated the efforts of the original Macchabaean brothers weakened when a stable dynasty was established. Matters came to a head during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.).

Alexander was the first of the descendants of the Macchabees to call himself ‘king’. He spent most of his reign in a series of military campaigns designed to extend his kingdom. He found himself in strong opposition to the Pharisees, the descendants of the Hasideans. The Pharisees objected to the exercise of the high priesthood by a man whose hands were continually stained with the blood of war. This opposition led to civil war.

PEACE WITH THE PHARISEES

In the course of the war both Alexander and the party of the Pharisees appealed to foreign intervention. This represented a complete about-face from the ideals for which the original Macchabees had fought. Before his death Alexander saw the necessity of coming to terms with the Pharisees, who represented the wishes of the majority of the people. At his request Alexandra, his wife, who succeeded to the throne, made peace with the Pharisees.

THE ROMAN SENATE AND THE TRIUMVIRS ESTABLISH HEROD AS KING IN 37 B.C.

During her lifetime she made her son Hyrcanus high priest. But after her death her other son, Aristobolus, seized both the kingship and the high priesthood from Hyrcanus. The cause of Hyrcanus was supported by Antipater, an Idumaean general of Alexander Jannaeus.

The remaining history of the Macchabaen dynasty unfolded under the evil star of Antipater and his son Herod.

THE EVIL STAR OF ANTIPATER AND HEROD

Both of the latter were astute politicians and they gained the support of the new power in the East, the power of the expanding Roman state. The struggle for power in the Promised Land ended in 37 B.C. when the Roman Senate and the Triumvirs established Herod the Great as king.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE NOW LIVE UNDER ROMAN RULE

Thus the splendid achievements of the first Macchabees ended in the imposition of an Idumaean king over the Chosen People by Rome, a foreign power. And thus, it would seem, the dream of the people was not yet to be fulfilled. The kingdom of God on earth was not yet established at Jerusalem. When would the hopes of the nation come to pass?” (To be continued)
– By Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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