Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Excerpts from St. Cyril of Alexandria commentary on The Book of Jonah

I summarized some points worth mentioning by our great father St. Cyril of Alexandria : 

1- The book of Jonah is a "shadow" to the "mystery of the Incarnation of our Saviour".

2- We should not apply the whole story to Jesus, as for example "he was sent to preach to the Ninevites, but tried to flee from the face of God, and proved reluctant about his mission; the Son also was sent by the God and Father to preach to the nations, but did not lack enthusiasm for his ministry, nor seek to flee from the face of the God and Father." 

3- the story is meant to be a comparison between how the gentiles accepted the preaching while the Jews rejected it "what happened was by way of condemnation of Israel; they were convicted of being forward, unresponsive, paying little heed to the laws of God.After all, at a single prophet's preaching . the Ninevites were instantly brought around to a sense of obligation to repent, despite suffering from extreme deception, whereas those others set at naught Moses and prophets, and spurned Christ himself, the Savior of us all, despite his supporting his teachings with miracles, through which they should have been convinced quite easily that he was God by nature and became man to save the whole earth under heaven, and them before all others." Ref mentioned by St. Cyril Mt. 12:41.

4- "Now, when we take the blessed prophet as a type of the ministry understood in Christ, there is need to add that the whole world was at risk and the human race was affected by tempest, as if the waves of sin itself were raging; the dire and insufferable pleasures were overwhelming it, corruption impending in the form of a storm, fierce winds buffeting it-namely, the devil and the wicked powers subject to him and working with him. When we were in this situation, however, the Creator had pity, and the God and Father sent us the Son from heaven; he took on flesh, arrived on earth when it was at risk of tempests, and willingly went to his death to make the storm abate, allow the sea to become calm, settle the waves, and put an end to the storm; by the death of Christ we were saved. The tempest abated, the rain passed, and waves settled down, the force of the winds diminished, deep peace then prevailed, and we enjoyed fair weather of a spiritual kind, since Christ has suffered for us." St. Cyril refers to the story of Jesus calming the storm as in Mt 8:25; Mk 4:39.

5- Commenting on Jonah when he flee from God " It is a terrible thing leading to ruin, namely, being removed from God's eyes." quoting David Ps 27:9 " Do not avert your face from me, nor turn away from your servant in anger." 

6- Jonah in the test or trial " Hardship is not without benefit to those prepared to be tested, nor would suffering tribulation be considered burdensome. "In tribulation I called upon the Lord" Ps 118:5 " Lord, in tribulation we remembered you." Is 26:16, "Tribulation produces endurance; endurance, character; character, hope; ad hope does not disappoint." Rom. 5:3-5. "So when the prophet's life was exposed to danger and underwent hardship in the extreme, he likewise had recourse to something beneficial, not like some people giving way to depression and falling to cursing the divine decrees, but remembering the one who saves." he shouted with a psalm in his distress, that is what St. Cyril wants to reflect here.

7- Our Lord was "in the heart of the earth three days and three nights," Mt 12:40 and went "to the springs of the sea, and walked in the recesses of the deep." Jb 38:16 He entered "mountain cavers," Jb 2:6-7 as it were, and descended to the earth, whose "eternal bars" 1Pt3:19 were shut tight. He then plundered Hades, preached to the spirits there, opened the immovable doors, and came to life again; his life came back from corruption, and in this condition he appeared, before the others, to the women seeking him in the garden." Mt 28:9-10.

8- "Though it was a large city and extended to such huge dimensions as to require a journey of three days, if anyone chose to visit it, he crossed it in one day- or; as other commentators think, it was on completing a journey of one day in it that he delivered the divine message". I take this on other aspect, the divine message needed not more than one day to be delivered. 

9- "rise up, go to Nineveh" this rising up is the act of Resurrection. 

10- "The men of Nineveh believed in God, proclaimed a fast ..."while this was the situation of the Ninevites, however, Israel in its stupidity did not obey the Law, mocking the provisions of Moses and setting no store by the statements of the prophets. Why do I make this claim? They also turned killers to the Lord not even believing Christ himself, Saviour of us all." He quoted also Ezek 3: 4-7.

11- The Israelites did not fact the fast that He wants Is. 58:3-5.

12- God relent "relent means "have second thoughts" on seeing them abandoning...wheras Israel in its wisdom, though instructed by Law that the Lord is good and kind, could not bring themselves to take this view. Instead, remember , they exclaimed, "Our trangressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them: how then can we live? despite their hearing God's clear statement, "Turn back, turn back from your evil way: why will you die, house of Israel? Ezek 33:10-11 That was really what the Ninevites did, averting the wrath directed at them by a change for the better." although God is not pleased with the death of Israel Ref. Ezek 18:31-32.

 13- "Far from allowing the prophet's mind to fall victim to depression, he lent vigor to him in his weakness, as it were, kindly but helpfully accusing him of being distressed. In my view , you see, he was suggesting nothing else by his inquiry, Are you very distressed? as if to chastise him both for being distressed and for failing to understand the purpose of the divine judgments." 

14- Jonah "expected, in fact, that it would perhaps be shaken and collapse, or be burnt to the ground like Sodom. Instead, it was his house that was ruined, the shelter he had built himself" I would say also he forgot that God Himself is His shelter. 

"O what wonderful clemency that beggars comparison and understanding! What words would suffice for us to sing its praises? Or how could we open our mouths to offer songs of thanksgiving to one of such compassion and goodness? He puts far from us our iniquities, and like a parent showing compassion to his children, the Lord has compassion for those who fear him, for he knows how we were made." 

May the prayers of Jonah the prophet and the Ninevites who repented , be with us and with the current city of Nineveh in Iraq, Mosul, Aleppo, Syria and all afflicted regions in the whole world. Amen Lord Have Mercy. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Happy New Year

English Version : Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke by St. Cyril Patriarch of Alexandria, Translated by R.Payne Smith published by Studion Publishers, INC. 1983 

Arabic Version  
تفسير أنجيل لوقا للقديس كيرلس السكندرى - الناشر: مؤسسة القديس أنطونيوس - المركز الأرثوذكسي للدراسات الآبائيه - ترجمة د/ نصحي عبد الشهيد 2007 م 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Excerpts from Kiahk Psalmody (Part2)

Excerpts from Kiahk Psalmody (Part2)

Swimming more in Kiahk Psalmody will reflect how the composer of our Coptic Psalies were very acquainted with the prefiguration of the Theotokos in the Old Testament and how they saw the reality in the New Testament, let me introduce you to some verses the first Psali for Friday Theotokia :
“For you are the birth giver of God, the Mother of the True light, for from you has shone forth us, The Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2)
The Master, the King of the ages, the true Queen (Ps. 45:8-11) gave birth to Him, with healing in His Wings (Malachi 4:2), for He is the Creator.
Therefore, we dedicate a feast, with praises, we exalt Him, He took what is ours, and gave us what is His. (repeated verse in the writing of Irenaeus, Athanasius, Cyril )
Let us gather at all times, to glorify you, O full of glory, for you are beyond understanding, who can declare your honor. This is the city of the King ( Ps. 48:1; 87:3; Heb. 12:22; Ps. 9:7, 10) Sion, (Zechariah 8:3; Ps. 132:13, many other places in the Bible), the Mother of Christ, for there is none like you, O Virgin Mary. Likewise, the city of Jerusalem, is Mary, the birth-giver of God, for He Who is seated upon the Cherubim, came and dwelt in her… Behold, we say, “Hail to you, O cloud (Is. 19:9; 16-19) that carries Christ, for you are the rational fishing rod, that catches Christians.”`

The Composer of the second Psali on Friday Theotokia took from the greetings of Archangel Gabriel "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you!" and Elisabeth greetings to Mary “"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” as a refrain to be said after each verse in the psali , here are some verses

“This is Zion and the new heaven, and the Throne of Christ (Ezek. 1; Dan. 7:7-13; Rev. 4:6-11): Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your Fruit
For you are truly the ladder (Gen. 28:10-17), the bush (Exod. 3:1-7) and the ark (Exod. 25:10-16; 37:1-9; Ps. 131:8;  Heb. 9:4) : Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your Fruit
Likewise, you are the Gate (Ezek. 43:27-44; 4:1-3), that is pure towards the East: Hail to you, O full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Another type of poem is taken from Isaiah verse “[2] Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;” Isa.1:2 , the composer started by this verse , then extended to
“Hearken unto this, all ye nations, rejoice and be glad, in the feast of the Theotokos, the mother of Emmanuel our God, Let heaven hear her honor, and the earth proclaim her glory… Hearken unto to the tongue of incense Paul ( the composer here follows St. Cyril of Alexandria way in addressing St. Paul and the prophets). The apostle, who symbolized the Virgin, to the new third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), Hearken to Solomn…..Severus, Cyril)

What I want to say ? there are two types of psalies in the Kiahk psalmody, Arabic which is weak, probably it was composed late maybe by 17th century or so, it served its purpose in its time. The second type is the Coptic (Probably earlier as would argued by Dr. Youhanna Nessim Youssef) , it is more guanine, more concrete , contains the dogma, the Old Testament explained in the eyes of the New Testament. As we are in the immigration land, I would highly recommend that we go in our mid night psalmody for the Coptic psalies which was firstly translated by Holy Virgin Mary Church in Los Angeles, then was revised by St. Mary and St. Abraam Church in Saint Louis, Missouri. Online revised version was made by St. George and St. Shenouda Jersey City. I would urge our deacons to pray more Theotokiat from the weekdays ( Monday though Saturday). It has a deep theological understanding for the mystery of Incarnation.

I will continue to explore more deep meanings in Kiahk psalmody in the next blog.

The Above references was made easy by the article written by Paul Ladouveur “Old Testament Prefigurations of the Mother of God” and El Baramous Monastery edition of Annual Psalmody . 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Benefiting from the Nativity Fast (part1)

Benefiting from the Nativity Fast (part1)

As our Church prepares us for the great mystery of Incarnation, so we should use this time of the year wisely to live this season.

As Fr. Athanasius Farag would recommend, you should be reading the following books:
1-      On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius
3-      The Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus Against the Heresies
4-      Scholia on the incarnation of the Only-Begotten by St. Cyril of Alexandria

Also the book of Keyhak ( Coptic month) Psalmody contains beautiful Coptic Epsalies and exegesis, I encourage you to go through the parts which are not familiar, like Psalies before  the canticle, exegesis after the canticle,   let me share with you some of these hidden treasure 

The exegesis (Tarh in Arabic) on the first hoos ( Exodus 15) gives us beautiful resemblance of the Moses Rod

“Moses struck his wooden rod upon the Red Sea and the waters parted. For us, this is a symbol to the wood of the Cross, upon which they crucified my Lord, The Second Adam”

It sees the Rod which parted the Red Sea in eyes of the believer now ; the Rod of the Cross 

The Exegesis for Thursday Theotokia, contains many fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies

“Barachiah, the prophet, and the righteous prophets, direct the intercessor , towards the East. The Bush is the Virgin, the Theotokos, and the ire in its branches, is the Fire of His Divinity. Paradise was shut, through their evil deeds, but through the Virgin Mary, it was opened for us once again. He was born of the Virgin, in Latter times, and sat upon His throne, on the right hand of Greatness. He was also named, Jesus our God, because He is the Pre-eternal: Son of God”

Epsali on the Third Canticle, it names the miracles which our Lord did: raising the dead, walking on the sea, opening the eyes of the blind, healing the crippled, deaf, lepers, exorcised those possessed by demonic legions, blessed five loaves to feed the multitude, accepted repentance of the adulteress, blessed the children, changed water into wine, at the end verse it says

“The Pre-eternal, Saviour of the world, had compassion on His people, and freed them”

In summary it brings the scope of Incarnation, the Shepard came to had compassion on His Sheep who were tempted by the sin, and corruptibility. The Incorruptible has to come to save the Creation.

In the next few days blogs, I shall continue discussing the hidden treasure in Keyhak Psalmody.