Holy Bible

NICODEMUS AND THE NEW BIRTH THE TEACHER AND GIVER OF THE NEW BIRTH! None of the chapters of the New Testament is as difficult as chapter three in the Gospel according to St. John. In spite of that, it has attracted many unbelievers to convert into the Christian faith. Those who are serious in their search for salvation find themselves reading the words of this chapter and standing with Nicodemus seeking to hold a secret conversation with the Lord Jesus Christ. When they learn of the new possibilities granted to them, they worship the Lord and pray to be united with Him as they desire to enjoy His Holy Spirit, and get renewed and born a second time through baptism. Within the same framework of teachings that assure a new Messianic life and together with the revelation of: a new wine and a new temple, it now becomes necessary to reveal the new birth. So this is presented in the unique meeting between a Pharisee, who has a wonderful personality, and the Lord Jesus Christ who is the living spiritual Source that flows into every soul seriously concerned about salvation. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was thoroughly versed in the Torah and Jewish traditions. Being a moral man, he believed that it is in man’s power to obey willingly the righteous traditions. This, he believed depended upon personal struggle and human will, as well as adhering strictly and literally to the Law based on his own study and observation. He found that the Lord Jesus Christ was a Jewish Teacher deeply concerned with the Law. This is probably why the Evangelist mentions Nicodemus as one of those most attracted to the Lord. In this context, St. John says: ‘Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did…’ (Jn. 2:23), and Nicodemus believed that He came from God (Jn.3:2). He might have been hoping that the Lord was a social reformer who based His teachings on the literal interpretation of the Law and consequently improve the condition of the Jewish people. The mentality and experience of Nicodemus did not qualify or help him to accept the new life in the Lord Jesus Christ. He could not comprehend the grace of a new birth and the benefits of a new spiritual Law. He needed the Lord to help him lift up his thoughts, heart, and all his senses and potentials towards heaven. Only by doing so, Nicodemus could come to comprehend his need for a new birth through the One who “came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven….” He alone ascends into heaven and carries all those who believe in Him to enjoy adoption through Him and be the children of God. The meeting between Nicodemus and the Lord Jesus Christ draws our hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ as we get to realize His concern over every human soul as well as His gentleness as He converses frankly with each one. https://coptic-treasures.com/ We have seen the Word coming and dwelling among us to make us children of God (Ch. 1), and now He proclaims the manner of the new birth in His conversation with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. Nicodemus yearned to see the Kingdom so the Lord stressed that he needed to be baptized by the water and the Spirit. This is necessary as it enables the believer to live permanently as a child of God and live according to His Spirit. In the passage of this Chapter, the Lord lifts us up from the earthly concerns and makes us preoccupied with heavenly matters. He tells that we can do so through our union with the heavenly One who descended to raise us up with Him to the heavens where He reigns [13]. The Lord links Baptism with the Cross as the Father proclaims His love for all mankind by sending His Son so that the whole world may enjoy eternal life [16]. By indicating the new birth, the Lord leads us away from the fear of condemnation and into the enjoyment of the Divine Light [21]. When St. John the Baptist saw what happened at the time the Lord was baptized, and what this implied concerning the blessing of adoption to those who believe in Him, his joy was complete. He heard the voice of the Bridegroom engaging His Bride so that She may live in the glorious heavens with Him [29]. 1- A Discussion about the New Birth1 - 13 2- The New Birth and the Offering of the Cross 14- 17 3- Enlightenment and Faith18- 21 4- The Stance of John the Baptist on the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ22- 36 1- A Discussion about the New Birth ‘There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews’ [1]. Nicodemus: This is a Jewish name that means ‘the conqueror of the people.’ He was a ruler of the Jews that is he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council for the Jewish nation. The Divine invitation is addressed to the whole human race including all classes. However, few of those who occupied leadership, religious, or temporary positions could respond to that invitation. Indeed, a minimal number from among the Pharisees, less than the fingers of one hand, responded to it and one of these was Nicodemus. He came to meet with the Lord alone or He might have been accompanied by one or more of His disciples. Yet the Lord did not belittle that one soul for He has suffered death on the Cross for the sake of each human soul. The Pharisees truly displayed a hostile and rebellious spirit towards the Divine truth. However, there were some among the learned and scholars who yearned to meet with the Lord and they found His door opened. The grace of God works in scholars as well as in illiterate people, in the common man as well as in leaders, in the simple as well as in the rebellious. Nicodemus came to the Lord yet his status remained to be among the rebellious; and he set his heart to act as much as he could and when the opportunity would come. And the time came when he could act while the https://coptic-treasures.com/ disciples could not. Then he took permission from Pilate to bury the Body of the Lord in his new private tomb. We are referring here to Nicodemus Ben Gorion mentioned in Jewish writings and said to be so wealthy that he could support all the people of Jerusalem for many decades. Yet some find some exaggeration in this report. ‘ This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him: “ Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” [2]. Every time St. John the Evangelist mentions the person of Nicodemus, he presents him in connection with his visit to the Lord at night. This is repeated three times in this Gospel: (3:2; 7:50; 19:39). Why did he come to the Lord at night? A- Because hearing the Lord’s public talks were not enough for him. Moreover, he did not enjoy seeing the miracles the Lord did openly. He actually felt that he needed to sit quietly and talk with the Lord about matters related to the salvation of his soul. He wanted to have a personal conversation with Him (Malachi 2:7). Even the Son of Man often withdrew from the crowds and His own disciples as He felt the need to spend the whole night carrying a most enjoyable conversation with the Father. How much more does each one of us need to abandon everything and sit, especially at night, with His Lord, and to engage in a personal conversation with Him, and so experience the new life and fellowship with Him? B- It could be a choice based on wisdom since he knew the Lord was bust all day serving the people. Therefore Nicodemus waited until night time in order to meet with the Lord and have a friendly conversation during His time of repose. C- It could be that he seized the first chance to meet personally with the Lord after he had seen some amazing miracles. When everyone would be asleep, he wanted to spend a spiritual evening with the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides he might have been worried that he would not get such a chance in the future. He was an opportunist! He seems to have followed David’s example as he seized night time as an opportunity for meditation (Ps 36:6; 119:148). D-There is a possibility that what motivated him to go at night was his fear that this would be reported to the chief priests. It would increase their anger against the Lord Jesus Christ. It might also drive them, as well as the other rulers and Pharisees, to hurt Nicodemus himself. It could be that he lacked the light of faith for even though he was attracted to the Lord as a person, yet he had not yet become well acquainted with Him. Moreover, He had not become aware of the reality of His being the Light of the world. Nicodemus was a Jewish ruler [1], a teacher of Israel [10] and he needed a new birth in order to enjoy the new implications of a Messianic and heavenly kingdom. He came at night with a faith that was weak and he found the door of the Lord’s heart opened. The Lord did not hurt his feelings with any reproach. All things considered, his faith was like a mustard seed that grew and became a great tree by the time the Lord was crucified. Therefore he courageously went to ask for the body of the Lord. https://coptic-treasures.com/ * Nicodemus met with the Lord yet in a manner and that was not appropriate or distinguished. He still suffered from a certain Jewish weakness. That is why he came to the Lord at night as he feared visiting Him in the day time. In spite of that the merciful God did not reject or reproach him. Neither did He deprive him of His teachings. On the contrary, the Lord talked with him very tenderly, and revealed to him sublime teachings. These were surely vague or unknown to Nicodemus but the Lord clarified them to him. He deserved to be excused when compared with others who behave in the same way but with evil intentions. Such people have no excuse whatsoever, whereas Nicodemus could be condemned to a lesser degree1. * Although Nicodemus was different, yet he regarded the Lord in a human manner. He spoke about Him as a prophet and pronounced Him to be great due to His miracles, so he says: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God…” [2]. So why did you come secretly at night to the One who speaks the things of God and who has come from Him? Why did you not discuss things with Him openly? The Lord Jesus Christ did not ask Nicodemus any such questions and did not even rebuke Him, for the prophet says: “ A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench” (Is. 42:3, Matt. 12:19,20). The Lord Himself once said: “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (Jn. 12:47)2. “…for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him “[2] Note the ever-increasing humility of the Lord Jesus Christ. He abstained from saying: ‘I do not need help from others for I have the power to do all things as I am the Son of God Himself and I possess the power of My Father.’ That would have been hard on His hearers… Consequently the Lord seemed to put constraints upon Himself in many instances. However, He did not do the same thing concerning His actions. So when He made a miracle He did it with authority, and therefore says: “I am willing; be cleansed” (Matt.8:3); Talitha, cumi” (Mk 5:41); “Stretch out your hand” (Mk3:5); “Your sins are forgiven” (Matt.9:2); “Peace be still!” (Mk 4:39); “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matt 9:6); “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” (Mk 5:8), “And if anyone says to you: ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘the Lord has need of it.’(Mk 11:3); “ …today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Mk 23:43)… “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “ You shall not murder…but I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment (Matt 5:21,22). “ Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 1:17). In every situation we notice His great authority so that as He works no one can find any fault or mistake in Him…however, through His speeches they could, in their own insanity, accuse Him of insanity. That is why, in the case of Nicodemus, the Lord did speak openly. Rather, He led him with ambiguous words that indicate that He possesses an intrinsic authority to do miracles. This was because He was born of the Father as perfect and fully sufficient with not a single shortfall3. St. John Chrysostom 1 Homilies on St. John, 24:1. 2 Homilies on St. John, 24:2. 3 Homilies on St. John, 24:2. https://coptic-treasures.com/ * Nicodemus was one of those who (believed in His name yet He did not commit Himself to them [2:23-24]. Nicodemus came to the Lord, but he came at night. He came in the darkness even though he came to the Light4. *Although Nicodemus came to the Lord, yet he came at night and he continued to think and speak through the darkness of his soul. Therefore he could not understand what he heard from the Light that shines to every person living in the world5. * Nicodemus was accustomed to being a teacher and this is probably the problem underlying the fact that he came to the real Lord at night. Now that he had to learn made him feel embarrassed. Personally, my greatest joy is to listen to a teacher rather than having people listen to me as a teacher. For I remember the Lord’s words to those whom He had chosen at first: “But you, do not be called Rabbi: for One is your Teacher, the Christ…” (read Mattt.23:8)6. St. Augustine In any case, Nicodemus did not come at night to be baptized. Neither did he come to learn and be the Lord’s disciple or student. According to Jewish tradition, one cannot enter the Jewish faith or be circumcised or baptized at night. That would be unlawful. He just came to be informed of the Lord’s views and to be acquainted with His path but not to sit at His feet and be a learner. ‘Rabbi’: It was not easy for a Pharisee who is considered a scholar in the Holy Book and a leader of the people to submit to someone and speak humbly saying: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God” [2]. Nicodemus discussed neither politics nor matters concerning the country although he was a leader of the Jews. He was only concerned about the salvation of his soul. Nicodemus admitted that the Lord had neither been taught by a Jewish scholar nor had attended a religious school; but that His teachings had been inspired by the divine and heavenly Power. He realized that the Lord carried the power of truth and not the power of the sword, and that He acted with an ultimate wisdom that transcends human wisdom. He acknowledges that the miracles the Lord did could were brought about by divine Power. The astonishing thing is that he uses the plural ‘we know.’ It could be that he came with another person or more of his students, or that he came to speak on behalf of some Pharisees who had no other preoccupation except ‘Jesus.’ Among themselves they had admitted what Nicodemus confesses in this passage. However, none of them dared to speak openly or to meet with the Lord secretly. Jesus answered and said to him: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born (again), he cannot see the kingdom of God” [3] Nicodemus considered the act of doing miracles to be a proof that the Lord Jesus Christ 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 11:4. 5 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 11:5. 6 Letters, 166:9. https://coptic-treasures.com/ came from God since all Rabbi associated piety with working miracle. He could not cross these limited concepts in order to comprehend the reality of the person of Jesus. Therefore he saw Him as a virtuous teacher and a man of God who enjoyed having the Divine One living with and in him always, just like Isaac to whom God said: “…do not fear, for I am with you…” (Gen.26:24); and like God said to Joshua, the son of Nun, “…as I was with Moses, so I will be with you…” (Joshua 1:5). Many other fathers and prophets had lived with the same experienced; but Nicodemus in spite of his piety had a certain set of mind that prevented him from stepping outside the limitations of the Pharisees. This is what he had learned, and this was how he lived within the Jewish environment. The conversation between the Lord Jesus Christ and Nicodemus emphasizes the following points: A- The desperate need for a new birth that would grant a vision of a new inner world, i.e. ‘the kingdom of God.’ This is correctly called a new or second birth. This expression has been used by various translators writing in Coptic Syrian, and Latin; as well as many fathers of the First Church such as St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Augustine and St. Jerome. Nicodemus understood that the words of the Lord were an invitation to a ‘new birth’, and this baffled and crippled. How could a fully grown adult enter into his mother’s womb and be born again? B- The new birth comes from above, meaning that it is heavenly [3]. It is an act that is done exclusively by the holy and heavenly Spirit of God. By it He grants heavenly potentials that surpass human thought. C- The new birth is achieved through baptism by water and the Spirit [5]. D- It is a birth that possesses surpassing power and so it is likened to the wind, so that no one knows its mystery [8]. In Jewish writings, the repetition of the word ‘truth’ was considered synonymous with an oath that was deeply holy. The Lord Jesus Christ used it whenever He wished to indicate that a matter is extremely significant and serious. The Lord Jesus Christ gently reprimands Nicodemus and reveals to him that it is not enough for a person to believe that Jesus Christ is a divine teacher; neither is it enough to admire His miracles and consider them real and unique. Indeed, what is needed is a birth from ‘above’ that is a heavenly birth that would allow him to see heavenly matters. A fetus in its mother’s womb can neither see the world nor have any experience in it unless it is born and comes out of its mother’s body. In the same way, a person can neither see the kingdom of God nor experience the blessings of heaven unless he is born again from above. Only then will it be possible for him to see the Light of the new world and live within it. By using the verb to ‘see’ the Lord stresses that it is appropriate for a real believer, who enjoys the new heavenly birth, not to boast about that birth unless he sees the kingdom of God within him and lives accordingly. This means that he needs to achieve a heavenly state of mind, follow principles consistent with the heavenly law, and to have new goals, new hope, and new https://coptic-treasures.com/ potentials. With the new birth, a believer starts a totally new life that is not established on correcting or reforming a person’s being; but rather on demolishing the old and constructing a new building. It involves the elimination of the old person and the resurrection of the new person who is made in the image of his Creator. The first time we were born sin corrupted our nature and formed our depths according to its ways so that we became corporal and dominated by the law of carnal desires and ruled by the enemy of goodness. Therefore a new birth became an unavoidable and vital necessity. That explains the Lord’s words: “Most assuredly, I say to you….” What is the kingdom of God and that we should always see other than the kingdom of the heavenly Messiah? He lives and establishes His kingdom within us; and we see, live, and share features with Him. Therefore we become holy as He is holy. This is the kingdom of God that dwells in us and within our reach and as the Lord Himself proclaims: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17); and also “…the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt 12:28). He assures us by saying: “…the kingdom of heaven is within you” (Lk17:21). Concerning our status in that kingdom, the Lord “…has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…” (Rev 1:6, 9; 5:10). This kingdom marks us with the features of our Lord Jesus Christ as we enjoy fellowship with Him “ …for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). This kingdom is the promise and warranty for an eternal kingdom. It will transport us to heaven and make us eager to share the amazing glory when the Lord will come. Moreover, it lifts our thoughts and focuses our inner vision towards the final day when the Lord will come and we will enjoy the heavenly crowns. * It is possible to rephrase the Lord’s words as follows:’ If you are not born again and if you do not receive fellowship with the Spirit within the baptismal font of renewal then you cannot possess the right thoughts concerning Me. This is because your concept about my body is not spiritual (Titus 3:5) …the word ‘again’ (or from above) is interpreted by some to mean ‘from heaven’ while others find it to convey the meaning of ‘from the beginning.’ The Lord explains that a person not born in this way can possibly see the kingdom of heaven. Here the Lord is pointing to Himself (the Messiah) and proclaims that we need other eyes besides our normal eyes in order to see the Lord Jesus Christ7. St. John Chrysostom Nicodemus answered: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother‘s womb and be born?” [4]. The inquiry of Nicodemus reveals the weakness of his knowledge. While the Lord speaks spiritually, the heart of Nicodemus relates to material matters. He had to get rid of all ties with 7 Homilies on St. John, 24:2 https://coptic-treasures.com/ materialism from his heart and mind; otherwise it would be impossible for him to comprehend the heavenly birth that is from above. Only then would he comprehend through the Spirit of God the new spiritual potentials. Nicodemus was shocked by the Lord’s words about the new birth. Like all other Jews, he took pride in his lineage from Abraham his father. They all felt they were God’s chosen people and that they were blessed by the prophets and the divine promises. Moreover, God had made a covenant with them and they had the unique temple with all the rites associated with it. So Nicodemus is not only an Israelite but a Pharisee as well. What better birth could the Lord wish to give him? The Jews expected that when the Messiah would come, the nations would accept the faith and be born again, but as for them this did not apply. For they felt there could be no other birth more honorable for them than their current status. They boasted of their lineage and birth and it was impossible for them to hear of another birth. In spite of all that, Nicodemus did not turn his back on the Lord. He hoped he could learn of something new that was lacking in his knowledge. He revealed that he, who was a teacher and leader, was humble and ready to receive any truthful information or divine revelation that he lacked. Yet this seemed an impossibility according to his own concepts. An amazing person! In spite of his long experience for many years, his position as a revered leader, and the environment created by the Pharisees around him, he bowed down to receive a new teaching. This is a formidable example for every true leader: not to boast of all his learning but to remain a learner until his last breath. St. Ambrose, the Bishop, says in this context, that God is the only One who does not need to learn. * Nicodemus came to the Lord Jesus Christ as though he were coming to an ordinary person. He then heard of sublime matters that could not come from any person. Indeed, and no one else had ever heard of them. In moments, Nicodemus tried to rise quickly to such heights but his understanding was darkened. He became unsteady and failed in his faith constantly as he leaned on his own potentials. As a result, he insisted on confirming the impossibility of the Lord’s words. It is as though he challenged the Lord to clarify His teaching by saying to Him: “Can he enter a second time into his mother‘s womb and be born?”… Nicodemus had heard about spiritual birth but had not experienced it spiritually. Indeed, he had given these words an utterly low and physical significance. Indeed, he depended on physical evidence to interpret such great teaching. By doing so, Nicodemus created petty and unpleasant obstacles. In this context, St. Paul comments: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…” (1 Cor.2:14).In spite of all that, Nicodemus observed respect and courtesy and did not scorn what the Lord said to him. Yet he kept silent as he believed this was an impossibility. He doubted in two matters: the kind of birth this could be, and the kingdom. The Jews had never heard mention of the kingdom at any time, neither had they heard of any such birth. Yet he stood there thinking about the first matter which involves a birth from above and which greatly astonished him8. St. John Chrysostom * This man knew about the birth from Adam and Eve, but he did not know about the birth that is from God and the Church. He only knew of the parents who give a birth subjected to death, but he was ignorant of those who give a birth with a promise to life. He knew of parents who give birth to have heirs for themselves, but he was ignorant of immortal parents who granted a birth to 8 Homilies on St. John, 24:3. https://coptic-treasures.com/ those they could constantly revive. There are two births: one that is enacted on earth, and the other is enacted in heaven: one proceeds from the flesh, and the other from the Spirit; one that is susceptible to death, and the other is eternal; one proceeds from a male and female, and the other from God and the Church. As for Nicodemus, he could comprehend one birth only9. * Just as there can be no repetition of the birth from the womb, so there can be none other from Baptism10. St. Augustine “Jesus answered: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” [5]. The Lord repeats again what He had said earlier in order to proclaim that this truth cannot be overlooked or taken lightly. Indeed, the word of God requires a response that is more than a mere yes or no: it requires a ‘Yes, Amen’ response. The Lord insists on the need for a new birth in spite of the inability of Nicodemus to comprehend it. For there is no other way to see and enter the kingdom of God except by going through a second birth. Why is water used? To indicate the act of washing the spirit internally (Titus3:5; 1 Cor.6:11; Ezekiel 36:25).This cleansing is achieved by the Holy Spirit for He alone can wash, purify, and renew the inner depths. Just as the Lord turned the water into wine and granted joy to the wedding and to all the guests there, so the Lord offers us the water in order to purify our depths through the Spirit- and not for just cleaning our outward body. This is the water that the Lord promised as He spoke to the Samaritan woman and said that anyone who drinks of it shall never be thirsty. It is not like the water found in Jacob’s well and out of which he and his children and cattle drank. Indeed, the Lord offers living water. Water is essential in the new birth since baptism is carried out through immersion. This is a sign of accepting death and burial with the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enjoy the new and resurrected life. Accordingly St. Paul says: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom.6:4).Consequently, the birth through water and the Spirit involves a death to physical life and the burial of the actions of the old man while accepting fellowship with the Lord in His resurrected life. It is the acceptance of a new life created by the Holy Spirit Who is the Spirit of the resurrection. It is a process that involves the creation of a new inner man and that leads us to die to all corruption in order to bear a new nature born in the image and likeness of the Creator. * Now even the new comers who believe in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and carry His sign can neither receive absolution nor the gift of spiritual grace, unless they become baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit11. 9 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 11:6 10 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 11:6. 11 On the Mysteries, 4:20. https://coptic-treasures.com/ St. Ambrose * They can finally be completely sanctified and become children of God if they are born through the mystery and according to what is written: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”12. St. Cyprian, the Martyr * If you were to ask: ‘What is the meaning of the Lord’s words to Nicodemus? I would answer: ‘The Lord wished to draw him away from thinking in terms of a birth through the flesh.’ It is as though the Lord is telling him: ‘Nicodemus, I am speaking about another birth so why are you drawing My words to an earthly level? Why do you submit that act as being necessarily governed by nature? This birth is ultimately higher than the pains of labor imposed by natural law. Withdraw your soul from all that is general and common, for I enter into a world that holds another kind of birth and I desire people to be born again through another manner. I have come to bring a new method of being created. I have created man from the earth and water. However, what was formed turned out to be useless for the vessel has deviated from its purpose. Therefore I will not repeat forming it of dust and water, but rather will shape it by water and the Spirit. If someone asked: ‘How does God create man from water?’ I will ask: ‘And how has He created man from earth? And how can you split mud in different parts? From where have the bones, nerves, veins and arteries been formed? From where have the skin, blood, liver, and bile been made? Out of where have His great works been accomplished…and the variety of colors…all these elements are neither part of the earth nor of the mud. Furthermore, when the earth receives the seeds, how do they take root, whereas if they were placed in our bodies they would rot? How does the earth feed the seeds, which in turn give fruit? Then how does our body get nourished by these seeds? The earth receives the water and turns it into wine; whereas our bodies receive wine and turn it into water. I am unable to verify mentally that these varieties are the product of the earth since the earth amazes our bodies with all its products. It is only my faith and belief in God that lead me to accept that these are the product of the earth. Now, if all these varieties that are tangible as they take shape each day require belief and faith, then spiritual matters will occupy an adequate priority and demand belief and faith. And just as the immobile earth responds to the will of God and all these numerous wonders were formed out of it; similarly, extreme and multiple wonders, far beyond our comprehension, occur when the Holy Spirit is present in the water … If someone were to ask: ‘Why is water needed in this birth?’ My answer would be: ‘This birth acts and achieves a Divine significance: a grave, burial, faith, life, and resurrection. These all take shape within the act of baptism. For as our head is immersed in the water, it is as though we immerse them in the grave where we bury entirely the old man and drown him down below. Then, as we lift our heads the new man comes out as well. St. John Chrysostom * Who is he who is born of the Spirit and becomes a spirit other than the one who becomes renewed in his mind through the Spirit (Eph. 4:23). This is certainly the person who is born again by 12 Letter 72 to Stephen: 1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ the water and the Holy Spirit: it is the result of having received the hope in eternal life through the font of the new birth and of being renewed through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). In another passage, St. Peter the apostle says: “…you shall be baptized by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:16).Therefore, who is the one who is baptized by the Holy Spirit other than he who is born again with water and the Spirit? That explains the Lord’s word’s concerning the Holy Spirit: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”13. St. Ambrose * The Book of the Acts of the Apostles speaks about the proclamation of the Holy Spirit Who lives in a baptized person. The water prepares the way for those who come and are sincere in their request. Baptism is called ‘the washing of regeneration’ (Titus3:5) that is achieved through the renewing of the Holy Spirit14. * The corruption of sin is removed through the mystery of Baptism. That is why even babies are baptized. for “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5)15. Origen * Baptism washes all our faults away. It makes us become the holy temple of God and restores to us fellowship with the divine nature through the Holy Spirit16. St. Clement of Alexandria *Through the holy baptism man is liberated from the power of Satan and becomes a spotless child in the likeness of Christ in the flesh. This is due to the work of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies and resurrects the baptized person as a spotless being. Therefore Satan can not have any power over him/her since the Spirit of the Lord is within17. Fr Sawiris, Bishop of Ashmonin *When a person receives the Lord in baptism, he actually puts on or wears the Lord Jesus Christ besides being born of God (Gal.3:27). We do not understand this in a literary sense and as though it were the expression of love. Rather, we consider this reflects the truth since the incarnation has made our union with the Lord Jesus Christ and our fellowship in His divinity an actual fact and reality18. St. John Chrysostom St. Jerome19 associates poisonous snakes and scorpions with thirst when there is no water. He refers to this in his letter to Oceanus, a Roman noble and fervent believer. St. Jerome writes in this message about the blessings granted by the water and baptism and says: * In the beginning and during the creation, the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters like a ship commander (Gen.1:2). He brought out of it a small world- a symbol of the Christian child who is immersed in the baptismal waters. 13 On the Holy Spirit, Book 3:10:64. 14 Fr Tadros Yacoub Malaty: The Holy Spirit in the Writings of Origen. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Boutros 15 Fr Tadros Yacoub Malaty: The Holy Spirit in the Writings of Origen. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Boutros 16 In Lucam 22:8. 17Precious Gems in interpreting the Scriptures, 1952, pg.121. 18 The Author: God is my Sanctity, pg.52. 19 St. Jerome: Letter 65:6. https://coptic-treasures.com/ * The word heaven in the Hebrew language ’Shamyim’ means ‘the one coming out of the water.’ * The living creatures that Ezekial the prophet saw in his vision had the heavens stretched out over their heads, ‘the color of awesome crystal’ (Ez.1:27), and he heard ‘the noise of many waters.’ *In the Garden of Eden there was a river with four sources that watered the Paradise (Gen. 2:1). *In the vision of Ezekial of the new house of the Lord, he saw the waters flow out of the threshold towards the East. Water heals and grants life to dead souls (Ez.47:1-9). *When the world committed sin it was impossible to purify it by any means other than through a flood. Then when the unclean bird flew out, the dove of the Holy Spirit returned to Noah. After that, it came to the Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan River. It held in its beak the branch proclaiming peace to the whole world. *Pharaoh and his army drowned in the Red Sea as they refused to allow the people of God to leave Egypt. Consequently, the water has become a symbol of our baptism. The fate of Pharaoh is described in the Psalms: ‘You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters, You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces’ (Ps.74:13; LXX 14). * Moreover, the wood turned the bitter waters of Marah into sweet waters and so it could water seventy palm trees. In the same manner, the Cross has turned the waters of the Law into a source of life to the seventy apostles of the Lord (Ex.15:23-27; Lk.10:1). *Abraham and Isaac dug wells while the Philistines attempted to prevent them (Gen.26:15, 18). *Both Beersheba, the city of the oath (Gen.21:31); and Gihon, the city where Solomon was crowned as king, carried names that belonged to sources of water (1 Kgs 1:38; 2Chron.32:30). * Abraham’s servant found Rebekah near a well (Gen.24:15, 16). * When Rachel went to draw water from the well, Jacob met and kissed her there (Gen.29:11). *As the daughters of the priest of Midian were on their way to the well they were stopped by the shepherds. However, Moses helped and saved them (Ex.2:16, 17). *The forerunner of the Lord- John the Baptist- at Salim (or Peace) prepared the people to receive the Lord by using a source of water (Jn.3:23). *The Lord Himself did not begin to preach except after He had purified the Jordan through His baptism and immersion in it (Matt.3:13, 14). *The Lord told Nicodemus privately that: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn.3:5). *Just as the Lord’s ministry began with water, it ended with it as His side was truck with a sword and water and blood flowed out. These are two symbols for baptism and martyrdom (Jn 19:34). *After His resurrection, when the Lord sent His disciples to the nations, He commanded them to baptize the people in the sacrament of the Holy Trinity (Matt. 28:19). * When the Jews repented for their sins, St. Peter sent them to be baptized (Acts 2:38). *Paul the persecutor of the Church, the roaring wolf coming from Benjamin (Gen.49:27) bowed his head before Ananias- one of the Lord’s fold- and his sight was restored only when he accepted the medicine of baptism (Acts 9:17, 18). *Through reading the Book of Isaiah the Prophet , the eunuch of Candace became ready to be receive the baptism of the Lord (Acts 8:27,38). https://coptic-treasures.com/ *The voice of the Lord is over the waters…the Lord is over many waters…’ (Ps.29:3, 10). ‘Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep which have come up from the washing, everyone of which bears twins and none is barren among them’ (Sg of Sol. 4:2). *Micah refers to the grace granted by baptism as he says: “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [6]. This verse underlines the mystery or sacrament of baptism. Through baptism, we have been granted adoption. Hence, we have become sons of God and rightful heirs to His kingdom (Rom.8:15). Through this sacrament we are torn away from the wild olive tree and grafted into the new one (Rom.11:24) by the power of the Holy Spirit. Being baptized we put on the new ‘robe’ (Lk.15:22) and the ‘wedding garment’ (Matt.22:11-23) without which no one can enjoy the kingdom. The prophecy of Ezekial is fulfilled in this manner as he says: ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you….’(Ez.36:26). When Nicodemus expressed his desire to comprehend what appeared impossible to him, the Lord revealed to him the meaning of a new birth: it did not involve a physical birth achieved by re-entering into the mother’s womb. Rather, it meant a spiritual birth achieved by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Through His Spirit sanctification of the spirit is fulfilled (1Peter1:2); and inner washing of the soul by the Spirit is completed (Titus 3:5). We are flesh not only because of this physical component but also in the sense that our bodies have become corrupted (Gen.3:5). Since our souls become one with the body, the soul consequently becomes enslaved to the dictates of the lustful body. It finds pleasure in immorality to the extent that man seems to have become wholly flesh. Now how can union be achieved between that which is wholly flesh and God Who is a Spirit? This is what demanded a new birth so that the entire human being might carry the feature of the Spirit. Consequently, the flesh would find its pleasure and joy in the Spirit rather than in the lusts of the flesh. This is the natural cure for the human being who has been corrupted by the lusts of the body. It is a cure that the Son of God offers for He is the great Benefactor and Lawgiver. He is the Mediator of the New Testament and the Physician of our souls…He alone knows the real therapy. He is the divine Vinedresser who knows that every tree brings fruit according to its seed. Therefore a person born of the Spirit will carry a spiritual and holy kingdom appropriate for God. * Water is used to give birth to the new born. It plays the same role that a womb plays for a fetus. In the same manner, water is vital for a believer for in the water the believer gets formed and takes shape. At the beginning of the Creation, God said: “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures…” (Gen1:20). However, since the Lord entered the River Jordan, the waters produce reasoning souls that bear the Spirit rather than mere ‘living creatures.’ The baptized person is ‘as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber’ (Ps.19:5). We are now speaking about the believers as they are clothed by Him in greater glory (than those born of the flesh). When a person is formed in the womb some time is needed. This is not the case when it comes to water for everything happens in one moment. In the first case, our life is susceptible to death and originates in the corruption of other flesh so that birth occurs slowly. This is not so in spiritual matters. Why? https://coptic-treasures.com/ Because in the water things are wholly shaped from the beginning. * When Nicodemus heard the Lord’s words, he was disturbed. Notice how the Lord gradually opened before him the hidden matters of this mystery. Things that seemed vague a few moments earlier became clearer. He said: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [6]. He led Nicodemus away from everything that is tangible and did not allow him to examine the revealed mystery erroneously through his physical sight. It is as though the Lord is telling him: ‘We are not speaking about the flesh, but about the spirit, O Nicodemus; (and with these words He led him towards heavenly matters for a while); so do not ask for things related to the flesh for the Spirit will never be revealed to its eyes. Moreover, do not imagine that the spirit can produce a physical offspring. Someone may ask: Then how was the body of the Lord Jesus Christ produced? It was not the work of the spirit alone for the body was involved as well, and St. Paul confirms that in his words: “…of a woman, born under the law…” (Gal.4:4). It is true that the spirit formed Him but this was not out of a void (otherwise why was a womb needed then?). However, He was shaped from a chaste body… “…that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” implies that ‘the one born out of the Spiritual is spiritual’; since the birth that the Lord is speaking about in this context is relevant according to honor and grace and not according to the essence of the being20. St. John Chrysostom * That which is powerful will definitely dominate that which is weak. Therefore the power of the spirit will devour the weakness of the flesh. In such a case, that person is no more a mere physical vessel for he/she has become spiritual due to the fellowship with the Spirit. That is how martyrs represent a testimony of despite to death. They do so not depending on the weakness of the flesh but strengthened by spiritual preparedness. This is what devours the weakness of the flesh; and so making room for the power of the Spirit to shine. In turn the Spirit, by absorbing the weakness of the flesh, reigns over it as a rightful inheritance. Through these two measures the living person is formed: being alive due to fellowship with the Spirit, yet being a human being due to the physical element of the flesh21. St. Iranaeus “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ [7]. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” [8]. Man has no authority over the wind which blows and which we feel, yet we neither know its exact source nor where it will end. This is similar to birth by the Spirit which possesses power and influence. It is a free gift granted by God: He directs the Spirit Who in turn fulfills His word (Ps.148:8). Clearly we have no authority over the Spirit. The action of the Spirit in Baptism is like that of a strong wind whose force is evident in its effect and the traces it leaves as a result. The Spirit works secretly and mysteriously yet its influence is clear in the life of the believer who experiences His presence each day…………GA..???? 20 Homilies on St. John, 26:1. 21 Adv. Haer.5:9:2. https://coptic-treasures.com/ *When the Lord spoke to His disciples about the temple, He said: “Arise and let us depart from here….” He also told the Jews: “See! Your house is left to you desolate“(Matt.23:38). If heaven and earth will pass away (Lk.21:33), then, clearly, all earthly things will definitely pass away as well22. St. Jerome * By saying: “Do not marvel…”, the Lord reveals the troubled state of Nicodemus. He leads him to something easier to understand. Indeed, the Lord moves away from all that relates to the flesh when He says: “…that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” As Nicodemus could not comprehend that which is born of the Spirit though He is a spirit, the Lord presents to him another example. He does not speak of things that possess physical density nor are they totally free from physical aspects (otherwise, on hearing of them, he would not have accepted His words). Rather, the Lord spoke of something that was in between things which possess a body and those which have none: the movement of the wind, and He says: “ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” [8]. By saying that the wind blows where it wishes, the Lord is not implying that the wind had the power of making a choice. He is only indicating that it is impossible to resist its natural power. With that same power…it spreads all over and no one can oppose or deter its path in any way. Indeed, it blows with great power and no one can stand before its violence, and “you hear the sound of it” [8]. That is, you hear its murmuring and its noise but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” [8]. This is the ultimate conclusion of every matter. The Lord is asking why, if you cannot explain the movement of the wind and its course and this is something you comprehend through your sense of touch and hearing, then why are you so troubled by the work of the divine Spirit? Your inability to comprehend that is similar to your inability to understand the wind even though you hear its sound?! 23 St. John Chrysostom Nicodemus answered and said to Him: “How can these things be?” [9]. The teacher of the Jews is agitated and asks: “How can these things be?” With his materialistic capacity he was unable to comprehend spiritual matters as they are inconceivable to the ordinary man. Nicodemus was unable to understand divine matters by depending on human wisdom. The Lord clarified sufficiently that this new birth is a spiritual and divine one and that it submits entirely to the Holy Spirit of God. It neither obeys the laws of nature or of sheer human logic. The new birth is solely authorized and directed by the Almighty God. Jesus answered and said to him: “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” [10]. It is as though the Lord is reprimanding him and saying: ’How have you taken the responsibility to lead the blind to the truth while you yourself are ignorant? You call upon the Jews who accept Judaism to be baptized with water as a symbol of the new birth and you yourself have not enjoyed it or even recognized it?’ Has Nicodemus not read about the work of the Holy Spirit in 22 Letter 58:2. 23 Homilies on St. John 26:1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ the lives of men like what happened when Saul was anointed to be king? “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophecy with them and be turned into another man…And so it was , when he had turned his back from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all these signs came to pass that day” (1 Sam.10:6,9). This is also seen in the divine promise to the prophets: “…I will put a new spirit within them, and take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Eze.11:19), and “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live…” (Ezek. 37:14). “Shall I bring the time of birth and not deliver?” says the Lord (Is.66:9); “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” (Joel 2:28). * What do you think, my brothers? Do you believe that the Lord wishes to reprimand the teacher of the Jews to ridicule him? The Lord knew exactly what He was doing for He desired that this man would be born of the Spirit, and no one can receive this blessing unless he becomes humble. Humility in itself qualifies us to be born of the Spirit for “the Lord is near to those who have a broken heart…” (Ps.34:18). Being a teacher made Nicodemus extremely self confident and this is obvious from the manner he felt his importance as a teacher of the Jews. The Lord diminished his pride in order to offer him the new birth. He reprimanded him as though he were an ignorant man. By this the Lord was not seeking to underline that He is the Master for where is the point of comparison between God and man, or between the truth and falsehood?24 St. Augustine *The Lord speaks to him and reproves him…notice that He does not accuse him of anything evil but of weakness and naïveté. Someone might ask: What is the relationship between (spiritual) birth and Judaism? This birth had been proclaimed in the past through symbols, and this occurs in the source where Elisha made the metal rod to float; at the Red Sea where they Jews crossed over; in the pool where the angel of the Lord came and stirred the waters; and in the purification of Namaan the Syrian from leprosy in the River Jordan. Moreover, the words of the prophet refer to the manner of this birth. For example: ‘A posterity shall serve Him, it will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, they will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this’ (Ps.22:30, 31). ‘…so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Ps.103:5). Isaac was also a symbol for that birth. Tell me, Nicodemus how was Isaac born? Was he born according to natural Law? Impossible. The manner of his birth was something in between the birth we are speaking about and a natural birth. It was a natural birth for it was the fruit of two couples living together; and it was another manner of birth as he was not born through the blood (since the mother was barren and the father was aged and old) and yet he was born but according to the Will of God25. St. John Chrysostom “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness” [11]. 24 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 12:6. 25 Homilies on St. John, 26:2. https://coptic-treasures.com/ Here the Lord uses the plural probably to indicate that He is speaking in the name of the Holy Trinity Who yearns for the new birth of mankind. He desires every believer to enjoy fellowship with the Trinity. Because it is hard for a normal person to comprehend the new spiritual birth, the Lord Jesus Christ presents His testimony and that of the Father. He explains their heavenly concept of that astonishing birth granted from above through the work and action of the Holy Spirit within the waters of baptism. “If I have told you of earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things”? [12] The Lord speaks of ‘earthly things’ when He mentions ‘the wind that blows where it wishes and we hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes’ [8]. He is also referring to the ‘destruction of the temple of His Body’ (2:19). The ‘heavenly things’ are spiritual birth and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His ascension into the heavens. Baptism is a spiritual birth that takes place on earth so that believers can begin their journey to heaven. They are enabled to do so through their union with the Lord Jesus Christ Who has ascended into heaven. How can someone who is unable to accept the spiritual birth be able to ascend with the heart to heaven? This is the how a person begins to soar with the heart and mind and all his/her inner depths towards the heavens. The inability to accept spiritual birth makes them part of those physically oriented ones who have not yet accepted to begin this heavenly journey. For how can they ascend with the Lord to His heavens unless they receive His Body and Blood, acknowledge the mystery of the Holy Trinity and His work within the believer, and enjoy fellowship with the heavenly ones? * Some consider that the expression ‘earthly things’ refers to the wind to imply that ‘if I have given you an example of earthly things and yet you have not believed even that, then how can you learn of heavenly matters?’ Do not be astonished that He called Baptism an earthly matter for it is accomplished on earth or could stand to comparison with His awesome birth. For although this birth is heavenly, yet compared to the real birth that comes from the same Father, it is still considered an earthly one. The Lord does not say: ‘You do not understand’ but rather ‘You do not believe.’ This happens when a person is inclined to misinterpret certain matters that are logically conceivable and is truly unwilling to accept them. In this case it is possible to accuse him of lack of understanding. However, when that person refuses to accept matters that cannot be comprehended with the mind but by faith only, then the accusation against him would be that he lacks belief rather than understanding26. St. John Chrysostom “No one has ascended into heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven.” [13] The Lord may be referring to a mistaken understanding that some Jews have concerning Moses. They believe that Moses ascended to heaven to receive the commandments and then descended to Israel. The Lord corrects that by confirming that no one has ascended to heaven except the Son of Man who descended from heaven and remained in His Divinity filling the heavens. He alone can reveal the heavenly mysteries, carry believers into heaven, and offer them the will of God. 26 Homilies on St. John, 27:1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ Nicodemus spoke with the Lord as he perceived Him to be a prophet from God. It would have been fitting for him to perceive that the Lord is greater than a prophet. By His incarnation He descended from heaven, and by His Divinity He reigns in heaven. He is Lord come from heaven (1 Cor.15:47). * If you asked: ‘What is the link between these words and what was said?’ My answer would be: ‘They are closely linked because when Nicodemus told the Lord: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God…”; the Lord wanted to dismiss that same statement and said something that what would communicate the following: ‘Do not think that I have come to fit the role of a teacher like many other prophets who are here on earth. Rather I have come from heaven while I live there as well.’ Have you grasped how the Lord Jesus Christ is not in heaven only but that He is present everywhere and fills all His creatures? St. John Chrysostom *He descended for our sake, therefore let us ascend for His sake. He alone has descended and ascended, for He says: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who came down from heaven….” Do not those whom He has made children of God ascend to heaven? They definitely do ascend, and this is the promise offered to us: “…for they are equal to the angels….” Then how is it that no one ascends except He who descended? Because only One has descended and He is the One who has ascended. Then what about the others?… This is the hope of the others: that He has descended so that through and in Him they may become one; these are the ones who will ultimately ascend through Him…it is this that indicates the unity of the Church. Woe to them who hate unity and make themselves leaders of human factions27. * It is time we traveled. However, this journey does not require us to rub our feet with ointment (to help us walk), or to have an animal (to ride upon), or even a ship. May you be able to run with heart- felt feelings so that you may travel in the companionship of love and ascend with love. Why do you search for the path? Adhere to the Lord who through His descent has made Himself to be the ‘Way.’ Do you want to ascend? Then adhere to Him who has ascended. Alone, you will be unable to ascend…since no one can ascend except He who has descended, that is the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. So, do you want to ascend too? Become a member in the Body of the sole One who ascends. Only those who are members of His Body can ascend and so His words are fulfilled when He says: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who came down from heaven….” ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). The Lord had not left His Father with the intention of appearing equal to Him, but in order to make Himself ‘of no reputation, taking the form of a servant…”(Phil.2:7). Moreover, He also left His mother and the union that led to His birth according to the flesh. Ultimately, He adhered to His wife who is the Church. Here, in this passage, the Lord is in that situation where He testifies and reveals that the 27 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 12:8-9. https://coptic-treasures.com/ marriage bond cannot be released (Matt.19:4) …for ‘they are no longer two but one flesh’ and similarly “No one has ascended into heaven but He who came down from heaven….” So that you may know that the bride and the bridegroom are one in relation to the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in relation to His Divinity…So that you may know that this complete whole is one Jesus Christ, therefore Isaiah spoke these words: “He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with adornments…” (Is.61:10, LXX)28. St. Augustine 2- The New Birth and the Offering on the Cross “An as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” [14]. Here the Lord states the purpose for which He has descended from the heavens: so that He might be lifted up on the Cross and grant mankind redemption. The last miracle that Moses performed before his death was the lifting up of the bronze serpent in the desert t and healing the nation from the bites of the serpents (Ex.21:6-9). In the same manner, it is through the Cross that our Lord redeems us from the curse of the Law which we have broken and which consequently became as the fiery and deadly snake bites. The Lord’s offering on the Cross is the balm in Gilead which heals from deadly diseases (Jer.8:22, 46:11). The bronze snake is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ. It looks like the fiery and deadly serpent. However, it has a healing power over poison and does not carry its sting. In the same manner, our Lord carried the likeness of the corrupt sinful body yet there was no sin in Him. Since He carried sin for our sakes, He could break the sting of sin on our behalf. When the serpent became cursed, the Lord became cursed on our behalf in order to liberate us from the circle of the curse and carry us into the light of His glorious Throne. Moses the prophet raised the bronze serpent, and he testified for the Lord Jesus Christ who become subject to the Law. Origen the Scholar has a wonderful commentary about the Cross for he conceives two realities: the first is a phenomenon as the Lord Jesus Christ loves mankind and obeys God so much that He willingly goes to His crucifixion. The other is a less obvious fact as the one who got really crucified and paralyzed is Satan. The Lord actually nailed the sentence against us for ‘having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it’ (Col 2:14, 15). On one hand, the raised serpent represents the Lord Jesus Christ bearing our sins; and on the other hand, it represents the old serpent that the Lord has nailed by His Cross and degraded from his authority over believers. * This is the original symbol of the serpent that Moses raised on the Cross so that all those that the serpent had harmed would be healed. Similarly, by looking to the bronze serpent, the believer is healed through faith (Num. 21:19; Jn 3:14, 15). So does the bronze serpent heal when it is crucified while the incarnated Son of God does not save?! Note how wood often carried the promise of life: at the time of Noah, life was preserved in the wooden ark; and in the days of Moses, the wooden staff of Moses was used t strike the Sea and so enabled the people of God to cross over. So does the staff of Moses have power while the Cross of the Lord lack it?! In the days of Moses , the water became sweet by means of a piece of wood; 28 Sermon on New Testament Lessons, 41:7-8. https://coptic-treasures.com/ while when Christ was on the wooden Cross, the water ’flowed out of His side’29. St. Cyril of Jerusalem * You might wonder: what was the purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ in not stating clearly that He will be crucified and just hinted to His hearers by mentioning an old symbol (the serpent)? My answer is as follows: First in order to let us know that the sayings of the Old Testament agree with the New Testament, the first is not in contradiction to the second; Secondly: so that we may know that the Lord did not come unwilling into the world. Besides, so that we may know that He was unharmed by the actual sufferings He went through; and that these sufferings constitute for many a source of salvation. Indeed, no one should say: How can those who believe in the Crucified be saved if He Himself was caught by death? That is why the Lord reminds us of the old story. Moreover, if the Jews have escaped death by looking at a bronze serpent then how much more will believers in the Crucified enjoy greater benefits with good reason? The crucifixion was not achieved due to the weakness of the Crucified or due the overruling power of the Jews but because “God loved the world” [16]. Therefore His living tabernacle (His Body) hurried towards the Cross30. St. John Chrysostom *What are the serpents that sting? These are sins issuing from the corruption and death of the flesh. What does the serpent that was lifted up stand for? It is the Lord who died on the Cross: Just as death came through the serpent, its figure became the symbol for it. The sting of the serpent is deadly, but the Lord’s death is life- giving. Indeed, when the Lord looks at the serpent it loses its power. How is that so? When He looks at death, it loses its power. But whose death is it? The death of life…by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (Life), death dies. The death of Life has terminated death since the Fullness of life has devoured death. Death has been become extinct in the Body of the Lord. Therefore we sing together with the vanquishers about the resurrection and say: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”(1 Cor.15:54)… There’s a vast difference between a symbol and the Reality: the symbol lends a temporary existence, whereas the Reality that is represented by the symbol provides eternal life31. *In order to present a symbol for His Cross, the merciful God ordered Moses to lift up the image of a serpent on a post in the desert. It was necessary to have a symbol of the crucified Lord who took the form of a corrupt body (Jn.3:14). The Psalmist intentionally looks at the Cross and says: “My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation and Your righteous word (Ps 119:123), for God made the Lord Jesus Christ ‘who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ (Rom.8:3; 2Cor.5:21). In order to express the righteousness of God, the Psalmist says that his eyes fail to look jealously and with fervor as he knows human weakness. However, he depends on the Lord Jesus Christ for divine grace and help. St. Augustine * My serpent is a beneficial one. Healing medicine proceeds from his mouth and there is no 29 Essay 13:20. 30 Homilies on St. John, 27:2). 31 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 12:11. https://coptic-treasures.com/ poison there. St. Ambrose *The Savior was not the serpent, but He was a symbol of it. Origen *The Law indicates that the One who appeared on the Cross had the likeness of the serpent. Yet He was not the serpent but as St. Paul explains He had ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Rom.8:3). Therefore the real serpent is sin, and anyone who commits sin takes on the nature of the serpent. In this manner man has become released from sin by Him who took the form of sin32. St. Gregory, Bishop of Nicea * The serpent represented the Lord Jesus Christ because, when the Jews treated Him as though He were a serpent, they were affected by the serpent’s poison- that is by Satan. At the same time, those who had been stung by the serpent were healed when it was lifted up. St. Epiphanus, Bishop of Salamis “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” [15] *Do you comprehend the purpose of the Cross and the salvation that proceeds from it? Do you comprehend the relevance of the symbol to the Truth? This is how the Jews were saved from death, and how believers are saved from eternal death through the Lord Jesus Christ. In the case of the Jews, there was a serpent lifted up and which healed the stings of the serpent. Now, the crucified Lord heals the wounds inflicted by the monster of the mind. In the first case, the beholder of the serpent was saved through his sense of sight. But in the second case, the beholder lays all sin on the Crucified. There the lifted one was a bronze object in the form of a serpent, but now the Crucified is the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. John Chrysostom “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” [16] In this chapter, the focus is on the glory of the Cross. On it the Son of Man is lifted up in order to attract and deliver all mankind. This is repeated four times (8:28; 12:32-34). Divine love is the dynamic element constantly working to offer the world the joy of salvation. In his article on repentance, St. Ambrose draws our attention to significance of faith which enables a person to enjoy eternal life. Therefore how can we stop praying for unbelievers so that they may receive the divine gift of faith and so attain eternal life33? * It is as though the Lord is saying: ‘Do not be amazed that I should be lifted up on the Cross so that you might be saved for this is God’s decision. He has loved you so much that He has sacrificed His Son for His slaves. Clearly none of you would do that for a friend or for any righteous person.’ This is what St. Paul clarifies when he says: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone will even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that we were still sinful, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:7, 8). 32 Vita Moysis. PG 44:413,315. 33 Concerning Repentance, 1:10:48. https://coptic-treasures.com/ If you asked: For what reason did God love the world? My answer would be: He loved it out of His own goodness solely and for no other reason. St. John Chrysostom The expressions ‘…God so … ’ and ‘…loved the world…’ underline the great extent of His love. The distinction between the two is great and infinite for He is the eternal who is without beginning and the Almighty without end; whereas those of the world are dust and ashes and are charged with heaps of sin and ingratitude. They rebel against Him continuously yet they are the ones He has loved! The words that follow bear a similar meaning, for He says: “…He gave His only begotten Son….” He did not sacrifice a servant or an angel or archangel. No one shows concern for his child as much as the Lord shows towards His ungrateful slaves. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved [17]. On the Cross the Loved offered salvation openly and before the whole world: “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earths shall see the salvation of our God” (Is.52:10). Earlier on the Lord had stated a negative aspect that those who believe will not die. Now He follows with the positive statement that they will be granted ‘everlasting life.’ Here too there is the negative ‘…not…to condemn’ and the positive ‘…be saved….’ The Lord’s words “…that the world through Him might be saved” were not only new to the ears of the Jewish leaders and people, but they were a stumbling block as well. This was because the teachers had interpreted the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the awaited Messiah in the sense that He would rebuild the tabernacle of David, restore the kingdom to the people of Israel with all its glory and greatness, and condemn and wipe out the other nations. No matter how it was presented, the idea that He would redeem and save the world could never be acceptable or conceivable to the Jewish mentality. * Before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ we had countless guide posts to show us the good path: there were the laws of nature, the prophets, the written Law and teachings, numerous promises and revelations of the fathers, the punishments and corrective measures as well as numerous other commandments. As a result there was accountability. However, because of His love, He is forgiving to a great extent rather than judging; and He does so for the sake of those who are hastening towards destruction34. St. John Chrysostom * The Lord does not condemn, so do you condemn? He says: “…whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (Jn 12:46). That means that if a person is in the darkness, he does not remain there. Rather, he corrects his faults and imperfections, and obeys My commands, for I have said: ????????????? (read ……..) I have said that he who believes in Me will not be condemned and I fulfill this for I have not 34 Hom. 26 PG 29:195. https://coptic-treasures.com/ come to condemn but that the world might be saved by Me [17]. I desire to pardon and forgive quickly “for I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6) …and “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Sacrifice is the order of the law while mercy comes in the gospel: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (read Jn 1:17)35 St. Ambrose 3- Enlightenment and Faith “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” [18]. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not a mere theoretical belief. It is a practical union and fellowship with Him. A person who disappears in Him and remains steadfast will definitely be released from the circle of condemnation for “there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). And once more, the Lord confirms: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24). * You might say: ‘Since the Lord did not come with the purpose of condemning the world, then how is it that He has already passed judgment on those who do not believe and while the day of judgment has not come yet?’ The answer is: ‘The Lord could be declaring what will happen in the future. It is like the case of the murderer who is not judged according to the nature of the judge but according to his crime. Similarly, an unbeliever is condemned by the nature of his denial and blasphemy. Adam died the day he ate of the tree, for the pronouncement on that issue has already been pronounced: “…but of the tree of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Yet Adam continued to live so how did he die? We answer: ‘He died due to the case ruling over him and by the nature of his rebellious act: anyone who exposes himself to punishment becomes subject to it and even if no action is taken to punish him swiftly yet his punishment has already have been pronounced. St. John Chrysostom “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” [19]. The reference here is to thieves and highway robbers who usually do evil in the darkness of the night. God has granted the sun to give light to men and so that they might work by day and rest by night. As for those who choose to sleep during the daytime in order to do evil at night, then they deserve to be punished as ones who have broken the law of God. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is light: He has come and shone into the world in order to grant mankind the joy of working for the kingdom of God. At the same time He has set the just pronouncement on those who walk in darkness and are haters of the true light. In other words, the incarnation and dwelling of the true Word among us has separated the lovers of the light from those who love darkness and the Spirit of judgment has begun to work. Therefore He says: “…the ruler of 35 Concerning Repentance, Book 1:12:54. https://coptic-treasures.com/ this world is judged…” (Jn. 15:11); “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out (Jn, 12:31). “…because their deeds were evil” since they insist on walking in darkness and adhering to Satan while they reject “the Light” and Savior of the world. * It is as though the Lord is saying: ‘If I had come to the world to punish and demand reasons for their wrong doing, people rightly would have used this as an excuse to explain why they have moved away and sought to escape. However, I have come to help them out of the darkness. Therefore they are condemned since they did not abandon the darkness and come to the Light. They can no longer present any other excuse. St. John Chrysostom “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed” [20]. The wicked love darkness when it is more convenient to do their evil acts. They hate the light as it exposes them. The Bible is frightful for the wicked world which considers It an enemy that rebukes and condemns. A person who practices bad habits cannot stand the light and immerses himself into the darkness rather than facing it and praying for the light: “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatsoever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead. And Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:12-14). There is a difference between those who comprehend the Logos (the Word of God) for some conceive Him as a lamp while others see Him as light itself…the ignorant virgins had unlit lamps (Matt. 25:2) “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed” (Jn 3:20). The Lord also rebukes those who do not benefit constantly of the light which is with them for an hour or a little while (Jn 5:35) and as they use that lamp. The Lord says: “He was the burning and shinning lamp, and you were willing for a while to rejoice in his light (Jn 5:35). * Hurry, my brothers, so that the darkness might not overtake you. Awake to your need of salvation. Awake while there is time…Awake while the day is here and it is shinning. The Lord is the Day and He is ready to forgive sins but only to those who admit them. He is ready to punish those who defend themselves and those who boast of their righteousness and believe they are worthy while they are nothing36. St. Augustine * For the Lord came to perfect the law and not to criticize It (Matt 5:17). He revealed to us the true offering, the ‘Passover’ from Egypt. It marks the beginning of the months and occurs in the month when the crossing over took place. It also marks the beginning of a new birth as a new way of life starts for those who abandon darkness behind them and come to the light (Jn 3:20-21).They therefore speak in a style that conforms with the holy mystery and through the power of the water granted to those who hope in the Lord. This is what is known as ‘the washing of renewal’ (Jn 3:5). Therefore what does the second birth convey other than the beginning of another birth?37 36 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 12:14. 37 Peri Pascha 4 (Translated by Robert J. Daly-ACW). https://coptic-treasures.com/ Origen “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” [21]. The words ‘…he who does the truth….’ occurs to counter he who does evil and whose ‘deeds are wicked.’ The singular is used for there is one life in the Lord Jesus Christ and adhering to Him. In contrast the plural is used to refer to evil acts and deeds as they occur in an uninterrupted chain of dark actions. The amazing observation is that when we perform truthful acts, meaning that when we adhere to the Lord, we come to the light- that is to the person of the Lord- and it seems as though the more we adhere to Him the more the fervor of our heart increases. As a result we yearn to really enter and unite intensely with the Lord. Consequently, we, as believers, becomes increasingly attracted day after day in the hope of attaining ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). When we practice the truth, we receive the light so that our deeds occur in the presence of the Lord and by His help and grace. This is the conclusion of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus. Since we have become adopted to be His sons, it is appropriate that we, the believers, enjoy the possibilities God provides through Him and in Him. The light of truth that fills the believer with joy is in itself hateful to the wicked. He cannot tolerate the light and considers it an enemy that resents and opposes him. The Lord’s words “…they have been done by God” express His affirmation that the righteousness of the believer is based on the work of God within him, “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13). * Being considered a person is the result of God’s work. However, being considered a sinner is the result of man‘s own work or deeds. Therefore erase what you have done so that God might redeem what He has done. It is appropriate for you to hate what you have done to yourself, and to love the work of God in you. When you are displeased with your own actions, you would have begun to do God’s good work since you have found fault with your wicked actions. The confession of wicked deeds is the beginning of doing that which is good. You do what is true and you come to the light. How do you do what is true? You do not spoil, release, or flatter yourself. Moreover, you do not say: ‘I am righteous’ while you are not. That is how you start to do what is true. You come to the light to declare that your actions are done only through God and His help. Otherwise, it will be impossible for you to recognize your sin, the very thing you hate, and to despise it. You can do this only when God shines within you and reveals the truth to you. As for a person who loves wickedness even after he has received advice, he clearly hates the light that guides him and evades it. This is because the actions he loves to take do not appear to be wicked to him. Whereas a person who loves to do what is true condemns his own evil actions and does not provides justification or forgives himself until God forgives him. He who desires God’s forgiveness needs to recognize his own faults, come to the light, and give thanks for revealing what he needs to hate in himself. He prays God “…to hide (His) face from (his) sins….” Yet how can he dare to say this unless he adds: “For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before me…” (Ps.51:3, 9). May your sins remain before you if you do not want to put them before the Lord. https://coptic-treasures.com/ However, if you put them behind you, God will push them and put them before your eyes. This occurs at a time when the fruit of repentance is no longer found within38. St. Augustine * The Lord spoke these words to describe those who have chosen to remain in their wickedness for ever. He came for that purpose and in order to grant forgiveness for previous sins. Besides, He came to safeguard us from future trespasses since there are those who are careless and perverted. These are so far removed from virtue that they wish to remain in their wickedness until their very last breath. Indeed, they are unable to distance themselves from evil at any moment of their lives. St. John Chrysostom 4- The Stance of John the Baptist on the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ ‘After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized’ [22]. The Lord left Jerusalem ‘in the land of Judea’ where He had met and spoken with Nicodemus, and visited other areas of Judea. The Bible often makes the distinction ???????????between Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 1:8, 10:30; 1Kgs3:34; 2Kgs 1:1, 10) The Lord Jesus Christ did not baptize but His disciples did so through His authority and command (Jn 4:2).That is why they considered it as though He was baptizing. *The Lord used to go up to Jerusalem during the feasts as He wanted people to benefit from His teachings and miracles. When the celebrations were over, He would go to Jordan as many would travel and go there. He always went to places where there would be crowds in order to offer the many the blessings inherent in Him. Indeed, He did not do so in order to reveal Himself or to seek Honor. Therefore St. John the Evangelist clarifies this and says: ‘(though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)’ (Jn.4:2). St. John Chrysostom ‘Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salem, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized’ [23]. The Lord Jesus Christ began to baptize through His disciples before John the Baptist is put in prison in order to draw the disciples of the Baptist towards Himself. In this way they would not get scattered after his martyrdom. Besides, this would insure that the cycle of work would not end with the Baptist’s death. In fact St. John the Baptist continued to collaborate harmoniously, preaching and seriously preparing for the Kingdom of God until his very last breath. Aenon: is about eight miles south of Scythopolis, and lies between Salem and Jordan. It is clear that the Baptist always baptized by immersion as the Evangelist says: “…because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized’ [23]. * ‘…Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples’…why? Note the Baptist’s words: 38St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 12:13. https://coptic-treasures.com/ “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire…” (Matt 3:11; Lk 3:16).Until that moment, the Holy Spirit had not been granted and therefore it was valid that He did not baptize. However, His disciples did baptize in order to attract many to the faithful teachings…Then why did the Baptist not stop baptizing if that would have added awe to the stature of the disciples? In order to avoid arousing any competition among his disciples and which would have been worse than any hostility…besides, while the Baptist was baptizing he did not cease to underline to them the greatness and awesome nature of the Lord’s acts… Was the baptism performed by the disciples better than the one done by the Baptist? No, it was not better in any way. Both were done without the gift of the Holy Spirit. So they were similar and shared the same objective which was to lead those who got baptized to the Lord Jesus Christ39. St. John Chrysostom ‘For John had not yet been thrown into prison” [24]. ‘The there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification’ [25]. *The disciples of the Baptist were always jealous of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and of His disciples who were baptizing. They began to argue with those who had been baptized and so they appeared to believe that their baptism were better than the one done by the Lord’s disciples. They caught some who had been baptized and tried to convince them of that but they failed. Note how the Evangelist implies that they began, at first, to attack (the Lord) …he does not say that a Jew asked them but that they aroused the doubt, and that the questioning was raised by the Baptist’s disciples and directed to the Jews40. St. John Chrysostom *The Baptist was baptizing and so was the Lord…the disciples of the Baptist were moving and running towards the Lord…the Baptist delivered those who went to him to the Lord so that He would baptize them; whereas those who went to the Lord were not sent to the Baptist. The disciples of the Baptist were disturbed, and according to custom, they began to discuss these matters with the Jews. Let us remember that the Jews admitted that the Lord Jesus Christ was greater, and that the people would necessarily turn to His baptism. The Baptist’s disciples understood that as well; yet they defended John‘s baptism and came to him personally to solve the matter. Remember, dear ones, we have been granted the grace to learn how to apply humility. When the people were wrong in their discussion of this matter, it was a chance to reveal if the Baptist was seeking honor for himself… He wisely knew before whom to be humble: before the One he knew had come after him by birth; yet he willingly admitted His primacy and acknowledged Him. The Baptist understood that his own salvation is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Long before that incident, John had said: “And of His fullness we have all received….” In this statement, the Baptist confesses that the Lord is God; for how can we all receive of His fullness if He were not God?… He is the Source and they are the partakers of Him. Those who drink from a source get thirsty later on. The Source never thirsts and does not turn to Himself. However, mankind need the 39 Hom. 29 PG 59:165 40 Hom. 29 PG 59:165-166. https://coptic-treasures.com/ Source and run to Him to quench their thirsty stomach and their dry lips. And the Source flows in order to revive: this is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ41. St. Augustine ‘And they came to John and said to him: “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified- behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”[25]. The disciples of the Baptist revealed their respect for him they addressed him as ‘Rabbi’; and yet, on account of their love and jealousy for him, they showed disrespect to the Lord. They did not even mention the name of the Lord but spoke lightly and referred to Him as ‘He who was with you.’ They believed that what the Lord was doing was an act of ingratitude towards the Baptist who had baptized and witnessed for Him. They did not realize that the Lord had no need for the testimony of John or for men’s praise. Indeed, the Father Himself witnessed for Him and the Holy Spirit appeared and rested on Him. They believed that baptism by the Lord’s disciples was degrading for the baptism done by John and as though there was rivalry among the two parties. * ‘He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified’ conveys the meaning of ‘that one who has the rank of a disciple, and who is no more than us…that person has separated himself and is baptizing.’ John’s disciples believed that this would make the Baptist envious. To underline that they stressed that their popularity was on the decline by saying: “and all are coming to Him!”[25]. Their behavior revealed them to be no better than the Jews who had argued with Him. They spoke these words because they were torn in their inclinations and they had not dismissed the sense of competition which filled them42. St. John Chrysostom ‘John answered and said: “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” [27]. The Baptist was neither disturbed nor embarrassed; but proclaimed joyfully and with a glad spirit that what the Lord was doing is authorized by heaven. He found this a good opportunity to confirm and clarify for a second time his witness for the Lord. Listen to what John the Baptist tells his disciples. Rather than reprove them harshly and risking that they would forsake him and commit some other bad behavior, he told them that ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven’…for a while he wished to strike them with fear and terror and to reveal to them that they were actually fighting God when they fought the Lord Jesus Christ. In this context, the Baptist established this reality indirectly and it is the same truth that Gamaliel confirmed: “…but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it –lest you even be found to fight against God” (Acts 5:39). Therefore the saying that ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven’ is a pronouncement that they are fighters against God and so attempting the impossible. Notice also that when they said: ‘to whom you have testified’ [26] the Baptist opposed them as they seemed to degrade the power of the Lord and silenced them by his words ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven’ [27]. If you hold on to my testimony and consider it to be true, then acknowledge this and 41 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate13:8. 42 Homilies on St. John, 27:1 https://coptic-treasures.com/ do not prefer me over Him. You have to prefer Him over me otherwise why have I testified? ‘I pray you yourselves to bear to my witnesses [28]43. St. John Chrysostom St. Augustine believes that John the Baptist is speaking here about himself as being a person who has been granted heavenly insight but that he is not the Messiah. It is as though he is saying: [‘Why do you deceive yourselves? Look at how you put this problem to me and at what you are saying?.. Because I have received something from heaven in order to fulfill certain task, do you want me to empty myself of that by saying things that oppose the truth?... I am the news reporter and He is Judge]44. “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ’ but ‘I have been sent before Him’ [28]. It is as though John is saying here: “I am the servant carrying the words of Him who has sent me.” The expression ‘I have been sent before Him’ in the Greek language implies continuity in the action and giving fruit as a result of it. * ‘Do adhere to my testimony… If you consider me trustworthy, then one of the things I told you is that: “I have been sent before Him” [28] …for He is not diminished by my witness for Him. On the contrary, I am elevated by it. After a while it will become evident that this Voice is a divine one, and therefore the testimony does not proceed from me but it comes from God.’ The words of the Baptist convey the following meaning: ‘I am a servant and I speak the words of Him who has sent me. I do so to serve His Father who has sent me and not in order to flatter the Lord Jesus Christ for any personal interest. Moreover, I do not testify through a gift inherent in me but speak as I have been commissioned to do. Therefore do not consider that I am great, but rather that He is great… for He is Lord above all things45. St. John Chrysostom “He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” [29]. In Jewish culture, the friend of the bridegroom is called showshabiyn; and in the Greek culture paranymphos. Usually there was a friend for the bridegroom and one for the bride and most often the brother would be the bridegroom’s friend. Sometimes, however, there would not be a specific person who is the friend of either the bride or the bridegroom. In contrast, there had to be a friend of the bridegroom when the wedding was that of a king or nobleman or other very highly ranked person. The Jews believed that this custom has been instituted by God as He Himself was the showshabiyn at Adam’s wedding. Bereshith Rabba, however, writes that Adam had two friends at his wedding: Michael and Gabriel. The friend of the bridegroom played a vital and unique role: he would be relieved of his religious obligations in order to help the newly wed couple throughout the first seven days. Before the wedding, he had to protect the bride, attend to her, and report to the bridegroom as well as act as 43Homilies on St. John 29:2 44 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate13:9 45 Homilies on St. John 29:2 https://coptic-treasures.com/ a liaison or link between them. He would carry letters they wished to exchange as the engaged female was not allowed to leave the home of her parents. After the wedding, the friend would help to strengthen the personality of the bride. He would live close by to ensure that no harm would touch her and that neither party would deceive the other. Moreover, it was his duty to examine her purity and once he was assured, he would rejoice. This is probably what St. John means when he says: “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” [29]. The friend also brings the presents offered to the couple and ultimately shares in the joyful wedding celebrations that last for seven days. After this celebration that extends for a week, the friend of the bridegroom becomes more like a defender for him (2 Cor 11:2). Therefore he solves any marital problems that may arise and restores harmony. The bridegroom’s friend keeps the wedding contract with him. If he finds that the bride is unfaithful, he has the authority to tear up the contract and so the wedding would be considered as annulled. However, if the bridegroom abandons and divorces her, the friend fills in the role of her legal brother (the husband’s brother)46. St. John the Baptist proclaims his joy because the divine Bride has come. He joins the men of God in the Old Testament who expressed that joy towards the Bride. St. Gregory, Bishop of Nicea, expresses that thought in his interpretation of The Song of Solomon as he says: ‘Those who serve the virgin bride and accompany her are the patriarchs, the prophets, and teachers of the law. They offer to the Bride the wedding presents (such as the remission of sins, the resolution to stop wicked acts, the purification from sin, a change in nature in the sense that the corrupt nature will become pure, the enjoyment of Paradise, and infinite joy). When the Bride receives all these presents from the nobility and from all those who carry these gifts through their prophetic teachings, she proclaims her eagerness and hurries to enjoy the privilege and the beauty of the One she has desired for so long. The servants and the companions of the Bride listen to her and encourage Her to be more desirous. Then the Bridegroom arrives and leads a crowd of singers that includes His friends and well wishers. These represent the spirits of the pure prophets or those who serve and rescue mankind. When they hear the voice of the Bridegroom, they rejoice (Jn3:29) as the pure union is fulfilled and the soul that adheres to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. This is also proclaimed by the St. Paul, the apostle (1 Cor.6:17)47. *Those who expect that the Lord will come again stand eagerly and attentively at the gates of heaven and wait for the time when the King of glory enters into His grace. This will exceed all imagination and according to Psalm 19:5 ‘which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.’ In spite of our sins and our worship of idols and God’s consequent removal; we have been granted the new birth and have become as a first born after being washed of our inner corruption. Therefore all the wedding celebrations have been fulfilled and the Word of God has been united to the Church, and as St. John says: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom,” (Jn.3:29). And the Church has received the Bride in the wedding bridal room. And the angels have expected the return of the King as He leads the Church as His Bride. Through His leadership, He has made Her nature ready to receive grace. He has therefore said that our lives have to be cleaned of all evil and deceit so that we too are ready to receive the Lord when He comes again. 46 Adam Clark Comm. 47 Song of Solomon by St. Gregory of Nicea, translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, 1993, Sermon 1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ When we watch the doors of our homes, we prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Bridegroom and for the time when He will call and knock at the door for: “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching” (Lk 12:37). For he is blessed who obeys the One who is knocking. The soul is eager for this blessing of welcoming her Bridegroom who stands at the door. She watches the door of her home alertly and says: “It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks… (Sg of Sol.5:3). How would the bridegroom deny her the privilege when she has reached up to Him who is ultimately most holy?48 St. Gregory of Nicea * It is as though the Baptist is saying: ‘I would have suffered greatly if this had not happened. It would have given me so much pain and grief if the bride had not come to her bridegroom. However, I am no longer sad since my hopes have been fulfilled and everything we have longed for has taken place: for the bride has recognized her bridegroom and you are witnesses of that. Therefore I am glad and rejoice now that this prayer has been answered. St. John Chrysostom * Listen to what is even much stronger and to a clearer testimony. Notice the matter we are concerned with: for it an adulterous act if someone loves a person and allows him/her to take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ…for ‘“He who has the bride is the bridegroom”…so be pure, and love the Bridegroom… Presently, I see many adulterers who wish to possess the bride, who has been bought for such a great price. She was loved when she was disfigured so that she might become beautiful. She has been bought and received redemption and now she is adorned by that One who has saved her. As for these adulterers, they struggle with words in order to love someone other than the bridegroom… Let us therefore listen to the friends of the bridegroom rather than to the adulterers who oppose him… Let us listen to that one who is jealous and fervent, yet it is not on his own account49. * He says ‘I rejoice not on account of my voice but on account of the voice of the bridegroom. I fill in the position of the hearer, while He is the Speaker. As a person, I need to be enlightened, whereas He is the Light. I am like the ear, while He is the Word. That is why the bridegroom’s friend stands and listens to him. Why does he stand? So that he might not fail. What would prevent him from failing? His humility. Remember that he is standing on firm ground: “I am not worthy to loosen His sandal straps.” You do well to be humble and so you are prepared not to fall. Rather, you are prepared to stand and to hear Him, and to rejoice greatly upon hearing the voice of the bridegroom50. * Peter is an eye in this Body; and although that other person is a finger yet he is a member in that same Body to which Peter belongs. Even if the finger has a lesser power than the eye, yet it is not amputated from the Body. It is better to be a finger in the Body than to be an eye that has been amputated from the 48 Song of Solomon by St. Gregory of Nicea, translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, 1993, Sermon 11. 49 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 13:10 50 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 13:12 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Body. Therefore do not be deceived, my brothers, and let no one impress you. Love the peace that the Lord grants as He, who is God, has been crucified for your sakes. St. Paul says: “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1Cor 3:7)… May all the members love one another, and may all live subject to the Head. In my sadness I have been obliged to speak to you for a long period. However, I have not said enough and so find myself unable to stop51. * What brings him joy? He rejoices to hear the voice of his Bridegroom. This has been fulfilled for me and I have received this blessing. I do not assume a role that is not mine otherwise I would lose my actual status… People need to understand that they should not rejoice because of their own wisdom, but rather, they should rejoice on account of the wisdom that God has granted them. No one should ask for more (than what he has) so that he does not lose what he has found; for many people who have claimed wisdom have turned out to be foolish and dull. The apostle rebukes such people and tells them: “…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19)… People should not claim for themselves what they have not obtained as a result of their own effort. They need to explain it as the gift that they have received freely from God; otherwise He will withdraw such blessings from the ungrateful. The Baptist did not want that to happen to him for he wanted to be thankful. He confessed he had been blessed, and proclaimed that he rejoiced on hearing the voice of the Bridegroom by saying: “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” [29]52. St. Augustine “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” [29] indicates that ‘the task I had to do has been achieved and there is nothing more I can do in the future.’ The Baptist tells them what would take place in the future to prevent arousing intense physical emotions in the present as well as in the future. Therefore he affirms that events are proceeding in agreement with what he had said and done earlier on53. St. John Chrysostom “He must increase, but I must decrease” [30]. St. John the Baptist understands that the Lord increases and he decreases and this becomes obvious in the manner each has died. The first became a martyr silently when he died in prison; and only very few learned about it The Lord, however, died in public and on the Cross: He lifted up His Head towards heaven, and spread out His arms to embrace lovingly all mankind. The first died and was buried after he was beheaded; whereas the Lord Jesus Christ died, was buried, and arose in order to resurrect the dead with Him. The words of St. John the Baptist have relevance to the life of every true believer who is growing in his relationship with the Lord. In each moment of his life, the believer dismisses all that is materialistic and indeed gets to feel that he/she discards that which is human. This is done not with the object of living without a human will or without human feelings, but in order to proclaim the will of God in one’s life. As a result, one’s emotions are sanctified and he acts according to the 51 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 13:17-18 52 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 14:3 53 Homilies on St. John, 29:2 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Lord. In this manner the believer experiences sweetness in his failings as he makes way for the Lord to increase and be glorified in him. The Lord’s successful ministry marks the starting point for the proclamation of His glorious righteousness, peace, and truth among mankind. The Baptist rejoices that the number of people coming to him for baptism has diminished. By going to the Lord Jesus Christ, they fulfill the goal of his own service and baptism. *“He must increase, but I must decrease” [30]…What does this mean: He should be glorified, and I should be humbled? How might the Lord Jesus Christ increase? How does God increase? God neither increases nor decreases. If He were to increase then He is not perfect; and if He were to decrease then He is not God… Could that be a result of His willingness to become man when He became incarnate? He was a child, and although He is the wisdom of God, He lay in a manger as a newly born. Moreover, He sucked milk from his mother in spite of the fact that He is her Creator. Then the Lord Jesus Christ grew up physically and maybe that is why the Baptist said: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” But why is that? Physically, the Baptist and the Lord were of the same age with just six months’ difference between them. Besides, they had grown together…so what is the meaning of “He must increase, but I must decrease”? That is a great mystery! Before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, men used to glorify themselves. He came as a person to reduce man’s glory and to increase the glory of God. He came without sin and found all men had fallen into sin. In the form of a man He came to tear sin away and as God grants freely so man has to confess. It is this confession that degrades man, yet it is the tenderness of God that is sublime. Therefore since the Lord has come to forgive the sins of man, then man has to admit his immorality and may God reveal His tenderness. “He must increase, but I must decrease” or in other words ‘He will grant me good things and I will receive; He will be glorified and I will confess.’ May every person become aware of his own condition and confess to God. Let us listen to what the apostle has to say to the proud and mighty person who praises himself: “And what do you have that you have not received? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?” (1Cor 4:7)54. *May God who is always perfect grow and increase in you for the more you comprehend Him the more He will appear to increase in you. As for Himself, He does not increase since He is the everlasting Perfection…This is also true of the inner depths of a person for he truly grows in the Lord God who appears increasingly in Him. However, the person himself seems to diminish when he falls away from his own arrogance and establishes the glory of God55. St. Augustine *This means that we have stopped and ceased our wrong doings; whereas the works of the Lord will increase. What you are afraid of will happen not only now but later on and to a greater extent. This specifically increases the brilliance of my situation for I have come for this task. Therefore I rejoice that His objectives are advancing rapidly and that this is the result of my actions. 54 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate14:4 55 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate14:5 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Can you not see that He has gently and wisely soothed their sufferings, calmed their bodies, revealed to them that they had spoken of impossible matters, and that evil had to be controlled? 56 St. John Chrysostom “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from the heaven is above all” [31] The Bridegroom descending from heaven (Jn 3:13) is above all: He is greater than Moses, the prophets, and is even greater than John the Baptist himself. The Baptist speaks about himself as ‘…he who is of the earth…’ because he was born in the same way as all other human beings. Consequently, he is unable to speak of matters proclaimed by the heavenly Messiah. He just prepares the way for Him. There is no point of comparison between the prophets (and the Baptist is one of them) and the Lord Jesus Christ. When they witness for the Truth, they are still human vessels on earth through whom God speaks. However, when the Lord Jesus Christ speaks, His words come from heaven for He is heavenly. * He wishes to indicate that the Lord does not need anyone for He is self sufficient and greater than all…so the Baptist says: “…he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth” to point to himself…do you see how he has nothing else to say of himself other than that he is of lesser stature and came from the earth and was born of it? As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He had come to them from heaven. With all these words, the Baptist is able to satisfy their jealousy. * It is as though he is saying: ‘If I were to compare my concerns with His, they would appear few, mean, and poor just as all other things which have an earthly nature57. St. John Chrysostom * When the Baptist speaks about the human aspect of himself (that is in John the Baptist) he is indicating an earthly being who is enlightened by God. If he had not been enlightened, he would have remained earthly and speaking with earthly wisdom… May the grace of God come and lighten up his darkness according to the words: “For You will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps18:28). May God take the thoughts of man and transform them to be his light. Then man will immediately join the apostle and say: “…not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1Cor15:10); and “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20)… This is the condition of the Baptist since he is of the earth and speaks from the earth. However, the heavenly words you hear from him are inspired by the One who enlightens him and not from the person (the Baptist) who receives them58. St. Augustine “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony” [32]. The words spoken by the prophets are simply the testimony of what God has delivered to 56 Homilies on St. John, 29:3 57 Hom. 30 PG 59:170 58 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate14:6 https://coptic-treasures.com/ them through different means. As for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are proclamations of what He has seen and heard for He is never separated from the Father and He is the Truth Itself. * “He who comes from above is above all… And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony” [31-32]…He has the Father since He is the Son of God: He has the Father and hears Him…He is the Word of God59. St. Augustine “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true” [33]. *When he was in prison, the Baptist sent his disciples to the Lord so that they would get attached to Him…now that the Lord starts to speak the words of God there will be believers and non- believers, those who will believe in God and those who will not…note the words ‘…has certified…’ mean ‘has proclaimed.’ In order to disturb them deeply, he tells them ‘that God is true’ for he wishes to clarify that no one can reject the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ without rejecting God at the same time, and by doing so commits a sin60. St. John Chrysostom “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure” [34]. Human beings receive the Spirit of God in the measure of their own potential and weakness. As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He receives the Spirit without measure since the Spirit is One with Him and resides in Him. * St. John the Baptist says the following about the Lord: “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God” because the Lord says nothing other than the words of His Father and says only the words of God. Therefore anyone who opposes the Son is also opposing His Father who has sent Him. Do you see how he disturbed them deeply by his words? He then says: “… for God does not give the Spirit by measure” In other words we have all received the work of the Spirit with measure and proportion but the Lord possesses the Spirit entirely and completely and without measure. * St. John the Baptist says about the Son: “for God does not give the Spirit by measure” (Jn3:34) to those who deserve. Therefore there is no measure for the Son as it is impossible to measure Him. He exceeds all measure as He is God. How could you measure the One Who cannot be measured or describe Him as lacking? St. Cyril the Great * St. John Chrysostom writes the following: ‘He is speaking about capacity when he mentions the Spirit.’ We all receive the capacity of the Spirit by measure. As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He possesses full capacity and that cannot be measured as it is His in its entirety. Therefore since His capacity is without measure then how much greater is His essence? He refers to the capacity, the Spirit or more adequately the Spirit of God according to the words of the Baptist. By 59St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate14 60 Hom. 30 Pg 59:172 https://coptic-treasures.com/ stating that the capacity has no measure he indicates that the nature of the Spirit is not a created one. When he says that we receive the Spirit with measure, he is referring to the different nature of the uncreated capacity that resides in the Essence and that is also not created…now, if the capacity of the Spirit is without measure, then how much more immeasurable is the Essence61. Fr Gregory Palamas St. John the Baptist draws a distinction between his mission and the Lord’s mission. The mission of John the Baptist is a mission of God ordained to a human apostle who speaks and testifies within the capacity and grace he receives. As for the mission of the Lord, it is the mission of the Son of God and His Word Who is one with Him. He alone sees the Father as He is and can witness for Him. The Spirit of the Son of God is the Spirit of the Holy Father and therefore, unlike the prophets, apostles, or believers in general, He does not receive the Spirit by measure. * “for God does not give the Spirit by measure” [34]. Listen to the words of the apostle: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gifts” (Eph4:7). With reference to human beings, the Spirit is given by measure, but with reference to the Only Son it is given without measure. How does He give to human beings with measure? “…for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing ….to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy…” (1 Cor 12:8…etc)…as for the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Giver, He receives without measure62. St. Augustine “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hands.” [35] John the Baptist clarifies that the Lord Jesus Christ is far greater than any teacher, prophet, or apostle. Some prophets have received certain talents, others have received certain revelations or visions, others have received dreams, some have received the talent of teaching, while others got the gift of giving comfort, etc…As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the only One who possesses everything and holds all in His hands. * “The Father loves the Son…” [35], yet He loves as a father loves and not as a lord who loves his slave. Indeed, He loves Him as His only begotten Son rather than an adopted son…That is why when He willingly gave up His Son for our sakes, we should not imagine that the One sent to us is less than the Father. For when the Father sends the Son it is similar to someone sending his other self (as He is One with Him, and is equal to Him)63. St. Augustine “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” [36] * Jesus says: “I am the door…” (Jn 14:6; 10:9); “No one comes to the Father except through Me…”; “…no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt 11:27).Therefore if you deny 61 The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, Ch 95. St Chry 505, tom. hom. 30:2 Pg 59:173 62 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate14:10 63 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate14:11 https://coptic-treasures.com/ the One revealed to you, you will remain ignorant. In the Gospel of St. John there is the following statement: ‘…he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him’ (Jn 3:36) because the Father gets angry when His only Son is disrespected. A king would be grieved if just one of his soldiers is humiliated, so how would it be if this happens to his only son? Who would be able to appease the anger of the Father on account of His only Son?!64 St. Cyril of Jerusalem * Someone may ask: ‘So is any person assured of eternal life if he just believes in the Son? The answer is : He certainly is not assured in any way for the Lord Himself said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21).For if a person firmly believes in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and yet does not lead a pure life, he will gain nothing from his faith and will not have a single advantage that would help him attain salvation. Therefore do not think that faith is sufficient for our salvation. To ensure our salvation, we need to lead a straight and correct life and follow a chaste path besides faith. St. John Chrysostom * When someone believes, the wrath of God passes away and life reigns. Therefore in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ you are possessing life since a person who believes in Him will not be condemned (Jn3:15). However, many insist that this statement has a condition attached to it which is that the believer needs to keep the Lord’s commandments. They claim that these are the words of the Lord Himself who has said: “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him (Jn 12:47)65. St. Ambrose * The Baptist does not say: ‘The wrath of God will descend on him’ but rather ‘the wrath of God abides on him.’All those who have been born vulnerable to death and subject to the wrath of God. And what is the wrath of God other than the wrath first caused by Adam…from this genealogy the Son has come, without sin, and was covered with the flesh that is subject to death. If He has shared with us the wrath of God when He bore our sins, then why are we reluctant and slow to share with Him the grace of God? Therefore he who does not believe, the wrath of God abides on him. Why is God angry? According to the apostle, we ‘…were by nature children of wrath, just as others’ (Eph 2:3). All are children of wrath, since they are the outcome of the curse of death. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, for he became vulnerable to death for your sakes. He lived while you were dead. He died so that you may live. He has brought the grace of God, and torn away His wrath. God has conquered death so that death would not conquer man66. St. Augustine 64 Article 10:1 65 Concerning Repentance, Book 1:12:53-54 66 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 14:13 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Inspirations drawn from The Gospel of John, Chapter Three May Your Fiery Spirit Carry Me to the New World! *My depths groan, my body and whole being have swerved towards corporal things, Greed had governed my depths But Your grace has rescued me. You have granted me a birth from the Water and the Spirit! You have become a heavenly Father for me, and Your Church an immortal Mother. I have no longer an excuse or a justification, May Your fiery Spirit carry me to the new world! *You were born in the flesh for my sake, In order to grant me a heavenly birth by Your Holy Spirit! You have cleaned me thoroughly in the baptismal water, And You have granted me victory over the old dragon. You watered me with the Living Water, so how can I thirst after that? You have thrown me into the grave with You, And have resurrected me to enjoy Your resurrected life! You have granted me a new life, a new spirit, and a new heart. *You have drawn my whole being to Your heavenly heights, So I find nothing on earth which attracts my heart and thoughts! I find that you have ascended alone into the heavens, O Resident of heaven! Accept me as a member of Your Body, for the earth cannot contain me any longer! You have descended to earth and hidden me in You, And you have ascended to heaven so that I may live with You where You reside! * The snake killed me with its poison and deceit, She killed my soul as listened to it. There You are as the bronze snake raised on the Cross. I perceive You with the eyes of my heart as You have destroyed the debt I owe! By Your Cross You have raised me, and drawn me into the Father’s embrace! I rise with You in defiance of the powers of darkness, Your death has killed my death, and destroyed all its power! Your Cross has crucified the world to me, and crucified me to the world! The world has no place in me, and I have no place in it! *Your Cross proclaims the glory of Your sublime love! Your Cross has opened my heart to embrace all mankind as much as possible! Your Cross has removed my fear of judgment, And has filled my heart with yearning for the day of Your coming! *O Sun of Righteousness, You have shone on me from the Cross, And You have removed all darkness within me. I run to You O light of my heart! https://coptic-treasures.com/ The Light of Truth has shone within me, So I realized that you are He brings fills my life with righteousness! *With John the Baptist-Your forerunner and angel-I rejoice and offer praise to you: I must decrease and You must increase, May I always realize my weaknesses and faults And may Your grace constantly grow! I decrease as I discover more and more my ignorance, And You increase as you reign fully in my depths, And as You are more fully revealed within me, Take complete dominion of all aspects of my life… Amen

< CH 2 CH 4 >