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The Life According To The Commandments Of The Gospel

The Life According To The Commandments Of The Gospel - St Shenouda Pimonakhos Articles

From his very early entry into the monastery, a monk should occupy himself with all possible care and attention with the reading of the Holy Gospel. He should make such a study of the Gospel that it may always be present in his memory, and at every moral step he takes, for every act, for every thought, he may always have ready in his memory the teaching of the Gospel. Such is the injunction of the Saviour Himself. This injunction is linked with a promise and a threat in sending His disciples to preach Christianity, the Lord said to them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28: 19)

The promise consists in the fact that the person who fulfils the commandments of the Gospel will not only be saved but will also enter into the most intimate union with God and become a divinely built temple of God. The Lord said: He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him. (Jn 14:21)

From these words of the Lord, it is evident that the commandments of the Gospel must be so studied that they become the possession, the property of the mind; only then is the exact, constant fulfillment of them possible such as the Lord requires. The Lord reveals Himself to the doer of the commandments spiritually, and He is seen with the spiritual eye, with the mind. The person sees the Lord in himself, in his thoughts and feelings transfigured by the Holy Spirit. On no account must the Lord be expected to appear to the eyes of sense. This is clear from the words of the Gospel that follow those we have just quoted “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (Jn 14:23) It is evident that the Lord comes to the heart of the person who carries out the commandments and makes his heart a temple and dwelling of God. In this temple God is seen. He is seen not with the bodily eyes but with the mind. He is seen spiritually. This form of vision is incomprehensible to the beginner and cannot be explained to him in words. Accept the promise with faith. In due time you will understand it by blessed experience.

The threat to a person remiss in the fulfillment of the commandments of the Gospel is contained in the prediction for him of unfruitfulness, estrangement from God, perdition. The Lord said: ‘Without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is lopped off like a branch and withers: and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments you will remain in My love. Not everyone who calls Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of My Father in heaven. On that day (the day of judgment) many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Thy name, and expel demons in Thy name, and do many miracles in Thy name?’ And then I will confess to them, ‘I have never known you. Depart from Me, you whose work is sin.’ (Matt 7: 22)

The giver, teacher and model of humility, our Lord Jesus Christ; called His all-holy, almighty, divine commandments `the least’ on account of the very simple form in which they are expressed and which makes them easy to understand and easy to carry out for every type of person, even the most uneducated. But at the same time the Lord added that a deliberate and constant breaker of even one commandment will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, or, according to the explanation of the holy Fathers, will be deprived of the heavenly Kingdom and will be cast into the fire of gehenna.’

The Lord’s commandments are Spirit and life. They save the doer of them. They restore a dead soul to life. They make a carnal and worldly person spiritual. On the other hand a person who neglects the commandments ruins himself and remains in a carnal and worldly state, in a fallen condition, and develops the fall in himself. The animal man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him.’ And therefore it is indispensable for salvation to be changed from an animal man into a spiritual, from the old man into the new.’ Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” And therefore it is essential for salvation to be freed not only from the influence of the flesh or coarse passions, but also from the influence of the blood by means of which the passions act on the soul. Those who go far from you (not by position of body but by disposition of soul which dodges from doing the will of God) will perish. You destroy all who go following after their own will and their own understanding, by refusing the commandments of the Gospel or the will of God. The latter necessarily accompanies the former. But it is good for me, as a true monk, to cling to God, to put my trust in the Lord.