Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Crossing the Rubicon

Julius Caesar paused before he crossed the Rubicon, a step that would eventually change the world. He knew there would be a high price to pay for his action; that he would have to conquer or die. He had the advantage of a few thousand loyal soldiers at his back of course and ultimately rid Rome of his rivals. 

 At one time or another on our journey through life we will all have such a step to make, especially as Christians in a hostile world where we will often have to stand outnumbered or entirely alone for what we believe in or hold dear.

Sad to say it may not only be in the clearly defined and obvious conflicts with an increasingly godless society; but also within our own Christian organisations. Those who still believe that whilst we can work our side of the street while the devil works his are underestimating his malice and influence. Slithering under the doors of committees, councils and board meetings; he has a man in room, (and perhaps a few ladies). 

Their role is simple and subtle and they play a long game to gradually erode and dismantle and thus render impotent whatever generations of the faithful before them had put in place. This is done through, de-Christianisation of policy, centralised control, modernity and impenetrable bureaucratic structures.

 A recent example I saw close-up showed this precise pattern and, sadly, not for the first time in the organisation’s history, a marvellous piece of work is being corrupted due to a lack of vigilance. A division of the organisation that existed to serve the poor in Christian charity ‘transformed’ over time, systematically and methodically into a business which will feed off the poor and will pad a few retirement plans. 

It is not easy to stand against tyranny, nor great odds, to challenge what you can’t quite put your finger on due to its ‘cloak & dagger’ cleverness and deceit, but we must defend our own Christian organisations from any enemies within, with prayer, courage and collective determination. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

When the people are ready, the master appears..

On returning to the Philippines after 10 years in England; after a particularly exasperating day dealing with corrupt bureaucrats who applied glacial efficiency with anyone who would not pay a bribe, I lost my temper. It was clear that nothing had changed, just new paint on the walls and softer chairs for the clerks (our overlords) in the government office. I concluded that what was needed was not a reformist government but rather, Zorro!  Or someone very much like him, who could cut through red-tape and carve his initials on the backsides of every corrupt official and thief in the land.

A few years and plenty of episodes later we turned to prayer, for several months before our last elections we prayed each morning for change and a good president. It was clear to us that the ‘establishment’ candidates had nothing what-so-ever to offer the country. A mixture of millionaires and billionaires, political or business dynasties who only serve their own self-interest and those of their kind, entirely disconnected from the woes and realities of the majority of people who live day to day.

President Duterte was a last minute entry. He could see not only what the problems affecting the people are, but what needs to be done in order to succeed in tackling them, where others have lacked any real resolve.

Everyone knows what and who the problems are, it’s the first time anyone has tried to change it. It put to my mind Chicago in the 30’s, the gangsters ruling the town and the untouchables beginning to make inroads. Criminals with billions to lose will resist change; they have bought politicians, media, judges, police as well as using lethal force. A collision of values will produce casualties on both sides of the divide. He will go after the corrupt politicians & businessmen, government officials, insurgent groups, those who exploit workers and the drugs distribution networks, no criminal is safe .... .should they be?

Many of the elite in the church oppose him too, as his manner is less cordial than they are used to and he was quick to challenge them to reform their hypocrisy too, offering to provide a list of clerics with mistresses and offspring; even in the church the problems are already known but unwilling to change.

He seems to have had a rather unfair press so far in my opinion, I think he is the best chance the country has had in living memory and as he never sought power but rather took up the gauntlet because he knew he must, not because he wanted to. That is a mark of authentic leadership. I think history will view Duterte as a man who walked with destiny and gave his country the opportunity to change. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


St. Bimoa was saying , "I'll let you know my brethren what happened one day. I heard a voice calling me three times, "Bimoa, Bimoa, Bimoa." I paid attention. That voice was a heavenly one, because that voice wasn’t familiar to me. No one called my name several times. I raised my eyes up to heaven and said, "Speak out Lord, because your servant is listening."
The voice told me, "Get up Bimoa and hurry to the wilderness where you will meet Anba Karras, so that you may take his blessing because he is precious to me more than anyone, and my peace be with you." So I got up and left my church and walked alone into the wilderness with great gladness. I didn't know the way, but I knew for sure that God, who ordered me would lead me.
Three days passed while I was walked on my way alone. On the fourth day I reached one of the caves, the door was closed with a big stone. I walked toward the doorway, and I knocked on the door according to the monks custom and said, "Aghabi (love). Bless me my holy father."
Right then I heard a voice saying to me, "It is good to be here today Bimoa, Priest of the church of Gabal Cheheat. The one who was worthy to shroud the blessed St. Hilliaria, the daughter of the great King Zenon."
Then he opened the door for me and I entered. We greeted each other with a holy kiss and then we sat talking together about God's glories and greatness. I asked him, "My blessed father, is there any other saint who resembles you in this mountain?"
He looked at my face and sighed, then he said to me," My beloved father there is in the inner wilderness a blessed Saint that the world isn’t worthy of one of his footsteps. And he is… Anba Karras. "
Right then I got up and asked him, "So who are you?" He answered me, "My name is Simaan ElKallaa. For sixty years, and up until today I haven't seen a human face. I eat on every Saturday one piece of bread which I find out on the stone, the one in which you saw outside the cave."
After taking his blessing, I walked into the wilderness for three more days. All the while praying and praising until I reached another cave. I knocked on the door and said, "Your blessings on me blessed father."
He answered me, " It is good that you came to us oh you Saint of God, Anba Bimoa. The one who was worthy to shroud the holy body of St. Hillaria the daughter of King Zenon. Enter with peace." I entered and we sat talking, I asked him, "I understood that there was another saintly blessed father who is like you." He paused and sighed saying,
"Woe to me, I'll let you know my father that in this wilderness there is a great saint whose prayer can even stop the heavenly anger. Truly he is a partner of the angels."
I asked him, "What is your name holy father?" He answered, "Abbamoud ElKallaa, and I have been in this wilderness for 99 years. I live off of those palm trees, the kind that have dates, and I thank the Lord Jesus."
After he blessed me and I left with joy and peace. I walked for a while, and then I could not walk because I could not see my way. After a while I opened my eyes and found myself walking in front of a cave inside a rock on the mountain. I walked toward the door and I knocked and said, "Aghabi."
Right then a voice from inside spoke to me saying, "It is good that you came today Anba Bimoa God’s saint, the one who was worthy to shroud the holy body of St. Hillaria the daughter of the great King Zenon. "
I entered the cave and stood staring at him for a long time, because he was venerable and full of awe. He was a very luminous person, and God’s grace was on his face. He was full of light and of average height. He had a long beard with only a few black hairs in it and he was wearing a simple tunic. He was thin, had a soft voice and was holding a walking stick in his hand.
He said to me: "You came to me today and brought death with you, and I have been waiting for you for a long time my beloved one." Then I asked him, "What is your name blessed father?"
He answered saying, "My name is Karras."
I asked him, "For how long have you been in this wilderness? " He answered, "For 57 years I haven't seen a human face, and I have been waiting for you anxiously and happily. "
I stayed with him for a day at the end of which Anba Karras became sick with a high fever. He cried and sighed and said to me, "..and what I was afraid of all my life came to me. Oh Lord, how can I escape from your face and how can I hide? Truly how fearful is that hour. Let it be according to your mercy oh my Lord and not according to my sins."
When the sun rose on the next day Anba Karras was lying down and could not move. And behold a great light, greater than the sunlight was coming through the door. Then entered a very radiant person wearing white clothes as bright as the sun and in his right hand was a luminous cross. I was sitting at Anba Karras' feet and I was afraid and surprised. But this luminous person stepped forward toward Anba Karras and put the cross on his face. He spoke with him a lot and then gave him peace and left. I stepped toward our father Anba Karras to inquire about that person, who had all that glory. He answered with all gladness , "This is our Lord and Master Jesus Christ and this is his custom with me. He comes every day and blesses me, talks to me and then he leaves."
I asked him, "Oh my blessed father I desire to be blessed by His glory."
He answered me and said, "Before you leave this place you will see the Lord Jesus in His glory and He will bless you and talk with you also."
When we reached the seventh day of the month of Abeeb I found Anba Karras raising his eyes which were full of tears up to heaven. He sighed deeply and said to me, "There is a great pillar that fell in Upper Egypt and the earth lost a blessed Saint. The world was not worthy of one of his footsteps. He is Saint Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite. I saw his soul going up to heaven surrounded by angels’ hymns and I heard crying and mourning rising from all of Upper Egypt's earth. The monks gathered around his holy body taking a blessing from him and his body was luminous."
When I heard that, I memorized the date and kept it in mind, it was on the 7th of Abeeb that Anba Shenouda passed away. On the next day, 8th of Abeeb, Anba Karras' illness worsened and in the middle of the day a great light appeared that filled the cave. The Saviour of the world entered preceded by the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, and many angels with six wings, accompanied by the voices of prayer and hymns here and there, and with the smell of incense. I was sitting at Anba Karras' feet while our Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory was sitting at the head of St. Anba Karras, who held our Saviors right hand. He asked him for me, "My Lord and my God bless him because he came from very far cities and a long distance for this day."
The Lord looked at me and said, "May my peace be with you Bimoa, what you saw and heard you will write and preach. But you my beloved Karras every human that knows your life story and mentions your name on earth, will have my peace and I will count him with the Martyrs and the Saints. Every person that presents wine, corban, incense, oil or candles in your memory, I will reward him twofold in the kingdom of heaven. Any one who feeds the hungry or gives drink to the thirsty, or clothes to the naked or welcomes a stranger in your name’s sake, I will reward him double in my kingdom. And who writes your holy biography I will write his name in the Book of Life. Anyone who shows mercy in your memory day I will give him what the eye has never seen and what the ear has never heard and what the heart never felt. Now my beloved Karras I want you to ask me for something that I can do for you before your departure."
Anba Karras asked him, " My Lord I have been praying the psalms day and night and I wished to see David the prophet while I am still in the flesh. "
In the blink of an eye David came holding his harp in his hand and he was singing the psalm,
"This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad.." pslam117 v.24
Anba Karras said, "I want to hear the ten cords together with the tune and melody." David moved his harp and sang,
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." pslam116 v.15
While David was singing his psalms with his beautiful voice, and while the Saint was very pleased, his soul departed from his blessed body to the bosom of our Good Saviour who took it and presented it to the Archangel Michael.
Then, I Bimoa kissed the flesh of St. Anba Karras and buried him. The Glorious Lord pointed to me to leave the cave, which I did. Then Lord Jesus Christ surrounded by His angels left in front of the spirit, among songs and hymns. We left the body in the cave, and then the Glorious Lord put His hand on the cave and it became as if it had never had a door that could be opened. All of them raised up to heaven in happiness. I stayed standing alone in that place until that beautiful view vanished from my sight, then I closed my eyes to contemplate the bright light and the beautiful view. When I opened my eyes I found myself in front of the cave of Anba Abbamoud ElKallaa. I stayed three days and then I left him and I went to Anba Samaan ElKallaa. I stayed with him three days and then I left and returned to Shaheet Mountain where my church is. There I met all the brethren and told them the life story of St. Anba Karras the Great Anchorite, and his sayings about Anba Shenouda, the Archimandrite’s, departure.
After five days we got a message from Upper Egypt saying that St. Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite passed away on the same day that Anba Karras had seen.
May the blessings of St. Mary the Mother of Light and St. Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite and Anba Karras the Anchorite be with us all.
Glory be to God for ever and ever....

Monday, 6 June 2016

God is faithful

A lady sat at the back of a church weeping; not entirely sure if she was praying, grieving, or worrying. The day before her husband had thrown himself off a bridge over a river and had died from his injuries.

She had prayed for him their whole married life. He was a mean drunk, a womaniser, gambler, but somehow she still loved him, saw the good in him and had kept up her prayers for him for decades, despite seeing no sign or apparent change in him. Now it seemed too late, had her prayers been in vain ?

Even though it was still early morning, the church started to fill up and a long line of penitents formed a queue along the aisle outside the confessional box.

A few moments later the PP came out of the confessional and walked down the isle towards her, stopping at her row. He sat down next to her. (She had never met him before). After a few seconds he said “He turned to God in his heart, just before his face hit the water, your prayer was answered” 

He walked back up the aisle to continue his daily 18 hour stint in the confessional. (He was the Cure of Ars).

Her sorrow turned to joy, God had saved her husband after all. God’s mercy had pursued him to the very end. 

There is no such thing as a lost cause this side of death.