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03 - DISCIPLINE OF THE MIND: SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE

SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE:

We all read the Bible and memorize verses, but do we implant these spiritual principles that the verses contain in our minds? In Deuteronomy 6: 6- 9 we are told, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates”.
That means that we have to assimilate what we read in the Bible and imprint them in our hearts and minds, until they become part of our thought process. Here are some examples:
The Bible tells us in Luke 6:26 “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” and again in Luke 6:22-23, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.” According to this, to be despised is more blessed than to be praised. Have I implanted in my mind that when people praise me this is dangerous for my spiritual perfection, and when they despise me and say evil things against me falsely, I am blessed? You may say that this is impossible but it has been done. Bishop Youannis of blessed memory used to go every Thursday to preach in a nearby village. As it is usual in Egypt he had to share a cab with some other people to go to that village. It so happened that a fanatic Moslem used to take the same cab at the same time on Thursdays, and as soon as Bishop Youannis would enter the cab, he would turn the other way and spit!This went on for years. One day the Bishop went on the Taxi but the other guy did not come. Bishop Youannis felt grieved in his heart and started complaining to God, “Why did you deprive me of this blessing Lord? Is it on account of my many sins that you decided that I am no more worthy of this blessing?”
Another Bishop of blessed memory was Bishop Samuel, who was a tireless worker for the Lord, and as usual he had many enemies, people who hated him and sent him very nasty letters. He kept these nasty letters in a drawer. Each time he felt discouraged or cast down, he would open the file and start reading the nasty letters and he would feel refreshed once again because he saw in each insult that he read in these letters a blessing. This is what we mean by implanting what we read in the Bible on our hearts.
The Fathers took training in accepting insults and rejecting praise very seriously. The book of the Paradise of the Fathers tells us two wonderful stories about this discipline of the mind.
One Abba told a novice disciple, go and insult the dead!So, out of obedience, he went to the graveyard and started shouting insults at the dead for a whole day. The next day, his Abba told him, go and praise the dead. He went to the graveyard and started heaping praise on the dead. When he came back in the evening, his master asked him, “When you insulted the dead, did they feel it?” He said,“ No.” Again he asked him, “When you praised the dead, did they feel it?” He answered, “No.” The old man told him, “Go and be like this.”
The other story is about a young man from a rich family who went into a monastery to become a monk. His Abba told him, “Train yourself in accepting insults with joy!” He looked around him, but there was no one to insult him in the monastery. So, he went to the village and hired a man to come to the monastery to insult him, until he got really trained in accepting insults with joy.
One day, he was on an errand in the city, together with the other monks,when a mad man started hurling insults at him and he started laughing!The other monks asked him why he is laughing? He told them, “I used to pay for this, now I am getting it for free!”
The Bible tells us in 1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” and again in James 4:4, “ know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Have we implanted this in our minds? The way to perfection is despising the world and all the things in the world. St. Paul says in Philippians 3:8 “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” St. Paul says I’d rather lose everything to gain the knowledge of Christ, considering all things of the world as dung. Garbage! Have you implanted in your heart that this world is a big garbage can and all the things in it are garbage? If I still look at a car and I am spellbound with awe, is this car not becoming an idol that I worship?
I remember one day I was giving a ride to a group of young people, coming back from an activity, all the way from Mississauga to Kitchener; all they talked about was cars. Have you ever seen one of those big trucks that carry the carcasses of cars, flattened into pieces of metal on the way to the dump? Or have you ever seen a car dump? It looks ugly. Every time you covet a car, tell your mind, in a few years this car will be an ugly piece of metal sitting in an ugly car dump. Train your mind to despise worldly things and to covet spiritual perfection. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:32, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Did I implant in my mind that controlling my anger is actually strength and not weakness? It is easy to respond to angry words with angry words or to aggression with aggression, that is the easy way, the way of the weak. But to control your anger and not to respond in the same kind is the difficult way the way of the strong and the mighty. Have you implanted in your mind that turning the other cheek is not cowardice but is actually courage? You tell me it can’t be done, but I tell you it can.
This is a real story that happened in the nineties. A monk went out to Cairo to do some necessary repairs to some equipment belonging to the monastery. In one of the narrow streets of Cairo, the car he was driving scratched another car parked there. He enquired about the owner, apologized to him and offered to pay for the repairs. The owner was a fanatic, who saw a chance to vent his hatred towards Christians, so he started abusing the monk verbally then slapped him on the face. The monk simply turned the other cheek. The man was taken by surprise, he started crying and apologizing to the monk, telling him, “They tell us that you are bad, but really, you are better than us!” The man asked the monk, what brings him to Cairo, and when he told him about the repairs needed, the man told him that he has a business for repairing this kind of equipment. Not only did he do the repairs for free, but he asked the monk to promise him that every time he needs repairs, he would go no where else.
St. Paul tells us in Philippians 1:23, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” and again in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Did I implant in my mind that death is actually a gain and not a loss? And that to depart and be with Christ is far better? Have I trained my mind to covet that which an eye has not seen, nor an ear has heard, neither have come upon the heart of man? Have I got the proper spiritual understanding of the true meaning of life and death?


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