I would like to thank you all brothers and beloved. I am not only present with you now but you are always in my heart. I lived all my days in your hearts and I am still living there… And when I went to the monastery I took you all with me in my heart and mind. For you I am here, and for you I go there… I took you in my heart and my mind, you and your pains and problems to put them all before God and before those who are in charge… And I thank God a lot because some of these problems have been solved and some are still remaining and needs solution… And the students or the youths who are in jail, without any fault committed from their side, I will continue to be sad for them and I will keep praying for them until they are all released from jail… And whatever people can not solve, God will solve. And God accustomed us to the fact that He is always with us and we trust Him and believe in His work and wait for the Lord…
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You know that in every hardship I say three statements: "God is present," "Everything works for the good," and "It is destined to end." And tonight I would like to talk to you about the statement, "God is present." From the theological and dogmatic point of view, all believers around the world believe that God exists… But I would like to address this subject from the point of God’s presence in our life and from the point of our feeling of His presence and work in us.
"God is present" means God sees, God hears, and God knows what is happening. God will handle it and act and will never leave matters the way they are…
God is present everywhere, with everyone, and in every occasion. And we are used to see God’s hand clearly in our life and all what we face. We saw God in every time stepping-in in our life matters and this is our belief. We do not deal with people a lot but we deal more with God Himself.
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God is present as the Pantocrator. And we mention this characteristic a lot in our prayers.
The Pantocrator, meaning that all is under His hand, all is under His control… All people are in God’s hands. Believe me, even the devil himself and all the evil powers are controlled by God Himself, Who draws limits for them. Otherwise, if the strong ate the weak, people would have never lived on earth, unless if God was interfering and interfering strongly as well. God created the universe and did not leave it but He manages all its matters…And I constantly say to everyone: You are not alone. You are living life and God is with you. He never leaves you for a single moment, nor for a twinkling of an eye.
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"God is present" for He is the Shepherd of us all…
And so the chanter says in the psalm: "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters." And says "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me." (Ps. 23).
The Lord also says in the Book of Ezekiel: "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down… I will
seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick… and feed them in judgment" (Ez. 34:15, 16). We trust in God’s care for us. We trust Him in everything. Even from the side of His rod and staff we say "they comfort me"… We trust in the Glorious Lord’s saying about His flock: "neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand… and no one is able to snatch them out of My Fr.’s hand." (Jn. 10:28, 29).
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When we say "God is present" we mean that He is the Preserver and the Supporter.
We always chant a phrase from the psalm "The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore." (Ps. 121). It is a phrase that the guardian angel says to every human while he prays. Or the praying person repeats this to himself to comfort himself, calm down and assure himself.
The Lord said to our father Jacob: "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land" (Gen. 28:15). He also is the one who preserved the prophet Jonah in the fish’s belly and saved the three young men in the burning fiery furnace so that the hair of their head was not singed (Dan. 3). He saved Daniel in the lions’ den so that he chanted his loving song "My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths." (Dan. 6:22).
God is the one who saved the righteous Joseph from his brothers when they threw him in the well, saved him when he was sold as a salve and served in Photiphar’s house, saved him when he was thrown in jail and gave him back his honor multiplied so that he finally said to his brothers: "you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." (Gen. 50:20).
We believe that God saves us from the devil, from sins and from tribulations. He saved St .Athanasius when he was exiled four times, saved St. John in his exile on the Island of Patmos and appeared to him and showed him many visions. Even the children, He says about them in the psalm: "The LORD preserves the simple" (Ps. 116:6). We also will get very troubled if we forget that God is present and He preserves us.
And God’s history in keeping us is a long history that we will not forget.
I wish that every one of us sits with himself and remember how many times God preserved him. And praise the Lord saying: "Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:" (Ps 103:1, 2).
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In the phrase "God is present" we remember that God is the One taking care of all.
He said: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt. 11:28).
Thus, the Bible says: "Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you" (Ps 55:22) and the psalm says: "May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble" (Ps. 20:1).
Yes, God, in whom we believe, has a great characteristic which is "the Comforter of the troubled" so "Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!" (Ps 27:14) for God is the one caring for all.
He even takes care of animals and birds, even the worm that moves beneath a stone…
"He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens that cry" (Ps 147:9)–even the birds of the air who neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns "your heavenly Fr. feeds them" (Mt. 6:26). He also says about the sparrows: "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Fr.’s will." (Mt. 10:29). And after this He says: "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."
God took care of animals and birds in Noah’s Ark and took care of Noah along with animals and beasts. He also took care of butterflies and gave them beautiful colors. "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Mt. 6:29). And He took care of singing birds and gave them beautiful voices without them asking Him for it. He took care of the bee and gave it the art of making honey and organizing its work. He cared for the peacock and gave it beauty in its feathers. If it was so with animals and birds, then He cared for the humans much more!
God cares for us more than we do for ourselves!
And we live this faith. He says: "I will not leave you nor forsake you" (Jam. 1:5). Therefore, we rely on Him and His promise that states: "If a woman forgets her nursing child I will not forget you".
And He cares for us through His angels and their protection to us.
The psalm says about that: "For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone." (Ps. 91:11, 12). And in our daily prayers we say: "Surround us by Your holy angels, that, by their camp, we may be guarded and guided." And we believe in the guardian angel who guards every person. We have a constant relationship with angels. And the day before yesterday we were celebrating the feast of Archangel Michael.
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When we say "God is present," we remember God’s tenderness and kindness.
If God was tender with birds and insects, then how much He is with mankind. It was out of God’s kindness to humanity that He gave him the mind, soul and will. He gave him conscience, He gave him the divine response and promised him eternal life. He gave him the blessing, the authority, the perseverance and gave him what he did not ask for and more than he asks for. And that is, if he cries, God will wipe away every tear from his eyes…
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If God is so in His kindness, then why does He allow trials to come?
God allows trials to come because of their benefits. Saint James says about that: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (Jam. 1:2). And we should know the reasons behind every trial coming on us and how to deal with it.
+ Among the benefits of trials is that they gather us in one heart compassioning with one another.
And I, in the last ten days, in the monastery, met with more than 1800 reverend priests from all dioceses, and with 63 of the reverend bishops and metropolitans other than those who called me on the telephone. And this is how the trial gathers us all together. We think with one mind. And see what our problems are and work on solving them in one spirit. And in today’s meeting 45 reverend metropolitans and bishops and 240 reverend priests are attending with us.
+ Also among the benefits of trials is that when a trial come upon us we start checking ourselves from inside for each to settle an account with oneself, and reconcile with God if
we were far from Him. And in trials, we see that people in their fasts, prayers and taking communion were reconciling with God so that they ask Him without shame. This is according to the Lord’s saying: "Return to Me, and I will return to you" (Ml 3:7).
+ Among the benefits of trials is that they reveal things to us and give us a clearer vision. As the poet says: "May God bless tribulations By them I distinguished my enemy from my friend."
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+ Also among the benefits of trials is that through them we see God’s hand working with us and with others.
In trials we gain a spiritual experience by which we see that God is present. We, brothers, practically recognize God and His work, not through theology books or doctrine books but in our whole life path. We do not only believe in God about whom the books talk, but we believe more in God who we see in our life exactly if He is present in front of us. And we see how He works and we admire His power and wisdom. God is blessed in all His work with us…
+ Through trials we then gain spiritual experience with God and the events.
It is a school that we call the school of trials. A spiritual school. And every person going through trials grows in knowledge, wisdom and experience. And goes into a training on how to deal with matters and see how they are solved in front of him.
+ And in trials we see the verse saying: "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible" (Mk 10:27).
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+ And when we meditate in trials. We see that they are all for the good.
As the Bible says: "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Rom. 8:28). And trials, my brothers, are not a type of abandonment because they come with help. The trial is always in the bounds of our capabilities to bear it. It also comes with an outcome as the bible says: "but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13).
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We always face the trial with a peace of heart… The matter, of course, needs wisdom in acting, with the peace of heart.
We are trying to find a solution. And when it is hard to find one, we put the trail in God’s hands. Or we put God between us and the trial so that we see God and do not see the trial. And we feel that God is present with us. We leave our problems between His hands and we believe in His loving kind hand…
+ Therefore, we ask God to handle the remaining matters. And we hope that He solves them…
Let us pray.