December 2013 Letter
With the year coming to an end, and in preparing to start the New Year, we quote some of the spiritual principles of the book of the late Bishop Youannis entitled: “The mistakes of the past year are the lessons for the new year”, hoping to be useful to teach us and a blessing to our lives.
1) Examining ourselves: the first principle to be always remembered is that we’re all under sin. If someone like St. Paul the Apostle says: “sinners, of whom I am chief” (1Tim 1: 15), what should we say? We have to admit that we’re weak, and that he who admits his mistake is acceptable to God, but he who does not recognize his mistakes is rejected by God: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jhn 1: 9). Being aware of this fact makes us examine ourselves looking for reasons and ways of how sin enters in our lives, as is said in the book of Revelation: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent” (Rev 2: 5). And examining ourselves is different from confession to the priest, because confession is on long intervals, but when we sit with ourselves to check and review our mistakes; we prepare ourselves in order to go to confess.
2) Address our weaknesses: every person has certain weaknesses that the devil knows and fights us with, we therefore must know our weaknesses and address them. But we shouldn’t think that we have gotten rid of a certain sin by confessing it once, we may need a long time in striving to completely leave that sin.
3) Be aware that mistakes don’t mean failure: mistakes are something but failure is another, and even if I feel I’m a sinful person I should never fall into failure or despair. We are now in the time of mercy, love, forgiveness, so we still have the opportunity to correct our mistakes. Our God is compassionate but in the end there will be judgment without mercy for those who did not show mercy.
4) Learn the virtue of diligence: every person should be careful because sins often come because of carelessness and recklessness, we must learn from our previous mistakes. As one of the church fathers said: “I do not remember that the devil made me fall in one thing twice”.
Please remember the church, the priests, the servants and their services always in your prayers, and may the blessings of St. Mary and St. Mercurius and the blessing of the Nativity fast be with us always, Amen.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, December 1, 2013