The Feast of Nayrouz -H.H. Pope Tawadros II – Weekly Wednesday Sermon - September 11, 2019


Thursday September 12, 2019
The Feast of Nayrouz -H.H. Pope Tawadros II – Weekly Wednesday Sermon - September 11, 2019

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen. May His grace and mercy rest upon us, from now and forevermore. Amen.

By the grace of Christ I will read the first seven verses from the 13th Chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, and consider this to be the message for this New Year.
1 Let brotherly love continue.
2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
6 So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
The grace of God the Father be with us all. Amen.
As we celebrate and begin the new Coptic year, we remember that it is based on the calendar of the martyrs and is the calendar by which the Coptic Church follows for all her feasts and fasts and seasons. And so our Church is aligned with the Coptic year and its months.

And we call the months of the Coptic year “mathematical months” because they are pre-calculated to be 30 days each, except for the final month which is known as the “short month” or the month of “El Nasii,” which is usually either 5 or 6 days. This is in contrast to the Gregorian calendar year and the Islamic calendar year (which is a lunar year) whose months can be either 29, 30, or 31 days.
And so as we arrive at the days of Nayrouz and celebrate a New Year, there are three very important things we should know about the Coptic Church.
Three characteristic of the Coptic Church
1. A Church of martyrs
The first thing is that across its history and the ages, our Coptic Church has been a Church of martyrs – this is how she is characterized. All the way from St. Mark – the saint and martyr – to our current day and age and to the end or the ages, among the Churches of the world the Coptic Church has been characterized as being a Church of martyrs. And our attitude toward martyrdom is a joyous one and this is in accordance with the Christian perspective that we practice in our Church.
2. A history of love
The second thing is that the history of the Church’s martyrs is a history of love. In all of the Church’s history we never hear of anyone cursing while they were being martyred, but rather, it is history of love and love from the heart, and we see this attitude of love in every story we read of any of the lives of the saints.
3. Repentance is a form of martyrdom
The third thing is that the word ‘martyrdom’ does not mean that a person is called to die, but that another powerful means of martyrdom is the martyrdom of repentance, because a person who repents is a martyr. Why? Because he abstains and denies himself from doing anything that would conflict with Christian principles, he lives very carefully and watchfully, he stays close to God, and he lives his life according to his spiritual program and does not lose his spiritual alertness. And so the word ‘martyr’ also applies to a person who is continually offering repentance.
And if you will notice in our Church, night and day and throughout all days and all occasions, the Church never ceases to talk about repentance, never. Every sermon you attend you will find the speaker talking about repentance, and when you read the Bible you find it directing you toward repentance, and so a person’s life and their focus should be about repentance.
And so you should always connect the two: that we are a Church of martyrs and that we are a Church of repentance, a repentant Church. And there is a verse you all know and love, it says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk 8:36), because suppose a person gained the whole world and everything in it, everything he ever imagined and dreamt of, then what? Then lose himself?
And you know the story of Solomon the wise. One day the Lord told him, “For the sake of your father, the Prophet David, ask for anything you want and whatever you ask for I will give you,” (cf. 2 Chr 1:7). But Solomon did not ask for money nor for honor nor for position nor fame, nor any such thing, but he said, “Lord, I desire that You grant me a heart of wisdom and knowledge” (cf. 2 Chr 1:10). And because this was his prayer, God gave him the desire of his heart as well as all the other blessings, but when he received the many other blessings and graces Solomon began to stray off the right path and fell into many sins.
And when toward the end of his life he started coming back to himself and repenting, Solomon made the very beautiful statement: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and there is no profit that a man has from all his labor in which he toils under the sun” (cf. Eccl 1:2-3).
I plead with you that you don’t just read these words and feel that they are just beautiful words, but no, these are words for life, words for you to learn and live by.
And so what are we to do in the New Year? I will take just a few minutes to tell you what three things you can do in the New Year.
1-Be an honest, faithful person
The first thing for you to do in the New Year is that you commit to being a faithful person. If there is anything in your life that is dishonest or unfaithful – whether on the level of thought, speech, action, behavior or manners, stand before the Lord today and say, “Lord, today I will begin anew with You. I am going to start being a faithful person in my life.”
And there is a very nice verse in the Book of Revelation: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). And may the Lord protect you all, but if one is careless about their spiritual life, this is a form of faithlessness. If a person is careless in their family life, this is a form of faithlessness. If a person is careless in their Church life and Church service, this is a form of faithlessness. And if a person is inwardly careless when it comes to his character and his relationship with the Lord, this also is a form of carelessness.
And so what do you think, that starting from this night you stand before the Lord and pour out all your weaknesses before Him and say to Him, “Lord, I am going to make a fresh start with You”? And so the first thing for you to do is to be faithful in every area in your life.
2-Practice serving everyone and anyone
The second thing for you to do is to learn how to serve others, no matter who they are or how they are. “Oh yes, but I already serve those in my household, those in my Church, those in my neighborhood,” and all this is good, but set your attitude to being that your service is open to all, that you are willing to serve everyone, and this is what St. Paul called “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6).
Are you a Christian person? Do you have faith within you? And is this faith of yours strong? Strong faith like that of the martyrs?
And as we celebrate this Coptic New Year with its traditions, such as eating red dates and guava – because the red dates remind us of the blood of the martyrs and the white guavas full hard seeds remind us of their unbreakable and upright faith – while these are all good things and we observe these traditions outwardly, but inwardly, let us learn how to serve others.
I will remind you of a story you like very much, the story of St. Stephen, the first martyr. As he knelt down and everyone around him was getting ready to stone him, he served them by praying for them. Can you just imagine this scene? He is kneeling down in their midst, they are all surrounding him getting ready to stone him and accusing him of many crimes including the crime of blaspheming against God, yet while he is in the midst of all this he prays for them, as it says, “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin’” (Acts 7:60). And so teach yourself to serve every person, no matter how small the act of service may be, because what does it say about even a cup of cold water? Its reward is never lost (cf. Mt 10:42) – just a cup of water you offer a person who is in need of it.
3-Keep your thinking set on heavenly things and on your eternal life
The third and final thing is that you always set your attention and focus toward eternal life. Always keep your thinking set on heavenly things. In every age the Lord permits for there to be martyrs in order that our thoughts may be with them, because we love martyrs very much. This is just as if you are named after a martyr, then you will continually think about that saint and how they are living in heaven.
And a person who maintains their attention on eternity is a person who strives for the kingdom. Accomplish as much as you want to here on earth and the Lord will bless you in all you do and you will grow and gain fame and be great in all things, good. Then what? What next? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” And so, live watchfully.
And this is why it is important for you to keep the vision of eternal life present before you at all times. So whenever you are walking about or riding any form of transportation, lift your eyes up to heaven and think about your eternal life, think about your place in heaven and about your portion there, about the kingdom and about Christ’s Second Coming.
Our Church even teaches us to sit facing the east, why? In anticipation of Christ’s coming. And at the end of the Creed of Faith we say, “We await the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come.”
And so always keep in your life – not in eating and drinking and studying and the kids and all the daily worries – no. All this is factual? Yes, but what is more important is that your attention and your priority always be toward your eternal life.
And on the occasion of the Coptic Church celebrating the Feast of Nayrouz we remember three very nice statements made by St. John Golden-mouth regarding how the martyrs have served us, he said:
1. “The witness of the martyrs is a sermon for the Christian person.” Every story you read of the life of a saint is a sermon in and of itself, which is why another beautiful thing about our Church is that we read the book of the Synexarium every day.
2. “The witness of the martyrs is a support for the Christian Church,” meaning that the martyrs support us, they help us, they stand beside us.
3. “The witness of the martyrs is an anchor of steadfastness for the Christian faith,” which is why the Lord gives us martyrs in every generation and in every age.
And so to review: the witness of the martyrs is a sermon for the Christian person, a support for the Christian Church, and an anchor of steadfastness for the Christian faith – these were the expressions of St. John Golden-mouth.
May the Lord bless this New Year and as we say, “The sinners who repented, count them among Your faithful ones, and count Your faithful ones with Your martyrs.” And may the Lord grant us to always abide in this way of thinking, within the Church that gathers us together, and as we sang in the hymn earlier today, “Light up, O Church, our Church is lit up with the martyrs.”
Happy New Year. To our God be the all the glory, forevermore. Amen.