Our fathers, the Apostles preached with their life. They went to the places to which the Holy Spirit invited them, sent by the Church, and put their lives in their mission. The voyages took months, and the time spent in their apostolate proved to be a great sacrifice. They took it from their own life for the service of Christ and they gave Him all their life. They traveled not knowing when they would return, because the voyages took such a long time, the places they visited were unknown to them, they surely faced difficulties, as the Lord had previously warned them, "They will put you out of the synagogues: yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service." (John 16:2). Besides all this, there were the many dangers of the road and the evil people, as St. Paul said, "In journeys often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the gentiles, in perils of the city, in perils of the wilderness, in perils of the sea, in perils among false brethren." (II Corinthians 11:26). With all these dangers they had no material help as in our modern times, such as the telephone, the mail, the general services, the security, etc.

They also had to face many tribulations as mentioned by St. Paul. He clarified that the life of the Apostles was totally and entirely dependant on God, "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us." (II Corinthians 1:8-10).

Did Paul take a salary for his efforts? Of course not, but as he said, "And we labor, working with our own hands." (I Corinthians 4:12). "For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the Gospel of God" (I Thessalonians 2:9). "Nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you." (II Thessalonians 3:8).

An Elder was once asked about the difference between the Ancients and those who followed them. He answered, "There was a rich and wise person who asked for "pure musk." As he could not find the genuine musk he wanted, he traveled far and wide by land and by sea until he reached China. He offered presents to the king of the land and asked him to give him musk. He even requested that he cuts it himself with his own hands. He took the musk and when he returned, he gave it to his children. In their turn, his children gave it to theirs. Little by little, they started to cheat and mix it with a substance that resembled the original musk in color, but had a different odor. As time went by, the falsified substance replaced the true musk, and no odor was left, only the shape and the name. Thus did the Ancient Elders, they were courageous in life and death, they tasted tribulation, they endured oppression, they offered themselves as living spiritual offerings and they were granted spiritual knowledge; they became the dwelling of God and they sensed the mysteries. Eventually the mystery came to us in shape and name only. The affairs of our Lord are bitterness followed by delight, darkness followed by light, sadness followed by joy, but the affairs of the world are delights followed by bitterness, light followed by darkness, joy followed by sadness. The one who knows the truth must have tasted the experience of these people, and not only heard of them."

That is why St. Paul was able to say, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24).

Copyright © 2007 Saint Antony Coptic Orthodox Monastery, California, U.S.A. The above article may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Saint Antony Coptic Orthodox Monastery, California, U.S.A.



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