1- THE RELEASE OF THE SPIRIT
By H. H. Pope Shenouda III
The Spiritual Book Committee has chosen one of the fruits of the Coptic library to be its first book for the promotion of spiritual knowledge. The Coptic Orthodox Church is well known not only for its heritage of martyrs and saints but also for its heritage of theologians and writers who defended the orthodox faith and interpreted the word of God in truth.
The Coptic Orthodox Church has witnessed a strong spiritual revival in the second part of this century. One of the signs of this revival was the immense writings and publications which started in the fifties. At that time, a pioneer book was "The Release of the Spirit" whose writer was a young man, a church servant, "Nazeer Gayed", the editor-in-chief of Sunday School Magazine, who is presently Pope Shenouda III. This was the last book he wrote as a layman just before his monastic vows in 1954. Also, it is considered the first fruit of the immense writings of Pope Shenouda III. The first edition of this book was published in Arabic in 1954 by the "Sunday School House" (which publishes also the Sunday School Magazine), and was followed by several other Arabic editions and an English translation.
From the start of the book the writer made it clear that the title "The Release of the Spirit" did not mean the departure of the spirit from the body as in Simon the elder's statement "Lord, let your servant depart in peace" but the liberation of the spirit while still in the body, that is its release from all bondage so that man can experience the perfect peace and live in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
All the titles of the chapters of this book reflect this meaning: The release of the spirit.. from bonds (3), Yourself and the praise of people (8), Yourself and the offenses of people (9), Be released from yourself (10), Yourself in the presence of God (11), Be released from your earthly desires (12), Be released from the influence of the senses (13), Be released from the desire to be teachers (16), Be released from the feeling of possession (17), etc...
Although the book deals with spiritual depth, the reader will not find abstract theories but practical experience that was once lived by godly people who struggled and lived victoriously. The writer supports his concepts with practical examples from the Bible. The book also contains meditations and spiritual exercises that are useful to everyone, young or old, servant or student, monk or layman, as guidelines to follow in their spiritual growth.
The book also clearly expresses the patristic thought of orthodox ascetism. Hence, it is not strange that when the author lived according to the concepts of his book, he was liberated from the bondage of this world to a life totally consecrated to God. He became a monk, lived in solitude until he was called by the grace of God to pastor and serve his people.
There is a chapter (# 20) in the book entitled "It happened that night" where the writer gives an account of a dream or a vision which is a practical lesson for every servant to live by. It gives the real meaning of a servant, humbling him(her)self at the feet of the Lord, presenting him(her)self as a living testimony, delivered from a service based on words and appearances and self righteousness. This chapter is worth being studied repeatedly in servants' meetings.
In spite of the seriousness of the book, it is written in a simple and easy to read style, which is so attractive that you may not be able to leave the book before reaching the last page. It will also excite your heart and mind to read it over and over again. You might also encourage your relatives, contacts and friends to read it so as to help their spirits also to be liberated from bondage.
To obtain this book:
In order to encourage its members to study this book together in the next two months (December 95, January 96), Saint Mark Orthodox Fellowship has decided to provide all its members who request the book on the enclosed "Response Card" during December 1995 with a free copy of the book.
The book can be obtained any time from the Coptic Bookstores, Coptic Church Libraries or from Pope Shenouda's III Library at PO Box 337, Cedar Grove, NJ 07009.