Saint Moses the Strong

The Coptic Orthodox Church is rich with the examples of the saints. Each person, regardless of his/her interests, personality, or vocation can find a saint to whom he/she can relate. The multitude of the saints protect and teach the faithful. We the faithful, and particularly the young adults, should endeavour to develop relationships with the saints and to learn from their example. The Strong St. Abba Moses is a light to the young adults of this age. Let us look at this shining lamp and learn the lessons of repentance and persistence in the spiritual life.
In his youth
Abba Moses was the slave of a high government official. It is said that this government official could not tolerate Abba Moses on account of his violence and dishonesty. His owner, fed up with his way of life, drove him out of his house. Thereafter, Abba Moses became the head of a gang of robbers. Despite his evil way of life, it is said that Abba Moses yearned to know God. He would regularly pray to the sun and say “if you are god let me know, and You the God whom I know not, lead me to You.
His Conversion
Despite his evil way of life, it is said that Abba Moses yearned to know God. He would regularly pray to the sun and say “if you are god let me know, and You the God whom I know not, lead me to You.” God heard his prayer and the deepest wish of his heart and Abba Moses became the disciple of Abba Isidore the priest. This is a beautiful lesson for us: God does not expect us to move mountains (i.e. to remove a certain sin or to change our lives before going to Him). God wants us as we are and it is through Him that we are made new. It is He who is able to move the mountains blocking our way so that we can be with Him.
As would be expected, Abba Moses was, at first, heavily burdened by his sins. How often are we burdened by our habitual sins, unable to break free from the shackles which we have allowed the devil to place upon us? Sometimes we even lose hope in God’s mercy and His ability and willingness to release us from these sins. It is in these times that we should look to Abba Moses and learn from his example. Frequently, he exploded in tears, and had to find relief in kneeling before Abba Isidore and confessing his sins. Let us understand that it is though discipleship and the seeking of guidance from our spiritual fathers that allows us to navigate the difficult and perilous battlefield of satanic warfare. In the end, Abba Moses’ repentance was deep and true. We are taught that when the time for his baptism came, Abba Moses confessed all his past evil deeds publicly in the church. During his confession, Abba Macarius saw a tablet that was all black representing the sins of Abba Moses. An angel was seen wiping off every sin as it was confessed by Abba Moses, until finally the tablet was completely white.
His Teachings and Sayings
Abba Moses taught and said: “If the monk does not think in his heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. The brother said, 'What does that mean, to think in his heart that he is a sinner?' Then the old man said, 'When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbour.”
A certain brother went to Abba Moses in Scete and asked him to speak a word. The elder said to him, "Go and sit ‎in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."‎
If a man's deeds are not in harmony with his prayer, he labors in vain. The brother said, 'What is this harmony between practice and prayer?' The old man said, 'We should no longer do those things against which we pray. For when a man gives up his own will, then God is reconciled with him and accepts his prayers.' The brother asked, 'In all the affliction which the monk gives himself, what helps him?' The old man said, 'It is written, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.'" (Ps.46.1)
The demons did not take Abba Moses’ struggle for repentance lightly. We are told that the Abba Moses was once fighting with the temptation of fornication. Unable to struggle alone in his cell any longer, he ran to Abba Isidore who exhorted him to return to his cell. Abba Moses, out of fear, indicated that he could not return to the fight in his cell. Abba Isidore told Abba Moses to look to the west, there he saw hordes of demons flying about and making a noise before launching an attack. Abba Isidore told him to look toward the east. He turned and saw an innumerable multitude of holy angels shining with glory. Abba Isidore said to him, “those who are with us are more in number than they are.” Then Abba Moses, gave thanks to God, plucked up courage and returned to his cell.
May the Lord grant us a repentance as pure and true as that which he granted Abba Moses.
For, as Fr. Matthew the Poor teaches us, the justification of the ungodly is “a divine action, a supernatural ability incomprehensible to man. It is the richness of heaven which has been poured out with the blood of Christ into our hearts.”

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