Lessons from the River Nile

Do you know that the origin of this river derived from drops of water which fell as rain, accumulated, and became a river?

Could not we learn that any major project might start with a simple thing, perhaps an idea? It is said in proverbs that “the longest journey begins with a step.”

The first sin started with a simple sitting with the serpent. Perhaps the biggest fight begins with a word.

We can learn from the Nile that the soft drip of water, if it fell orderly and continually on a rock or mountain, it can carve a way in it: an important lesson on patience and perseverance.

This water carries the clay from the mountains of Ethiopia. At the first sight, it looks unclear, but it contains the silt which causes the fertility of Egypt and covers its sand with silt.

This muddy water sings with the Bride in the Song of Songs, “I am dark, but lovely” (Song 1.5). In spite of such murkiness, this water carries in it good sweetness to its drinker, as the sweetness of the lives of Augustine and Moses the Black, which appeared after their repentance.

Before the cutting of the channel of the Nile, the water was flowin on the sides, making swamps. But, later, its channel has deepened, bit by bit, and water became stable.

This give us an idea on the grading in the spiritual life, and the patience of the soul until it reaches its stability after a while. We are not to judge those who are in the “swamps” stage and have not yet reached the deep and stable channel.

We must also praise the two banks of the river between which the river runs. They are not two barriers which limit its freedom, but they are two protectors for its safekeeping. Like the Commandments, they do not restrict, but protect freedom.

It is a long journey the Nile has made until it reached us, giving its riches to the countries it passed: Ethiopia, Nubia, Sudan, Egypt, and all the surrounding deserts. This teaches us to give or make good to whoever we pass by.

Pope Shenouda III, Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria. Words of Spiritual Benefit, saying 101 (with a little editing of the translation from me).


  1. My posting this within the category “Eastern Orthodox” perhaps needs explanation. It is simple: I am lazy. While the Coptic Orthodox Church is part of the “Oriental Orthodox” communion, I don’t find the distinction between “Eastern” and “Oriental”, at the level of a blog category, sufficiently crucial as to require separation into two categories of “Eastern Orthodoxy” and “Oriental Orthodoxy”, particularly considering that all these labels are creations of the twentieth century. Reducing the category’s label to “Orthodoxy” is too ambiguous. These are Orthodox things rooted in the East. This, my choice in labeling, is not intended to blur the lines of our separate communions, by any means. Anything I post in the “Eastern Orthodoxy” category is something which either is sourced in the Great Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church or is amenable to it. Pope Shenouda’s words are surely the latter, and are likewise surely words of spiritual benefit to all persons of any faith, or even of no faith at all (may the Lord have mercy on such souls).

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