500 metres away from the famous monastery of St. Pishoy (Deir el Anba Bishoy), is the less known, but still known, monastery of the Syrians, “Deir El Sourian”. The monastery itself has had its recent greats. Bishop Theophilus will go down in history as one of the most charismatic abbots of that monastery. He was the abbot who had all sorts of ways of testing new novices before coming, and it was he who admitted Nazir Gayid to the monastery, who would one day become the thrice-blessed Pope Shenouda III. This monastery also gave us two modern elder saints that have been making their way in the world: Elder Matthias (Mettaous) and Elder Philotheos (Faltaos). There are, of course others. Copts of course are not as keen, it seems, on preserving the written record of some of the teachings of these elders. I pray that we acquire that.
Continue reading Abouna Antonious El Souriani
The recent passing of several giants has grieved me. There were the passings of Fathers Feltaous and Mettaous of the Syrian Monastery, then the passing of Anba Mikhail of Assiut. These and others, to me, symobolise the ending of a great era, a loss of giants. Hearing the news of Abouna Fanous el Anba Bola today, only added to this feeling. With every passing generation, I fear, humanly, that there’s a rich tradition that dies with them. I feel that there are secrets and mysteries that are symbolically lost forever. There are ways that are not explained, and stories that are untold. They are the ones that link us to the past, that tell us of the monks of old and can see with clarity the monks of our generation. They were stalwart pillars of the philosophy of monasticism, and no longer can they, in the flesh, transmit ancient truths to us modern hearers. I pray He raises up a new generation from among us.
Continue reading Remembering Abouna Fanous…
Abbâ Muthues used to say that there were three brethren who were in the habit of coming to Abbâ Antony, and that two of them used to ask him questions about the thoughts, and about life, and redemption, and the discretion (or intelligence) of the soul, whilst the third one held his peace continually. And after a long time Abbâ Antony said unto him, “Brother, thou comest here each year, and askest nothing!” And he answered and said unto the old man, “It is sufficient for me to see thee.”
The Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers (Vol. 2, p. 189)
Continue reading In the presence of holiness.
Some old men said, “If you see a young man climbing up to the heavens by his own will, catch him by the foot and throw him down to the earth; it is not good for him.”
– Paradise of the Fathers
This week I was saddened to hear about the passing of a righteous elder, Abouna Stefanos Anba Bishoy. He was a monk of several decades, and the right hand man and steward of the monastery of Saint Pishoy in Wadi Natrun. While Paradise rejoices at the arrival of a struggling hero, I cannot help but feel sadness at the fleshly separation, at the end of the day, I am still a man. I want to share some meditations about what I observed in him over the last two years.
Continue reading A true elder: remembering Abouna Stefanos
“Always carry a cross!” The monk instructed him, “Never go anywhere without it. Never do anything without signing it with the cross first: sitting down, laying down, opening a drink, anything!” With that, he promptly signed the cross where the two of them would sit…
Little did the youth know how the story would become real…
Continue reading A boy, his cross, and his intercessor.
A youth finds himself in the monastery of the great Saint Antony. It’s not a normal occurrence, as this youth tends to dislike monasteries. It’s not that he has anything against monks or monasteries themselves, but rather that he finds them remarkably boring.
Continue reading A monastery, a monk, and a heart: paradigm shift on holiness.
It is pitch black. He is unaware that more than fourteen kilometres lay before him, in his mind there are only six. He begins to walk. In the distance he sees a semi-globe of light, and decides that it is the monastery. Since he could not see anything around him, he decides that walking in that direction is the wisest choice. In the darkness, he feels a presence; he is certain that he is not walking alone.
Continue reading Walking in the Desert…
So, late last night I was exiting my room to go out, and I ran into Anba Serapamon, Bishop and Abbot of St. Pishoy’s monastery in Egypt. He had been sitting on the balcony watching the view of the ocean and city lights, when a wind slammed his door shut, and he was locked out. The saintly man, who has severe arthritis, walked up a humongous hill and up two flights of stairs with the most peaceful demeanor, to come and ask if I could kindly unlock the cell for him.
Continue reading A night with Anba Serapamon