Thursday, 13 June 2013

Confession and Partaking of the Divine Mysteries



On the afternoon of the 15th of May, 1988 at four o’clock, I was in my cell when the Father responsible for the gate of the monastery came and told me, “A family has arrived and asked to visit the monastery and are waiting in the living room.”

I left my cell right away and went towards the 'asr where the family was waiting for me. I welcomed our dear guests and sat down to talk with them. Here is a brief summary of the conversation:

1. The family is from Port Said and consists of a man, his wife and their two children.
2. Their children regularly attend the Church’s educational classes but the man and his wife do not go to the church.
3. The man and his wife have not confessed nor partook of the Divine Mysteries for a long period of time
4. The man does not feel at rest confessing to any priest.

5. A person cannot be saved while outside the Church, for the Church provides the means for salvation. Confession and the rest of the Divine Mysteries are administered within the Church and not outside of it.

At the end of the visit I asked the family to visit the ancient church, and so we went together and I explained to them the landmarks of the church and the monastery.  And at around 5:30 pm, I excused myself from our dear visitors and bid them farewell in the peace of the Lord.
Hegumen Augustinos El-Baramosy, Diary from the Wilderness

Translated by Michael Daoud

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Why the Fathers? - A Letter from a Russian Monk



You also write that an acquaintance has fallen into a sect. It is a great pity that our Orthodox have very little knowledge of their own teaching and easily turn to various sects. For all the sects, heresies and schisms are based on pride and,self-suggestion. In Orthodoxy the authorities are, the Ecumenical Councils and the teaching of the Holy Fathers. The Lord said: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ [Matt. 5:8]. And the Holy Fathers with God’s help purified their hearts of passions. They rightly knew the will of God revealed in Holy Scripture, but those who have not purified their hearts of passions cannot rightly understand the Scripture, and such people stumble over it, turn away from the right path and go in different directions. One could say that they leave the big ship and sit down in a frail boat and want to sail across the sea of life, and they are perishing in the waves of vain sophistries. They dig out texts to justify their error.

~Christ In Our Midst, Letters from a Russian Monk p. 52.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Living In His Solitary Cell - Life of Fr. Mettaos El-Suryani



Building his first solitary cell outside the ancient monastery’s walls:

As we have mentioned earlier, the first thing that struck Fr. Mettaos's eyes was the sight of the cells of the monastery attached to each other. He thought that they would be separated from each other, each one being isolated! He hoped very much for a solitary cell away from the other cells of the monasteries in order to live a life of solitude there. He hoped for calmness and silence and this idea persisted in his mind and he always thought about it for many years until the Lord has permitted it by His will.

In 1960, the late Bp. Theophilus demolished the old building for the cells that was near the ancient wall in order to build the new building for the cells, and at that time, the supervisor for this work was Monk Antonios El-Suryani (H.H. Pope Shenouda III, God grant him many years). Him [H.H.] and our beloved Hegomen Fr. Mettaos El-Suryani shared a strong bond of love and friendship. They stored
Fr. Antonios El-Suryani (The late H.H Pope Shenouda II)
that which has been reduced to rubble from the old building like stones, wood and what could be reused. It was used for building and creating a roof for our beloved Fr.  Mettaos’s solitary cell, of course after seeking the permission of H.G. Bp. Theophilus, abbot of the monastery.

In August, 1960, Fr. Mettaos began building his outer cell, and it is the first solitary cell built outside the walls of the ancient monastery and within the separate walls between Der El-Suryan and St. Bishoy’s Monastery. The work continued by simple and primitive means which were available in these days until it was completed and Fr. Mettaos took his abode therein.

Fr. Mettaos continued his work as sacristan for the church (located in the ancient monastery), despite his stay in his solitary cell outside the ancient monastery for a good period of time. He spent the day in the solitary cell and at sunset he returned to the monastery to take up his work in the church and then spent the night in his other cell within the ancient monastery to be able to pray the Midnight Prayers, the divine liturgy and then returned to his solitary cell and so on…

In order for his work to be compatible with his stay in the outer solitary cell, he left his work as sacristan for the church and began working in the bakery, for the monastery at the time baked bread once during the week on Saturday.

Fr. Mettaos took up his work in the bakery on Saturday so that he can attend Vespers and the communal liturgy with the Fathers on Sunday. Later, he would return to his outer solitary cell and would stay there until the next Saturday so that it would be possible for him to stay in the cell and in quiet.

Truly what was meant by divine revelation “
And the desire of the righteous will be granted.” (Proverbs 10:24).

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Monday, 13 May 2013

The Mystery of the Branches Abiding Firmly in the Vine - Fr. Matthew the Poor


The branch does not firmly abide in the vine from the outside but from inside. The secret lies in the sap, which flows from the vine to the branch--giving it growth, firmness, strength and fruit. It is from this perspective that the mystery of persons abiding in Christ is seen. The sap here is in the cup: wine turned into the true sap of Christ: his blood. Whoever is counted worthy in spirit to drink of Christ's blood, that blood runs in him just as the sap runs through the branch to give it strength to bear fruit. Such is the case that the Church counts Communion as part of Confirmation. In short, when the faithful partake of the mystery of the blood, they unite in Christ and become true members of his body on the same pattern as that of the branches on a vine. This is the pattern on which the true vine bearing the mystery of divine existence was formed; or, the holy people, one in Christ, bearing the mystery of the perpetual presence of God [in the world] through the Son.

With that, Christ would have fulfilled Yahweh's old plan, which has been thwarted because man's nature has become unqualified to be welded to God's nature and bear the title of son. It is obvious that the success of the plan was fulfilled on the basis of the Son of God's incarnation. This meant a condescension on God's part; for it was He who resolved to begin by Himself the process of welding His own nature to human nature. By so doing, He intended to qualify its owner to bear the title of "son" par excellence.

~
Fr. Matthew the Poor, The Titles of Christ, p. 200-201.

Monday, 22 April 2013

My sister, be fully nourished by the teachings of your Church - Diary from the Wilderness




On the morning of the 6th of July, 1990 at eleven o’clock in the morning, I was in the courtyard with a family of three men with their wives and children that visits the monastery quite often. I sat with my dear guests and while they were drinking their tea one of the wives asked me a question, “Is it permissible for me to go to the non-Orthodox Churches?” I asked her, “And why would you?!” she replied, “So that I can listen to their sermons and to know the explanations of the Holy Bible.” I said, “I would like to give you an example from your personal life as the wife of your home. When your husband and children ask to go eat at your neighbors, how will you feel? Will you not feel abandoned and disheartened by your husband and children’s action?” She said, “Of course I will feel that I am lacking in my household and at the same time will be upset by my husband and children’s behavior.”

I told her, “We also feel abandoned and disheartened when our children go to the other Churches to listen to their interpretations of the Scriptures. As you are keen on preparing what is good and useful for your husband and children so that they are not compelled to go to other places to eat there, likewise we also are keen in our Church on preparing what is good and useful for her sons and daughters so that they are not compelled to go to other Churches with the excuse of gaining further knowledge. First my sister, be fully nourished by the teachings of your Church so that you are not in need of going to other Churches. Go to your Church, confess, take communion, listen to the sermons, attend the revivals the Church organizes during the Fast. If you do this you will not feel the same way you feel right now about going to other non-Orthodox Churches.”

And at around one o’clock in the afternoon I bid my dear guests farewell in the peace of the Lord.
Hegumen Augustinos El-Baramosy, Diary from the Wilderness

Translated by Michael Daoud

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

St. Shenouda and Pope Kyrillos VI on Self-Examination


Self-Examination:

"Brethren, if we want to escape God's punishment and find mercy in his eyes, let us sit every evening alone by ourselves and search our souls for what we presented to our guardian angel to offer before the Lord. Again, as the night goes by and a new day dawns and light prevails , let us search ourselves to know what we presented to our companion angel to offer to the Lord. Let it be beyond doubt that everyone of us - male or female- young or old, who was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has been assigned to a designated angel until the day of his death to report to him everyday what his assigned individual has done by day or by night. Not that God is unaware of what we have done. Heavens forbid. He is more knowledgeable about it. As it is written. the eyes of the Lord are watching all the time everywhere on those who commit evil and on those who do good. Rather the angels are servants installed by the Creator of the universe for those who will will inherit the salvation."

+St. Shenouda the Archimandrite (Homily found in the First Hour of Monday morning during Holy Week (Pascha).


"My beloved son, in solitude take account of your actions and be saddened for the sins that conquered you. In your solitude, collect your thoughts. Take into account those actions that pleased or displeased the Lord. If your actions were pleasing to the Lord, then rejoice and add to these actions on a daily basis. If you sinned, for every man is liable to do so, ask the Lord from your heart to forgive you, and be diligent not to repeat these offenses."

+Pope Kyrillos VI, Christian Behaviour p. 52.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Pope Kyrillos on Reading and Praying


His Holiness, the Pope, continues to advise his spiritual son (a monk), to make of him a beacon for the entire world. "When you come back from work, take off your clothes, wash your face and rest a little. If you want to have some recreation, you can go outside far from noise, and ponder the works of the Creator and the beauty of nature. Thank and praise the Lord. Do not reflect too much on the affairs of life. Do not worry about anything. Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you. Do not stay too late outside; it is better not to be out after eight o'clock. Do not be outside your room after ten o'clock if possible, so that you can find time to read a little and to pray. This is not difficult advice so do not ignore it and say, 'I do not have time for such things.'

"If you have trained yourself in these things, you will reap the fruits or rewards thereof. Once you have tried it, you will find it so easy. It is natural that in the beginning, the enemy of righteousness will try to make the matter difficult for you, but day after day, you will find that it is very easy and you will want to increase this practice. Brother, as you care for your body, you should also care for your soul. It is your duty to do so."

+Pope Kyrillos VI, Christian Behaviour p. 11.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Pope Kyrillos VI on Spiritual Reading


Pope Kyrillos VI lives in this manner. He read the Holy Bible daily until the day of his death. He also would read the saints' books especially the sayings of St. Isaac. Nothing prevented him from his readings, whether other work, fatigue or sickness. His speech was always from the Holy Scriptures and the sayings of St. Isaac whenever he spoke to his disciples, the monks, or visitors. He said, "I was tonsured a monk, and from that day on, I began learning the laws of monasticism from the fathers. I studied the saints' books, especially the book of the great saint, St. Isaac. I felt the blessings of God increasing on a daily basis."

He wrote to one of his spiritual sons, a monk, "Persist in and honour reading, if possible more than prayer. Reading is the spring of intelligent prayer. For, as I had previously told you, reading for a good purpose will show you how to walk on the virtuous path. Whoever reads the books to understand the path of virtue, this path will be opened before him."

+Christian Behaviour, p. 40

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Fr. Benyamin's Departure - Life of Fr. Benyamin the Hermit





When his doctor told him that he will return shortly to his cave and will pray for him there, he [Fr. Benyamin] told him that he would not see it again and that it’s all finished!!

 On Thursday 15/12/1987 he started to complain of all-night long severe headaches, the Father who was with him went to inform his doctor of this and Fr. Benyamin went into a coma after terrible pain, continuous internal bleeding and from his condition.

The doctors immediately called for him to be taken by the ambulance to Salam Hospital (El-Mohandeseen) and when he arrived there, they took him to the operating room where they performed a quick surgery on him to remove the clot that formed in his brain. His condition worsened that day and the doctors were forced to carry out another surgical procedure which was hopeless. On this Thursday, a number of the Fathers the monks placed him on the hospital stretcher after the doctors injected him with a needle to stop the internal bleeding in his stomach.

However, when he entered the operating room he gave up his pure spirit in the presence of the Fathers who were deeply affected by this. This happened on Thursday, at three in the afternoon, Kiahk 8, December 17th, 1987, the same day of the departure of St. Samuel the Confessor, his monastery which Fr. Benyamin was tonsured in. One of the nurses happened to give him a picture of the saint without any knowledge of the relationship Fr. Benyamin had with this saint.

His Burial:

His body was taken back to the monastery arriving there at eight in the afternoon on the same day. The Fathers were waiting for his arrival and it was a rainy day, the heavens rained on his burial and a rainbow appeared a sign of the covenant!!

The Fathers dressed the body in priestly vestments as is the custom to do so, and he was placed in the church before the sanctuary. He was laid in the open casket so that the Fathers may take his blessings, it was a solemn scene. The Fathers stayed the whole night reciting the book of psalms until it was time for the service of the Midnight Psalmody. They began the Holy Psalmody service, followed by the Divine Liturgy and then performed the funeral rite.

The Fathers carried the casket in procession in the sanctuary around the altar, then around the church’s nave three time while chanting the appropriate church hymns. They took him to the cemetery (Tafoos) and placed him inside while the Fathers were chanting “Golgotha”, the rite of the service of Christ’s burial.

It is worth mentioning that on that day, the Gospel reading for Matins was on the parable of the talents, and the Gospel reading for the Liturgy began with the verse, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32-36)

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Friday, 15 March 2013

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!

Icon of Christ, the Eternal High priest

Like the apple of Thine eye preserve me, O Lord God; defend and beneath Thy wings shelter me from temptations.

Be the guardian of the eye, that it might not look about in the manner of a thief; be the guardian of the ear, that it might not perceive falsehood.

Be the guardian of the lips, that slander, judgement, criticism and idle words might not come forth from them.

Be the guardian of the heart, that it might not be inclined to evil and might not work iniquity.

Grant us O Lord, knowledge, both of what we should do and of how to set about it.

Grant us, O our Lord, that we may be sweeter to Thee than fragrances and perfumes.

Grant us, O our Lord, that we may love Thee and hate the world. Gran us, O Lord, to acquire Only Three rather than all transient possessions.

Grant us, O our Lord, to bring Thee three choice gifts. Grant us, O our Lord, to burn three aromatic censers before Thee.

Grant us, O our Lord, to light for Thee three brightly burning lamps: the spirit, the soul and the body, these three gifts from the One Trinity.

Let us dedicate the spirit to the Father, the soul to the Son and the body to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which will raise it again from dust.

O Father, consecrate our spirit to Thyself! O so, consecrate our soul to Thyself! O Holy Spirit, consecrate to Thyself our body which is afflicted by sores.

Grant us, O our Lord, to rejoice in Thee, and mayest thou rejoice in us in the last day. To Thee is praise, from the spirit, soul and body. And unto us be Thy mercies.


+From the Spiritual Psalter of St. Ephraim the Syrian (5).
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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Bidding Farewell - Life of Fr. Benyamin the Hermit


When his health began to improve he insisted on returning to his cave, and the doctors who treated him permitted him to leave the hospital to return to the monastery but not back to his cave. Nevertheless, when he arrived at the monastery he insisted on returning to his cave and he did.

The last time for him to return to the hospital was due to him collapsing and hitting his head on the ground, leaving him unconscious for days. When he began to regain his consciousness little by little he tried to get up and walk to the cave’s door to find someone to help him. God willed that some of the Fathers were making their way to see him; they found him standing in front of his cave as if he was lost and they found out what happened from him. He was standing trying to grab the attention of another hermit far from him, many kilometers away!!!

In the hospital to which he was transferred to immediately, he quickly received the results of the x-rays which showed that he had internal bleeding in his brain, between the membranes. This is what caused his ongoing suffering and severe headaches, the time was too late for any surgical intervention and his gums were injured. He was continuously bleeding until he went into a coma.

In spite of all of this Fr. Benyamin still carried out his spiritual rule, especially the Agpeya prayers and his Bible readings, committed to this even in the remaining days of his life. Even in carrying out what he can from the readings with the help of the Fathers the monks. He also confessed and partook of the Holy Mysteries more than once in that period.

The psalm that he loved and constantly recited was, “Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.” (Psalm 122). The last book that he was reading was “The Way to the Kingdom”, the doctor who treated him kept and held on to the book after him.

He distributed most of his own personal books as gifts to all those who were around him, as if he felt that he no longer needed them.

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