Monday, 28 January 2013

Longing for Monasticism: Life of Fr. Mettaos el-Suryani, Chapter 1 (2/2)

First Longing for Monasticism:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
The pious youth “Shawky” from a young age preferred a life of calmness and serenity, and was often in solitude praying, contemplating and reading the Holy Bible. He used to mention to us how he would go up to the roof of their house, where they had a pigeon hut. He found pleasure in sitting in front of the pigeons, contemplating their calmness and meekness. He also did not prefer going to weddings and feasts of his relatives and neighbours.

He told us one time how as a young child he would sometimes tell his family, “I want to go to the monastery and become a monk.” So they would tell him, “but there are no monasteries here!” and he would reply, “but I want to become a monk,” so they would ask him, “alright, but how will you go to the monastery?” and he would answer in the simplicity and innocence of children. “I’ll just ride a donkey and will keep going on the mountain until I reach the monastery.” His mother would often be affected and cry from conversations like these and would tell herself that these are just a child’s imaginations and nothing more.

In relation to the previously mentioned story, he would recall this about his mother (God repose her soul), that when she found out he became a monk she would say, “I used to always pray to God asking him to grant me righteous offspring, but not that righteous to the point of leaving me and becoming a monk!!”

The Christian disciplined way of life that he was established in, and his personality which inclined him towards a life of calmness and serenity, and his love for God that was expressed in his prayers and contemplations. His childish and simple thoughts towards monasticism and the monastery, and his constant thinking of spiritual thoughts and good desires burned within him zeal towards the monastic life.

And so he started thinking about monasticism and the monastery….

How?! Where?! And When?!

In this time period, Sunday school was new in Qena, and many servants would come from different places to join and to preach. The young active Shawky joined them and he used to serve with love and great eagerness in many places and scattered villages.

He recalled one time that one day when his service in the village of Qeft ended, it was already night time and he was late. When he couldn’t find any means of transportation to return to Qena, he walked all the way back to Qena from the village on his feet!! You should know my dear reader that the distance between Qeft and Qena is 19 km and at that time he was 17 years old.

He kept his lesson preparations notebooks even after his entrance into the monastery for monasticism; he took delight in that blessed period of his life.

During the period of his service in Sunday school he met the active servant and preacher, the honorable of blessed memory, the late Mr. Alfy Nashed: founder of St. Mark’s association in Luxor. A genuine spiritual relationship of friendship and love was developed between the two that he continuously recalled even till his departure. Being confident in his character, wisdom and experience, he confronted him of his desire to enter the monastery, to live the life of monasticism. So Mr. Alfy Nashed offered him important advice. The advice was for him to work first and later find out if this thought is from God. If it is, then it will stay and will be strengthened but if not, then it will fade and disappear on its own.

The young Shawky listened to him, followed his advice and left his widowed mother and only sister and travelled to Cairo to find a job in one of the factories and companies that are consistent with his studies and qualifications. From there he headed to Kafr el-Dawar where he found a job in a textile company, he worked there for around a year and a half. He did not allow his job to be a distraction in his spiritual life and what came out of it, that meanwhile he was serving in the Church of St. George in Kafr el-Dawar.

Our beloved father tells us about this period:

“At night I would go out for a walk, and I was always thinking about the idea of monasticism, the thought of going to the monastery was very persistent in my mind!! I would pray and converse with God with tears and would say, ‘O Lord…arrange it for me…what do I do? For I desire and long to live for you every day of my life, but what do I do with my small family that is awaiting my arrival. For my widowed mother and my orphaned sister do not have anyone in this small world, and I am their only support. O Lord you are the Pantocrator (Omnipotent), so facilitate this in accordance with Your good will.’”

The reverend father continues saying:

“This call of monasticism was like fire in my heart and I could not find a way to quiet these thoughts except by actually fulfilling them. And so I started to plan out my departure and entrance into the monastery”.

And this reminds us of one of the sayings of the fathers, “Christ’s love estranged me to humans and humanity.” (St. Barsanuphius)

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