Sunday, 27 January 2013

Fr. Mettaos El-Suryani Chapter 1(1/2): Beginnings

Chapter 1
Birth and Upbringing:

“But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.  I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb you have been My God.” (Psalm 22:9-10)

Born the child Shawky “Monk Hegumen Mettaos El-Suryani” on Sunday 23rd of October 1927/12th of Baba (the Feast day of the departure of St. Mark the Evangelist). He was born to a virtuous father named Hanna Allah Abd El-Malek Atallah, who was the deacon of the thrice-blessed, the reposed Bishop Luke (Loukas) former bishop of Qena[1], and was gifted with a strong and beautiful voice. As for his mother, she was a pious woman by the name of Bahia Suleiman and they were from El-Tramsa village in the province of Qena.

During the mother’s period of pregnancy, his father was transferred to work in his country “Durr” which is located in the province of Aswan south near the Egyptian-Sudanese border. There the child, Shawky, was born. A year and a half before his birth, God had given them a child named Tahany, and she was his only sister, as for his parents and family he was a great joy.

Childhood and Early Youth:
“It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.  Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him.” (Lamentations 3:27-28)

When Shawky was 6 years old, it was during this time that this small simple family faced their first adversity! His father passed away in his prime years of his youth, leaving behind his young wife a widow and his two young children orphans!

His mother was a very pious and faithful woman, loving God with all her heart. In all contentment and thanksgiving she accepted this trial from the hand of God, and joyfully carried her cross that God has willed for her to carry. She consecrated her life to God’s service and in raising her two young children. She completely rejected the idea of a second marriage. She neither complied nor succumbed to this idea, despite the pressures she faced from her family concerning this matter.

She only concerned herself with raising her children in the fear and love of God from an early age. Whenever Fr. Mettaos remembered his mother he would say in his interesting Saidi (Upper Egyptians speak with slightly different dialect) dialect and simply ways. “Allah Yerhamha
[2]" (May God repose her), she taught and raised us up in the virtuous and pious way from a young age”. And this saying from St. Paul the Apostle to his disciple Timothy applies to her, “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5).

When his mother wanted him to enter elementary school to begin his path towards education, there were no schools in the village of El-Tramsa where she stayed after the death of her husband. So she left her village and family and moved with her children to Qena City and settled there so that her two children may enter elementary schools.

The boy Shawky completed his elementary studies and received his elementary certificate. Then he joined the industrial high school, a five year system and finished his studies there. And so he obtained his industrial high school diploma, the five year system, and during the period of his studies he was an ideal example of the Christian youth, virtuous and committed. And in this regard, our reverend beloved father told us of a story that shows us to what extent his mother was keen on bringing him up in good morals.

He recounted and said: “One day I was running an errand and got into a car where most of the passengers were smoking cigarettes that my clothes smelled like cigarettes. And when I first arrived and greeted my mother, I saw a sudden change in her face and she stood as if she was trying to smell a certain scent and said to me, ‘What is that?!? You smoke?! You smell like cigarettes!! Since when did my son whom I raised in the fear of our Lord start smoking like the children of this world?!?’ and she continued like this all irritated and I am trying to calm her down trying to convince her that I don’t smoke and with effort I began to remember the car situation and the passengers who were in it. I forgot this due to her excessive reaction and with great efforts I convinced her of what happened so that she calmed down at last and her heart was at peace.  

[1] A city in Upper Egypt.
[2] Egyptians commonly say Allah yer7amo/yer7amha for the reposed person. It literally means “May God have mercy on him/her” or could be understood as “May God repose him/her”.

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