|Fr. Mettaos reading the Gospel during Matins Raising of Incense|
Beginning on the Journey to the wilderness:
“I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” (Jeremiah 2:2)
Despite all these burning spiritual emotions and being spiritually occupied with the monastic life of the monastery, the young Shawky never visited an inhabited monastery before! Moreover, he didn’t have any kind of relationship with any of the fathers, the monks!
At that time, all the information that was available to him was what he knew of a colleague of his from school who had already left and became a monk at the monastery of the great St. Paul, the first hermit in the eastern desert. They used to send letters to each other from time to time. The young Shawky sent him a letter expressing his desire to enter the monastery of St. Paul to become a monk with him in the same monastery. Consequently, Fr. Tawadros replied in a letter informing him of the acceptance of the fathers of the monastery of St. Paul for him to join the monastery and become a monk there, and he sent him the address of the monastery. So he resolved to leave his job and to head to the monastery of St. Paul to join the monastic life there. Thus, he wrote a letter to his family letting them know that he left for the monastery to become a monk. He did not mention the name of the monastery so that they don’t go there and try to prevent him from the path that he has chosen. He also left a letter with one of his co-workers asking him to deliver the letter to his family only after he has left to the monastery.
He prepared a small luggage bag containing his belongings, necessities and personal documents and papers. He got up one night at the residence he was staying at with his colleagues and without anyone’s awareness, he left and went to the train station to get on the next train heading to Cairo and from there he would head to the monastery of St. Paul.
There at the station he realized that he had forgotten his wallet back at the residence! He returned quickly to the residence, took his wallet, went back to the station and took the train to Cairo.
When he arrived at Cairo as he was leaving the train station he found a bus with “Suez” written on it, so he remembered how the letters he got from Fr. Tawadros el-Anba-Bola had the address, “Suez – El-Zafarana” written on them. He took that bus and after he sat down he asked one of the passengers sitting next to him if the bus is headed to El-Zafarana. The passenger told him that Suez is one place and El Zafarana is entirely somewhere else. He got off the bus and told himself that in order not to get lost on the way especially since I don’t know anyone here, I will go to the patriarchal cathedral “St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at Azbakeya” and there I’ll ask for directions to get to the monastery of St. Paul.
The young Shawky went to the old cathedral at Clot Bey “St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at Azbakeya” and entered the small church of St. Stephen the Martyr that is attached to the cathedral. There he found a priest and a dignitary; he greeted the priest, sat with him and asked him for directions to get to the monastery of St. Paul.
The priest asked him why he was asking for directions to the monastery of St. Paul. He [Fr. Mettaos] told him that he wanted to become a monk there.
The priest then asked him about his personal matters and found out that he had a single widowed mother and one sister! The priest strongly rebuked him saying, “The only son and you want to become a monk? You are such a criminal!!!”
His reverence [Fr. Mettaos] commenting on this event said, “I took his blessings and left as if I have heard nothing, for I was convinced of the sincerity of my calling to the monastic life”.
Our beloved father recalled this event, its details and told us how after this situation his thoughts would disturb him from time to time because of the words of the priest. He told this story to the reposed H.G. Bishop Theophilus at that time bishop and abbot of the Syrian Monastery (Der-el-Suryan) who in return reassured and comforted him. He prayed for him the absolution, so he calmed down and these worrisome thoughts regarding the words of the priests didn’t cause him to worry anymore.
He did not want to be a stumbling block and wanted to be blameless, recalling the words of St. Paul the Apostle, “so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13)
+Hieromonk Ignatius el-Suryani on the life of Fr. Mettaos el-Suryani