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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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Disciplined Monk - Life of Fr. Benyamin the Hermit

His Illness:

When some of the Fathers visited Fr. Benyamin in his cave they noticed a number of injuries on his face and he tried to hide these injuries when they were with him. When they asked him of these severe injuries he replied that it was from the common cold that he just recently caught. However, they were not convinced and kept asking him more questions until they found out from him that he was suffering from severe anemia that needed him to be taken to the hospital immediately. They carried him to the monastery and exerted great efforts to try to convince him to agree to be taken to the hospital.

The decision was made for him to be taken to the hospital and later he returned to the monastery where he awaited the opportunity for his slight improvement so that he can ask them to let him return to his cave. In turn, some of the Fathers did not permit his moving back to his cave and this bothered him greatly.

For that reason he did not open the door of his cell for any of the Fathers the visitors, except for the one who brought him his food.

The first time he arrived at the hospital was on Sunday 30/08/1987 for a blood test, at that time he was in bad condition. They found that the percentage of hemoglobin in his blood to be 18% which typically is impossible to live with.

He got a blood transfusion at Heliopolis Hospital many times. He underwent many medical examinations and started to improve greatly but did not succumb to any kind of pressure. In regard to his food, they pressed him to eat meat but he would decline right away. When the doctors insisted that he eat, especially meat to regain his strength since food is natural medicine that can’t be replaced, he agree to eat but only some potatoes and olives and this meant that he would double the quantity of food he ate regularly prior to his sickness.  Fr. Elisha El-Baramosy confirmed this as he was the one who accompanied him in his last week.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

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Hello everyone, if you haven't already followed my blog you can do so by clicking on "Join this Site" button under "Followers". I usually share my posts on Facebook but will completely stop soon, so if you are following through Facebook and haven't "followed" the blog then do so now so you don't miss out on any more translations. Also, feel free to leave me any suggestions for improvements or comments in the comment section down below. If there is any topic of interest that you wish for me to post on-although the content will mostly contain quotations and references to saints, books and Fathers- then please let me know.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Just another fast...

I would like to wish you all a blessed and a zealous start to this holy fast, supported by the prayers of the Theotokos. I pray that we continue in whatever we wish to start on, whether it be an ascetic endeavor, a spiritual rule entrusted to us by our spiritual fathers, whatever it is... I pray that we are consistent and that we persist patiently through this fast awaiting the blessed feast. So preserve patiently, joyously, enduring is definitely a blessed fast, a time for reflection, prayer, fasting -all means to the goal which is communion with God. It is a time of purification, repentance and confession, a time of crucifying our flesh so that we may live in Christ.

We might be fought with boredom and feel that it is difficult, but we are promised that God tests our patience to see where our intentions are and then will bless us abundantly. Call on him unceasingly this fast through the practice of the Jesus Prayer, He is in you! The Kingdom of God is not far from you, it is in you (Luke 17:21)! so don't despair. Try to participate in the Sacrament of Confession this fast, you might be ashamed, disgusted and hesitant but better to have these feelings now than later, and St. Theophan the Recluse tells us that they are helpful if they are not used to lead oneself to despair. Then approach the Divine Mysteries, join in the Lord's Supper which He offers you on the holy altar, try to remember the parable of the Prodigal Son. He will forgive you your sins and then he goes on to prepare for you a feast to offer you his own Body and Blood for you to partake, to live, to be enlightened by Christ - the True Light. Ask your spiritual father for guidance for this fast, penance and advice...Alright...I'll leave you with some guidance from St. Theophan the Recluse:

"...revive within yourself the desire for this Sacrament (Confession). Draw near to it, not as to a place of slaughter or immolation, but as to the fountain of every good. He who vividly imagines the fruit which is brought forth within us by confession cannot help longing and striving for it. A man goes there with all his wounds. From the soles of his feet even to his head, there is no wholeness; there is nothing sound in him, only bruises, welts, and raw wounds. But he returns from there healthy, active, and strong in all his parts, with the feeling of safety from future contagions. He goes there under a heavy burden. The totality of his past sins lies upon him; it torments him and deprives him of all peace. But there he returns lightened, having been relieved, and rejoicing in spirit that he has received the charter of forgiveness for all his sins."

A blessed fast to all! Don't despair this fast, if you're interested I will post more from the saints to guide you through this fast so as not to be discouraged.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Demons and the Monk - Life of Fr. Benyamin the Hermit

Fr. Benyamin the Hermit

  The visitors sensed that he spoke with difficulty especially in the beginning where he would be silent for a while before he started talking to them with the least amount of words.

When he wanted to return to praying with a low voice he sought the guidance of his spiritual father which showed the great care the Father gave to his spiritual life.

In Salam Hospital which he spend his last few days in, he would be bothered by the crowds of people (visitors who were relatives of hospital patients). Because of this, he started behaving differently to make them leave his room. He would begin weeping when this would happen and when those close to him asked him of his scandalous behavior, they found out that he wasn’t at rest with the behavior of the visitors (how they flocked to him in crowds).

Some of the Fathers who knew him well said that he received his guests cheerfully and with joy, but he would end up taking away the time he spent with them from his sleep so as not to reduce from his rule and struggle.

Despite his great labors near the end of his life, he would pray the Divine Liturgy standing in all humility and reverence, refusing to receive the Holy Mysteries on his sickbed and always insisted on attending the liturgy when he wanted to partake of the Communion saying, “I must live the Eucharistic journey.”

His Warfare with the Devil:

He endured many fights from the demons who tried to make him doubt the path he has taken. Like everyone else, he suffered, was bothered, and endured grief and faintheartedness. He told some of the Fathers that many times he felt the weight of this warfare, as if the devil stood menacingly before him and sometimes face to face.

He once said that sometimes during prayer he felt as if someone was trying to shut his mouth to stop him from praying, telling us at other times when he stood for prayer he

felt as if something was weighing down on him preventing him from standing. Also, when he felt that his thoughts began to scatter in his mind, as a result of the demons’ wars he would yell in a loud voice “Liars, liars…” like how Christ described them, the enemy, the devil the liar and the father of it (John 8:44)... to dispel the war of thoughts.

Some of the Fathers heard him when he was in his cell in the monastery during the period of his illness, yelling at night in a frightening way, calling for God and the saints. He lived in the monastery near a blind monk, the monk would move quietly towards his cell and when he knocked on the door of the cell with his stick, the demons would disperse and the fight would fade.

The Crucified Monk - Life of Fr. Benyamin the Hermit

Fr. Benyamin the Hermit

`The Crucified Monk` Icon

His Readings:

Next to his daily readings of the Holy Bible, Fr. Benyamin used to read the whole Gospel of St. John as part of the hermit rite, in addition to Paradise of the Fathers and others books of the sayings of the Fathers like those of Mar Isaac. Sometimes he would go to the monastery’s library to borrow a book and would finish it before returning it back.

It is worth mentioning that during Fr. Benyamin’s last period of illness, he would be unable to focus on the readings. He would read chapters 13 to 17 from the Gospel of St. John as he wanted, and would constantly contemplate them. They were the chapters of the Lord Christ’s farewell discourse to His disciples before His crucifixion.

His Moving to Baramos Monastery:

After some time of thinking and praying and in light of other factors, Fr. Benyamin asked H.H. the Pope to allow him to join the monastic community of the Baramos Monastery so that he may continue his life of silence in the same cave.

He was able to go back starting Saturday 22/09/1984 (12th of Tout, 1701), returning to the Baramos Monastery until his departure.

Other Features of his struggle in his Life:

We will give some of the features of his personal spiritual life:

His Love for Silence: Rarely did he speak, but with a bright smile of his peaceful and meek face, he would sit with his visitors looking the opposite direction or towards the floor. The one who sat with him would feel as if he was sitting with an innocent child! One of the hermit fathers who lived near him said that he was very simple and innocent, without any malice or guile and lived a modest life. Other Fathers said of him that he never condemned or hurt anyone but supported the distressed and endured patiently. Those who upset him and those Fathers who praised him for his virtues and spoke of his great ascetic endeavor, made him feel ashamed to be compared to the great saints.

Fr. Benyamin in front of his cave
For a long time he committed himself to absolute silence under the guidance of his spiritual father, even in his cave he would pray and praise silently without making a sound. This period of absolute silence extended over four years in which he prayed and praised in thought alone which gave him a greater depths in calmness. Many days would pass by without anyone hearing a sound from him, but when some Fathers visited he would stop his practice of silence and would talk with them normally out of love and to conceal this practice.