Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Praying Monk - Life of Fr. Benyamin the Hermit

The Work of his Hands:

The work he did while he was in his cave as part of the rule of the monk (prayer, reading and work) was the making of leather crosses, a common work done by those who did not leave their cells. Fr. Benyamin also worked on copying books, which is an essential work especially in the previous generation. Monks undertook the responsibility of copying holy books and church service books. There are still some of the books which he copied with his beloved ones and in the library of Baramos Monastery. A year before his departure, he copied the book of Psalms, during 5th and 6th weeks of Lent, 1986. After his departure, we found his copying utensils in his cell.

Many times he had to remove large amounts of sand from around his cell or did some repairing himself.

His Food:

It is not appropriate for a person to deny himself different types of food and drinks, but when one is concerned with spiritual food he eventually becomes less concerned with temporal food.

Some of the Fathers of the monastery of St. Bishoy said that Fr. Benyamin settled for little to regain his strength. He relied on potatoes as his main meal as he used to eat a small portion of potatoes with bread every day. Each week he had one meal of boiled vegetables, some cheese and powdered milk. During the holy fifty days, in keeping with his mealtimes without changing, he accustomed himself to following the rules of the Church by not abstaining from food. He also had a hot drink during the day with some sweets or biscuits, while eating on his regular scheduled times without changing. By this he kept his regular rule during the feasts to make it easier for him to return to it after the holy fifty days.

During the regular days, he lived on 10 litres of water for a week and on other times he would live on a small amount of bread with 3 containers of water (gas can size) for a whole month.

From time to time he would ask for bean foods like beans and lentils and most of this food he would distribute it to others like the workers and the Bedouins. One of the Fathers that carried his necessities from the monastery to the cave, said that he used to need 14 loaves of bread and would return a number of them to the monastery from time to time.  During the Lord’s Feasts he would go to the monastery of St. Bishoy then Baramos Monastery and would eat what is offered him for these occasions. 

His Prayers:

He spent a lot of time in prayer, he would pray the full Agpeya (The Coptic Book of Hours) daily. There are about 70 psalms in the Agpeya that we have in our hands, and the rite of the hermit monk requires the monk to pray 150 psalms.

He would pray the psalms found in the Agpeya including the ones that are repeated in addition to the rest of the entire psalter (book of Psalms), and he would pray a great number of the psalms as follows:

-The collection of psalms in the Agpeya including the ones that are repeated, and that would be 138 psalms (while counting Psalm 118 as one psalm).
-The collection of the rest of the psalms that are in the Psalter and that are not in the Agpeya, which would be 74 psalms. He would pray a third of them after the sext (sixth hour), the other third after Compline (twelfth hour), and the rest after the Midnight Prayer. That would amount to 212 psalms prayed everyday according to his rule.

After he finished his prayers, he would read a chapter from the Old Testament, a chapter from the New Testament, and a chapter from one of the Epistles/Letters while standing in the position of prayer, he would do this many times in one day and as a result, Fr. Benyamin studied the entire Holy Bible very well.

He himself told some of the Fathers, that a monk in the monastery used to pray 151 psalms everyday despite living in communion (cenobitic) and was responsible for one of the monastery’s jobs, so how much more should the hermit do.

And most likely he was speaking about himself…

And he used to say, “There is nothing better than prayer, and I wish to stand for many hours every day before God.”

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