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What Time Is It?

Father Yostos, What Time Is It? - St Shenouda Monastery Pimonakhos Articles

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore
be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7)

Many visitors who came to the Monastery, would seek him to ask for words of spiritual benefit, and Father Yostos would respond by giving them verses from the Bible. One such verse is from the Book of Proverbs: “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (27:7), and another is from the Book of Habakkuk: “Woe to him who increases what is not his – how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges” (2:6).

The effect these verses had on those who heard them, were like arrows piercing the heart and penetrating the mind. The other response that Father Yostos was renowned for are his few words: “What time is it?” By saying these simple words, Father Yostos was attempting to attract their attention to the fact that time is passing quickly and very shortly we will see our Saviour face to face, and so we must be ready.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Many people could not understand why he constantly asked about the time, and some even tried to ridicule him by responding with the incorrect time. However, it became clear to them that he was not speaking about the actual time, for he had the gift of knowing what time it was without a watch, and so when people would give him the wrong time, he would correct them. At times people thought that he was able to predict the time from the position of the sun, but in actual fact, God had given him the gift of knowing time. When the late Pope Kyrillos VI passed away, it was a very cloudy day and as they were transporting his blessed body from Cairo to the Monastery of Saint Menas, Father Yostos said the exact time in which the saintly patriarch had passed.

Therefore it was clear that the wisdom behind these simple words was to keep watch and be ready for the day when we will meet the beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

“…redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

And it is within this spirit that Father Yostos practiced his life of asceticism.

“Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand… Behold,
the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:8-9).

One day a young doctor came to ask Father Yostos for advice, and he kept replying, “What time is it?” The young doctor could not understand why he was constantly asking for the time, and so in annoyance, he said to Father Yostos, “What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep asking about the time? Do you have important appointments?!!” But the saintly monk responded to him in gentleness and politeness, “My son, to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastics 3:1).

By these words, Father Yostos was bringing to his attention that time passes and never comes back, so one must focus his attention first on the things of the Spirit before the things that are temporal.

A father of the Monastery recalled the following incident: “One night while I was asleep in my cell, I heard a very strong knock on my door. So immediately I woke up and called out, “Who is it?” I was surprised when I heard Father Yostos’ voice asking, “What time is it?” I felt so annoyed that I was woken up from sleep to be asked about the time and I told Father Yostos so. And then he left quietly. As I turned to switch the light off, I noticed a large scorpion on my pillow. It was at this moment that I understood Father Yostos’ coming to me in the middle of the night and waking me from my sleep, was to save me from danger.”

(From: The Garden of St Anthony, St Anthony Monastery)