Home Lives Of Saints Memoirs of Fr Matta El Maskeen Part 2

Memoirs of Fr Matta El Maskeen Part 2

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Fr Matta El Maskeen
Fr Matta El Maskeen

On the day I departed to the monastery, the one to whom I had handed over the pharmacy ran after me asking, ‘What are you going to do with your apartment and your personal belongings?’ But I had already considered it all rubbish for the sake of Christ.”

“At that time I had a friend named Saad Aziz, who later became Bishop Samuel, the bishop of Services. I said to him, ‘I want to become a monk, what do you think?’ He said, ‘There’s a very nice monk who is a bishop and he’s a saint. Let’s go to him and he will give us guidance!’ He was Bishop Kyrillos, the last Coptic bishop in Ethiopia. He had been expelled from Ethiopia and was living in the clerical school in Mahmasha. When we went to him the bishop was sick in bed with his face to the wall and his back turned to us. When we asked him about becoming monks, he presented it as an extremely difficult path. So I answered him and said, ‘Look, Sayedna (master), the truth is I have given the Lord six months and if he does not release me gently then I will release myself forcefully.’ That is in fact what I had told the Lord, ‘If You won’t gently let me go and release me from my problems and attachments then I will leave the world and launch out into the wilderness not caring what will happen.’ This was a dangerous step because I had legal obligations that I was required to complete with the Ministry of Health in the presence of one of its representatives, with signatures and official rescinding of responsibility. I decided it’s not important. I’m going to the monastery Lord I just want you. I will break my bonds with my own hands and let them do what they will!’

When I told this to the bishop he said, ‘What is this you are saying?’ He turned around in his bed to face us, which is what I had wanted during the whole conversation! He said, ‘who do you think you are? Who do you make yourself out to be?’ I said, ‘All I want is to be with the Lord and I will go to Him. If He makes it easy for me so be it, but in any case I will go.’ He said, ‘Say forgive me God!’ I remained silent. He said again, ‘Say forgive me God!’ so I said reluctantly, ‘forgive me God.’ Then he said, ‘that is it. My son you have faith and our Lord will release you!’ When I heard him say this, powerful faith entered me, for it was after all the testimony of a bishop. I had always remained silent when I went to church. I would take communion then go home and no one knew anything about me. Only in the days before I left the world did I begin to have a service because of my status of responsibility in the city. In the end I left the world despite all these difficulties.”

Fr Matta also said about opposition from friends and service colleagues, “I met my friends and told them ‘I am going.’ They said to me, ‘you’re a madman. Have you gone insane?’ They gathered a group of forty persons in the Society for Biblical Friendship in Giza to try and stop me. But because of my deep love for Christ I did not let their words deter me. I kept praying to God. When I would return home from work I would pray fervently on my knees as I grasped the Agpeya. I would finish the whole Agpeya beginning with the Morning Prayer till the end of the Midnight Prayer. Then I would rise up and continue working with energy that was not my own, energy that I cannot explain.

When I announced the sale of the pharmacy they asked, ‘Why are you going? Are you going just to end up being the cook in the monastery?’ This shook me and I asked myself, ‘Indeed, to what are you going? I did not know anything about monasteries. God is my witness, I had never in my life been to a monastery. I had never seen a monk, except one I met in town and his attitude towards monasticism was very negative. He always told me, ‘don’t you dare go’. Whenever he visited me I would give him money, so he kept begging me night and day not to go.

I asked myself again, ‘when you go what will you be doing?’ I was perplexed. My service colleagues mocked monks and claimed they have nothing to do in the monastery except cook. When they asked me what I would cook in the monastery I told them, ‘I am not going to cook, I am going for Christ.’ They answered, ‘Is Christ only in the monastery? Isn’t He also in service? We advise you to be reasonable, think about it for two or three years and then go.’ I was shaken but I said to myself, ‘that’s impossible’. For a long time I was constantly distressed, then I said to them, ‘Look, I know very little about monasticism, but you yourselves uphold the example of St Anthony and St Pachomius and the other saints. Were they wrong?’ The Lord gave me these words and they were silent and unable to answer! I continued, ‘is not the Church built upon those saints? So if they were wrong then I will concede I am wrong. If the Lord led them astray, then let Him lead me astray because I have given myself to my Lord.’ They said, ‘you are a stupid idiot. Do what you like.’

By the time they finally gave up on me, I left them completely exhausted and discouraged. I really did not know what I would do in the monastery or how I will spend my time there and on top of that I had requested to go to a neglected monastery, the properties of which are not fought over by priests. In those days there was a struggle was over religious endowments. I said to myself that I want a monastery in which I can live free of all entanglements. Later they said, ‘If you want to become a monk, let us make you a priest in town’. I responded saying, ‘no, but I know someone suitable as a priest for you.’ Of course I was trying to escape in any way possible. They said, ‘we want you’. I said, ‘if he is not a hundred times better than me, then we can discuss it further.’ Then I went to our Sunday School leader, Zarif Abdullah, who became Father Boulos Boulos, the priest of Damanhur. I said, ‘they want you to be their priest.’ He said, ‘my brother, why don’t you do it?’ I said, ‘I am not suitable and I told you I am going to become a monk’. He tried to get out of it but I stirred up the whole community, so they went to him and put the pressure on him until they succeeded in making him their priest. I had not found that to be my calling and I said, ‘finally I am free. I want monasticism’. At the beginning, a calling has no clear form. After that it begins to take shape by God’s voice and His arrangement, then one responds and acts on it. This serves as assurance along the way, because God is now the one responsible for me. No human can extend the call of monasticism and if it happens it is a disaster!”

In this way, our spiritual father made it through all these troubles and opposition and pressed on to the goal, depending on nothing but the love of Jesus, as Jesus took sole possession of his heart.