I am glad to be around all the bishops and our beloved fathers the monk(s) of this great monastery. I have a strong notion the success of the church in spreading the word of God worldwide comes from nowhere other than the monastic prayers. I believe that without the prayers raised from our monasteries worldwide, our Coptic church wouldn’t succeed to continue till today in peace. As you all know in Russia when Christianity was introduced, they took the capital Moscow and they gave it a new name as the New Constantinople. When Christianity was under threat, they said Moscow shouldn’t be guarded by armies but by monasteries and hermit fathers, so they surrounded the city by six monasteries. These monasteries started to grow and nothing protected the city other than the prayers that were raised from these monasteries. He named this group of monasteries “The Golden Ring” not because it was surrounded by fences but by the prayers that were raised from those six monasteries.
I feel it is very important to give special attention to monasteries and the monks that dwell in them. Since the day God gave me this new responsibility as the patriarch of the Coptic church, I decided that every two or three months I visit a monastery and dwell in it for two or three days and enjoy the company of the monks and attend the midnight praise (tasbeha) with them as well as the mass, and frankly my heart rejoices whenever I see them. I also get a boost of energy in my service whenever I see that there are monks praying for the church. I actually don’t pay much attention to the statistics whether the monastery got one monk or ten, the most important thing is the quality of the monk. All I ask of monks is to be monks. Don’t let anyone steal from you your monkhood because one day you made the conscious decision to leave home and come to the monastery. When you joined the monastery you agreed to be in the monasteries where the saints live, St Paul lived here about seventeen centuries ago and since then the place has been blessed by the prayers of the saints.
Therefore my beloved brothers, the monks and the fathers attending with us, I ask you in front of God to be a monk, with the fullest meaning of the word. Allow no one or anything or lust or any thought to steal from you the treasure that you offered your whole life for its sake. My brother your life is valuable and the day you left the world and decide to go to the wilderness and started your new life as a monk, you decided to live your vows of obedience, chastity and poverty. So I beg of you to keep alive your monastic calling.
Your prayers and your spiritual struggle and your fervent heart will accomplish two things in your life. The first thing is your own consolation in your monastic life, meaning you become a joyous monk. This is what attracts people to come and meet you, those people see that the monks have no worries in life and they are enjoying God’s company.
The second thing it accomplishes is that your prayers are the only thing that strengthens the church, in the last couple of months the church was facing many challenges in many fronts, the church wouldn’t have passed all those challenges without the prayers of her Monks. No human wisdom or diplomacy could overcome those challenges but it was the prayers that were raised by our holy and righteous fathers the monks.
When such a great monastery finds this great number of righteous monks raising their prayers, and those prayers are the soul strengthen of the church whether inside Egypt or even worldwide. I thank you all for your great love and prayers and may God bless your life and glory be to God forever amen.
(A talk given during His Holiness’s visit to St Paul’s monastery, Feb 2014)