A Father, a Friend, and a Warrior

“The stories of the spiritual journeys of others nourish us, revealing profound psychological and spiritual realities, illuminating the inevitable difficulties and realisations of all who journey along with us. Stories show a path, shine a light on our way, teach us how to see, and remind us of the greatest of human possibilities. We are invited to laugh, to awake, and to join our journey with others. Their stories are our stories, they have power to touch us, move us, and to inspire us.” -Christian Feldman & Jack Kornfield

Today marks the 10 year commemoration of one of the greatest men that ever lived in the 21st century; Father Matthew the Poor, Abouna Matta El-Mesken.
This post isn’t to convince the world of how great a man of God he was but rather to direct us to Christ through his life and spirit.
Born on the 20th September 1919, as Youssef Iskander, Fr. Matthew the Poor was a Coptic Orthodox monk in the monastery of St. Macarius, Wadi El-Natron, Egypt. There are not many words that I can use to describe the life of Fr. Matthew the Poor so I will let the words of those who lived amongst him speak for themselves.

A Father

His fatherhood through his writings:

“It is perhaps not too much to say that his book on Orthodox Prayer has defined the prayer life of thousands of English language readers at the beginning of this century. It was a seed planted in the wasteland of the Wadi Rayan in the 50s but in our own time it has become a forest – an ecumenical forest.” -John Watson

His ability to father came from following the examples of those before him:

“You should pause at each of these sayings and consider the lives of these heroes – how they gained prayer for themselves as if it were everything. Their lives became prayer and their prayer became life. Compare your life with theirs and your experience with theirs. If your spirit burns within you, lay down this book, worship and pray, and this mingle your reading with prayer.”

-Fr. Matthew the Poor in the Orthodox Prayer Life

A father of the church, bringing the light of Christ back into the life of the church:

“Before you the old theology of the isolated church
Battered by storms from inside and out
The greatness of Christ went under tons of Folklore
The love of God was buried under false teachings…
From the womb of divine providence you were born
Like many of our great ones
For you, like them, solitude became bread
Never once you replied to insults
Like a lamb you lived
Like a lion you preached the gospel.”
-A Contemporary Theologian

A Friend

A friend who was respected by all:

“The state with all is capabilities could not have done what you have done for your monastery and your country.” -President Anwar el-Sadat (Egyptian President, 1970-1981)

“In this capacity, he went beyond taking care of his monastery’s monks to taking care of the world around him; the world that his heart cared for even when he was within the monastery’s fences.”
-Fr. Shenouda El-Anba Bishoy

A friend to the saints:

“Abouna Matta would emerge every night with a new friendship with the spirits of these saints; with a knowledge and illumination from them that grew every day for him.” -John Watson

A Warrior

A warrior through his sweet and honey-like words:

“Your writings remind us of the beautiful branches of a tree
In the heat of the summer of Egypt
Many will sit under their shade
Many will eat from their divine food
Many will regret that they never met you.”
-A Contemporary Theologian

A warrior in his actions:

When asked why he never defended himself against the many accusations regarding some of his writings, Father Matta El-Meskeen replied, “Did you read the Exposition of the Gospel of John and benefit from it? … My son I won’t spend my time replying to anyone, but, my son, I will die and they will die and the Church will remain, as well as what we offered to her, and the next generations will judge us.” (The Gospel of the day of his departure (June 8, 2006) according to the Coptic Lectionary was John 15:17-25).

A warrior who encompassed Unity within himself:

“Unity surpasses the capacity of the human mind. All that individual reason could do would be to understand any kind of Unity once it had been truly accomplished. But it could not grasp beforehand how unity would be accomplished. “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look here it is!’ or ‘There is it!’ For, in fact the kingdom of God is within you.”

“If we desire a true unity, we must seek it and study it in God, in His presence, and not as some theoretical subject separated from God, whatever theological guise it may adopt.”

-Fr. Matthew the Poor in True Unity Will Inspire the World

A warrior who showed us how to be human:

“Leaving the world for a wasteland can be perceived as saving the world within oneself, and saving the wider world itself within the prayer life of eremitism and monasticism.” -John Watson

A warrior who encompassed all aspects of life and showed us the importance of the spiritual as well as the physical:

John Watson recounts the following:

“Father Matta frequently spoke of  ‘work’ not as an end in itself but as ‘an effective means of bringing about death to the human self with an authentic humane growth into the ground of our being.'”

“The administrative, agricultural and institutional revolution at the Monastery of St. Macarius was very great. The spiritual revolution was much greater.”

May he be a father, a friend and warrior to us all. Intercede for us before the Throne of Grace, our beloved father!

“You will not hear these words
As you are now plunged in the sea of divine love
But like you I wrote this for the coming generation
In the coming years your greatness will shine.”
-A Eulogy for Fr. Matthew the Poor

“Even if our beloved Fr. Mathew the Poor has departed our vanishing world, we know that death cannot put a halt or an end to a life such as his.” -Fr. Shenouda El-Anba Bishoy

“Life is not to be regarded as an uninterrupted flow of words which is finally silenced by death. Its rhythm develops in silence, comes to the surface in moments of necessary expression, returns to deeper silence, culminates in a final declaration, then ascends quietly into the silence of Heaven which resounds with unending praise.” -Fr. Thomas Merton

About me

Hi my name is Veronia. I'm on some crazy adventure with my husband in South Korea. I love cheese and anything made from potatoes. I love tasting new flavours of food but also of life. Discovering new, unique and authentic ideas is one of my greatest passions. I'm a pilgrim in this life searching for abundance in every aspect of my life and the creative within me and around me. I am slowly becoming aware of how much we imprison ourselves on a daily basis, how we chain ourselves to people, places, feelings, expectations and dreams. In order to live out the abundant life that we are called for and to become alive, we must break free; break free from every negative habits that we have built, from cultural norms, from the mundane that stops us creating and makes us lose our wonder. To become fully alive is to be liberated from our festering wounds that paralyse us from living a life worth living. You and I are a work in progress; together, through hospitality and offering each other the free space we need for change we will unlock the mysteries of Life.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *