Saturday 27 October 2018, Pope Tawadros II paid a visit to the Monastery of St Macarius in Wadi al-Natroun in Egypt’s Western Desert.
The monastery had seen its Abbot, Anba Epiphanius, brutally murdered in the early hours of 29 July 2018, hit on the head with an iron beam as he left his cell and headed to the monastery church for Midnight Praise and an early Sunday Mass. A defrocked monk of St Macarius’s and a current monk were charged with premeditated murder of the Abbot, and are currently standing trial.
It was revealed that several violations to monastic laws were rampant at the monastery, and a number of disciplinary actions were imposed by the Church on Egyptian monasteries in general and St Macarius’s in specific. No new Abbot has yet been chosen, but the Maqari monk Fr Petronius runs the monastery for the time being.
Saturday’s visit was the first the Pope paid the monastery since the death of Anba Epiphanius. The visit earned the description of being “a fatherly one”, since Pope Tawadros displayed sincere fatherly affection towards the monks. He talked with them, giving a word about monastic life, its difficulties and rewards.
“Monastic life in the desert,” the Pope said, “is dominated by calmness and tranquility, both being qualities that lead to profound self-searching, to liberation and salvation of the soul.
“You have chosen to dedicate yourselves to God,” the Pope told the monks, “to live a life for the glory of the Lord.”
Monastic life is not easy, Pope Tawadros said. It is death to the world; a monk chooses to give up his most basic rights as a man for the privilege of being close to God, spending his life in prayer, worship, and manual labour.
The Pope advised the monks to complete their journeys towards salvation, doing everything they have to do without grumbling or complaining, both of which denote that something is seriously wrong with the monk. Complaining comes from lack of love and patience, he said; it indicates narrow-heartedness that loses sight of the monastic call.
“The strength of monastic life derives from its very simplicity,” Pope Tawadros concluded. “Divine comfort is our support on the path we have chosen. The sons of God are distinguished by only one thing: their great love. Be joyful. Let your life be heaven-oriented, and your monastery heaven on earth.”
30 October 2018