Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Matthew the Poor

"Whenever physical hunger turned cruel against me, I found my gratification in prayer. Whenever the biting cold of winter was unkind to me, I found my warmth in prayer. Whenever people were harsh to me (and their harshness was severe indeed) I found my comfort in prayer. In short, prayer became my food and my drink, my outfit and my armor, whether by night or by day."

"It is no joy for the church to have many active members of varied services who lack the spiritual proficiency for renewing souls and regenerating them in a genuine spiritual rebirth to win them for the Kingdom of Heaven. The true joy of the Church lies in leaders who possess spiritual insight, who walk ahead of their flocks so that the flocks can follow a sure path. It is not possible to obtain spiritual insight by action or study, spiritual insight is attained by silence, retreat and long prayers in their various stages."

"I felt I was late to come to the knowledge of Christ; studying the Bible appeared such a daunting task. In desperation, I asked the Lord to give me either a long life to have enough time to study the Bible well, or enough wisdom to grasp its hidden meanings. In His everlasting generosity, God gave me both."
I am currently an avid fan of Matta El-Meskeen (aka Matthew the Poor). His writings are sharply distinct from modern writers. His words are written simply, but they carry profound meaning and implications. Personally, I find his writings surpass Henri Nouwen's in terms of depth. The words literally pops out of the pages and made me yearn for more. The main key behind El-Meskeen's life is the consistent yearning to let God be the center of his life. Born in Egypt in 1919, he graduated in Pharmacy but left the successful pharmacy practice in 1948 to enter the monastery of St Samuel the confessor. He then lived 20 years as a hermit and became the spiritual advisor of many people seeking spiritual guidance. He died on 8 June 2006.

Personal Reflections on the Spiritual Life
Reading his writings really makes me more willing to let go of the temptation to want to go back to a rich wealthy lifestyle (not that I am very rich in the first place!). What good is an expensive car compared the the immense gratification of becoming a channel to transport spiritual blessings to our fellow pilgrims? What good is owning a top-end condominium when what is more beneficial is to house hospitality in our hearts for neighbours and loved ones? What good is a well-paying job when compared to a well-prayed vocation of helping fellow people attain their purposes in life? What good is an expensive holiday abroad when compared with the simple retreat to the woods, the mountains and the sea. If one can afford a car, it does not mean one cannot be spiritual. If one can buy a big house, it does not mean one cannot live a proper Christian life. If one have a good job that pays well, it does not mean throwing it all away in order to live a meaningful life of providing for oneself and loved one. The key question is, can any of the above nudge us a step closer to the heart of God? Can a car put us on a highway to heaven? Can a house be used to store up treasures of earth in heaven? Can a good job be the purpose of life? Instead, ASK our Father God, for grace to be able to transport God's love into the lives of people. SEEK the Son Jesus, for mercy to store up treasures in heaven by true hospitality of the heart. FIND the spiritual gifts we have, as given by the Spirit, that the works that we do, is for the edification of the Body of Christ and to be the spiritual channel of blessings to the world around us. For when we ask in God's will, the ways of God will be given unto us. When we seek the Lord's blessings to bless others, both the blessor and the blessee will be found blessed. When we knock on the door of heaven in prayer, heaven will be opened to us. This is the promise of God.

I think the fact that many monks give up wealth in the world is not due to the wealth itself. It is basically the monks' awareness that they are not able to handle such wealth on one hand, and live a simple life on the other. It is simply too difficult for them, a recognition of their own weaknesses. I concur.


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