Χριστός ἀνέστη, Christ is Risen!
all the distinguished ecclesial representatives of the Middle East Council of Churches,
and brothers and sisters.
On behalf of the community of the Monastery of St Macarius the Great, we welcome you all to the desert of Scetis and in our monastery. Moreover, to this house of worship, the ancient church of St. Macarius the Great.
It is a day of jubilation and pride for the desert of Scetis to receive you, our honorable hierarchs and distinguished guests. Moreover, that the wilderness of Macarius to serve as the place for fraternal fellowship, strengthening the bonds of love between our churches.
Your presence here in one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world is an enormous blessing for us. We feel within ourselves as if Christ himself came to visit us.
Therefore, we thank the Lord who, in His graciousness, allowed this holy gathering in Egypt and in particular your visit here, today.
Saint Macarius the Great, the founder of our monastery—and indeed the founder of monasticism in this whole wilderness,—was renowned for the broadness of his mind and the breadth of his heart. Such openness allowed him to welcome, absorb, embrace into his own monastic community those who came from different countries, cultures, and social environments.
Among Macarius’ disciples was Arsenius—a scholar, well versed in Greek and Roman literature, which qualified him to be a teacher to the children of the Constantinople’s emperor, becoming a noble dignitary in the emperor’s court. Yet, we find him neighboring, consulting and benefiting spiritually from a simple monk who was raised in the Egyptian countryside.
Additionally, there was the Nubian monk known as Moses the Strong who practiced all kind of sins, even murder. After his repentance, he became a monk and lived next to and aspired as the saints to the highest levels of virtue.
Moreover, the emperor’s children, Maximus and Dometius, lived next to simple peasants. Granted the cultural differences, we have never heard of any disagreements that erupted between all of them, thanks to the great heart of their spiritual guide and desert father Saint Macarius, who succeeded in handing over his qualities to his spiritual children.
In fact, the secret of St Macarius was his ability to discover and encourage the good side that exists in every human being.
Among the principles he taught his children was the following:
Evil and arrogant words turn good people into bad people; but good and humble words turn bad people into good people.
He came out with this principle in response to an incident that happened to him that deserves to be told in full because the human mind remembers stories better than the theoretical principles.
One day Abba Macarius the Egyptian was walking in the desert with a young disciple who was going on ahead by a great distance. When the latter had gone on ahead, he met a pagan priest. The brother insulted him which made the priest furious. He beat him and left him half dead.
When the pagan priest had gone a little further, he met Abba Macarius who addressed him with a pleasant greeting: ‘May the strength be with you, O vigorous man!’ Quite astonished, the other came up to him and said, ‘What good do you see in me, that you greet me in this way?’.
The elder said to him, ‘I have seen you wearing yourself out without you knowing why.’ The priest answered him, ‘I have been touched by your greeting and I realize that you are on the Great God’s side.
But another wicked monk met me and cursed me and I gave him blows enough for him to die of them.’ The elder realized that he was referring to his disciple. Then the priest fell at his feet and said, ‘I will not let you go till you have made me a monk. ’ (Bustan al-Ruhban, Apothegm n. 210)
St Macarius was able to attract many people to him from the ends of the earth. Hence, in praise of our namesake, we chant the following in his doxology:
This is why they come to you, O Macarius, from the ends of the earth, from Rome, Syria, Anatolia, and Spain.
In the modern era, Father Matta al-Miskeen also known as Father Matthew the Poor, the spiritual father who started the monastic revival of our monastery since 1969, had a pivotal spiritual vision of Christian unity. Let us offer you some of his most important quotes about Christian unity:
The Christian seeks unity because he seeks God. [Unity] arises as a necessity or as an inevitable result of the union of man with God.
Unity is not a matter that can be examined theoretically. Unity is essentially divine… and it cannot be seen outside or apart from God.
Which one do we start with? With the letter or the spirit?… If we start with the letter, we will kill the spirit, the dialogue sessions will end up in mere formulas and words… and we will go around in circles until time―and with it, life―will slip away from us.
Examine and discern unity through the heart, through and within the divine presence. Unity apart from the divine presence is nothing more than a mere idea, a matter of discussion or a vain longing. But in the presence of God, unity is present and visible, overwhelming and lived.
[Through the one Eucharistic chalice] Christ Himself will oblige us, or rather inspire us, to acquire one mind, one word, and one expression, without each Church losing her theological formulations and distinct characteristics.
We seek unity with tears, for we seek Christ… Christ Himself urges us to seek such unity, by teaching us in the gospel of St John:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us (John 17:20-21)