Friday, March 19, 2010

Carol Saba on Hamatoura

As promised. The original can be found here.

Antiochian Monastic Renewal in the 20th Century Part I: Hamatoura
I. “It is an Athos outside of Athos.” This is what the website NOCTOC (a very nice site, in Greek and English, hardily recommended, about monasticism and the treasures of Orthodoxy and Orthodox monasticism) calls the Monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God at Hamatoura, “a hidden treasure of Orthodoxy.” The article notes the monastic work that has been undertaken there for several years by the abbot, Archimandrite Panteleimon (Farah), resuming a very ancient monastic tradition that goes back more than 1600 years, in the tradition of Mount Athos. It is more particularly in the tradition of two great ascetics of Mount Athos, an Antiochian, the archimandrite Father Isaac Atallah the Athonite (1937-1998) and a Greek, his spiritual father the Elder Paissios of Athos (1924-1994), one of the greatest spiritual figures and of Orthodox sanctity in the 20th century, beside Saint Nectarios and Saint Silouan. His spiritual son, Father Isaac, dedicated a book to him, “The Elder Paissios of Mount Athos” which is one of the most important references for the life and spiritual journey of the Elder Paissios.
II. Thus is Orthodox monasticism. A story of fatherhood and sonship. Sonship in tradition. In spiritual combat. Which awakens vocations. Forms spiritual strugglers. Encourages new foundations. Nourishes the seeds of new monastic works wherever the Lord calls for them to start. Which become centers of healing, awakening, and spiritual discernment. Centers of testimony which, in their turn, also recreate the link, regenerating a new line of spiritual sonship. A spiritual chain which, link after link, remains tied to the image of images, the icon of icons, the face of the invisible.
III. Hamatoura. The call for rebuilding. Restoration of ruins. Building up of the new community. Archimandrite Panteleimon, one of the most beautiful voices of the Patriarchate of Antioch. For us other chanters, he rocks our ears. For us, he is like other names like Nicholas Malek, the benchmark for the teaching and mastery of Byzantine psalmody, the prayerful chant of the angels. He lived for several years on Mount Athos with two great ascetics, Isaac and Paissios. It was on Mount Athos that he had several visions of the martyrdom of Saint Jacob and of others martyred for Christ by the Mamluks in the 13th century in the region of the Monastery of the Mother of God at Hamatoura where they were living out their faith. He experienced these visions as a call and they caused him to return to Lebanon towards the end of the 90’s, equipped with the blessing of his spiritual father, to renew the monastic tradition at the monastery of Hamatoura, abandoned for at least seven centuries.
IV. The work of refounding, of restoring the ruins, of building up the community, was a great challenge. In monasticism, one does not speak of the person who works, but rather of works. And of who has the blessing to undertake them. Exactly who matters little. Whatever he may have done, with monasticism he undertakes a new life. According to Athonite tradition, as recounted by Father Sophrony in his book about Saint Silouan, each new postulant, when he arrives on the Holy Mountain, should spend several days in retreat to write down his sins and go to confession. The confessor then said to Brother Symeon (the future monk and saint Silouan), “You have confessed your sins before God. Know that they have all been forgiven… from this moment on begin a new life…” Following this observation, we will not speak further about Father Panteleimon, but of the works that he has taken in his new struggle to revive monastic life in the Holy Mountain of the Mother of God at Hamatoura. Some twelve years later, not only the stones have been reconstructed, but also the spiritual fervor. Services, spiritual fatherhood, iconography, Byzantine chant, wakefulness and discernment, Hamatoura is once more erected as a spiritual lighthouse, a center of witness that nourishes the entire region.

Also, be sure to watch this video (in Lebanese Arabic, but still worth it).

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