Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fr. Pandeleimon Farah Remembers Fr. Elias Morcos

The newest issue of the Orthodox Youth Movement's magazine is dedicated to recollections of the recently departed abbot of Deir el-Harf, Fr. Elias Morcos. I will translate a few of them, I think, as together they provide substantial testimony to the profound impact of Fr. Elias and the monastic renewal which he was a part on the contemporary life of the Church of Antioch. Fr. Pandeleimon Farah is abbot of the Monastery of Hamatoura. The Arabic original can be found here.

Blessed is the one You have chosen and accepted, O Lord, his memory is unto generations (Psalm 64:4)

After the repose of the esteemed Father Elias (Morcos), doyen of monks in all of Antioch, I wanted to recall some of his qualities that deserve attention that attracting souls to him so he in turn could draw them to God, like the expert fisherman who understands that his role is to work with God for our salvation.

Thus I will not write about what I heard from people, who are truthful in how they describe him, but rather about what I myself saw and experienced of him, leaving others open to talk about their own experiences. The first thing that attracted me to him was his apostolic simplicity that caused him to flee worldly glories, even though he was of a high station in his society, and to live in simplicity of heart and way of life, with humble clothing, food, and speech, such that he taught with his silence as much as with his words, without affectation or platitudes. He was precise in his analysis. He did not harm the listener, even if he chastised him. He did not exaggerate or use hyperbole, because he spoke in order to comfort and not to dispel hope. His hope was continuous, tied to faith and love.

In his meditations, he was precise, with an enthusiasm that did not allow for boredom. He encouraged his listeners and readers, spreading hope, because the people are our people, children of our Church that we must teach with love, patience, and faith.

He loved all, even at the cost of his rest and his schedule, despite the fact that he was precise and orderly. He loved them and them with patience and joy. This shows his humility and self-renunciation.

His clinging to the lord in deep and ardent prayer manifested itself the most at times of hardship and bitter crises, whether in the Church or the nation. At those times, you would find him calm, inviting you to prayer and reliance on God. He was not proud and made no account of himself, but he bore all in his heart, in imitation of his teacher Jesus, lifting them up in prayer with submission and contentment.

Work for him was first, with prayer and service, then the teaching came to you, "blessed is he who works and teaches" (Matthew 5:19).

He would surprise us with his reaction and response, as though he anticipated what was going through your mind. He always insisted on the connection to Christ, because he was sure in his experience of this two-way motion (as you strive to draw near to Christ, you find yourself being drawn to him. The more you draw near to the other, the more rooted you become in Christ.)

If one day I went to him to complain about some injustice, he would return me to myself to complain about myself instead, and so I was freed and could rest. He very often made us laugh with his habitual wit (a sign of his lively intelligence), replacing of our destructive grumbling with self-examination. Because he relied upon God, he spread within us this hope that is not afflicted with disappointment.

Finally, I will write about his pushing those with talents to work and to employ them in service of the Church. He helped every person to find himself within the Church through work that serves all.

To put it simply, he bore the heritage of the first monks and he honestly epitomized in himself philocalic experiences. I remember an article of our beloved Metropolitan Georges (Khodr) in an issue of our magazine "al-Nour" with the title "What We Need is a New St. Anthony" and there we had this obvious trailblazer answering the call in silence and humility.

I also must extol his graciousness in supporting Antiochian monasticism with prayer and work, and likewise his attracting the youth and children to the Church through his honorable behavior, his writings, his translations, his listening, and especially his simple and cogent solutions.

I call out to the Lord who granted him this qualities and virtues to make his memory to be eternal, joining with the joyous in heaven with abundant truth, and that He will grace us in the Church of Antioch with more like him so that the gift will continue to abound and the harvest will continue to be blessed, amen.

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