Author Topic: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor  (Read 5064 times)

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Offline Elisha

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Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« on: June 03, 2007, 01:44:54 AM »
I think there were some previous threads about this priest (in the Oriental forum) about Matthew the Poor (Fr. Matta El-Meskeen), saying that he is a heretic or schismatic or something...that he is neither in the OO or EO church.

I just check out this book, Orthodox Prayer Life, from my parish's lending library.  Anyone have any reviews or think that the book itself is not Orthodox in view?  It is a SVS Press book, if that means anything.  I have no opinion of Matthew the Poor - I was just looking for a book on prayer.  Thanks.

Offline EkhristosAnesti

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Re: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2007, 02:35:57 AM »
Fr. Matthew was a well-known and regarded Coptic Orthodox monastic and abbot of the famous monastery of St. Makarios the Great in the Scetis desert. He reposed in communion with the Church, and was only ever officially censured for various ecclesial-political issues. Nevertheless, before his repose there was an ongoing conflict with HH Pope Shenouda III regarding various theological intricacies.

In my opinion, the conflict was fuelled by a misunderstanding stemming from a difference in theological education and outlook. Pope Shenouda seems to have a prima facie suspicion towards language speaking about our progress towards God-ness, or becoming like God. I think this suspicion results primarily from a mixture of a) a lack of patristic grounding, and b) sensitivity towards his Arabic cultural context where such language and concepts are prone to being misunderstood. Fr. Matthew on the other hand is very well-rooted in the patristic mind (and I think his work Orthodox Prayer Life attests to that quite well), and theologises strictly on patristic terms*.

All in all, for whatever my opinion, as an OO, is worth to you, I certainly found nothing unOrthodox about Fr. Matthew's Orthodox Prayer Life. On the contrary, I believe it to be one of the most valuable insights to Orthodox Spirituality, not only account of its evidencing a striking familiarity with the patristic mind, but more importantly on account of the fact it is grounded in the experience of one who lived the life of prayer in solitude for over half a century in one of the most ancient and blessed monasteries of the early Church.

*HH Pope Shenouda's stance in this regard does not seem to coincide with what appears to the be the generally unanimous approach amongst key contemporary OO theologians and heirarchs. Strong language of deification is especially present in the works of Fr. T. Malaty (who is probably the most renowned Coptic theologian amongst lay Copts, given the prolificacy of his works, and his ability to make theology accessible to the laity) and the great Paulos Mar Gregorios (who taught the profound maxim, "deification is humanisation", in his Cosmic Man). My Bishop's work on Icons (HG Bishop Daniel of Sydney and its Affiliated Regions, The Spirituality of Icons) refers to the notion of Icons witnessing to the concept of deification; and a prominent priest in our diocese, who is also a key lecturer at our theological college, Fr. Matthew Attia, briefly discusses deification as a blessing of the Incarnation in his work Blessings Upon Blessings.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2007, 02:39:08 AM by EkhristosAnesti »
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Offline FrChris

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Re: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2007, 08:47:58 AM »
Ekhristos Anesti,

This is one of the most concise, insightful, and fair summaries of this whole situation regarding Fr. Matthew the Poor that I have ever read.

Thank you very much for contributing this to this site.

+Fr Chris
"As the sparrow flees from a hawk, so the man seeking humility flees from an argument". St John Climacus

Offline Elisha

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Re: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2007, 11:24:21 AM »
Thanks a bunch.

Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2007, 11:03:43 PM »
And thanks everyone for this thread.
It got me interested in Fr. Matthew the Poor, and I've started reading some of his articles translated into English:
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2007, 11:11:21 PM »
Indeed, EA, I enjoyed a lot reading your summary.

I've recently read a couple of booklets by Fr. Matta el Maskeen in English.  One of the books questioned was "the Pentecost" which was translated into English from a 1960 book he wrote with the same title.  Unless there are other books he wrote about the Pentecost, this was a relatively "large booklet" (compared to the others, about 50 pages), and I'm not sure if this is the exact book some bishops accuse him of.

The accusation made against him was that the Apostles were hypostatically united with the Holy Spirit, which indicates a similar unity between Christ's humanity and divinity.  Well, in the way it was presented to me, it didn't make any sense.  Either Fr. Matta espouses Nestorianism or the belief that we actually become the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit Himself.

Reading this English translation of his 1960 book, there was a paragraph mentioning the Apostles having a personal unity with the Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit, and not just a simple grace of prophecy or miracles like the OT saints.  He did say that the Divine nature and Human nature was uniting, but it seemed to me he was espousing, I guess (using strictly Nestorian terms without the balance of the Alexandrian "of") an "in two natures" where there is complete "conjunction" filled with grace unlike that of the OT.  But I never got the intention that there was a "hypostatic unity" between the Holy Spirit and the Apostles.  He said the Apostles were united with the Hypostasis, but I read nowhere in the booklet a "hypostatic unity" in the strictest sense.

This may be just one example of a what I feel is a misunderstanding and different upbringing.  In addition, Fr. Matta seems to me quite contemplative and allegorical, and can easily be misunderstood if taken out of context.  One article to my knowledge I remember reading and liking was interpreted by someone else as " "Western juridical" (mind you, I just recently skimmed through an article by HE Metropolitan Bishoy that accuses him of being "anti-juridical" like Max Michel) while at the same time others accuse this same article of making Christ look like a sinner.  His use of allegory can be really complicated, but if you can understand that he's no different from that Pauline contemplative spirit (for example, St. Paul did say "Christ became sin"), then really I don't find anything unOrthodox about him.

And indeed, it is that patristic support that has me appealed to people like Fr. Matta and Fr. Tadrous.

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Offline gbs

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Re: Orthodox Prayer Life by Matthew the Poor
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2011, 11:51:29 AM »
Dear people,

Thank you very mutch for usefull posts i'm going to buy an read the book,

God Bless