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The Great Saint Pope Kyrillos VI Model for the Spiritual Life Brief Outline of His Life • Born Azer Youssef Atta on August 2(?), 1902 in Damanhour • Grew up in a very pious Christian home – during his childhood the evidence of a spiritual person were evident in his love for the church and his behavior • In July 1927, he entered into the monastery of El-Baramous • Stayed as a novice until February of 1928 when he was tonsured a monk and given the name Monk Mina El-Baramousy, then ordained a priest in July 1931. Brief Outline of His Life (cont’d) • Escaped ordination to the Episcopate by fleeing to the monastery of St. Shenouda in Sohag but when he returned at the request of the Pope he pleaded his case to be a solitary and his wish was granted. • He lived as a solitary in a cave that was approximately one hours-walking distance from the monastery (El- Baramous). Brief Outline of His Life (cont’d) • In 1936 he continued to live as a solitary but in an old abandoned wind mill in Old Cairo until 1941 where he was appointed as the abbot of the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in El- Kalamun near Maghaga (this is the monastery of St. Andrewes and many other holy men). He was successful in renovating and improving the conditions of this monastery. Brief Outline of His Life (cont’d) • In 1947 he moved to Old Cairo where he built the Church of St. Mina his beloved saint. During this time many university students (whose homes were outside Cairo) surrounded him so he established a dormitory for them and attended to their spiritual needs. Many of these students became priests, monks and bishops including H.H. Pope Shenouda III. • In May 1959 he was chosen to be Pope and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark under the name Kyrillos VI. Brief Outline of His Life (cont’d) • During his life as Patriarch the Church witnessed many great things: † The monastery of St. Mina in Mariut † Processed the Holy Myron for only the 26th time in Coptic Church history. † Renovation of St. Mark‟s cathedral in Cairo. † The unprecedented apparition of the Holy Mother of God over the Church in Zeitoun. † The return of the relics of St. Mark the Apostle to Egypt. † Liturgical revival in the Coptic Church † Spiritual revival in the Coptic Church. Brief Outline of His Life (cont’d) • Departed this world March 9, 1971 • His miracles continue to be documented in over fifteen separate volumes in Arabic and slowly are being translated into English and other languages. Spiritual Gifts † Miracles † Clairvoyance † “Spirit-Borne” Although one cannot study the life of this Holy Saint without noting the thousands of miracles granted through his prayers and his blessed life, let us defer this to another time and study his virtues to see how we can benefit in our own lives. Model for the Spiritual Life In the life of this great saint we find a school of virtues and a complete picture of how one can be in perfect communion with God while in this world. He is a true witness in the 20th century that God is still working in his saints. Although there is too much to discuss to even gain a glimpse into the life of this hero, let us look at a few of his virtues, namely: – Humility – Life of Prayer/Asceticism – Love/Service Humility “Let us disappear that God may be manifested in His glory” (First Papal Epistle of Pope Kyrillos VI) “If I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14) His Grace Bishop Mina El-Samueli said, “Father Mina considered everyone better than himself.” Humility (cont’d) • His Grace Metropolitan Athanasius of Beni Suef said that once he gave a sermon in the Cathedral when the Pope was present. After the sermon the Pope gently admonished him saying, “Brother, why do you yell at, and order the people as you instruct them...Who knows who is better than whom…” • One of Pope Kyrillos‟ relatives said that when Fr. Mina lived in St. Mina‟s Church in Old Cairo with other monks and novices, he used to assign them work to do. However, he kept to himself the chore of cleaning the washrooms without letting anyone notice it. He never assigned this job to a hired hand or anyone else. Humility (cont’d) • Fr. Raphael Ava Mina, the private deacon to the Pope, on many occasions would forget that the Pope had requested a cup of tea, for example. After an hour or so he would remember but would then be too embarrassed to go to him. When one of the other workers went to the Pope, the pope would ask him about the tea but the worker would respond that “Raphael has not requested anything from me” The Pope would reply, “Never mind my son, Raphael works so hard, he gets tired, God help him”. Humility (cont’d) • Many people tried to convince the Pope (including a delegate from the Vatican) to refurnish and repaint his residence at the Patriarchate to suit the level of a pope and he would respond, “It is still better than the manger in which our Savior Jesus Christ was born”. • Fr. Raphael also said this: “I often heard him (the Pope) abasing himself saying, „the boy became a patriarch‟ and if he asked for something and found many people responding to his request he would say, „his shirt is at his knees and ten are at his service‟ or „he is still in grade school and the world is waiting on him‟” Humility Questions: 1. In the life of Pope Kyrillos we see humility has two sides, the positive and the negative, what are they? Has our view only been one-sided? 2. Why is it that the Scriptures and the Fathers speak of humility as the most essential virtue and key to communion with God? How is this shown in the life of Pope Kyrillos? 3. What are some ways we can practice humility based on the example of Pope Kyrillos? Life of Prayer Fr. Raphael says this about the Pope‟s prayer life: “His Holiness prayed unceasingly. He never stopped praising God, either in his cell, during meetings, while walking, or even while eating. He was always lifting up his heart and all his senses as he sang psalms. Prayer was his source of comfort and the tool for solving difficult problems. He spent prolonged periods of time alone in his cell just in prayer. The pope‟s life was always full of prayer, and eventually prayer became his life” Life of Prayer (cont’d) • Bishop Mina El-Samueli says this about Fr. Mina the Hermit when he was in the windmill: “Fr. Mina used to wake up at 2 a.m., start the midnight agpeya prayers, do the praise service (tesbeha), bake the „korban‟, raise the morning incense, then serve the holy liturgy which would end around 8 a.m.…in the evening after fasting all day he would raise the vespers incense. During the night he would make praises for several saints” Life of Prayer (cont’d) • As Pope, Fr. Raphael said this: “Pope Kyrillos started his day at 3 a.m., no matter how late he went to bed the night before. He would wake up for midnight prayers, and then go to the church for the raising of incense before the divine liturgy...he used to pray with a low voice, bowed head, and closed eyes… with fear and respect. He never allowed himself to lean against the altar nor to talk with anyone during the liturgy. While praying he used to shed many tears…we deacons found ourselves shedding many tears with him” Life of Prayer (cont’d) • “His Holiness was also committed to the Prayers of Raising Incense which he said every morning and evening…he insisted on raising incense by himself. When a young priest monk offered to raise the incense for him, as was the practice of some bishops, the Pope told him, “And why can I not raise the incense? Are we not all raising it to the glory of God? There is no great or small person in the eyes of God. We are all the same in front of him” Life of Prayer Questions: 1. Given the extremely busy schedule of a Pope, what does the prayer life of Pope Kyrillos teach us? 2. What does Pope Kyrillos‟ emphasis on the Eucharist and the traditional prayers of the Church show us? 3. What is the goal of prayer as manifested in the Pope‟s life? 4. Based on the life of Pope Kyrillos what are some ways we can deepen our prayer life? Love/Service Fr. Raphael tells these incidents: • “Once when the Pope was residing at St. Mina‟s monastery, some families came to visit him. Before they left, His Holiness ordered food for them. Shortly after, he asked me to bring his own dinner to the children. I explained that we already took care of their food, but he insisted. So, I took the food and gave it to them, and he remained without food”. • “On many occasions the Pope would see an elderly gentleman who needed a blessing but could not reach him because of the crowd. The Pope would then go to him and pray for him”. Love/Service (cont’d) • “One day H.H. heard the that one of the deacons criticized the way a priest chanted the mass. He had said that the priest‟s hymns barely had a tune. The Pope wanted to gently reform the deacon‟s behavior. He did so at a Divine Liturgy attended by the priest and that deacon. He said to the deacon, „Do you hear how Abouna is praying? The prayers are coming from his heart. If two or three people like him existed in this world, God would have turned away his wrath‟. The deacon was embarrassed and asked the Pope for his forgiveness”. Love/Service (cont’d) • “One day H.H. had finished the Divine Liturgy, and had not yet eaten breakfast. A large number of visitors arrived asking for his blessings. When he asked me about the number of visitors, I told him there were too many. I noticed that the Pope looked tired and I beseeched him to quickly dismiss them. The Pope looked right at me and asked sharply, „What do you mean?!‟ I felt ashamed of my conduct. He then asked me to invite the visitors in and he had long conversations with them. The visits were not over until late afternoon…In order to draw my attention to my mistake, H.H. said „If I had listened to you I would not have been that late for breakfast‟…I left H.H. weeping. I was touched by his great compassion and love for his flock. Moreover, H.H. would ask me, before going to his room to rest, to check that there were no more visitors waiting on the ground floor.” Love/Service Questions: • Based on the example of Pope Kyrillos, what is the relationship between love and service? Love and compassion? • How did the Pope deal with hearing negative things about others? • What are some practical ways we can emulate the love of this great saint? Final thoughts: In addition to what we have discussed above, it is impossible to forget the Pope‟s intimate relationship with the Mother of God and the saints, especially St. Mina the Wonderworker, whom he use to converse with and see regularly. His life is a witness to the close communion that exists between the church militant and the church triumphant. O Lord, through the prayers of your beloved saint Pope Kyrillos VI, have mercy on us and forgive us our sins!
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