Matta El-Meskeen

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Coptic Orthodox Cross
Note: This article or section represents an Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) perspective, which may differ from an Eastern Orthodox (Chalcedonian) understanding.
Father Matta El Meskeen: Spiritual Father of the Monks in St. Macarius' Monastery in Scetis (Egypt) - Other photos: [1],[2]

Abouna Matta El Meskeen (or El-Maskeen or Matthew the Poor - born Youssef Eskander in 1919 - departed on June 8, 2006) is a Coptic Orthodox monk and also the Spiritual Father of 130 monks in the Monastery of St. Macarius the Great in the Wilderness of Scetis, Egypt. He is also a renowned Orthodox theologian, and author of voluminous texts on Biblical exegesis, Ecclesiastical rites, spiritual and theological matters, and much more.

Father Matta is celebrated by many Copts as a reformer and a prominent figure in recent Coptic history. Alongside two others (Bishop Samuel and Bishop [Now Pope] Shenouda), Father Matta was a candidate for the Patriarchal throne in 1971, following the repose of Pope Kyrillos VI.

Father Matta was once Pope Shenouda's confessor during the 1950s. But today, there seems to be some misunderstandings between both leaders and their followers [3], e.g., recently in relation to the concept of theosis (see discussion at [4]), and also regarding Father Matta's position on Mark 16.

Early life

Father Matta El Meskeen was born in Benha, elKaliobia, Egypt, in 1919. In 1944, he graduated in Pharmacy from the University of Cairo. After leading a successful life and establishing a wealthy lifestyle for himself--Eskander at the time was the owner of two pharmacies, two villas, and two cars--he renounced his material possessions in 1948, and entered the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Qualmun (roughly near Maghagha, Upper Egypt).

Monastic life

After living for a few years in the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Qualmun, Father Matta decided to move out into Wadi El Rayan in the late 1950s. There, he lived as a recluse in the spirit of the ancient Desert Fathers for twelve years. By 1960, seven other monks joined him. The community expanded to twelve by 1964. These twelve monks were sent to Wadi El Natroun in 1969. ... (tbc)


"Whenever physical hunger turned cruel against me, I found my gratification in prayer. Whenever the biting cold of winter was unkind to me, I found my warmth in prayer. Whenever people were harsh to me (and their harshness was severe indeed) I found my comfort in prayer. In short, prayer became my food and my drink, my outfit and my armor, whether by night or by day." --Fr. Matta El-Meskeen

"It is no joy for the church to have many active members of varied services who lack the spiritual proficiency for renewing souls and regenerating them in a genuine spiritual rebirth to win them for the Kingdom of Heaven. The true joy of the Church lies in leaders who possess spiritual insight, who walk ahead of their flocks so that the flocks can follow a sure path. It is not possible to obtain spiritual insight by action or study, spiritual insight is attained by silence, retreat and long prayers in their various stages." --Fr. Matta El-Meskeen

"I felt I was late to come to the knowledge of Christ; studying the Bible appeared such a daunting task. In desperation, I asked the Lord to give me either a long life to have enough time to study the Bible well, or enough wisdom to grasp its hidden meanings. In His everlasting generosity, God gave me both." --Fr. Matta El-Meskeen

Sources and further details