Friday, September 15, 2017

Words for Our Lives: The Spiritual Words of Matthew the Poor (Ancient Faith Publishing)

Abba Matta of Egypt (or Matthew the Poor) was an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox monk and a pivotal player in the revival of Egyptian monasticism. When he was appointed to the Monastery of St. Macarius in 1969, the number of monks was a mere six. Upon his death in 2006, the community had grown to 130. He was also a very brilliant theologian who wrote nearly 200 books. Ancient Faith Publishing has printed two books by Matthew the Poor - Words for Our Time and Words for Our Lives. Back in 2013, I reviewed the former, and today I would like to tell you about the latter. Words for Our Lives is an approximately 200 page book divided into the following twelve sections:

1. Faith in the Impossible
2. How the Bible Changed My Life
3. The New Man
4. Walk in the Light
5. The Tough Road of Spirituality
6. The Meaning of the Psalms
7. The Power of the Psalms
8. The Value of the Psalms
9. The Sinful Woman
10. Holy Week
11. Feast of the Ascension
12. The Holy Spirit and Pentecost

The works were primarily composed in the 1970s with the first one being written in 1981. Topics covered include the Bible (primarily Psalms) and important Feasts throughout the Church Year. In the chapters on Psalms, Abba Matta explains that "The Psalms are given as a light to illuminate man's way to God and reveal the salvation that binds him to God." It is not to be thought of as an exercise, but instead a gift. He explains that the power of the Psalms are that you can hear God's voice in them, and by meditating on them, they can become "our personal worship, the liturgy of our lives." I particularly enjoyed the chapter on how the Bible changed his life. In this chapter, we receive a very personal account of how he struggled in the monastery initially, and that it was his discovery of the Bible that changed his life. He came to view the Bible as a personal book that was written specifically for him. This is an attitude we should all adopt before reading Sacred Scripture.

Another eye-opening chapter was "The Tough Road of Spirituality." In this chapter, he reveals that saintly people are going to have a tough life no matter where they are. Yes, you come to expect it in the secular world, because they do not understand, but he said that it happened in the monastery as well. This was shocking to me, and I'm not really sure why. We read examples of Catholic and Orthodox saints who lived a monastic life, and they were mocked by their peers, the same people who should be encouraging them, because they were "too holy." Reading these words from him was a slap in the face, and made me question if I do that in my day-to-day life.

Even though the works in this book are almost 40 years old, the words of Abba Matta still ring true today. Overall, I found this to be a very profound book and one that I would recommend all Christians read.

This book was provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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