A day we have all been dreading has finally come upon us. After a long battle with illness, HH Pope Shenouda III has left this world. Shall we ever see another like him?
Many years ago, a relatively young Nazir Gayed left behind a promising career both within and outside of the Church and found a cave in the Egyptian desert in which, as a monk, he could pursue his chief passion: his love for God. But he was dragged away unwilling from his little heaven on earth, and thrown into the responsibilities of first the Bishopric of Education, and then the papacy. This he accepted, if unwillingly, putting his own desires second after the needs of others. Given a free choice, there is little doubt he would have chosen to live out his life in that cave, and the Church would have been blessed with one of those little known hermits who support us all with the purity of their prayers. But no, he acquiesced to the call and devoted his days instead to solving the problems of others. I wonder how many people really understand the magnitude of that sacrifice? And yet he never complained, never grumbled, never showed in the slightest way that he was unhappy with the path that God had chosen for him. And now, at last, after 88 years on this earth, after seven decades of faithful, self-sacrificial service, God has given him his heart’s desire. This time, he has left the world to pursue his chief passion, his love for God, and no one can drag him back.
At times like these, people are wont to list all the achievements of the person who has passed away. That will no doubt make for a very substantial inventory in this case. But for me, these are not the things that matter. This list will probably include the number of churches that were established during his reign and the number of schools and theological colleges, the number of honorary degrees he received, and so on. But for me, this is not the Church, and so this is not the measure of the man or his service. The real Church is not made of buildings and institutions. Those things are just tools we use to build the real Church, which is made up of the hearts and lives of every member of the Church. Where there is love, where there is truth, where there is wisdom, and nobility, integrity and honour, kindness and compassion – that is the real Church. These are not things you can put numbers to, yet they are the things that really matter. And they are the things that Pope Shenouda had a very special way of nurturing and inspiring in others.
Elsewhere I wrote about a personal experience I had with His Holiness when I was a young and newly ordained priest. He had a way of making an unimportant stranger feel important, a way of giving you his attention in a way that said, “At this moment in time, you are more important to me than anything else”. I only had the blessing of meeting him in person on a limited number of occasions, but each one of those occasions is more precious to me than gold and has left its mark on my life.
What I loved about him was the way he remained a very real human being in spite of all the trappings and requirements of the high office he held. I loved that he loved his dogs at his cell in St Bishoy Monastery, and treated them with such kindness and gentleness. I loved the way he connected with children and young people, across all barriers of culture. I loved his kind smile that was never forced or put on, and always came accompanied by kind words and kind actions. I loved his integrity, the way he always insisted on the truth, even to his own hurt. I loved his compassion for the underdog, the way he would stand up for those that others put down. I loved his profound knowledge of Bible and the Fathers, and more importantly, the measured and balanced way in which he interpreted them. I loved his determination to do things right, not to cut corners, even if he could get away with it. I loved that he was from the Upper Egyptian town of Asyut (my origin too) and that he reminded me so strongly of my own father and my uncles, so calm, so patient, so pleasant in an old-world gentlemanly sort of way. I loved his sense of humour, the way he would tell a joke in his more casual moments and really care whether or not it made you laugh. I loved his own unself-conscious laugh and those little creases at the corners of his eyes. I loved that his sensitive soul had trouble coping with anyone who cried in front of him. And there is so much more…
How shall the Coptic Church cope without him? Of course, the Church belongs to Christ and He alone is its true keeper and preserver. But His Holiness was just such a clear living example of what it means to be Christ-like. May God protect the Church and especially the Copts of Egypt in these difficult and uncertain times.
The world is a poorer place for his passing from it.
Shall we ever see another like him? I hope we shall. I hope we shall see millions like him. If we truly want to honour him, the best way is not with words or tears. It is by taking up the baton he has passed to each and every one of us. It is by being faithful to his example, and following in his footsteps, he who faithfully trod in the footsteps of the Lord he loved with every fibre of his being.
7 Replies to “His Heart’s Desire”
I was very blessed from my recent visit to Egypt in January 2012, where I met His Holiness Pope Shenouda, I must admit I had respected him and thought he displayed meekness, which I often looked up to him, how a man so powerful with the work of the Holy Spirit could control his emotions during the most difficult times the Church had to face, I love the way he lived his life which demonstrated the love of Christ, he was truthful in love. Truly he was our teacher and he taught us how to survive in a harsh world, by being meek, humble, pure and truthful. He always mentions to always listen and never give advise unless asked was a very valuable lesson I learned that resonates with me, he has definitely left a mark on my heart especially I met with him, his frailness left me wondering how could a man be so powerful being so little, it convinces me that it is the power of God in him that was so powerful. I believe the Church will be engulfed with flames after his departure and the Church will become stronger to keep his life in it through the new Pope, Pope Shenouda has inflamed many people to live as he lived and as a result our Church will in the coming future be on fire with the many burning hearts of its people !
Thanks Abouna for that nice article.
And your comment that the world is a poorer place for his passing from it.
But heaven is now richer for his entry to it.
I will never forget the blessings I received from serving in a liturgy with His Holiness.
Please keep me in your prayers.
our condolences to the whole world and ourselves for the loss of such great spiritual leader . He was a real follower of Christ and he practiced what he preached. Pope Shenouda and the other previous popes of the Orthodox Coptic Church of Egypt ,all of them were great and every one for his time fulfilled the will of our lord and the specific need of our church congregation at his own time by attracting millions of souls to the green paddocks of the lord and looked after those least all over the world .Every one left for us own finger prints for more generations to come .We thank our lord that we are a Christian community who love and respect our saints , popes ,bishops and our priests ,it is a great blessing indeed . i believe pope Shenouda will leave a big vaccum for many years to come however we never know it might be the “will” of God in this time that HE is planning and preparing another Moses “Pope” to deal with such turmoil and unpredictable harsh worldly environment in Egypt ,Sudan,Ethiopia ,Iraq ,etc.in which our Christian people are suffering a lot . .just pray and talk to our lord Jesus Christ to send us the right pope for this specific time to deal with this harsh task in hand as a lot of souls need support ,i believe not easy task but every thing is possible in God .our lord Jesus Christ likes to listen to every one just talk to him because he loves us all unconditionally regardless of our sins , back ground ,color ,sex and education .May our lord Jesus Christ rest the soul of our pope Shenouda in peace amen .He departed our world but both his faith and deeds will survive for many generations to come ,pray for us Pope Shenouda before the throne of the lord amen .
We truly are going to miss this amazing saint
I only saw His Holiness once; from a distance while among throngs of people, on what I believe was his last papal visit to Australia. There is only one thing I remember beside his smile and childlike sense of humour; he had a radiance about his face that was so warm and saint-like.
He made and left us a Church we can be proud of, and he along with the late HH Pope Kyrillos VI pulled it out of the turmoil of the mid 20th century. In uncertain times like these in which there is talk of succession, I’d like to voice my support of the Church’s selection process and particularly the altar ballot because I know it has its critics both from within and without the church.
The altar ballot is unique in that it gives God a say. The time between the departure of one Patriarch to the enthronement of another is particularly uncertain for the people and the clergy. At this point the church can take any number of different directions and the new Patriarch can lead it through any number of different routes. The altar ballot tells God that the Church has placed complete and utter reliance on him to pick a shepherd who will lead the Church in the direction that God wants it to go. I like that!!
Further, unlike what we’ve seen in recent years with the conclave that enthroned HH Pope Benedict XVI on the throne of St Peter where the selection process was carried out by the synod of bishops who vote and choose, the altar ballot and the prior selection process gives the people a say (a concept very dear to HH Pope Shenouda’s heart; that the people have the right to choose their pastors). It is not only the Holy Synod that is involved in the election process, but the Coptic Lay Council and other prominent Coptic figures are also involved and allowed to vote. These people are or are supposed to be representative of the Coptic people at-large and to give them a say indicates that the Church’s hierarchy have confidence in it’s people.
I know there has been want for the altar ballot process to be reviewed, something both HH Pope Kyrillos and HH Pope Shenouda refused to do. I hope that when or if it is ever reviewed it’s general idea does not change. Whether bishops can or cannot be elected is I think the main point of contention (something I don’t personally see a problem with if they are a bishop without a diocese), but it’s a point of minor detail. The altar ballot I hope never changes because it’s a beautiful thing.
May God choose the suitable successor!
An interesting read, thought I’d share
Pope Shenouda is a great spiritual leeadr ..just the right person at the right place and at the right time our lord Jesus Christ sent him to lead our Community spiritually .a lot of ignorance of real Christianity was around in our communities and our beloved pope did the right thing by spreading the word of God all over the place even to some new places never heard the good news before all the time he lives and acts as a real christian , he sets the good example as real good Shepard for his community he is lean but firm God bless him and keep his spiritual leeadrship for more years to come we do not know what is the intention of God in the next few decades and what type of leeadrship our lord will send us ???!! might be something like Moses who might be suitable to lead our church in the future in this turbulent world with a lot of unpredictable non stability in every thing around us ??!! i believe just we have to pray and focus in our lord Christ all the time who will lead us safely to our heavenly eternal life , amen UN:F [1.7.4_987]please wait…UN:F [1.7.4_987](from 1 vote)