MONKS INSPIRE VIEWERS TO SEEK GOD DURING LENT
As Christians around the world observe Lent, the SAT-7 ARABIC program Needle and New Thread visited a historic monastery in Egypt. In a special episode, the monks shed light on their way of life and shared with viewers the importance of quiet reflection.
The women’s program recorded the episode at the Paromeos Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Wadi el-Natroun. During the show, the monks stressed the importance of seeking God during this season of prayer and fasting.
“The hardest part is to find time alone,” said one. “One must make time to sit with God and pray, even if it is a short prayer. Through quiet time, one will be able to hear God and know oneself better.”
Another shared, “Not everybody is called to be a monk, but the Word of God is for everybody.” Viewers were also encouraged to use devotional time as an exercise in self-discipline and a chance to reflect on their actions.
Maggie Morgan, Needle and New Thread’s Producer and Director, says, “The monks have a lot to teach us about slowing down, making room for personal space, living with mindfulness and intentionality.”
A FIRST-HAND INSIGHT
During the show, the monks also gave a fascinating insight into their daily lives.
“A monk’s life is all about prayer. Between prayers, a monk works with his hands and spends time reading spiritual books, such as the history of the Church, or meditates on the sayings of the early fathers,” said one.
On entering the monastery, monks begin a life of voluntary asceticism, pledging vows of obedience and chastity, and poverty. A monk explained:
“Monasticism isn’t unhealthy solitude. A monk is no different to any other person… He is just more interested in praying and spending time with the Lord than in the activities of the world.”
This sentiment was echoed by Presenter Vivian Edward, whose brother is a monk at Paromeos Monastery. She said:
“There’s a misconception that monks are abnormal people or are fanatical in their beliefs. But they’re not like that at all… Before my brother became a monk, he was a normal man living a normal life. He had many friends, swam, played football, and did all the other activities that people do.”
Vivian said that although her brother’s decision to become a monk was not a sudden one, it was still a shock for the family.
“We couldn’t cope with it in the beginning,” she said. “But soon we realised that his choice was good, because he is now a prayer support for us. Initially, there were tears and sadness because of the loss, but he is now a source of joy to us.”
ROOTED IN THE DESERT
The show explained the different types of monasticism, both of which have roots in Egypt. The country’s deserts saw the first footsteps of St Anthony of Egypt, who sought a life of solitude and closeness to God. He is often seen as the founder of eremitic monasticism, in which monks live as hermits. Cenobitic monasticism, in which monks live in community, was founded by St Pachomius the Great in the third century.
The Paromeos Monastery takes its name from the Roman princes Maximus and Domitius, who lived as monks at the site. “Paromeos” means “that of the Romans”. Built in the sixth century, the monastery, now houses around a hundred monks, many historic churches and a fortress that protected it from Berber attacks in the fifth century.