Matta al-Miskin and His Theological Heritage in the Context of the Contemporary History of the Coptic Church
Authors: German L. Krylov
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In the context of contemporary Coptic theology, Matta al-Miskin is renowned
as an author of an authentic doctrine, who opened to the Coptic
reader the saints, canonized after the separation of the Copts from the Universal
Church, like Gregory the Great, John of Damascus, Seraphim of Sarov.
After centuries of oblivion, he relaunched the idea of man’s divinization,
pronounced centuries ago by SS Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, and was
sharply criticized by Pope Shenouda III for this and other related concepts.
Ascetic and hermit, Matta al-Miskin played an important role not only in the
monastic revival in Nitrian St. Macarius Monastery, but also in its impressive
economic development. In 1979-1981 the spiritual writer who called for
delimitation between Church and State, found himself in the center of the
vicissitudes of Egypt’s internal policy, challenged to mediate the unprecedented
crisis between President and Patriarch.
The Church leadership, committed to the traditional paradigm formed
throughout the centuries of isolation, failed to grasp his new old ideas. Shenouda’s
critical view of Matta al-Miskin can hardly be explained by mere
theological disagreements. Patriarch Tawadrus II rehabilitated the heritage
of Matta al-Miskin, which was embraced by the curriculum of Coptic seminaries;
the relations between the Patriarchy and St. Makarius’ Monastery
were normalized. The recent shocking murder of its Bishop Epiphanius,
a disciple of Matta al-Miskin, who made much to promote his teacher’s
works, returned to many minds the old disagreements, the pathogenic deflection
of which could have possibly led to the crime.