Lifes Strange Serendipity

In the 1970s I was taken to visit a Greek “Old Calendarist” monastery during a weekday vespers. At the end of vespers it was (and still is) their tradition that one of the fathers recap his reading of the lives of that days saints. Some of the lives were only available in Slavonic or Greek at that time. I listened to Fr. Mamas narrate the various lives and all the while I kept thinking to myself “this fellow sounds just like someone who went to St. John’s.” I later learned that he did indeed finish his Junior year at SJCA. In fact, he was such a memorable student that some years later I visited St. John’s, happened to see Jacob Klein and MENTIONED that student. Well, Mr. Klein’s eyes lit up and he was eager to know what had happened to him. The serendipitous irony of life becomes even MORE amusing. My stepson was taking a course in college in philosophy and it turns out that this very same person was teaching that course. My stepson was most circumspect and waited until the course was over and grades were in and then ASKED the professor about that monastery. He was quite surprised and answered in the affirmative and wondered how he knew.

While in that monastery, burdened with many physical labors (such as mending roofs) and very little sleep, Fr. Mamas managed to teach himself ancient Syriac in order to translate the writings of St. Isaac the Syrian and not only did he teach himself but he became one of the world’s foremost authorities.

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