Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matt 25:21
Father, Giver, Kind, Loving, Compassionate, Stern, Joyful, Merciful, and Blessed. There are not enough adjectives for me to use to describe my Priest, my father, Abouna Wissa. It all started 25 years ago at the baptismal font (we used a cooler at that time) when Abouna dunked me into the water and brought me back alive in Christ. From that time he was a caretaker for my soul. I recall as a young child that I would look at Abouna with such esteem not to mention I was a bit terrified because at times I was a bit of a trouble-maker. But through all my mess-ups and failures the one thing I recall was the bright, cheerful smile that Abouna had for me. When I got to high school and I strayed from the church it was Abouna who came to my house to visit me and ask me why I didn’t come to church as often. He would often joke with me and say I know there is a girl who is distracting you, while at the same time tickle and poke me causing me to burst out into laughter. Anyone who knows Abouna knows that was his way of showing affection. When we used to miss a meeting or not come to liturgy one day he would see us and we would know what was coming we used to call it “Holy Beatings”. He would grab us and give us a few light punches to make us laugh and then he would give us a big hug and tell us he wanted us to be better.
I admired his love and keen sense of humor but what I admired most of all was his love for the rites and tradition of the church. Abouna had a deep appreciation for the beauty of the rites of Coptic Orthodoxy. He would often say to us in Arabic “We need to preserve the rites and traditions of our church, they are a treasure.” I now understand why he loved the rites so much. He loved them because his adoration to God was in the symbolism and beauty of our church. He saw God as the Pantocrator. He saw God as described in Isaiah 6. He saw God as Holy, Holy, Holy the One Who the angels prostrate and cover their eyes because of His Holiness. I learned to see God as the Pantocrator because of Abouna Wissa.
Abouna, I wish I could have seen you one last time before you returned to the Bosom of our Holy Fathers but my last memory with you was the sweetest. My last memory with you was before the Holy Eucharist. My last memory of you was seeing you do what you always did, adore the God whom you served faithfully your entire life. Well done Abouna, Well done you fought the good fight, you finished the race, you built a generation and church on the principles and teachings of Christ. You left a legacy of priests and servants who will carry out your adoration and love for Christ the King as we say in the liturgy from generation to generation.
I look forward to the day when we will be reunited by the grace of God and we can worship The Pantocrator the same way we did for 25 years. Thank you Abouna for being my Priest, my mentor and most of all my Father. As St Paul once said, for though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. I have had many instructors but you Abouna will always be my father.
You will be missed my father. You will be missed. Please pray for me before the throne of God and remember always the youth of Staten Island whom you love and instructed for so many years. We love you always Abouna and your memory is Eternal.