What is Your Windmill?
Meditation on Pope Kyrillos’s windmill.
ince Pope Kirollos’s papacy from 1959, the church witnessed a glory such as it had not seen before. We witnessed the apparition of St. Mary in Zeitun, the return of the relics of St. Mark from Italy, the reconciliation with the Church of Ethiopia, the building of St. Mina monastery in Mariout Desert, the building of the new St. Mark’s cathedral in Cairo and a number of other notable accomplishments. One day, after the opening of the cathedral in Cairo, H.H. Pope Kirollos turned to his disciple Soliman Rizk (later to be Bishop Mina Ava Mina) and asked him, “Do you see all this glory?” He replied, “Yes, Sayidna”. He asked again, “Do you see all this glory?” At this point, his disciple thought that he was looking for some praise regarding the accomplishments that had been done. So he said, “Of course, Sayidna, this is because of all your hard work, dedication, and prayer.” The Pope answered, “All this glory is nothing compared to one day at the Windmill (tahoona).”
You might be asking, what does a windmill have to do with all this? Those of you who may know the life of our beloved Pope Kirollos know that he was a simple monk who lived in a deserted windmill on the outskirts of Cairo. He prayed daily liturgies on the upper floor of the windmill which is no larger than a walk-in closet. Many youth would flock to him to take his blessings before going to an exam or a job interview. Among those who visited him often was Soliman Rizk who eventually followed in his footsteps to put on the monastic garb.
So what exactly is it that made this deserted windmill such a blessing to Pope Kirollos to the point that he desired it more than all the glory of the Coptic Church? Most people don’t quite understand this story because it goes against everything we were taught. The American culture is so often caught up with success and accomplishment that we rarely have time for anything else. We study and work hard to move from one stage of life to the next. And as I become more successful in life, I ask myself: why? For what purpose and to what end? I tell myself it is for the glory of God. And sure enough, it might be. But if I’m honest with myself, how much of this is really for my own glory? More importantly, how much of this glory do I thrive on, making it the sole intention of all my endeavors?
After the children of Israel had driven the Lord to jealousy by worshipping a golden calf, the task fell upon Moses to intercede for his people. At the climax of perhaps the most intimate dialogue ever recorded between God and Man, Moses makes a bold request that resounds in the hearts of all men. He asks, “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Has anyone seen more glory than Moses already? I’ve never seen a burning bush. I’ve never seen the Red Sea split into two. I’ve never seen the ten plagues of Egypt. And despite everything, his supplication remains: Please show me Your glory.
How often do I make such a request to God? How often am I concerned with the glory of God? From the first minute I wake up in the morning till the last minute I fall asleep, my concerns deal only with my own glory – my exams, my studies, my job, my family, my friends. And I fill my day with more and more checkboxes to mark than I can keep track of; all of which serve as obstacles to any sort of quiet time with God. But if I really wanted to see God’s glory, perhaps I would shut these other things out, and realize what it means to sit quietly by myself and reflect on God’s glory – away from all the traffic, from all the noise, and from all the distractions.
Maybe that’s why Pope Kirollos was such a wise man. I believe that he truly understood what Moses the Prophet meant when he said: show me Your glory. In the windmill, he asked for the glory of God daily and saw it. In the windmill, he experienced the glory of God more intimately than we can imagine. In the windmill, he saw fulfillment of all the promises God had given him because he devoted himself to knowing God’s glory. And so I ask, what is your windmill?