(1937 – 1998)
Hieromonk Isaac was born Fares Atallah in Lebanon in 1937. His brother Anthony later wrote that as a child “he was already finding all his happiness in nearness to God and His Church”. At the age of twenty-five, after a previous unsuccessful attempt, he joined the Monastery of the Dormition in Bkeftin. When he arrived, he exclaimed, “I give thanks to the Lord for having now granted me my desire.”
He then went on to study at the theological college attached to the Balamand Patriarchal Monastery, where he was ordained deacon and received the name Phillip. Later, he continued his studies in Patmos and Thessaloniki. Whilst there he encountered Mount Athos and the Elder who changed his life, Saint Paisios.
After completing his studies in 1973 he returned to Lebanon and was ordained a presbyter. He lived in the Monastery of St George in North Lebanon, restoring it and bringing a spiritual renewal to the area. However, his stay was short lived as the Civil War forced Fr Phillip to flee for Thessaloniki in 1975. There, he was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite and served in the Parish of St Barbara.
In 1978, he obtained permission from his Metropolitan to transfer to the Monastery of Stavronikita on Mount Athos, where he received the name Isaac. There, he was able to follow Saint Paisios who lived nearby. After a year, he started living in the cell which he would call his home for the rest of his life. For four years he lived as a solitary, being constantly tested and tempted. He defeated these thoughts by thinking of his death, and he censed the grave he dug for himself outside his hermitage every day until the day he died on 16 July 1998.
Hieromonk Isaac is best known for his biography of Saint Paisios, which has been translated into many languages, but should also be remembered as a representative on Mount Athos of the monastic tradition of Lebanon and Syria.
Source: Lychnos Feb 2019 / Mar 2019