Thursday, June 12, 2008

20th Century Star of Christianity

The Departed, His Holines Pope Cyril (Kyrillos) VI
The 115th Successor to St. Mark the Evangelist
On March 9 (Amshir 30), the remembrance of the departure of the Great Pope (Papa Ava) Kyrillos (Cyril) VI, the 116th successor of St. Mark the Evangelist. He was pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark befor our present pope, Papa Ava Shenouda III. Anba (His Holiness) Kyrillos was a holy man who through full dedication to the life of prayer and fasting posessed many higher gifts which included performing wonders and miracles, the gift of knowledge, and an unusual ability to lead by example. which was missing for generations before his ascending to the throne of St. Mark. He set on the chair of St. Mark for twelve years (1959-1971). He had the honor and showed the wisdom needed to guide the Coptic Church through the difficult times of the 1960's when the government of then Gamal Abdul-Nasser was nationalizing business, real estate, and land including those willed to the churches and monasteries. He was highly regarded by the people of Egypt from all walks of life Christian and non-Christian alike.

Pope Kyrillos VI was born August 2, 1902 as Azer Ata, the son of a church deacon from a middle class family. After completing high school, Azer went to work for a shipping company in Alexandria. Much against his family's wishes, he resigned his job with the intention of becoming a monk and entered the monastery of Baramous (named after Sts. Maximus and Domadius) in the Western Desert of Egypt in an area called bariaat Sheheet (the prairie of the heart's scale). On the 25th of February, 1928, he was consecrated monk. He was given the monastic name "Mena" after St. Menas his patron saint. Three years later he was ordained a priest, July 18, 1931.

Fr. Mena attended the Helwan Theological College and was rated one of the top students. Later, he retired to a cave two miles away from the monastery to live a life of solitude. That is how he came to be known as "Abouna Mena Al-mota-Wahed" (Fr. Mena the Solitaire). Afterwards, he was appointed abott of the Monastery of St. Samuel in the eastern desert, south of Suex near the Red Sea. He devoted a great deal of effort toward the restoration of this historic landmark.

When the monastery of St. Samuel was restored, he left that area and moved to a deserted windmill south of Cairo (the windmill belonged to the Army, and long after, it was revealed that he paid a nominal rent for it when he found out that it belonged to the Army). This is near the historic region of "Masr Al-Kadema" (ancient Cairo). He restored the place and built a small residence and a church on the name of St. Mena his patron saint. He found himself surronded with college students, many of them are from outside Cairo, so, he started a dormitory for students who neede this service. This informal program produced the first church affiliated dorm in modern times in Egypt, and produced countless church leaders, some of whom are our present bishops, priests, and Laity leaders. The likes of His Holiness Pope Shenouda (his successor), the late bishop Samuel, .. etc.

After the abduction of his predecessor, the late pope Youssab (Joseph) II by militant Copts, the church was in great turmoil which did not last long, because it was the will of God the pope Youssab departed shortly thereafter.

In April, 1959, Fr. Mena Al-Mota-Wahed was elected pope and patriarch through the unique process used in the Coptic Church to elect a pope. Candidates for the honorable position are nominated, three or four of the nominees are elected by the Holy Synod as most qualified. The final selection is left to the will of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by placing the names on the altar during the appointed day of final selection. A young deacon is then asked to draw a name which is then the one chosen by God from among the qualified candidates for this high calling.

In May, 1959, Fr. Mena became pope and patriarch by the laying of the hands of all the bishops of the Coptic Church at the time, he was called pope Kyrillos VI (That means that five popes before him were called Kyrillos. The first pope Kyrillos is Cyril of Alexandria the pillar of faith).

During his tenure as patriarch, many were attracted to monastic life and to the priesthood by his good example and sincere life style. As a teen-ager growing in Egypt at the time I used to attend Vespers regularly at the Great St. Mark Cathedral (Al-darb Al-wasse) in Cairo where his holiness lead the prayers and many of us had the blessing of seeing him, talking to him, and getting his blessings. He always paid attention to the people and spent many hours blessing and chatting with young and old. He always encouraged us during exams seasons, and prayed for our success. No wonder many joined the priesthood from the ranks of college graduates in all fields which was previously not considered the thing to do! Many books have been written about his life, wonders and miracles. The author recommends the publications of Pope Kyrillos the VI Society which are published originally in Arabic and translated to many live languages (English, French, German, .. etc.). We are going to mention just a few, some have not published elsewhere and was related to the author by relatives and friends:

His Holiness had the gift of knowledge, so one day, he was visited by two men, one was well known to his holiness. When the gentleman introduced his friend to his holiness, Pope Kyrillos looked at the man and said: "Why don't you like us?" I love you and like to see you here always. The man was very ashamed because he thought evil of our beloved pope and had argued with his friend about the use of meeting a 'simple' man. This man became a great admirer of Anba Kyrillos and his son was healed from terrible illness through the prayers of Anba Kyrillos.

Miracles of heeling and casting out of devils from a non-Christian young lady was related to me by a very dear relative. She was the daughter of his boss in a textile factory near Alexandria. She was one of 22 children, possessed by demons and was withering away. Her father loved her very much. He spent a fortune on real doctors and witch doctors as well, with no results. On day, he called my relative to his office and said, you have "Sheik Kebeer" (Great Elder)? can you introduce me to him? My relative promised to arrange a meeting, he traveled to Cairo and arranged with the pope's secretary a meeting for the afternoon of a specified date. He was supposed to meet them at the door and introduce them to the staff to take them to the house of the patriarchate. The people were very anxious, they arrived early. His Holiness recognized them although he was not told (ordinarily, people were brought in, and they told him their needs). Anba Kyrillos called the young lady by her first name. Put his cross on her forehead, she fell down sobbing. From that moment on, she was completely whole.

In his last days, he was gravely ill with phlebitis (blood clot in the leg). They hooked a speaker from the great Cathedral to his bedroom at his request because he could not bear not being able to perform liturgy (which he performed almost daily during his life of priesthood). One day the head mother of one of the convents (monasteries for nuns) wanted to speak to him on the phone, but the staff wouldn't give out his private number. Anba Kyrillos appeared to her in a vision, gave her the number and comforted her. She did not call, but later on she was blessed by seeing him and was rendered speechless when Anba Kyrillos asked her the reason she did not call on his private line. Our Father Papa Ava (the Great Pope) Kyrillos departed on March 9, 1971. Shortly before his departure, he told one of the monks, you look like Tobia, the one mentioned in the book of Tobeet. Take care of my burial. Initially, they buried him under the Altar in the Great Cathedral in Cairo. But when his successor, the Great Patriarch, Pope Shenouda III read his will, he had to follow his wishes and move his holy body to the desert south west of Alexandria, to the Monastery of St. Mena which was renovated and immensely expanded by Pope Kyrillos to honor his good friend, patron saint, St. Mena of Marriot. That is where his place of rest. It is the custom of Apostolic Churches to wait 50 years after departure, before declaring a person a saint. And although many in our generation feel deeply about the worthiness of Anba Kyrillos, we anxiously are waiting until this day comes. His prayers and the prayers and intercessions of his patron, Saint Mena of Marriot be with us. Glory be to God forever. Amen.

Pope Matthews the Poor

(Matta El-Meskein)
1378 - 1409 A.D.

An Italian Monk, Peter the Hermit succeeded in persuading the kings of Europe to prepare an army bearing the banner of the cross with the purpose of freing the Holy Land from the Muslims. About half a million horsemen were sent to conquer these lands. However , they lacked leadership, diplomacy and knowledge of the environment.

The age of the Crusaders which started in 1096 signaled the beginning of the Mamluk's era, which was considered the worst age the Copts had lived through. As the Muslims saw the invaders carrying crosses, they thought that the Copts will side with them. On the other hand, the Catholic Crusaders viewed the Copts -who believed in the One nature of Christ (mia-physites)- as outcast schism, and worse than heretics.

Jerusalem's Latin Ring Amalrich invaded Egypt through Bilbeis and killed all its natives indiscriminately. When Shawer the Egyptian ruler sensed the danger approaching, he poured 20000 barrels of tar on the capital city of Fustat, and had his men ignited it with 10000 torches. The inferno lasted for 54 days.

During this era Many Coptic personalities appeared like shining stars in the darkest straits of all times. One of these great personalities was Abba Matthews I.

As a young boy, Matthews worked in tending the sheep of his father. He used to give his food to the shepherds, and spend the whole day in fasting. When he was fourteen he was admitted to the monastery to practice asceticism and worship. He was ordained a priest at the age of eighteen. Then he left to St. Antony's monastery to escape vainglory. He did not tell any of the monks about his priesthood, but rather used to serve mass as a deacon. Once, while he was reading the Gospel a heavenly hand appeared and offered him incense three times. Seeing that, the elders of the monastery said that he should be elected a patriarch.

For the second time he escaped to the Holy Land in Palestine, and worked in construction. But when he heard that the Copts were persecuted because of the Crusaders' actions, he returned to St. Antony's Monastery. That time, he was appointed abbot of the monastery.

Shortly after hin ordination, Prince Yalpogha led the monks and their abbot in humility through the streets of Cairo to avenge the Crusaders. For the Crusaders had raided Alexandria, killing many, and kidnapping others before they fled; and since they bore the sign of the cross on their breasts, this roused the ruling prince and his men against the Copts.

Once again, Matthews left to Al-Muharraq monastery to work in the kitchen, and serve the elders. He lived a life of self-denial, and did not allow himself to have more than one garment. It was said that he was a friend of the wild beasts, who used to keep him company outside the monastery.

In the year 1378, after Abba Gabriel IV, the 86th Pope departed to heaven, the Coptic bishops and people, with one accord, chose Abba Matthews to be the next patriarch. On hearing the news, Matthews escaped and hid in the bottom of a ship, but a little child exposed his hiding place. Finally, he solicited the council of the elders of st. Antony's monastery, and accepted their decision. Escorted to Alexandria, he was consecrated the eighty-seventh Pope, and gave himself the title "El Meskin" which means "The Poor".

The fact that Abba Matthews became the 87th Pope of the See of St. Mark did not change him a bit. He cared for the poor, loved to give alms, and was always humble. Through the heavenly wisdom given to him, it happened that he was inspired to buy lots of wheat before a famine. And when the famine struck he distributed the grains to anyone who asked for it, without any discrimination between Muslims, Jews, or Christians. He gave generously, and God blessed his crop, so it did not diminish.

Matthews was always venerated by God and also by men. When he stood before the Altar, his face often radiated with divine light and his eyes glittered, as he looked to our Savior Jesus Christ who often appeared to him. Also, because of his heavenly wisdom, people used to ask his advise in their private matters. The ruler Barquq asked the Pope's advise before accepting "Sultanism".

One day, Sultan Barquq asked Pope Matthews to write to the king of Ethiopia whose name was Wedom Asghar. But Matthews wrote to his brother Dawoud(Dawit) instead. When the messengers arrived in Ethiopia, they found out that Wedom Asghar had died, and that Dawoud had become the new king. Dawoud(King Dawit)received the papal letter, and asked them about the two presents sent to him by the Pope (which were a cross and a handkerchief.) The messengers were astonished that he knew about these presents, but he told them that the Pope appeared to him in a dream, and told him about what was going to happen.

Through his cordial relation with Sultan Barquq, he was able to stop the mop from burning Al-Muallaqa church and the Shahran monastery, because the Muslims were claiming that new constructions were taking place in those two locations. The Sultan appointed four Judges of Islam who declared the falsehood of such claims.

Then the situation worsened when two MamluR princes, exiled Sultan Barquq, and took his place. Mentach and Yalpogha inflicted severe sufferings upon the Copts and their Pope. Finally, Yalpogha arrested Pope Matthews and imprisoned him. When he tried to kill him by the sword, the Pope stretched his neck to him. The prince was deeply troubled, and he ordered Abba Matthews to be released. Later, Yalpogha himself was imprisoned and died in his chains in Alexandria.

Pope Matthews was a good shepherd to his people, particularly the poor and the sick. God granted him the gift of performing miracles. During the renovation of St. Mary's church, a large stone fell on one of the workers and killed him instantly. The Pope prayed over the body, and the Lord raised him.

During the reLgn of Sultan Al-Nasser Farag, a violent prince called Sodon plundered the palace of Al-Nasser. He plotted with some of his followers to massacre the Copts. Pope Matthews devoted seven days to fasting and praying in St. Marcorius' church. At the end of that period the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and comforted him. Matthews came out of the church with his face shining like that of an angel. Shortly after that, Sodon summoned the Pope to the palace, and confessed to him the plot he intended against the Copts.

Yet the tribulations inflicted upon the Copts by Sodon and his supporters became very severe. As a result, the Pope retreated in Archangel Michael's church dedicating his time to prayer and fasting. Then news came from the palace that Sodon was stabbed by a horseman six days ago; the exact time when the Pope started his retreat.

One of the Mamluks called Gamal-El-Din, also caused troubles to the Pope, and started persecuting the Christians. He imposed on the Pope a tributing of five hundred thousand dinars, which the Copts had to raise among themselves. Gamal-El-Din continued his persecution, and ordered the Pope to appear before him in the palace. But the Pope asked the messengers to wait until the next day. That night, God rested the soul of Pope Matthews El Meskin, after serving his flock for thirty years and 5 months. Abba MatthewE foretold the name of his successor Pope Gabriel V. Also, the miracles that were performed through his prayers continued after his death, and until this day.

May the prayers and supplications of this great Saint Pope Matthews I (El Meskin) be with us. Amen.

Abba Thomas the Anchorite

By: Fr. Abraam St. Samuel

Edited from Arabic by: Archdeacon Aziz Nashed

The Biography and the life of the great saint Abba Thomas the Anchorite

+ His Birth:

Abba Thomas was born in a village called Shenshif (north Ekhmim - Upper Egypt) of two pious parents who raised him in the fear of God. They brought him up well in all godliness and raised him in the Christian tradition. He led a quiet, peaceable life renouncing the vanities of the world and its lusts. Since his youth, he perceived that the world is passing away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever [1 John 2:17]. Therefore he longed for monasticism, and dedicated his life for constant prayer and contemplation.

He left his home and headed towards the wilderness, where he lived in a cave in the mount of Shenshif. He led there an ascetic life following the example of Abba Antonius solitary monasticism.

+ His Spiritual Struggle:

His life was an example of, wisdom and spiritual vigilance. The gift of tears and the grace of unceasing prayers were endowed upon him by the Holy Spirit. He persevered in praising and praying night and day in love of the name of Jesus Christ. The angels and saints used to come to visit and encourage him. Therefore the mount of Shenshif where he lived became sanctified.

Although he shunned the attention, and loved solitude, he never stopped any of the fathers from meeting with him to benefit from his spiritual insight.

He was once praying and reciting Psalm (6):

O Lord do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your wrath when he became aware of the presence of three monks from the monastery of Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite, who were following him. They were reciting the Psalm: 97Sing to the Lord a new song for the Lord has wrought wonderful works.. Their voices were so sweet and angelic that he was filled with love of God, and joined them joyfully in praising and glorifying God the whole night.

+ He lived an ascetic life full of spiritual strife and great corporal austerity. He passed the night in vigil and prayers stemming of a pure heart full of love to our Lord Jesus Christ as the prophets saying, I meditate on You in the night watches because You have been my help. (Ps.63)

+He persevered in fasting and disdaining the bodily lusts. Thus he ate only once a week and his food was limited to herbs and legume without excess of food or drink.

Undoubtedly, his fasting and his prayers empowered him to overcome satanic warfares and granted him the gift of casting out the demons as it is writtenthis kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting. (Mark 9: 29)

The Virtues of Abba Thomas the Anchorite

+ Since his early youth, his intentions and thoughts were sanctified through prayer and fasting, that his heart knew nothing of sin or semi sin. He knew nothing but to love the Lord Jesus Christ and to abide unto Him. There is none upon earth that I desire beside You (Ps.73:25).This love captured his heart and prevailed over all his spiritual life. Furthermore he was concerned not only about his own salvation but also about that of others.

+ Purity of the heart is the characteristic feature which was attributed to the desert fathers. It is the purity which identified Adam in the Garden of Eden before his fall. It is also the merit which marked the Apostles who when our Lord Jesus Christ called them, they left all and followed Him.

+ Purity was the virtue which eased Abba Thomas's life with God. He was likened to the angels, as that one of the disciples of Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite said after visiting Abba Thomas, I have just come back from the heavenly Jerusalem carrying many blessings.

+ Likewise he also acquired the virtue of holiness which made him worthy to see God and speak with Him. St. Peter the Apostle says, as He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1: 15). It is this holiness that qualifies one to see the Lord, for without it nobody can see Him, as pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

Abba Thomas had such a fine reputation and a great spiritual standing throughout the wilderness that Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite and Abba Wissa his disciple witnessed to his holiness in a well known manuscript.

+ He led a life of perfection and undefiled conduct as written, you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48) Therefore Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite said to his disciples regarding him, Go to benefit of the light of the Mount of Shenshif and to realize to what extent Abba Thomas has been consummated in the virtues.

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. (Matt. 5:16).

Abba Thomas and the fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. [Galatians 5:22]

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one to the profit of all, for one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another discerning of Spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. [1 Cor.12:4-11]

+ Revealing these gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit signifies the work of God to His saints, as, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will. [Heb. 2:4]

+ Abba Thomas was granted the gift of prophecy and predicting some of the future events. The Lord acquainted him with the hour of his departure. However, he preferred not to inform abba Shenouda of it, in order not to disturb him due to the mutual love between them. Nevertheless, when abba Shenouda requested a sign through which he would know that hour, Abba Thomas said to him, When the rock on which you used to rest in front of your cell splits in two, then you know it is the hour of my departure. Then Abba Thomas added, You will also follow me and fall asleep on the seventh day of the Coptic month Abib, and you will be greeted by a band of saints.

+ More importantly, that prophecy was fulfilled exactly as Abba Thomas had predicted and this was a witness to his gift of prophecy.

+ Among his many gifts was his natural talent in teaching and counseling based upon his wisdom and the function of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the great fathers of the wilderness like Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite and his disciples longed to contact him to benefit of his high spiritual counsels, regardless of the hardships of traveling back and forth across the deserted wilderness. Yet they counted all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the guidance of his saint, For in them you think you have eternal life and these are they which testify of Me. (John 5:39) And, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105)

+ In addition, Abba Thomas was granted the gift of healing the sick and casting out the demons. The Lord said, However, this kind (the demons ) does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21) And because he led an ascetic life and great corporal austerity persevering in praying and fasting, he was given the power over unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. No wonder he was referred to as The physician." Many people from all across Egypt and abroad frequented his monastery appealing for his prayers and blessings.

+ Due to the purity of his heart and his holiness he was granted the grace of discoursing with the Lord Jesus Christ. Few are those of whom we know who were granted this grace:Moses and Elijah the prophets (of the Old Testament) and Saint Paul the Apostle (of the New Testament).

It is difficult to perceive what kind of discourse occurred between the Lord and abba Thomas. However we have to assume that it was pertaining the heavenly Kingdom and eternal life.

+ Behold, if Saint Peter the Apostle rejoiced when he saw the transfiguration of Jesus Christ and heard His discourse with Moses and Elijah, that he shouted saying, Lord it is good for us to be here:(Matt. 17:4), then how much more was the excitement and joy of Abba Thomas when he saw our Lord Jesus Christ and talked to Him. I assume that he said to the Lord, I will not let You go unless You bless me. (Gen. 32:26). Just like what Jacob the father of the fathers had said. The Lord would say to him, Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few thingsenter into the joy of your Lord. (Matt. 25:21).

+ Later on, as we examine the episode of the departure of abba Thomas we will see that prior to his falling asleep our Lord visited him to encourage and comfort him. Behold, instead of sending an angel or archangel, the Lord in Person visited him. However, Thomas was familiar with the presence of angels. Abba Wissa the disciple of Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite witnessed to this fact in his widely known manuscript. He claimed that the angels frequently came to minister to Abba Thomas, and to support him against the Satanic warfare and to save him from Satans malicious snares.

Worthy of notice, that the presence of the angel to Saint Paul and Silas the apostles in their prison shook the foundations of the prison and immediately all the doors were opened and everyones chains were loosed. (Acts 16:26)


The Prophecy of Abba Thomas

Oftentimes Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite would traverse the region between his monastery in the Western mount to the cell of Abba Thomas in Shenshif in the Eastern mount, to enjoy his company. These meetings were stamped with the spiritual fragrance that evidenced their love for our Lord Jesus Christ. They lived the heavenly life on earth as they spent the time in offering the sacrifice of praise to God. +Finally, on their last meeting, Abba Thomas Addressed Abba Shenouda saying, This is our last meeting together in flesh because the angel of the Lord told me tonight that the Lord will visit me shortly after. Then he continued saying, and he also told me of the day of our departure. Let your disciples look forward to that day as a sign to them forever. He referred to that day saying, That day will correspond with the birthday of Abba Kyrillos the Wise Man the Archbishop of Alexandria and Abba Boctor of the Kafous Monastery. Furthermore, on the day the seventh of the Coptic month Abib a choir of saints will come out to receive you.

Undoubtedly, Abba Thomas would be (after his departure) on the top of that choir of saints who would receive Abba Shenouda's spirit, owing to the great love that bound them. While pondering that prophecy, Abba Shenouda asked Abba Thomas, "You have told me, father, about my departure, nevertheless how will I know of the hour of your departure?

However, Abba Thomas did not disclose that secret nor did he leave Abba Shenouda confused but he said to him, I tell you this as a sign unto which you would know the hour of my sleep. When you see that the rock on which you used to sit in front of your cell, had split in two, then you know that my soul has separated from my body. Then he added saying, "I ask you to come then to bury me. The archangel Raphael who took care of Tubit the son of Tubia in the foreign land, will lead you and your associates on the route to my place without a vessel. Then in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, do me a favor and lay my poor body in the ground to return earth to earth. In submission, Abba Shenouda yielded to Abba Thomas saying, Let Gods will be done.

In fact Abba Thomas was not concerned about his burial, but rather anxious to comfort Abba Shenouda and his disciples praying that they would see the heavenly reception of the souls of the righteous saints and enjoy the blessings of the presence of Christ with His angels.

At the end of their meeting they embraced one another and Abba Shenouda said to Abba Thomas, I bid you farewell until we meet in the heavenly Jerusalem. Then he returned back to his monastery to exceed his asceticism.

Promises of Jesus Christ to Abba Thomas

Prior to the departure of Abba Thomas, our Lord appeared to him to comfort and strengthen him declaring:

+ A church to be built in that site after his name.

+ People from all over the world would come in crowds to the church.

+ His name would be widely known all over the world.

+ After three days he would leave his corruptible body and receive the heavenly crowns.

The departure of Abba Thomas

Back in his cell, Abba Shenouda kept pondering on what Abba Thomas had announced to him.

+ A few days later, Abba Shenouda was praying in front of his cell, when he noticed that the rock on which he used to sit had split in two. At that point, he sighed and said, Alas, the wilderness of Shenshif has lost its illuminating lamp, for Abba Thomas had filled the deserted wilderness with prayers and praises. Men from everywhere came seeking his teachings and guidance, and he gave them an example of piety, righteousness and holiness. Based upon his teachings and example, the region became crowded with saints and disciples.

Abba Shenouda looked up towards heaven and implored Abba Thomas saying, O Abba Thomas pray on our behalf that our Lord may forgive us our sins and help us as He helped you. As he was looking up towards heaven, he saw the Archangel Raphael approaching him saying, Peace be with you, the bosom friend of God and the beloved of Abba Thomas. Lets go and wrap the body of the beloved Abba Thomas, for the lord has sent me to carry you and lay the body of Abba Thomas in the earth.

+ Abba Shenouda felt comforted, and he followed the Archangel Raphael. It was night when he started his trip. On his way he met with Abba Tamrinus (one of his disciples) who was praying the first watch of the midnight prayer and reciting his Psalm. Abba Shenouda asked him to follow him, and being a monk who is committed to obedience, he yielded without argument. Furthermore, the presence of Archangel Raphael convinced him that something serious was imminent. Therefore he followed his teacher calmly while he continued reciting his Psalm.

During their wandering about amidst the cells, they met with Abba Okhnoukh The Courageous monk, who was firm in his faith. He was reciting the Psalm:90, He who dwells in the help of the Most High shall rest under the shelter of the God of heaven. When Abba Shenouda asked him to follow them, he did not hesitate but obeyed instantly.

Abba Shenouda kept walking, followed by Abba Temrinus and Abba Okhnoukh, with the Archangel Raphael was leading the way, until they met with Abba Yousab The Wise Writer, who was then reciting the Psalm: They are overthrown and fallen, but we are risen, and set upright (Ps.19). Abba Shenouda asked him to join them, and he immediately obeyed.

Heading to the altar, Abba Shenouda together with his associates of saints, raised to God a thanksgiving prayer, before they were miraculously carried to Abba Thomass cave without a vessel.

On entering Abba Thomass cave, Abba Shenouda saw Our Lord Jesus Christ and His angels (the Cherubim and the Seraphim) as well as David the prophet. He offered the worship to our Lord and addressed himself to David the prophet saying, Bless me O father. David the prophet then responded saying, Blessed is he who comes in the name of lord. Again abba Shenouda offered worship to the Lord, while David the prophet started to sing with his guitar saying, Our mouth is filled with gladness and our tongues with joy. Doubtless that joy was due to our lords presence and was based upon His promise to His disciples, I will see you again and your heart will rejoice and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22) Likewise it was the bliss of joining Abba Thomas to the choir of the saints of the victorious church.

After the consolation bestowed upon all who were in attendance, our lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven with His angels carrying the spirit of abba Thomas.

+The presence of our Lord at the hour of Abba Thomass departure recalls our Lords promise to His disciples, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all peoples to Myself. (John 12:32) likewise His words, In My Fathers house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3) Abba Thomas was entitled to abide in such mansions, and there the Lord came to receive him in His kingdom.

The Archangel Raphael attends the burial procession of Abba Thomas

+ When our lord ascended to heaven with His angels, the archangel Raphael waited to complete the mission he was commanded to fulfill (i.e. to lay the body of Abba Thomas in the earth).

+ When Abba Shenouda and his disciples approached the dead body of abba Thomas, he was kneeling with his arms raised up towards heaven. They perceived that he died while he was praying. After kissing him goodbye they spent a good time praying, inspired by the Divine consolation and blessings. They then shrouded him with great consideration and buried him in the same cell in which he used to dwell and which became later a monastery carrying his name in the mountain of Shenshif and whereby the Lords promise was fulfilled.

The return of Abba Shenouda after the burial procession

+ When the procession of the burial was fully carried out, the Archangel Raphael advised Abba Shenouda and his associates to return to their monastery in the western bank. He led the way before them holding an illuminative rod to give them light in the dim night. They miraculously crossed the Nile through the Divine grace. At this they were fascinated and praised God.

After reaching their monastery in the western bank, the Archangel Raphael disappeared. They glorified the Lord Who honored His beloved Abba Thomas before the angels and the saints.

Thus Abba Thomas the Anchorite departed on the 27 of the Coptic month Bashans of the Coptic year 168(around 425 A.D.). His age exeeded120 years when he died. The church commemorates his departure on that date. Many people from everywhere frequent his monastery to celebrate his memory and to have the blessings of his prayers. Many miracles have been performed through his prayers, and often he appeared in the church during the prayers of the liturgy.

How did we know his biography?

+ Abba Thomas was eager to hide his virtues, and flee from the vain glory preferring the eternal one. He gave priority to the friendship of the angels and saints rather than men. Nevertheless the Lord willed to reveal his virtues and his struggle in love of God. You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned ?..You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." (Matt. 5:13-15)

Therefore, at the end of his life, the Lord sent Abba Shenouda the Archimandrite with a Choir of the churchs great fathers to proclaim the high spiritual wonders they have witnessed at his departure.

Similarly, his story was mentioned in the course of recounting Abba Shenouda's last visit to Abba Thomas and what preceded and accompanied it including the signs and manifestations, all of which Abba Wissa the disciple of Abba Shenouda had recorded.

The Monastery of Abba Thomas the Anchorite

+ This monastery is located at the foot of the Eastern mount in the village of Arab Ben Wasel of the Sacolta district (Ekhmim Bishoprice) Souhag Governorate, Egypt.

The monastery is built upon a high hillock at the foot of the mount. It is surrounded by houses occupied by native inhabitants.

Its surface is so limited that it is considered the smallest monastery in Egypt. However it can be called: The second Upper Room of Zion. In the first Upper Room Of Zion, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples after His Resurrection and spoke to them. Similarly this monastery has witnessed the presence of our Lord and His speech with Abba Thomas. Behold how much this monastery has been privileged by the presence of the Lord Himself.

+ The monastery includes the ancient church which is located at the right side of the main door of the monastery. It also includes the guests table and the library. The cells of the monks are located at the Northern side of the monastery.

The monastery is twenty kilometers far from Souhag governorate in Upper Egypt. It can be reached by the bus.

The ministry and worship in the monastery

The monastery was left deserted for a long space of time and the worship was confined to certain occasions (the Holy Lent and Abba Thomas commemoration celebrations).

However the Lords promise to Abba Thomas was fulfilled at the right time when H.G. Abba Bisada the Bishop of Ekhmim and Sakolta celebrated the inauguration of the monastery on the early months of the year 1984. Miraculously, on that year Fr. Monk Abraam St. Samuel was elected to serve in the monastery. He devoted serious efforts to reconstruct the monastery and to innovate its buildings. He started to revive the service and the worship through the permanent liturgies. Likewise Abba Thomas the Anchorite supported these reforms by the miracles he started to perform. Thus the monastery attracted the visitors from everywhere. Repeatedly, the saint appeared on certain occasions and specifically on his commemoration feasts. Many times he was seen censing in the church during the liturgies and many people claim that they saw and approached him during the process of distributing the eulogia, not discerning his real identity. Fr. Abraam St. Samuel affirmed the episode.

The Divine election of Fr. Abraam St. Samuel to be Abbot to the monastery

+ The Divine election of Fr. Abraam to serve the monastery coincided with the good news of the return of H.H. Pope Shenouda to his residence in the St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo. Hence it was the will of the Lord to let His people rejoice at the return of their Shepherd and chief Priest, and to rejoice also at His management to revive the life and the worship in the monastery through the ministry of Fr. Abraam who in complete submission yielded to the task in spite of his poor physical health and the poor situation of the deserted monastery.

Is it not amazing that during the first liturgy which he celebrated in the monastery, Abba Thomas the Anchorite was present and a Divine blessing overflowed the monastery?


Innumerable, are the miracles that God has fulfilled through the intercession of Abba Thomas the Anchorite. The following miracles are just few examples:

The Healing of Fr. Abraam Saint Samuel:

Prior to his service in the monastery, Fr. Abraam Saint Samuel endured a severe physical crisis due to a heart failure case. He was advised to avoid any physical stress. Nevertheless when he was called to serve in the monastery, he disregarded the advice of the physicians and raised his heart and eyes to heaven entreating Gods help.

+ As soon as he started his service in the monastery, his health was restored although it is well known that heart failure is a serious illness that needs a long process of medical treatment.

+ Undoubtedly, Abba Thomas has attended to his monasterys servant to encourage him in a mutual loving discourse.

The apparitions of Abba Thomas to support the service:

Fr. Abraam states that at the beginning of his service in the monastery, Abba Thomas used to appear several times on different occasions in the monastery. He appeared censing in the corners of the church particularly on Saturday evenings.

Many people visit the monastery seeking his prayers to be released from their tribulations, sickness, or sufferings. Through his prayers they are granted peace, tranquility and health. Those who were possessed by evil spirits rejoiced for their freedom of them. His power of casting the demons was visible as the people used to hear the demons crying : You are torturing us, Abba Thomas and we are going to quit right away. He usually commands the demons to quit through the toes of the sick persons feet. Then he would make the sign of the cross with the blood. The illiterate villagers often claimed that they saw him many times signing his name on the wall after casting the demons.

On the evening of the new year1985/1986, Fr. Abraam Saint Samuel was praying in the church together with his congregation among whom were: (Ms. Madlin Bushra, deacon Wasim Sobhy, Ms. Wafaa Lamee,Gamalat Bekhit, Nashaat Masoud, and the deacons: Wagih Farag, Elijah Habib, Nabil Gad, Nader Endrawus Makram Nasif, Bakir Wahib and Aiman Ghaly.

Shortly before midnight and after turning off the lights in accord with the settled habit in the monastery, the prayers increased in fervency and tears. Behold, an illuminating pillar was following Fr. Abraam during his prayers. Many other illuminating pillars covered the altar, the baptistery, the walls of the church and the cell of Abba Thomas the Anchorites relics. Abba Thomas appeared through the windows of the dome, moving from one window to another, blessing the worshippers as clouds of incense filled the whole monastery with its nice aroma.

That apparition lasted all along the midnight prayers through the dawn of the first day of the year 1986. Furthermore, at the end of the prayers, some of the worshippers who were in the yard of the monastery saw Abba Thomas in full shape on the top of the mount. The aromatic scent overwhelmed the whole area.


Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law (Ps 119:18)

+The following statement is from Mr. S.N. (dwells in Shoubra alkhema. Cairo, Egypt):

Back in 1988, I was delegated to Souhag (of Upper Egypt) on official business. As my family and relatives live there I took my son with me to visit them. After ending my task ,I headed to the monastery of Abba Thomas the Anchorite to have his blessing. Following the attendance of the Liturgy, I shared an Aghabi with Fr. Abraam. In the course of our speech, he said to me; Well, you do me a favor if youd enquire of Mr. George Endraus in Cairo about the service I requested of him.

I asked Fr. Abraam to inform me about his address and his phone number. However he told me that he had no idea. I expressed my regret due to the impossibility of reaching a person in such a wide city as Cairo, without having any information.

Finally, I headed to the railway station to book two return tickets to Cairo. Unfortunately all seats were reserved. However I found out that the conductor was a friend of mine, and he willingly transferred his personal ticket to me. Shortly after, I boarded on the train leaving my son with my relatives.

On the train I kept pondering on Fr. Abraams request. Meanwhile the traveler sitting next me started a chat introducing himself to me, and behold, his name was George Endraus. To be sure that he was the same person mentioned by Fr. Abraam, I asked him if he had ever visited the Monastery of Abba Thomas. He answered in the affirmative, and added that he knew Fr. Abraam personally. Hereupon I explained all the issue to him, and we agreed upon getting in touch with each other to be informed about the fruit of his efforts.

The next day, my son called to tell me about his desire to return and asked me to wait for him in the Cairo railway station. At the assigned hour I was standing at the platform waiting for the arrival of the train. Behold. I came across Mr. George Endraus at the same platform. He was waiting for his wife. We were both excited to find out that The Almighty Lord has carried the yoke with us and has fulfilled the monastery's needs. Therefore we glorified the Lord and praised Abba Thomas for his prayers. Since then I became closer to Abba Thomas the Anchorite.


Jesus Christ said to the paralytic, Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. (Matt. 9:6)

Mr. Gamal Shawki Mehanni (dwells in Alkaisaria Str. Almaragha city Upper Egypt) sent the following message attached to medical reports. He stated:

+ In 1988 my young daughter Mariana when she was 2 years old had a fever which left her paralysed in the left leg. Many pediatricians and physicians among whom were: Basem Ibrahim Farag, Ahmad Gadelrab Askar, Armia Helmy Hakim, Nabil Ghali, examined her and all agreed upon diagnosing the case as a paralytic leg and the impossibility of the leg surgery because of her young age. Then I referred her to Dr. Abdelkhalek Hafez in Asiut who counseled to use devices for four years until a surgery could be considered. So we provided her with a special shoe for her left leg on 6/26/1989.

Upon seeing the shoe, my wife was alarmed and started to cry and pray before the icon of Abba Thomas the Anchorite begging for his prayers on behalf of our daughter. Likewise I went aside in my bedroom and did the same.

During that night, Abba Thomas appeared to my wife and assured her saying, Stop crying for, God is willing that Mariana will recover and be normal by tomorrow.

The following day, amazingly our daughter walked normally without the support of the shoe. I took her then to Dr. Abdelkhalek Hafez who had counseled us to consider a surgery after four years. He was astonished to find her normal and in no need of surgery.

We glorified the Lord and praised His Saint, and we headed to the monastery to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. We did not neglect taking the shoe with us to witness for the miracle.


Jesus said to her, Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.

( Matt. 9:22)

Ms. Mariam Adly Alabd (her current residence in Albaliana city- Upper Egypt) communicated to state the following miracle, and attached some medical reports:

During her stay in Cairo she suffered from severe renal colic. At a point, when she could not endure the severe pain she headed on 5/25/1991 to Manshiat Albakry Hospital. Nevertheless all pain relievers failed to comfort her. Therefore, she went to Dr. Maher Fouad Ramzy (Algomhoria Str.-Cairo) who recommended the performance of urine culture and Ultrasound. Thereon, she went to the Anglo American Hospital, where the doctor reacted in sympathy with her severe pain and her endurance to such many stones which blocked the urater.

Finally, the doctor decided to perform a urinary endoscopy to treat the ureteric stones. He referred her to the Cairo Medical Center for Radiology & Investigations where she was advised to perform the surgery in the Alsalam Aldawly Hospital (Cairo).

However she refused to have the surgery preferring to go back home in Albaliana.

Thereon, on the morning of Friday 27/9/1991 she went to visit the Monastery of Abba Thomas the Anchorite. She visited the cell of the relics of the saint and prayed pleading for his prayers. She met with Fr. Abraam and told him about her issue. He comforted her and said to her, You will be healed with no need of surgery.

On her way back home, she likewise visited St. Mina Church where she felt unbearable pain followed by passing the urinary stones.

Upon performing a new X Ray and physical examination, Dr. Michael Mirhom of Sohag city was amazed to find no trace of the disease because she was miraculously healed.


This kind can come out by nothing but

prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29)

Wahba Michael Sourial of Nagie Alnaggar Village (Suhag- Upper Egypt) recounted the following story of casting the evil spirits out of him. He stated that:

He was a student in the secondary school of Edpha City (Upper Egypt) when his father asked him one day to shop for him, but he was not willing to go. His father got agitated and rebuked him. He fled from his fathers face crying and ran towards an open place where there was a water- wheel located in a near-by field. Within the fence of the water- wheel he came across a woman who was sitting on a mat. He sat next her crying bitterly. Her face was fearful for she had wicked features however, she comforted him and brought him food and drink, and unexpectedly she disappeared. Then she started to appear to him daily bringing him food. He began to feel sick and his health deteriorated feeling physically and spiritually ill.

His father felt concerned about him and took him to the Monastery of Abba Thomas in spite of his insistent opposition. However as soon as he has visited the relics of the great Saint, he felt complete release of his physical and spiritual weariness.

He attended the prayers of the Liturgy, and partook of the holy communion. He again was blessed by the relics of Abba Thomas and the prayers of Fr. Abraam who commanded the demons to come out the toe of his right foot. The sign of the cross appeared in blood on that toe. A sign of the cross appeared as well in oil on the right leg of his pants starting from his foot up to his knee.

All the worshippers who attended and watched the miracle glorified the Almighty God and praised his Saint who was granted the grace of casting the evil spirits.


And He (Jesus Christ) rebuked them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that he was the Christ (Luke 4:41)

To recount the story of casting seven demons out of him by the prayers of Abba Thomas the Anchorite, Eihab Fawzy Abdelmalek (a prep. School student-Bendar Alsharkia city- Girga- Upper Egypt) stated the following miracle:

Through an accident he fell on the ground and was at the point of death. The X-ray which was performed to him by the advice of Dr. Mohamed Abou Alhosn (Girga Upper Egypt) failed to identify the source of the pain he felt. He was afflicted with fits that pushed him to punch anybody next to him.

During his presence at school, one day and at the break time, he was sitting alone in the class when he felt as if someone had punched him on the head and pushed him to the ground. Therefore he lost his consciousness. His relatives were called to school to carry him home.

After reviewing the investigations and the X-rays, his case was designated as Epilepsy and extra brain electricity associated with nervous convulsions. However, all medications and treatments failed to lessen his pains.

After many consultations with physicians and psychiatrists with no progress, he went on Sunday, Dec.,22, 2002, with his parents to the Monastery of Abba Thomas the Anchorite. He visited the cell of Abba Thomass relics and prayed begging for his prayers. He felt relief of his pains as he had never felt before.

A week later, i.e. on Saturday, Dec.22, 2002, his father communicated with a monk in Saint George Monastery in Alrozaikat (Upper Egypt) requesting him to pray on behalf of his son. The monk urged him to let his son partake of the holy communion and assured him that Saint George would cure him.

He adds that on that night he was in great pain. He fell asleep while he was holding the icon of Abba Thomas to his chest. Abba Thomas came and awoke him saying; I have come to cure and to relieve you of the pains you endure, in response to the monks prayers to Saint George. In retaliation, the demons started torturing him more severely especially when Abba Thomas started to place the Cross on his head commanding the spirits to quit. He realized through the rebuke of Abba Thomas to the demons that they were seven demons. He adds that he saw the first demon departs after such a fierce struggle that the icon of Abba Thomas was ruined, and Abba Thomas burned the demon with the Cross. The rest of the demons followed the first one quitting in submission.

On Dec.29/2002, Abba Thomas appeared to him in a dream and told him that he was released from the demons and Saint George would visit him by day and Abba Thomas by night.

He extends his gratitude to the Almighty God and to His Saints Saint George and Abba Thomas for retaining his health and his normal life.


Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name ... Who heals all your diseases (Ps. 103:1-3)

Nasralla Keddis (New Jersey-USA) states that his wife Suzan suffered of a blockage of the small intestine. She performed a surgery in a hospital where she got rid of approximately a yard of her small intestine.

However, shortly after, she suffered from severe inner pain. After performing Physical examination and reviewing the investigations, she was advised to have another surgery as the only way for her treatment.

Being frustrated, they communicated with Fr. Abraam St. Samuel requesting him to pray for her. Suzan adds saying that she had great faith in the power of the prayers of Abba Thomas the Anchorite especially because he had performed many miracles to her before. Fr. Abraam assured her that she would be healed without any more surgery.

Nasrallah accompanied his wife again to the same doctor. He performed a new X-Ray test and found that the blockage was eliminated and there was no more need for a surgery.

They glorified the Lord and praised Abba Thomas for his immediate response.


He stood over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them (Luke 4: 38)

Hoda Naseef (Cairo-Egypt) communicated to recount the miracle of heeling her swollen breast without surgery, through the prayers of Abba Thomas the Anchorite.

She enclosed a bunch of medical reports. She stated:

On 1994 she was on a visit to her son in the USA, when she felt pain in her left breast. Performing a Mammogram proved that she had a Cyst in her breast. The physician stated that their was no immediate harm, but advised to perform a Mammogram every six months.

After returning to Egypt, she adds that she did not care to check again until another Cyst bulged out in her chest. The physician advised her to have a surgery to get rid of the Cyst and referred her to Alzamalek Hospital (attached the report).

She got disturbed and raised her heart to the Lord pleading for help. However instead of going to the hospital, she headed for the residence of the monastery of Abba Thomas the Anchorite.(26 Algizawie Str. Shoubra-Cairo) where she prayed to have the prayers of Abba Thomas. She placed his relics on her chest crying for his help. Fr.Abbram prayed also and comforted her.

Next day she went to another doctor to double check her. He advised her to get a recent Mammogram. Miraculously the new one affirmed that there was no Cyst or any trace of it. On reviewing the previous X-Ray report performed in the USA in 1994 the physician was amazed.

In order to get more assured that the swelling was terminated, she appealed to Abba Thomas and Abba Kyrellos to show her a visiable sign. She sprayed the area of swelling with the holy oil of Abba Thomas icon. Gradually the swelling began to wither until it thoroughly vanished, although the physician told her that the swelling would not vanish except through a surgery.

She glorified God the True Healer and His Saints for their prayers.


Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.( Luke 8:39)

Mr.Shawki Saeed Obeid (16 Almekawel Str.,Kafr Elzayaat city-Egypt) communicated the monastery to recount the story of his healing of a fatal Cancer case, and presented a bunch of reports of the medical investigations he had performed. He related his story to Fr. Abbram as follows :

On October 1992 he fell sick, and after the physical and medical examinations he underwent a surgery in Victoria Hospital in Alexandria Egypt to eliminate a swelling in his bladder which on performing a culture on it revealed the existence of Cancer in it. Therefore he stayed in the hospital for treatment to stop the spread of the disease.

During his stay in the hospital, his daughter (Sherin(20)a university student) came to visit him. She told him that while she was looking up at the icon of Abba Thomas the Anchorite praying for her fathers healing, she felt that the icon was shaking so strongly that she imagined it was going to break. She was alarmed and hurried to leave the room. A week after, the scene was repeated once more. She assumed that the saint was conveying a message to the family telling them that he would smash the Cancers cells to hinder its spread.

The double check of the investigations (Ultrasound- Cancer culture- X-Ray with IV) revealed complete devoid of cancer cells.

Therefore he came to the Monastery escorted with a buss full of friends and relatives offering their gratitude to the Lord and seeking the blessings and prayers of Abba Thomas.


O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:24)

Mr. xxx (preferred not to mention his name- is resident of Souhag city- student in the Faculty of Engineering Cairo university) recounted the miracle of his acquittal from a charge of an immorality case. He stated the following:-

During his stay in Souhag, and later in Cairo, he was alienated from God and of the church, and befriended wicked peers. He frequented the taverns and adultery inns and mixed with the dissolutes.

He adds that the Lord meant to rebuke him, when one day he watched a video-film about the life of Abba Thomas the Anchorite, that he was cut to the heart. However he did not repent but he hardened his heart.

The following day, he together with his wicked friends were visiting the same places, when the police arrested them charged with immorality. He was arraigned to court on February 17.2002. Prior to that day he was struck by remorse compunction, and repented resolving to live in the fear of God. He headed to the monastery of Abba Thomas the Anchorite where he confessed his sins and prayed bitterly appealing for the forgiveness of the Lord and the Saints prayers on his behalf.

The beneficent and merciful God Who says, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) has accepted his repentance and saved him from being condemned. He alone was acquitted although all his friends were condemned.

Anba Stephanos The Anchorite of the Wilderness of Fayoum

Edited from Arabic by Archdeacon Aziz Nashed

Hearken, O brethren, so that I may tell you of something I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears.
It happened that once while I was wandering about in the wilderness, meditating on the Lords creation .. its deep valleys, high mountains, tamed beasts and birds of all species, I got amazed and I praised the almighty creator.

Then amidst a location covered with various trees and fountains of water, I came upon a skull neglected in the sand of the wilderness. It turned white in color due to the intense heat by day and frigidity by night. I glorified the Lord and wondered what might be its story. I wished if it could speak and tell me about what it had encountered; of joy or misery throughout its life. I looked then, towards the east and prayed to the Lord so that he might show me its concerns.

However, before finishing my prayers, I heard a voice calling : Listen carefully, father Stephanos, for I am going to tell you my story in order to caution you and also for you to recount it to your brethren, warning them of the day of judgment and to urge them to be vigil and to persevere in praying, for the resurrection of the bodies is a fact. Nobody on that day can redeem his brother or father, but each one will be judged according to his deeds. Deeds of mercy please God, and prayers illuminate your heart. Beware of delay and convey my message to everyone otherwise they join me in that place where, Its worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44)

Regarding my biography, I state that I was a greedy merchant who earned money through usury, and who had an excessive desire to acquire more. I was always envious and I had malicious desire all my brethren dispossessed.

I have never given to the needy nor felt sympathy towards them.

I have never felt the need to pray or to pursue the Lords commandments. I was physically strong and healthy and I was fortunate to have good children who helped the needy and cared for the strangers. They always urged me to be merciful and be a good-doer but I didnt care. However, in spite of all the riches I had possessed, I have never allowed them to touch it, because I was striving to accumulate it.

One day I traveled to a distant oasis to carry on commerce. I prepared myself for a long stay, and I took many camels and many lads. I hired a guide to go on with me and carried a lot of money and goods. Unexpectedly, the guide lost his way and I was left wandering about in the wilderness for three days.

Woe to the person who has a guide other than the Lord. The intensified heat of the sun killed the camels and pushed the lads to flee. I was left alone; nevertheless I was attached to my possessions, which I preferred not to abandon. I stayed three more days eating of what was left over until there was no more to be eaten. Then I realized that I approached death, and began to meditate over life and the transient world and how I had enraged God with my evil deeds. I started loosing my consciousness and then I lost my eye sight.

However, on the third day, I opened my eyes and saw a dreadful angel holding a flaming sword and blowing fire from his mouth. He ordered my soul to get out, where he received, and passed it to his fellow Demons who hooked it and then brought me to this place of torture where they cast me and left.

In the depth, I met with an elder whom I was acquainted with in the world. He was an evil-doer like me, and thus he was then suffering punishment.

Suddenly I heard an enormous thundering sound, and the angel of torture appeared, and cast me down into the darkest pit of Hades, where I exist until now.

I asked him if he could see those who dwell in the paradise. He said that none could see them except the righteous, for there was a vast immeasurable gap between both.

Woe to me, for neither money nor children could help me out of it, and time of repentance has passed.

Therefore, beware Father Stephanos, and persevere in praying and giving. Urge others to watch because they do not know when our Lord is coming. I disobeyed my parents, pursued my lusts and transgressed the Divine commandments.

However, behold, the only way for salvation is the belief in Jesus Christ who was incarnate of the Holy Virgin St. Mary and who was rejected by the Jews, and through whom we are baptized and receive the Holy Eucharist.

Woe to me, I the wicked because I had known all these facts, but I did not observe them.

Then he repeated these words three times, adding that he was commanded to deliver that message to me. He then stood silent.

I took the skull and buried it in a cave. And went back to my brethren to recount all the story.

We wish and pray that God may enlighten our hearts and help us live according to his will, and look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the coming age.

Glory be to God forever and ever.


ST. IRENEY our mother

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
Ireney is a Greek word which means PEACE. This word is repeated many times during the Holy Liturgy, specially when the priest says Ireney Passi which is translated, Peace be with you. And the congregation and deacons answer, Ke to ebnevma ti so which means And also with you. Many Copts call there daughter Ireney because our Lord Jesus is the God of Peace. Romans 15:33 and 16:20
At birth St. Ireney was called Pina Louis. She was the daughter of King Lucinius of Macedonia. Her parents were pagans who worshipped idols, yet they loved Ireney dearly. Ireney was so pretty that her father built a palace to protect her from the outside world. Ireney spent all her time in that palace. Although she had committed no crime she was never permitted to leave this palace. Because of the love of her father, Ireney was a special prisoner. No one was allowed to enter the palace except thirteen maids and one old man who were assigned to serve Ireney. However the King didnt know that the old man was Christian. On the contrary, he admired him because he was a good respected teacher.
When Pina Louis was thirteen years old, she started thinking of the idols which her father left in the palace. One day and while she was awake, she saw a vision. A dove entered the room and dropped an olive branch on the table, then an Angel brought a crown in his beak and left it in the table too. Finally a crow carrying a snake entered the room and left the snake in the same place. Ireney was puzzled and asked her old teacher to explain the meaning of that vision.
The old man prayed for a long time asking for Gods help. Then he said, The dove signifies the knowledge of the true God through His word. The branch of the olive is the baptism that you will receive. The eagle symbolizes the victory of the almighty God. The crown is the glory of the saints. The crow refers to your father and the snake designates the persecution of the believers.
Then he added, Be advised, my child, that you are the daughter of the real God that reigns over heaven and earth, you will go through many ordeals, especially for your father, but the angel of the Lord will rescue you from all your troubles and you will become a blessing for many.
One day her father entered the palace with news that one of the princes wanted to marry her. Ireney asked her father for a period of time to think about it. Then she went to ask the idols for their advice. When she didnt get any answer, she lifted her heart to heaven and prayed to the God of the Christians, just like her old teacher had taught her. Then all of the sudden an angel appeared to her and comforted her. He said that St. Timothy ( who was St. Pauls disciple) would come the next day to baptize her. He also added that from now on, her name would change to Ireney, which means peace.
The next day, St. Timothy baptized her along with her thirteen maids. Immediately Ireney started destroying all the idols in the palace. When her father saw what she did, he became furious but Ireney told him that his idols couldnt even defend themselves. The father went to complain to his wife, but to his amazement she told him that she agreed with her daughter and would like to become Christian herself. The father became even angrier and declared that Ireney was no longer his daughter.
The King gave orders to his guards to chain Ireney s hands and feet and let the horses trample her body. But one of the horses attacked the King who was watching and bit off his hand. Then the other horses pushed him to the ground and kept kicking him until he died. Suddenly Ireneys chains miraculously fell down. She went to her father, put back his hand in place and lifting her heart to heaven asked God to bring him back to life, and immediately the King got up on his feet in front of three thousand onlookers, who all declared their faith in the true God.
After Ireney s father converted to Christianity, he sent a message to King Daccius, informing him that he believed in the crucified Christ, and that he would never sacrifice to the idols again. The King got mad, and sent for Ireney, since he thought that she was responsible for what had happened. At that time, Ireney s father and mother were baptized.
When Ireney presented herself in front of King Daccius, he tried to persuade her by any means. He promised to marry her and make her the happiest girl in the whole empire. But Ireney refused, saying that her real groom was the Heavenly Groom, Christ, whom she adored. That infuriated the King, and he ordered her to be tortured.
The soldiers took Ireney away and started tormenting her every day. At night, they would throw her half-dead body into jail, but an angel used to come and heal all her wounds. When the people who were watching saw the savage torturing, they revolted against the King, and expelled him from the country. As a result of his ordeal, the king became very ill and died.
Prince Sabour succeeded his father to become the new king of Macedonia. Unfortunately, he didnt learn from his fathers mistakes. He sent his troops to attack the city where Ireney lived in order to avenge his fathers death. Ireney on the other hand prayed God to protect her people from the tyrant. Suddenly, all the soldiers and there king became blind and were groundless. The king cried to Ireney to pray to her God to restore her sight since he is the only God with such power. Ireney prayed and their eyes were opened again. Nevertheless, the king insisted that offer sacrifices to the idols since she was responsible for his fathers death. When Ireney refused, she was jailed four days without any food or water. Then around midnight, in her dark and lonely cell, a bright light appeared; the Lord of Glory Himself came to tell Ireney not to fear for He would be always with her.
The next day, they started torturing her again but Ireney saw many celestial creatures coming down to her, untying her chains and saving her from her gladiators, while she was praising God, the King became angered and fell to his death.
A period of peace followed this tribulation. St. Timothy joined Ireney in the palace where she lived with her parents. They built an altar for St. Mary where they celebrated mass everyday. St. Timothy also preached the word of God to everyone, and baptized many beleiver for three years, numerous miracles were performed through St. Timothy and St. Ireney, and the faithful multiplied in number.
Ireney spent her last days in Ephesus, where she used to pray continuously. Finally she died on the 21st day of the month of Messra.
May the prayers and the supplications of the great St. Ireney be with us all .

Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite

Saint Shenouda, the Archimandrite
Departed on the Seventh Day of Abib

St. Shenouda, next to St. Pachomius, was the most important representative of Egyptian coenobitism (monks living together). He was Abbot of the famous White Monastery of Atripe in the desert of Thebes for more than sixty-five years (383-451 or 466 ad); he ruled over 2200 monks and 1800 nuns, as Besa his disciple and successor informs us.

He is called archimandrite, i.e. the head of Anchorites, for he used to practice the solitary life from time to time, and encouraged some of his monks to withdraw to the desert after a few years of solitary life, without completely severing connections with the monastery.

Whereas St. Pachomius saw in the coenobium the culmination of monastic excellence, St. Shenouda saw in it a period of transition and formation to prepare mature souls for the more ascetic solitude of anchorites.

In 431 AD, St. Shenouda accompanied St. Cyril of Alexandria to the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus. Nevertheless, his name is absent from European literature of the time concerning the Father of the Desert, because of the following reasons: 1. He started a deliberate movement to purge Coptic literature of every element of the Hellenic culture. Nobody was permitted to speak Greek in his monasteries, and in his preaching and writings he used only the Sahidic Coptic language. For many centuries no western Father wished to translate any of his works. 2. Contrary to other Egyptian monastic orders all his monks were of purely Coptic origin. No foreign person could be admitted to his communities.

His Boyhood

Before the birth of St. Shenouda, St. Athanasius foretold the important role that St. Shenouda was to have in Egyptian monasticism and in aiding the church to flourish and spread. St. Horesius, one of the Pachomian monks also on his meeting with St. Shenoudas mother told her, God bless the fruit of your womb and grant you a son, who will be like Amber, with its sweet smell that will spread throughout the whole world...

St. Shenouda was born in Shenlala, a village near Ikhmim in Upper Egypt. Before he was ten years old, his righteous parents asked their shepherds to teach him how to take care of the sheep and to send him back home before nightfall. The boy used to give his food to some shepherds and spend all his day in fasting, then he returned with one of the shepherds halfway home. His father discovered that he left with the shepherds early in the morning and returned late at night everyday. His father followed him secretly to see him standing near a well in the road praying for a long time. The next day he accompanied his son not to the shepherds, but to his uncle Abbot Pegol, founder of the White Monastery.

With His Uncle Abbot Pegol

In the White Monastery, St. Shenoudas father asked Abbot Pegol to bless the boy, but the Abbot held the boys hand, put it on his head, saying, I am in need of this boys blessing for he is a chosen vessel of Christ, who will serve Him faithfully all his life...

The remarkable progress of this boy, attracted Abbot Pegol and all the monks. One of the elders saw his fingers on day alight like candles when he stretched out his hands in prayer. In 383 AD, St. Shenouda succeeded his uncle Abbot Pegol as an Abbot of the White Monastery, setting out a severe order of monasticism.

His Monastic Rules

St. Shenoudas coenobitic order differs from that of St. Pachomius, and is more strict. Its main outlines can be summarized in the following points:

1. The novice spent a probationary period in certain houses outside the walls of the monasteries and not inside them as in the Pachomian order. A written undertaking was signed by the novice before he became a monk, and was recited by him before the brethren in the church. The signed and witnessed undertaking was kept in the monastery archives: I promise before God in this holy place, as the word that my mouth promises is my witness. I do not wish to stain my body in any manner, I do not wish to steal, I do not wish to take false oaths, I do not wish to do evil secretly. If I transgress that which I have promised, I do not wish to enter the kingdom of heaven, for I see Him, God, before whom I have pronounced the formula of the covenant. Let Him annihilate my soul and body in the gehenna of fire, for I will have transgressed the formula of the covenant I have pronounced. There is no mention of the classical promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience, although these were implied in the coenobitic pursuit of perfect morality.

2. Every monastery was ruled by an Abbot, who in return was the subject of the Archimandrite, as the Abbot of all monasteries. Four general assemblies were held yearly where all monks, even the anchorites were present, to discuss the position of these institutions.

3. Concerning worship, short prayers were recited by every group of monks before the beginning of their work. Private prayers consisted of psalms and Church hymns, which were recited in the cells under the guidance of the spiritual father. Common prayers were also performed by monks who assembled four times daily for this purpose, in the morning, noon, sunset, and at night. They assembled and departed in complete silence, thinking only of the prayers they have recited. Moreover, the Eucharistic liturgy was celebrated weekly. The families and all people who dwelt near the monasteries were permitted to visit the monasteries on Saturdays, attend the Vespers service, hear the sermon and participate with the monks in the Eucharistic liturgy on Sundays. The monks fed these multitudes and St. Shenouda himself preached to them.

4. He established two schools in the White Monastery and encouraged the monks to be educated. Since he believed that education is the effective weapon against pagan customs, he felt responsible for the establishment of schools in the nearest villages.

Political Leader

St, Shenouda lived in one of the most critical moments in Egyptian history, when a great gulf was created between the Egyptians and the Byzantine people. The Egyptian peasants lived almost as slaves, working hard to the advantage of the Byzantine tyrant rulers or the aristocratic class. In spite of his great zeal to practice the hermetic life, he had taken himself over to plead for the oppressed in the courts, and if he failed he would write to the Emperor himself.

Thus he pushed his people not to surrender to oppression, but to struggle until the end. He stirred Egyptian nationalism, or Coptism. For this reason he used the Coptic language in his preaching, and not the Greek. In general meeting he stirred up the multitude saying: The hearts of those rulers are filled with wickedness, counterfeits, injustice and covetousness. They have one aim; to collect money at the expense of the poor who are the victims. Who can enumerate the sufferings which the people bear by those rulers?! I know someone who finds no food to eat nor to feed his animals. I think they want to make Egyptians their slaves, put the yoke on their shoulders...

Social Reformer

According to St. Shenouda, worship is correlated to social life, and religion is practical love and piety. St. Shenouda with his thousands of monks were not isolated from the Egyptian community. For example, when some thousand people were captured by the Blemye invaders of Upper Egypt, he met the leaders of those people. He opened his monastery to those captured people to settle there for three months. All the monks devoted their time to their service. Seven monks who were doctors used to treat the wounded in the monastery. During this period ninety-four people died and were buried in the monastery, while fifty-two babies were born. Eight thousand five hundred Ardab of wheat were consumed, besides the great amount of lentils, oils, beans, etc.... The amount of guests to these monasteries seems very great during this time. The manner in which the monks believed in practical love as above any monastic canon or rule is very evident in their acts of agape.

His Preaching

We have seen that St. Shenouda opened his monasteries to the people on Saturdays and Sundays. He used to explain to them the Holy Scriptures, giving special interest in uprooting heathen custom. His eloquence helped him in overcoming the pagans of Ikhmim. He stirred up the multitudes to reject the pagan monuments and temples.

His Ascetic Struggle

St. Shenouda used to practice severe ascetic actions. For example, St. Besa his disciple told us that, During the holy week, St. Shenouda made a cross and tied himself upon it for the whole week. He did so as if he wished to suffer with his Master...He used to be fed with bread and salt for many days, and spent many nights in praying...

His Temptations

St. Shenouda underwent many demonic temptations, but which by faith, righteousness, and the strength of our Lord, he endured and conquered. Once a devil appeared to him in the shape of an angel, saying to him, Hail, O Struggling Saint, the Lord has sent me, for you are righteous and have struggled too much. You have experienced enough toils and ascetic actions in this wilderness, now go to the countries to guide men. St. Shenouda replied to him modestly, If you have been sent by the Lord, stretch out your hands in the shape of the Cross, the sign of your Lord Jesus. On hearing these words the devil fled away as he could not bear the name of the Savior and His Cross.

His Miracles

St. Shenouda was granted the gift of performing miracles in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, some of which are listed here:

1. Once as the saint knew that the wheat would not suffice and there was no money to buy some, he assembled twenty monks in church and prayed. Then God blessed the wheat so that it sufficed and surpassed all need.

2. Once while all the monks were assembled together at night in the winter, three revered men, who looked like angels, entered and participated in worshiping, then departed. When the monks asked their Abbot St. Shenouda about those three whom he accompanied to the outer door, he replied, They are John the Baptist, Elijah the Prophet, and his disciple Elisha; they came to comfort us and strengthen us, for they also lived in the wilderness like us.

3. It is said that when an ambassador of the Emperor Theodosius the Little asked him to accompany him to bless the Emperor he excused himself because of his multitude of responsibilities. As the ambassador threatened him that he would use violence, he entered the church and prayed. Suddenly he was borne to the Emperor by a cloud, blessed him and brought from him a message to his ambassador signed by his seal as proof!

4. It is also related that on his return to Egypt from Ephesus after attending the Ecumenical Council, the sailors who did not know him refused to accept him on the ship where St. Cyril of Alexandria was on. While the ship was sailing, St. Cyril saw St. Shenouda and his disciple Besa borne on a cloud. St. Cyril cried, Bless us, our father, O Saint, the new Elijah!

5. Once, after returning from Ephesus, St. Shenouda visited the monastery of Amoun at Nitria. There he was astonished how the monks ate meat and began to think negatively of them in his mind. The brother who was in charge of the kitchen ordered one of the monks to put his hand inside the pot while the food was boiling and bring a piece of meat. St. Shenouda was astonished how the monks hand was not injured and believed that holiness does not depend on the kind of food one eats.

His Writings

St. Shenouda is one of the most outstanding Christian writers in Coptic. According to Besa, he left a great number of letters and sermons, most of the former-addressed to monks and nuns, which dealt with monastic questions and information combating the practices of pagans and heretics. His sermons are spirited and predominantly eschatological in character. In addition, several apocalypses and visions are attributed to him.

His Sayings

-It is of great benefit to visit the places of martyrs and saints to pray and to be sanctified by receiving the Holy Communion in Christs fear. But he who visits these places and enjoy carnal pleasures, to eat, drink, play, commit sins and to be drunken...he angers the Lord who says, My House will be called a house of prayer, but you are turning it into a robbers den. (Matt 21:13)

Therefore whoever comes to the feasts of martyrs to spoil the Lords Temple, falls under condemnation and is cursed instead of attaining the blessing of the Martyrs prayers.

-After receiving the Holy Communion, one has to hurry to ones cell joyfully and in peace. Nobody must speak with his neighbor before or after the assembly, except if there is a necessity for the congregations benefit...thus we preserve the innumerable graces we attain.


St. Shenoudas life story was recorded by his disciple Besa (Wisa). May the prayers of this great saint, St. Shenouda the Archimandrite, be with us all and glory be to God forever.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008




There is a good deal of uncertainty abroad as to which monk it was who first came to live in the desert. Some questing back to a remoter age, would trace the beginnings from the blessed Elias and from John: yet of these Elias seems to us to have been rather a prophet than a monk: and John to have begun to prophesy before ever he was born. Some on the other hand (and these have the crowd with them)insist that Antony was the founder of this way of living, which in one sense is true : not so much that he was before all others, as that it was by him their passion was wakened. Yet Amathas, who buried the body of his master, and Macarius, both of them Antony`s disciples, now affirm that a certain Paul of Thebes was the first to enter on the road. This is my own judgment, not so much from the facts as from conviction some tattle this and that, as the fancy takes them, a man in an underground cavern with hair to his heels; and the like fantastic inventions which it were idle to track down. A lie that is impudent needs no refuting.

So then, since there is a full tradition as regards Antony, both in the Greek and Roman tongue, I have determined to write a little of Paul's beginning and his end; rather because the story has been passed over, than confident of any talent of mine. But what was his manner of life in middle age, or what wiles of Satan he resisted has been discovered to none of mankind.

During the reign of Decius and Valerian, the persecutors, about the time when Cornelius at Rome, Cyprian at Carthage, spilt their glorious blood, a fierce tempest made havoc of many churches in Egypt and the Thebaid. It was the Christian's prayer in those days that he might, for Christ's sake, die by the sword. But their crafty enemy sought out torments wherein death came slowly: desiring rather to slaughter the soul than the body. And Cyprian wrote, who was himself to suffer: They long for death, and dying is denied them……
Now at this very time, while such deeds as these were being done, the death of both parents left Paul heir to great wealth in the Lower Thebaid: his sister was already married. He was then about fifteen years of age, excellently versed alike in Greek and Egyptian letters, of a gentle spirit, and a strong lover of God. When the storm of persecution began its thunder, he betook himself to a farm in the country, for the sake of its remoteness and secrecy.

"But what wilt thou not drive mortal hearts to do O thou dread thirst for gold?"

His sister's husband began to meditate the betrayal of the lad whom it was his duty to conceal. Neither the tears if his wife, nor the bond of blood , nor God looking down upon it all from on high, could call him back from the crime, spurred on by a cruelty that seemed to ape religion. The boy, far-sighted as he was, had the wit to discern it, and took flight to the mountains, there to wait while the persecution ran its course. What had been his necessity became his free choice. Little by little he made his way, sometimes turning back and again returning, till at length he came upon a rocky mountain, and at its foot, at no great distance, a huge cave, its mouth closed by a stone. There is a thirst in men to pry into the unknown: he moved the stone, and eagerly exploring came within on a spacious courtyard open to the sky, roofed by the wide-spreading branches of an ancient palm, and with a spring of clear shining water: a stream ran hasting from it and was soon drunk again, through a narrow opening, by the same earth that had given its waters birth. There were, moreover, not a few dwelling-places in that hollow mountain, where one might see chisels and anvils and hammers for the minting of coin. Egyptian records declare that the place was a mint for coining false money, at the time of Antony was joined to Cleopatra.

So then, in this beloved habitation, offered to him as it were by God himself, he lived his life through in prayer and solitude: the palm-tree provided him with food and clothing . And lest this should seem impossible to any, I call Jesus to witness and His holy angels, that I myself, in that part of the desert which marches with Syria and the Saracens, have seen monks, one of whom lived a recluse for thirty years, on barley bread and muddy water: another in the ancient well (which in the heathen speech of Syria is called a quba ) kept himself in life on five dry figs a day. These things will seem incredible to those who believe not that all things are possible to him that believeth.

But to return to that place from which I have wandered; for a hundred and thirteen years the Blessed Paul lived the life of heaven upon earth, while in another part of the desert Antony abode, an old man of ninety years. And as Antony himself would tell, there came suddenly into his mind the thought that no better monk than he had his dwelling in the desert. But as he lay quiet that he night it was revealed to him that there was deep in the desert another better by far than he, and that he must make haste to visit him. And straightway as day was breaking the venerable old man set out, supporting his feeble limbs on his staff, to go he knew not whither. And now came burning noon, the scorching sun overhead, yet would he not flinch from the journey begun, saying " I believe in my God that He will show me His servant as he said." Hardly had he spoken when he espied a man that was part horse, whom imagination of the poets has called the Hippocentaur. At sight of him, the saint did arm his forehead with the holy sign." Ho there, said he, "in what part of the country hath this servant of God his abode ?" The creature gnashed out some kind of barbarous speech, and rather grinding his words than speaking them, sought with his bristling jaws to utter as gentle discourse as might be: holding out his right hand he pointed out the way, and so made swiftly off across the open plains and vanished from the saint's wondering eyes. And indeed whether the devil had assumed this shape to terrify him, or whether (as might well be) the desert that breeds monstrous beasts begat this creature also, we have no certain knowledge.

So then Antony, in great amaze and turning over in his mind the thing that he had seen, continued on his way. Nor was it long till in a rocky valley he saw a dwarfish figure of no great size, it’s nostrils joined together, and its forehead bristling with horns: the lower part of its body ended in goat’s feet. Unshaken by the sight, Antony, like a good soldier, caught up the shield of faith and the buckler of hope. The creature thus described, however , made to offer him dates as tokens of peace: at perceiving this, Antony hastened his step, and asking him who he might be, had this reply: "Mortal am I, and one of the dwellers in the desert, whom the heathen worship, astray in diverse error, calling us Fauns, and Satyrs, and Incubi. I come on an embassy from my tribe. We pray thee that thou would entreat for us our common God who did come, we know, for the world’s salvation, and His sound had gone forth over all the earth." Hearing him speak thus, the old wayfarer let his tears run down, tears that sprang from the mighty joy that was in his heart. For he rejoiced for Christ’s glory and the fall of Satan: marveling that he could understand his discourse, and striking the ground with his staff, "Woe to thee, Alexandria," he cried," who does worship monsters in room of God. Woe to thee, harlot city, in whom the demons of all the earth have flowed together. What has thou now to say? The beasts speak Christ and thou does worship monsters in room of God" He had not yet left speaking, when the frisky creature made off as if on wings. And this, lest any hesitation should stir in the incredulous, is maintained by universal witness during the reign of Constantius. For a man of this type was brought alive to Alexandria, and was made a great show for the people: and his lifeless corpse was thereafter preserved with salt, lest it should disintegrate in the heat of summer, and brought to Antioch, to be seen by the Emperor.

But to return to my purpose: Antony continued to travel through the region he had entered upon, now gazing at the tracks of wild beasts, and now at the vastness of the broad desert: what he should do, whiter he should turn, he knew not. The second day had ebbed to its close: one still remained, if he were not to think that Christ had left him. All night long he spent the darkness in prayer, and in the doubtful light of dawn he saw a shewolf, panting in a frenzy of thirst, steal into the foot of the mountain. He followed her with his eyes, and coming up to the cave into which she had disappeared began to peer within; but his curiosity availed him nothing, the darkness repelled his sight. Yet perfect love, as the Scripture says, casteth out fear: holding his breath and stepping cautiously the wary explorer went in.

Advancing little by little, and often standing still, his ear caught a sound. Afar off, in the dread blindness of the dark he saw a light; hurrying too eagerly, he struck his foot against a stone, and raised a din. At the sound the Blessed Paul shut the door which had been open, and bolted it. Then did Antony fall upon the ground outside the door, and there he prayed for admittance until the sixth hour and beyond it. "Who I am," said he, "and whence, and why I have come, thou knowest. I know that I am not worthy to behold thee: nevertheless, unless I see thee, I go not hence. Thou who receives beasts, why does thou turn away men? I have sought, and I have found: I knock, that it may be opened to me. But if I prevail not, here shall I die before thy door. Assuredly thou wilt bury my corpse."

And so he stood, pleading, and fixed there,
To him the hero answered, in few words:

"No man pleads thus, who comes to threaten: no man comes to injure, who comes in tears: and dost thou marvel that I receive thee not, if it is a dying man that comes?" And so jesting, Paul set open the door. And the two embraced each other and greeted one another by there names, and together returned thanks to God. And after the Holy kiss Paul sat down beside Antony, and began to speak. "Behold him whom thou hast thought with so much labour, a shaggy white head and limbs worn out with age. Behold, thou lookest on a man that is soon to be dust. Yet because love endureth all things, tell me, I pray thee, how fares the human race: if new roofs be risen in the ancient cities, whose empire is it that now sways the world; and if any still survive, snared in the error of the demons."

And as they talked they perceived that a crow had settled on a branch of the tree, and softly flying down, deposited a whole loaf before their wondering eyes. And when he had withdrawn, "Behold," said Paul, "God hath sent us our dinner, God the merciful, God the compassionate. It is now sixty years since I had had each day a half loaf of bread: but at thy coming, Christ has doubled His soldiers’ rations." And when they had given thanks to God, they sat down beside the margin of the crystal spring. But now sprang up a contention between them as to who should break the bread, that brought the day well-nigh to evening, Paul insisting on the right of the guest, Antony countering by right of seniority. At length they agreed that each should take hold of the loaf and pull toward himself, and let each take what remained in his hands. Then they drank a little water, holding their mouths to the spring: and offering to God the sacrifice of praise, they passed the night in vigil.

But as day returned to the earth, the Blessed Paul spoke to Antony. "From old time, my brother, I have known that thou wert a dweller in these parts: from old time God had promised that thou, my fellow-servant, wouldst come to me. But since the time has come for sleeping, and (for I have ever desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ) the race is run, there remaineth for me a crown of righteousness; thou hast been sent by God to shelter this poor body in the ground, returning earth to earth."

At this Antony, weeping and groaning, began pleading with him not to leave him but take him with him as a fellow-traveler on that journey.

"Thou must not," said the other, "seek thine own, but anothers good. It were good for thee, the burden of the flesh flung down, to follow the Lamb: but it is good for the other brethren that they should have thine example for their grounding. Wherefore, I pray thee, unless it be too great a trouble, go and bring the cloak which Athanasius the Bishop gave thee, to wrap around my body." This indeed the Blessed Paul asked, not because he much cared whether his dead body should rot covered or naked, for indeed he had been clothed for so long time in woven palm-leaves: but he would have Antony far from him, that he might spare him the pain of his dying.

Then Antony, amazed that Paul should have known of Athanasius and the cloak, dared make no answer; it seemed to him that he saw Christ in Paul, and he worshipped God in Paul’s heart; silently weeping, he kissed his eyes and his hands, and set out on the return journey to the monastery, the same which in aftertime was captured by the Saracens. His steps indeed could not keep pace with his spirit: yet though length of days had broken a body worn out with fasting, his mind triumphed over his years. Exhausted and panting, he reached his dwelling, the journey ended. Two disciples who of long time had ministered to him, ran to meet him, saying, "Where hast thou so long tarried, Master?"

"Woe is me," he made answer, "that do falsely bear the name of monk. I have seen Elias, I have seen John in the desert, yea, I have seen Paul in paradise." And so, with tight-pressed lips and his hand beating his breast, he carried the cloak from his cell. To his disciples eager to know more of what was toward, he answered, "There is a time to speak, and there is a time to be silent." And leaving the house, and not even taking some small provision for the journey, he again took the road by which he had come: athirst for him, longing for the sight of him, eyes and mind intent. For he feared as indeed befell, that in his absence, Paul might have rendered back to Christ the spirit that he owed Him.

And now the second day dawned upon him, and for three hours he had been on the way, when he saw amid a host of angels and amid the companies of prophets and apostles, Paul climbing the steps of heaven, and shining white as snow. And straightway falling on his face he threw sand upon his head and wept saying, "Paul, why didst thou send me away? Why dost thou go with no leave-taking? So tardy to be known, art thou so swift to go?"

In aftertime the Blessed Antony would tell how speedily he covered the rest of the road, as it might be a bird flying. Nor was it without cause. Entering the cave he saw on its bent knees, the head erect and the hands stretched out to heaven, the lifeless body: yet first, thinking he yet lived, he knelt and prayed beside him. Yet no accustomed sigh of prayer came to him: he kissed him, weeping, and then knew that the dead body of the holy man still knelt and prayed to God, to whom all things live.

So then he wrapped the body round and carried it outside, chanting the hymns and psalms of Christian tradition. But sadness came on Antony, because he had no spade to dig the ground. His mind was shaken, turning this way and that. For if I should go back to the monastery, he said, it is a three days’ journey : if I stay here, there is no more that I can do. Let me die, therefore, as is meet and: and falling besides thy soldier, Christ let me draw my last breath.

But even as he pondered, behold two lions came coursing, their manes flying, from the inner desert, and made towards him. At sight of them, he was at first in dread: then, turning his mind to God, he waited undismayed, as though he looked on doves. They came straight to the body of the holy dead, and halted by it wagging their tails, then couched themselves at his feet, roaring mightily’ and Antony well knew they were lamenting him, as best they could. Then, going a little way off, they began to scratch up the ground with their paws, vying with one another in throwing up the sand, till they had dug a grave roomy enough for a man: and thereupon, as though to ask the reward of their work, they came up to Antony, with drooping ears and down-bent heads, licking his hands and his feet. He saw that they were begging for his blessing; and pouring out his soul in praise to Christ for that even the dumb beasts feel that there is God, "Lord," he said, " he said, "without whom no leaf lights from the tree, nor a single sparrow falls upon the ground, give unto these even as Thou knowest."

Then, motioning with his hand, he signed to them to depart. And when they had gone away, he bowed his aged shoulders under the weight of the holy body: and laying it in the grave, he gathered the earth above it, and made the wonted mound. Another day broke: and then, lest the pious heir should receive none of the goods of the intestate, he claimed for himself the tunic which the saint had woven out of palm-leaves as one weaves baskets. And so returning to the monastery, he told the whole story to his disciples in order as it befell: and on the solemn feasts of Easter and Pentecost, he wore the tunic of Paul.

… I pray you, whoever ye be who read this, that ye be mindful of Jerome the sinner: who, if the Lord gave him his choice , would rather have the tunic of Paul with his merits, than the purple of Kings with their thrones.

May the blessing of St. Paul the first anchorite and St. Antony the father of all monks be with us all. Amen. For more other saints