October 28, 2017 - Baba 18, 1734
Departure of the Honorable Father St. Theophilus, the Twenty-Third Pope of Alexandria
On this day of the year 404 A.D., the holy father Abba Theophilus, twenty-third Pope of Alexandria, departed. He was a disciple of St. Athanasius the Apostolic. He was brought up by him and learned all the spiritual doctrine from him. When Pope Timothy departed, this father was chosen to take his place. Abba Theophilus was knowledgeable, well read in the church books with full understanding of their interpretation. He wrote many discourses and works of exhortation urging on the works of charity and mercy, and warnings to the people about receiving the Divine Mysteries without being prepared, and concerning the Resurrection and the punishment which is prepared for sinners and many other useful teachings. The holy father Abba Kyrillos was his nephew and Abba Theophilus took care of his education by sending him to Abba Serapion in the desert of Scete. There he studied the books of the church and all its subjects and stayed there five years, then went back to his uncle. When Abba Theophilus was with Abba Athanasius the Apostolic, he heard him one day saying while looking at the hills before his cell, If I find time, I will clear away these hills and build a church in their place for St. John the Baptist and Elisha the prophet.
When Abba Theophilus became Patriarch, he remembered that saying and he talked about it often. In the city of Rome, the husband of a rich woman died and left her with two sons. She took them and much money and an icon of the Archangel Raphael and came to Alexandria. When she heard about the interest of the father the Patriarch in removing those hills, she went to him with true zeal and gave him enough money to fulfill his desire. After the work was done, a treasure appeared under the hills and was covered with a slab of stone engraved in Coptic, with three characters of theta, 0. When Abba Theophilus saw them, he knew, guided by the Holy Spirit, the secret of these three letters and said, Behold the time has come for this treasure to be uncovered because these three thetas were gathered together at the same time and they are: Thoes, that of God; and Theodosius the Emperor, son of Arcadius, son of Theodosius the Great; and Theophilusthe Patriarch - meaning himself. He found that this treasure dated to the Era of Alexander, the son of Philip the Macedonian which was seven hundred years before. The Patriarch sent to the Emperor to inform him about the treasure and asked him to come. The Emperor came and saw the treasure, and gave a large sum of money to Abba Theophilus. He built many churches. He began by building a church in the name of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet, and he transferred their relics that church. That church was known at that time by the Demas. Then he built a church by the name of our Lady the Virgin Mary, then a church in thename of the Archangel Raphael at El-Gizira and seven other churches. As for the two sons of the woman who came from Rome, he ordained them bishops. When the Emperor saw the love of the Abba the Patriarch for building churches, he gave him all the houses of idols and Abba Theophilus changed them to churches and lodging houses for strangers, and endowed them with land. Having fulfilled his days in a life pleasing to God, he departed from this world in peace. May his prayers and blessings be with us all, and Glory be to God forever. Amen.