December 17, 2020 - Kiahk 8, 1737
Departure of St. Heraclas, the Thirteenth Pope of Alexandria
On this day of the year 240 A.D., the holy father, Pope Heraclas, 13th Pope of Alexandria, departed. He was born to pagan parents who believed and were baptized after his birth. They taught him the Greek philosophy, then the Christian wisdom. He also studied the four gospels and the epistles. St. Demetrius, 12th Pope of Alexandria, ordained him deacon, then a priest over the church of Alexandria. He was successful in the ministry and was faithful in all that was entrusted to him. When Abba Demetrius departed, St. Heraclas was chosen as Patriarch. He shepherded the flock of Christ well. He converted many pagans and baptized them. He devoted his efforts to teaching, preaching and instructing the transgressors. He assigned to St. Dionysius the work of judging between the believers, and taking care of their affairs. Pope Heraclas sat on the throne of St. Mark for 13 years and departed in peace. May his prayers be with us. Amen.
Martyrdom of the Saints: Barbara and Juliana
On this day also Sts. Barbara and Juliana, were martyred. Barbara was the daughter of a noble man from one of the countries in the east, called Dioscorus, during the days of Maximianus the Emperor, in the beginning of the third Christian century. Because of his strong love for her, he built her a tower to live in. The saint always raised up her eyes to the sky from the top of the tower and contemplated the beauty of the sky and what was in it: the sun, the moon and the stars. She came to the conclusion that they must have an able and wise maker and that would be none other than the Almighty God who created them. Origen, the scholar, happened to be in this area and was informed of the saint. He went to her and taught her the principles of Christianity. There were two windows in the bathroom and she ordered a third one to be opened and a cross to be placed over the water basin. When her father came to see her and saw the changes that were done, he asked her for the reason. She told him, Don't you know, my father, that with the Holy Trinity everything is complete, and here are three windows in the name of the Holy Trinity. This sign is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein was the salvation of the whole world. I ask you, 0 my dear father, to turn away from the wrong way that you are in and worship the God Who created you.
When her father heard these words, he became angry, drew his sword and ran after her. She fled, and he ran after her. There was a rock in front of her that split into two halves and she went through. The rock then returned to its earlier state. Her father went around the rock and found her hidden in a cave. He jumped over her like a wolf, seized her and took her to Marcianus, the governor. The Governor talked to her kindly, promising her many things. Then he threatened her, but could not take away her love for the Lord Christ. Thereupon, he ordered her to be tortured with different kinds of torture. There was a damsel called Juliana, who watched St. Barbara while she was being tortured and wept for her. Juliana saw the Lord Christ strengthening and comforting St. Barbara; she was enlightened and believed in the Lord Christ. They cut off her head and that of St. Barbara and they both received the crown of martyrdom. St. Barbara's father perished shortly after and so did the Governor who tortured her. The water of the basin that had the cross over it in the tower had the power to heal everyone who washed with it. They placed the bodies of these two saints in a church outside of the city of Galatia. Years later, they relocated the body of St. Barbara to the church in Cairo which is named after her to this day. May Their prayers be with us. Amen.
Martyrdom of the Saints: Esi and His Sister Thecla
On this day also was the martyrdom of St. Esi and his sister Thecla. They were from the city of Abu-Sair, west of El-Ashmunein. St. Esi was a very rich man. He gave the money which he earned from the shearing of his sheep to the needy. When Esi knew that his friend Paul, whom he visited often for trading, was seriously ill in the city of Alexandria, he went to visit him and remained with him until he recovered from his illness. They both agreed to visit the saints who were in prison because of the persecution. Some of the saints in prison prophesied that they would receive the crown of martyrdom. That was during the time when St. Victor, the son of Romanus (Ebn-Romanus) came to Alexandria. When Esi and Paul knew of his good strife and of his renouncing of the world, they wished to follow his example. Esi went to the Governor and confessed the Lord Christ. The Governor ordered him to be tortured with the most severe kinds of torture such as making him take off his clothes, binding and squeezing him, then placing burning torches on his sides. They also ordered him to be cast on the ground and beaten with whips, and to dismember parts of his body. Through it all he was patient, and the Angel of the Lord strengthened him and healed his wounds. Paul, his friend, was crying and praying along with his servants for Esi's sake. The Angel of the Lord appeared to his sister Thecla and ordered her to go to her brother. She went to the seashore and embarked on one of the ships. Therein, the Virgin, the Mother of God, and Elizabeth, her kinswoman, appeared to her and comforted her because of her brother. Elizabeth told her, I have a son; they beheaded him unjustly, and St. Mary told her, I have a Son whom they crucified with envy. Thecla did not recognize them at that time. When she met her brother, they agreed together and went to the Governor confessing the Lord Christ. He tortured them severely on the squeezing wheel (Hinbazeen), burned them with fire, nailed them, and flayed the skin of their heads. But the Lord healed, strengthened, and comforted them. When the Governor became weary of torturing them, he handed them to his son, the Governor of the city of Antione (Ansena) in Upper Egypt. When they had sailed for a short while, the wind died down so the boat stopped. The Governor ordered the heads of Esi and Thecla, his sister, to be cut off and cast into the weeds and the wild plants on the banks. They did so and thus they received the crown of martyrdom. The Lord commanded a priest called Abba Ori (Ari) from Shatanouf to go and take their holy bodies. As for Paul, Esi's friend, and Ablanius, the son of Thecla, they were martyred later on. May Their intercession be with us. Amen.
Departure of St. Samuel the Abbot of the Qualamon Monastery (Abba Samuel the Confessor)
Also on this day the saint Abba Samuel, the head of El-Qualamon Monastery, departed. He was born in the city of Dakluba, diocese of Masil, from holy parents and he was their only child. Arselaos, his father, who was a priest, saw in a vision at night, a resplendent man telling him, Your son must be entrusted with a large congregation, for he is chosen by the Lord to be His all the days of his life. Samuel was pure from his youth, like Samuel the prophet, and he was always harboring thoughts in his heart about the monastic life. One day he found a means to go to the desert of Scete, but he did not know the way. The Angel of the Lord, in the form of a monk, appeared to him and accompanied him as he was himself going to the monastery, until they came to the desert of Scete. There, the Angel delivered him to a holy man called Abba Agathon who accepted him as the Angel of the Lord instructed. Abba Samuel lived with Abba Agathon for three years in total obedience in every way. Later on, the holy old man Abba Agathon departed. Abba Samuel devoted himself to many prayers and fasting. He fasted a week at a time. He was ordained a priest over the church of St. Macarius in Scete.
An envoy came to the desert carrying Leo's Tome and when the envoy read it to the elders, Abba Samuel became zealous, with the zeal of the Lord. He jumped up in the middle of the gathered monks and seized the letter and rent it into pieces saying, Excommunicated is this tome and everyone who believes in it and cursed is everyone who might change the Orthodox faith of our Holy Fathers. When the envoy saw this, he became furious and angry. He ordered him to be beaten with pins and to be hanged up by his arms, and that his face be smitten. One of these strikes enucleated one of St. Samuel's eyes. Then he was driven away from the monastery. The Angel of the Lord appeared to St. Samuel and commanded him to depart and to dwell in El-Qualamon. He went there and built a monastery, lived in it for a while teaching those gathered around him and confirming them in the Orthodox faith. When El-Moquakas heard about Abba Samuel, he came to him and asked him to recognize the Council of Chalcedon. When he did not listen to him, he smote him and expelled him out of the monastery. He went and lived in one of the churches and after a while he returned to the monastery.
When the Barbers raided the monastery, they took him with them on their way back to their country. He prayed to the Lord Christ to rescue him from them. Whenever they set him on a camel, the camel was unable to stand up with him on it, so they left him and he went back to his monastery. When the Barbers raided the wilderness again, they took St. Samuel with them to their country. They had captured before Abba Yoannis the heagomen (Archpriest) of Scete. So they were joined together and comforted each other. The captive of Abba Samuel tried to persuade him to worship the sun. When he failed, he tied the leg of Abba Samuel to the leg of one of his maidens and sent them to attend to the camels. He intended for Abba Samuel to fall into sin with her and then he would submit to him, according to Satan's advice. Through it all, the saint was gaining more courage and became stout-hearted. He remained in these circumstances until the master's son fell ill and was close to death; Abba Samuel prayed for him and the boy was healed of his sickness. The news was spread all over this country and whosoever was sick came to him; he prayed over him and anointed him with oil and the sick were healed. His master loved him exceedingly, he apologized and asked for Abba Samuel's forgiveness. He told him to ask for anything he wished. Abba Samuel asked to go back to his monastery. His master allowed him to return. When Abba Samuel returned, many of his sons gathered around him and they increased in number until they became thousands. The Virgin, St. Mary, appeared to him and told him, This place shall be my abode forever, and from that day the Barbarians never attacked this monastery again. Abba Samuel wrote many discourses and articles. He prophesied concerning the coming of Islam to Egypt. When the time of his departure drew near, he gathered together his sons and commanded them to be strong in the fear of God, to walk according to His commandments and to fight for the sake of the Orthodox faith till their last breath. Then he departed in peace. May His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
Departure of St. Yustus, the monk of St. Anthony
On this day also is the departure of St. Yustus, the monk of St. Anthony's monastery. May his prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.