July 26, 2020 - Epep 19, 1736
Martyrdom of Saints Bidaba, Bishop of Qift, Anba Andrew, and Anba Christodoulas
On this day, of the year 284 A.M., whichp is the first year of the martyrs, the great saint Anba Bidaba, and his companion, the priest Andrew, his nephew, and St. Christodoulas, were martyred. Anba Bidaba, who was known by El-Gawhary, was bishop of the city of Qift, in Upper Egypt, during the days of the governor Arianus, and the reign of Emperor Diocletian.
This great saint was born in the city of Armant to Christian parents who raised him since his young age in a Christian manner. His mother's sister had a son, called him Andrew and raised him in a Christian way. Andrew and his cousin Bidaba liked each other and decided to forsake the world. They eagerly read the Bible and religious books, they widened their comprehension and they became the authority of their times in piety and godliness. When Bidaba was ten years old he had memorized most of the religious books and spiritual teachings. They fasted two days at a time without food or water and when they ate, they only ate bread and salt, accompanied by fervent prayers day and night.
One day while they were thinking about the vanity of this world, they decided to leave their families and live lives of seclusion in a deserted place. They went to the Eastern mount where they found Anba Eisak. This saint comforted and strengthened them to endure the hardships to receive the Eternal Life. Anba Eisak blessed them and commanded them to go to another place where they could live a life of solitude and spend all their time in worship. Then he told Anba Bidaba, 'O, my son you shall shepherd the flock of Christ, many toils, tribulations and great persecutions will befall you.' He told Andrew, 'You also shall receive a crown, after your strife, that has been prepared for you.'
They left Anba Eisak and went to the western side and built for themselves a cell. They had full knowledge and excellent skills in transcribing the holy books. They did that for little money to support their life and donated whatever was left to the poor and the needy. The bishop of this district came, once he heard about them, and ordained Anba Bidaba a priest and Andrew a deacon. They went to a church in one of the nearby cities once every forty days to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. One day they went to the church, and found the bishop there so Anba Bidaba stood in reverence and respect for the bishop. The bishop was sitting on his chair looking at St. Bidaba, and he was amazed to see the face of the Saint shining as the moon, and light emanating from him and on his head was a crown of gold decorated with precious stones. The bishop asked them to bring this saint and his companion Andrew. When they came to see him, he asked them to stay with him, but Anba Bidaba refused, preferring to live in the barren desert than live under the care of the bishop. Nevertheless, St. Andrew accepted to stay under the care of the bishop. Anba Bidaba returned to his cell weeping and saying, 'I ask you O my Lord Christ to consecrate that place for Thy self that Your Name might be mentioned in it for ever.' Then he left that place and went to another area further away. A few days later the bishop sent a messenger to the cell seeking the Saint but he did not find him. The bishop built a church in the name of this saint in that place and consecrated it on the thirteenth day of the month of Kiahk. As for St. Bidaba, he went to the church taking a different way to pray. Many signs and miracles were wrought by his hands, and he increased in grace and blessing.
When his fame spread, and his name was acclaimed, many came to him and he healed their spiritual and physical sicknesses. The people asked the bishop Anba Tadros saying, 'We ask you O our father to bring for us Anba Bidaba to be blessed by him and to stay among us for a period of time.' The bishop did as they asked.
When Anba Bidaba came to the city of Bahgourah, district of Nagaa-Hammady, there was a man, whose name was John, who had only one daughter, who was attractive. His neighbors were furious against him, and used sorcery against her, for they asked her father to give her in marriage to one of their sons, but he refused. But, the Saint Anba Bidaba prayed for her, and she became as normal as she had been, and God nullified the witchcraft away from her. When her family saw their daughter healed by the hand of that saint, they came and kneeled before him, and kissed his hands thanking him for his act. The Saint told them, 'Thank God and praise Him, for the grace that healed your daughter was not from me.' They left him rejoicing.
When it was Sunday and the people were gathered in the church, they brought the Saint to the bishop who promoted him to Hegumen (Archpriest). He stayed with the bishop for nine days then went back to the mountain. Later on, the bishop of Qift departed, so the people of the area gathered and unanimously decided to nominate Abba Bidaba to be ordained in his place. They decided to go to Pope Peter the First (The seal of martyrs and the 17th Patriarch) to ordain him a bishop for them. The angel of the Lord appeared to the Pope in a vision and told him, 'Go to Upper Egypt and bring the Archpriest Bidaba and ordain him a bishop for the city of Qift, for the Lord has chosen him.' Early next morning the delegations of the believers came asking to ordain the honorable father Bidaba a bishop. The Pope sent four priests with a letter to the Saint. When they arrived, he received the letter from them and read in it, 'It is written in the Holy Bible whoever hears from you, heard from Me, and whoever refuses you, refused Me.' St. Bidaba cried bitterly and said, 'Woe to me the poor sinner for the Devil wishes my perishing.' Then he prayed saying, 'Let it be according to Your Will, O Lord, and not according to mine, for You know that I am weak, powerless, and incapable of handling this position.'
The messengers of the Pope embarked with him to the Pope. The Pope asked the people of the parish, 'Who do you chose to be a bishop over you.' They unanimously answered saying, 'Abba Bidaba, for he is worthy for this honorable ministry.' The Pope ordained him a bishop for the diocese of Qift. While he was laying his hand over his head, a voice from heaven said, 'Worthy, worthy, worthy O Bidaba to receive this position.' He remained with the Pope for a few days, during which he celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Whenever he placed his hand over the chalice to make the sign of the cross, the wine changed to blood. The Pope was amazed and looked at the saint and said, 'Truly you are chosen from God.' He asked the Pope to allow him to go to his parish. He embarked in a sailing boat, which had a handicapped man, that did not walk for twenty-two years. While he was getting aboard the boat the saint's leg slipped and stepped over the leg of that handicapped man. The man's legs were healed and he jumped up immediately praising God. All those in the ship praised God and asked the saint to remember them in his prayers and to bless them.
Many miracles were wrought by his hands during his journey. When they arrived safely at their hometown, the people of the parish went out with candles, crosses, censers, olive branches and palm branches, in their hands to receive him. They took him in a procession until they entered the church and he sat on his Episcopal Chair. He lived in asceticism, as he had lived before, praying continually day and night. His food was bread and salt and his dress was a cloth of hair. He performed many signs and wonders.
When Emperor Diocletian incited persecution against the Christians, governor Arianus came to upper Egypt, and seized the Christians. He threw them in prisons, and tortured them severely, along his way until he arrived at Esna. When the saint Anba Bidaba knew of that, he was kindled with a spiritual zeal and said, 'Is it right for me to remain here, and my brothers, the Christians facing unbearable tortures? No, I must go there and die with them as a sacrifice of faith.' He called the people and celebrated a pontifical Liturgy and after he administered to them the Holy Mysteries, he preached to them saying, 'We must not be afraid to be martyred in the Name of the Lord Christ, not be afraid of hot fire, arrows or spears, and swords drawn against our necks. As also you need to be merciful to the poor, comfort the grieved, be vigilant in your prayers and fasting for they are your aid by which you can overcome obstacles and cast out the devil that weaken your faith in the Lord Christ.' The bishop preached and strengthened his people, and after he made the sign of the holy cross over them, blessed them and bid them farewell saying, 'I shall go to be martyred by the hand of Arianus the governor.' The people cried and wept for his departure, but he comforted and strengthened them.
Afterwards, he left them and went to the city of Esna, accompanied by the blessed Fr. Andrew and Anba Christodoulas. The bishop Anba Bidaba looked at them and said, 'Where are you going?' They replied, 'We are going with you to die for our love of Christ.' The bishop looked at them and saw the grace of God had come down upon them and their faces shining like the moon. He strengthened and commanded them to be steadfast in their faith in Christ. He told them, 'On this night I saw in a vision an angel who had with him three crowns and I asked him to whom did these belong? He said one for you, one for your cousin, and one for Christodoulas, so let us go to Esna.'
When they arrived at Esna, they saw a multitude of Christians, bishops, priests, deacons, and believers, being tortured. The governor brought them and ordered them to raise incense for the gods, but they cried saying, 'We are Christians and we do not fear you, O infidel governor. We do not worship these defiled gods that were made by human hands. Our God that we worship, is in heaven, the creator of everything with the Word of His might, visible and invisible, to Whom is the Glory, Honor, and Worship with His good Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the age of ages, Amen.' When the Governor heard their words and saw their steadfastness, he ordered to cut their heads off with the sword.
During that time, Anba Bidaba was standing, watching the Christians being tortured, and he saw angels coming down from heaven, and in their hands, crowns of light for the heads of those who were martyred, and raising them to the heaven with great honor and glory. The Bishop and his companions went forward and cried out saying, 'We are Christians, and we believe in Jesus Christ the Lord of all creatures and the God of every power.' The Governor asked them, 'From where are you?' Then he asked the bishop about his name. The Bishop replied, 'I am the lowly Bidaba.' The Governor said, 'I think you are the bishop of this land, but I am amazed at how you could dare to say these words. Did you not dread my retaliation and fear my authority and majesty? Have you not seen the torture that has been prepared for those who confess that Name?' The Saint answered courageously and said, 'Have you not heard the saying of the Book by the mouth of Lord Jesus Christ, 'Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.' (Mat. 10:32-33) Because of this promise, we confess Our Lord Jesus Christ to the utter most breath.' The Governor tried, by promising him money and position once and then threatening him in other time, to change his council and his faith in the Lord Christ, and when he failed, he ordered that the Saint be imprisoned in one of the prisons.
When the saints in prison saw him, they saluted him and said, 'Would you vanquish for us this governor, for you have been given the victory from the Lord of hosts.' While they were talking about the greatness and goodness of God, the Archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop and said, 'Hail to you O honored one, let your soul rejoice today for God has accepted all your toil, asceticism, and struggle for the sake of faith. You shall receive three crowns: the first, for your worship and asceticism since your young age, the second, for shepherding the flock on the straight path, and the third, for your martyrdom. You shall be crowned with these crowns with glory and honor to receive the heavenly glories.' The angel ascended, and the Saint stood and prayed saying, 'Hear me O Father the Pantocrator, may my petition rise before You, and You smell it as a sweet incense that pleases You, I ask You O father for Thy people and saints who do mercy for the poor, and accept my soul in Your hands that I may receive the heavenly glories, for to You is the Glory, Honor, and Worship with Your Good Father and the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.'
When he finished his petition he saw the Lord our Savior and around Him the angels coming to comfort him, saying, 'My consolation O beloved Bidaba, I am with you.' Then the magnificent procession ascended to heaven. On the next morning, the governor ordered all the prisoners brought to the place where the people of the city gathered. When they saw the saints they cried saying, 'We are Christians and we believe in one God, the God of Anba Bidaba.' The governor became enraged and brought the Saint and those who were with him and ordered their heads cut off. The blood flowed like streams. The skies were filled by the pure angels welcoming the spirits of those righteous saints. St. Bidaba, St. Andrew, and St. Christodoulas received the crown of eternal life. May their blessings be with us. Amen.