As always, I will preface my words by saying I am one who’s words condemn herself. May God help me to take my own advice. Pray for me.
Let’s face it. It’s blatantly obvious that social media has become a huge public square that most of us stroll through (and in this case, scroll through) every single day. And with several different platforms, it consumes a lot of our time. Safe to say 2020 has given us all a lot to talk about and each day as I scroll through my newsfeed, I honestly find myself shaking my head at some of the things I read, as I’m sure you all can relate to as well.
Fact: Some people lack a much-needed filter and some people are plain ruthless.
Fact: These people are still our brothers and sisters and we are not to judge them, but love them as we were commanded and because, we too, are also flawed.
In 2019, I had the chance to visit the ancient city of Cappadocia during a recent trip with my wife to Turkey. There you will find the remnants of monastic, anchorite community dwellings, which began to form as instructed by the famed St. Basil the Great (330–379, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia), one of the three “Cappadocian Fathers” as they are called (including also his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa [c. 335 – c. 395], and St. Gregory of Nazianzus [329–389]).
Imagine visiting a man who could answer questions about your future, heal the incurable disease of a relative, be in two places at one time, have angels or departed spirits of saints visit you for solace or protection, or even meet you in your dreams to give you important messages: your reaction might be intrigue, disbelief, or maybe you’re thinking it sounds like a story of a wizard from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Maybe you believe such a man existed, and that His name is Jesus Christ, God and king. True, but I’m speaking of a different man, to whom the Lord Christ graciously gave spiritual gifts, akin to the gifts given to the apostles and disciples, as attested to by an innumerable plethora of witnesses to this very day.
One of those witnesses was my great aunt, Ma’alee, and although I spent most of my life hearing of her close relationship with the saintly man of which I speak, I had never met her or even spoken to her, until her last year of life when I mustered the courage to call her in Egypt, and with her permission I recorded our conversations, so that I could preserve forever the voice and stories of the woman who was a legend in my household. Continue reading →
A pillar that spontaneously started bleeding and stopped at the behest of Pope Cyril (Kyrillos) VI, a cavern where the holy family is said to have stayed for months, a place that saw the election of Coptic popes between the 7th and 11th centuries: these are just a few of the wonders and mysteries that are said to be associated with the ancient Coptic Church in Old Cairo dedicated to the saints Sergius and Baccus. It is referred to also as the “cavern church,” or by the name that became customary after the Arabic conquest of Egypt, “Abu Serga.” As these saints are commemorated this month (October 15 in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and earlier in the month for other apostolic-rooted denominations), I wanted to share some interesting facts about the church in Egypt bearing their name.
It is one thing to teach about Christian history, and it’s a entirely different experience when you actually behold the subject of your lesson right in front of you. And that’s the experience I had when I visited the British Library and saw on display several amazing biblical historical texts, dating as far back as c. 200 AD (only about 150 years after the last New Testament writing).
It should be no surprise to anyone that Italy is filled with saints’ relics. This is not only due to the Roman empire’s expansive control over the ancient lands which served as the setting of the history of Christendom, but also because the Lord Christ and His followers often were killed or otherwise afflicted at the direction or by consent of the Roman government (with the Coptic Church contributing so many martyrs, as attested to by the early church historian and bishop Eusebius, that the Coptic Church’s calendar was readjusted to remember the most infamous persecutor of Christianity, Diocletion).
And then, years later, beginning around the time of Emperor Constantine, the Roman empire fostered and eventually vigorously promoted the advancement and spread of Christianity, as well as reverence to heroes of the faith. Frequently that enthusiasm motivated problematic/troublesome behavior, with certain individuals choosing to take advantage of people’s devotion to the saints by selling fake relics, and sometimes even stealing (or protecting, depending on perspective) bona fide relics to sell them or bring them to Italy for safeguarding (think Venice, St. Mark the apostle).1
Here are several of the sites associated with saint relics that were of particular interest for me: Continue reading →
As the Coptic Church remembers its modern-day martyrs on the 15th of February each year, it is an honor to share this guest post by Mariah Heron, whose story evinces the early Church apologist Tertullian’s remark: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Guest post by Mariah Heron
The brilliant Christian writer of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton was once asked, along with other literary figures, what book he would choose to have if stranded on a deserted island? Instead of the well-rehearsed request for a Bible, Chesterton replied, “Well a guide to practical shipbuilding of course!” The story in its simplicity brings humor because, in all truthfulness, one would also want a guide to ease the mind and heart in such a trial. Continue reading →
Hi. My name is Francella. When some of you first met me, I looked like this: [insert your memory of what I looked like, here], and yet others met me when I looked like this: [also insert your memory here]. And now I look like this again [insert current Facebook profile picture]. I’ve had more costume changes than a host at the Academy Awards. I’ve had just as many name changes, too. From Francella to Photini to Sister Ruth and back to Francella, again.
Today the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the martyrdom of St. Philopateer Mercurius. Usually such commemorations are impersonal, but for my wife and I, we had the opportunity to come face to face with the emperor who killed him: Decius.
You may have heard of the allegations of excessive use of force by Israeli police on Coptic monks, but what I just came to discover is my family’s role in securing the Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 1971 justifying their peaceful protest of the Israeli government’s execution of an order that contravenes that standing Supreme Court decision. As I read through various sources (see below) to understand the historical context of this news and saw that the Coptic Metropolitan of Jerusalem initiated the legal action which led to that decision, I immediately called my dad and sought to confirm my hunch: “Was my great uncle, your uncle, Metropolitan of Jerusalem around the 1970s?” Immediately my dad affirmed, “Yes … Abba Basilios,” and then all the pieces began to fall in place as our ensuing dialogue over the course of several phone calls revealed details of my family history I hadn’t known, and ashamedly (I must admit) I never got around to pursuing more thoroughly until now. Continue reading →