Early Church Response to Pandemic It Faced: “We Eagerly Welcome Death”—Easier Said Than Done

I have put off writing this blog post for some time now, because I felt it would be almost insensitive of me to appear to minimize the magnitude of losing loved ones because of sickness. And now, with so many among my family and dear friends and acquaintances having tested positive for COVID-19, some hospitalized, some almost dying (and who knows the real long-term health impact for those who survived), I find this post even more challenging, because the message I’m relaying from the early Christian bishop St. Cyprian about how he viewed mortality in light of a pandemic occurring during his own time (around 246-262 AD) presents such a lofty standard that it seems overly difficult to sincerely agree. It goes something like this (paraphrased below):

Are you, or your family, or beloved friends, affected by this pandemic, anxious about death—worried you or they may die because of it? If you are a genuinely faithful Christian, you should eagerly welcome death, for you, and them, because that is our ticket out of this life, to journey on to the much preferred life hereafter.

It is easier to write, but so much harder to apply. Your mom, your friend of 30 years, whomever—imagine them in the hospital, intubated, grasping for air, suffering with tears—you are supposed to look forward to letting them go? Not just let them go–you should wish you could be there alongside with them and leave this life too?

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When Social Media Becomes a Warzone, Do I Fight or Take Shelter?

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Guest post by my dear wife, Suzy.


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.

Then, what?

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The Resurrection Icon – How the West lost, and the Orthodox Christian East kept the original Resurrection vision

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]).

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“A Silent Patriarch” – A Much Needed Book on The Miracle-Working Modern Saint, The Coptic Pope Kyrillos VI

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

Little Known Mysteries and Miracles at the Ancient Coptic Church in Old Cairo dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus

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.

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How we got the Bible: Manuscripts, Translations, and Versions, and seeing it with my own eyes in the British Library

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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).

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Italy is filled with saints’ relics, including those you may not realize are believed to be there (including St. Athanasius, St. Mark, several other apostles, etc.) (Spiritual Experiences in Italy Series)

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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

A Response of Peace: The Faith of the Coptic Church in the Face of Suffering

MariahHeron_The_Faith_of_the_Coptic_Church_in_the_Face_of_Suffering.pngAs 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

I Climbed A Mountain

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Guest post by Francella Brown

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.

So, what happened, you ask? Continue reading

Standing face-to-face with the emperor (Decius) who ordered the death of the martyr Philopateer Mercurius, a.k.a. Abu Sefein (Spiritual Experiences in Italy Series)

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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.

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