Commemorations for Toba 4

1. Consecration of The Church of Saint Macarius the Great

On this day, the church of St. Macarius, in the monastery known after his name, was consecrated by the hand of Abba Benjamin, 38th Pope of Alexandria. This took place when El-Moquakas was appointed as a ruler and patriarch over Egypt by Emperor Heraclius. Both of them believed in the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon. El-Moquakas started to persecute the Christians of Egypt (the Copts) because they refused to follow him. He pursued Pope Benjamin, the legitimate Pope of Alexandria, who took flight to Upper Egypt. He moved from one church to another and from one monastery to another, confirming his flock in the faith. He did this for ten years, until the Arab conquest of Egypt and the death of El-Moquakas. When Abba Benjamin returned to his throne, the elders of the wilderness of the holy desert of Scete (Scetis) asked him to consecrate for them the new church that they built there in the name of St. Macarius. He went with them joyfully. As he approached the monastery, the monks received him with palm fronds and olive branches, just as the city of Jerusalem received Christ when He entered it.

When he was consecrating the church and as he was starting to consecrate the altar, he saw the Hand of Christ anointing the altar with him. He fell upon his face in great fear, and one of the Cherubim raised him up and comforted him. Abba Benjamin said, 'Truly this is the house of the Lord and this is the door of heaven.' He looked to the west side of the church and he saw an elder standing there with reverence and awesome appearance, and his shining face looked like an angel. He said to himself, 'Truly, if there a chair became vacant, I would make this man a bishop.' The angel told him, 'Would you make this man a bishop?, and he is St. Macarius, the father of Patriarchs, bishops, and all the monks. He has come today in the spirit to rejoice with his children, and this place will be forever filled with righteous monks, and it will never be short of leaders and spiritual fruits.' St. Benjamin said, 'Blessed is he and blessed are his children.' The angel said, 'If his children obey his commandments and follow his orders, they will be with him in glory, but if they disobey, they will have no share with him.'

Then St. Macarius said, 'Do not decide, my lord, what would happen to my children this way. For if one grape in a bunch remains, the blessing of the Lord will be on it. For if their love for one another remains among them, I believe that the Lord will never keep them away from His Kingdom.' St. Benjamin was amazed and marveled at the abundant mercy of St. Macarius. He wrote what had taken place and placed it in the church as a perpetual memorial. He asked the Lord Jesus Christ that his departure might take place on a similar day. This was fulfilled, and he departed on the eighth day of Tubah, after he had been on the throne for 39 years. The altar in which he saw the Lord Christ was named after him.

May his prayers be with us. Amen.

Departure of Pope Andronicus I (616-622) the 37th Patriarch of Alexandria and the See of Saint Mark

Also on this day, of the year 622 A.D., the holy father Abba Andronicus, 37th Pope of Alexandria, departed. This father was from a rich family of great influence and his cousin was the chief of the imperial court at Alexandria. He was very well educated and he studied the Holy Scriptures and excelled in their interpretation. Because of his knowledge, his righteousness and his charity toward the poor, he was ordained a deacon. By consensus he was chosen to be patriarch, although he never lived in any monastery. He remained in Alexandria all the days of his papacy, not intimidated by the authority of the Melkites. Shortly after the ordination of Abba Andronicus, the Persians invaded the East and crossed the river Euphrates. They seized Halab, Antioch in Syria, Jerusalem, and many other cities. They killed and imprisoned many Christians. They captured Egypt and went to the City of Alexandria, around which there were six hundred inhabited monasteries. They killed all the inhabitants, plundered their possessions, and destroyed the monasteries. When the people of Alexandria heard what they had done, because of their fear, they opened the gates of the city for them. The Persian King saw in a night dream someone saying to him, 'I have delivered to you the city. Do not destroy it. But kill its heroes for they are hypocrites.' He arrested the Governor of the city, and tied him up in chains. He ordered the elders of the city to bring forth the men, from 18 to 50 years old to come forward to give everyone twenty denari, and to enlist them as soldiers for the city. Eighty thousand men came forward and he killed them all by the sword. Afterward, the Persian King went with his army to Upper Egypt. He passed by the city of Nikios. He heard that there were some seven hundred monks living in cells and caves around it. He sent men to kill them. He continued to kill and destroy until Emperor Heraclius conquered him and drove him out of Egypt. As for Pope Andronicus, he lived a virtuous life. He remained on the throne of St. Mark for 6 years, then departed in peace.

May His prayers be with us. Amen.

Departure of Pope Benjamin I (622-659) the 38th Patriarch of Alexandria and the See of Saint Mark

On this day also, of the year 659 A.D., the blessed and holy father Abba Benjamin, 38th Pope of Alexandria, departed. This father was from the city of Barset (Barshout), the province of El-Behiera. He was the son of wealthy parents. He became a monk under the guidance of a holy elder by the name of Theonas in the monastery of St. Knobus nearby Alexandria. He grew in virtue and memorized the holy books of the church until he reached the level of Christian perfection. One night he heard in a night vision someone saying, 'Rejoice Benjamin, for you will shepherd the flock of Christ.' When he told his spiritual father about what he had heard, he said to him, 'The devil wants to hinder you. Beware of pride.' He increased in virtue. His spiritual father took him to Pope Andronicus and told him about Abba Benjamin's vision. The Pope ordained him priest and put him in charge of the church affairs, and he excelled in his care.

When he was chosen to the patriarchate, he faced many tribulations. The angel of the Lord had revealed to him the hardships that the church was about to experience. The angel told him to flee with his bishops. St. Benjamin celebrated the Divine Liturgy and administered the Holy Mysteries to the people. He also commanded them to be steadfast in the faith of their fathers and informed them of what was about to happen. He wrote a circular to all the bishops and all the heads of the monasteries, advising them to hide until the hardships were over. Then he went to the wilderness of St. Macarius, then to Upper Egypt. After the Pope had left Alexandria, the Chalcedonian El-Moquakas arrived, and took charge over the country and seized the church with authority from Emperor Heraclius. He persecuted the believers and arrested 'Mina', St. Benjamin's brother, and tortured him severely. Then he burnt his sides, and finally killed him by drowning him.

Shortly after, Amr Ebn-Elas invaded the land of Egypt and stayed there for three years. In 360 A.M. (Anno Martyri), Amr went to Alexandria and gained control of its fortress. Many evil men took the chance and burned many churches, among them was St. Mark's Church on the seashore, and many other monasteries that were surrounding Alexandria, and plundered their contents. One of the sailors went to the church of St. Mark during this disturbance and he thrust his hand into the sarcophagus of St. Mark, thinking that he would find money. He did not find anything except a body. He stole the clothing that was on it and took the head with him, and hid it in his ship and did not tell anyone. When Amr Ebn-Elas knew about the disappearance of Pope Benjamin, he sent a circular to all the cities of Egypt, giving orders that the Pope's hiding place be safe and secure. He asked the Pope to come back to his people and to take charge of the church. Pope Benjamin came back after he had been in hiding for 13 years. Amr Ebn-Elas was courteous toward him and honored him. He returned the churches and all their properties back to him. When Amr was about to leave Alexandria, heading to Pentapolis (the five western cities), one of the ships could not move and was unable to leave. The captain of the ship was questioned and when they searched the ship they found the head of St. Mark. They called upon Pope Benjamin and he carried it and walked with the priests and the people while they were joyfully singing hymns, until they arrived to Alexandria. The captain of the ship paid a great amount of money to the Pope to build a church after the name of St. Mark. This father was dedicated to converting the unbelievers to the Christian faith. He departed in peace after he had been on the apostolic throne for 37 years.

May His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.