Abba Serapamon

(the veiled bishop)

Under the regime of the Turkish ruler Mohammed Ali, and the reign of Pope Butros Al-Gawly (Pope 109), there lived a holy bishop called Abba Serapamon.

At birth he was called Salib ( cross). He was born in one of the villages in the Nile delta. His parents were devout Christians. When he was about eighteen, Salib moved to Cairo to earn his living. He lived a very poor life selling oil on a cart pulled by a donkey.

One day some evil women accused him of murdering a young man whom they had killed in the market. At the police station, he lifted up his heart to God an with tears in his eyes he asked for help of Saint Mary. Then, he looked at the slain person and asked him to inform the judge about the killers. The dead man rose yp and told the judge about the murderesses. Then Salib told the corpse to lie down again, and wait for the Day of Judgment. The judge was astonished and set Salib free.

In order not to be praised for this miracle, Salib left the court and went immediately to St. Anthony’s monastery, where he was later ordained a monk. Then he was chosen as bishop of Menofiah by Pope Butros Al-Gawly, and his name was changed to Abba Serapamon. He lived a very simple life, not paying attention to the riches of the world. He learned how to suppress his desires and eat the minimum food once every three days. Once he was heard praying and saying to himself, “ Is it true that you perform miracles now, Salib ? Don’t forget that you are a sinner and the worst man among sinners. How then can you heal the sick and cast away demons ? This is the power of God in you ! Indeed this is the power of God !”

One night, Abba Serapamon went out in the narrow alleys of old Cairo, carrying a heavy basket. He had covered his face in hope no one would recognize him. A priest saw him and followed him to see what he was doing in that neighborhood. The bishop was very tired and the basket looked very heavy. He stopped at one of the doors, knocked once, and left the basket on the doorstep before the door was open. Then the priest went to talk to him but the bishop made him promise not to tell anybody.

Once a priest called Father Mansour who had lost already three daughters one after the other shortly after birth, came to see Abba Serapamon. The bishop asked him if he had any children so he told him that he had a baby girl. The bishop said that that girl was not very important. Shortly afterm the girl died. The next year, the priest’s wife gave birth to another girl. When the bishop saw the priest, he asked him if he had any children. The priest refused to answer. He said, “ Last time I told you, my daughter died.” The bishop was very sympathetic. He took the priest by the hand and went to the alter, looked up to heaven and said, “ My Lord Jesus, give two sons to Father Mansour, and let them live.” The priest’s daughter lived and he had two more sons who lived to tell their story to everyone.

One day, while the bishop was praying the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he cried, “ Oh Mother of the Light, please help !” Then he asked a person who was near him to go immediately to the well in the church’s backyard. When the man went there, he found a child called Michael who had fallen in the well while he was praying. He threw a rope to the child, and pulled him out of the well. Everyone was astonished to see the child without a scratch, and his clothes were not even wet. The child told them that after he fell down in the well, he found a woman sitting on a throne and floating on the water. She held him very gently in her arms, until the rope was thrown to him.

Once a highway man met him while he was travelling. The thief lifted up his hand to strike the bishop with a metal rod. Abba Serapamon said to him,” You lifted up your arm against me, and now it will remain like that.” The bishop continued his trip, and when he returned, he saw that the thief was standing in the same place crying from the pain that was caused by having to lift up his arm all that time. Then the bishop said,” How great is your sin, Salib !” He turned to thief and said, “ May God bless you, my son.” The thief was immediately released, and was able to bring his arm down. He followed Abba Serapamon all his life as a faithful servant.

Abba Serapamon lived a long life until the reign of Pope Cyril IV. He was buried in the old patriarchate along with the other popes. May the prayers and blessing of this great saint be with us. Amen


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