(The Second Day of the Blessed Month of Baounah)
I. The Commemoration of the Appearance of the Bodies of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet:
On this day, the church celebrates the appearance of the bodies of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet, the disciple of Elijah the Prophet, in the city of Alexandria.
Julian the Infidel wished to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, having been destroyed by Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus. He intended with malice to prove the invalidity of the saying of the Lord in the Holy Gospel: "Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left her upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matthew 24:2). He supplied the Jewish people with money to rebuild it. He put Elebius, who asked the Jews to assist him secretly, in charge.
Many of the Jews, men, women, old and young, gathered. They started digging the foundation with eagerness, transferring the dirt and rocks away, some with baskets and the others in the tails of their dresses. St. Kyrillos (Cyril), bishop of Jerusalem, ridiculed what they were doing.
When they finished raising the rocks of the old foundation, they started to put down the new one. A severe earthquake took place, filled the excavation with dirt, dispersed the building material and killed many of the workers. The Jews were not terrified of that, and returned to the work again. Out of the depths of the earth, fiery balls came, showering the workers with rocks and hitting them so they stopped building. Many of them believed because of that and especially because they had fulfilled the prophesy of the Lord Christ, with their hands, about the destruction of the building of the temple from its foundation.
St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom had mentioned this incident. The Jewish historian Emian, in the fifth century, had mentioned this account also incidentally in his writings.
Nevertheless, the Jews told the Emperor, "The reason for what happened is the presence of the bodies of Christian leaders in that place. They must be removed from it, otherwise the temple will not be built." Julian ordered that the bodies of the saints be removed from the place and burned. When they took the bodies of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet to burn them, some believers came forward to the soldiers, gave them a sum of silver and took the two bodies. They brought them to St. Athanasius, Pope of Alexandria. He was pleased and placed them in a special place until he could build a church for them.
One day St. Athanasius was sitting in the garden with his scribe, the one to be Pope Theophilos (23rd Pope) who succeeded him on the Chair, and told him, "If God gives me long days, I will build in this place a church in the names of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet, and I will lay their bodies in it."
When Pope Theophilos was enthroned on the Chair of the See of St. Mark, he remembered what Pope Athanasius had told him. He built the church and relocated the pure bodies to it. On their way to the church carrying the holy bodies, they passed by a house of a pagan woman. This woman was in labor for the last four days. She had a difficult labor and she was in severe pain. When she heard the singing and the chanting of the people as they passed by, and when she knew what was happening, she vowed, saying, "O John, the saint of God, if you deliver me from this tribulation, I will become a Christian." Before she had finished what she was saying, she gave birth to a boy, and she called him John. Then, her family and she were baptized. They laid the bodies with great honor in the church. Many miracles and wonders were manifested through them.
As of the end of Julian the infidel was as follows:
He decided to declare a war against Sapor, King of Persia.
St. Basilius the Great, the author of the liturgy, and some bishops went to meet him. Emperor Julian asked them, "Why have you come." St. Basilius replied, "We came asking for a shepherd" He mocked them saying, "Where did you leave the son of the carpenter?" The Saint answered with courage and pride, "We left him making a coffin for you, for you have lost all wisdom and knowledge." Julian told him, "I have read and memorized it." St. Basilius replied, "But you did not comprehend it." Julian became angry and ordered them seized, to be slain after his return from the war with Sapor. St. Basilius told him, "You will not come back, for God has spoken by my mouth." The Emperor ordered them imprisoned.
The Emperor went to the war. St. Basilius prayed before the icon of St. Marcurius Abu-saifain, asking for the chastisement of the Emperor because he insulted his Lord Christ. St. Marcurius disappeared from the icon, and when he returned, his sword was dripping blood.
During the war, Julian was shot by an arrow in his liver. Thlodoritius said in his history of the church: "When this infidel Emperor was stabbed, he took a handful of the blood that was pouring out of his side and scattered it toward the heaven, saying, 'You have defeated me O Son of Mary.'" The prophesy of St. Basilius was fulfilled in him and the church was saved from his evil. When St. Macarius, Bishop of Edko, was martyred, they placed his body with the bodies of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet.
May their prayers be with us. Amen.
II. The Departure of Pope Yoannis the Eighteenth, the 107th. Pope of Alexandria:
On this day also, the church celebrates the departure of Pope Yoannis (John) the Eighteenth, the 107th Pope of Alexandria. He was of the people of El-Fayyoum and his name was Joseph. He became a monk in the monastery of the great St. Antonios on the mount of El-Araba. When Pope Marcus the seventh, his predecessor, departed, the bishops, priests, and the notables of the people unanimously agreed on choosing him a Patriarch. They brought him and ordained him a Patriarch in the church of the martyr St. Marcurius in Old Cairo. That was on Sunday, 15th of Babah, 1486 A.M. (October 23, 1769 A.D.). He was called Yoannis the Eighteenth, the 107th Pope of Alexandria.
During his days, the Pope of Rome attempted to attract the Eastern Churches and especially the Orthodox Church of Egypt (The Coptic Church) to the Catholic rite. He published the proceedings of the Council of Chalcedone in a book and distributed it in all the countries of the East. This council had caused the schism of the church, and the Saint Pope Dioscorus (25th Patriarch) had refused to recognize the legitimacy of this council.
The Pope of Rome then sent an envoy to Pope Yoannis carrying a message inviting him to be united with him. Pope Yoannis gave this message to Anba Yusab El-Abbah, bishop of Girga. He asked him to study it and to respond to it. This great scholar and distinguished theologian replied, refuting all the claims of Rome. He defended his church, its faith, and its doctrines, a splendid defense that immortalized his memory. However, the book of the proceedings of the Council of Chalcedone brought the opposite results of what Rome expected from publishing it. The book was a proof of the sound teachings and doctrines of the Coptic Orthodox church. The Bishop of Rome was sorry for publishing the book in the East, and he gathered its copies and burned them.
During the papacy of Pope Yoannis (John) many tribulations and hardships befell him from the rulers of the country and the Ottoman governors. The Turkish commander of the army seized the patriarchate treasury and took all its funds. That forced the Pope to disappear from the oppression and the injustice of those rulers who over tasked the Christians with their unjust rules and the enormous increase of taxes stipulated from them.
Pope Yoannis participated with Ibrahim El-Gohary, the head scribe at that time, in restoring the monasteries and the churches. He also made the Holy Myron. He departed on the second day of the blessed month of Baounah, 1512 A.M. (June 7, 1797 A.D.). He remained on the patriarchal chair for twenty-six years, seven months, and sixteen days. He was buried in the tomb of the patriarchs in the church of St. Marcurius Abu-Saifain. The chair remained vacant three months and twenty-six days after his departure.
May his prayers be with us and Glory be to God forever. Amen.