(The Sixteenth Day of the Blessed Month of Misra)
I. The Assumption of the Body of the Pure Virgin St. Mary:
On this day, was the assumption of the body of our pure Lady St. Mary, the Mother of God. While she was keeping vigil, praying in the Holy Sepulchre, and waiting for the happy minute of her liberation from the bonds of the flesh, the Holy Spirit informed her of her forthcoming departure from this vain world. When the time drew near, the disciples and the virgins of the Mt. of Olives (Zeiton) came and the Lady was lying on her bed. Our Lord, surrounded by thousands and thousands of angels, came to Her. He consoled her, and announced her with the everlasting joy which was prepared for Her. She was happy, and she stretched out her hands, blessed the Disciples, and the Virgins. Then, she delivered up her pure soul in the hand of her Son and God, Jesus Christ, Who ascended her to the higher habitations. As of the pure body, they shrouded it and carried it to Gethsemane.
On their way, some of the Jews blocked the way in the face of the disciples to prevent the burial. One of them seized the coffin. His hands were separated from his body, and remained hanging until he believed and repented for his mischievous deed. With the prayers of the holy disciples, his hands were reattached to his body as they had been before.
St. Thomas was absent at the time of St. Mary's departure, but he came after the burial. On his way back to Jerusalem, St. Thomas saw angels carrying St. Mary's pure body and ascending with it to heaven, and one of the angels said to him, "Hurry and kiss the pure body of St. Mary." When he arrived to the disciples, they informed him about St. Mary's departure. He told them, "I will not believe, unless I see her body, as you all know how I did doubt the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ before." They took him to the tomb, to uncover the body but they did not find it, and they were perplexed and amazed. St. Thomas told them how he saw the pure body ascending to heaven, carried by angels.
The Holy Spirit then told them, "The Lord did not Will to leave Her Holy body on earth." The Lord had promised his pure apostles that they would see her in flesh another time. They were waiting for the fulfillment of this truthful promise, until the sixteenth day of the month of Misra, when the promise of seeing her was fulfilled. They saw her sitting on the right hand of her Son and her Lord, surrounded by the angelic Host, as David prophesied and said, "At your right hand stands the queen." (Psalm 45:9) St. Mary's life on earth was sixty years. She spent twelve years of them in the temple, thirty years in the house of the righteous St. Joseph, and fourteen years in the care of St. John the Evangelist, as the Lord commanded her saying, "Woman behold your Son," and to St. John, "Behold your Mother."
May Her intercession be with us. Amen.
II. The Departure of St. Mattias IV (Mattheos), 102nd Patriarch of Alexandria:
On this day also, of the year 1391 A.M. (August 15, 1675 A.D.) Pope Mattias IV (Mattheos), 102nd Patriarch, departed. He was known as Matta El-Meeri. This father was born to pious Christian parents, who were righteous, merciful and benevolent. They were of the rich people of the city of Meer, Ashmonain district, the diocese of Qousqam, which is known as El-Mouharaq. They had vast farm land and live-stock. They had three boys, one of them was this righteous Father. He was the closest to his parents, and his name was Guirguis. They raised him with prudence, and brought him up with good manners and decency. They never asked him, as they did his brothers, to work on the farm, or attend to the live-stock. Instead he dedicated himself to reading and learning until he became more informed about the Holy books than his contemporaries. He was able to explain and interpret their meanings to those who had difficulties with them.
When he grew up, he renounced this vain world and went to the monastery of St. Mary known as "El-Baramos" in the wilderness of Sheahat (Scetis), where he stayed for six years. He saw in a dream that his parents were grieved over him for they thought that he was dead, since they had not found him. Immediately he informed his brothers in the monastery who advised him to go to his home-town to see his parents. He went to Meer and greeted his parents who became exceedingly happy when they saw him alive. Afterwards, they wished to wed him, but when the Saint learned from a friend what his parents intended to do, he escaped and returned again to the monastery.
The monks welcomed him back with great joy. He lived with these holy men in love and faithful service, so they nominated him to the monastic rank. Then he was ordained a priest for the monastery, and after a short time, he wore the Eskeem. He exhausted himself with vigilance, prayers, worships, and kneeling more than was required from the other monks. He fasted from sunset to the sunset of the next day and in the winter he fasted two days at a time. He kept this manner all the days of his life until he realized the favor of God, because of his good deeds, acceptable worship, and asceticism.
When Pope Marcos VI, 101St Patriarch, departed, the bishops, priests, and the lay leaders sought a new righteous shepherd to ordain in his place. They asked the monks of the wilderness and the monasteries to guide them to one fit for this position. The monks guided them to this father. When they asked him to come to Misr (Cairo), he refused to comply with their request. So they were forced to send a soldier from the government, who seized him, and brought him to Misr.
Meanwhile the people of Misr (Cairo) seized another righteous priest called John, and wanted to ordain him Patriarch, and as a result of that a conflict developed. The governor apprehended the two candidates and imprisoned them for forty days. When the matter prolonged, the bishops met and decided to cast an altar lot which was done before all the congregation. The soldiers also cast among them another lot in the government building. Each time they drew the lot it fell on Guirguis. One night the soldiers of the governor saw a burning candle hovering over Father Guirguis' head while he was in prison. Finally they nominated this father after the considerable contention, and all the congregation was pleased. He was ordained on Sunday, 30th of Hatour, 1377 A.M. (Dec. 6th, 1660 A.D.) during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Mohammed IV.
The celebration of his ordination was a splendid and grand celebration which was attended by many of the other Christian denominations. When he was enthroned as the Patriarch in the Patriarchal cell at Haret-Zewailah, he considered marital and family matters, and church affairs in stern, just and fair judgements. He was meek and humble, disliked attention and exaltedness, so he never sat on a chair in the church, but stood beside it until the end of the service. He visited widows, orphans, and prisoners, and cared for the monks in the monastery, fulfilling their needs. He cherished the monasteries and the churches, as he lived a simple life as those monks lived in the wilderness. During his papacy the church was in peace and tranquility and the church was enlightened with his grace. In the year 1387 A.M. (1671 A.D.), a grievous plague befell Egypt, which perished many.
He ordained two successive metropolitans for Ethiopia after the departure of its Metropolitan Youanis the Thirteenth. The first was Anba Khristozollo II, who remained on the chair from 1665 to 1672 A.D., during the reign of King Wasilidis. The second was Anba Shenouda I, who remained on the chair from 1672 to 1694 A.D. during the time of John I.
Pope Mattias IV, was the last to dwell in the patriarchal cell at Haret-Zewailah for he moved his residency to Haret-El-Roum in 1660 A.D. just after his ordination.
During his papacy Pope Mattias endured some hardships:
- The devil entered the heart of a Christian man and motivated him to go to the tax collector to over tax the Christians, which put a great burden on them. They complained to the Pope, who sent for the tax collector. The Pope forbade him, but he did not cease his wicked act. The Pope ex-communicated him, and the man died a horrible death.
- Another time, a woman came to the pope complaining that her husband had divorced her and married another woman. The Pope sent for him and asked him to come with his second wife. When this man came, the Pope ordered them to be separated, but the second wife refused saying, "How can that be while I am pregnant with his child?" Then the Pope said, "The Lord Christ will judge between the two marriages." Just as the second woman left the Pope's cell, she aborted and the fetus came out of her womb. A great fear transpired because of this incident. The man separated from her and returned to his first wife. Pope Mattias became respected, honored, and revered by his people.
- Another time, some infidels wanted to demolish St. Marcurius' "of the two swords," Church at old Cairo. They went to the governmental office and appointed someone in charge of this matter. When the Pope heard about their intentions, he grieved much and spent that night's vigil beseeching God, and interceding with St. Marcurius to annul their conspiracy and save the church from destruction. While the soldiers were asleep around the church, a wall fell on them. They all died, and the news spread around the city. The wicked conspiracy was annulled and everyone glorified God.
During Pope Mattias' days, the enemy of good, stirred up the unbelievers against the Christians. But Christ, to Whom is the Glory, always vanquished their council and perished them through the prayers of Pope Mattias, for he shepherded the flock of Christ faithfully.
When the time of his departure drew near, he went to the tomb of the Patriarchs in Misr and said to it, "Open and receive me so I can dwell with my righteous brothers." After he returned to his residence, he fell sick with the illness of death. He called the bishops and priests and commended them on the flock of Christ. He also called the Abbess of the convent and gave her all he had, and asked her to hand them to his successor, as they were the property of the church. Then he departed in peace at a good old age, after he had remained on the chair of St. Mark for fourteen years, eight months, and nine days. He was seventy-five years old and was buried in the tomb of the Patriarchs in the church of St. Marcurius in Old Cairo. The chair remained vacant after him for seven months.
May his prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.