The Departure of St. Abraam (Abraham), Ebn-Zaraa, 62nd Pope of Alexandria
On this day, of the year 970 A.D., the saint Anba Abraam, 62nd Pope of Alexandria, departed. This father was a descendant of the Christians of the East, whose name was Ebn-Zaraa the Syrian. He was a rich merchant who visited Egypt often, then finally settled there.
He was blessed with many virtues, including mercy to the needy. His reputation of righteousness and knowledge became well known. When the Patriarchal Chair became vacant, the bishops and the learned elders all agreed to choose him as Patriarch. When he sat on the chair of the See of St. Mark, he gave all his possessions to the poor and needy.
During his days, Cosman Ebn-Mina, the Coptic minister, was appointed a Governor over Palestine. Before his departure to his new position, he entrusted one hundred thousand dinars to the father, the Patriarch, asking him to hold them until his return. He asked the Pope to give the money to the poor, the needy, the churches and the monasteries, if he died there. When the news of the taking over of Syria and Palestine by Hafktin (Kormati), reached the Patriarch, he thought that Cosman had died. He distributed that money according to Cosman's instructions. But Cosman was saved from death and returned to Egypt. The father, the Patriarch, told him what he did with the money, and Cosman was glad and exceedingly happy.
Among his accomplishments was the abolition of some corrupt and erroneous customs. He prevented and excommunicated everyone who took bribes from anyone for the purpose of gaining a clerical position. He also strongly forbade the keeping of concubines. When the people who were practicing that knew his orders, the fear of God moved them, for they also feared that the Patriarch might excommunicate them.
They set all their concubines free and went to the Patriarch repenting, except for one of the rich men of the country. This man did not fear God nor did he heed the fact that this father, who chided him repeatedly and was very patient with him, would excommunicate him. He did not return from his evil way and was not afraid lest God should destroy him. In spite of that, this father did not slacken in teaching and rebuking him. Furthermore he humbled himself like Christ, his teacher, and he went to that man's house. When the man heard of the arrival of the Patriarch to his house, he shut the door and refused to let him in. The father remained standing at the door for two hours knocking but the man neither opened the door for him, nor did he speak to him. The father realized that this wretched man had intentionally separated himself from the flock of Christ and became a corrupt member.
The Pope saw it fit to cut him from the body of the church, so as not to corrupt the rest of the body. He excommunicated him saying, "Let his blood be on his own head," and then the Pope shook off the dust from his sandals at the door of the house of that man. At this moment God manifested a sign before the eyes of those who were present, for the doorstep, which was made of granite, had split in two. Later on, the Lord showed his might, and the man lost all his wealth and he was fired from his position in disgrace. He became ill which led to his death in a horrible way. He became an example to the others; since many sinners learned a lesson and were afraid as a result of what happened to him.
During the days of this father, El-Mu'izz, the Khalifa, had a Jewish Vizier; his name was, Jacob-Ebn- Yousef, who adopted the Muslim faith (Islam). That minister had a Jewish friend (Ebn-Killis), who used to go with him frequently to the Khalifa and converse with him. That Jew took advantage of the favor that his friend had with the Khalifa, and found this to be an opportunity to ask for the presence of the father, the Patriarch, in order that he might have a debate with him. Abba Abraam came along with Anba Severus Ebn-EI-Mukafaa, Bishop of Ashmunein. El-Mu'izz ordered them to sit, so they sat down silently. He asked, "Why are you not debating?" Anba Severus answered, "How can we argue in the presence of El-Khalifa, with a man who is less intelligent than an ox?" El-Mu'izz asked for an explanation. Anba Severus said, "God has declared by the mouth of the prophet, 'The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib: but Israel does not know."' (Isaiah 1:3) They debated that Jew and shamed him with all the unrefutable arguments that prove the soundness of the Christian faith. Then they left El-Mu'izz with great honor.
The minister and his Jewish friend were not able to bear the insults. So they sought the chance to take revenge of on Christians.
A few days later, the Jewish Vizier; Jacob-Ebn-Yousef went to El-Mu'izz and maliciously told him, "Your royal highness knows that the faith of the Christians does not have a sound base. Their Bible states, 'If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move.' (Matthew 17:20) Prince of the faithful knows the falsehood of these sayings. And to verify this, we will summon the Patriarch to give us the proof that their Christ's sayings are true."
The Khalifa thought to himself, "If the saying of Christ is true, that would be of great benefit to us, for the Mukatam mount is too close to Cairo. If the mountain can be moved away, that would make the position of the city greater than what it is now. If the saying is not true, that will give us the justification to persecute the Christians."
El-Mu'izz called the father, the Patriarch, and placed this saying before him, and asked for the proof of its soundness. The Pope asked for a three-day respite, which was granted. When the Pope left El-Khalifa, he gathered the monks and the bishops nearby and they all stayed in El-Mualaqua (the Suspended) Church in Old Cairo, three days fasting and supplicating God.
Before dawn of the third day as Abba Abraam dozed off out of sheer weariness, our Holy Lady, the Virgin, St. Mary, the Mother of God, appeared to him and told him to rise up and go to the street which leads to the market. There he would find a one-eyed man bearing a pot of water on his shoulder. She instructed Abba Abraam to tell him that he was the man designated by God to perform this sign.
This holy man's name was Simon and he was a Tanner. The father, the Patriarch, took him along with some of the priests, monks and people to see El-Mu'izz, who was out with the government leaders and the nobles of the city nearby the Mukatam Mountain. The father, the Patriarch, stood with those who were with him on one side and El-Mu'izz and his entourage stood on the other side.
The father, the Patriarch, and the believers prayed and knelt down three times, and every time they knelt, they said, "Kirya-layson" Lord have mercy. Whenever the Patriarch and the congregation lifted up their heads after each bow, the mountain would lift up and when they bowed down, the mountain was lowered down to the ground, and whenever they walked, the mountain moved before them.
A great fear came on the Khalifa and his companions and many fell on the ground. The Khalifa advanced on his horse toward the Patriarch and said, "O great teacher, I now know that you are a holy man, ask whatsoever you wish and I will give it to you." The Patriarch refused to ask for anything; but when the Khalifa insisted, he asked the Governor to allow him to build churches, especially the church of St. Mercurius (of the two swords) which was in Old Cairo. He wrote him a decree permitting the building and the renovation of churches and he gave him a large sum of money from the treasury. The Patriarch thanked him and prayed for him, but he refused to take the money. As a result, El-Mu'izz revered and respected him more for his piety and righteousness. When they started building the church of St. Mercurius, some evil men prevented them from working, whereupon El-Mu'izz came to the sight and kept the troublemakers away. He remained there, standing until they completed laying the foundation.
This father renovated many churches all over the See of St. Mark. When he completed his course, he departed in peace after he sat on the chair for 3 years and 6 days.
His prayers be with us. Amen.
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