The Martyrdom of Saint Ammonius, Bishop of Esna (Latopolis)
On this day also the great father Abba Ammonius, Bishop of the city of Esna (Latopolis), was martyred. He was extremely well mannered since a young age and his virtues were well known. Anba Peter, Pope of Alexandria, ordained him a bishop over the city of Esna.
Because of his strong desire for a solitary life, he built a monastery at the foot of the mountain beside a spring of water. He prepared a cave for his stay all week and went down to church on Saturday. He served the Holy liturgy on Sunday, met with his people, preached to them and settled their disputes. He spent Monday with them also, then returned to his cave to continue his worship and asceticism.
During his days, many of his people were martyred. When Arianus the Infidel went to upper Egypt, on his way he persecuted Christians. He ordered them to worship idols and those who refused were tortured and slain. He continued doing that until he reached Esna, where he met four young men driving asses loaded with melons. One of the governor's soldiers asked them about their belief. They answered, "We are Christians," so they seized them. When their mother knew what happened, she went in haste to encourage them saying to the soldiers, "We love Jesus Christ and do not worship your despicable idols." The governor ordered that she be cast into prison.
In the middle of the night the Virgin, St. Mary, appeared to this mother and told her, "Know that my Son the Savior and the Lord has called you and your blessed sons Sarous, Herman, Banouf and Bistay to the kingdom of heaven." St. Mary bid her peace then ascended to heaven. The next morning the governor summoned them and asked them to worship the idols but they refused courageously. As a result, he ordered that their heads be cut off. That took place on the 6th day of the Coptic month of Bashans. The believers took their bodies and hid them in their homes. Many wonders and signs were manifested through their bodies.
There were also four notable persons who worked as tax collectors in the city of Esna. While they were going over the account of their work with Arianus, one of them mentioned the Name of Christ. Arianus became enraged and ordered that they be tortured. When he saw their endurance, he ordered that their heads be cut off, so they received their martyrdom on the 6th day of the month of Baounah. Many were martyred along with them, women, men and monks.
When Arianus went to Armunt, two women called Thecla and Martha who were from Esna went there in hast and confessed Christ before him. Arianus addressed the people of Armunt around him and said, "Why did you say that there were no Christians in your city?" They investigated and found out that the two women were from Esna. They went to Arianus and told him that they were strangers and that they did not belong to their city which loved the emperors and the gods (idols). Arianus ordered their heads to be cut off, and that was on the 17th day of the month of Abib. As for St. Ammonius, the angel of the Lord appeared to him when he was in the desert and told him, "Hail to you Ammonius, the Lord accepted your prayers on behalf of your people and prepared crowns for you. Arise, go down and preach to them and instruct them to be steadfast in confessing the Lord Christ." The angel bid him peace and departed.
The saint arose and went down immediately to the city. He gathered the people, preached to them and informed them of what the angel had told him. They all cried out saying, "Our father, we are ready to withstand any suffering in the Name of the Lord Christ, even unto death." That took place on the feast of St. Isaac, so he took his people up to the Mount of Katoun, which means the mount of good things, to celebrate the feast there.
Arianus departed from Armunt to a village called Helwan, west of Esna. All its citizens came out and confessed the Name of Christ before him. He ordered them beheaded and they received the crown of martyrdom. Then Arianus entered Esna and wandered in its streets which were empty until he came to the southern gate which is called the gate of thanksgiving, because Anba Armanius had prayed there with his people, the prayers of Thanksgiving. There he found an infirm old woman who was left behind because she could not go up the mountain with them. He asked her about the whereabouts of the people of the city. She replied, "The people heard that the infidel governor was coming to slay the Christians; so they went up to the mountain to celebrate the feast of St. Isaac before they faced martyrdom." He asked her which one of the gods she worshipped. She replied, "I am a Christian," and she was immediately beheaded.
Arianus then went out of the city going towards Mount Katoun, passing on the way through the village of El-Mabgalah where he found a group of people who declared themselves Christians and those he promptly beheaded. He continued through the villages of Harmajahat and Seroya where he executed the Christians.
He executed every Christian he met in his way till he finally reached Mount Katoun where all the people greeted him with one accord shouting, "We are Christians." Arianus threatened them and as this had no effect, he ordered his soldiers to draw their swords and to slay them all. Each one brought forth his daughter or his son to the swordsman saying, "Go forward to the true bridegroom that does not die." They all went to death saying, "We are going to the everlasting joy in the kingdom of heaven." They fulfilled their martyrdom on the 19th day of the Coptic month of Abib.
On their way back to Esna, the soldiers met three men who were crying, "We are Christians." The soldiers told them, "Our swords are dull from much use." So the men told the soldiers, "Here are our axes." The soldiers took their axes and the men put their heads on a stone beside the western gate of the city. The soldiers beheaded them and the men received the crown of martyrdom. As for the bishop, Anba Ammonius, they seized him and brought him before Arianus, and in rage he ordered the saint to be tied behind the horses on their way to the boat which was sailing to Aswan. Then they threw him in the stern of the ship. Arianus brought him out every now and then and asked him to raise the incense before the idols but the saint refused. Finally he ordered his men to burn the saint who received the crown of martyrdom on the 14th day of the Coptic month of Kiahk.
The believers took his body which was untouched and unharmed by the fire. They shrouded it and hid it until the end of the era of persecution. When the people of his diocese came to transfer the body to their city, they heard a voice from the body saying, "This is the place that God chose for me."
The prayers of all these saints be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
Days of the month of Koiak: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30
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