The Appearance of the Head of St. John the Baptist
On this day we celebrate the commemoration of the appearance of the head of St. John the Baptist. Herod commanded his head to be cut off and brought on a platter and given to Herodias, according to her request. (Mark 6:7-28) It was said that after the feast he regretted the slaying of St. John so he kept the head in his house.
Aritas, the Arabic King, Herod's father-in-law, was enraged because Herod banished his daughter and married the wife of his brother, while his brother was still alive. Aritas instigated a war against Herod in revenge for his daughter. He overcame Herod, dispersed his army and destroyed the cities of Galilee.
When Tiberius Caesar learned that the reason for these wars was the slaying of a prophet, who was great among his people, by Herod, who banished his wife, the daughter of Aritas, the Arabian king, and married his brother's wife, he summoned Herod and Herodias to Rome. Herod hid the head of St. John in his palace and went to Rome. When he arrived there, Tiberius removed him from his position and stripped him of all his possessions and exiled him to Spain where he died. Herod's palace was ruined and became an example for those who might think of following in his footsteps.
A few years later, two believing men from Homs went to Jerusalem to spend the holy fast (Lent) there. Night fell on them while passing by the ruins of Herod's palace, so they spent the night there. St. John appeared to one of them and told him about his name and the whereabouts of his head and ordered him to take it to his house. When he woke up, the man told this to his friend and they went to the place where the head was buried. They dug and found a sealed pottery vessel. When they opened that vessel, a sweet aroma spread out of it. They found the holy head, took its blessing and placed it back in the vessel. The man that saw the vision took it to his house. He put it in a safe place and put a candle in front of it. Before his departure, he told his sister about it and she went on doing the same thing.
The head was handed from one person to another until it came to the hand of a follower of Arius who attributed the wonders and miracles that happened through the holy head to the heresy of Arius. The Lord commanded someone to force him out of his house. The place of the head remained unknown until the time of St. Cyril (Kyrillos), Bishop of Jerusalem. St. John appeared to Abba Martianus, Bishop of Homs, in his sleep and told him about the place of the head. He went there and found the head and that was on the thirtieth of the month of Amshir.
The prayers of this saint be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
The Commemoration of the departure of Abba Kyrillos the Sixth, the one hundred and sixteen Pope of Alexandria
On this day, March 9 (Amshir 30), we commemorate the departure of the Great Pope and Saint, Papa Abba Kyrillos (Cyril) VI, the 116th successor of the Throne of St. Mark the Evangelist, and the Pope and Patriarch of the See of Alexandria. He was a holy man who excelled first and foremost in spiritual virtue by dedicating his soul to the life of fasting and prayer; this inner lifestyle was steadfastly and incessantly maintained throughout his whole life regardless of changing circumstances and conditions. Various gifts were bestowed upon him by The Goodness and Grace of our Lord, including prescience, clairvoyance, bilocation, and the ability to heal the sick, though it was the most important of gifts: Love, which truly earned this Holy man the title of Saint. His papacy was also marked by the unprecedented Apparitions of the Blessed Holy Virgin Theotokos St Mary in Zeitun, Egypt, as well as the return of the Holy Relics of founder of the Coptic Church: St Mark the Evangelist.
He was born in 1902 under the name Aza Ater, and at the age of twenty-eight he was drawn to the monastic life, and was consequently ordained a monk under the name of his patron Saint, St Menas the Martyr. His spiritual vigilance and rigorous asceticism lead him to desire and request a life of complete solitude only two years after entering monasticism. The attempts of many to dissuade him from taking this difficult path failed, and he ultimately moved into a very dangerously situated and abandoned windmill in El-Moukatam Mountain at the outskirts of Cairo. This windmill was located many miles from the nearest city, and it was known to be inhabited by dangerous scorpions and snakes. It is this place that St Kyrillos VI found to be the ideal place to pray and contemplate on the great Love he had for our Saviour.
He was later called upon to build a Church in Ancient Cairo under the name of his patron Saint, St Menas the Martyr. Finding himself surrounded by Coptic school students, many of whom were from outside of Cairo, he served the students by establishing the first Church-affiliated dormitory, which came to produce many of today’s greatest Bishops and Theologians. Not only was he the establisher and founder of this dormitory, but he was also the humble janitor. He would even humiliate himself to the extent of voluntarily being solely responsible for cleaning the lavatories without letting anyone know, and consequently fulfilling the commandment of Christ in Matthew 20:26.
In 1959 Fr. Mina was ordained Pope and Patriarch of the See of St Mark, and adopted the name Pope Kyrillos VI (after the great Saint Cyril of Alexandria). Pope Kyrillos did not abandon his ascetic ideals nor his life of continuous prayer and fasting when he became Patriarch. In recalling one aspect of his prayer life, the late Bishop Mina El-Samueli who spent a few years of his monastic life with Father Mina said, "Father Mina the Hermit (the late Pope Kyrillos VI) used to wake up at 2:00 am, start the midnight Agpeya prayers, bake the 'korban', raise incense then serve the holy mass which would end around 8:00 am. This meant spending six continuous hours in prayer. Afterwards, he would meet with those who were hungry and thirsty for God's mercy.” This early start to the day to glorify and worship the Lord continued throughout Pope Kyrillos’ papacy, starting each and every day at approximately 3:00 am with the Holy Paslmody, and continuing with the performance of the Divine Liturgy. His heart was so attached to the Divine Liturgy, that even in his last days on this temporal earth, when he was gravely ill with phlebitis, they hooked a speaker from the great Cathedral to his bedroom at his request because he could not bear not being able to perform liturgy daily as before.
Pope Kyrillos VI furthermore retained the complete humility that was exercised in his voluntary diminution to the role of toilet cleaner whilst still a monk-priest. Pope St Kyrillos is famously quoted as having said in his first pastoral letter as Patriarch: “Let us disappear for God to appear with His blessed glory.” During a consultation that he had with a foreign priest in the Saints’ private room of the old St Mark Cathedral, the priest, seeing that the room was in such a humble condition, offered to decorate and furnish the room to a standard befitting the Saints’ position as Patriarch. In response, Pope St Kyrillos laughed, and stated: "The room in its current state is still much better than the manger where Christ The Lord of Glory was born."
Other examples of the Pope’s humility and holiness are recalled by his personal deacon Roufaiel Sobhi (the current Rafael Ava Mena). In following the 17th Pope of Alexandria St Peter the Seal of the Martyrs, Pope St Kyrillos would refuse to sit on the throne of St. Mark, preferring to sit at the foot of the Throne on the floor, for he could see St Mark the First Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria sitting on his own Throne. Rafael Ava Mena recalls another story in which during a procession, the Pope all of the sudden ordered him to walk with the papal staff in front of him, as opposed to behind him (as is dictated by our custom). Thinking that he had committed an error, Rafael Ava Mena apologised to the Pope; the Pope however responded with the real reason as to why he was ordered to walk in front of him, with a statement to the effect of: “Do you not know that according to custom you are to walk with the papal staff behind the Pope? Yet, there was St Mark the Apostle, the first and true Pope of Alexandria, and you were walking behind me!”
Pope St Kyrillos has been characteristically labelled the “Friend of the Saints”, for he was known to have a unique personal relationship with St Mary the Theotokos, the Apostle St Mark whom he succeeded on the throne, St Demiana, St George the Prince of Martyrs, and especially his patron Saint St Menas the Martyr, seeing them and communicating with them on numerous occasions.
The number of documented miracles performed by this Saint during his earthly life and after his departure to Christ, especially those that are in someway also affiliated with his beloved patron Saint - St Menas - is immense to say the least. It has been said, and most probably without exaggeration, that each and every faithful Orthodox Copt that lived in the days of St Kyrillos’ Papacy, had either witnessed or experienced a personal miracle through his prayers; those miracles continue to occur by the Grace of God till the present day. He performed (and continues to perform) miracles for the weakest of children to the most powerful of men, including the earlier president of Egypt himself – Gamal Abdel Nassar. The 'Pope Kyrillos the VI Society' has in fact printed more than eighteen volumes of documented miracles performed by Pope St Kyrillos, all of which have been translated into English, French, and other non-Arabic languages.
Miracle before Departure:
Mr Fakhri Azer Mancarious of 3 Ashraf St Tanta tell us:
“After six years of marriage God had not give us any children. My wife was treated by many gynecologists…, but neither medication nor radiology could mend the deformity in my wife’s procreative system. Then we heard of Pope Kyrillos’ sanctity and the miracles performed through his prayers. We went to see him at the Patriarchate in Cairo, where he placed his hands over our heads and prayed. When he finished his prayers he said “God willing…this day of next year the two of you will be three and everything is completed by the Holy Trinity.” Before we left, he added that the child would be a male, and asked us to name him Mena. We gave thanks to the Lord who worked through the Pope’s prayers, giving us a son at the exact date predicted by His Holiness.
From The Miracles of Pope Kyrillos VI, Volume II, page 17
Miracle after departure:
Dr Mikhail Gobran, Director of the Medical Centre, Geziret Badran, Shoubra, says:
In December 1973..a teacher at Kishk High School lodged with me an application for sick leave. Asking what his ailment was, he said that he suffered from an inflamed fistula and that he could not undergo the operation because his heart valved were infected with rheumatism, a condition with which the anesthetic could not be used…I authorized the required sick leave…While in my office he saw the book Miracle of Pope Kyrillos on my desk. He ridiculed the belief in miracles in the time of science and scientific research and added that a real proof would be the removal of the fistula by the methods of the departed Pope Kyrillos.
Ten days later the teacher was looking for me until he found me in the office of the health inspector. He told us what happened to him, telling us that in his sleep one night he felt two men carry him and put him on a table to examine his chest. He thought to himself why they were examining his chest while he suffered from a fistula. An elder then appeared, who was Pope Kyrillos, and who punched him gently saying: “You naïve, the heart is the most important”. In the morning, all the symptoms of the bad heart were gone. Another ten days and the same thing happened again, Pope Kyrillos saying to him, “Tonight is the fistula, because the heart is well and can stand it.”
The teacher came to me two days after the second night, I examined him with the health inspector and ascertained the complete healing of the fistula by a miracle and through the blessings of Pope Kyrillos VI, may he always bestow his blessings upon us.
From The Miracles of Pope Kyrillos VI, Volume II, page 78
May the blessings of this Great Saint be with us all Amen.