A HOMILY FROM THEOPHILUS OF ALEXANDRIA ON THE CRUCIFIXION AND THE GOOD THIEF
Theophilus, twenty-third patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (385-412). A complex and controversial patriarch, Theophilus was much admired for his many writings, his destruction of pagan temples and subsequent church-building program, as well as his important role as a mediator of schisms at Antioch, Bostra, and Jerusalem during the early part of his tenure. Nonetheless, he acquired a lasting and perhaps deserved infamy for his persecution of the monks of Nitria and Scetis and his banishment of John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople. Theophilus is the villain in Palladius' biography of Chrysostom and bears the epithet amphallax, "two-faced". Several homilies by Theophilus are preserved in Coptic. These are: The Crucifixion and the Good Thief, On Penitence and Abstinence, On the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, On the Three Children of Babylon, a sermon on the church dedicated to the archangel Raphael and another on John the Baptist.
The sun of righteousness appeared in the east and gave light to those who were in the darkness and in the shadow of death. The king of righteousness adorned himself with the diadem of the kingdom and all his enemies bowed down at his feet. A fragrant odor arose on the altar of salvation; the evil smell was blotted out by the perfume of his ointment.
The powerful lion sprang up out of the wood; all the wild beasts hid in their dens. The holy physician came to us with his medicines. Joy spread through the whole of creation. All the abandoned rejoiced with him, because like a city encircled and besieged by a hostile king, the hearts of all its inhabitants are in great distress. Just when they are oppressed, abandoned and groaning, the king who rules over the city receives words of his enemy's audacity, how he was planning to massacre the inhabitants. And so he assembles all his own people and trains them how to shoot his own arrows of war. Once his own people had learned how to wage war with his enemies, they marched against them with joy, knowing that they would defeat his enemies with great slaughter.
This, if you like, is the way of Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he saw the real enemy of the whole human race, who is the devil. For the devil invade the whole earth, and afflicted everyone with many kinds of sins, which he spreads with these great scourges, namely, idolatry, robbery, vanity, fornication, theft, murder, slander, licentiousness, envy, hatred, contempt, anger, sorcery, pollution, fraud, arrogance, perjury, falsehood, corruption, prostitution, deceit and whatever is similar in them. These are the traps which the devil set for humanity, until he brought it to perdition and dispersed it.
Well now, let us consider in what way Christ the king made war against the devil until he released our souls from him and set them free. Let us begin, then, to penetrate the great treasure house full of the fruits of life. This is the great holy mystery of the wood of the cross, on which the True God, Jesus Christ, mounted out of love.
When he descended into this world, he came to the people of Israel and preached to them saying: 'Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' But they paid no heed to his holy counsels. After this he performed all the signs of his divinity in their presence, miracles without number. He made the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear. He healed lepers. He brought the dead back to life. He drove out demons. He made paralytics stand on their feet and forgave their sins. He made tax gatherers repent. He straightened vainglorious hands. He evangelized the poor. He remitted the sins of adulteresses and purified them with his divinity, restoring them to a virginal state. It was because an adulterous woman was made worthy of this great grace that her hands anointed the feet of him who had created her. From the moment she participated in the purity of his divinity, the voice of God came to her. 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'
In spite of all these things accomplished by him in their presence, they did not give him credence, but seized him and delivered him to be crucified. Having brought him into the court of the High Priest, they treated him with contempt rather than honor. Then the word of scripture was fulfilled. They brought evils upon me instead of blessings, and hatred instead of my love.'
What then are the evils which the people he created, the people who killed him, did to him? They are terrible to describe or to hear. My tongue trembles, my eye weeps, my spirit groans, my soul is distressed to utter them. It is God that they have seized, the Lord that they have bound. They have pierced with nails the hands of them who created them. They slapped the face of their Lord. They beat his head with their fists. They placed a crown of thorns on his head. They dressed him in a purple cloak. They gave him vinegar and gall. On this day they did all these things to him. They crucified him with two thieves. One of them, who was unworthy of the division of his divinity, said to the Lord, deriding him: 'If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.' The other replied rebuking him with indignation: 'Do you not fear God? We are receiving the reward of our sins which we have committed, but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he said, 'Jesus. remember me when you come into your kingdom.' And Jesus said to him with great joy: 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'
The gate of Paradise has been closed since the time when Adam transgressed, but I will open it today, and receive you in it. Because you have recognized the nobility of my head on the cross, you who have shared with me in the suffering of the cross will be my companion in the joy of my kingdom. You have glorified me in the presence of carnal men, in the presence of sinners. I will therefore glorify you in the presence of the angels. You were fixed with me on the cross, and you united yourself with me of your own free will. I will therefore love you, and my Father will love you, and the angels will serve you with my holy food. If you used once to be a companion of murderers, behold, I who am the life of all have now made you a companion with me. You used once to walk in the night with the sons of darkness; behold I who am the light of the whole world have now made you walk with me. You used once to take counsel with murderers; behold, I who am the Creator have made you a companion with me.
'All these things I will pardon you because you have confessed my divinity in the presence of those who have denied me. For they saw all the signs which I performed, but did not believe in me. You, then, a rapacious robber, a murderer, a brigand, a swindler, a plunderer have confessed that I am God. That is why I have pardoned your many sins, because you have loved much. I will make you a citizen of Paradise. I will wash you body so that it will not see corruption before I resurrect it with me on the third day and take you up with me. The other who has denied me will see you enveloped in glory, but he will be enveloped in pain and same. He will see you surrounded by light, but he will be surrounded by darkness. He will see you in a state of joy and happiness, but he will be in a state of weeping and groaning. He will see you enjoying ease and benediction, but he will be suffering oppression and malediction. He will see you refreshed by the angels, but he will be troubled by the powers of darkness. And in the midst of intense cold the worm that never rests will consume him. Not only did he not confess me, but after having denied me he reviled me.
'For this reason all will receive according to their works. For as I have already said to them explicitly and in public: Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.'
So now, brethren, what torment the man who denied the Lord brought upon himself? We should therefore watch over ourselves that we should not be led astray, that for the sake of things of this life, we should not be made strangers to him who has created us. Perhaps there is someone today who is denying God for the sake of riches because the love of money closes the eyes of those who are given to it. Such a person takes the part of Judas, He has sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.
It is therefore good for us to direct our concerns towards the Lord since it is he who takes care of us . . . . . Let us now turn to the goal proposed to us by the cross. For the ladder which Jacob contemplated that was fixed to the ground and reached up to heaven on which the angel of the Lord ascended and descended, is Our Lord Jesus Christ raised up on the wood of the cross. The angels surrounded the cross, attending to his will.
Consider and contemplate God's mercy and great patience. He looks down from on high and sees his only-begotten Son nailed to the wood, and is long-suffering in his great bounty. For him, then, they still pierce our Lord Jesus Christ's holy hands with nails, they still slap his face, they still beat his head with fists, they still give him vinegar mixed with gall to drink, they still divide his garments by lot, and they still break a cane on his head. And in spite of all these things, he does not grow angry, nor has he any rancor in his heart against them.
Do you want to know the truth? I will not tell you; listen to him. After these things he cried out, saying, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' Do you realize how great is the Father's mercy towards us, and that of his Son, who mounted on the cross for the salvation of the entire created world? For the moment he was hung on the cross, he purified the whole of creation, the things of heaven and the things below. His divine body, then, hanging on the cross made the whole air clean and pure. With the shedding of his sacred blood, the whole earth was equally purified of its contamination. Moreover, his divinity descended into Hades, despoiled it, and released the souls shut up in darkness, setting them free. For this is what he promised us with his mouth of truth, which in all eternity has never uttered any falsehood.
'If they exalt me on earth, I will draw them to me.' In another place it says, 'I will draw them to me with the chains of my love.' What great love, then, is equal to this, which makes him mount of the wood of the cross and surrenders him voluntarily to imprisonment? For if it was not of his own free will, who would have been able to seize him? For who could ever have seized God, the Creator?
At the moment the impudent Jews surrounded him to arrest him, he asked them with great mercy, 'Whom do you seek with swords and clubs?' But they replied in their pride, hardness of heart and arrogance saying, 'We seek Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus replied, saying, 'I am he.' The ray of light in his divinity struck their faces and they fell to the ground. Likewise in his great mercy he made them stand up because perhaps they would repent. But they stood up and seized his disciples with great harshness.
God does all these things, then, in his desire to save us. Otherwise in that hour he would have brought it about that the earth would have opened its mouth and they would have descended through the opening into the place of their Ninevite brothers, along with the other brothers whom the earth opened its mouth and swallowed. I refer to Dathan and Abiram and the sons of Korah, the men who rebelled against Moses.
Let us now turn to the grandeur of the precious cross. Let us speak of it, and let us become acquainted with the prophecies which the prophets spoke concerning it from beginning to end. Therefore expand your uncultivated minds and listen in silence. Come, let us open up the great holy treasury. Let us draw out the spiritual ornaments. Let us adorn our souls with the love of the word. Invoke with me the friend of God and man, the giver of hospitality to the angels, I mean Abraham, the companion of God.
Come, Abraham, tell me what the typological meaning is of that thicket to which the ram was tied. Its name is sabek. The interpretation of sabek is the Savior's place of repose, that is, the wood of the cross upon which the Lamb of God mounted with great splendor to bring about the great economy of salvation, and on which he died in the form of a man. He will go up to his field having suffered through his labor. He lies on his bed and rests from his suffering. This is the manner in which the Saviour acted. For his bed on which he lays is the cross, which neither suffers, nor causes pain, nor torments, nor debilitates, nor perturbs, nor gets angry with those who pierce his hands with nails, not gets impatient with those who place a crown of thorns on his head, nor does it rebuke those who strike his face with blows, nor does it bear rancor in its heart against those who offer vinegar and gall in his sacred mouth, nor does it contend with those who deride him, nor does it get irritated with those who divide his garments by lot.
Do you want to know the truth? Listen, I will tell you it. I will say to you again that while they do all these things to him, he turned his eyes to heaven and prayed to his Father, saying, 'Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.' At the same time you should be aware that God the Father determined at what hour to send down on them his irrevocable anger, even as the voice of his Only begotten ascends to him, beseeching him to put aside the indignation of his anger.
He sent a powerful angel and rent the curtain of the temple from top to bottom, tearing it into two. The earth shook, the rocks were split, the sun, that great source of light, was obscured and darkness filled the world to cover his sacred body on the cross, for it was stripped of his clothing which they had divided.
Ponder, then, my beloved, and reflect on God's mercy towards the world. He who had clothed the whole of creation was despoiled of his own clothing. He was left naked on the wood of the cross. But the sun, that wise minister, covered its Lord with darkness, which endured until the eyes of those atheists were dimmed, so that they should not see the great mystery that lay on the wood of the cross for they are not worthy of it.
For he who was contemplating it at that hour saw the accomplishment of the mystery of his divinity. Who was ever worthy of the great glory at that hour?
Let us examine this. The Father contemplates t from heaven. The thief too, after ascending to the height of the cross, contemplates all the things that had taken place, and rejoices and exults to see them. Who has ever seen them? The host of angels surrounds the cross and praises him with hymns. The Father looks down from heaven, giving glory to his Only-Begotten. All the air is in motion because the body of the Creator is suspended on high. All the earth rejoices because the blood of its king is sprinkled on it.
He purified all the germinating plants because the Lord was suspended on the wood of the cross - the wood of immortality, the wood of incorruptibility, the wood of the remitter of sins, the wood of the restorer to health, the wood of the giver of life, the wood of the provider of fruit, the wood full of peace, the wood full of rejoicing, the wood full of joy, the wood full of sweetness, the wood full of health, the wood full of benediction, the wood full of all the graces through the work of Jesus Christ, of him who was suspended on the wood of the cross.
In my view, the whole of creation is established and confirmed in the shape of the cross. It is the cross that produces a new man from the old, signing him in the holy baptistry with the oil that seals. It is the cross that purifies him. It is the cross that opposes, that is, that combats obstacles and drives them away.
The cross is the completion of that sacred mystery. For when the bread and wine are sacrificed on the holy altar, they are no longer bread and wine as before, but a divine body and a sacred blood.
The cross is the consolation of those who are afflicted by their sins. The cross is the straight highway. Those who walk on it do not go astray. The cross is the lofty tower that that gives shelter to those who seek refuge in it. The cross is the sacred ladder than raises humanity to the heavens. The cross is the holy garment that Christians wear. The cross is the helper of the wretched, assisting all the oppressed. The cross is that which closed the temples of the idols and opens the churches and crowns them. The cross is that which has confounded the demons and made them flee in terror. The cross is the firm constitution of ships admired for their beauty. The cross is the joy of the priests who dwell in the house of God with decorum. The cross is the immutable judge of the apostles. The cross is the golden lamp-stand whose holy cover gives light. The cross is the father of orphans, watching over them. The cross is the judge of widows, drying the tears of their eyes. The cross is the consolation of pilgrims. The cross is the companion of those who are in solitude. The cross is the ornament of the sacred altar. The cross is the affliction of those who are bitter. The cross is our help in our hour of bodily need. The cross is the administration of the demented. The cross is the steward of those who entrust their cares to the Lord. The cross is the purity of virgins. The cross is the solid preparation. The cross is the physician who heals all maladies.
Come, peoples of all the earth, rejoice, celebrate today because the Lord reigns from the wood. All you that move in the waters raise your spirits, because the blood was shed mingled with water. All you birds of the sky flap your wings with joy, because he extended his arms on the cross, and the perfume filled the whole air. Wild animals of the desert rejoice, because his preaching to you was bountiful.
You have seen how great is the majesty of the cross, its power and the great help it gives to all creation. For when a man extends his arms in the shape of a cross and prays with faith, the angels compete among themselves to satisfy his request. Zechariah prayed and the angel Gabriel came to him and granted his request. Peter prayed and the angel came to him and the iron chains were loosed and the iron gate opened of its own accord. He prayed and likewise restored bathe to life. In the same way, too, Cornelius prayed with faith and the angel appeared to him and granted his request: Peter came to him and baptized him. Paul and Silas were lying in prison and also prayed in the form of the cross. The angel at once came to them and shook the prison, and the doors all opened immediately, and everyone's fetters were unfastened. Moses prayed, and God came to him and defeated the Amalekites. Tobias prayed, and the angel Raphael came to him and healed him.
Let us therefore pray without interruption in every season and in every place, and we shall all be delivered from every temptation. For the Apostle said: 'Pray without ceasing.' Even with demoniacs, it is prayer that heals them. The Lord said. 'This nation cannot be saved except by prayer and fasting.'
That is why, you see, we gather here together for five days and five nights
THE VISION OF THEOPHILUS
Following is a translation by Alphonse Mingana of the Third Book of an apocryphal history of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. This book is typically referred to (somewhat imprecisely) as The Vision of Theophilus, for the discourse of the Virgin to Theophilus comprises the majority of this book. The narrative is complicated. The Theophilus of the title is Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria (412 AD). The account is a first-person account of some event of Theophilus’ tenure, including a visit to the monastery during which he is granted a vision of the Virgin Mary, who then relates (in first person) her and her Son’s connection with the monastery. The entire narrative is then said to have been actually written down by Cyril of Alexandria (444 AD) himself! But there is no doubt that while the narrative demonstrates traditions of definite antiquity it does not date so far back as St Cyril! Mingana would attribute the work to Kyriakos, Bishop of Bahnasa (Oxyrhynchus), who wrote in the early fifteenth century.
Again the third Book containing the flight according to the vision shown to Theophilus, Patriarch of the great city of Alexandria, concerning the arrival of our Lady Mary, Mother of God, in the land of Egypt, and concerning the house which she and her beloved Son Jesus Christ inhabited in the holy mountain of Ḳusḳam, on account of their great fear of King Herod.
The reason for the journey of the Patriarch and his coming was to see great and heavenly visions, and also Theodosius the younger, the orthodox Emperor, because this Emperor gave him the keys of the temples of the idols of all Egypt from Alexandria to Assuan, in order that he might take the wealth contained in them and spend it in erecting buildings for the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When he reached Assuan from the eastern side of the mountain and returned in following the western side of the mountain, there were with him ten Bishops of Upper Egypt, who spoke to him concerning the honor due to this holy house, and he expressed the desire to repair the Church that was in it in order that he might be blessed by it and obtain its benedictions. They reached the Church three days before the festival of the mother of God, which falls on the twenty-second of the Coptic month of Ṭubah, which is the sixteenth of January. The Father-Bishops and all the monks who inhabited this holy mountain, who were three hundred in number, besought him to remain with them till after the feast of Mary, the mother of God, and then return in the peace of our Lord. Amen!
Now, O my brethren and beloved in Christ, I shall begin to speak of what I saw and heard in this holy mountain. It is imperative to give thanks to God who kept me until I reached this holy mountain, the mountain which God chose to inhabit. And He dwelt there with His mother, the holy Virgin, as it is written: “God hath chosen Zion and hath made it His habitation.” The Lord dwelt in this holy mountain and the Lord shall dwell in it. The Lord loved this holy mountain, and dwelt in it with His holy and Virgin mother. He glorified it more than the towns of all the world, and He did not wish to inhabit another house, nor did He choose the house of a rich man but He inhabited this forsaken mountain in which dwelt no man as David says: “Because the Lord was pleased with Zion and chose it as a dwelling-place,” and there He dwelt.
O you holy mountain who became a dwelling-place to the Lord and a cause of joy and exultation to the angels and to all the inmates of heaven, who praise their creator who dwelt in you! Blessed are you, O holy mountain, which has been glorified more than all the mountains of heaven, and which has been exalted above the mountains of heaven, because the Lord came down upon this holy mountain as He came down once upon mount Sinai, and there was joy, jubilation and dazzling light so that no one was able to go near the mountain and perceive except the prophet Moses; and no one was able to see the face of the Lord and live; but we saw Him in this holy mountain and we saw Him on the holy Throne, and we saw Him in Bethlehem when He became a man for us and put on a body from our Lady, the holy Virgin Mary, mother of God. We were sitting in darkness and in shadow of death, until He came and had mercy upon us, He who is good and lover of men, and until He repaired to these countries which were immersed in paganism more than all the world, and He illuminated us with the light of His divinity and His exalted glory.
This holy mountain resembles the Mount of Olives which our Lord and His holy disciples inhabited. And you, O holy mountain, our Lord and His mother for many days dwelt in you. The prophecy of Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, who prophesied concerning the glory of this house in which we have assembled in this day and in this hour, has been fulfilled. When he prophesied about the coming of our Lord five hundred and sixty-seven years before it took place he said: “Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call His name Emmanuel which being interpreted is, God with us”; he also prophesied concerning this mountain in saying: “God hath inhabited this mountain, and benediction and grace have inhabited it. Praises and canticles are in it always and for ever. Kingdoms shall cease and powers shall perish, and all the peoples shall change and pass away, and we shall sit solidly on their thrones, and our name and our memory shall not change nor pass away, except by death which hangs over men universally.”
And you, O holy mountain, your privileges shall be eternal by the will of God; and because of the blessings which He recited over you, all the people shall come to you, receive your blessings and ask for forgiveness for their sins, according to the saying of the prophet Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord shall be established above all the mountains and shall be exalted above everything, and nations shall flow into it, and all the multitudes shall rejoice at this mountain of the God of Jacob; and He will make the path straight for us in order that we may walk in it, for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the words of the Lord from Jerusalem.” You are truly the mountain of the Lord, and the house of the God of Jacob, because the one who established the law has dwelt in you with His mother, the holy Virgin Mary; and the way to this place is by faith, and everyone walks to-day to this derelict mountain, from towns and villages, and narrates the glory of this holy and pure house. Truly this is the desert of life, this is the stretch of land chosen by the holy Virgin, our Lady Mary, and her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. John the Evangelist, the son of Zebedee and the beloved of our Lord, testified in the Apocalypse and said: “I saw a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And I saw a serpent standing before her expecting her child that he might kill him, a child who rules the world with a rod of iron, and who went up to heaven to God, and unto His holy throne.” And John said also: “I saw a dragon casting water out of his mouth after the woman that he might drown her in water. And the earth welcomed the woman, was rent and swallowed the water which the serpent had cast out of his mouth after her. And there were given unto the woman wings of a bird and she flew to the mountains, to a place prepared to her by God, and she inhabited it one thousand two hundred and three-score days, which makes three years, five months and ten days. And the serpent waxed wroth with the woman and went away to her children to sow the seed of war between him and them. And they kept the commandment of our Lord and the orders of Jesus.”
The woman whom we have mentioned above is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is truly the Queen of all women. The sun in which she is arrayed is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who dwelt in her and illuminated all her body, and the moon is John the Baptist who was illuminated by the baptism of Christ, with which we clothed ourselves for the forgiveness of sins. And the crown of twelve stars over her head are our Fathers, the holy Apostles, through whom mankind entered into the path of truth. And the serpent is Satan, and the water which he cast our of his mouth is the anger which went out of Herod against the children whom he slew on the occasion of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom any one who acknowledges will fight against the same Satan for ever and ever. This wilderness in which our Lord dwelt with His mother had been prepared for them by God.
And I will say with Jacob, the father of the tribes: “This is the house of God and the meeting-place of all the saints.” As the name of the Lord God liveth, when I entered to-day into this house my soul was filled with joy, gladness and satisfaction; and I forgot all my fatigue and the length of the journey which I had to endure and the exhaustion which had overtaken me; and the cares of all the world left me because she who is our Lady, mother of Light, implored her Son and her beloved, to the effect that all who would enter into this house and pray in it shall be free from all the stratagems of Satan and the anxieties of this world.
What shall I say and what shall I utter to praise you, O our Lord Jesus Christ for the honor You did to me, me the wretched and the sinner Theophilus! You gave me your holy body and your innocent blood which I distribute to Your people for the forgiveness of their sins. You gave me a throne on which to sit while I am not worthy of it, and You elected me to shepherd Your people. You gave me a happy time, and fear forsook me; and You shut the mouth of the dragons who disturbed the peace of Your people, the dragons that are the community of the impure Heretics. You gave us praiseworthy Emperors, like Theodosius the Younger, who love Your truth and enjoin it on the churches of Christ, and the fear of Arius and all his soldiers ceased; that Arius on account of whom the holy Apostle, my father Athanasius, suffered persecution to the extent of going from place to place for twenty-seven years, while the Emperor was seeking him on account of the lies of the wicked Heretics. God willed this in order that in suffering the persecution of the Apostles he might have their reward in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a barbarous people which he was appointed to shepherd until our Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to it after the persecution of Father Athanasius.
And Athanasius repaired to the great city of Rome where he became worthy of the benediction of the bodies of the holy and sweet-tongued Apostles Peter and Paul, and where he saw their faces suffused with joy, and where they spoke to him real words. After this he desired to build a church under the name of John the Baptist, but he did not succeed, because he was unable to erect anything from fear of the Heretics. It happened to him what happened to the prophet David at the time when he wished to build a temple to the Lord and he was not able to do so because of the fear and the vicissitudes that befell him. And when the Lord wished to comfort him he said to him: “Thou shalt not do this, but the one who comes after thee shall build a house for me.” This happened to me, because after the death of my Father Athanasius his throne was occupied by my Father Peter, and when he also died he was succeeded by my Father Demetrius, whose office I assumed after him–the throne of the one of whom I am not worthy.
When I was ready according to the will of God, I built a church under the name of John the Baptist. When I had finished it, I placed in it all the vessels of the Church. I then erected at the back of it a church to the Three Children, and in it I placed also all its vessels, while their bodies were in Babylon. We were full of joy and gladness, and the three saints appeared in the church on the day of its consecration, and all the congregation saw them. All this happened through the intercession of the saints according to the will of God.
And the God-loving Emperor Theodosius came to Alexandria, the City of the Christians. When the Christ-loving and believing Emperor reached the city, I Theophilus went out to meet him with banners of crosses, accompanied by my suite and the notables of the city. We knelt before him and said to him: “Hail, O believing Emperor, O lover of Christ and of His holy cross, like the Emperor Constantine in his time! Hail, O you who truly honor Christ! Hail, O you who love Christ with all your heart, you whom Christ loved and on whom He bestowed peace and majesty! You opened the doors of the Church, and the faithful had joy and honor in your time. May God open before you the door of His grace, and may He make your enemies your footstool! May the Lord who weaved a crown for you in this world, weave a crown for you with the saints in His heaven!”
And the Emperor answered and said to me several times in humility: “Hail, O saint. These things have been granted to us by God through your prayers.” And “You uphold me in the righteousness of your words,” as David said.
We led then the Emperor and brought him to the holy church of Mark the Evangelist. After he had taken the benediction of the saint, the owner of the church, we led him again and proceeded to the churches which had been renovated in our time. He was very pleased with them, and said to me in smiling: “Blessed be the compassionate Lord God who does good things to His elect and beloved ones, and ‘exalts them that are of low degree,’ as the Book says: ‘I shall praise those who praise me.’ You, O my Father, resemble our Father Abraham who received God with His angels because of his faith, and this was counted unto him for righteousness, for ever and ever. You, O my Lord and my brother, became a friend to God and to His angels, and this is the reason why God exalted you and honored you more than the Fathers, your Fathers I mean who held the same office before you. I give you, therefore, for all time, the keys of the temples from the land of Alexandria to that of Assuan, in order that you may take from them any wealth which you will find in them and spend it in the erection of churches and monasteries, in the duration of my reign.” In that very moment he ordered the keys to be given to me. Then the inhabitants of the city led him away in great honor on account of the fatigue of the journey.
Three days after this the Emperor summoned me, and I went to him and stood before him. We then went out, and I walked with him, along with the notables of the city and all the priests, until we reached the temple of the Camp of Alexander in which the Great Macedonian Conqueror had stored treasures, and the door of which he had locked and sealed. We found the door sealed with three seals so that no one should be able to open it. Indeed it had never been opened from the day of Alexander down to this day in which God who opened the eyes of the blind from their mothers’ womb opened it. And God opened the eyes of my mind, and I saw on the three doors three thetas–letters of the alphabet–inscribed on them. These three letters referred the first to Theos which means God, the second to Theodosius, the believing Emperor, and the third to my name Theophilus. I did not know this with my own earthly knowledge nor by my own power, but by the power of God who opened the eyes of the heart of the divine Theophilus.
In that hour the door, at the inner side of which was the great wealth, was thrown open, and the Emperor saw it and was amazed at the quantity of it. They rejoiced and glorified our Lord Jesus Christ, our powerful God. And the Emperor said: “It is God that has granted us this favor and the gift of this wealth.” In that very hour he gave a portion of it to the inmates of the prison, to the churches and monasteries, and to the poor, the orphans and the widows, and no one was left in want in those days, because he satisfied the wants of all. He ordered what was left to be carried on a ship as far as the Capital. Afterwards I walked with him along with my suite, and we said to him: “Go in the peace of the Lord, and may His help be with you! May He make your enemies your footstool, and grant you happy times! May the years of your life be without fear, anxiety, and apprehension!”
And he answered and said to me: “May God be with you, O my holy Father! For God’s sake do not deprive me of you prayers and supplications that are accepted by God whom you serve. May He deliver you and me in the day of trial from the demons and from the wicked wars the waves of which are rising against us like the waves of the sea! May He also give us His grace in the day of our passing away to Him, because it is He who possesses grace and grants forgiveness of sins now, always, and for ever and ever. Amen!”
When he had boarded the ship that was bound for the City of Constantinople, we returned to the city of Alexandria in great joy, and praised God for having given us in our days a good and just Emperor. A few days later we wished to accomplish what was ordered by the Emperor, and we went up to Egypt by the will of God, and we went round all the temples of idols, and discovered in them a considerable quantity of wealth. I distributed all this wealth to the poor and the needy, and to all the churches and monasteries on the holy mountain. I gave orders concerning the churches that were to be built, and they were erected according to my instructions.
After all this I returned by the will of God to this holy, honorable and pure mountain, and informed myself concerning the honor due to it. I was accompanied by some Father-Bishops, and I wished to go to it and be blessed by it before returning to my town. In this way I attained what was in my mind, namely, to be worthy of praying in this holy house which was the dwelling-place of God, of His angels and of His holy Virgin mother. O you holy house which resembles the heavenly Jerusalem! As God liveth, I was astonished at this desolate house more than all the corners of the earth, because it was worthy of the fact that the Son of God and His mother lived in it, and did not wish to abandon this place which He had chosen in conjunction with His good Father and the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen!
O my brethren and my beloved, lo I have truthfully narrated to you what happened to me and to the good Emperor Theodosius the divine, me your Father Theophilus; and also what took place till, by the will of God, I reached this place. After this, listen O my brethren, to what I am going to say to you in good faith and in the fear of God, i.e. to the vision which the holy Virgin Mary, the mother of God, revealed for your sake, the knowledge of which I shall now impart to you:
It happened that after we had finished our nocturns and my brother-Bishops had slept in a place by themselves, I went up to the upper chamber in which the mother of God had sat in the days which she had spent in this mountain. When I rose to pray I stretched my hands, prayed and implored God and my Savior Jesus Christ and said: “Hear me as you heard my Father Alexander till he upheld the orthodox faith; hear me as you heard my Father Athanasius the holy Apostle, whom you helped in all his trials. Hear me in this way, who am unworthy of your service, because I am a sinner. I know that you hear me always, because you are near to all those who love your holy and pure name.
“O my Lord and my God, have mercy upon me, and do not let me return empty-handed, me who have fixed my mind on you from my childhood to my old age. I beseech you to reveal to me your coming into the world and to this mountain which you visited together with your holy Virgin mother, and to this desolate house in which you established your habitation. I pray you to help me to build a big church, and we will glorify, exalt and honor your holy name. You are the one to whom are due power and glory with your Father and your Holy Spirit, now at all times and for ever. Amen.”
When my prayer was finished, a light shone on me, which was so dazzling that I believed that the sun itself was shining on me. And a throne of light appeared to me, on which was sitting the Queen of all women, the holy Virgin, our Lady Mary, Mother of God. Her face was illuminated like the sun from the light with which she was invested, and she was covered with a majestic brightness, and with her were many myriads of angels. I was so bewildered that I said: “Is there in all the world one who is able to contemplate this great majesty?” I saw Gabriel and Michael, and a great multitude of other angels with them. When I looked and saw them, I fell on my face to the ground and became like a dead man, and Michael raised me and removed fear and dread from me.
And the holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, spoke and said to me: “Arise and fear not, O Theophilus, our servant and the athlete who fights for the Christians. Hail, O Theophilus! Arise, be strengthened, look and see that I am the mother of Jesus Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, the mother of the one whom neither heaven nor earth are able to comprehend, the one who was nine months in my womb by His Will. I am His mother and I gave milk from my breast to the one who feeds the world by His will. I am Mary, the daughter of Yonakhir, and my mother is Hannah of the tribe of Judah and of the house of David. I have revealed myself to you by the will of my beloved Son: I shall show you the One who was with me, who grasped at my knees and looked at my face as all other children do when they weep before their mothers until they are carried by them.
At that moment I was carrying Him under my arm-pit, holding Him and kissing Him, while I was happy at my being able to walk with Him. I was cursing Herod and all his kingdom for the wickedness which he perpetrated against those holy and innocent children whom he killed and the hearts of whose parents he filled with great pain and grief. And my cousin Salome used to take my Son at all times, caress Him and smile at Him; and the blessed old Joseph used to carry the clothes in which my Son was clad and what was necessary for our food. Any time my father Joseph saw me handing the child to Salome he would take Him from me to carry Him on his shoulders and play with Him.
O Theophilus, I endured great hardship before reaching this land of Egypt. While we were in the east side of the town we sat under a tree because it was the time of the first Summer, which falls on the twenty-sixth day of the month of May. Joseph fell asleep from the exhaustion of the journey; likewise Salome slept; and I was left under the tree feeding from my breasts my Son on whom was a garment of the color of a grape, a color similar to that of the garment with which my parents clothed me in the Temple. After I wore that garment I never put it off again, nor did I put off the veil which I am wearing. And the color of the sandals of my Son resembled the color of gold and silver on His feet.
When we were journeying we met two brigands, one of whom was an Egyptian from Egypt and the other a Syrian from Syria, a Hebrew from our land. And the Syrian brigand said to the Egyptian brigand: “I should have liked to plunder the garments that are on this woman and her son, because they resemble the garments of Kings, and if I had encountered them in a place other than this I would have taken those garments from them, but I have no opportunity of doing it now because they are near the town.” And the Egyptian brigand said to him: “Let us proceed on our way. I never saw a child like this since I was born.” And they went their way while uttering such words and conversing on this theme. Then my Son relinquished my breast that was in His mouth and asked for water and said to me: “I am thirsty, give me a little water.” And I looked round me and did not find the water that my beloved Son was asking for. Then I arose, took my beloved Son and brought Him to the town and asked the women I met there for water to give Him, but none of them wished to give us anything, as the inhabitants of that town had very little compassion.
When the brigands saw me entering the town, they came back and went to my father Joseph; and while he was asleep they abducted the sandals of my Son and fled. When I returned I awakened them and said to them: “Arise, and let us leave this town. I never saw people with less faith and compassion than its inhabitants, because I asked water from them and no one gave me any. The only gain that accrued to me from this town is that the sandals of my Son have been stolen!” And I wept and was distressed.
When my beloved Son noticed that I was weeping, He wiped off my tears with His holy hands, and stretched His small finger and made the sign of the cross on the earth, and instantly a spring of water was opened in it, from which water jetted forth and flowed on the ground. And we drank water as sweet as honey and as white as snow. Then my Son made the sign of the cross on the water and said: “Let this water help, make whole and heal the souls and bodies of those who shall drink of it, with the exception of the inhabitants of this town of whom none shall be healed by it.”
Then we ate a little food and I lifted my beloved Son on my arms and we set off on our journey. In that hour the temples of the idols which were in the town fell and were smashed to pieces, and likewise the idols fell one upon another and were smashed.
And we repaired to the land of Egypt, and the mountains, the animals and the stones honored my Son, and when we walked they walked with us. And my Son turned to those mountains, stones and animals and spoke; and He laid His right hand on the eastern mountain and His left hand on the northern mountain and said: “Stop”; and they stopped. And the traces of His two hands were impressed and are seen in the mountains as if in dough and in wax, and lo they are seen down to this day. And He said to them: “Be as a sign and a mark to all who are weak in faith concerning my coming and do not believe that I came into the world; but let the accursed unbelieving Jews and Herod be anathemas, together with those who do not believe in my holy name.”
And He said to the Mountains: “You have acknowledged me and believed in me while you have neither soul nor body, and those who have a soul and a body did not believe in me. And the kings whom I created in my likeness and in my image did not believe in me, did not receive me nor did they honor me, but endeavored to kill me till I reached this place. After this let my name and the name of my holy mother remain in power and honor for ever and ever from generation to generation.”
We reached afterwards a town called Eshmunain. When we approached the first gate through which we wished to enter the town, we found images of horses on all the four corners of the gate, looking towards the town. In that very hour they fell and were broken up. My beloved Son spoke to them and said to them: “You shall be a sign to this town and to its inhabitants for ever and ever.” And in that hour they became as He said.
Further, there was in that place a tree which worshiped below the traces of the steps of my Son, and cried saying: “Blessed be your coming, O Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of God.” And my beloved Son spoke to it and said: “Let no worm be found in you for ever, but be you a remembrance to all of my entry to-day into this town.” And He touched it. It is the tree called Muḳanṭah, and it shall stand for ever. From it we entered the market of the town of Eshmunain and we saw that all its adults and children were amazed at my beloved Son and admired the glory which was dwelling in Him, and they spoke and said: “We have never met with another child like this.”
After this, while we were still in the town, five camels came near us and began to walk in the market; they rendered the road too narrow for us, and my Son looked at them, and in that hour they became stones down to this day. Afterwards a believing man in whom was found the grace of God received us in his house. And all the idols which were in that town fell and were broken up, and all the priests of the idols took fright and hid in their houses in a secluded place. In the morning all the people assembled in the place in which we were, and lo with them were great multitudes of persons who were sick and stricken with different diseases, and also all those who were deaf and dumb and all those who were suffering from any kind of pain. My beloved Son laid His hand on each one of them and healed them from their complaints. In that town were seen many miracles and wonders, and if I were to reveal to you all that happened there a book could not contain it.
After this a great throng of people crowded on us, and they pushed their way to me on account of the great number of miracles which my Son performed in that day. We left the town from its northern part, and we walked a short while and reached a locality called Ḳenīs. The inhabitants of this town were very charitable, and I remained with them several days in the place in which we first went. My blessing be on that place in the name of my Son and in my own till the last day! And my Son wrought innumerable miracles in that place, and all those who had diseases or afflictions came to Him with faith, and He healed them in His abundant grace.
After this a carpenter heard of the numerous miracles which my Son was performing, and he knew Joseph before that day, because he had come to Jerusalem and Joseph had given him hospitality. When he saw us he received us and conducted us to his house. He had a son who was possessed with devils from his birth, and he had in him a powerful, pitiless, and cruel demon. And when we entered that town the demon took the boy and dashed him to the ground, and shouted from him: “What have I to do with you, O Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to torment us before the time? We left Jerusalem to you and fled and came to this town and you followed us here in order to torment us! Verily you are the Son of God!” When he had uttered this my beloved Son said to him: “O accursed demon, shut up your mouth and come out of him.” And the child was healed in that very hour. And his father and mother arose and worshiped us and said: “Blessed are we that we were found worthy of this gift more than all the world, because you entered our house while we were sinners.” And they received us in their house and gave us a great hospitality. And when we entered their house, the benediction of the Lord entered into them. And many people of those localities seeing the miracles which my Son wrought believed in Him.
After this notables of the town asked the priests of the idols and said to them: “Why did you not come to the temples? Why were you not seen in the town, and why did you not leave your houses?” And they answered and said: “From the day that woman who has with her a child entered the town, the idols were broken up and their temples fell. When we do our best for them in the night we find them broken up and smashed to pieces in the morning.” And they sent for us requesting us to go to them. When the messengers arrived they found us in an upper room of the house. Then they seized the man who had invited us to his house and conducted him to the notables of the town, who said to him: “Where are those travelers who halted in your house?” And he answered and said to them: “They left my house three days ago, and I do not know where they went.” And they tormented him greatly, but he did not tell them more than “I do not know where they went.”
When the owner of the house came to us and informed us of what had happened to him from the chiefs and the priest, we rose up in the morning and left them and went up to the land of Egypt and reached a town called Ḳusḳam in which there was a temple of idols surmounted by an idol on which there were seven veils. The priests of the temple performed the service and did not allow any man to worship there apart from the chiefs of the town; and after these had worshiped, they would present to the idols the necessary offerings.
When we reached the gate of the town the seven veils were torn asunder, and the idol fell to the ground and was smashed to pieces. And the demons who were in the idols cried out and said to the priests: “If you do not pursue that woman and the child who is with her, and the old man who is with them and the other woman, and drive them away, and if you let them enter this town, they will put an end to your service, and we will leave the town. Lo, we have informed you before they enter the town.” And they scoured the other towns of the land of Egypt and said to their inhabitants: “If this woman enters your town all the temples that are in it will fall, the religion of the town will cease, our enemies will rise against us, our town will perish and all this great honor which you see will pass away. Lo, we have informed you of this before it happens.” After the idols had said this they became quiet.
When the priests of the idols, who were a hundred in number, heard the speech of the idols, they pursued us with rods and axes in order to strike at us. They bore evil faces and shouted after us and said: “Where are you going, and what is it you want from us, and what is your aim? Lo, our gods have informed us of the way you have damaged them. Go out of this town lest the children should come out and kill you, since you wish to enter the town in order to destroy it.” And they uttered to us these and similar words, while they, their women and children and their adults, chased us away.
And I carried my Son on my breast and walked away weeping. My heart was heavy and in pain and trouble because they did not receive us nor did they want us to stay with them, but insulted us and drove us away. When we went a little distance from their town, my beloved Son turned and cursed the town which is called Ḳusḳam, which is situated on the east side of the northern mountain of the country of Eshmunain, and said thus: “Let its people be in an estate lower than that of all other people, and let them be more lowly and subdued than all the inhabitants of the land of Egypt. Let its earth be cursed so that nothing shall grow in it except alfa and rush-nut, and let its soil lie uncultivated and remain as it was before I cursed it. Let its chiefs not multiply, but let them succeed one another, one at a time. Let it be more lowly than all the land of Egypt, and let the blessing of my holy virgin mother not fall on the inhabitants of the town.”
After He said this and cursed the town and its inhabitants, we proceeded a short distance south of the town, and sat in a place there on account of the weariness and fatigue of the journey, and partook of a little food. Now there was in the hand of the old Joseph a staff of olive-wood, and my beloved Son seized it with His blessed and holy hand and planted it in that place and said: “Let it be as a benediction of the Lord in this place for ever, and a perpetual memorial of my coming to this place.” And it grew up in that hour and gave fruits of olive-trees.
And we wished to proceed on our journey. There were many villages round that place, and Joseph used to stretch his finger and point them out to us, and say: “To which of these villages shall we go and halt? The day has ended and the night has come.” And I said to him: “O my father, I have no intention of going to any of these villages, but take us to this mountain until we see what to do.” When I said this he walked before us and we went up to the mountain, and it was the time of the setting of the sun.
When we had a short distance left to reach our destination, lo the two brigands whom we had met before our arrival at Basṭah came to us. They had followed us from place to place, and when they saw us in this deserted and dry mountain they approached us with drawn weapons, hidden faces, and unsheathed swords, and said: “You have exhausted us from fatigue, because we have pursued you for many days and have not found you and have had no opportunity of meeting with you in order to plunder you, except this moment in which you have fallen into our hands. To-day we will strip you of your garments and plunder you.” And they dared to lay hands on my beloved Son and snatched Him from my hand and stripped Him of the garment which He was wearing. Then they took my garments also: they even took the veil that was over my head. Afterwards they dared to lay hands on my father Joseph and stripped him of his garments while he was standing speechless like a lamb. As to Salome, when she noticed what was taking place, she threw her garments to them before they came to her.
When they took our garments they went a short distance away from us, and they began to talk to each other. When I saw them standing and taking counsel, I was greatly alarmed and said to myself: “They will perchance come and kill my Son.” And I took Him on my hands, laid my face on His face, wept and said: “O my beloved Son, Oh that I were in Bethlehem! Woe is me, O my beloved Son, where shall I go in this place and where shall I flee? I fled with you from Jerusalem fearing that Herod might kill you, but O my Son, O beloved of my soul, would to God I had remained in my village and had not undergone all this fatigue in vain! I fear lest people more wicked than Herod should take you from me! Would that I were in Bethlehem, because they might have recognized the old Joseph who would have implored them not to kill you! Woe is me, O my beloved Son, because I am a virgin girl, and I do not know anything about all this.
“O light of my eyes, whom do I know in this foreign land and in this desert place? I know no village nor town. Where are those who know me, let them come and weep with me to-day! O my beloved Son, let all the women who bore sons come and see my affliction, the anxieties of my heart, and what befell me to-day! O my Son, I fled with you from place to place and endured fatigue, but I was rejoicing that no harm had come to you; these wicked brigands, however, were pursuing me and scouring countries and towns to find me. What shall I do, O my beloved Son, if I see them wishing to kill you in this place? Would that they would kill me before killing you in order that I may not see your great affliction! If they were to kill you here I would kill myself with my own hands, O my beloved Son! O my beloved Son, how much shall I miss the sweet words you spoke to me every day! What shall I do, O light of my eyes and health of my limbs!
“Woe shall come on me, when I see other women feeding their children from their breasts. I shall seek those women whose children have been killed by the cruel Herod in order that they may come and weep with me to-day. Would that I were in Jerusalem or in Bethlehem, because there I could have found many women to come and wail with me! I implore to-day my holy fathers and the prophets to weep with me! I implore the angel Gabriel who announced to me your conception and your birth to look at my lamentation over you! And would that I were also with Elizabeth my kinswoman and her son John, so that they might see my affliction! O my Lord, have mercy upon me and upon my exile, and do not neglect my supplication and affliction!”
While I was uttering such words and lamenting and weeping, my tears came down to my cheeks, and to the cheeks of my Son. One of the brigands looked and saw me weeping, and his nerves shook, and he spoke with his companion who was a Jew and said to him: “O my companion, I beseech you to-day not to take the garments of these strangers, because I notice on their faces a light greater than that of all the faces of mankind. This child resembles a Prince the like of whom I have never seen.”
And the Jewish brigand said to the Egyptian brigand, his companion: “I will not listen to you this time as I wish to take their garments because they are royal garments which will bring us much wealth for our living.” When he noticed that he was determined to do his wicked will and take the garments, he said to him: “O my brother, we shall steal in the coming night, and you will take the two portions, mine and yours. Last night we also had a good haul, and you know that I had a good part of it. Let all this be yours, but give me the garments of these strangers as my portion, and I will return them to their owners, because their nakedness has much disturbed me, especially that of this Child.” And the Jewish brigand said to him: “Take them as part of your portion.” And the Egyptian brigand took them as part of his portion and gave them back to us.
When we wore our garments and put the garments of my beloved Son on Him, He looked at the brigand and stretched His finger and made the sign of the cross on Him. And the two brigands proceeded on their way. And my beloved Son turned and said to me: “O Mary, my holy and virgin mother, the Jews will crucify with me in Jerusalem these two brigands whom you see, and one of them will be on my right hand and the other on my left. The Egyptian will be crucified on my right hand, and the Jew on my left, and the brigand who returned our garments will confess me and believe in me on the Cross, and will first enter Paradise before Adam and all his other children. You see also this spot where they have stripped me of my garments and you have shed your sweet tears over my body: all the sick persons who shall come to it in future and who shall be stripped on it of their garments and be bathed in it, I shall heal them as an honor and commemoration of the fact that I had been stripped there of my garments, and your tears had fallen on my body. They will be made whole, and they will return home with joy and gladness.”
When He said this the night became slightly darker, and the blessed old Joseph quarreled with me and said to me: “I told you that we ought to go to one of these villages before the night came, and you did not listen to me; now we have reached this desert place, and the night came, and I do not know where to go. If God had not kept us by His grace we would have been killed by these brigands.” And my beloved Son smiled in the face of Joseph and said to him: “O father, do not speak harshly to my holy virgin mother. It is the will of my good Father that I should perform all things dealing with humanity. It is not you who direct me, it is I who direct all the world and conduct you wherever I wish.”
After He said this we came up to this mountain and to this forsaken house into which we entered. I stood in the middle of it and put down my Son from my breast, and it was very dark. When my Son stood on His holy feet on the ground, He stretched His hands and they emitted beams of light like the sun when it rises, and we thanked God and expressed gratitude to Him for the fact that He had helped us to reach this place, safe from unjust men. We spent the night in the house in great joy, and blessed God all the night.
At daybreak we discovered a well of water to bathe my Son, and also for drinking. We were so pleased that we had found water! When I carried my Son and brought Him to the well, He stretched His finger and blessed it, and it became full, and water surged up immediately to its mouth. And He opened His holy mouth and blessed the water saying: “Let it be sweet in the mouth of everyone, like the water of the river is to the inhabitants of Egypt, and let it heal all those who bathe in it in true faith.”
When we went into the house we sat down, I, my Son, Joseph and Salome. And Salome walked about and found a wash-basin and a water-jug as if they had been placed there for us. It was Salome who always bathed my Son, and I gave milk to Him while He was feeding all the world; but our food used to come from God. On many occasions while I was quiet and while my breasts were in the mouth of my Son, I used to see angels and heavenly beings standing before us, genuflecting and worshiping at the holy feet of my Son while crying out and saying: “Blessed are you, O God, who chose this humility for the salvation of Adam and his children whom you have fashioned with your hands! Blessed be the first Word that came out of the mouth of the Father, the Lord of all! Honor is due to your virgin mother who endured pain with you at your holy birth!” At the end of all this we sat and rested from the weariness that overtook us and the angels used to come constantly and comfort us.
After this Satan appeared to Herod, spoke to him and said to him: “What gain was it to you? You slew the innocent children of Bethlehem in order to find Mary and her Son, and you did not find them. I shall tell you where and in what locality they are: the woman and her Son are hidden in a desert place of the southern side of the land of Egypt. They live in a forsaken house in which there is no other besides themselves, in the direction which I mentioned to you. Arise and dispatch ten soldiers of yours to repair to that place and kill them, and you will be confirmed in your kingdom. If you do not listen to me and do what I am telling you, to-morrow this child will grow up and go to Jerusalem, He and His mother, and He will perform numerous and great miracles. The children of Israel will then reject the idols, whose cult will cease. He will also put to shame the priests and the heads of the people, will take your Kingdom from you and will dominate all the people. Lo, I have told you what will happen to you. When your soldiers depart to inquire after them, let them proceed as far as the town known as Ḳusḳam and then let them travel to the west side of it as far as the mountain, until they have found them in the place where they are living alone, because they have scoured all the land of Egypt and have not found anybody who would give them hospitality.”
When Satan finished his story he disappeared, and Herod became incensed with rage, and he assembled all the chiefs and elders, and spoke to them and narrated to them what had taken place. And they answered and said: “O our lord, let it be as you wish.” And their anger against my beloved Son persisted till they crucified Him. And Herod made inquiries concerning the majority of the soldiers and selected ten valiant men from amongst them, and gave them information about the place in which we were bound to be found, and he said to them: “When you shall have found them bring them to me in order that I may kill them with my own hands. If you do what I have ordered you I will give each one of you ten talents of gold, and you will be great in all my kingdom.” When they heard these words from the king they left him in haste and went to do what he had ordered them, and then take the gold which he had promised to them. And they mounted their steeds in order to pursue us.
And there was a man from the children of Israel, of the tribe of Judah and of the family of the Kings, who was related to Joseph. He was from his childhood a valiant man and a giant, and was called Moses. When he heard this news he said to himself: “I shall rise and go to Joseph His father and apprise him of what took place. I shall also take them out of the place in which they are from fear lest these cruel men should discover their whereabouts and kill them. I shall tell them that I have arrived before these men by the power and help of God.”
And God granted him great speed and Divine power, and he came to us in three days, because he traveled in the night more than in the day. He made inquiries and went to all the places in which we had walked, until he reached this mountain in which we are. And Satan met him in this desert and said to him: “O Moses, where are you going alone in this desert?” And Moses narrated to him all that had taken place. And Satan answered like a frightened man and said to him: “O Moses, you toiled and labored in vain because lo the soldiers are preceding you and are hastening before you. If you will listen to me do not go further and toil and exhaust yourself in vain.” And Moses answered the demon: “Allow me to go now to my country lest the troops of whom you spoke should come and see me here and kill me; I have nothing left now but to return to my house.” Moses said all this with the intention of laughing at the demon and making fun of him. And after Satan had heard these things from Moses he disappeared from his sight.
And Moses directed his course to us in fear, and he came to us in the morning while Salome was bathing my Son in this house. When the old Joseph saw him he recognized him and rose up to greet him. And Moses answered and said to Joseph: “What are you doing in this locality in ignorance of what took place in these regions and of what Herod did and how he killed the children of Bethlehem and Jerusalem and how he searched for this child and did not find Him? It has been revealed to him by the demon that you were in this mountain, and thereupon he has dispatched ten of his soldiers to come and kill you here, and lo they have arrived in this locality a long time ago. When I heard this I came to you in order to acquaint you with the facts.”
When I heard this my knees shook and I took my Son from Salome and climbed to the upper chamber which had windows. I sat in the northern window which looks upon the road and I wailed and said: “Woe is me, O my beloved Son! If they came and killed you the fatigue which I have endured with you down to this day will have been in vain. Woe is me, O my beloved Son, because the one who brought this intelligence to me to-day resembles the messenger who came to Job in his time and said to him: ‘Your ten sons have died.’ Woe is me, O my beloved Son, because fear has taken possession of me, and I have no strength to rise up! Woe is me, O my beloved Son, because of this evil news which has reached me!
“Woe is me, O light of my eyes! What shall I do when I see the soldiers of the wicked Herod coming here and snatching you from my hands? What shall I do, O my beloved Son, when I see you in their hands, and they will not let me come near you? Woe is me, O my beloved Son! If I had known this before I would have fled to dry mountains from these persecutors so that perchance I might have been saved. I have left my country and all other countries and have come to this place. O my beloved Son, lift up your eyes and look at your lonely and wretched mother, and see the anguish that is in my heart. I have no power of thought, and lo I became to-day like the other women whose sons have been killed by Herod.
“O my Son! Let sun, moon and stars weep with me to-day. Let them weep over my wretchedness and exile. I implore the prophet David to come and weep with me because I have looked for some one to lament with me and have not found any. I pray my Father Jacob, who wept over Joseph, to come and witness my anguish and the sadness of my heart, because my Son is an only child, and I have no other one besides Him, and cruel men wish to kill Him. I implore Jeremiah to-day to come, wail, lament and weep with me because I am in a strange country and I do not know what to do. I have no knowledge of any town or any village. Would to God they had left me alone in this loneliness! The tears that are in my eyes have dried up and I do not know what do do.”
While I was lamenting in this way and contemplating the pure body of my Son, He said to me: “O my holy mother, receive power from me and be not afraid. You have wept and lamented enough, for your weeping, your lamentation and your wailing have reached my heart. May the will of my Father be done! Let us go down to the old Joseph and to Salome and see what we ought to do.” When He uttered to me these words my heart was strengthened and we came down; and He spoke to old Joseph and said: “O father, be of good cheer.” And He turned to the man whose name was Moses and said to him: “You came to us in order to inform us. Your coming and your trouble will be rewarded, but because of the fear which has been caused to you by my mother, take hold of this stone on which I was bathed and put it under your head, sleep, and rest a short while, and I shall place your soul with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob until I have delivered Adam and his posterity; and then I shall bring you to my Kingdom.” And he took the stone and placed it under his head, and turning his head towards the east he gave up the ghost. Then old Joseph buried his body and interred it in this house under the threshold towards the interior. And his memory survives down to this day.
After this we lived several days in this house, until we completed six months in it. The first day we came to it was the sixth of Barmūdah and the day we left it was the sixth of Babah. And the number of all the days which we spent in it while we were fleeing from the accursed Herod–from the day in which we went our of Bethlehem and came to this mountain of Ḳusḳam to the day in which we returned to our town which is Nazareth–is three years and six months.
While the old Joseph was asleep, lo the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said to him: “O Joseph, son of David, arise and take the Child and His mother, because Herod has died a grievous and painful death. Arise thou and go into the land of Israel. The soldiers which he had dispatched after the Child have all died on the way and gone to hell. Be not afraid, the Lord is with you.”
In the morning Joseph narrated to us what he had seen in his night dream, and we were greatly pleased and we prepared to set out. And I spoke to my beloved Son and said to Him: “I beseech you, O my beloved Son, to grant honor and esteem to this house which gave us shelter in our exile and in which we lived.” And He opened His holy mouth and blessed the house and said: “Let the benediction of My good Father remain in this house for ever. This house which you see, O my holy mother, will have in it a sanctuary dedicated to God, and people will offer sacrifices and ex-votos in it to the Lord, and those who will offer them will be the faithful of the orthodox faith till the day of my second coming. It will have a lamp which will burn in the middle of it for ever.
“All those who come to this house with faith and worship and pray therein shall be blessed, and I will forgive all their sins, if they intend not to revert to them, and I will count them among the saints. If any of those who are in distress, trouble or loss come to this holy place and worship and pray in it, and demand congruous things, I will grant their requests and all their demands.
“If the one who comes be a husbandman, I will bless his crops, and if he be a shepherd I will bless his flocks, and if he be a clerk I will bless his pen. If any of those who are versed in any craft come and pray in this house I will bless their craft. If any of those who are affected with a disease of any kind whatsoever come and pray in this holy house, I will heal all their bodies. If any of those who are in trouble or anguish on account of children who have died, or on account of beasts or of robbers or of kings, remember this holy house in which we are, and pray to me and to my good and compassionate Father who is in Heaven, I will deliver them from all their trials and troubles.
“O Mary, my mother, this house in which we are will contain holy monks on whom no ruler of the world shall be able to inflict any injury, because it became a refuge to us. And any barren woman who beseeches me with a pure heart and remembers this house, I will give her sons. All the people who came to this place with ex-votos and offerings for your holy name, I will inscribe my name on their offerings and on their sacrifices as it happened to Abel in his days when he offered a sacrifice before me. I have anathematized this town which did not receive us in our exile and blessed all the villages that surround it. Let my blessing and my protection be on their inhabitants, on their children, on their property, on their land and all that which they possess. Let no one who hates my name ever inhabit them, because you dwelt in this place.
“There will be in this place a blessed congregation who will remember and bless my name, and pray to me at all times, and so gain strength against all their adversaries. As to this house nothing shall be demolished from it nor shall any thing be added to it. I tell you now that if any chief or ruler should from this time inflict any harm on it, I will put him to shame and confusion for all time, because I inhabited it and the angels provided for us in it, since I did not find any earthly food in it.
“I will place in it my blessing and the protection of my Father for ever and ever. Any one who comes to this place and honors my name and your name, his house will be full of all good things. Those women in travail who will remember me and remember the fatigue that you endured with me, I will hear their prayers and they shall be relieved. O my holy virgin mother, there will be sanctuaries built under your name and my name in those places in which you have halted. And my blessing and the protection of my Father will dwell in this house for ever and ever, Amen.” And we said: “Amen.”
After my Son had spoken thus we rose up and descended from the mountain. We reached the town of Eshmunain and its inhabitants received us with great joy and jubilation. When morning came I carried my Son on my arms, and we came to the sea, where we looked for a ship but found none ready. Then my beloved Son made the sign of the Cross on the water and it became like a ship before us. We then went on board and we arrived at Nazareth and gave thanks to God. He appeared also several times after His ascent to Heaven.
One day I was in the house of Mary, mother of John, who was afterwards called Mark the Evangelist. It is he who came to the land of Egypt, the inhabitants of which believed through him, when he announced to them the Kingdom of God. It is the one whose inheritance and office you took, O Theophilus. The Apostles were also there, and they alluded to the wickedness done by Judas to my beloved Son, the true Son of God. And I answered and said to them while weeping bitterly: “O my brethren and beloved of my Son, I testify to you that from the day of my annunciation by the angel Gabriel down to this hour, I have wept because of the cruel thing that the Jews did to me and to my Son when they slapped my face on account of my conception and the birth of my Child.”
And Peter answered and said to me: “O Lady of all of us, we implore you to reveal to us your trials, so that we may hear them, and so that when we go and preach the Kingdom of Heaven to mankind we may remember you and narrate all that happened to you.” And I began to narrate to them what happened to be from the day I went to Elizabeth, and how my Son was born in a place while I was alone, and what happened in my journey to the land of Egypt, and my coming to this desert place, and the injustice done to us by the accursed Herod. When I narrated this while weeping to all the Apostles, there were present with me Mary Magdalene, Hannah and Salome.
In that hour my Lord and my Son revealed Himself to me in a sitting posture, while the Seraphim, Gabriel and Michael and innumerable angels were glorifying Him. And He stood in the middle and said to us: “Peace be with all of you.” And we rose up immediately and worshiped at His feet. And my Son turned to me and said to me: “O my holy virgin mother, why are you in tears and anguish? Lo I have prepared for you in heaven joy and gladness which have no end. Do not weep and lament because of (my) death; you should rather rejoice at my resurrection from the dead because I have saved the world–you who walked with me in foreign countries and in a forsaken desert, as far as this forsaken place which I will bless with my holy hands before any other Church is dedicated to my name.”
In that hour He commanded a luminous cloud which came down and carried us all and placed us in this holy house, O Theophilus, and it was the third hour of the day, which was the sixth of the month of Hatūr, which corresponds with the second day of October.
When the Apostles were ready for the consecration of the Church, Gabriel and Michael carried the vessel containing the water which my beloved Son sprinkled on the Church. I and the twelve Apostles were present at the consecration of this house; and Mary Magdalene and Salome were also present; and there was no church built in the world before it. And this Church was consecrated by our Savior Jesus Christ before the Apostles went out to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. At the time of the consecration He uttered the following words: “The hands that have fashioned you, O Adam, have consecrated this house, and the hands in which nails have been driven on the Golgotha, have blessed this house. Amen. Amen.” And we all answered and said: “Amen.”
Afterwards we found vestments ready along with the ritual used by the Church. When everything was ready He ordered Peter to celebrate the Mass, and then the Holy Spirit came down. He then commanded the Apostles to remember their parents who had passed away, and He ordered also in that hour the souls of their parents who had departed to come and enter the sanctuary; and they came at that moment in the form in which they were with us in the flesh, and He baptized them with the water that had remained from the consecration of the Church; and He gave His holy Body and ordered them to say the Mass and to remember at the moment of the offering of the sacrifice upon the holy altars their parents who had passed away. And our Lord fortified them, comforted them, and gave them peace.
In that very moment a large bird flew from heaven and came down carrying with it all good things in matter of wines and delicacies. And it came down in the center of the Church and we took from it what we wanted.
The angels stood then above our heads like deacons, and the apostles were joyful and glad because they had seen their parents and because of the glory and majesty of that hour. And our Savior spoke with them and said to them: “Let this day be a remembrance to you for ever. And I will command that a church be built under your name on this mountain.” And the Apostles answered and said to Him: “Glory be to you; and honor, worship, power and omnipotence belong to you because you have exalted us above all the creation.” And a cloud took us again and placed us at sunset in the house in which we were previously in Jerusalem. We came back to Jerusalem on the same day we had left it.
This is what you asked me to tell you, O Theophilus. I told you all at this moment. Tell to all the world what I have narrated to you and what has happened to us, and write it down to us as a memorial for ever and ever. Arise now and offer sacrifice for the monks and for all the people who have congregated here to-day, because I will bless them before I go, as this day is the day of my Commemoration and of my leaving of the body. As to you be of good cheer because in your remaining days no harm and no anguish will befall you, and no evil of any kind will affect this church in your time.”
This story was told to me and these words were uttered to me Theophilus the servant of Christ and your servant, O my brethren and my beloved. I have narrated to-day to your love what the holy Virgin Mary mother of God narrated to me, O you all who believe in Christ. God knows that I have not added anything to, nor taken away anything from what our Lady Mary, mother of God, said to me, and what I heard from her. As to you, listen to it, believe in it, and let your heart not be in doubt.
And I Theophilus answered and said to our Lady: “Blessed are you among women, O our Lady Mary, mother of God. We came to-day and rejoiced at the sweetness of your words which are like honeycomb and like the wine that maketh glad the heart of man.” We have acknowledged the honor and glory of this holy house from the fact that the Lord of this world and His holy virgin mother dwelt in it.
O my beloved, none of those who intend to go back to their sins should enter this holy house, because our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy virgin mother dwelt in it, and because all the hierarchies of the holy angels observe this day as a feast in purity and holiness. No thief and no one who is under the influence of sin should enter this house, because Paul says: “Neither those who commit sins, nor the fornicators, nor the publicans, nor the idolators, nor those who perpetuate other crimes shall inherit the Kingdom of God.” We ought also to remember that we shall leave our bodies and go to God our Lord, and that we shall rise again in that place of truth, where we shall answer for all that we have done whether it be good or bad.
We should also refrain our souls from theft, our bodies from fornication, and our eyes from evil sights, diabolical passion and covetousness. We should also refrain our tongues from all bad and impure curses, from oath and from all evil things which bring no honor but dishonor. We should also refrain our soul from hatred and false witness. Let us extirpate from our hearts these and similar things, because it is they that lead men to hell, the fire of which is not quenched. Let us purify our bodies from sin and then partake of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, and be worthy of the blessings of our holy Lady Mary, the mother of God, and observe her feast to-day.
What good can a fornicator derive and gain can accrue to him if he comes to the holy Mary, the mother of the King of Kings, and enters her holy house, while he does not repent of his iniquity? And what utility can an adulteress derive from entering this holy house in order to be worthy of the one who brought forth the Christ, unless she confesses her sins? She will then pray and implore her Son and her Lord on our behalf, because she is full of mercy. We ought also to carry our offerings and bring our ex-votos with a pure heart, and then stretch our hands to her holy Son and ask for His body and His innocent blood.
Blessed be he who comes to this house, because he will meet with good things in this world, and when he leaves this earthly body he will go to the Kingdom of Heaven! Woe to the one who commits a sin in this house because God will be angry with him as He was with Herod. Blessed be he who hears and believes and does not entertain any doubt concerning you, O our Lord Jesus Christ! Blessed be the one who sees this holy house, because the Lord will place him in the bosom of our father Abraham, and will answer his prayers in this world through the good works that he will do! Woe to the one who vows something to this house and refuses to acknowledge his vow and does no fulfill it. The Holy Spirit will be far from such a one.
Were it not that I see the greatness of the number of the people assembled here and their joy on the occasion of this high feast, I would have told many more miracles in order to exalt this holy house. This house is the beginning of the forgiveness of sins. This house is all of it benediction, and anyone who enters into it shall be blessed by God and by His mother, the holy Virgin. This house is the tryst of the Lord, of His angels, of His Apostles, and of the heavenly hierarchies, and were it not for the fact that I am entrusted with the care of the diocese and the congregation of Orthodoxy, I would not have left this place, till the day of my death; God, however, will count to me what I had intended to do.
May God bless the young and the old among you, and may He grant to you the good reward of your labors in coming to this place from far and near! May He bless your fields and hold your believing kings in His keeping! May He lay your enemies under your feet, and sow peace and concord in the churches and in the monasteries all the days of your life, in order that you may observe this day with joy and partake of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! May He forgive your old sins and place His fear in your hearts, in order that you may be consecrated to-day to Him! May you be in His keeping in order that you may reach your homes in the peace of God! Amen.
May He grant the blessings of this holy house to you and to anyone who sets foot in this place, which is the place in which dwelt our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy mother! And as He granted you to assemble and congregate in this holy house, He is able to make you worthy of assembling together in His Kingdom with His saints.
And I Cyril was with my Father, the Patriarch Theophilus, and heard from his holy mouth this story which I have written down.
When the people heard this discourse they rejoiced greatly and raised their voices and glorified God with a high and loud voice.
Glory be to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now, always and for ever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the third book containing the vision of the Holy Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. May his prayer be with us. Amen.