Comments to: David Woods
Last Updated: May 1999

Coptic Encomium

(The translation by Drescher (1942) 66-70, of the latter part of the encomium which records the history of the shrine at Abu Mina)

... And so they built over the grave a small oratory like atetrapylon. They hung a light in the middle of it, like the one before. The light remained burning, without ever going out, day and night. All who took away the oil of the lamp to distant lands received healing; so that a great concourse gathered there as well as countless multitudes coming thither at all times unceasingly.

But they suffered distress because the place was a desert and they lacked water and the benefit of the holy mysteries. Accordingly, the chief citizens of Alexandria and those of Mariotes and all the rulers of Egypt besought the holy Athanasius, the archbishop, to build a wondrous memorial-church to the glory of God and the holy Apa Mena and the joy and exultation of all the people who came to it. And St. Athanasius was unable because of the trials caused by the impious Arians persecuting him (??). But God brought to nought the ..... (about 12 letters undeciphered in the Coptic text)..... of the heretics. He raised up the just and pious king, Jovian. The church took honour again in his days. Then the holy Athanasius undertook the carrying-out of the peoples' request to the glory of God and his holy martyr. When the God-loving king, Jovian, heard, he wrote bidding the stratelates of Alexandria help the holy Athanasius with money for the building of the church ..... (2 lines or about 20 letters undeciphered in the Coptic text)....... And so he gave orders with great power (?). He brought it to completion in all beauty, adorning it with magnificent marbles glistening like gold.

[p. 67] In the days of the just kings, Valens and Valentinus his brother, the sons of the king Jovian of happy memory, they wrote to the Augustal of Alexandria, Tatian. He proclaimed to all the bishops the combat of the holy Apa Mena (?). And so the bishops met together and deposited the remains of the holy Apa Mena in the crypt which had been made for them. They celebrated the feast of the consecration of the church on the first of Epip. Countless, great wonders and miracles were wrought by him. And people were coming from every place, bringing gifts to his shrine, because of the healing favours which God granted him.

When some time had passed until the days of Theodosius the Great, with Arcadius and Honorius, his sons, in the days of the archbishop Theophilus, there being great peace and prosperity in their reign, (it befell that) when the feast of the holy martyr came around, on the fifteenth of Hathor, many great multitudes gathered. And there was distress because the church could not hold the multitudes but they were standing outside in the desert. The holy archbishop, Apa Theophilus, was present. On seeing the distress in which the people were, he wrote to Arcadius, the king. And the king ordered the building of a spacious memorial-church. And they were labouring with royal power and might, with decorative skill like (that shown in) the Temple of Solomon. And he made it one with the memorial-church which the holy Athanasius had already built. When he had brought it to completion in all beauty, he convened a synod of bishops and all the rulers of Egypt. They consecrated it in glory and honour.

Now it befell in the days of Timotheus, the confessor-archbishop, in the days of Zeno, the God-loving king, that the blessed king heard of the wonders and miracles and cures that took place at the shrine of the holy Apa Mena. He marvelled. He gorified God Who glorifies His [p. 68]saints. Then the archbishop, Timitheus, told the king Zeno, about the barbarians who came over Mariotes, afflicting the shrine and all the churches of Mariotes. Then the king ordered all the nobles of senatorial rank in his kingdom to build each of them his palace there. Furthermore, he wrote to the rulers of Alexandria and those of Egypt, (bidding) each of them in every place to build himself a house there till they made it a city. And so it was built and given the name Martyroupolis. Multitudes gathered to it from every land and resided in it.

The king, Zeno, also established there a garrison of 1200 soldiers against the inroads of the barbarian horde. And the God-loving king did this as an aid to the whole of Mariotes and the shrine likewise. He gave them the annona from the revenues of Mariotes. He also gave to the shrine some eparchies of Egypt, remitting their taxes that the money might be used for the expenses of the church and the hostels which he built at it.

In the time of Anastasius, the king, pious zeal filled the heart of the Praetorian Prefect because he too heard of the wonders and miracles wrought by the holy Apa Mena.

Furthermore, he saw the hardships suffered by the many multitudes coming to the shrine. For, whenever they came up from the lake and entered upon the desrt there, they found no resting place or water til they reached the holy shrine. The Prefect built lodging-houses by the lake and hostels for the multitude to stay at. And he had the market <[p. 69] established among them in order that the multitudes might find and buy all their needs. He constructed large depositories where the multitudes could leave their clothes and baggage and everything which they brought to the shrine. When he had finished everything, he called it Philoxanite after himself. He also set up porticoes at different points where the people might rest. He established watering-places along the roads, leaving at them water-jars, from the hostels as far as the church, with ten-mile intervals between one watering place and another, for the refreshment of the people bringing gifts to the shrine.

This continued from the time of Heraclius the king, until the Saracens took the land; and all the peoples rejoiced and were glad and took gifts to his shrine because of the wonders which were wrought there and the healing favours received from him. For most true is the word which Our Saviour spake, "I shall glorify him who glorofies Me".

Since, therefore, the holy Apa Menas worshipped God with his whole heart, with piety from his youth, with fastings and prayers and purity from his birth to his consummation, and at last offered up his body as a living, holy sacrifice pleasing to God, let us beseech him that [p. 70] he may intercede for us too; for he is fit to make remembrance of us before Him Whose desire is mercy, Our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom is glory to the Father and to Himself and to the Holy Spirit, Life-giving and Consubstantial, now and always, for ever and ever. Amen.

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