Holy Wonder-workers Cyrus and John
On this day we celebrate the memory of holy and wonder-workers Anargyri (i.e. the penniless ones) Cyrus and John.
Cyrus and John lived during the reign of emperor Diocletian in 292. Cyrus came from Alexandria and John from Edessa, the famous city of Mesopotamia (which is commonly called Owe-frah). Because that was the time of the persecution of the Christians, Cyrus went to a monastery at the Arabian Gulf. He performed miracles and cured "every sickness and every disease." John went to Jerusalem where he heard about the miracles which Cyrus was working. So, he went from Alexandria to the place where Cyrus was and stayed with him.
At that time, woman called Athanasia was caught by the Greeks together with her three daughters, Theodote, Theoktiste, and Eudoxia. They were to be judged and tortured in order to deny Christ. When Cyrus and John heard this, they went to the women and prayed with them. Because of this they were arrested and executed along with the four women.
Departure of St. Antony (Antonios) the Great
On this day in the year 355 A.D., St. Antony the Great, the star of the wilderness and the father of all the monks, departed.
He was born in the year 251 A.D in the city of Qimn El-Arouse, to rich parents who loved the church and the poor. They raised him up in the fear of God. When he was 20 years old, his parents died and he had to lake care of his only sister.
Once, he entered the church and he heard the words of Jesus to the rich young man in the Gospel saying, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Matthew 19:21).
He returned to his home, decided to fulfil this commandment and considered it to be directed to him personally. He gave his wealth to the poor and the needy, and he look his sister and placed her with some virgins. At that time, monasticism had not yet been established. All those who wanted to live a solitary life went and lived on the outskirts of the city. This was what St. Antony did as he dwelt alone, worshipping and living an ascetic life.
The devil then fought him by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and the phantoms of women. He overcame the devil's snares by the power of the Lord Jesus. After that he went to one of the tombs, resided therein, and closed the door on himself. Some of his friends used to bring him food. When perceived his ascetic life and his intense worship, he was envious of him and he beat him mercilessly and left him unconscious. When his friends came to visit him and found him in this condition, they carried him to the church. After recovering slightly, he went back to the same place.
The devil resumed his war against him, only this time the phantoms were in the form of wild beasts, wolves, snakes and scorpions. They appeared as if they were about to attack him or cut him into pieces. But the saint would scorn them saying, "If any of you have any authority over me, only one would be sufficient to fight me." At saying this, they disappeared as though in smoke. God gave him the victory over the devils. He was always singing this verse, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those also who hate Him flee before Him" (Psalm 68:1).
He used to prepare a quantity of bread that would sustain him for six months. He did not allow anyone to enter his cell, and whoever came to him, stood outside and listened to his advice. He continued in this way of solitary worship for 20 years. Then by God's command he went to the City of Fayoum to strengthen the faith of the brethren there, then returned to his monastery.
During the time of persecution, he longed to become a martyr. He left his monastery and went to Alexandria. He visited those who were imprisoned for the sake of Christ and comforted them. When the Governor saw that he was confessing the Lord Jesus publicly, not curing what might happen to him, he ordered him to leave the city. However, the saint did nor heed his threats. He faced him and argued with him in order that he might arouse his anger and cause him to inflict pain upon him and he would therefore be tortured and become a martyr. However, God preserved him all along, according to His will, for the benefit of many, and so the Governor left him alone.
The saint went back to his monastery, and many came to hear his teachings. He found that this would keep him away from his worship. Consequently, he decided to go far away to the Eastern desert. He travelled with some Bedouins to the inner wilderness; that took three days. He found a well and some palm trees and that is where he chose to settle. At this spot is the monastery of St. Antony the Great now. The Bedouins came to him with bread, and the Lord drove away all the wild beasts from this place, for his sake.
On occasions, he would go to a monastery on the outskirts of the desert by the Nile to visit the brethren, then return to his inner monastery. His fame spread abroad and reached Emperor Constantine. The emperor wrote to him, offering him praise and asking him to pray for him. The brethren were pleased with the Emperor's letter, but St. Antony did not pay any attention to it, and said to them, "The Books of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords command us everyday, but we do not heed what they tell us, and turn our backs to them".
Under the persistence of the brethren who told him that Emperor Constantine loved the Church, he accepted to write to him a letter blessing him, and praying for the peace and safety of the Empire and the church.
One time, he was bored and he heard a voice saying, "Go out and see." He went out and saw an angel who wore a tunic with a cross, one resembling the tunic of monks (Eskeem), and on his head was a head cover (Kolansowa). He was sitting while braiding palm leaves, then he stood up to pray and again he sat to weave. A voice said to him, "Antony, do this and you will rest." Henceforth, he started to wear a tunic that he saw, and begun to weave palm leaves. He never got bored again.
St. Antony predicted the persecution that was about to happen to the church, the control of the heretics over it, the recovery of the church and the end of the age. When he was visited by St. Macarius, he clothed him with the monk's garb and he told him in advance, what would happen to him.
When the day of the departure of St. Paul, the first hermit in the desert, drew near, St. Antony went to him and buried him after he had clothed him in a tonic which was a present from Anba Athanasius the Apostolic, the 20th Pope of Alexandria.
When St. Antony felt that the day of his departure had approached, he commanded his disciple to hide his body, to give his staff to St. Macarius, and to give his sheepskin cloak to St. Athanasius, and his other sheepskin cloak to St. Serapion his disciple. He stretched himself on the ground and gave up his spirit. The angels and the saints took his spirit and carried it to the place of perpetual rest. He lived 105 years, struggling in the way holiness and purity.
Glory be to God forever. Amen.