Departure of St. Theophilus, the 23rd Pope of Alexandria
On this day of the year 404 A.D. the holy father Abba Theophilus, the 23rd Pope of Alexandria departed. He was a disciple of St. Athanasius the Apostolic, was raised by him and learned spiritual doctrine from him.
When Pope Timothy I departed, Abba Theophilus was chosen to take his place. He was knowledgeable and he learned the books of the Church by heart. He wrote many discourses; works of exhortation concerning charity, mercy, warnings to the people about receiving the Holy Communion without being prepared for it, concerning the Resurrection and eternal punishment which is furnished for sinners and many other useful teachings.
Abba Theophilus saw great potential in his nephew Kyrillos and thus he took care of his education. He sent him to Abba Serapion in the Desert of Scete. There Kyrillos studied the books of the Church and all its subjects and stayed there five years, then returned to his uncle. Later, Abba Kyrillos become the 24th Pope of Alexandria, known as the "Pillar of Faith".
Once Abba Theophilus saw Abba Athanasius looking at the hills from his cell and heard him saying: "If I find time, I will clear away these hills and build a church in their place in the name of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet". When Abba Theophilus became Patriarch, he remembered what St. Athanasius had said and talked about it often. Meanwhile, in the City of Rome, the husband of an exceedingly rich woman died and left her with two sons. The woman took her two sons, and much money and an icon of the Archangel Raphael and came to Alexandria. When she heard about the interest of the father the Patriarch in removing those hills, she went to him with great zeal and gave him enough money to do the work.
After the work was done, a treasure appeared under the hills and was covered with a slab of stone engraved in Coptic with three characters of "Theta". When Abba Theophilus saw them, guided by the Holy Spirit, he knew the secret of these three Thetas and said: "Behold the time has come for this treasure to be uncovered because these three Thetas were gathered together at the same time and they signify: Thoes, that of God, Theodosius the Emperor, son of Arcadius, son of Theodosius the Great, and Theophilus the Patriarch - meaning himself. He found that this treasure dated to the Era of Alexander son of Philip the Macedonian, 700 years old.
The Patriarch sent to the Emperor to inform him about the treasure and asked him to come to Alexandria. The Emperor came and gave a large sum of money to Abba Theophilus. He built many churches, starting with a church by the name of St. John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet, and he transferred their relics to that church. That church was known at that time by the Demas. Then he built a church by the name of our Lady the Virgin Mary, then a church by the name of the Archangel Raphael at El-Gizira and seven other churches.
As for the two sons of the woman who came from Rome, he ordained them bishops. When the Emperor saw the love of the father the Patriarch for building the churches, he gave him all the houses of the idols which Abba Theophilus changed to churches and to lodging houses for strangers and endowed them with land.
Having fulfilled his days in a life pleasing to God, he departed from this world in peace.
May his prayers be with us. Glory be to God