Tuesday, September 15, 2009

St. Shenouda

Abba Shenouda the Prophet and Archimandrite (the Head of the Anchorites) (d. 466, Abib 7th) lived before, during, and after the Council of Chalcedon.

St. Shenouda is one of the greatest Saints of the Coptic Orthodox Church for a number of reasons. He is popular first and foremost for his transcendently profound asceticism and holiness which set him apart in the Church of his day to the extent that St. Cyril of Alexandria requested Abba Shenouda's company at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus 431 for the primary sake of being accompanied by one of reputable holiness. When Abba Shenouda, and his disciple Abba Vesa sought to return to Egypt with St. Cyril, the sailors of the ship refused them entry. As the ship sailed, St. Cyril witnessed St. Shenouda and St. Vesa travelling upon a cloud, and cried out saying, "Bless us, O Father and Saint, O new Elijah!"

Other unique incidents attesting to his sanctity include the prophetic witness to his birth by St. Athanasius and a monk of the Pachomian order known as St. Horesios who, upon meeting St. Shenouda's mother before St. Shenouda's birth, announced: "God bless the fruit of your womb, who will be like Amber diffusing its sweet aroma throughout the whole world". His position as Archimandrite and Abbot of the White Monastery were also prophetically witnessed. Upon visiting St. Pijol at the White Monastery as a child, St. Shenouda's father, who accompanied him, requested that St. Pijol, the Abbott of the White Monastery, bless his son. Abba Pijol refused and instead took the hand of St. Shenouda and placed it on his own head saying, "It is I who is in need of this boy's blessing, for he is a chosen vessel of Christ, who will serve Him faithfully throughout his whole life". St. Shenouda's childhood as a shepherd itself evidenced exemplary Sainthood; however, I shall leave the story of his childhood to the below links.

Saint Abba Shenouda eventually succeeded St. Abba Pijol as head of the White Monastery in the year 383 A.D. In contrast to St. Pachomious who regarded coenobitism to be the climax of monastic excellency, St. Shenouda promoted, in the practice of his monastic community, the concept of coenobitism as the means of preparing spiritually mature souls for the life of anchoritism.

St. Shenouda also acquired popularity, particularly within the Coptic Orthodox Church, on account of his socio-political activities. Abba Shenouda and the thousands of monastics under his rule did not sever themselves completely and unconditionally from the social issues that affected the nearby communities, but rather, in the true spirit of Agape Love which transcends the letter of Monastic canons and regulations, shared the sufferings of the wider Body of Christ and pursued practical means by which to assist the wider community. Thus, during the Blemmye invasion of Upper Egypt, the monastery opened its doors to the refugees and captives, providing not only spriritual comfort and divine protection, but also medical assistance to the wounded, and food to the many in hunger. Many miracles we performed at the hands of St. Shenouda during this time, including the multiplication of food to feed the many who required it.

In spite of his zealous pursuit of the hermitic life, St. Shenouda also took up the position of advocate on behalf of the oppressed Copts during the disastrous aftermath of Chalcedon. He rigorously took up the cause of the Coptic peasants forced into slavery under Byantine rule, both in the courts and before the Emperor himself. In his Spirit-led pursuit to maintain the integrity of the Orthodox spirit amongst the Copts, he helped shape and establish Coptic identity against Byzantine influence in the aftermath of Chalcedon, particularly through his most valuable contribution to Coptic literature.

source: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,10363.0.html

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