Bashons 23 : The Martyrdom of St. Colluthus of Antinoe (Known as Abu Colta), and the Departure of the most honored Layman Ibrahim El-Gohari.
1. The Martyrdom of St. Colluthus of Antinoe (Known as Abu Colta).
On this day, St. Colluthus of Antinoe was martyred. He was the son of God fearing parents. His father was a governor over Antinoe. He was praying to the Lord Jesus to give him a son, and God gave him this saint. He taught him the Christian principles and the church doctrine. He was pure from his youth. His father wanted him to get married, but he did not accept. However, his sister was married to Arianus who became the governor after her father. When the Saint's parents departed, he built a hostel for the strangers. He also studied medicine and practiced it to cure the sick without charging them money.
When Diocletian apostatized, Arianus the governor followed him to keep his position, and started to persecute Christians. Then St. Colluthus rebuked him for forsaking the worship of the True God, and the Saint cursed the idols of the Emperor. Arianus did not hurt him for the sake of his sister, but he sent him to the governor of El-Bahnasa, where he was in prison for three years. His sister meditated for his release until another governor took over who threatened the saint and tortured him. The angel of the lord came to him to comfort and strengthen him. At last, the governor cut off his head, and he was granted the crown of Martyrdom. His family prepared his body for burial and kept him in a place until the end of the persecution, when they built a church for him. Many miracles appeared from his body.
The saint has a church from antiquity in "Refa" near Assuit. A memorial is celebrated every year on the day of his martyrdom. The visitors who come are blessed by the saint and his intercessions, For they are healed from their sicknesses. It is worth it to mention that this church contains a stone which has a great influence to keep scorpions away until this day.
May his prayers be with us, Amen.
2. The Departure of the most honored Layman Ibrahim El-Gohari.
On this day also of the year 1511 A.M. (1795 A.D.), the great layman Ibrahim El-Gohari, departed. He was born in the eighteenth century, and his parents were poor. His fathers name was Yousef El-Gohari whose trade was making clothing in Kalube. They taught him writing and arithmetic, and he excelled in them. He used to trans-scribe the religion books, and distribute them to the church at his own expense. He brought the books to Pope John (Youhanna) the Eighteenth, and 17th patriarch of Alexandria Who was enthroned from 1486-1512 A.M. (1769-1796 A.D.)
The many books presented to the church by Ibrahim El-Gohari got the attention of the pope, together with the high cost of transcribing the books and binding them. The pope asked Ibrahim about his resource, and Ibrahim revealed to them his zealously and his godly life. The pope blessed him saying:"may the lord uplift your name and bless your work, and keep your memory forever." The relation between Ibrahim El-Gohari and the pope became stronger from that time.
When he started to work, Ibrahim was a scribe to one of the mamalik- The pope mediated with Moalem Rizk the chief scribe, and he took him as his private scribe. He continued in his position until the end of Ali Bek El-Kebir when Mohammed Abu- El-Daheb became the governor, and Ibrahim El-Gohari became the chief scribe of all of egypt, a position which is equal to prime minister today.
Ibrahim El-Gohari became more humble, generous, and charitable. He attracted to him the hearts of all the people. Ibrahim then married a righteous woman who shared with him his good nature and character. She helped him in his charitable deeds, and encouraged him to build and maintain churches. A son was born to them whom they called joseph, and a daughter whom they called Demiana. They lived in a place called "Kantaret-ElDekka".
When his son grew up, his father prepared for him a private home furnished with the est of furniture, and prepared for his wedding day. But God chose that his son be with him before his marriage, and Ibrahim was greatly grieved. He then closed the home, and it remained closed. The death of his son was the most shocking event in his life, but his desire to help the widows, the orphans and the poor intensely increased. Everyone was so astonished for his endurance, patience, and his great control over his disappoint When his wife resented the will of god, St. Anthony the great appeared to her in a dream, and comforted her saying,"you must know that god loved your son, and he took him in his youth, and he loves his father for a reason, to keep his name pure, for the popularity of his father might have caused his son to shame him and ruin his reputation. this is a reward from God to your husband for his godliness and his righteousness. Be comforted, and continue in your good deeds." St. Anthony also appeared to Ibrahim El-Gohari, and he comforted him and strengthened his faith. When his wife rose up, and told her husband about her dream, he told her that he also saw the same dream that same night. They surrendered their will to god, and they changed their mourning clothes , and put on regular clothes. Their hearts were filled with comfort, and continued in their good and charitable deeds. Their Daughter Demiana also died shortly afterwards and she was a young virgin.
Ibrahim El-Gohari remained in his office until a coup occurred which forced Ibrahim Bek and Murad Bek together with Ibrahim El-Gohari to flee to upper egypt. The new Governor Hasan Qubtan persecuted the copts and forbade them to ride horses with saddles, and forbade them to use moslems as servants in their homes, and did not allow them to buy slaves. The copts responded by hiding in their homes and not leaving for many days. He also ordered to have an account of the endowments that Ibrahim El- Gohary's wife hid herself in a moslem home to which her had made great favors. But some of those who did not honor his favors, betrayed him by telling his wile was hiding. the governor forced her to tell him about the places they hied their possessions, and they confiscated all the silver and gold utensils and their horses saddles, and sold them for low prices. Some also Guided the governor to the house of his son which was looked after his death, and they also confiscated all its contents of furniture, and took them many days to sell them for they were plenty. The governor was called back to istanbul, and Ibrahim Bek and Mourad Bek returned to cairo on August 7, 1791 A.D. and Ibrahim El-Gohari returned to his former position, but he did not continue for more than four years, and he was loved by everyone.
The people called Ibrahim El-Gohari the "The Sultan of the Copts" as it is indicated on the iconstasis of one of the churches in the monastery of St. Paula in the eastern desert, and also in the "Katamares" kept in the same monastery.
The famous historian El-Gabarty said about him: "He had made Egypt great by his capability which endured for long time. He was one of the great world statesmen with a great decisive mind. He treated everyone according to their abilities, and did things that attracted the hearts and the love of the people to him. In Ramadan, he used to send gifts to prominent and non-prominent moslems. In his days, many churches and monasteries were built and maintained, and many endowment of the best of land were given, with the necessary provisions and salaries.
Anba Yousab the bishop of Girga and Ekhmim said about him: "He was one of the great people of his day, who was God-loving, giving all his possessions to the poor, and caring about the construction of churches. He loved all people of different religions, making peace with all, filling all the needs of everyone without prejudice."
His religious work is as follows: Ibrahim El-Gohari was famous for his love of the construction of churches and monasteries, and repairing what was destroyed by the evil hands. Because of his influential position in the government, and his great favor to the moslem rulers, he was able to issue regulations (Fatawi) to permit Copts to rebuild the destroyed churches and monasteries. He also donated many endowment of good land and money for the reconstruction, that amounted to 238 endowments as documented in the patriarchate.
He was also popular for the trans-scrubbing of rare books, and giving them as gifts to the churches and monasteries.
He was the first to build St. Mark cathedral in El-Azbakiya. The Copts were not allowed to build new churches or to repair the old ones, unless they get permission from the government, which were rarely granted.
One of the princesses came from Istanboul (Estana) on a pilgrimage to Mecca passing by Egypt, Ibrahim El-Gohari made everything possible to her comfort during her stay, and offered her many gifts. She wanted to reward him, and he asked her to get an order from the Sultan (Faraman) to permit the construction of a church in El-Azbakiya where he lived, and asked her about some other things needed by the Copts. The Sultan issued the permit, but he died before the construction of the church, and his brother Girgis El-Gohari completed it.
In order that the time of prayers be maintained in the church of the Virgin in Haret-Zoweila, he built a small church after the name of St. Mercurius (Abu-Saifain) beside it. This allowed him and the government Christian employees to attend the services and return to their work as the government allowed.
He also prepared the materials for the oil of Chrism (Myroun) from his own money, and his brother Girgis carried them to the Pope.
In 1499 A.M. (1783 A.D.), Ibrahim El-Gohari built all the northern wall of St. Antonios monastery, and built a water wheel. He built before that the southern and the western walls in 1498 A.M. The wall is known until today as El-Gohari's wall. He also renovated the building of the church of the Virgin in Haret
El-Roum in 158 A.M. (1792 A.D.). He also built the church of Abu Saifain in the monastery of St. Paula in the Eastern desert, and in the monastery of El-Baramouse, he built the church of Sts. Apollo and Abib (The church was demolished in 1881 A.D. to enlarge the church of St. John). He also built palaces to the Lady Virgin in El-Baramouse and the Syrian monastery. He also built an extension to the southern end of the monastery of El-Baramouse, with a wall around it, and the extension was about 2400 square meter.
In summary, he built and maintained many churches and monasteries. He took care of the monks, and offered many offerings, candles, oil, veils, and church books to all the churches of Egypt. He also distributed charities among the poor and the needy everywhere, and gave them food and clothing. He gave special attention to widows and the orphans who had no one to help them, and provided monthly provisions for all their needs. his deeds were made known in his funeral eulogy by Pope Youannis, the 17th. Patriarch. He departed to his eternal home on Monday the 25th of Bashans (today), 1511 A.M. (May 31st., 1795 A.D.) everyone grieved his departure including the governor Ibrahim Bek who walked in his funeral procession to honor him as he had honored him before his death. Pope Youannis eulogized him for his great love to him. He was buried in the private tomb that he built for himself beside the church of St. George in Old Cairo which had an oil lamp that was lit day and night. He died without leaving a posterity, but his memory lives forever.
The society for the revival of the Coptic churches in Cairo took action to renovate his tomb in Old cairo, and it has become a tourist attraction to all those who have heard about Ibrahim and his brother Girgis El-Gohari.
May their prayers be with us, and glory be to God forever. Amen.