Monday, July 14, 2008

Feast of Saint Shenouda the Archmandrite

Today is the feast day of one of the great lights in the constellation of Coptic Saints, Saint Shenouda the Archmandrite.

At the time of his departure in 466, he was the father of 2,200 monks and 1,800 nuns. Besides being a man of deep learning and spirituality, he was known to be strict with his disciples. To be sure, this strictness flowed from a loving and concerned heart, as evidenced by his care for the peasants in the area surrounding the monastery.

Hany N. Takla writes,

Any cursory study of the living conditions of the peasants in Upper Egypt at his time, reveals a sub-human living conditions. This was exemplified in their illiteracy and slavery to the Greek landlords and to the land they cultivated. Such slavery was a life sentence, from which only death could free them. Even after Christianity spread among the them, their spirits were always dampened by the pagan landlords, who became more and more ferocious, especially after their slaves rejected their religion and adopted another (i.e. Christianity). The lack of leaders to defend them from such grave injustices, did not help either. This set the stage for the emergence of St. Shenouda as a leader of the oppressed populace.

To be a true leader, one would need to be strong, charismatic, caring, of good morals, and fearless. Such qualities fitted our Saint perfectly. So he took charge of the peasants with the ultimate goal of elevating them from being mere slaves to self-esteemed Christians, or at least to insure that they would get a fair treatment fromtheir landlords. He opened his church to them, preaching them incessantly on religious and moral issues. He also defended and protected them from their oppressors whenever they asked him for such protection. He simply did not spare an effort in coming to their aid. Though his methods might seemed violent by today's standards, they were the only possible and effective means of his time.*

In light of the difficulties presently facing the Christians of Upper Egypt, his life and work are particularly pertinent.

I recommend taking the time to read and absorb the modern translation of his vita, originally penned in Coptic by his disciple Besa.
*Takla, Hany N., "St. Shenouda the Archmandrite",

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