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Coptic Orthodox Cross
Note: This article or section represents an Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) perspective, which may differ from an Eastern Orthodox (Chalcedonian) understanding.
Coptic icon of St. Bishoy (320-417 A.D.)
St. Bishoy (320-417 A.D.), the great Egyptian desert father who saw our Lord Jesus Christ and whose incorrupt body is preserved to this day at the Coptic Orthodox monastery bearing his name at Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt, was known for his love, meekness, simplicity, and his extremely ascetic and prayerful life.


On 8 Abib (Coptic month) - 15 July, St. Bishoy, whose memorial is honorable, the star of the desert, departed. He was born around 320 A.D. in a village called Shansa (Shensha or Shesna), in the province of Menoufeya in Egypt. He had six brothers. His mother saw an angel in a vision saying to her, "The Lord says to you, give Me one of your children to serve Me." She answered, "Lord, take whoever you want." The angel took the hand of Anba (Abba) Bishoy, who was thin and his body was frail. His mother told the angel, "My Lord, take one who is strong to serve the Lord." "This is whom the Lord has chosen," the Angel replied.

Later on, around 340 A.D., St. Bishoy went to the wilderness of Shiheet ('Wadi-El-Natroun' or Scete) and became a monk by the hand of Anba Bemwah (Bamouyah or Pambo), who also ordained St. John (Yehness) the Short a monk.

When Saint Pambo died, St. Bishoy and St. John prayed for God's guidance, and an angel appeared to St. Bishoy, directing him to the site of the present monastery bearing his name, on which he was to live the life of a hermit. There, St. Bishoy became the spiritual father of many monks who gathered around him. He grew famous for his love, simplicity and kindness, as well as for his extremely ascetic life.

He was serious, loving seclusion and quietness, and full of wisdom. St. Ephrem the Syrian visited him, and Emperor Constantine and Jeremiah the prophet appeared to him in visions.

In one of those visions Emperor Constantine said, "Had I known how great is the honor of monks, I would have abandoned my kingdom and became a monk." St. Bishoy told him, "You have banished the heathen worship and exalted Christianity, and has not Christ given you anything?" Emperor Constantine answered him, "The Lord has given me many gifts, but none of them is like the honor of the monks."

Coptic icon of Abba Bishoy washing the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ
It is said that because of St. Bishoy's love for God and his desire to be with Him always, he used to tie his hair with a rope to the ceiling of his cell in order to resist sleeping during his night prayers. St. Bishoy struggled in much asceticism and many worships that made him worthy to see the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are told that Saint Bishoy saw our Lord Jesus Christ on several occasions. On one such occasion, he carried Our Lord, Who met him as an old man on his way, and that it is for this reason that his body remains incorrupt to this day. Saint Bishoy is also said to have washed the feet of the Lord, Who visited him as a poor stranger.

The incorrupt body of St. Bishoy in the main church of the monastery bearing his name in Wadi-El-Natroun, Egypt

Also during his days, an ascetic old man appeared in the mountain of Ansena, who was reputed for his righteousness and to whom many people gathered. But he deviated from the true faith and the devil lead him astray. He taught that there is no Holy Spirit, and many were deceived by his sayings. Anba Bishoy heard about him, and he went to him and he had with him a weaved basket with three ears. When he visited the old man and his followers, they asked him about the reason for making three ears for the basket. He answered, "I have a Trinity, and everything I do, is like the Trinity." They said to him, "Then, Is there a thing called the Holy Spirit?" Then he started to explain to them from the Holy Scriptures, from the Old and New Testaments. He indicated to them that the Holy Spirit is One of the three Persons of the Trinity. He convinced them, and they returned to the true faith. Then he returned to his monastery in the wilderness of Scete.

Coptic Monastery of Saint Bishoy in Wadi El Natrun

In 407/408 A.D., when the Berbers invaded the wilderness, he left it and dwelt on Mount Ansena, where he departed. He met St. Paul of Tammah in Antinoopolis, near the present-day town of Mallawi (currently known as 'Deir-El-Barsha'). Their love for each other was such that God promised them that they would never be parted. After the time of persecution had ended, they brought his body with the body of St. Paul of Tamouh to his monastery in the wilderness of Shiheet (Scete). The incorrupt body of St. Bishoy and the relics of St. Paul still lie together in the main church of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Bishoy in Wadi-El-Natroun until this day.


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