31 May 2009
The date 24 Bashans, which coincides with 1 June, marks the date the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Biblical coming of the Holy Family to Egypt.
The Bible says that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and ordered him to take the young child and Mary His mother and flee into Egypt, and remain there till the angel tells him to go back home. Tradition has it that their sojourn in Egypt lasted some three years. In the meantime King Herod, wishing to get rid of the boy who was “born King of the Jews”, killed all the boys under two years of age in Bethlehem.
Abdel-Halim Nureldin, professor of ancient Egyptian language at Cairo University and advisor to the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) on civilisational heritage, spoke in a lecture at the BA about the visit of the Holy Family to Egypt. He mentioned the prophesy from the Old Testament: “Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.” Isaiah 19:1
In all three religions
“It was not an easy journey for the Holy Family,” Dr Nureldin noted. “It was, on the contrary, a hard flight filled with suffering and anguish.”
According to historical Coptic sources, the most important of which is a document by Pope Theophilus—the 23rd Alexandrian patriarch (AD384-412)—there were at that time three roads that could be taken from Palestine to Egypt. However, the Holy Family did not follow any of these but took another secret way to escape being found out by King Herod’s soldiers. Tradition has it that the Family was confronted with difficulties in many of the places where they resided; this drove them to be continually on the run, until they settled down at a site close to present day Assiut.
Dr Nureldine remarked that the Holy Family’s stay in Egypt was the real arrival of Christianity to Egypt, and the base upon which the Alexandrian Church was established.
“Egypt is a blessed land which is mentioned in the three sacred books of the heavenly religions,” Dr Nureldin stressed. The Torah says in the book of Isaiah 19:25: “Blessed be Egypt my people”, and the Bible mentions the story of the flight into Egypt in the Gospel of Matthew, the Qur’an says in Surat al-Baqara, verse 61: “Enter Egypt Safely”.
The icon shown is written by Youssef Nassif and Bodour Latif