For the first time in 1,600 years the Eucharist was not celebrated at the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, Minya, due to the attack by the Muslim Brotherhood that resulted it being burnt to the ground. The mob of Muslims also ransacked the ancient monastery, stealing priceless artifacts, no doubt to be sold to international art collectors.
Egypt Independent reports:
‘Minya churches canceled on Sunday the second mass, holding only a brief one. Meanwhile, prayers did not take place at other churches which were attacked.
Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram monastery in Degla, south of Minya, said, “We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.”
“Supporters of deposed President [Mohamed Morsy] destroyed the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is an archaeological site. One of the extremists wrote on the monastery wall ‘donate to the martyrs’ mosque,’” Lotfy added.’
According to tradition Minya is the location of caves in which the Holy Family sought refuge when they escaped King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents in Bethlehem. The following is an account of a modern pilgrimage to Minya in the footsteps of the Holy Family, that includes a description of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary:
‘The Holy Family sheltered in a small cave in the mountains near Minya. Sherine Nasr follows in their footsteps through Minya and Gabal Al-Teir.
‘We left the city of Minya in the early morning, crossed over to the east bank of the Nile and drove to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary on Gabal Al-Teir. As soon as we crossed the Nile, it was like entering another world: one of serenity, peace and beauty. The narrow road leading to the mountain winds through a patchwork of green fields, hemmed in by the desert and mountains. Nowhere have I experienced such tranquillity, and for a second I thought of stopping the car, wandering through the fields, and staying there for good. I even felt that the people were special, with their genuine smiles and friendly looks. I immediately understood why the Holy Family selected this particular spot to seek refuge from the soldiers of Herod, King of Israel. I, too, felt I was fleeing from the stress, worries and duties of the material world.’ [...]
‘The monastery, which was built in the fourth century AD by Empress Helena, lies on the top of the mountain, almost 130 metres above the Nile, and is reached by a flight of 166 steps hewn into the rock.
El-Nabarawi took me first to the church of the monastery. In the southeastern corner of the church, cut into the rock, is the cave where Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Joseph were believed to have taken shelter. This cave is the oldest part of the church.
The aisle is separated from the nave by 10 thick columns, each hewn out of rock, surmounted by heavy square capitals dating from the Graeco-Roman period. In the middle of the iconastasis is an icon of the Virgin Mary surrounded by three icons on either side, each portraying two of the disciples. The most ancient icons, dating from 1554, are those of the Virgin Mary carrying the Holy Child and that of St Demiyana and her 40 virgin martyrs.
I was visiting at a quiet time of the year, it seems, as the only other visitors were a mother and her children, who were sitting on one of the benches reading the Bible.
For me, the Monastery of St Mary is different from any other monastery I have ever visited. It is not as spacious as most monasteries — like Al-Muharraq in Assiut or the monasteries in Wadi Al-Natrun, for example — and is dominated by the ancient church. Also, unlike other monasteries, this is inhabited by only one monk and two priests, in addition to the abbot.
The breath-taking view of the River Nile makes a pilgrimage to this holy spot a unique experience. The tranquillity of the area turns into an atmosphere of buzzing activity overnight when the season for devotion to the Virgin begins,” said Bishop Arsanios of Minya and Abu Qurqas. “The ceremony usually starts a month before Easter and lasts for about 10 days. During those 10 days, some two million pilgrims, Christians and Muslims alike, visit the monastery,” he added.
Protect the Pope comment: When readers of Protect the Pope are next celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass please pray for the intentions of the Christians of Minya who are unable to celebrate the Eucharist as they have done for over 1,600 years. It is clear that in burning the Monastery of the Virgin Mary the Muslim Brotherhood have destroyed a place of pilgrimage sacred to Egyptian Christians and Muslims alike. This, more than anything, shows that the Muslim Brotherhood, led by Morsi and Yusif al-Qaradawi, is a terrorist organisation that is committing acts of genocide and as such it should be designated a ‘Hate Group’ by the USA and EU.