- Can I please have your handkerchief Pope Kyrillos?
- The meeting with Lazarus the beggar from Luke 16
- What’s better than morning coffee made with the “keneka” (Turkish coffee pot) of St. Pope Kyrillos?!
- St Pope Kyrillos’ lost items
- Receiving oil from heaven after Good Friday
- There is a reason for every setback
- Travelling via the spirit to Egypt
- Receiving divine assistance in performing prostrations
- The icon that Pope Kyrillos likes the most
- Tunt Samira guides a novice
- Her spiritual gifts
- Her friendship with Pope Kyrillos
- Many, many angels flying in the church!
- Seeing St Marina and St Verena
- Seeing Archangel Raphael during the Lakkan
1) Can I please have your handkerchief Pope Kyrillos?
One day when Tunt Samira was attending the Divine Liturgy with Pope Kyrillos at the Cathedral in Clot Bey, she noticed that due to his tears when praying he would occasionally pull out a handkerchief to wipe his face. She thought to herself how much she would love to have that handkerchief.
After the Divine Liturgy when she saw him, she asked, “Sayedna, I would like to ask you for something!” Before she could say anything else, he smiled and pulled out the handkerchief from his pocket and said, “Here you go!
2) The meeting with Lazarus the beggar from Luke 16
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.” (Luke 16:19-22)
Tunt Samira suffered from, among many other ailments, very severe skin psoriasis. Often because medication to treat it conflicted with other medications she had to take, she couldn’t keep it under control and suffered greatly. Often her back openly bled and she was in extreme pain and discomfort. When at the end of her life she couldn’t take the necessary medications for it, she worried that it would spread to parts of her body (like her face) that she couldn’t conceal and, out of embarrassment, it would prevent her from being able to go to church. She often told me of her fear for this and to pray that it always remained concealed so that as long as she could, she could come to the Divine Liturgy.
One night she had the following vision:
She was with Pope Kyrillos and they sat together on a street. Suddenly, Pope Kyrillos got up and left her alone. She was saddened that he left but then her attention was drawn to a man approaching her. He came and sat next to her and started to console her and tell her not to be sad because of her skin. He mentioned that when he was alive, he also suffered sores on his skin and even the dogs used to lick his sores. He told her that he was Lazarus the beggar from the Gospels. He also assured her that in heaven his body was perfect and hers would be too.
The next day she shared with me this vision. I found it very beautiful but I told her that I never thought that Lazarus was a real person, I had assumed it was a parable. I started researching some and realized that perhaps it wasn’t a parable… After all, the parables don’t mention names (example: “A father had two sons…”). I asked her to pray to see if maybe another sign would be given.
The next day when Tunt Samira woke up, she was greatly surprised to find a picture of Lazarus placed on top of her open Bible next to her bed. Of course, she did not place the picture there and she told me what I happened and I myself saw the picture (an image of that picture is included) and we both marveled! I found out after that some churches have a feast day for St. Lazarus the beggar.
3) What’s better than morning coffee made with the “keneka” (Turkish coffee pot) of St. Pope Kyrillos?!
4) St Pope Kyrillos’ lost items
When Tunt Samira left Egypt in the late 1960s, she brought with her many items that she took from the blessed hands of St. Pope Kyrillos VI. These items included a handkerchief (the story of how she received the handkerchief will be told separately), the outer covering of the relics of St. George, and a tablecloth used on the table that was used to prepare the spices for the relics of St. Mena.
A few years ago (around 2014) Tunt Samira and I were talking about St. Pope Kyrillos VI and she kept telling me how she had these items in storage since over 40 years ago when she came to America but couldn’t remember where they were. She and her family had moved a number of times and she simply couldn’t find where these things were stored. She kept praying asking for Pope Kyrillos intercession to help her locate these treasures.
One day while Tunt Samira was in her bedroom and her daughter was in her own bedroom, they heard and felt a large bang. It was loud and powerful as if an earthquake or something large had fallen in their apartment. They both yelled to the other to ask if they were OK and came out of their bedrooms scared. They had no idea what happened and they began to go through the apartment to find the source of the large bang and jolt. It had clearly come from within their apartment and not outside.
After they examined the other rooms they were perplexed as everything was in order. Then Tunt Samira realized that a small drawer underneath the family room TV was pulled out and open. She went to it and found all the items that she received from Pope Kyrillos in one package. What is significant about this drawer is that because the TV was very heavy and sitting on top of this small table with a drawer, the weight of the TV made it impossible to open the drawer…it had been that way for so many years that Tunt Samira completely forgot about it or that anything could be in it. She glorified God who through the intercession of her beloved “Baba” answered her prayers.
5) Receiving oil from heaven after Good Friday
On Good Friday 2015 Tunt Samira was too sick to come to the Church. After the Burial Service and the chanting of the hymn “Golgotha” during the 12th Hour, many people like to wipe some of the spices from the priest’s hands as a blessing since his hands are usually covered in the sweet smelling spices and fragrances used with the rose petals.
As that was happening, my son Matthew came to me and said, “Dad, you should wipe some of the spices on a paper towel as a blessing for Tunt Samira since she couldn’t be here.” I thought that was a great idea and told him to grab a paper towel and a zip lock bag since I probably wouldn’t be able to see her until after the Feast a few days later and maybe keeping it in a zip lock bag would preserve the scent.
I wiped my hands on a paper towel (this after I wiped my hands on over a dozen other people, napkins, and prayer ropes). What remained on the paper towel was basically a small amount of the dried powdered spices. There wasn’t anything to see, we were just hoping that the scent would be strong enough for Tunt Samira to smell something and feel like she received a small blessing from Good Friday.
I kept the bag in my car until Monday (the day after the Feast). All one could see was a completely dry paper towel sheet folded in a zip lock bag. I went to visit Tunt Samira Monday and gave her the bag, apologizing that all I had was basically a paper towel for her to smell! Of course, she was extremely grateful. After spending some time with her she became very weak and asked me to help her back to her room to sleep. I was a little worried leaving her alone as she became very weak quickly. She almost immediately went into a deep sleep before I could even say goodbye. I placed the bag with the paper towel on her bed next to her and left her quietly.
A few hours later, she called me and in a very excited voice said to me, “Abouna! The bag is full of oil! Please come to my house!” Apparently, after she woke up she noticed it and by that time her daughter had come home from work. She immediately called out to her daughter who came to her room and saw the bag with paper towel now drenched in oil with a very different fragrance than the fragrance of the spices! We knew by the scent that it was the blessing of St Pope Kyrillos VI… The same scent that he often left behind when blessing her or visiting her which some of us experienced on more than one occasion.
Her sadness for having to miss Good Friday was turned into joy.
6) There is a reason for every setback
For years Tunt Samira took public transportation to get around, especially to and from church. The local county bus system had her weekly schedule in their system for the fixed days of liturgy on Wednesday and Friday. She usually waited outside her apartment for the bus at what appointed time.
One day she waited for the bus as usual to take her to one of the weekday liturgies at church. But the bus never came. After a while she called the bus transport phone number and they told her that someone changed the time in the system to a later time. She was very upset because she knew that neither she nor anyone else had called to change the time and now she would miss liturgy. They offered to come get her but it would be too late for her to make it in time so she cancelled.
She went back into her apartment and she was very upset. As she went to go back to her bedroom to drop off her purse and change her clothes she was shocked to find Pope Kyrillos sitting on the edge of her bed with his cross raised. She was startled but then began complaining to him that she wanted to go to church to take communion.
Pope Kyrillos smiled at her and then she heard someone frantically calling out her name from outside. It was one of the maintenance men from the apartment complex who knew her very well and also knew that she normally takes the bus at that time to go to church. He was calling out her name to see if she was still home. When she went to her room window to speak to him he was greatly relieved that she was home because the bus that she normally would take at that time had just gotten into a very bad accident at the bottom of their street. She then understood why the time of the bus was changed and why Pope Kyrillos visited her in her room smiling at her.
7) Travelling via the spirit to Egypt
As I’ve posted before, in california there lived a saintly elderly coptic lady called tant Samira who passed away recently in 2015.
In this sermon I’ve listened to about her, it talks of an interesting story, in which a co-parishioner of tant Samira had a family member who got kidnapped in Egypt. (The sermon is available here http://stpauloc.org/content.cfm?id=213&download_id=271 – highly recommend you watch it!)
In anguish, the co-parishioner confided in tant samira and pressed her to provide her with comforting words. A week went by, and the holy tant related to her co-parishioner that when she was praying about her kidnapped family member, she saw him in a room being whipped and lashed (she being transported by the spirit to there, or through a divine vision). It turns out, he had been kidnapped by the Muslim brotherhood!
She further told her, that in his strong faith and relentless love for Christ, he refused to apostazise, so they whacked him with great force on the head, wrapped him in some rug and threw his body in the nile.
And so the coptic church won a new martyr through one if its extraordinarily faithful children who accepted torture and scourging for the sake of Christ. And this was all witnessed by one of your everyday tants – a saintly lady in modern-day California.
May their blessings be with us all!
8) Divine assistance in performing prostrations
Tunt Samira loved prostrations (metanias) and she would often spend the night in vigil (after a long day in the serving her family, helping others and attending to her many health problems) in prayer, reading the Holy Scriptures and doing prostrations.
Towards the end of her life when she was quite sick and often bedridden she still insisted that in the middle of the night she would perform three prostrations. She related the following to me in amazement:
One night she was very sick and it took all her strength to get out bed and perform her prostrations. She completed the first prostration and then the second. But after the second she could not get up. She cried out from her heart and then found the great St. Pope Kyrillos VI next to her. He told her to complete the third prostration which she was finally able to do. But she could not get up again. In awe and tears she relayed how St. Pope Kyrillos picked her up and gently placed her back in her bed smiling at her. He blessed her and left.
Listening to her speak affectionately of both her devotion to the Saint and her description of his gentle, kind and humble heart always moved me greatly. Her eyes immediately widened and a great smile overcame her at the mere mention of his name or in seeing his picture. “Baba!” she would exclaim with the demeanor of a child whose father just came back from a long journey. I miss you Tunt Samira. Pray for me and the whole world.
9) The icon that Pope Kyrillos likes the most
On December 25 (Christmas day), 2014, I was blessed to have Tunt Samira visit us in our home for the evening. I had often visited her and admired her room (more like a monastic cell) because she had a whole wall almost completely dedicated to pictures and icons of her beloved St. Pope Kyrillos VI (whom she always called “baba”).
In my office which is on the first floor of my home I also have quite a collection of photos and icons of St. Pope Kyrillos VI. I was excited to show her my office as we both always enjoyed looking at pictures of St Pope Kyrillos and talking about him.
That day after she arrived and spent some time with us in the family room I told her, “Tunt, come now and let me show you my office and collection of St Pope Kyrillos pictures!”
As we entered into my office, I turned her attention to the left wall (as you enter from the office door) as that is where several large beautiful pictures are of the saint. However almost immediately she was jolted and it seemed pulled in another direction toward one of my bookshelves in a different direction. She smiled immediately and we all smelled a beautiful fragrance of incense/perfume. We knew something was happening as she disengaged from us completely. She went straight to the bookshelf and grabbed a small framed picture I have of the famous photo of St Pope Kyrillos with his long hair uncovered (as seen in this post) that was almost hidden on the bookshelf (she had never been to my office before).
She grabbed the picture and began to hug it and smile. We all sat their confused for a few moments. Then we noticed that her left hand had fragrant oil all over.
She later explained that when she came into the office, St. Pope Kyrillos apppeared in front of her and held her by the left hand and directed her to this picture which he said he liked very much. That is why her hand had fragrant oil all over since that is the area he touched her. This happened on other occasions I had witnessed as well… when he appeared to her and touched her or he put the Cross on her, it always left a fragrant oil. Usually it was on her head from when he prayed over her when she often suffered in tremendous pain from her many illnesses.
What nobody else knew was that in the frame of this picture I had placed a small piece of fabric of St. Pope Kyrillos VI tunic that was given to me over twenty years ago by a cousin who received it from Fr. Matthias El Baramousy (the last disciple of St Pope Kyrillos VI).
The prayers of St Pope Kyrillos VI and Tunt Samira be with us!
10) Tunt Samira guides a novice
Two Eastern Orthodox monks were visiting and staying at my home. One of them was the Abbot of the monastery whom I have known for several years and the other was a novice brother whom I had just met. They came with me to attend a Friday liturgy at my parish.
Tunt Samira was present at the liturgy and after the liturgy was finished I wanted to introduce the two monks to her. I was surprised when the Abbot told me that without knowing anything about her, he felt throughout the liturgy that she was a very holy person. After introducing them to her, they asked if it would be possible to visit her in her home. I checked with her and she was very happy to receive them.
I hadn’t spoken to them at all about Tunt Samira but clearly they were drawn to her spirit and were very excited about spending some time with her. We went the three of us later that afternoon to visit her at her home.
We talked about many spiritual things, including, of course, St. Pope Kyrillos her beloved saint. I was intrigued by how these two monastic fathers were asking questions to her with such reverence and docility.
At one point the younger novice asked about how to fast properly. Tunt Samira began talking about some of the typical points regarding fasting from certain foods, by abstinence, etc… I interjected and told Tunt Samira that at their monastery they are all vegetarians so they already don’t eat meat.
She started quickly talking about other ways to fast but then suddenly she completely disengaged from us and looked upward. For about a minute she was clearly not “with us.” I knew she was receiving something and I motioned to the two monks to just wait a minute.
After she returned her attention to us, she began talking with a very different tone. It was more serious, reverent, and authoritative than how she was previously speaking. She began talking about fasting from the tongue and the need for more periods of silence. She spoke with a certain specificity and I was a little confused.
Then I noticed that the young novice brother began weeping. He continued to weep while the Abbot and I looked at each other confused as to what happened. I waited a few minutes and asked if he was OK and he smiled and said they were tears of joy.
After we left, I asked him what happened… He simply said, “I don’t know how to explain it but when Tunt Samira started speaking about fasting and silence, I experienced for the first time with certainty that God was speaking directly and clearly to me. That word was for me personally and it was a clear answer to my silent prayer. “
11) Her spiritual gifts
I can’t believe one year has passed…
” As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)
Among the many gifts and wonders we experienced with Tunt Samira, especially in the last two years of her life, is another gift which I have reluctantly talked about. It is the gift of ‘bilocation’ or traveling instantly by the spirit (‘sowah’) to other places. On more than a dozen occasions she revealed this to me by providing me with details of things seen or heard that could only be observed by someone who was present. Usually she was sick in bed, at the hospital, or in her room praying.
Almost always she came to the church (by the spirit) when she physically couldn’t attend. She regularly revealed to me (often calling me immediately after the Divine Liturgy while I was still taking off my vestments) details of my sermon, things that happened in the altar (that even those present would not observe), certain details of other people present in the church, and many other things. She often would hint to me things to be careful of or to instruct the congregation in from what she observed.
This was before our parish did any sort of live streaming and Tunt Samira never had a computer. I often verified with her daughter that during these times she was usually alone in her room. In one occasion she called me while I was touring a Catholic monastery for women (that neither of us had ever been to) and gave me details of one of the churches I had just walked out of, even providing me with details I missed and later went back to verify. She was very upset that because of her health she could not join us on this monastery trip but was obviously able to come in her own way!
She was very simple towards this gift, it was something very natural for her, an extension of her prayer life. She was more surprised and astonished by the many spiritual visions she had inside the church usually of angels and many saints that she saw during the Divine Liturgy. Sometimes she described the appearance of a saint without knowing who it was, until she later was informed by her beloved St. Pope Kyrillos VI. On some occasions when I was with her, the visions she had inside the church were accompanied by beautiful heavenly fragrances. At every Divine Liturgy she saw what she described as a most beautiful “ball” of light hovering and moving over the Precious Gifts.
It is difficult to describe in few words what was for me an almost daily experience for the last two years of her earthly life in which I was close to this blessed saint. I was privileged to be the priest she confided in and revealed these things to as she herself was perplexed by what was happening to her. If it was not for at times overwhelming evidence that I witnessed, I would myself be at loss to boldly proclaim that these things are true!
12) Her friendship with Pope Kyrillos
With Tunt Samira, a saintly soul, a friend and disciple of the great saint, Pope Kyrillos VI… In a way, these photos represent the way “tradition” works in the Church. Tunt Samira lived and drank from the spring of Pope Kyrillos, she has a book’s worth of experience with him. Not just miracles, though they are plenty, but descriptions of his personality, his smile, his kindness, his humility and simplicity…even the way he used to sit on the couch next to her with his legs folded, his manner of speaking and his sense of humor. I, myself, every time I sit with her begin to drink a little from this spring… I hope that I might also have the grace to deliver this to another generation, even in a small and humble measure.
13) Many, many angels flying in the church!
“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people…” (Rev. 14:6)
Tunt Samira’s eyes were especially opened to see the reality of the presence of the angels in the church. She often saw angels guarding and covering the Holy Altar, the presence of the angels at baptisms, angels standing alongside the priests during Holy Communion, and in many other circumstances.
Once I went to pick her up from her home to come early to the church with me for the celebration the Divine Liturgy on a Wednesday morning. We were the first ones to arrive at the church. I unlocked the doors of the church entrance and we walked in together.
As soon as we entered into the church from the back, she was immediately stunned by a beautiful scene inside the church. I asked her what she saw and with a shaking voice she told me that the church was full of angels flying all around the nave of the church. She couldn’t stop smiling, frozen in her place.
I went to the the front of the church to prostrate and worship at the royal doors. I turned around and saw that she still hadn’t moved or stopped smiling. I walked back to her and was met with the presence of a beautiful fragrance permeating the back of the church. I then saw that oil was on her forehead.
I asked her what happened and she described how she was fixated on theangels flying and circling the church when one of the angels came and stood immediately in front of her smiling. The angel then blessed her on her head leaving the sign of the oil on her. We gave glory to God and proceeded to prepare for the Divine Liturgy.
14) Seeing St Marina and St Verena
January 6, 2015 – The Eve of the Feast of the Holy Nativity
Approximatey a week before the Feast of the Holy Nativity in 2015 Tunt Samira confided in me that St. Pope Kyrillos had indicated to her that she would receive a special blessing on the Feast. She didn’t know any details beyond that. But the whole week she was filled with a simple childlike joy in anticipation.
The day before the Feast she asked if I could pick her up on the way to church on the evening of January 6 and take her with me. I indicated to her that I would be going to church early so as to prepare the altar and other arrangements before the prayers began. I suggested that it might be too long of a night for her if she came early with me given that we wouldn’t finish until after midnight. Her health was quite poor at this time. But she was too excited knowing that something special was awaiting her and she therefore insisted to come early with me.
When we arrived at church, she was a little disappointed to find that there was a young lady from our parish inside the church cleaning and arranging the chairs before the service began. The lady’s husband had come to the church early to make the Holy Bread for the Liturgy and she was helping to tidy up the church. Tunt Samira was hoping to be alone in the church for an hour or so before others started to arrive. In any case, I left her and went inside the sanctuary to prepare the altar and the vestments. A few minutes after, I heard a large gasp from the young lady that was in the church as if something bad happened requiring attention.
Startled, I quickly went outside of the sanctuary to see what was going on. The young lady informed me that she found Tunt Samira collapsing and she tried to come to her aid. As I approached them both I was overtaken by a beautiful fragrance surrounding them and I immediately knew that this was not a medical emergency but a supernatural visitation. It was was also obvious that Tunt Samira had oil on her forehead.
The young lady immediately understood the same and prostrated to the ground in prayer. At this point I took Tunt Samir aside and asked her what had happened. She explained that when she came into the church she went to stand where she normally stands and began praying. At one point she opened her eyes and saw that a young lady dressed in white was standing in front of her facing the east, therefore, Tunt Samira only saw her back. This young lady turned around and immediately Tunt Samira recognized her as St. Marina the Virgin Martyr.
The saint smiled at her and pointed to another young lady next to her also dressed in white and introduced her to Tunt Samira as St. Verena the Martyr. Saint Marina then placed her hand on Tunt Samira’s head blessing her and it was at this point that she felt overwhelmed physically and started to lose her balance. That is the point that I came out of the sanctuary. Obviously, Tunt Samira was overwhelmed with joy that she saw and was blessed by two great saints on the Eve of the Feast of the Nativity.
May her prayers be with us all.
(The picture is taken in Tunt Samira’s kitchen during one of the many times we made and drank Turkish coffee together. You can see in the background on the stove top the “kanaka” (Turkish coffee pot) that belonged to St. Pope Kyrillos VI.)
15) Seeing Archangel Raphael during the Lakkan
A story to tell: Around this time, a few years ago, I went to eat breakfast with Tant Samira at her house and she was telling me amazing stories about how beautiful and rich our Coptic church is. About the prayers of blessing the water during the feast of EPIPHANY, which we often call “the prayer of Lakaan” صلاة اللقان she said, “I was attending this prayers and God opened my eyes and I saw a great, huge angel standing by abouna while praying on the water.
The angel was sooooo tall that I couldn’t see his face, it reached the ceiling. Other smaller angels were all around the container of water. But the great angel was blessing the water with abouna. Every time abouna puts his hand in the water to bless it while saying the prayers, the big angel would put his hand on abouna’s hand and stir the water with him!” She continued, “I asked Baba (Pope Kyrillos VI) about this angel and why I can’t see his face, he said ‘it’s archangel Rafael! You can’t see his face!’ Baba also said to her, “this water is very powerful, it has power to cleanse from sickness and diseases and sins. People take it lightly and they don’t know its power and the level of blessing in it.”
The things she shared with me that day made me realize how serious our prayers, liturgies and church traditions are. What do we do with the Lakaan water when we bring it home?! How many times was I️ too lazy to attend this prayer? It was a lesson I will never forget. May her prayers and those of baba be with us all. Amen!
Happy feast of Epiphany!