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pray_hands.GIF (680 bytes) Prayer & Spirituality
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Footprints of infant Lord Jesus in Egypt
By Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Many faithful since generations after generations believe that St. Joseph had taken the infant Jesus and his mother St. Mary into Egypt as recorded in St. Matthew 2: 13-14 “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be you there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt”.

The Christians of Egypt often assemble near an old sycamore tree, which is commonly known as St. Mary’s tree, in one old city in suburb of Cairo, during the Christmas season every year and they do have prayers and meditations on a systematic way. The faithful touches and kisses the tree without the leaves, with great thrill and enthusiasm. Spinsters go around the tree for 7 times in the expectation and hope to get good husbands and the young married ladies also go around the tree to get the blessing of having children. They usually bite the outer skin of the stem and branches and chew it for some time under firm belief that such an act would grant them their wish.

Now 15 centers are honored as pilgrimage centers, where it is believed that St. Joseph had stayed with infant Lord Jesus and His mother, St. Mary. The spot, which is mentioned above, where the St. Mary’s tree is seen, is one among the 15 only. There are Churches or Asrams in these places as monument of the stay of Lord infant Jesus with His mother and caretaker, St. Joseph.

The caretaker of St. Mary’s tree introduces himself as ‘Uncle Abraham’. Uncle Abraham once claimed that once there was an attempt to cut the tree but the attempt was withdrawn as blood wooed from the first cut of the axe. It is said that St. Joseph had reached the place called ‘Farma’ for the first time, which is on the boarder of the present Egypt.

It is believed that they had stayed at the place presently known as ‘Hamam’, which is close to Sagsig, 120 kilometers north of modern Cairo city. In Arabic language, Hamam means to take bath. It is traditionally believed that when they reached this place, Mother Mary longed to have little water to wash infant Jesus and immediately they saw an unusual stream sprouting from the ground with sweet water. We could watch floods of faithful moving together to this place these days.

It is believed that they traveled towards west through the banks of river Nile and on their way ahead they took rest under a ‘Matharia’ tree. It is believed that they stayed at the Valley called Vadi-al-Natrool in the desert about 120 kilometers north west of Cairo. Now there are four Asrams of great respect and honor. Then only they traveled towards southern side of Egypt. 

From there they moved towards the old Cairo and spend months together in a cave in disguise. This cave is still as in the original conditions, under the St. Sergious Church, constructed in the 5th century AD. The entry to the cave is forbidden due to security reasons, but a number of faithful bravely go down and deposit the papers on which their names/requirements are written carefully inside the cave.

Another tradition is about the boat journey of St. Joseph with Lord Jesus and his mother. The journey had originated from the old small port called ‘Maadi’ A very big church is there which is being visited by thousands of pilgrims always especially during these days. A step made of local bricks said to be used by them is retained still in high respect as a monument. It is believed that the boat voyage reached them in ‘samalout’ which is 220 kilometers south of Cairo.

It is widely believed that when a huge piece of rock was about to fall on the boat during their journey ahead, St. Mary cried in loud voice and infant Jesus touched the rock and immediately the movement of the rock was stopped. Egyptians widely believe that the mark of palm of our Lord is still visible on the rock. This mountain is now known as “Palm Mountain”. For an average Egyptian Christian Christmas means a pilgrimage to all these centers.

The Holy Bible says, (St. Matthew 2: 19-20) When Herod was dead, behold, an angel of God appeared in dream to Joseph in Egypt. Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.

And accordingly St. Joseph came back to Israel with infant Lord Jesus and his mother, St. Mary.

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