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
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but the attempt was withdrawn as blood wooed from the first cut of the axe.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.