Dear Beloved in Christ,
For more than three years, I was a source of many sad news or comments. It's now the time to be a source of a very joyful, happy and blessing story. Let's start the story from it's (A) point.
Some of you may remember that my first posting to the Coptic Digest 3 years ago was the story of obstacles made by the Egyptian authorities to block the way of rebuilding St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Assiut.
GOD however, can put His will into reality. After more than one and half years of conflicts and in a matter of 6 months or so, St. Mark Coptic Church had been completely rebuilt. It's not now a mere Church but a big great Cathedral with 3 floors each of them has three separate Churches, a big central one and two smaller separate churches on each side of the the central altar. In addition, two other Churches were built elsewhere inside the new building. So St. Mark Cathedral could be considered as one of the biggest 5 Churches in Egypt. It's rebuilding cost around 5 million dollars in a matter of nearly 6 months. H.G. Metropolitan Mikhaeil financed the work from the accumulating donations of Copts over the years. The Cathedral was reopened for prayer few months ago. This is a necessary background to what is coming.
At the midnight of Aug.17, while hundreds of thousands of Copts from allover Egypt were celebrating St. Mary's Lent in St. Mary's monastery 3 miles to the south from Assiut City, people both Copts and Muslims resident in the Old poor sector of the City around St. Mark Cathedral watched the apparition of St. Mary above the dome and between the two towers of the Church at 11.30 pm. The apparition was interrupted till 3 am then continued from 4 am to 6 am uninterrupted with flashes of heavenly lights and spiritual doves. During that period thousands of people gathered from allover the City. The news turned the city upside down. Security authorities soon reached the area headed by high officials and tried to evacuate the area claiming that these are nothing but hallucinations. They did so on the following nights and evacuated the area from 10 pm to 6 am each night but THE LIGHTS OF HEAVEN WERE MORE STRONG THAN THEIR WILL TO DENY IT. Few days later St. Mary came back again. a shadow of a monk appeared besides St. Mary, no one could explain who was that monk. No reports were given for new apparitions of St. Mary. However, lights, doves and incense never ceased to appear every night from 2 am to 6 am.
Nearly a month later on Friday 15 Sept, I WAS THERE. The Cathedral is located in the old poor sector of the city, streets around the city are narrow and buildings are so close that angles of vision are not wide enough. The only way to explore the site is the roof of buildings. There, I was one of an uncountable number of people from allover Egypt. I left the Car about half mile from the Church. In nearly an hour I could hardly find a foothold over a roof of a building facing the south side of the Church. From my place I could now see the roof of the Church with its two towers to the left and its eastern dome to the right.
Starting from my arrival at 2 am upto 6:10 am, I was inside the HEAVEN!!!!
The Church has 2 towers, each is built on 3 levels; a rectangular base above which the second level, its cross-section is 8 sided, 4 of the eight sides are hollowed out by a crosses, the other 4 aren't. From the eight corners of the eight sides 8 columns make the third level of the tower. The 8 columns are crowned by the dome of the tower above which a cross stands. These towers, especially the south one were a theatre of a festival of heavenly lights and flying doves for more than 4 hours!!! Something very amazing, very touching, very impressive and millions of other "very's." Explosions of lights come from each of the 8 sides of the second level of the tower, one by one. Other flashes stem from the tower to the left and cross the roof of the church to end in the dome of the church to the right and illuminates the cross above it. Something like a spot of light could be seen inside the center of the cross above the tower from which a storm of light burst out. Lights vary in intensity from somewhat fluorescent light to a very bright shining light that is so intense that it illuminates the surrounding buildings and the faces of people!! The most touching feature that recurred many times was a burst forth of light coming from inside the dome of the tower passing to outside from in between the 8 columns. From inside that light comes something like doves seen at first continuous with the light then is separated in a spark like fashion to fly for a short distance then disappear!!!
As for the Doves, I could see them in many forms in addition to that I just described, a flock of doves of 2, 3, 7, 8, 12 or more doves fly above the church, between towers, or between towers and the dome, between the Church and the nearby St. Abadeer Church, or above the collections of people. They fly on different levels either low or high, they don't flap their wings. What is more astonishing is that the chest of each dove is luminous like a lamp. They fly for a while then disappear while still within my visual field. Some watched a big dove like a duck flying above the Church but I didn't see that dove. Flying doves continued with the bursts of light for a couple of hours then lights only continued for the rest of the night till the dawn. If you draw your eyes away from the church to explore the surroundings, you will find thousands of people over hundreds of roofs or hanged by hundreds of windows, praying, toning hymns, applauding. All houses are opened for visitors. Residents there live in a maintained festival, the word "sleeping" is unknown in the whole area since Aug.17. No single accident was reported.
Starting from the last Friday (Zeitun-eg.org received this letter on 11 October 2000), I say nothing except "You now dismiss your servant in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation" - Luke 2:29.
Here is another group of photos. They are alike but if you ponder the spot of light you will see it as a cross!!
The Question is Why Now? and Why there?
The Keywords to answer that quest are:
The 3rd millenium, St. Mark and Assiut.
+ The eve of the 3rd millennium is a very important time to remind the world that the Holy Family had a residence in Egypt. The heaven in its own way celebrated this season as all of us did in different ways.
+ St. Mark was the apostle who carried the Christian faith to Egypt.
+ Assiut is the most south point the Holy Family reached in Egypt. At the same time it's the city known to the whole world for giving birth to Islamic Fundamentalism. There, encouragement from the Heaven is badly needed. This Church itself is a live example of the sufferings of Copts in Egypt to build or renew their Churches.
So God chose to glorify His name in the city that suffered Islamic terrorism for more than 25 years, over a church built after fierce sufferings from the authorities. The Church is named by the Apostle who preached Christianity in Egypt. The Apparitions took place on the occasion of celebrating the millennium to remind us that God still remember his people.
Video: Assiut - Light from Heaven