Friday, August 16, 2013

Memories of Mar Girgis Church in Egypt before the Great Burning

Last November 2010, I was able to attend the 1st Workshop of the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI) at Helwan University in Egypt.  Egypt was peaceful then.  Though predominantly Muslim, Muslims and Christians intermingle in universities.  Christian women normally do not weir veils.

About a train ride from Helwan University is Girgis station.  It is named after St. George the Dragon Slayer.  In this place is the Coptic Church of Mar Girgis which was recently burned by supporters of Muslim Brotherhood.  There were already 64 churches burned in Egypt in a single day.  Unbelievable.  Such wanton hate which reminds me of the burning of Minas Tirith.  As Denethor said to Gandalf:
Why? Why do the fools fly?... Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must.  Go back to your bonfire! And I?  I will go now to my pyre.  To my pyre! No tomb for Denethor and Faramir.  No tomb!  No long slow sleep of death embalmed.  We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West.  The West has failed. Go back and burn. (The Siege of Gondor, The Lord of the Rings, p. 825)
Indeed Western civilization has failed, for like Denethor it has long ago lost the will to live, by discarding its Christian heritage and embracing the culture of death--contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. From the ashes of the Christian churches militant Islam arises.

My camera died when I went to Mar Girgis, so I have to rely more on my memories.

Inside the Mar Girgis Church (I am not sure if it is the neighboring chapel), there are no altars, I think.  All I see are great veils, some depicting St. Michael; another depicting Mary.  It is said that unlike in the Roman Rite, the Coptic Orthodox churches perform the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass behind the veils.  The veils suggests the Holy Mystery--a term used by the Orthodox for the Sacraments.  This is an interesting symbolism because Jewish sacrifice also involves the veil.  But when Christ died, the veil of the temple was torn into two (Mt 57:21).

Beside the Church is a graveyards of Orthodox priests and bishops.  I notice that some graves have pictures of who were buried there.  But there was no tomb for Denethor and those who perished in the burning of Mar Girgis and other churches in Egypt.

Near the Church, though you still have to cross an alley, is what was believed to be the place where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph went to during their flight to Egypt There is a chapel there at the lowest level.  But because of the flooding, the chapel is not anymore used.  Visitors would only look at the chapel as if looking at a large well.  For my souvenirs, I bought some papyrus paintings of the flight to Egypt with Joseph leading Mary and Jesus on a donkey.

Many tourists are now taking their flight not to but away from Egypt. Like Egypt after the Ten Plagues, people left in Exodus.  We are living the Biblical times.