August 31, 2010

The Relics of Saint Moses the Ethiopian in Nitria

The Paromeos Monastery, also known as Baramos Monastery, is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in the Nitrian Desert. It is the most northern monastery among the four current monasteries of Scetes, about 4 km north of the Monastery of Saint Pishoy. The name Paromeos is derived from the Coptic Pa-Romeos, which means that of the Romans. Ecclesiastically, the monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and carries her name. It was founded c. 335 A.D. by Saint Macarius the Great.

Beside Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Arsenius, other saints of the fourth and fifth century resided in the Paromeos Monastery, such as Saint Isidore, and Saint Moses the Ethiopian who was martyred at the raid of 407 A.D. During the first half of the fifteenth century, the historian Al-Maqrizi visited the monastery and was responsible for identifying it as that of Saint Moses the Ethiopian. At that time, he found it to have only a few monks.

Today, the monastery still preserves much of its ancient character. It has five churches. The oldest church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains the relics of Saint Moses the Black (photo above). It is considered the oldest church in Scetes still in existence, dating back to the sixth century. In the desert about the monastery there are also several caves that apparently continue to be inhabited by hermits.

This monastery is significant in that it was founded on a site in front (south) of the Old Baramus monastery, discovered by archaeologists in 1994, which some say was incorrectly known as "the Monastery of Moses the Black". Others believe that Deir Anba Musa al-Aswad, or the Monastery of Saint Moses the Black, under the leadership of St. Isidore the Hegumen, was the original name. The older monastery probably dates to as early as 340 AD. It should be noted that there exists some confusion in regard to the current monastery's history in relationship to the old monastery. It is very possible that both existed concurrently at some point, with the former monastery known as Deir al-Baramus, and the current monastery known as the Monastery of the Virgin of Baramus, Hence, the history we have of the modern monastery certain encompasses that of both.

Today the relics of St. Moses in the Church of the Holy Virgin continue to work many miracles, especially for those battling with their passions such as drunkenness. He is also known to heal the demon possessed and many exorcisms take place before his relics. For example, a young man possessed by demons was healed, and after the prayer service there could be seen on his shirt the name of Saint Moses together with a cross. A photo of this shirt is placed next to the relics of Saint Moses as a testimony to his miraculous power.

Read more here and here.