I want to tell you a short story, which really happened. Not only were the events that took place that day, documented, also, the testimonies of the descendants of the people who were present that day, serve as proof of the authenticity of the events that these people witnessed that day.
Saint Simon the Shoemaker lived towards the end of the tenth century AD. He was a contemporary of the Saint Bishop Abram Ibn Zaraa the Syrian, who occupied the seat of St. Mark in 975 AD and rested in peace in 979 AD.
A severe and overwhelming famine came upon all of Egypt under the reign of the Ikhshidid Empire, namely between AD 934 to AD 968, shortly before the Fatimid Empire was established, under which the miracle of moving the mountain took place. The miracle took place circa AD 979, so Saint Samaan must have lived through this famine, which sent more than half a million people to their early graves.
These events must have left an impression on the Saint’s soul and made him renounce pleasure in worldly things, as we shall see. This was, and is, God’s way of dealing with man… Cairo had been constructed only a short while before the miracle of moving the mountain took place.
Al-Mu’iz Li Din Illah the Fatimid, was a polished politician, besides being a letterman and a lover of the gatherings in which poetry was recited. He was, as well, fond of religious sciences, which made him invite the Muslim, the Christian, and the Jewish religious leaders in order to debate before him with all frankness and freedom, and without any anger or contention.
This matter has a direct relationship with the miracle of moving the Mokattam mountain, as we shall see later on. Saint Samaan the Tanner worked in one of these handicrafts, which was tanning the hides of animals. This Saint appeared suddenly on the scene of historical events as a shining star, and disappeared just the same way. History does not mention anything about his early upbringing at all, so we do not know where he was born, or where he was reared up, or who was his father.
When the Saint was practicing his work as a shoemaker, a woman came to him to mend her shoes, and this woman was beautiful. It so happened that when she was taking off her shoes, her legs showed and he looked lustfully at her. But at once he drove the awl into one of his eyes, thus plucking it outin keeping with the commandment of the Lord, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Mt. 5:28,29). St. Samaan simply carried out the commandment literally!!
And history tells us of a great miracle that happened with his prayers, which is the miracle of moving the Mokattam Mountain in Cairo.
This is how this true miracle unfolded:
The Calif of Baudas Took Counsel to Slay All the Christians in His Land
I will tell you then this great marvel that occurred between Baudas and Mausul.
There was a Calif at Baudas who bore a great hatred to Christians, and was taken up day and night with the thought how he might either bring those that were in his kingdom over to his own faith, or might procure them all to be slain. And he used daily to take counsel about this with the devotees and priests of his faith, for they all bore the Christians like malice. And, indeed, it is a fact, that the whole body of Saracens throughout the world are always most malignantly disposed towards the whole body of Christians.
Now it happened that the Calif, with those shrewd priests of his, got hold of that passage in our Gospel which says, that if a Christian had faith as a grain of mustard seed, and should bid a mountain be removed, it would be removed. And such indeed is the truth. But when they had got hold of this text they were delighted, for it seemed to them the very thing whereby either to force all the Christians to change their faith, or to bring destruction upon them all. The Calif therefore called together all the Christians in his territories, who were extremely numerous. And when they had come before him, he showed them the Gospel, and made them read the text which I have mentioned. And when they had read it he asked them if that was the truth? The Christians answered that it assuredly was so. “Well,” said the Calif, “since you say that it is the truth, I will give you a choice. Among such a number of you there must needs surely be this small amount of faith; so you must either move that mountain there”, and he pointed to a mountain in the neighbourhood, “or you shall die an ill death; unless you choose to eschew death by all becoming Saracens and adopting our Holy Law. To this end I give you a respite of ten days; if the thing be not done by that time, ye shall die or become Saracens.” And when he had said this he dismissed them, to consider what was to be done in this strait wherein they were.
How the Christians Were In Great Dismay Because of What the Calif Had Said
The Christians on hearing what the Calif had said were in great dismay, but they lifted all their hopes to God, their Creator, that He would help them in this their strait. All the wisest of the Christians took counsel together, and among them were a number of bishops and priests, but they had no resource except to turn to Him from whom all good things do come, beseeching Him to protect them from the cruel hands of the Calif.
So they were all gathered together in prayer, both men and women, for eight days and eight nights. And whilst they were thus engaged in prayer it was revealed in a vision by a Holy Angel of Heaven to a certain Bishop who was a very good Christian, that he should desire a certain Christian Cobler, who had but one eye, to pray to God; and that God in His goodness would grant such prayer because of the Cobler’s holy life.
Now I must tell you what manner of man this Cobler was. He was one who led a life of great uprightness and chastity, and who fasted and kept from all sin, and went daily to church to hear Mass, and gave daily a portion of his gains to God. And the way how he came to have but one eye was this. It happened one day that a certain woman came to him to have a pair of shoes made, and she showed him her foot that he might take her measure. Now she had a very beautiful foot and leg; and the Cobler, in taking her measure was conscious of sinful thoughts. And he had often heard it said in the Holy Evangel, that if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, rather than sin. So, as soon as the woman had departed, he took the awl that he used in stitching, and drove it into his eye and destroyed it. And this is the way he came to lose his eye. So you can judge what a holy, just, and righteous man he was.
How the One-Eyed Cobler Was Desired to Pray for the Christians
Now when this vision had visited the Bishop several times, he related the whole matter to the Christians, and they agreed with one consent to call the Cobler before them. And when he had come they told him it was their wish that he should pray, and that God had promised to accomplish the matter by his means. On hearing their request he made many excuses, declaring that he was not at all so good a man as they represented. But they persisted in their request with so much sweetness, that at last he said he would not tarry, but do what they desired.
How the Prayer of the One-Eyed Cobler Caused the Mountain to Move
And when the appointed day was come, all the Christians got up early, men and women, small and great, more than 100,000 persons, and went to church, and heard the Holy Mass. And after Mass had been sung, they all went forth together in a great procession to the plain in front of the mountain, carrying the precious cross before them, loudly singing and greatly weeping as they went. And when they arrived at the spot, there they found the Caliph with all his Saracen host armed to slay them if they would not change their faith; for the Saracens believed not in the least that God would grant such favour to the Christians. These latter stood indeed in great fear and doubt, but nevertheless they rested their hope on their God Jesus Christ.
So the Cobler received the Bishop’s benison, and then threw himself on his knees before the Holy Cross, and stretched out his hands towards Heaven, and made this prayer: “Blessed LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, I pray Thee by Thy goodness that Thou wilt grant this grace unto Thy people, insomuch that they perish not, nor Thy faith be cast down, nor abused nor flouted. Not that I am in the least worthy to prefer such request unto Thee; but for Thy great power and mercy I beseech Thee to hear this prayer from me Thy servant full of sin.”
And when he had ended this his prayer to God the Sovereign Father and Giver of all grace, and whilst the Calif and all the Saracens, and other people there, were looking on, the mountain rose out of its place and moved to the spot which the Calif had pointed out! And when the Calif and all his Saracens beheld, they stood amazed at the wonderful miracle that God had wrought for the Christians, insomuch that a great number of the Saracens became Christians. And even the Calif caused himself to be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen, and became a Christian, but in secret. Howbeit, when he died they found a little cross hung round his neck; and therefore the Saracens would not bury him with the other Califs, but put him in a place apart. The Christians exulted greatly at this most holy miracle, and returned to their homes full of joy, giving thanks to their Creator for that which He had done.
There really is power in living a holy life. This Cobler was really pursuing holiness the Biblical way. It was for this reason that God led the congregation through the angelic visitation to call him to move the mountain. Out of all those Christians this man was called upon to move that mountain. We do need to live holy lives before our God in order to successfully face life’s challenges and also to stand firm against evil. We cannot live like we want to and expect to perform miracles. There are very clear principles in place governing these aspects in the kingdom of God. You can read about that in the post, “How did Jesus Christ really conquer evil?“
(The above story was copied from the following resources: St. Takla Haymanout Coptic Orthodox Website and Wikisource)
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