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Story of the Miracle of Moving El Mokatam Mountain in Egypt

By Mark - Posted on 08 October 2017

In commemoration of this miracle, the Coptic Orthodox Church observes three days of fasting before the beginning of the Nativity Fast. The Miracle was performed by Simon the Tanner (10th century), also known as Saint Simon the Shoemaker (Sama'an el-kharraz). Saint Simon lived during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li-Deenillah (972-975) and Abraham the Syrian who became the 62 nd Coptic Pope at that time (975 to 978).

The Caliph Al-Muizz used to invite different religious leaders to debate in his presence. In one of those meetings in which the patriarch Abraham, also known as Pope Abraam and a Jew named Yaqub (Jacob) Ibn Yusuf Ibn Killis (and in another account of this story, was known as Moses) were present, Abraham got the upper hand in the debate. Plotting to take revenge, Ibn Killis quoted the verse where Jesus Christ, said in Gospel of Matthew: If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20), and demanded that the Pope prove that his religion is right by means of this. After heading Ibn Killis say this, the caliph asked Abraham What sayest thou concerning this word? Is it your gospel or not? The patriach answered Yes, it is in it. After hearing Abraham answer, the caliph demanded that this very miracle be performed by Abraham’s hand, or else he and all the Copts would be killed by the hand of the sword. It was then after hearing this that the patriarch asked for three days to complete the miracle.

Abraham compiled a group of monks, priests and elders. He told them to all stay in the church for three days for a penance. On the morning of the third day, Abraham was praying in the Church of the Holy Virgin al-Mu’allaqa, when he saw the Holy Virgin. The Holy Virgin told him to go to the great market. She said to him: “there thou wilt find a one-eyed man carrying on his shoulder a jar full of water; seize him, for he it is at whose hands this miracle shall be manifested.” Abraham listened to the Holy Virgin and went to the market where he met the man the Holy Virgin spoke of. The man whom the Virgin spoke of was Simeon the tanner, who had plucked out his eye because of a passage from the bible (Matthew 5:29-30) which said: If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out 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. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Simeon told Abraham to go out with his priests and all his people to the mountain with the caliph and all his soldiers. Simeon then told Abraham to cry out O Lord, have mercy three times, and each time to make the sign of the cross over the mountain. The patriarch followed the words of Simeon the tanner (who was in the crowd of people) and the mountain was lifted. After the miracle was performed in the presence of the Caliph, the Pope turned left and right looking for St. Simon the Tanner, but he had disappeared and no one could find him (a sign of the saint's great humility).