A Flight to Egypt
February 7, 2002
We saw the requisite sites - the ancient wonders of the Egyptian Museum,
the view from a felucca boat on the Nile, the architectural marvels of
Giza's pyramids. But even more important than these was one site
which, given the history of our journey, we were not going to miss: the
Grotto in St. Sergius Church, one of the resting places of the Holy Family
on their flight to Egypt. We arrived at the church, nestled in the
middle of Coptic Cairo, to find a few other pilgrims and tourists with
the same idea. Like them, we were disappointed to note the sign on the
church's door which declared, "No pictures." More disappointment
lay ahead, as we discovered a chain hanging across the entrance to the
grotto: "Closed." The Old City of Cairo has had problems with water
levels, and the Grotto of the Holy Family was flooded.
The Coptic Orthodox Church traces its lineage directly to St. Mark the Evangelist. These Christians remove their shoes when they pray, remembering how Moses removed his on Mt. Horeb as he faced God in the burning bush. When they greet one another in worship, they put their hands to their lips in a "holy kiss." Their music is the sound of the voice and the "clashing cymbal." Living and breathing indeed. Ten percent of Egyptians are Christians. Their presence since the time of St. Mark is a testament to the resurrection of the Body of Christ.
We returned to the West Bank, refreshed and renewed. However, the slaughter of innocents continues here in the land where the death of 22 Palestinians is described as a "lull in the fighting," where the brutality and desperation of suicide attacks are becoming almost daily news. Here too, even in the midst of this terror, remains a righteous remnant of the church, renewed by the holy waters of baptism, a living witness to the resurrection. In this land, awash with Biblical sites, pilgrims and tourists come by the droves - at least, they used to come. Yet all of these places could be flooded over, for it is the Spirit of baptism, not the presence of museums, who gives life to the church. May these waters flood the Earth.
Elizabeth and Marthame