"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fleeing Herod through Coptic Egypt

I have, long before it was on the radar (however desultorily) of the press today, maintained a deep interest in all things Coptic, in part because of the inspiration of my friend Iman Nashed, who was born in Cairo and came to Canada when she was 17, and introduced me to Fr. Markos of St. Mark's parish in Scarborough, Ontario, the priest through whom the Coptic Church was first established all across the North American continent. That parish, which I have visited and lectured at, is an incredibly dynamic place full of life and activity; and Fr. Markos gave me--when I was recuperating in hospital in 1996--a most beautiful Coptic icon of the Theotokos which remains my most treasured of Marian icons.

Later this month, a new book will be published that takes us at once through ancient and modern Egypt: James Cowan, Fleeing Herod: A Journey Through Coptic Egypt with the Holy Family (Paraclete Press, 2013), 260pp.

About this book we are told:
When the Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod Antipas, they journeyed for three years throughout Egypt, mainly along the Nile, to keep Herod’s agents at bay. Using an ancient 4th century text written by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria as his guide, Cowan takes the reader on a fascinating journey through modern-day Egypt in the footsteps of the Holy Family, about the Delta region and up the Nile to a place called Mount Qussqam, where Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resided for six months. The itinerary, according to Coptic tradition, was revealed to Theophilus in a dream.

Documenting his journey, Cowan finds himself in the midst of a spiritual revolution going on in Egypt itself. He meets with monks and health workers, desert mystics and visionaries, all of whom have a stake in the story of the Holy Family’s journey, as they know it. Through their eyes the reader is drawn into a dramatic story of escape and miraculous interventions.

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