Holy Great Martyr Menas (Abu Mena)
(feast Day, November 11th )
Saint Menas’ life and the Monastery of Abu Mena, Egypt
(dedicated to the saint)
It is known that St. Menas was born in the year 285 A.D. in Egypt in a pious family, his parents were Eudixius and Euphemia. His parents had long been awaiting to have children. During a feast dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Euphemia was praying with tears to an icon of the Most Holy Mother of God to grant her a child, and at the end of her prayer, the Mother of God had answered from her icon “Amen”.
Months later, the blessed child Mina was to be born. His father died when Mina was 11 years old and his mother when he was only 14. At the age of 15, he joined the Roman army, where he was given a senior grade because of his father’s inheritance.
He served in Algeria for 3 years as a soldier. This occurred at the time of the pagan Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximilian, who ordered that all Christians who will not bow to idols be tortured and killed. Disgusted and sickened of the view of Christians forced to worship idols, Menas left for the desert for 5 years leading a hermit life in fasting and prayer to the true Christian God.
During the fifth year of his ascetic life, St. Menas had a revelation when he saw an angel crowning Holy Martyrs; while contemplating this image, he heard a voice saying: “Be blessed Menas, you have been called to a pious life since your childhood. You will be crowned with three crowns: one for your clean life in celibacy, second for your ascetic struggle, and the third for martyrdom “.
With his soul filled by the fiery love for Christ and strengthen by this revelation, Menas came down from the mountains, stood in the middle of the idolaters and confessed Christ. For this, he was given to torment: his body was rubbed with tarsi, burned by fire, dragged mercilessly over thistles, and pierced at the end by a sword. St. Menas received martyrdom in the year 309, in Frigia.
It is said that the soldiers who killed Menas, threw his body on fire, but for 3 days the saint’ body did not burned. His sister along with some soldiers took the saint’ body to Alexandria and placed it in a church. When the persecution against Christians had stopped, it is said that an angel appeared to Pope Athanasius of Alexandria, instructing him to remove the saint body, place it on a camel and take it to the Western Desert. In a certain place, not far from Alexandria, at the end of Lake Mariot, the camel no longer could move, no matter how hard Christians have tried to do push it forward. They understood this to be a sign from God, and buried the saint’ body there.
For several centuries, the martyred soldier Menas was no longer know, until in a certain place in the desert, the sicken sheep’s of a pastor were miraculously healed along with the pastor. The news spread quickly and many sick people start heading to that place, without even knowing the source of these healings. The place had become so familiar that even the Emperor daughter from Constantinople (Constantine the Great or Zeno), been sick with leprosy, was sent there for healing. One night when the girl was sleeping, the Great Martyr Menas appeared to her in a dream and uncovered the mystery: his holy relics were at the place of healing. St Menas asked the girl that a church will to build in his honor. Next morning, the girl was cured and she revealed her dream to the servant accompanying her.
On that site, 45 km southwest of Alexandria, the Emperor of Constantinople not only that he ordered the building of a cathedral, but an entire city was built, including streets, buildings, churches and the Baptistery, a building with two wings for the sick (one for men and the other for women and children).
The City of St Menas (Abu Mena) has became one of the most famous place of healing and pilgrimage for many Christians. Bottles of oil and holy water engraved with the saint name were found in archeological sites of various Mediterranean countries such as: in Heidelberg – Germany, Milan – Italy, Dalmatia – Croatia, Marseille – France, Dongola – Sudan and in Jerusalem. At the middle of VII century, the city was destroyed by the Muslims. The first excavation to uncover the archaeological value of the site Abu Mena began between 1905 and 1907.
About 1 km from the city of Saint Menas, an impressive monastery was built and bares part of the holy relics of St Menas. 101 monks dwell in this monastery, and serve Divine Liturgy 3 times per day.
In the year 1979, the archaeological site of Abu Mina – the marble city of Saint Mina – is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites, and from 2001 the site is placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage in danger of destruction.
The holy relics of St Mina are present also in other parts of the world, such as in the Church of St Mina from Bucharest.
“Oh, blessed Holy Martyr Menas, listen to our prayer offered to you from our hearts, and deliver us from sickness and dangers, so we may honor your memory and testify of your miracles, which by the power of the Holy Spirit you work on those who faithfully sing to Thy: Alleluia! “
From the Miracles of Saint Menas
Once, traveling to the church of St Menas, a faithful Christian was hosted in a foreign house, and the owner of that house, knowing that the guest had money with him, rose at midnight and killed the faithful. Then, cutting his body in pieces, hid it in the pantry inside the house, awaiting daylight hours.
While the killer was in great difficulty of how and where to hide the body parts of the one killed so no one may know, Saint Menas appear to him as a soldier riding a horse and asked what was done with the man accommodated there, but the killer denied of knowing anything.
Then the Saint, descending his horse, went inside the house to the hidden place, and finding the remainings of the traveler, presented them to the killer, than with a great and fearful look had asked “Who is this?”
Fearful and trembling, having speak nothing, the killer threw himself at the feet of the saint.
Putting together all the members of the one killed and praying over him, St. Menas raised the dead and said to him: “Give praises to God!” And the dead, rising from sleep and remembering what he had suffered from the one who hosted him, glorified God for living a second time, and praise the “soldier” for risen him.
After taking the money from the one who killed him, St Menas gave them to the man he had risen, saying, “Go brother in your path”.
For The Akathyst of the Holy Martyr Menas the Wonderworker