The Church celebrates the Feast of our Lord’s Entry into Egypt o n the 24th day of the month of Pashons (June 1st). This feast is among the Seven Minor Feasts of the Lord. As the Holy Family entered the land of Egypt, St. Mary the Virgin mother carried the child Jesus in her arms, with Joseph the Carpenter at her side and Salome, who accompanied them. They had done so in order to escape from Herod, who had sought to kill the Child. This was instructed to Joseph by the Archangel Gabriel in a dream where the Gabriel told him: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Matthew 2:13-15).
The entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into the land of Egypt is an opportunity for rejoicing and delighting for the many blessings that his entry has impacted upon Egypt. The Church is aware of how important this event has been. And this is the reason it is one of the Lord’s feasts. There are several symbols and spiritual meanings that are indicated by the coming of the Lord Christ into Egypt. God’s plan for Christ’s entering the land of Egypt contains, as far as we can assume, four spiritual meanings that indicate the benefit for us from this divine plan.
1. The first spiritual meaning:
The first spiritual meaning was that the Lord has been willing to remove his anger from this land. God wanted to show how his forgiveness works and how he was going to replace the old by the new and the curse by the blessing. God is willing to abolish the curses of the plagues that he had once inflicted upon the Egyptians, when he punished them severely with the ten plagues in the old time, pouring his wrath upon them and the whole land of Egypt. Now by sending his Son to Egypt, He is restoring his favor instead of his wrath, his blessing instead of his curse; purifying everything, renewing everything: the people, the land, the water, and the air. This is the first reason for which our Lord came to bless the land of Egypt that he had once cursed. He made his entry into Egypt in order to establish there the benediction instead of the malediction. The lesson for us here is that God is teaching us about conversion. A life spent far away from God needs repentance. Otherwise this life will be condemned to perish in the hell of fire. Therefore, the person whom converts, repents, turns back from the wicked ways to God, will deserve the renewal of life in our Lord Christ Jesus, instead of deserving the condemnation to the hell of fire. Conversion is by excellence the figure of the transformation from the curses to the blessings, from the sinful nature to the renewed and purified being. As the converting person receives a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the same way, as Egypt that received the Lord received a blessing compensating her old curses caused by sin. In both the converting person and the land of Egypt receiving the Lord Christ one common trait unifies their destiny: Holiness shines instead of darkness.
2. The second spiritual meaning:
The second spiritual meaning for the coming of Christ into the land of Egypt is the meaning of escape from evil. By His coming to Egypt, our Lord gave us the key of the practical application of his command to escape evil, not to resist it in (Matthew 5:39). Our Lord escaped from the face of the King Herod. Nevertheless, His escape is not based on cowardice and does not come out of weakness! His escape is based on divine plan; he made this journey to Egypt to fulfill the divine purpose of redemption, aiming to redeem all of mankind. We have a special remembrance for the slain children of Bethlehem on the third day of the Coptic month of Touba, when we celebrate their memory as we consider them being for us among the cloud of witnesses. Therefore, the Lord’s plan for us is that we follow His example, walk into His steps, escape from evil, escape from sin. This escape is a program that we should always remember, consider, trust, and follow.
3. The third spiritual meaning:
The third spiritual meaning for the Lord Jesus Christ’s entering into Egypt is to establish a Temple for the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt and to abolish and destroy the idolatrous temples spread and perverting the whole land. So we can consider the journey of the Holy Family to Egypt a journey with a building purpose, a foundational-minded journey aiming to install in Egypt the establishment of the Temple of God. In the Old Testament, the only temple of God was in Jerusalem. The Lord has been willing to add geographically Egypt to come to His knowledge. The Lord is willing to announce to the people of Egypt His love for them. He is calling them to acknowledge Him and to worship Him, to love Him and to adore Him; He is destining them to build His Church. Isaiah the Prophet prophesied about that saying: “So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them.” (Isaiah 19: 21) Therefore, the Lord is not only making Himself known in Egypt in a habitual way of traditional knowledge. Rather, a deep and profound knowledge is involved, giving the Egyptians the privilege to become also the flock of God. They are from now on making vows to God and keeping them. After they were Israel’s enemies. The Holy Book of Isaiah eloquently tells the story of the journey of the Holy Family to Egypt. It is a journey that causes “the idols of Egypt to tremble and the hearts of the Egyptians to melt.” Our Lord does not want us to love anything more than we love Him. If a person loves something more than the Lord, the Lord wants that idolatrous thing to tremble. Idols could be things such as the Ego or the ancient self prior to conversion. By the melting of the hearts of the Egyptians, the Lord wants to teach us that conversion gives humility to the heart and repentance; two elements that are vital and necessary in the adoration of God.
4. The fourth spiritual meaning:
The fourth spiritual meaning of the Lord’s journey to Egypt is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea: “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” (Hosea 11: 1) “When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my Son.” The Lord wants to teach us an important lesson concerning the traveling and the continual moving without rest. He journeyed inside Egypt without a home or a specific place of his own where he could rest. He was as a stranger that had no support and no place to lean his head upon. Thus He wants us to be familiarized with the feeling of being strangers to both the heavenly homeland (that we didn’t reach yet!) and the earthly homeland. We want to be like our Lord Jesus Christ, considering ourselves strangers, having nowhere to rest. It is a precious lesson for us to learn that the earthly home is only a temporary one and our heavenly home is the perpetual one.
The journey of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Family to Egypt was a hard and difficult one, where He was seeking souls longing for Him and souls hungry and thirsty for Him.
St. Wadamoun El-Armanty met with our Lord in the region of El-Ashmounin located in the south of Egypt. He was from a city called Armante, which is distant 500 kilometers from Mallawi or El-Ashmounin. St. Wadamoun was the first to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord told him that he was going to be the first martyr. As St. Wadamoun was performing miracles with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, the pagans and idolatrous people – seeing the idols trembling, crushing, and falling in destruction – persecuted him and killed him. He died effectively as the Lord Jesus Christ told him, as a martyr. In the records of our Church, he is counted with the 44 thousand or the Children of Bethlehem, as their martyrdom occurred at the same period of time, historically. This was the inauguration of the martyrdom and the starting of the sufferings for our Lord’s faith.
To our God be the eternal Glory for ever, Amen.
— Sermon By H.G. Bishop Dimetrius, Bishop of the Holy Diocese of Mallawi, Ansena and El-Ashmunein and Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Fana, Upper Egypt.