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Author Topic: 'anchorites' (sowah) in the coptic tradition - from 'invisible mysteries' thread  (Read 1326 times) Average Rating: 0
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mabsoota
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« on: January 30, 2012, 09:03:37 AM »

to respond to those who asked in the thread about how those who lived for years alone in the desert / wilderness may have received the Mysteries (Holy Communion), i have made this thread about the 'sowah'.
'sowah' is an arabic word, roughly translated as 'anchorites', but while an anchorite is someone who lives alone for many years, a 'sa-ih' (singular of 'sowah') is someone who spends much time in contemplation, usually living alone, and granted by God one or several experiences of supernatural travel (telekinesis) or supernatural ability to survive on little food and water.

one reference about them is here:
http://www.coptichymns.org/index.php?module=library&func=viewpub&tid=1&pid=265

it is said (in popular orally transmitted information) that sometimes they take Holy Communion in church without anyone (or at least most people) seeing them. thus they can stay for many years without seeing another human.
because coptic tradition also strongly emphasizes humility as vital for spiritual maturity, anyone who was spiritually mature enough to see a 'sa-ih', also would not tell anyone what he / she had seen!
so information is sketchy, as people usually only passed on these stories to one or two close friends or disciples at the time of their death.
i will look for more later, but need to take a computer break right now..
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Jonathan
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 09:31:51 AM »

The english word is for the gift, not the monastic life usually associated with it, is "Spirit-bourn", like Elijah who was born of the Spirit. They are taken from one place to another instantly by the Lord. Sometimes they find themselves surprised to be there, other times they are warned where they are going. There are many stories of monks and bishops visiting families or in their cells being caught praising with the angels and other ascetics. Monks who have never met who seem to know each other well, because they have met in this way. Many who stay in the wilderness as Anchorites are given this gift to allow them to assemble as a congregation, which is why the terms have become confused.

Coptic Churches have traditionally always had 3 altars (though some now don't follow this). When my brother-in-law was just a young boy, he was preparing the Sanctuary for the Liturgy in a small Church. He found water sprinkled on the altar, and a used ember in the censor. He told the priest, who eventually believed him when he looked for himself, so they had to pray on a different altar since anchorites had already prayed on that altar today. The priest called a bishop afterwards, who told him not to get excited, that these things happen all the time and it isn't a big deal.

Other anchorites might not receive this gift, but might stay in the wilderness for long periods of time, even years without going to the congregation to receive Communion, since they are spiritually in communion with God in their prayer and work every moment of their lives. This seems to be the type of life St. Paul the Anchorite lead. The article linked by mabsoota seems to entirely confuse anchorites who live in solitude and those who are Spirit-bourn, but in fact there are anchorite who are not Spirit-bourn, and there are monks and bishops who still have close ties to the monastery and the people who are Spirit-bourn.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 09:50:32 AM by Jonathan » Logged
mabsoota
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 09:53:55 AM »

hi, i'm sorry if the article is a little confusing.
once u ignore the first paragraph it makes more sense.

i think the article is first trying to explain what anchorites are not (not that any of you would have made this mistake; it is written for egyptian copts) before saying a bit about them. the article stresses the touch spiritual life of the anchorites, rather than the 'glamour' of the spiritual gifts that have been bestowed on them.

the link, i was looking for earlier and couldn't find is here:
http://www.coptichymns.net/module-library-viewpub-tid-1-pid-57.html

it tells the life of anba ('father') misael the 'sa-ih' or anchorite, who was a monk from a young age, persevered in very much fasting and praying, and was taken from the monastery to be an anchorite. he return only twice; once to protect the monastery from the governor's men who were going to steal all the food, and once to attend the consecration of a new church. on that occasion, only his spiritual father was able to see him.

it is true that churches should have side altars, in case the 'sowah' come early in the morning, while it is dark, to use one of the altars. we don't allow the use of an altar more than once each day, so it is good to have a 'spare' one. i didn't hear of any stories like this in my church, but we all know someone whose grandfather's friend (or similar distant relative) knows a story like this.

it is also true that in translation, using the word 'anchorite' as a translation for 'sa-ih' is misleading.
but the 'sowah' have a special set of spiritual gifts, usually involving supernatural travel, solitary disposition and other gifts, so i, personally, just use the arabic term 'sowah', when i am talking with people who understand this term.
thanks, jonathan, for helping me to explain it better.
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Maria
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2012, 11:41:26 AM »

The english word is for the gift, not the monastic life usually associated with it, is "Spirit-bourn", like Elijah who was born of the Spirit. They are taken from one place to another instantly by the Lord. Sometimes they find themselves surprised to be there, other times they are warned where they are going. There are many stories of monks and bishops visiting families or in their cells being caught praising with the angels and other ascetics. Monks who have never met who seem to know each other well, because they have met in this way. Many who stay in the wilderness as Anchorites are given this gift to allow them to assemble as a congregation, which is why the terms have become confused.

Coptic Churches have traditionally always had 3 altars (though some now don't follow this). When my brother-in-law was just a young boy, he was preparing the Sanctuary for the Liturgy in a small Church. He found water sprinkled on the altar, and a used ember in the censor. He told the priest, who eventually believed him when he looked for himself, so they had to pray on a different altar since anchorites had already prayed on that altar today. The priest called a bishop afterwards, who told him not to get excited, that these things happen all the time and it isn't a big deal.

Other anchorites might not receive this gift, but might stay in the wilderness for long periods of time, even years without going to the congregation to receive Communion, since they are spiritually in communion with God in their prayer and work every moment of their lives. This seems to be the type of life St. Paul the Anchorite lead. The article linked by mabsoota seems to entirely confuse anchorites who live in solitude and those who are Spirit-bourn, but in fact there are anchorite who are not Spirit-bourn, and there are monks and bishops who still have close ties to the monastery and the people who are Spirit-bourn.

Orthodox and Catholic Christians have also used the term "bilocation" to refer to people who can be in two places at the same time.
Russian monastics who were praying in their cells in Russia were seen and heard catechizing the Native Americans in Alaska.
No doubt, if a person were gifted with bilocation, then they could either serve the Divine Liturgy as a Priest or attend the Holy Services as a member of the laity or monasticm visibly or invisibly.

In the Life of Papa-Nicholas Planas of Athens, his disciples mentioned that they saw people at the Divine Liturgy who were not present but who could not physically attend due to other obligations. Nevertheless, those devout ones were lifting up their minds and hearts during the time when the Divine Liturgy was taking place, so much so, that Papa-Nicholas Planas censed them as they became visible to him during the Divine Liturgy. It would stand to reason, that Papa-Nicholas Planas would distribute Holy Communion to them as well. On the other hand, those who were present, but who were inattentive or had sinful thoughts were not censed by Papa-Nicholas as they had become invisible to him.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 11:51:36 AM by Maria » Logged

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Maria
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2012, 11:57:41 AM »

Their are accounts ... I do not know if these stories come from Syria or Egypt, but I read an account where a Priest was about to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, but found that he did not have any altar bread, so he sent his deacon to get some.

The deacon was gone for one hour, but when he came back to the church bearing the Holy Bread, the priest was astonished. The devout Priest had discerned that the Altar Bread even though it had not been present in the Church had become the Body of Christ. The priest asked the deacon what had happened. The deacon said that he had been devoutly praying all the prayers of the Divine Liturgy and that God Himself must have honored his lowly prayers. Needless to say, the deacon was ordained to the Priesthood.
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Glory to Jesus Christ!
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mabsoota
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 12:19:18 PM »

yes, i heard something like that too.
as for bilocation, i would say it is one of the properties of the 'sowah'.
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