ST. ABBA KARAS THE ANCHORITE
Coptic Date: 8 Epep
On this day St. Karas (Cyrus) departed. He was the brother of Emperor Theodosius the Great. Our gracious God led Saint Bemwa to go out and meet a pure anchorite named Saint Karas, in order that his story may be a lesson for many generations to come. St. Karas was a nobleman, being the brother of King Theodosius the great. Even though he was of high standing in the world, he chose to leave everything and live the monastic life. Living among the angels, St. Karas led a holy and ascetic life in the western mountain of Scetis for approximately 57 years. One day, as Saint Bemwa was sitting in his cell in solitude, he heard a voice saying, “Rise and journey to the coast, and you will find a great anchorite whose sandal straps no one on earth is worthy to untie.”1 Sensing that this was a heavenly voice, St. Bemwa lifted up his head to heaven and beckoned on the Lord to speak to him. The voice said to him, “Arise, Bemwa, and hurry speedily to the inner wilderness where you will meet St. Karas and take his blessing, for he is very honourable to Me, more than anyone else, for many are the times that he has tired himself for Me, and My peace will be with you.”2 St. Bemwa then quickly headed on his journey to the mountains of Scetis in search of this great saint, not knowing who he was or what his life was like. After a long tiresome travel, our Lord directed St. Bemwa to St. Karas’ cave. He entered to see who this saintly man may be, greeting him with love. St. Bemwa heard a voice from within the cave saying to him, “It is well that you came today, St. Bemwa, saint of God, who was worthy of anointing the body of St. Elarya daughter of king Zenon.”3 So he entered the cave and stared at St. Karas for a long while, for the great saint was of strong presence and great humbleness. St. Bemwa described St. Karas as a person with great radiance and the grace of God reflected in his face. His eyes were very shiny, and he was of medium stature with a long beard having a few black hairs left in it. He was wearing a simple gown for he was quite thin. He also had a light voice and a cane in his hand. St. Karas told St. Bemwa that he was awaiting the saint’s arrival with joy and eagerness since his time was about to end. By the end of the day, St. Karas’ prediction came true. The pure saint grew sick with a high fever. He was crying and sighing, saying that the time is near for him and he begged God to judge him according to His mercy. St. Bemwa did not leave St.Karas’ side all night until the sun had risen. St. Karas was lying in bed unable to move, until a great light that surpasses the sun shone at the entrance of the cave. A great man appeared, radiant in light, wearing white clothing brighter than the sun, and holding in his hand a cross. He was sitting at the head of the pure St. Karas, while Bemwa was at the feet of the saint. St. Bemwa was not able to recognize this man and just watched the illuminated figure conversing with St. Karas. Then He departed. St. Bemwa was very curious as to who this might have been and asked the great anchorite who it was. St. Karas revealed to St. Bemwa that it was Our Lord Jesus Christ and how every day He would appear to him and spend time with him conversing with him and blessing him before leaving. St. Bemwa was in awe at this and shaken with great reverence to the ascetic anchorite. He asked if maybe he could also get Christ’s blessing when He visits again. So, St. Karas said to him, “Before you leave this place you will see Christ the Lord in His glory and He will bless you and talk with you also.” On his last night on earth, Jesus appeared again to him and St. Karas fulfilled his promise to St. Bemwa by asking Christ to bless him as well. As the anchorite was about to depart, Christ asked St. Karas if there is any favour he wanted from the Savior before leaving the flesh. In a soft kind voice, the pure anchorite requested from the Lord that he would like to see David the Prophet and chant with him the psalms before leaving the body. Christ did not hinder him from his small request and indeed David the Prophet appeared in the flesh and began to sing the psalms with him. As his soul departed, and laid in rest in the bosom of Christ, Jesus told St. Bemwa that he must document all that he has seen and the stories he has heard from this great saint. He also told him that whoever requests any favors in the name of St. Karas, He will bless them tenfold and whoever does a charitable deed in the name of St. Karas will also be blessed tenfold. Finally He told him whoever will write and document the Story of St. Karas will be blessed to have his name written in the book of life and will have a place in heaven awaiting him all for the sake of this blessed wise, and pure anchorite. Indeed our Lord was sincere when He said, “Blessed are the pure in Spirit for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). May we all aim to learn from this beloved anchorite and pursue to live our lives in true purity and righteousness. We must also pray for the gift of wisdom so that Christ may help us discern between what is right and wrong and what He expects from our lives. Finally, if God leads anyone to the life of monasticism as in the case with St. Karas, may he or she be open-minded and ready to follow God’s will, so that one day we may all be able to have a share an inheritance with our Lord and all His great saints in the heavenly Kingdom
May his prayers be with us, and Glory be to God forever, Amen.