ST. SIMON THE TANNER
Coptic Date: Unknown
Saint Simon the Tanner lived towards the end of the tenth century when Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li-Deenillah, and Abraam the Syrian was the 62nd Coptic Pope. At the time, many Copts (Coptic Christians) in Egypt were engaged in handicrafts. Saint Simon worked in one of those crafts widespread in Babylon (Old Cairo) which was tanning, a craft still known there till this day.
This profession involved also other crafts that depend on the process, from where St. Simon carried several titles related to skins; Saint Simon the Tanner, the Cobbler, the Shoemaker.
There is a famous story about him, that one day a woman came to him to fix her shoes, and this woman was beautiful in the image, so while she took off her shoes, her legs were exposed, and his eyes looked at them with lust. Immediately, he struck the abscess in one of his eyes and emptied it, in implementation of the Lord's commandment: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, pull it out, and throw it away from you ... because it is better for you that one of your members perishes, and not your whole body thrown into Hell.” (Matthew 5:28,29)
He simply literally carried out the commandment. But the church does not allow this and does not teach it. Rather, it is a free and simple act, so the church forgave him. Saint Simon was an austere ascetic. This appeared from his conversation with the Patriarch Anba Abram, when he asked him about his life, and he was certain that he was a wondrous man of prayer. He used to serve the elderly and the sick and deliver water to them every day. He used to distribute bread and food. Daily for the needy in the area. Saint Simon was very humble and had a very strong faith.
Al-Muizz Li-Deenillah was a man who loved literature councils and religious discussions. And there was a fanatical Jewish man who converted to Islam in order to obtain his position, and his name was Yaqoub bin Kilis. And he hated Christians, especially "Qzaman ibn Mina, known as Abu al-Yaman."
One day, the caliph sent the patriarch to set a date for the Jews to reason before him. So Anba Sawiris ibn al-Muqaffa, Bishop of Ashmounin (at Upper Egypt) accompanied him. So the bishop began accusing the Jews of ignorance! The Jew blamed the Jew for his censure of the verse that says: "The ox knows its lawn, and the donkey feeds its owner. As for Israel, it does not know! My people do not understand!" (Isaiah 3:1).
As a result of that, Minister Bin Kilis was very annoyed, and he and his companion Moses searched the Bible for any verse that would give him consideration. He found, "If you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will mov; and nothing will be impossible for you. " (Matthew 17:20)
Hurry up and see it to the Caliph, and he asked him to make the Christians prove the validity of this verse. So the Caliph liked the idea, especially since he thought about removing the mountain perched east of the new city (Cairo), but if the Christians were unable to implement these words, then this is evidence of the invalidity of their religion, and then he will get rid of the christians.
The Caliph sent to the Pope and gave him the choice to either fulfill this commandement leave the country, or die! So the Pope asked the Caliph for three days, and called for a fasting and praying to all the people. On the third day, the Virgin Mary appeared to the Pope and told him to come out, and he will see a man carrying a jar who will complete the miracle on his hands.
Indeed, he went out and met Saint Simon, and talked with him about his life and spirituality, the reason for losing his eye ...etc. So the saint told the Pope to pray with the people Lord have mercy (Kyrie Alison) 400 times and to pray the liturgy’s prayer while carrying bibles, crosses and candles. He will stand with them behind the Pope as one of the people. Then the Pope should kneel down with the priests, and to make the sign of the Holy Cross on the mountain then he will see the glory of God. The Pope raised his hand and drew the sign of the Holy Cross, as a great earthquake occurred, the mountain was thrusting up and down, and the sun could be seen from under it. After the miracle was performed in the presence of the Caliph, the Pope turned left and right looking for St. Simon the Tanner, but he had disappeared and no one could find him (a sign of the saint's deep humility)
The relics of St. Simon were discovered in 1991 in St. Mary's Coptic Orthodox church in Babylon, Old Cairo (known as the Hanging Church).
It is noteworthy that Bishop Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffa` was closely associated with both the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li-Deenillah and Pope Abraam (975-978 A.D.), and thus wrote with authority in his famous Coptic History of the Patriarchs about the Mokattam Mountain miracle as an eyewitness of it. May his prayers and blessings be with us all, and Glory be to God forever. Amen.