St Andreas of the Sackcloth(1)
Abba Andreas was born in the village of Shanhour-Kous in the 6th century. His father
was a farmer and when he begot this shining lamp, the blessing of the Lord abode in
his house. The child grew in righteousness and purity. He was a lover of solitude. At
the age of twelve, he began to shepherd the flocks, and he used to distribute his food
among the needy and those who pass by him. He continued fasting until evening time.
At the age of twenty, he longed for the monastic life and meditated within himself
saying, “what will this passing world benefit me? It is better for me to leave the world
before it leaves me.” He also said to himself, “Look, O my soul, to the saints who left
the world out of love for Christ the King.” One day, he entered the church and heard
the reading of the holy gospel, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come
after me, cannot be my disciple.” Lk 14:27. Immediately he got up and crossed the
Nile to the western mountain heading toward the monastery of Abba Samuel the
Nagadian who is one of the holy ones who dwelled in the mountain of El-Asas. Abba
Jacob, the Abbott of the monastery received him and he remained in obedience to him
for sometime. Then he tonsured him and put on him the monastic garb, and Abba
Andreas became monk in that monastery. After he was trained in the virtues, the
Abbott put on him the holy schema.
Satan envied him because of his strife and severe asceticism, and began to set up
snares and nets for him, that he may make him fall. One time this deceiver appeared
to him in the form of a beautiful woman who was shivering from cold. She wanted to
enter his cell to take shelter. The saint made room for her and went into the inner part
of the cell continuing his prayers. The woman began to cry out with a loud voice, “ O
holy man of God, do not leave me alone because I am afraid.” He said to her, “What
do you want?”
She answered, “If you want to do good, do me this favor and accept me to sleep in
your place” He sealed himself with the sign of the cross and said, “O God, the God of
the saints, have mercy on me and help me for I am weak and poor. I have no other
helper but You.”  Then he looked and found no woman, but saw a very thick cloud of
smoke rising up in the place where she was. The saint realized that she was Satan,
and he gave thanks to God.
As Abba Andreas lived in the Monastery of Abba Samuel the Nagadian, Abba
Pisenteos, the bishop of Qift, came to visit the fathers (i.e. the monks). When he saw
that Abba Andreas was inclined towards the solitary way of life, he said to him, “If you
consent, come to light up the lamp of the church of the Holy Cross[2] and the Lord will
give your reward.”
Now, Abba Jacob the Abbot of the Monastery of Abba Samuel was getting old and he
became sick. Abba Andreas, as a pure and chaste monk, served the Abbot with love.
The Abbott instructed him saying, “O my son, serve me this short period of time, and
when I depart from this world, do not stay here because this monastery will come to
ruin.” Afterwards, the Abbot blessed him and reposed peacefully in the Lord. Abba
Andreas arose and went to the church of the Holy Cross. There, Abba Pisenteos
ordained him a priest and indeed he lit up the lamp of the church as he told him
Once, Abba Pisenteos came to visit him and he said to him, “Let us go my brother to
the inner desert and stay there for sometime. There, no one will hinder the perfection
of our worship.” The two went to the inner desert. It was very hot and they became
very thirsty. No water was to be found in such a desert. Abba Andreas lifted up his
eyes to heaven and prayed earnestly with a strong faith saying. “O God, who brought
out of the rock water for the children of Israel, look upon us, your servants, at this
hour and manifest your power for you are Kind toward the race of men. O my Lord and
my God, my Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, who is before all ages, who
made the spring of water in the valleys to water the grass, who gives the earth its
fruits, hear us for you are the Good God the lover of mankind.” As soon as he finished
his prayer, a spring of sweet water gushed forth and they drank from it. Abba
Pisenteos put his staff beside the water spring, and they returned, each to his place.
After sometime the staff budded and by the might of God it became a big palm tree.
During one of the visits of Abba Pisenteos to the Monastery of the Holy Cross, Abba
Andreas asked to pray for him saying, “My days are about to end and I will go the way
of my fathers. Thus, I ask you to remember me in your prayer.” Shortly after, Abba
Andreas became sick and he was bound to bed on account of his sickness that was
getting worse. But, he was praying and singing hymns to the Lord. When Abba
Pisenteos heard of his sickness, he went and visited him. Then, Abba Andreas said to
him, “Did I not tell you that my days are about to end? Behold, the Lord has visited
me.” Abba Pisenteos replied, “Peace to you, O Andreas, God who granted you this
good strife, grant you also patience for these pains.” The saint said, “I thank my God
and my Savior, who did not forsake me even for one moment but He stayed by me all
the way and until this hour He has not abandoned me. I entrust you to God and this is
my commandment (or will): Do not bury me in an expensive coffin but let my coffin be
sackcloth from the hairy leaves of that palm tree which is your staff, O my lord.” After
this conversation, each of them asked for a blessing from the other and Abba
Pisenteos went back to his place.
Then, Archangel Raphael came to the saint and greeted him with a greeting of peace.
He commended his chosen strife and virtuous life. He proclaimed to him the rich
honors that await him saying, “Know that the Lord Jesus Christ has sent me to you to
comfort you and to accompany you to the place of the joyful ones.” This took place on
the 18th day of the blessed month of Tubeh.
When Abba Pisenteos learned of his repose, he went straightaway to the water spring
where the palm tree was that he may fulfill what he was commanded. To his surprise,
he found sackcloth garment hanging out of the tree (as if it were a branch), he
rejoiced exceedingly and glorified God for His love and care for His Children and for
answering their requests. He took the garment and wrapped the body of the saint with
it. He placed the body in a wooden casket and put it on a carriage according to the
saint’s instruction. The carriage moved by the command of God and stopped at the
eastern side of the Monastery of the Cross, in that spot they found a grave dug and
prepared. Then, Abba Pisenteos gave orders to lay the holy body in it and glorified
God saying, “ Blessed be God who honors His saints and His chosen ones during their
lifetime and after their exit from the body.”
(1) St Andreas of the Sackcloth, Published by The Coptic Orthodox Metropolis of
Nagada & Kous, The Monastery of Abba Andreas of the sackcloth, The Holy Desert of  
El-Asas, Nagada, Egypt. Translated  to english by Mervat Iskander 1998.
Lives of Saints