The Life of St Pisentius
[Pisentius of Qift was a celebrated Coptic bishop and spiritual writer who lived in
Egypt before the Arab invasion. This is how is life was later remembered by the
Christians of Ethiopia:]
On the thirteenth day of month Hamle died the holy man Beba Besendyos, Bishop of
the City of Keft. This holy man was a monk from his youth up, and he adopted the
ascetic life, and he contended strenuously and fought with great zeal the fight of the
monks. And he learned thoroughly and understood many Books [of Scripture], and
among their number were the Psalms of David, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. And
it came to pass that when he was reciting one of the Prophets, the Prophet whose
Book he was reciting would come to him [and stand by his side] until he had finished
reciting the Prophecy. And it is related concerning him, that when he was praying
and lifting up his hands, his [ten] fingers became filled with light, even like unto ten
bright lamps. And God wrought through him great and mighty miracles and wonders.
He never at any time looked upon the face of a woman, but always kept his head
bowed to the ground.
And there was a certain woman who was afflicted with sore disease in her belly. And
she lay in wait for him one day near his cell, and she came upon him when he was
unprepared, and he ran away, and the woman ran after him. And when she was
unable to overtake him, she took a handful of the dust whereon his foot had
trodden, and in faith swallowed it; and she was healed of her sickness immediately.
And one day he saw three shining men, and they gave unto him keys, saying, `It is
for thee to administer the Church of God.' Then God chose him, and appointed him
Bishop of the City of Keft. And it came to pass that [on a certain day] he was
consecrating the Holy Offering, and he looked and saw our Lord on the altar, and
with Him were His angels. And on a certain day a priest was reciting the words of
the consecration of the Holy Offering before him, and when this priest was half-way
through the Office, he spat out some spittle from his mouth as he was standing
before the altar. And when the priest had finished the Office of Consecration, this
Father Besendyos rebuked him, saying, `Hast thou no fear of God when thou art
standing at this altar? Dost thou not know that the spittle which thou didst spit out
of thy mouth fell upon the wing of the Cherub who was standing before the altar?'
And great fear and trembling fell upon that priest, and they carried him away to his
house, and he fell sick of a fever and died.
And this holy man possessed a fine voice, and he read beauti- fully, and no man was
ever offended through his rebuke and admonition. And when the time had drawn nigh
wherein he was to die, he had knowledge of this a few days before. And he
summoned the congregation of monks, and he taught them, and rebuked them, and
confirmed them in the Right Faith, and he gave unto them many commandments,
and he committed his soul to the hand of God. And God made manifest many
miracles through his body. And his servant carried off a little piece of the cloth
wherein he was buried, and with it he used to heal every person who was sick, and
who came to him in faith. May his prayer and blessing be with our king John!
SELAM: Salutation of Besendyos, who saw the Prophets [standing by him] Until he
finished reading the Prophecies written [by them]; And there was a report about him
that he worked miracles. A woman was healed of her sickness, and recovered
By swallowing the dust from the print of his holy foot.
[1] According to the Ethiopic Synaxarium. Translated by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge
Lives of the Saints