St Thomas the Anchorite of Shinshif
Introduction:
Around the time of St. Shenouda, there lived in a mountain, near Akhmim, an
anchorite monk, called Thomas. Our knowledge of him is derived mainly from the
Arabic Life of St. Shenouda, where we are told of the great reverence that St.
Shenouda had for him. Currently there is a monastic church built on the site of the
mountain in his name. This church holds a great significance to this writer, whose
family was in charge of serving it from its base in the Pachomian monastery of
Al-Sawamaa, near Akhmim. The monastery, housing the church, was revived again
during the papacy of Pope Shenouda III.
Text from the Arabic Life of St. Shenouda:
The following is a translation of E.C. Amelineau's 1888 edition of the Arabic Life of St.
Shenouda, where our saint is mentioned. The text is referenced by  Amelineau's page
number as follows:
(462).. And there was on mount Shinshif, a saintly anchorite man, his name Mari
Thomas. And he was a beloved person, and my father testified about him, that there
was no equal to him. And the Savior Lord spoke to him mouth to mouth. And the
angels came unto him many times. And the Lord Christ brought him to my father in
the desert. And then the Lord Savior also brought my father to the dwelling of the
righteous saint Thomas, and visited him (463) and consoled them together many
times. And when (the time of) his repose drew near and his departure from the flesh,
they (lit he) went to the wilderness and they conversed together in the great (deeds)
of God. So the saint, our father Thomas said to my father, Behold I will depart from
you, today. In a little while, the Lord will visit me. This is the last time I will
converse with you in the flesh. For the angel of the Lord made it known to me in the
past night, then he told me the day of your repose also. So your children (or
disciples) should attend to this day, to be unto them a sign forever, for it is the
birthday of Cyril the wise and the Archbishop of Alexandria and (of) Mari Buktur (or
Victor), Archimandrite of Taphnis. Not (only) the same day but the same hour, and it
is known and sanctified, which is the 7th of the month Abib. And many saints,
countless in number, will come to meet you. So my father said to him, How can you
be assured of that date that you will die in. Mari Thomas said to him, I will make
known to you with a sign that you will be marveled at which is that this rock that you
are sitting on, outside your dwelling, and watch (464) the sins of the whole world, at
the time that my soul will depart from my body, this rock will split in half like a book
that you open. And He that guided Tobit son of Tobias in the land of estrangement,
who is Raphael the Archangel, you see him, he (will) walk before you, and those that
you choose them, until you arrive at my dwelling without a ship. Do a charity for the
Lord's sake and cover my wretched body, for I am an orphan and destitute(?), and I
have no one but God alone. So what is written may be completed that I will increase
in your benediction. And I trust that your heart will rest and those who will be
accompanying you, and the Lord will recompense you with charity and give you your
wage. My father marveled at St. Thomas and at his sweet words. Then he (St.
Shenouda) was saddened for what he said to my holy father that I will not tarry but
remain standing. Then he struck his hands together and said, "God's will be done". So
the anchorite saint, Mari Thomas, kissed my father and said, "I bid you farewell in
God from now until I meet you in the assembly of the saints(lit. first-born). And he
came out from him and returned to his dwelling, Then my father continued the
strictness in his worship. And after three month, my father (465) while standing at
the rock, that we mentioned earlier, praying; he sat down to rest a little. Forthwith,
the rock split in half, and behold it is a sign unto this day. So my father was
exceedingly saddened and said, "Truly, Shinshif has lost (the) luminous lamp of the
desen1 who is Saint Thomas." And when he said this, he saw Archangel Raphael
pointing to him with his right hand and saying to him, "Greeting unto you, 0 the
friend of God, my(?) teacher and beloved of all the righteous and the   saints. Let us
go to cover the body of the saint, for the Lord and His angels are waiting for you and
you shall hear the appropriate, enjoyable sweet talk." So he followed him and came
to the monastery. And it was night, and he met a diligent brother, reading in this
psalm which say, "1 rise up at midnight to give thanks (for) sayings of blessings and
(for) your justice". So my father said to him, "follow me". And they came to brother
Akhnoukh (or Enoch), and he was a brave strong (person), and he was reading in this
psalm, "I take cover (lit. shadow) under His wings, and His justice surrounds you as a
shield, so my father said to him, "Follow me". Then they came to the third, Abba
Yusab, the wise scribe while reading (466) in this psalm, saying in it, we got up and
arose and in the name of our God, we arose." So my father said to him, "Peace be to
you, 0 the good fruit, follow me" he entered to the altar and prayed with the three
fervent brothers and straitened up and went with Raphael the angel walking before
them until they reached the door of the dwelling without a ship. My father entered
first while calling, "Bless me". So he heard the Chanter David as he was saying,
"Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord." Then he kissed the Lord Savior
mouth to mouth and he struck the harp of the prophet David and chanted saying,
"Our mouths was filled with joy". And the Lord Savior Christ, ascended with His
angels. So my father invited the brothers and recited for them (prayers) for a long
time, then they prepared him and buried him with great preparation and returned to
the monastery without a ship. And no one opened his mouth nor talked for the
Archangel Raphael was preceding them and in his hand a scepter of fire before them.
This was so that you glorify God and His saints.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
*Amelineau, B.C. Monuments pour servir a l'histoire de l'Egypte chretienne. Mémoires
de La Missior: Archeologique Francaise du Caire 4. Paris, 1888.
*Crum, W.E. Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the British Museum. London,
1905.
*Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Vol.1. Paris, 1972.
[1] St Shenouda Coptic Newsletter -(by Hany N. Takla).
Lives of the Saints