ABRAHAM AND GEORGE OF SCETIS, SAINTS
Two seventh-century monks who shared a cell at Dayr Anba Maqar for many years (feast days: 9 Tubah and 18 Bashans, respectively). These two men, with Saint AGATHON THE STYLITE; Zacharias, bishop of Sa; Saint ISAAC (later patriarch of Alexandria); Saint MENAS, bishop of Tmuis; Epimachus of Arwat; Saint ZACHARIAS, bishop of Sakha; and Ptolemy, brought fame to Dayr Anba Maqar (the Monaslery of Saint Macarius) in Scetis. Abraham and George are always presented as inseparable companions, in contrast with the other disciples of JOHN, HEGUMENOS, a monk of Scetis. A joint biography was written by Zacharias, bishop of Sakha, who was a monk at Scetis toward the end of their lives (National Library, Paris, Arabic 4888, fols. 175v-205v; summary in Evelyn-White, 1932, pp. 278-80; see also the Copto-Arabic SYNAXARION in Basset, PO 11, 1916, pp. 565-67; 16, 1922, pp. 393-95; and in Forget, CSCO 47-49, pp. 200-202; 67, pp. 126-218 [text]; 78, pp. 326-28; 90, pp. 126-27 [trans.]).
Abraham appears to have been born around 608. It seems that he is, in fact, the disciple of John the Hegumenos called Abraham of Phelbes (modern-day Bilbeis) in the story of the translation of the FORTY-NINE MARTYRS OF SCETIS (de Ricci and Winstedt, 1910, pp. 335, 349); this would indicate his place of origin. The Synaxarion relates that his mother was denounced to the Persians (who occupied Egypt from 616 to 628) and carried off into slavery, but the Arabic life speaks not of Persians but of “barbarians” during a raid in their district. After his father’s death, Abraham refused the marriage that his mother proposed for him and, at age thirty-five, went off to Scetis, where he became a monk in the monastery of Saint Macarius under the direction of John the Hegumenos.
Later he went to the monastery of Anba Orion, where he met George. The latter, whose place of birth is unknown, had at first been a shepherd but at the age of fourteen had become a monk in the monastery of Anba Orion, the site of which is not known (Timm, 1984, pp. 671-72). He lived there for ten years and then went off into the desert. After two days’ walking, in a vision he received the order to return to his monastery. He found himself at the monastery of DAYR AL-BARAMUS, and from there he went back to his own monastery of Anba Orion.
Abraham persuaded George to come with him to Scetis. George remained behind for some time to settle his affairs and then set off, became lost in the desert, and was miraculously transported to Scetis. The two friends installed themselves in the same cell (that is to say, a hermitage called Bajij near Saint Macarius) belonging to John the Hegumenos. Both experienced apparitions of Jesus; they produced writings and exhortations, none of which, unfortunately, seems to have survived. One day during Lent they visited the future patriarch Isaac in the hermitage to which he had withdrawn. His disciples were numerous. Not long after John the Hegumenos died in 675, Abraham fell sick. His illness lasted eighteen years and he died at the age of eighty, around 693. George died after him, at the age of seventy-two.
Both their hermitage and their tombs were still in existence in the fourteenth century, when the desert was visited by the patriarchs at the time of the preparation of the chrism (see Livre du chrême, National Library, Paris, 100, fol. 58r; cf. Burmester, 1967, p. 220).
Abraham and George are called “the last great saints,” because they seem to have been the last to lead the ancient hermit life as an end in itself, away from the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
- Burmester, O. H. E. The Egyptian or Coptic Church. Cairo, 1967. Evelyn-White, H. G. The Monasteries of the Wadi‘n Natrun, Vol. 2,
- The History of the Monasteries of Nitria and Scetis. New York, 1932.
- Ricci, S. de, and E. O. Winstedt. “Les Quarante-neuf vieillards de Scété.” Notices et extraits de manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale et autres bibliothèques 39 (1910):323-58.
- Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, vols. 1-2. Wiesbaden, 1984.