Saint John Kama


(feast day: 25 Kiyahk). The ninth-century John Kama was born in the village of Jebromonnonson in the nome of Sais, in the Delta. This village name has not survived, but it could be identical with Shubra Wasim in the markaz (district) of Kom Hamadah in the modern province of Beheirah. He is said to have been very pious in his youth and to have contracted an unsoiled marriage, having persuaded the spouse chosen for him not to consummate the matrimonial union.

Guided by an angel, he went to SCETIS, where he became the disciple of a certain Apa Teroti, a name not unknown in Coptic literature, who lived in a hermitage dependent on DAYR ABU MAQAR. Teroti assigned him a habitation and taught him the rules concerning the divine office.

After a certain time spent under the jurisdiction of Teroti, he was moved by a and arrived at the monastery of JOHN COLOBOS (the Small). An angel ordered him at the same time to found a new monastery, to which his name would remain attached.

The Virgin Mary is said to have later appeared to him, promising him that a church would be built in her name and that the walls of the new monastery would never be destroyed. In token of these promises, the Virgin is said to have delivered to him three coins on each of which was inscribed a cross (the Muslims then dominated Egypt), pieces that were still preserved in the of the monastery at the time when the life was composed.

The virtues of John Kama attracted numerous disciples. The life speaks of three hundred. For them, the saint wrote canons and rules. A place of reunion, probably a church, was built to shelter the synaxis of the nocturnal psalmody, which appears to have been publicly celebrated at this period. The Life mentions the names of his principal disciples: Shenute, Mark, Colluthus, the deacon George, Antony, and another George. After the establishment of the new monastery, John Kama was priest.

He seems to have had a particular devotion to Saint Athanasius, who is said to have appeared to him in a vision. He is supposed to have introduced the mention of his name in hymns.

At the injunction of an angel, he is said to have undertaken a journey to Upper Egypt, but this may have been to camouflage his flight before the invaders during the sack of 817. He is said to have ordered his disciple Shenute to hold his place at the head of the community during his absence.

Warned by an angel of his approaching end, he was smitten by a sudden fever, in the course of which he addressed a last sermon to his monks.

According to Evelyn-White (1932, p. 306, n. 4), the name Kama is sometimes written with an X, which would make it a proper name, and sometimes with a K as if it were an adjective, meaning “the Black” in Coptic and thus indicating that he was indeed black.

  • Budge, E. A. T. W. The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Life of Hanna. London, 1900.
  • . One Hundred and Ten Miracles of Our Lady Mary. London, Liverpool, and Boston, 1923.
  • Davis, H., ed. The Life of Khamé. 14, pp. 315-72. Paris, 1920.
  • Evelyn-White, H. G. The History of the of Nitria and Scetis, pt. 2, The of the Wadi ‘n Natrun. New York, 1932.