Samalut (Agenzia Fides) - This year more than one million Egyptian pilgrims, both Coptic Christians and Muslims, are expected at the Marian Monastery-Shrine of Jabal al Tayr, near the city of Samalut, in the Egyptian province of Minya, in the days in which the Coptic Church celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary.
After years heavily conditioned by the health provisions put in place to counter the pandemic from Covid-19, this year the areas around the Shrine are once again filled with stalls relating to various expressions of popular devotion towards the Virgin Mary. In addition, national and local authorities ensure the smooth running of the celebrations and provide special attention and resources as part of the necessary public services, starting with the rapid collection of waste and coordinating measures to protect security and public order. The celebrations that take place each year at the Shrine in honor of Mary's birth begin at the end of May and last for a week. The Marian shrine is also one of the most important stations on the "Way of the Holy Family", which, according to traditions thousands of years old, connects the places that Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus passed through during their stay in Egypt fleeing from Herod. The Church of the Virgin Mary on Jabal al-Tayr ("Hill of the Birds") is said to have been built around 328 AD at the behest of Queen Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, and is one of the most popular and visited shrines in the world.
The original place of worship, carved into the rock, hosts liturgical celebrations only three times a year, on the occasion of three solemnities of the Coptic liturgical calendar.
According to traditions, after arriving in the city of Samalut, the Holy Family crossed the Nile to the east, right where the Monastery is currently located, and settled in the cave that is incorporated into the ancient church. The hill on which the monastery is located is also known as "Palm Hill" because, according to local tradition, as baby Jesus was standing near the hill with Mary and Joseph, a large fragment of rock broke off the hill and threatened to sweep them away. Jesus is said to have stretched out his hand and stopped the rolling rock. The palm of his hand imprinted itself on the rock. At Jabal al Tayr Monastery, one can experience year-round devotion to the Mother of Jesus, which is also widespread among the Muslim faithful, who make pilgrimages to the shrine to pray and seek graces. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 31/5/2022)