The Biography of " Saint Samaan The Shoemaker The Tanner "
He did not acquire any priestly standing, for he was not of the men of the cloth, but was rather an ordinary man who held fast to life of holiness and the simplicity of faith that moves the mountains.
He was humble in appearance, simple in profession, strong in essence, pure in heart, therefore God used him in one of the greatest miracles, the moving of Mokattam Mountain. Thus the sign of the Cross was lifted up on high, and the church in Egypt was saved.
He is Saint Samaan the Tanner.
1) His Upbringing
This Saint appeared suddenly on the scene of history events as a shining star and disappeared just the same way. History does not mention anything about his early upbringing at all, so we do not know where he was born, or where he was reared up, or who his father was.
But for the will of the Lord that made him appear for the performing of this miracle and the delivering of this message, we would not have heard about him at all! This proves that there are many Saints of the Lord whom the world does not know. They are hidden from sight. Wasn't this been the case at the time of Elijah the prophet?! Didn't this same prophet say to the Lord "I am the only one left" (1 Ki 19:10)?! What did the Lord answer him? Didn't he say; "I reserve seven thousand in Israel- all whose knees have not bowed down the Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him". (1 Ki 19:18)?! How amazing! Seven thousand people for the Lord and Ekijah himself did not know about them! The people are not all bad, my beloved brother. Look around you; maybe the Lord will reveal to you many Saints, whom you cannot otherwise see. Saint Samaan the Tanner was one of the obscure Saints-hidden away from sight. And even though we know nothing of his birth, yet history asserts he was in Babylon (Old Cairo) during the time of Pope Abram the Syrian (AD 975-979), which was under AL-Mu'iz , the first ruler in the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt
My Dear GOD, I thank you for the cloud of Saints which fills your beloved church. I thank you because you do not leave yourself without witness; but rather have children and holy men in every generation. Protect me from the spirit of despair which fought the courageous prophet Elijah in old times to the point that he sought death for his soul. Lord, make me steadfast in hope because you have not given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of love, help and self-control. Amen
2) His Profession
At that time the Copts were engaged in handicrafts, as we have mentioned above, Saint Samaan, therefore, worked also in one of the crafts that were widespread in Babylon (Old Cairo), which was tanning, (Old Cairo is still known for this craft today).
Most probably, this profession was not confined in the past to tanning animal skins, but included also the crafts that depend on this process, such as shoemaking and the like.
Our Saint carried several titles related to skins, of which we list the following:-
Samaan the Tanner (6)– Samaan the Cobbler (7) – Samaan the Shoemaker (8)
This was also the profession of Saint Ananaias the first patriarch of the Coptic Church after St. Mark. The latter, after having traveled about in Alexandria, went to the cobbler to mend his torn shoes. And when the awl pierced though the hand of the cobbler, he cried out, "Ious theos", which means "O the One God". St. Mark used this exclamation to evangelize the cobbler, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and was later ordained a patriarch to lead the church after him.
My Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for the profession that you gave me. Thanks for the mind that you created in me to learn this profession, Lord, allow me to use it for your glory, so that your great name might be exalted by it, as it is exalted in everything you created. Grant me true Christina honesty in practicing this profession, so that people may see my good work and glorify our father who is in heave. Amen.
3) His Purity
When the Saint was practicing his work as a shoemaker, a woman came to him to mend her shoes, and this woman was beautiful. It so happened that when she was taking off her shoes, her legs showed and he looked lustfully at her. But at once he drove the awl into one of his eyes, thus plucking it out (9) in keeping with the commandment of the Lord "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her i his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Mt. 5:28,29).
Yes, how beautiful the history of the church is, with all its narratives about the Saintly fathers. It follows the same pattern which the Bible adopted in narrating the lives of its Saints. Before mentioning their strength, it mentions their human weakness, to which the power of Christ comes and changes it into strength, and thus life is brought forth from death, and satisfying honey from the dead lion.
Hasn't the Bible mentioned the sin of lying in the life of Abraham the father of faith (Gen 12:13), and the sin of adultery in the life of David (2 Sa 11)? Even the Apostle Paul himself, being our teacher, has declared this very clearly when he said, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." (1 Ti 1:13). Yes, my dear brother, how wonderful the grace of Christ is, which lifts up from weakness and empowers with strength; and it even draws people out of the dunghill and seats them on thrones.
St. Samaan simply carried out the commandment literally. the great scholar Oregon had done a similar thing before him when he castrated himself in fulfillment of the verse that says: "Others have renounced marriage (or castrated themselves) because of the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 19:12). Each one of them has so acted in total sincerity to carry out the commandment literally, even though the church does not allow this, not to mention teach it. It was nothing but a literal and simple act which the church tolerated. But when Oregon castrated himself, the church excommunicated him, in spite of his status as great scholar, for the Lord did not mean it to be taken literally, but He was rather pointing to the mortification of the flesh; as the church teaches us to pray, saying, "Mortify our physical senses, O Christ our God." This is the same thing that the apostle Paul meant when he said, "Count
yourselves dead to sin." (Ro 6:11).
My Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You for these bright, holy, pure models that hate evil. Yes, it was You who made them hate evil ... Give me belief in Your existence in my heart, which is able to transform the corruption of my life into a life of purity. You can replace what the locusts of uncleanness have eaten with a life of holiness. Lord, grant me to submit to the Spirit of holiness, so that he might work in me His holy works, and break off all the bonds of my sins through the intercession of Saint Samaan the Tanner, the example of the life of holiness.. Amen.
4) His Abstinenves & Asceticism
Saint Samaan the Tanner was an ascetic person, which fact was made known from the conversation he had with the patriarch Abram, when the latter asked him about his life when The Virgin Mary led him to meet him. He said about him,
"I eat a little just to keep myself alive." (10)
Thus we can see how this Saint renounced the pleasures of this life, contenting himself with the least, so as to keep himself alive!
Having control over the lust of the stomach by abstaining from food is one of the characteristics of asceticism, and also a sign of practical holiness. Therefore we hear of the Saint Anba Bola the Anchorite that his food consisted of half a loaf of bread which a crow carried him. Saint Sara says, "A mouth that You keep from water does not ask for wine, and a stomach that You keep from bread does not ask for meat."
One further sign of his asceticism was the way he dressed. For on the day of the miracle, he went to the mountain together with the Patriarch, the bishops, the priests, the multitudes of the people, and the secular celebrities in his shabby clothes (11) [which were his usual clothes that he wore when he went to the tannery].
We do not want to say that uncleanness is a sign of holiness, as Pope wears very expensive clothes, especially during Feasts! but we say that not adorning oneself and not wearing expensive clothes (1 Ti 2:9) is a sign of the children of God.
So then, Saint Samaan the Tanner, as far as pious life is concerned, was ascetic in his clothes and food as were many of our father Saints; such as Saint Bola, Saint Ruweis, Saint Barsum the naked, and others.
Does not this show us another aspect of power, which is the power of the Holy Spirit of God which is different from the power of the flesh and the appearance? Doesn't this remind us of Saint John the Baptist who used to wear camel's hair and eat honey and wild locusts? In spite of this, the Bible says, "Because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him." (Mk 6:20). And likewise Saint Samaan the Tanner did not fix his eyes on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Co 4:18).
5) The Depth of his Devotion (A Man of Prayer)
The secret of the blessing in the life of Saint Samaan the Tanner lay in the fact that he was a wonderful man of prayer. For he showed in his secret conversation with the Pope that he spent long hours in prayer. He said, "And at sunset I go out with the rest of the wage workers and eat just a little, so as to keep myself barely alive. Then I turn to prayer, and stand the whole night praying." (13)
Prayer is the secret of blessing in the life of the Saints, for it brings loving fellowship between the believer and his God. Therefore, the good pleasure of the believer is to spend his time in the presence of God. It was the lifestyle of the Lord Jesus in his humanity on earth, for the Scripture says: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mk 1:35) It says also: "One of these days Jesus went out to a mountain to pray, and spent the night praying to God." (Lk 6:12) David also teaches us, saying, "But I am a man of prayer." (Ps 109:4) Likewise, Mary enjoyed sitting at Jesus' feet, "choosing what is better, which will not be taken away from her." (Lk 10:42).
In fact, when the beauty of the Lord is revealed to the believer, he cannot bear to live without fixing his gaze upon that beauty, therefore David says, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." (Ps 27:4)
In these terms, Saint Arsenius used to spend the whole night in prayer, just as Saint Samaan the Tanner was a man of prayer, for he enjoyed the depth of the fellowship with God.
My Lord Jesus, how I do need to start this blessed communion with You in the life of prayer, as my father Saints have live it! Please, my beloved Lord, make me love to sit with You and open my eyes to the wonder of the true communion and the transcendence of the spiritual blessings which I will enjoy in Your presence. Raise my soul up from its laziness, and revive it from its sleep of weakness to the blessed struggle of prayer. Amen.
6) His Practical Services
One of the secrets that Saint Samaan the Tanner revealed during his conversation with Anba Abram was the fact that he ministered to the older people and the sick, bringing them water every day. He said, "I wake up as early as this hour in the morning every day to fill my jar with water and distribute it to the elderly and the sick, who have been hampered from bringing water for themselves by old age or sickness. When I am finished with this service of mine, I return my water skin to the house and go to my work..." (14)
This ministry which Saint Samaan the Tanner used to do was one of the ministries that people would tend to depreciate and despise. While in fact it was such a great service of which the Lord said, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell the truth, he will not lose his reward." (Mt 10:42)
Many people concern themselves with the big, manifest ministries, but the humble choose the little despicable ones, and do them for the Lord.
Besides distributing water to those people, Saint Samaan also used to "distribute everyday bread and food to the cloistered hermits, whether of men or women." (15)
So Samaan the Tanner was a full-fledged Saint!
7) His Amazing Humity
Saint Samaan was so humble, and we can see the marks of his humility in the following occurrences:
(A) When the Virgin Mary revealed his holiness to the Pope, and he went out to get him in order to perform the miracle, Samaan the tanner said to him, "Forgive me, father; I am but a sinful man." (16)
What a profound statement that denotes the depth of his humility. It is the language of the Saints: "Forgive me", "I am a sinful man." Doesn't this remind us of what our teacher Peter said to the Lord Jesus: "Go away from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man." (Lk 5:8) and of what our teacher Paul said: "Christ Jesus came to this world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst." (1 Ti 1:15)?
(B) When the Pope asked him to tell him a little about his life, he was obliged to tell him his story, but at the conclusion he "besought him to keep it secret as long as he lived on this earth." (17) He also said to him, "I beg you my father not to expose me to anyone, for I have no power to bear the glory of men." (18)
This Saint had learnt humility from the gentle and humble Master who said to his disciples, "I do not accept praise from men." (John 5:41) he, therefore, said His disciples, "Do not tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." (Mt17:9)
(C) The humility of Saint Samaan the Tanner appears also, when the Pope asked him to perform the miracle, while Saint Samaan stood among the people behind him, and he said to him, "So that no one would recognize me." (19)
Thus, Saint Samaan stood among the common people while the miracle was being performed and uttered not a word or showed any sign or movement indicating that it was he who performed the miracle, so as not to draw attention to himself!! What an amazing humility!!
(D) Another sign of his humility was that, after the miracle had been performed ,"the Pope turned left and right looking for Samaan the Tanner, but he was nowhere to be found, and none has ever found him after that." (20)
Where had he gone?! Had he disappeared willingly, so that he might let no man have any hope in his appearance anymore and thus be exposed to receive vain praise from people?
It is the life of amazing humility that seeks the glory of Christ, and not its own; the life that has adopted the motto: "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)
O how do I need my great Lord to live the life of humility, learning from You, my Lord, for You are gentle and humble in heart, so that I may find rest for my soul! O Lord, how often I sought my own glory! But let me de- crease so that You may increase and be lifted up and exalted. O my Lord keeps me from the arrows of vainglory, for I am the unworthy servant. Help me to start from now.. Amen.
8) His String Faith
The time when sadness was sweeping over the church, and perplexity filled the heart of Pope Abram (21), Saint Samaan was steadfast and assured of the Lord's powers and the might of His strength. For he said to the Pope, " My honorable father, go up the mountain that the caliph tells you, and you shall see the glory of God." (22)
It was all according to his faith. The miracle was achieved and the mountain was moved from its place, because he trusted in the promise of the Lord that says, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Mt 17:20)
This is an example of the lives of our Saint fathers "who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies... the world was not worthy of them." (Heb 11:33, 34, 38)
9) His End
This Saint, as we have said earlier, was like a bright star that glimmered all of a sudden, and disappeared just the same way. History recorded his end after this fashion:
It was natural that this miracle would cause quite a commotion in the ranks of all those who witnessed it.
When they calmed down, and gained their composure back, they began to go down the mountain, going back to their homes. His felicity the Patriarch looked right and left searching for Samaan the Tanner, but he was nowhere to be found, and none has found him ever after. (23)
Yet, the Lord, in His great love, has revealed the body of this great Saint, as we shall see later on.
Lord, I thank You for this shining life of which I have just read. I pray You, my God, to turn these words which I have read into life for me to live, and place inside me holy longings to live these blessed qualities which You have given that great man of faith, Saint Samaan the Tanner.. in his intercession I pray. Amen.