“Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His Presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in the midst of it”. (Isaiah 19: 1)
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Entry into Egypt on the 24th day of the month of Pashans, which is June 1st. It is one of the Seven Minor Feasts of the Lord.
Following the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Joseph the Carpenter was visited by an angel in a dream saying, “‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’” (Mt. 2:13-15).
Jesus Christ going into Egypt fulfills Old Testament prophecies including: the Prophet Hosea who said, “Out of Egypt have I called my son”. (Hosea 11: 1); the Prophet Isaiah, “Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt will totter at His Presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in the midst of it”. (Isaiah 19: 1) and “On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the center of the land of Egypt… The Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the Lord o-n that day, and will worship with sacrifice and burnt offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them… whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people’” (Is. 19:19-25).
Egypt was a refuge for many people before the Holy Family. Abraham visited Egypt (Gen. 12:10). Joseph who became the second man after Pharaoh was taken to Egypt. Jacob and his sons came to Egypt where they lived as a family and grew as a nation. Moses, the great prophet, grew up in Pharaoh’s house. “And Moses was taught in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). Moses’ brother Aaron the first chief-priest was born and raised in Egypt. Jeremiah was just one of the prophets who visited Egypt. Thus, Egypt became a representative of the Gentiles to whom Christ came to establish His Church and form His new people.
At this time, this was a very difficult journey, filled with many dangers. There were three routes followed by travelers into Sinai from Palestine to Egypt, a crossing which was usually undertaken in groups, for without the protection of well-organized caravans, the ever-present dangers were overwhelming. But, in their escape from King Herod, the Holy Family had to avoid the well-known routes and traveled guided by God and His Angel.
They carefully traveled day after day, through hidden valleys and across uncharted plateaus in the rugged wastelands of Sinai, enduring the scorching heat of the sun by day and the bitter cold of the desert nights, preserved from the threat of wild beasts and savage tribesmen, their daily sustenance miraculously provided.
And so they arrived safely for God had preordained that Egypt should be the refuge for the One who was to bring the message of peace and love to mankind.
While in Egypt, all the places where the Holy Family passed were blessed. There are many stories of miracles that occurred during the Holy Family’s journey.
As spoken of by Isaiah, upon approaching any idols in Egypt, the statues would totter in the presence of the Lord.
In their return, the Holy Family headed south and took a boat and sailed north along the Nile. The Holy Family’s stay in Egypt provided Egypt with a great blessing like no other place on earth
As Christianity in Egypt spread, churches were built throughout the length and breadth of the land, and the sites chosen were, primarily, those which, had been visited and blessed during the Holy Family’s travels.
The visit of our Lord Jesus Christ to Egypt was a blessing to its people. Egypt was the only country visited by the Lord Jesus with the exception of Palestine. It provided reconciliation between the Egyptians and God following the Exodus plagues. The visit prepared the Egyptians for the dawning of Christianity, which would occur approximately forty years later at the hands of the apostle, St. Mark.
The second spiritual meaning for the entry of Christ into the land of Egypt is the escape from evil. By His entry to Egypt, our Lord gave us the key of the practical application of his command to escape evil, not to resist it in (Matthew 5:39). Our Lord escaped from the face of the King Herod. Nevertheless, His escape does not come out of weakness! His escape is based on divine plan; he made this journey to Egypt to fulfill the divine purpose of redemption, aiming to redeem all of mankind.
The third spiritual meaning for the Lord Jesus Christ’s entering into Egypt is to establish a Temple for the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt and to abolish and destroy the idolatrous temples spread over the whole land. In the Old Testament, the only temple of God was in Jerusalem. The Lord wanted to announce to the people of Egypt His love for them. He is calling them to acknowledge Him and to worship Him, to love Him and to build His Church. Isaiah the Prophet prophesied about that saying: “So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them.” (Isaiah 19: 21).
The Holy Family sought shelter in Egypt until the death of King Herod. He fled to Egypt although He had authority over Herod’s soul. When an angel instructed St. Joseph to return to Palestine, the Holy Family left Egypt. This fulfilled what the Old Testament prophecy had foretold, “When Israel was a child, then I loved Him, and called my Son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1).