Andrew, Lydia, and Anianus: What do these three great heroes of faith all have in common? In their own little way they were all “firsts”. Andrew was the first disciple called by Jesus. Lydia was the first convert in Europe. St. Anianus? He was the first Christian convert in Egypt.
Conversion of Anianus
Early Christian history tells us that when Mark the Apostle came to Egypt (historians differ on the exact dating but the dates range anywhere between 48-61 AD), his shoes were all messed up from his long journey of preaching. First stop was a cobbler shop to get his sandals all cleaned up and fixed up. As the cobbler was trying to fix the Apostles shoe he pricks himself and shouts “the One God.” Like would be expected from any great missionary, Mark jumps in with a question. “Do you know who that One God is?” The two of them began to talk and the rest is history (literally).
From Cobbler to Bishop
Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with Anianus that led to his baptism, along with his wi
fe, his children, and his entire household, and culminated with his ordination as the Bishop of Alexandria, Mark the Apostle planted the seed of the Gospel in this cobbler turned Bishop, that ultimately grew into one of the most influential Churches in Christian history. Today the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the life of a man, St. Anianus the Cobbler, who is usually a forgotten character.
Here are a few reasons why I am most inspired by the life of this first century Egyptian:
- A Simple, Ordinary Guy: Usually we think of important leaders as thos
e who are highly educated, well-spoken, wealthy, and powerful. Anianus was anything but those things, unless if he was the Phil Knight (founder of Nike) of 1st CenturyEgypt. Although anything is possible, I highly doubt he was a shoe mogul. I seem to think he was probably just a simple, ordinary guy who was on a mission to know the truth.
- Responding to Truth: When faced with the Truth of Jesus Christ, and His Gospel, St. Anianus was so excited that he immediately brought the good news to his entire family. He must have spent countless hours asking questions, learning from the Mark the Apostle, and meeting with Christ in prayer, as he was faced with the Truth that turned his world upside down.
- Little Known about him: Though he went on and served the city of Alexandria, as it’
s first Bishop – after Mark the Apostle – few people know anything about Anianus. The cousin of Jesus Christ had something to say about the attention that people get while serving God when he said Christ “must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
- Do your little part: The truth is that without this little known cobbler doing his part in serving the Church of Alexandria as its bishop for just over 20 years, who knows what would have become of St. Mark’s missionary activities in Egypt. He had his little part to do, and so do each of us.
When asked by people “why in the world would you actually request the name St. Anianus to be the namesake of the Church you serve in,” those are some of the reasons why. The story of St. Anianus is each one of us:
A simple, ordinary person on a mission to know the Truth, determined to do your little part to impact the world around you, regardless of what people may (or may not) say about you.