In May of 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv. Wars and atrocities soon followed in the Middle East. But something special happened a few years later in July of 1954. The Coptic Patriarchal Church and the Coptic School of St. Anthony of Egypt are barely a hundred yards away from the Holy Sepulchre or Church of the Resurrection where the tomb of Jesus and True Cross were allegedly discovered. It was in these surroundings that there occurred two apparitions of Blessed Mary during a two-week period that July. They become important because there were so many witnesses.
On the morning of July 18, 1954, Primary Class Five was receiving religious instruction at the School of St. Anthony. The young students included Coptic, Catholic, and Moslem children. At about 11:00 a.m., as the students were anticipating their lunch break, some of them were looking out the window. Suddenly, they exclaimed with excitement, “El Adra! El Adra!” (The Virgin!)
They shouted that the Virgin Mary was floating by a window across the courtyard. They recognized her as the Blessed Virgin because she was dressed in blue and was surrounded by a glowing white aura near her body. This white glow transformed into an iridescent blue as it radiated outward from her form.
All of the children rushed to the windows to see the sight. All of them saw Our Lady. The teacher, however, could not see her. She had trouble getting the children to settle down and come back to their seats. The children did not want to leave the windows and lose sight of this divine presence. The teacher summoned the school’s male secretary for help. He, also, could not make out any image of the Blessed Virgin, so he commanded the children to stop being so silly. After bringing the class back to order, he locked the door to prevent them from going into the courtyard.
Soon, the children were in an uproar again. This time Our Lady actually appeared within their classroom among the children! The Virgin’s form with its whitish-blue aura seemed to have been rather transparent since the young witnesses could see right through her. This event lasted for about five minutes – or at least long enough to attract several of the adults. The adults were bewildered because they still could not see anything while the children were ecstatic with excitement.
But then, Blessed Mary positioned herself in front of one of the classroom walls where she grew in intensity and brilliance. At that point, several of the adults admitted that they could make out the outline of her figure with a faint luminescence. Now they knew that the children were not imagining things and had good reason to be excited. The Blessed Mary vanished at this moment.
News of this supernatural event spread like fire. The school was permanently disrupted for that day with hundreds of the curious coming to view the classroom where the apparition had taken place. Eventually, this classroom was painted in blue to match the color of Our Lady’s dress. A magnificent icon of the Virgin Mary was placed on the wall in front of which she had appeared. A plaque outside the classroom window details the events of that appearance by Our Lady.
The Coptic Patriarchal church associated with this School of St. Anthony experienced a sudden increase of visitors and pilgrims. Scheduled services became standing-room only! And their devotion was richly rewarded one week later.
At Vespers, on July 25, 1954, there were close to four hundred people present, including Moslems as well as Christians. The parish priest was a “tough, strong, no-nonsense man” who was conducting the service when it became interrupted by startled shouts and cries. The entire congregation was definitely seeing something. When the priest looked up, he was so overcome with emotion at what he witnessed that he could not continue the service. The priest and the entire congregation clearly saw the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, moving either just above their heads — or among and between them.
This time the Lady was more visible than before. Rays of colored light streamed out from her and bathed the astonished faces of the congregation with many colors. People also saw the rays of light reflect off the church walls. This appearance of Our Holy Mother lasted for about fifteen minutes – which was enough time to alert others who came in and observed her as well.
Then the miraculous and divine image of Our Lady slowly faded until only her blue-white aura was present. Then, that also faded and disappeared altogether. An account of these two apparitions appeared in the Coptic Patriarchal Journal. Yet, the Copts did not feel favored; their bishop summarized their feelings well with his statement:
“She did not come for our sakes. She came because this place is holy, being within a few yards of Calvary and the Tomb.”
Despite this wonderful and inspiring pair of sightings, Israeli and Arab conflicts escalated and intensified, continuing to the present day.