At the time of Jesus' birth, King Herod heard of the birth of a baby king and fearing for his throne, ordered all infant boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity to be put to death. Mary and Joseph escaped with the child, seeking refuge in Egypt. There they were said to have found shelter beneath the shade of a sycamore tree. The trunk of the tree is also said to have opened its bark miraculously to protect them when brigands pursued them. A miraculous spring of water gushed nearby for the child to drink and in its pool, a healing Balsam plant grows until this day.
Great numbers of pilgrims have been visiting this tree in the Matariya suburb of Cairo
, since the 4th century, in the hope of a sighting of the Virgin Mary and to collect the tree's bark, said to have medicinal properties. The Balsam plant is also used for the preparation of perfumes and Chrisma, a holy oil that has been consecrated since apostolic times.
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