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St. Anysia the Virgin- Martyr of Thessalonica icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Anysia the Virgin- Martyr of Thessalonike.
Commemorated December 30.
The Holy Virgin Martyr Anysia lived in the city of Thessalonica during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305). Upon the death of her parents, who had raised her in Christian piety, St Anysia sold everything she owned, distributing her riches to the poor, and she began to lead a strict life of fasting, vigil, and prayer.
During his persecution against Christians, Maximian issued an edict stating that anyone had the right to kill Christians with no fear of punishment. Soon there were many bodies to be found in cities, towns, and by the roadside. Once, when St Anysia was on her way to church, a pagan soldier stopped her and demanded that she come along to the festival of the sun to offer sacrifice. St Anysia gently pulled herself away from him. When he soldier boldly grabbed her and attempted to tear the veil from her head, she shoved him, spit in his face and said, “My Lord Jesus Christ forbids you!”
In anger, the soldier ran her through with his sword. Those gathering over her body wept and loudly complained against the cruel emperor for issuing an edict that resulted in the death of many innocent people. Christians buried the martyr near the city gates, and a chapel was built over her grave.Reference: OCA
St. Aphrodite icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aphrodite, one of the The Forty Virgin Martyrs and Their teacher Deacon Ammoun.
Commemorated September 1st.
One of the prophesies about the life of virginity, very prevalent in the New Testament, can be found in the 44th Psalm of David. There, Prophet David sees his distant, precious daughter, the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and prophesies: "Virgins shall be brought to the king after her. With joy and gladness they will be led to the temple of the king." The life of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, as a model and fortress of the virgins, propelled many souls to devote themselves to Christ totally.
The Holy Spirit in the epistles of St. Paul, especially in the beginning of 1 Corinthians, exalts the state of virginity: "Now concerning the things which you wrote to me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman." In verse eight, St. Paul continues, "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am," meaning celibate. A few verses down (v. 32) St. Paul says, "But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares for the things of the world how he may please his wife, or husband."So according to these verses of St. Paul, it is very clear that virginity and celibacy is more conducive to a higher spirituality.
This is not to say that holiness cannot be reached within marriage that is also very, very possible. However, the great life of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin, and the grace given to us in the New Testament and these great verses of St. Paul, spark a great love in Christians for a life of virginity and total devotion to the Lord.Many young women lived in the homes of their parents. Just like the daughters of the deacon Philip, they lived a life of virginity, prayer, and devotion to the early Church. Although we did not have organized monasticism before the fourth century, all the elements of the ascetically or monastic lifestyle flourished in the life of the Church, and added to the Mother Church millions of martyrs.
On the first day of September, which marks the opening of our ecclesiastical year, the Church opens its golden pages of martyrdom by celebrating the resolve of the forty women virgin ascetic martyrs who put to shame the torture mechanisms of Licinius. The forty women virgin martyrs lived in Adrianoupolis of Thrace, in northeast Greece, and they were disciples of Deacon Ammoun. During that time, around 305 AD, the emperor of the eastern region of the Roman Empire was Licinius, a dreadful persecutor of Christianity. Licinius had instituted a decree for the annihilation of all Christians who refused to sacrifice to idols. The decree of this bloodthirsty tyrant soon reached all cities, towns, and villages.
Christians were slaughtered like lambs, refusing to submit to his soul-destroying promises and choosing rather to die for the love of their heavenly bridegroom.During these horrible years, the forty virgin martyrs were apprehended and put to the test along with their deacon Ammoun. The names of these glorious Christian women are as follows:Adamantine, Athena, Akrive, Antigone, Arivea, Aspasia, Aphrodite, Dione, Dodone, Elpinike, Erasmia, Erato, Ermeneia, Evterpe, Thaleia, Theanoe, Theano, Theonymphe, Theophane, Kalliroe, Kalliste, Kleio, Kleonike, Kleopatra, Koralia, Lambro, Margarita, Marianthe, Melpomene, Moscho, Ourania, Pandora, Penelope, Polymnia, Polynike, Sapfo, Terpsichore, Troada, Haido, and Harikleia.
By their daily ascetic struggles, by their prayers, vigils, and fasting, the seed of faith rooted, sprouted, and blossomed in the fertile ground of the virgins' souls. Steadfast faith, precise keeping of Christ's commandments, and obedience to their pious spiritual father Ammoun, made them as pure as lilies. This purity invites and hosts the two theological virtues of humility and love, which further house the Trinity in the Christian heart.The intimidations, threats, and tortures did not sway the virgins. The idolater archon Varos of Adrianoupolis did not sway the unshakable faith of this holy team of virgin martyrs. They united their godly prayers, and immediately and miraculously the priest of the idols was airborne.
He remained suspended and hung in midair, thus punished for many, many hours, and finally he landed on the ground and breathed his last. Deacon Ammoun was hanged, and had his ribcage opened with knives. After this, a red-hot iron helmet was placed on his head. The above tortures caused no apparent harm to this athlete of Christ, so he was transported to Heraklea of Thrace, to the tyrant Licinius, along with the holy virgins. Licinius ordered to have ten of the virgin martyrs burned by fire, and another eight beheaded, along with deacon Ammoun. Another ten were put to death by the sword, being struck in the mouth or in the heart, thus giving up their spirit. Of those remaining, six were martyred by being forced to swallow sizzling hot iron marbles, and the last six were cut to pieces by knives.The forty martyred women and the martyr Ammoun exercised their faith, hope, and love toward Christ in an amazing way. They proved to the world that the Christian Gospel is not some ideology, but the source of life and power.
They proved indefatigably that the Church of Christ is a divine creation. The fools for Christ defeated the wise.The weak defeated the mighty.. The words of St. John the Chrysostom find their full justification through the centuries: "The Church, under persecution, scores victories. When insulted, it becomes even more radiant. It receives injuries, but it does not succumb to the wounds. It sails through rough seas, but it does not sink. It fights, but it is never defeated. O man, there is nothing more powerful than the Church." With the unshakable and steadfast faith in the Resurrected Savior, the forty virgin martyrs did not simply show patience and perseverance through these various tortures.
They didn't simply display boldness and heroism, but a characteristic element of Christian martyrdom the presence of joy, a joy quite inexplicable to the idolaters, and the cause of many conversions. Curious bystanders were often the eyewitnesses of a great marvel and profound mysteryPeople heavily injured dismembered, severely beaten, hanging on a cross (or about to be hung), engulfed by flames were full of joy. Instead of mourning,weeping and chest-beating, they were glorifying God. The day of martyrdom was a day of joy. They were rejoicing because they were deemed worthy to confess Christ, the cause of all joy.
They irrigated the tree of the Church with their blood. There is no greater sermon, there is no better way to show to the unbelievers and idolaters that Christ is the true God. The blood of one martyr would bring in dozens of new believers to the Church often thousands. Eusebius, the early church historian, informs us, "They didn't seem to worry when faced with persecution and all kinds of tortures, but they displayed fearless boldness through their faith in the God of all, and they welcomed their final decision of death with joy and laughter and great rejoicing. Therefore they chanted hymns and offered thanksgiving to the God of all, up until their last breath" (Ecclesiastical History, Volume 8, 9:5).
St. Aquilina the Virgin- Martyr icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aquilina, Akylina, the virgin Martyr. Contemporary icon.
Commemorated June 13.
Saint Aquilina was born in the Palestinian town of Byblus of honorable Christian parents. At age seven, little Aquilina was already completely versed in the true Christian life and at age ten she was so filled with divine understanding and the grace of the Holy Spirit that she, with great power and zealousness, preached Christ to her female companions. When Diocletian's persecution began, someone accused Aquilina before Volusian, the imperial deputy, who was more like a beast than a man. At first, Volusian ordered that Aquilina be flogged and after that, a red hot rod be pierced through her ears and brain.
Until the last moment, the virgin Aquilina freely and openly confessed Christ the Lord and when her brain and blood began to flow from her head, she fell as though dead. The deputy, thinking Aquilina was indeed dead, ordered her body to be carried outside the city and thrown upon a dung heap for the dogs to consume. But, an angel of God appeared to her at night and said to her: "Arise, and be whole!" And the virgin arose and was whole and for a long time she offered up praise of thanksgiving to God imploring Him not to deprive her to fulfill her martyr's mortification.
A voice from heaven was heard: "Go, it will be to you as you pray" and Aquilina set out for the town. The gates of the town opened on their own accord before her and she entered like a spirit into the palace of the deputy and appeared before his bed. The deputy was seized with unspeakable fear, seeing the virgin alive whom he thought was dead. The following day, according to his command, the executioners led Aquilina out to behead her. Before her beheading, the virgin Aquilina prayed to God on her knees and gave up her soul. The executioner beheaded her lifeless head. Her relics gave healing to many of the sick. Aquilina was twelve years old when she suffered for the Lord: suffered and crowned with the martyr's wreath in the year 293 A.D.
St. Aquillas icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aquilla the Apostle of the Seventy icon. Contemporary icon.
Commemorated February 2.
Saint Aquila, Apostle of the 70: It is possible that he was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, a native of Pontus and a Jew, living in the city of Rome with his wife Priscilla (they are commemorated on February 13 on the Greek Calendar). During the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-54) all the Jews were banished from Rome, so Saint Aquilla and his wife were compelled to leave. They settled in Corinth. A short while later, the holy Apostle Paul arrived there from Athens preaching the Gospel. Having made the acquaintance of Aquila, he began to live at his house and labored together with him, making tents.
Having received Baptism from the Apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla bacame his devoted and zealous disciples. They accompanied the apostle to Ephesus. The Apostle Paul instructed them to continue the preaching of the Gospel at Ephesus, and he himself went to Jerusalem, in order to be present for the feast of Pentecost. At Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla heard the bold preaching of a newcomer from Alexandria, the Jew Apollos. He had been instructed in the fundamentals of the Faith, but knew only the baptism of John the Forerunner. They called him over and explained more precisely about the way of the Lord.
After the death of the emperor Claudius, Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and Aquila and Priscilla then returned to Rome. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans recalls his faithful disciples, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who put forth their heads for my soul, whom I do not alone thank, but also all the Church of the Gentiles and the church of their household” (Rom. 16: 3-4). Saint Aquila did not long dwell in Rome: the Apostle Paul made him a bishop in Asia. Saint Aquila zealously labored at preaching the Gospel in Asia, Achaia and Heraklia. He converted pagans to Christ, he confirmed newly-converted Christians in the faith, he established presbyters and destroyed idols. Saint Priscilla constantly assisted him in the apostolic work. Saint Aquila ended his life a martyr: pagans murdered him. According to the Tradition of the Church, Saint Priscilla was killed together with him.
St. Arethas the Martyr icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aretha, the Martyr. Icon of 13 cent, Church of Protato, Mount Athos.
Commemorated October 24.
The Martyr Arethas and with him 4299 Martyrs suffered for the Lord Jesus Christ in the sixth century. Arethas was prefect of the Christian city of Negran in Arabia. The Arabian (or Omirite) king, Dunaan, who was Jewish, decided to eliminate Christianity from the land. He issued an edict that all followers of Christ were to be put to death.
Because the inhabitants of Negran remained faithful to the Lord, Dunaan came with a large army to destroy the city. At the city walls of Negran the king’s heralds announced that Dunaan would only spare those who renounced Christ and referred to His Cross as a “sign of malediction.”
Not daring to assault the Christian city by force, Dunaan resorted to a ruse. Dunaan swore an oath that he would not force the Christians into Judaism, but would merely collect a tribute from Negran. The inhabitants of the city would not heed the advice of St Arethas, and putting their trust in Dunaan, they opened the city gates.
The very next day Dunaan gave orders to light an immense fire and throw all the clergy of the city into it in order to frighten the rest of the Christians. 427 men were burned. He also threw the prefect Arethas and the other chief men into prison. Then the oppressor sent his messengers through the city to convert the Christians to Judaism. Dunaan himself conversed with those inhabitants brought from the prisons, saying, “I do not demand that you should renounce the God of heaven and earth, nor do I want you to worship idols, I want merely that you do not believe in Jesus Christ, since the Crucified One was a man, and not God.”
The holy martyrs replied that Jesus is God the Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who for the salvation of mankind was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Those suffering said, “We shall not abjure Christ, since He is Life for us. To die for Him is to find Life.”
More than four thousand Christians, men, women, both the aged and children, from the city of Negran and surrounding villages suffered martyrdom for Christ.Reference: OCA
St. Argyre, Argyri, Argyro the Neomartyr of Proussa icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Argyre, Argyri, Argyro the Neomartyr of Proussa.
Commemorated April 5th/30th
St. Argyrios icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Argyrios the Martyr, Αγ. Αργύριος.
Commemorated May 11.
St. Ariadne icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Ariadne of Phrygia.
Commemorated September 18.
The Holy Martyr Ariadne was a servant of Tertillos, a city official of Promyssia (Phrygia) during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-161). Once, when on the occasion of the birth of a son, the master made a sacrificial offering to the pagan gods, the Christian Ariadne refused to participate in the impious ceremony. They subjected her to beatings and lacerated her body with sharp iron hooks. Then they threw the martyr into prison and for a long while they exhausted her with hunger, demanding that she worship their gods.
When they released the saint from prison, she left the city, but Tertillos sent pursuers after her. Seeing that they were chasing her, she ran, calling out to God to defend her from her enemies. Suddenly, through her prayers, a fissure opened in the mountain, and St Ariadne hid in it. This miracles brought the pursuers into confusion and fear. In their depravity of mind they began to strike one another with spears.
St. Aristides the Philosopher icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aristides, Aristedes, Αριστείδης the Philosopher. Contemporary icon.
Commemorated September 13.
St. Aristotle the Martyr icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aristotle, Aristoteles, the Martyr.
Commemorated May 14th
St. Arsenios the Cappadocian icon (2)
Orthodox icon of Saint Arsenius, Arsenios the Cappadocian (2).
Commemorated November 10.
The most-righteous Arsenios of Cappadocia was born around 1840 in Farasa or Varasio, in Kephalochori, one of the six Christian villages of the region of Farasa of Cappadocia. His parents were rich in virtues and good deeds. They had two boys, Vlasios and Theodore (St. Arsenios).From a young age they remained an orphan and was cared for by their aunt, the sister of their mother. Young Theodore was miraculously saved in his youth by St. George. This had a great effect in the lives of the children: Vlasios glorified God in his own way later in life by becoming a teacher of Byzantine Music, while Theodore later became a monk.Continuing to grow, Theodore moved to Nigde and after to Smyrna to continue his studies.
When he was about 20 years old he went to the Holy Monastery of the Precious Forerunner Flavianon, and later he was tonsured a Monk and took the name Arsenios. Unfortunately he did not have much time for hesychia, because at that time there was a great need for teachers, and Metropolitan Paisios II ordained him Deacon and sent him to Farasa for teach letters to the neglected children. This naturally was done in secret, with two thousand precautions, so that the Turks wouldnu2019t learn what they were doing.
At the age of 30 he was ordained a priest in Caesarea with the title of Archimandrite and the blessing to be a spiritual father.Thus began his spiritual endeavor to grow and extend. With the bounty of Divine Grace which was bestowed on him God healed the souls and bodies of the suffering people. He had much love towards God and towards His icon, man, and not for himself, for, when he saw much pain and repression by the Turks, his love left outside of himself and outside of his village and embraced the surrounding villages. He healed indiscriminately the human pain of those he met, whether they were Christians or Turks.
To the Saint it didn't make a difference, because he saw each person, as the icon of God fashioned with much love. Countless are the miracles with the Saint worked with the Grace of God. Pregnant women bore children, after he read a prayer and gave them a phylacto which was a piece of paper written with some prayer that he wrote himself. The Saint read the Gospel [over the sick] in serious circumstances, such as for the blind, mute, lame, paralytics, demon-possessed, and they became better, as soon as he finished the reading.
Many Christians and Turks had been healed, after taking soil from the doorstep to his cell and mixing it with some water and drinking it, believing that they would be healed, and their faith they had in the Saint, worked the miracle. He naturally never accepted money or even a hand. He would say continually our faith is not for sale His cell, small, unadorned, was located in the world. He lived in the world, but at the same time established to live outside the world. In this, and for his divine feats, he was much aided by the two days (Wednesday and Friday) when he remained locked in his cell, in prayer. These bore more fruit spiritually, because they blessed the work of the other days. For hours he remained on his knees praying to God for His people, which he had entrusted to His servant Arsenios. The great sensitivity of the Holy Father did not allow him to do any harm to creation. Especially to animals.
He never rode on an animal to tire it, that he might rest himself. He always preferred to travel as a pedestrian, and he did so barefoot. He had before him Christ Who never sat on an animal except for one time and as he characteristically said: I whom am worse than the donkey, how could I sit on it? To hide his virtues from the eyes of men and to flee from their praises, he took refuge in certain eccentricities . He appeared strict, angry, irritable, snubbing different women, who from love towards him and gratitude tried to help him, in various ways, to cook for him or to send him food. He characteristically said however to his faithful friend and chanter Prodromos the following: I had wished to be served by women, I would have become a married priest and my wife would serve me.
The monk who is served by women, is not a monk. The inhabitants of Farasa would say in our Homeland we did not know of any doctor, we ran to Hatzefendis [what the people would call St. Arsenios]. In Greece we learned about doctors, but when we tell that to others, it appears strange to them. Among his other gifts he had the gift of prophecy. He had learned from God that they would be leaving for Greece and this took place on August 14th 1924 with the exchange of populations.
He learned previously about his death and that it would occur on an island [Before the departure St. Arsenios hastened to baptize all the unbaptized children. One of these he asked the parents to name Arsenios instead of Christos, the name of the child's grandfather. He said characteristically with the prophetic knowledge: "You want to leave a child at the grandfather's foot, don't I want to leave a monk at my foot?" Thus, as Elder Paisios mentioned in his book on St. Arsenios, he either foresaw that he would become a monk someday or he bestowed a spiritual inheritance on this young child. Either case indicate a holy person.]Three months before his repose the Panagia came to him, and took him around to all of Mount Athos, to the Churches which he so much wished to see but was not able to, and said that in three days he would be presented to the Lord, Whom he loved so much and have the whole of himself.He reposed on November 10th 1924. On February 11th 1986 he was acknowledged a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
St. Arsenios the Cappadocian icon (3)
Orthodox icon of Saint Arsenios, Arsenius, Arseny the Cappadocian (3).
Commemorated November 10.
St. Arsenios of Paros icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Arsenius, Arsenios of Paros the Righteous .
Commemorated January 31
"Saint Arsenius was born on January 31, 1800 in Ioannina, Epirus of pious Orthodox parents. In holy Baptism he was given the name Athanasius. His parents died when he was quite young. He was only nine years old when he made his way to Kydoniai, Asia Minor, where he was received by Hieromonk Gregory Saraphis and enrolled in his school. His humility and piety endeared him to Fr Gregory and also to the other teachers. The boy remained at the school for five years, surpassing the other students in learning and in virtue.
One day the renowned Spiritual Father Daniel of Zagora, Thessaly came to the school to hear confessions. Athanasius became Daniel's disciple, remaining with him until the latter's death.
Not long after this, Fr Daniel decided to go to the Holy Mountain for quiet and spiritual struggles. Athanasius begged his Elder not to leave him, but to take him with him. He expressed the desire to travel to Mt. Athos, the Garden of the All-Holy Virgin, and to become a monk.
Fr Daniel instructed Athanasius in the monastic life, which is called "the art of arts, and the science of sciences." The holy Elder was a perfect teacher who was accomplished in the spiritual life, and Athanasius was an attentive student. After a time Fr Daniel tonsured his pupil, and told him he had to learn three important lessions. First, he must cut off his own will. Secondly, he must acquire humility. Finally, he must learn obedience. "If you cut off your will, if you become humble, and if you practice perfect obedience, you will also make progress in the other virtues, and God will glorify you." [For a longer account of Elder Daniel's advice to St. Arsenios, see below***]
After a further period of testing, Fr Daniel tonsured Athanasius into the Great Schema and gave him the name Arsenius. The saint remained on Mt. Athos with his Elder for six years. Then they had to leave the Holy Mountain because of the agitation against the so-called "Kollyvades," who called for a strict adherence to Holy Tradition. The name comes from the kollyva (boiled wheat) used in the memorial service. Part of the controversy involved the debate on whether it was proper to serve memorial services for the dead on Sunday. The Kollyvades believed that these services were inappropriate for the Day of Resurrection, but should be served on Saturday. The Kollyvades advocated frequent Communion, rather than the practice of receiving the Holy Mysteries only a few times during the year. When Fr Daniel and St Arsenius left Athos, it was probably due to the animosity of those who opposed the Kollyvades.
Early in 1821, before the Greek War of Independence, they went to the Monastery of Pendeli near Athens. Their stay was a brief one, for Fr Daniel forsaw the destruction of the monastery by the Turks.
The two made their way to the Cyclades Islands in the southern Aegean Sea. First they stopped at Paros, perhaps because some of the Kollyvades had settled there. Eventually, they decided to live on the island of Pholegandros. Since there were no teachers for the children, the inhabitants entreated Fr Daniel to allow St Arsenius to instruct their children. The Elder agreed, and had Arsenius ordained as a deacon. Then he was appointed to the teaching post by the government.
The saint remained there as a teacher from 1829-1840. He taught the required subjects in school, but he also helped his students to form a good character, and to live as pious Christians.
In 1840 St Arsenius entered the Monastery of St George on the island of Paros. Elder Daniel had passed away in 1837. Before his repose, he asked his disciple to take his remains to Mt. Athos after two years. St Arsenius left Plolegandros in obedience to Fr Daniel's request, planning to stop on Paros then continue to the Holy Mountain. On Paros the abbot of St George's Monastery, Fr Elias Georgiadis, told St Arsenius that it was God's will for him to remain on Paros. This was providential, because Mt. Athos was undergoing great difficulty after the Greek War of Independence. 3,000 Turkish soldiers occupied Athos, resulting in the departure of 5,000 of the 6,000 monks.
St Arsenius joined the community at St George's Monastery on the northern end of Paros. There he found spiritual strivers of true wisdom and excellent conduct, who were worthy models for him to follow.
When he was ordained to the holy priesthood at the age of forty-seven, St Arsenius intensified his spiritual efforts. Every day he studied the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, and became adept at the unceasing prayer of the heart. He also began to show forth the gift of tears. In this, he resembled his patron St Arsenius the Great (May 8), who continuously wept tears of contrition.
Gradually, the inhabitants of Paros came to recognize him as an outstanding Father Confessor and spiritual guide. Whenever he stood before the holy altar, he felt that he was standing before God. He served with great compunction, and his face often became radiant like the face of an angel.
As his virtues became known to people, they flocked to him from near and far. He received all with paternal affection, treating each one with the proper spiritual medicine which would restore their souls to health.
A certain girl from Syros came to the Convent of the Transfiguration to visit her sister, who was a nun. The nun had previously been informed that her sister had fallen into a serious sin. When she learned that the girl was outside the doors of the convent, the nun screamed at her, "Go far away from here. Since you are defiled, you will defile the convent and the nuns." Instead of feeling pity for her sister, and trying to lead her to repentance, the nun and some of the other nuns struck the poor girl and told her to go away.
The wretched girl cried, "I have made a mistake. Forgive me!"
The nun shrieked, "Go away, or I will kill you to wash away the shame you have brought to our family."
"Have you no pity, my sister, don't you share my pain?"
"No," the nun shouted, "you are not my sister, you are a foul harlot."
"Where shall I go?" she sobbed.
"Go and drown yourself," was the heartless reply.
The poor girl fled from the convent, bleeding and wounded, intending to kill herself. At that very moment, St Arsenius was on his way to visit the convent. Seeing the girl in such a state, he asked her what was wrong. She explained that she had been led astray by corrupt men and women. Realizing her sin, she went to the convent to ask her sister for help.
"See what they have done to me, Elder. What do you advise me to do? Shall I drown myself, or leap off a cliff?"
"I do not advise you to do either, my child. If you wish, I shall take you with me and heal the wounds of your soul and body," he said gently.
"Where will you take me?" the miserable girl asked.
"To the convent, my child."
"I beg you not to take me there, Elder. My sister and the other nuns said they would kill me if I came back."
The saint replied, "Do not be afraid. They will not kill you, because I shall entrust you to Christ, and no one will be able to harm you."
"Very well," she said, "If you entrust me to Christ I will not be afraid of them, for Christ is more powerful than they."
St Arsenius led her to the convent, consoling her and encouraging her to repentance and confession. After hearing her confession, he made her a nun. Then he called all the nuns into the church and severely rebuked those who wounded the girl. He reminded them of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and of how Christ had come to save sinners. He often associated with sinners, showing them great love and mercy.
"You, however, have done the opposite. Though you knew that her soul had been wounded by the devil, you did not feel sorry for her. You did not embrace her and try to save her from further sin, but you attacked her and beat her. Then you urged her to kill herself. Now I, your Spiritual Father, tell you that you are not nuns, you are not Christians, you are not even human beings. You are devoid of compassion, affection, and sympathy. You are murderesses! Therefore, I forbid you to receive Holy Communion for three years, unless you recognize your sin. Repent and confess, weep and ask forgiveness from God and from me, your Spiritual Father, and from the other nuns who did not participate in your sinful behavior."
The nuns began to weep bitterly and they repented. Thus, he lessened their penance and forgave them. He gave the girl's sister the penance of not receiving Holy Communion for a whole year. Because the other nuns had shared in this sin, he would not permit them to receive Communion for six months.
St Arsenius foresaw his death a month before it occurred. At the Liturgy for the Feast of St Basil, he announced that he would soon depart from them. With great effort, he was able to serve for the Feast of the Theophany. After the service, he told some nuns that this had been his last Liturgy.
News of the saint's illness and approaching death spread quickly to all the villages of Paros. People wept because they were about to lose their Spiritual Father, and they hastened to bid him farewell and to receive his blessing.
On the eve of his repose, he called the nuns of the convent to come to him. He told them that the next day he would leave this temporary life and enter into eternal life.
On January 31, 1877 St Arsenius received Holy Communion for the last time and fell asleep in the Lord. For three days, people came to kiss his body, then they followed the funeral procession to the burial site which he himself had selected.
St Arsenius of Paros was glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1967. He is also commemorated on August 18 (the uncovering of his relics)."
St. Arsenius the Great
Orthodox icon of Saint Arsenius the Great. Contemporary icon.
Commemorated May 8.
Saint Arsenius the Great was born in the year 354 at Rome into a pious Christian family, which provided him a fine education and upbringing. He studied rhetoric and philosophy, and mastered the Latin and Greek languages. Saint Arsenius gave up philosophy and the vanity of worldly life, seeking instead the true wisdom praised by Saint James “pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits” (Jas. 3:17). He entered the ranks of the clergy as a deacon in one of the Roman churches, dedicating himself to the service of God.
The emperor Theodosius (379-395), who ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire, heard about his erudition and piety, and he wished to entrust Arsenius with the education of his sons Arcadius and Honorius. Arsenius, however, protested that he had given up secular studies in order to serve God. Against his will, but in obedience to the will of Pope Damasus (December 11), Saint Arsenius agreed to teach the imperial children, hoping to teach them Christian piety as well.
When he arrived at Constantinople, Arsenius was received with great honor by the emperor Theodosius, who charged him to educate his sons not only in wisdom, but also in piety, guarding them from the temptations of youth. “Forget that they are the emperor’s sons,” said Theodosius, “for I want them to submit to you in all things, as to their father and teacher.”
With fervor the saint devoted himself to the education of the youths, but the high esteem in which he was held troubled his spirit, which yearned for the quietude of monastic life. Saint Arsenius entreated the Lord to show him the way to salvation. The Lord heard his prayer and one time he heard a voice telling him, “Arsenius, flee from men, and you shall be saved.” And then, removing his rich clothing and replacing it with old and tattered garments, he secretly left the palace, boarded a ship for Alexandria, and he made his way to Sketis, a monastery in the midst of the desert.
Arriving at the church, he asked the priests to accept him into the monastic brotherhood, calling himself a wretched wanderer, though his very manner betrayed him as a cultivated man. The brethren led him to Abba John the Dwarf (November 9), famed for his holiness of life. He, wishing to test the newcomer’s humility, did not seat Arsenius with the monks for the trapeza meal. He threw him a piece of dry bread saying, “Eat if you wish.” Saint Arsenius got down on his hands and knees, and picked up the bread with his mouth. Then he crawled off into a corner and ate it. Seeing this, Elder John said, “He will be a great ascetic!” Then accepting Arsenius with love, he tonsured him into monasticism.
Saint Arsenius zealously passed through his obediences and soon he surpassed many of the desert Fathers in asceticism. The saint again heard the Voice while he was praying, “Arsenius, hide from people and dwell in silence, this is the root of virtue.” From that moment Saint Arsenius settled in a solitary cell deep in the desert.
Having taken on the struggle of silence he seldom left his seclusion. He came to church only on Sundays and Feast days, observing complete silence and conversing with no one. When Abba Moses asked him why he hid himself from people, Saint Arsenius replied, “God knows that I love you, but I cannot remain with God and with men at the same time. The Heavenly Powers all have one will and praise God together. On earth, however, there are many human wills, and each man has his own thoughts. I cannot leave God in order to live with people.”
Though absorbed in constant prayer, the saint did not refuse visiting monks with his counsel and guidance, giving short, but perceptive answers to their questions. Once, a monk from Sketis saw the great Elder through a window standing at prayer, surrounded by a flame.
The handicraft of Saint Arsenius was to weave baskets, for which he used the fronds of date palms soaked in water. For a whole year Saint Arsenius did not change the water in the container, but merely added a little water to it from time to time. This caused his cell to be permeated with a foul stench. When asked why he did this, the saint replied that it was fitting for him to humble himself in this way, because in the world he had used incense and fragrant oils. He prayed that after death he would not experience the stench of hell.
The fame of the great ascetic spread far, and many wanted to see him, and they disturbed his tranquility. As a result, the saint was forced to move around from place to place. But those thirsting to receive his guidance and blessing still found him.
Saint Arsenius taught that many take upon themselves great deeds of repentance, fasting, and vigil, but it is rare for someone to guard his soul from pride, greed, jealousy, hatred of one’s brother, remembrance of wrongs, and judgment. In this they resemble graves which are decorated outwardly, but filled with stinking bones.
A certain monk once asked Saint Arsenius what he should do when he read the Holy Scriptures and did not comprehend their meaning. The Elder answered, “My child, you must study and learn the Holy Scriptures constantly, even if you do not understand their power... For when we have the words of the Holy Scriptures on our lips, the demons hear them and are terrified. Then they flee from us, unable to bear the words of the Holy Spirit Who speaks through His apostles and prophets.”
The monks heard how the saint often urged himself on in his efforts with the words, “Rouse yourself, Arsenius, work! Do not remain idle! You have not come here to rest, but to labor.” He also said, “I have often regretted the words I have spoken, but I have never regretted my silence.”
The great ascetic and keeper of silence was given the gift of tears with which his eyes were constantly filled. He spent fifty-five years at monastic labors and struggles. He spent forty years at Sketis, and ten years on the mountain of Troe near Memphis. Then he spent three years at Canopus, and two more years at Troe, where he fell asleep in the Lord.
Our holy, God-bearing Father Arsenius reposed when he was nearly one hundred years old, in the year 449 or 450.
His only disciples seem to have been Alexander, Zoilos, and Daniel (June 7).