St. Neophytes of Cyprus Icon

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Orthodox Icon of Neophytes of Cyprus .

Commemorated April 12th.

St. Neophytos was born in the year 1134.He secretly departed from his paternal home and sought to find a monastery where his parents would not find him. He found a monastery on Mount Koutsoventes dedicated to Saint John Chrysostom.There he struggled devoutly in the monastery. His parents soon discovered where he was concealed. When his parents saw the fervor of his faith, they acceded to his monastic desire. Once again he set out for the Monastery of Saint John Chrysostom.

He was tonsured and was clothed in monastic garments and was given the obedience to work in the vineyards. After working in the vineyard for five years, he was given a blessing by the abbot to become the monastery's ecclesiarch in which capacity he served for two years. He desired was to go to the Holy Lands to live as an ascetic under the guidance of a desert father. Receiving permission he left for the Holy Land where he venerated all the holy places around Jerusalem.

One day as he was asking for Gods direction our Lord appeared to him and spoke to him in the following words: "Not in this desert but go to another place where the king will descend and grant you a morsel." Saint Neophytos returned to the Monastery of Saint John Chrysostom until he could determine to which desert our Lord was directing him. The Lord God in His wisdom and out of love for the Orthodox people of Cyprus did not allow the blessed one to leave the Island. He left the city and went north of Paphos, high on a mountain, he found a desert place with a steep precipice.

There he found a small cave and immediately knew that this was the desert which the Lord selected for him. After fifteen months, on the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross [September 14th] his cave was ready. Within this cave he vowed to enclose himself giving it the name Enkleistra or Enclosure. He confined himself to physical darkness so that he may receive the Heavenly and Uncreated Light of the Most Holy Trinity.

His fame spread everywhere and many flocked to him for his prayers and blessing. In a divine vision Basil, the Bishop of Paphos, was commanded by our Lord to ordain His Saint to the Priesthood. He was thirty-six years of age when through Gods Providence he entered the final stage of preparation which would make him the spiritual father of all Cyprus when the Latin cloud would descend upon it. With his few disciples he started the construction of a monastery not too far from his cave.

For thirteen years they worked unceasingly to build this future spiritual centre of Cyprus, as if the man of God knew what the Lord had ordained for him. Not only did he insure that the monastery had as many writings of the great Fathers as possible, but he zealously endeavored to acquire the Holy Relics of many Saints for the fathers to venerate and from which they would receive enlightenment. On May 6th 1191, Richard the Lion-Heart invaded and captured Cyprus on his way to Jerusalem to take part in the Third Crusade.

From this day on the people of Cyprus were ruled by non-Orthodox foreigners until 1958. Richard the Lion-Heart sold Cyprus to the monastic order of the Knights Templars, who in turn sold it to the deposed King of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, in 1192. The Franks introduced the Feudal system and all Cypriots became serfs. The Orthodox Church was persecuted and all educated people and most bishops were forced to leave. Using similar methods in Southern Italy and in Sicily, the Papacy forced the people to become Roman Catholics.

Saint Neophytos, at fifty-eight years of age, Saint Neophytos led the resistance against the latinization of Cyprus without going against his vow to remain in his cave. He decided that after forty years in his beloved cave he would have to leave and go higher up on the precipice. Placing a ladder on the ledge outside his cave he stood on top of the ladder and excavated a small opening which with time he enlarged so that it would become his new place of habitation. Once the new cave was complete he wished to make a ledge upon which he could walk.

As the ledge was nearing completion, Satan, the hater of good, caused a boulder to dislodge and, as it rolled, it took with it the man of God. The Lord, however, wished to glorify His Saint even more and just as the Saint was about to roll off the ledge and fall to his death, the boulder was held back by the hand of God. Underneath the boulder the Saints right hand and part of his robe were caught whereas the rest of him was already over the ledge. The Fathers who were watching helplessly from down below glorified God for His mercy and rushed to dislodge the Saint from the boulder. This new cave was named New Zion.

There, he accustomed himself to living in total silence not even attending the Divine Services except on the Lords Day, on which day he would also instruct his disciples. The man of God reposed on April 12th, 1219.

Reference: O.C.A.