Dispatch from the Desert:  May 4th thru 10th

African Saints (from the Prologue of Ohrid):

May 8th:  Arsenius the Great (448) – One of the most revered of the Desert Fathers.  Arsenius was a Roman born into an aristocratic family and rose to the rank of Senator.  He became a deacon and briefly served in a large church in that city.  He renounced the world all together and secretly fled to Egypt.  Arsenius started his monasticism under  Abba John the Dwarf, then became a hermit known to take in very few visitors and maintaining great humility and silence.  Forty-four of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.

Hierax of Egypt (5th century) – Perhaps this is the same Hierax with one lesson in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers is attributed to him.

May 9th:  Martyr Epimachus of Pelusium, at Alexandria (250) – Some sources has his feast day on October 14th.  As Epimachus was being tortured, some of his blood splashed on the eyes of a blind young maiden and she began to see.  She and her family converted to Christianity and were quickly martyred as well.

May 10th:  Apostle Simon the Zealot (1st century) – One of the original Twelve Disciples of Jesus Christ.  Simon was born in Cana of Galilee where the Lord did his first miracle at the wedding feast (John 2:1-11).  Known for his fiery zeal for Christ and the Gospel, Simon preached and converted many to the faith in Mauritania in north west Africa.  He was tortured and crucified.

Isidora, Fool for Christ, of Tabennisi (365) – In a convent, she was the most lowly of the nuns wearing ragged clothes and eating only the leftover scraps from the others.  She was considered insane and endured some mistreatment.  Abba Pitirim came to visit the convent and fell down before Isidora.  When the other nuns protested, he replied, “All of you are insane.  This one is greater before the Lord than any of us.  May God grant me what He has in store for her on Judgement Day.”  Rather than remain and receive apologies and honor from her sisters, Isidora fled to a lonely place where she died.

Thais (Taisia) of Egypt (5th century) – She was a wealthy Christian maiden who gave much of her wealth to monks in the desert.  When Thais couldn’t support herself, she became a prostitute in Alexandria.  Abba John the Dwarf went to the city to see her and she immediately repented in tears and left with him back to the wilderness.  On the way back, Thais was sleeping as John was praying.  He turned and saw a great light and angels taking the soul of the repentant young woman.

Orthodox Bishops

A Word from the Fathers & Mothers

“Sit in your cell and if you are hungry, eat, if you are thirsty, drink; only do not speak evil of anyone and you will be saved.”  Abba Hierax, from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

“May your mind always be in the kingdom of heaven, and soon you will inherit it.”  Abbess Syncletcia, from the Matericon


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