We will enter Great Lent this month. Among the Saints of Africa are great monastics who’s works appear in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and the Philokalia. We also commemorate John Climacus who lived on the Sinai Peninsula and wrote the epic Ladder of Divine Ascent. The great fast isn’t just about what foods we are giving up. This is a time that we should partake of more holy wisdom from the universal fellowship of saints in the Orthodox Church. Be sure to talk to your spiritual fathers and mothers for suggested reading material. The following list of saints include those born in Africa and who spent formative years there. The main source is from the Prologue of Ohrid by St. Nikolai Velimirovich. I welcome suggestions of other sources so that a full list of African saints can be made.
March 2nd: Venerable Agathon of Egypt (5th century) – According to The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Agathon was trained as a young monk by Poemen in the Thebaid region of Egypt. Thirty passages of that volume are attributed to him.
March 3rd: Alexandra of Alexandria (4th century), Piama the Virgin (337), Unknown Maiden in Alexandria (?) – Piama chose to wed her soul to Christ than herself to a man and spent much of her time in contemplation and prayer.
March 4th: Bishop Julian of Alexandria (189)
March 5th: Venerable Mark the Ascetic of Egypt (5th century), Virgin-martyr Irais (Rhais) of Antinoe of Egypt (3rd century), Martyr Arcelaus and 152 Marytrs in Egypt (308), Paul the Simple of Egypt – disciple of Anthony the Great (339) – Mark the Ascetic became a monk at 40 years old by John Chrysostom. According to the Philokalia vol.1, he may have been the head of a monastery in Asia Minor before living in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine. In this book, Mark contributed On Spiritual Law: 200 Text, On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works: 116 Text, and Letter to Nicolas the Solitary.
March 10th: Venerable Mother Anastasia the Patrician of Alexandria (567) – A former lady in waiting in Constantinople, Anastasia became a monk in disguise in Egypt.
March 11th: Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (638), Venerable George the Sinaite (6th century) – Sophronius was born in Damascus and wrote The Spiritual Meadow after visiting and learning from Egyptian ascetics.
March 12th: Righteous Aaron the High Priest and brother of Prophet Moses the God-seer (1530 BC), Monk Cyrus of Alexandria (6th century.
March 13th: Marytrs Africanus, Publius, and Terence at Carthage (250).
March 15th: Martyr Nicander the Egyptian (302) – skinned alive for tending to the bodies of Christian martyrs.
March 16th: Sabinus of Hermopolis, Egypt (303) – A Syrian who lived in the Egyptian city. Sabinus was betrayed by someone he aided and was drowned in the Nile River.
March 17th: Deacon Ambrose of Alexandria (400)
March 20th: Photina the Samaritan Woman – She spoke with Jesus in John 4:4-31. She and her two sons and five sisters evangelized in Carthage after the Lord’s Resurrection. They were arrested and sent to Rome where they were martyred by Nero.
March 21st: Bishop Serapion of Thmuis, Egypt (358) – Serapion was a companion of Anthony the Great and was the Abbot of a monastery with over 11,000 monks. Four lessons are attributed to him in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.
March 24th: Zacharias the Recluse of Egypt (4th century) – The son of Abba Carion. Though younger than most other Desert Fathers, Zacharias was honored for his wisdom. Five of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.
March 26th: Subdeacon Eutychius of Alexandria (356)
March 27th: Paphnutius (4th century) – A disciple of Anthony the Great. Paphnutius was known for leading sinners to repentance. Six of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.
March 29th: John the Hermit (4th century) – The son of a Christian woman, Juliana, in Armenia. He fled to the Egyptian wilderness and was spiritually guided by Abba Pharmutius.
March 30th: John Climacus (649) – He is also venerated on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. John came to the Sinai Peninsula at the age of 16 and was a recluse for many years. At 80, he became the Abbot of the Sinai Monastery where he wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent.
March 31st: Apollonius (Apollo) of the Thebaid (4th century) – He became a monk at 15. After years of ascetic discipline, He established a monastery with 500 monks. Sixty-two sayings are attributed to him in The Lives of the Desert Fathers
2 thoughts on “Saints of Africa: March”
I am very interested in the saints etnicity. I am in washington and the greek make alllllll the saints greek or caucasian
Unfortunately, ethnocentric arrogance is a barrier some Orthodox Christians put up against African-Americans, or anyone else they do not want in their church (including some whites). When I make my post about African saints, I identify if they came from somewhere else but gained much of their spiritual wisdom from Africa. That doesn’t bother me because of the universal nature of early Christianity. Greek was the major language spoken in the Eastern Roman Empire. But, the Greeks themselves were a minority outside of Greece and Asia Minor. In his book “The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy,” Alexander Schmemann described Hellenism and Hellenistic culture as “a thin layer … established in the cities among the intellectuals” (pg. 139). Syrian and Coptic Egyptian populations were still high and very influential. In “The Destruction of Black Civilization,” Chancellor Williams describes the majority people of Lower Egypt as being “coloured” with whites and black Africans being in the minority (pg.137). The closer one got to the First Cataract, the darker the population became. So, if a saint was from Alexandria, there is a chance that he or she could have looked like anything; perhaps even dark complexioned (St Moses, Isaac of Fayoum). If the saint was from Aswan, easily it can be assumed that he/she were more of native African stock.
I think it’s annoying that the Polish icon, our lady of czestochowa shows Mary and the Christ child chocolate brown and no one says one word about it. But when we have an icon of St. Maurice of Thebes or some other African saint looking like one of us, people claim we are being politically correct. Then again, I just let the dogs bark and go on with my posting.