Saints of Africa: June

“You can go right back to the very beginning of Christianity, Catholicism, the genesis of Christianity as we know it to be presently constituted, was conceived in Africa – by those whom the Christian church calls ‘The Desert Fathers.'” from the Autobiography of Malcolm X, page 368.

There is a tendency among many in the African-American community to ignore these words altogether and still hold on to the notion that none of our ancestors were ever Christian. Brothers and sisters would do well to read more than Facebook memes. Near the end of his life, Malcolm X pointed to the fact that much of early Christian spirituality and some of it’s greatest heroes came from Africa. Those of us who took the time to reasearch these words have discovered a deep wellspring of faith that is much older than anything taught to our enslaved forefathers of these shores. Indeed, learning about and from the Desert Fathers has been a great source of strength in our struggles against sin and a solid rock to stand on in the struggle against racism for me.

St. Cyprian of Carthage in Richmond, VA is where I found the ancient faith

Continuing to denounce Christianity as “the white man’s religion” without seeing how the original ancient faith was in Africa is self defeating. It is denying the powerful influence saints like Athanasius, Anthony, Cyprian, Felicity, Macarius, Moses, Pomen, and Theodora had on the Orthodox faith which is still practiced worldwide. Not being able to see the universal scope of who you are is a self-inflicted enslavement. Malcolm didn’t become an Orthodox Christian. But, he saw beyond the American borders of race and religion.

The list of saints is from the Prolouge of Ohrid written by Saint Nikolai Velimirovich and include those born in Africa and those from other lands who had significant spiritual growth there. If anyone knows of other saints to be included, and can give a source, please let me know.

A collection of African saints including (top left to right) Athanasius the Great, Moses the Black, Cyprian of Carthage, Djan Darada, Mary of Egypt (Bottom left to right) Sophia, Fulvanius Matthew, Anthony the Great, Elesbaan, Maurice of Thebes.

June 3:  Achillies, Bishop of Alexandria (312)

June 4:  Zosimas of Cilicia (6th century) – A dedicated ascetic on Mt. Sinai, Zosimas was ordained Bishop of New Babylon in Egypt.  After years of service, he returned to Mt. Sinai where he reposed.

Optatus (376) – Bishop of Milevun in Numidia, North Africa.

Alonius (5th century) – Monk in Sketis, Egypt.

June 5:  Anoubius (5th century) – A well respected monk of Sketis, Egypt who was known for being clairvoyant.

Martyrs Marcian, Nicander, hyperechius, Apollonius, Leonides, Arius, Gorgias, Selenias, Irenaeus, and Pambo of Egypt (250-252)

Dorotheos (395) – Monk in Thebes, Egypt.

June 6:  Bessarion the Great (466) – Born and educated in Egypt and learned monasticism from St. Gerasimus of the Jordan (March 4th) and Isidore of Pelusium (February 4th).  A devout ascetic who had once stood in prayer for forty days and nights without eating or drinking.  Despite hiding his ascetic practices, he was known to heal the sick and work miracles.  (Perhaps the same Bessarion in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers).

Justus (130) – Bishop of Alexandria.

June 7:  Daniel of Sketis (420) – A disciple of Arsenius the Great who taught many monks.  Daniel buried St. Thomias (April 13th) after she was murdered by her father-in-law.  Eight lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.

Virgin martyr Potamiaena, and the Martyrs Plutarch, Serenus, Heraclides, Heron, Herais, Marcella, and Basilides of Alexandria (193-211)

June 8th:  Arte (Arthe) (5th century) of Nitra, Egypt

June 9th:  Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria (444)  This great archbishop struggled and succeded against the oppresive Jews in Alexandria and silenced the Novationist heritics that did not accept the repentance of those who had fallen away from the Church.  His most well known accomplishment was leading the Third Ecumenical Council’s rejection of the Nestorian heresy of there being a seperate physical and spiritual Jesus Christ.  Cyril declared that Jesus had two seperate natures (human and divine) united in the One Person. 

June 12th:  Onuphrius the Great  (400)  A precursor to the great Desert Fathers of Egypt.  Onuphrius was a hermit who’s hair was his clothing.  Paphnutius told his story that the hermit was fed and received the Eucharist by an angel.  Onuphrius gave his soul to God with a heavenly light coming from his body and singing from the heavenly host. 

Timothy the Hermit (4th century) A hermit in the Thebaid region of Egypt.  It’s uncertain if this is the same Timothy mentioned in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

John, Angrew, Heraclemon, and Theophilus (4th century)  Egyptian Hermits

June 14th:  Julitta (Julia) (4th century) Nun in Tabennsi, Egypt

June 15th:  Dulas of Cilicia (305-313)  Dulas lived in an Egyptian monastery and was accused of stealing items of Church worship.  After being tortured, another monk admitted to the crime.  Dulas spent 20 years in exile before he was restored to the monastery where he died three days later and his body mysteriously vanished.

Augustine of Hippo (430)  A former pagan who was led in the Church by St. Ambrose.  One of the great writers who’s works include Confessions and City of God.  Hippo was located in northern Algeria

Monica of Tagaste  (387)  Also known as Monica of Africa.  She is the mother of St. Augustine.  Tagaste was located in northern Algeria and known today as Souk Ahras.

Cedronus (Kedron*) (107)  Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa 96-106 (*from Orthodoxy in Africa, Archimandrite Chrysostom Onyekakeyah)

Orsiesius of Tabennisi (ca. 380) A disciple of Pachomius the Great

Dulas (5th century) Egyptian passion bearer

June 17th:  Joseph and Pior of Sketis (4th century)  Disciples of Anthony the Great.  Pior was known to eat while standing up and working rather than to sit at a table.  He, like Moses the Black, carried a leaking bag of sand to represent the sins he left behind and no longer sees rather than to judge a brother.

Djan Darada (1st century) the Ethiopian Eunuch baptized by Philipp in Acts 8:26-40.  He is also honored on January 4th.

June 19th:  Paisius the Great (400) A native Egyptian who was dedicated to the Lord by his mother.  Paisius was a disciple of Abba Pambo and fellow of John the Dwarf.  He was known as a clairvoyant healer and to have seen many visions of the Prophet Jeremiah. 

Zeno (late 4th century)  Lived as a hermit in Egypt.  (uncertain if this is the same Zeno in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

June 25th:  Gallicanus the Patrician (362) Martyred in Egypt

June 28th:  The Translation of the relics of Martyrs Cyrus and John froom Canopus to Menuthis (412) Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria prayed for God to destroy the pagan city of Menuthis.  However, an angel instructed him to move the remains of Saints Cyrus and John to the city and built a church in their honor.  Many miracles took place at this Christian temple, including the healing of the governor’s son.  The city was submerged in the 8th century by earthquakes and a flood.

Sennuphius (The Standard-bearer) (late 4th century)  A great Egyptian miracle worker and monk.  Emperor Theodosius summoned him to Constantinople to help him win a battle.  Sennuphius didn’t go, but sent his old cassock and walking stick instead.  the emperor wore the garment and carried the staff into battle and won.  After the victory, the items were returned to the monk.

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