Saints of Africa: July

“‘But you, when you pray, go into your room and pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly'” Matthew 6:6

“‘Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything'” Moses #6, Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Prayer is a place and time to renounce the world and find intimacy with God. It is easy to be amazed and wonder about ancient and modern monastic communities. Abba Anthony and his disciples fled to the Egyptian Desert to battle their demons. Fr. Seraphim Rose went into a California forest to print forgotten Orthodox teachings. It would be a blessing to be able to do the same. Most of us have far too many responsibilities (and debts) to even dream about doing such. Yet, we can make time for temporal escapes from this world. We can, with the help of a spiritual father or mother, develop a rule of prayer.

Our Lord and Abba Moses recommend a physical location, a room in our homes. Even when this is not possible, going to a lonely place in the morning (Mark 1:35) or at night (Mark 6:46, 47) can be our desert. Merely sitting silently in the midst of a crowd can also be an act of renunciation against a world that wishes to separate us from holiness. Just like with exercise and eating right, one must make an effort to have time to and grow in prayer. It is a challenge. But the rewards are beyond measure.

Icon and relic of St. Moses the Black at the Antiochian Village, Bolivar PA

July 3rd:  Isaiah the Recluse (ca. 429) Lived as an ascetic in Sketis, Egypt and Palestine.  While mentioned in the writings of Abba Barsanuphius and John, many of his own instructions for monks were destroyed by Muslims.

July 6th:  Sisoes the Great (429)  He was a native Egyptian and disciple of Abba Anthony the Great.  After the death of the teacher, God had favor on his ascetic efforts and gave him the grace to perform miracles and drive away unclean spirits.  Fifty-four lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.

July 7th:  Pantaenus (203) Confessor of Alexandria

July 9th:  Martyrs Patermuthius, Copres, and Alexander the Soldier (361) The Egyptian Copres was persuaded to worship idols rather than continue to be tortured by Emperor Julian the Apostate.  His elder countryman, Patermuthius, rebuked him and they both declared they belonged to Christ.  The emperor’s soldier, Alexander, was moved by their courage and declared himself a Christian as well.  All three were beheaded.

Monks Patermuthius & Copres (4th century) This Patermuthius was a robber and was about to pillage a home of a Christian woman.  However, he fell asleep and was warned in a dream not to commit the evil and repent.  He did so, was baptized, and became a monk.  He and Copres were known for working miracles.  Thirty-five lessons from the Lives of the Desert Fathers are attributed to them.   This may be the same Abba Copres with three lessons attributed to him in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

July 10th:  10,000 Fathers of Sketis (Egypt) martyred by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (398) The Patriarch falsely accused them of being heretics.  Their only crime was hiding the Priest Isidore.

July 12th:  Serapion the New (211) Martyred in Alexandria

July 13th:  Sarah of the Nile (370)  She became an ascetic as a young woman and struggled against her temptations for sixty years along the Nile River.  Many women saw Sarah’s example and also became nuns.  Nine lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and several in the Matericon are attributed to her.

July 14th:  Hellius (4th century)  An Egyptian monk who was known to perform miracles and look into the hearts of men.  Among his struggles, Hellius had to overcome satanic delusions when fasting.  The devil sought in vain to tempt him with various sweet foods.

Heraclius (246)  Patriarch of Alexandria from 232-248.  Former head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria and ordained 20 bishops.  Heraclius was the first to be called “Archbishop and Pope.”  (this information is from Orthodoxy in Africa by Archimandrite Chrysostom Onyekakeyah)

July 16th:  Julia the Virgin (440)  Julia was born in Carthage and taken as a slave when the city fell to the Persians.  Her Syrian master didn’t make an issue of her Christian faith and found her trustworthy.  On a trip to Corsica, she was discovered not celebrating a pagan festival.  Despite her master’s objections, angry pagans tortured her, cut off her breast, and crucified her.  Julia was buried by monks on the island of Margarita.

Commemoration of the First Six Ecumenical Councils  done on the Sunday between July 13th and 19th.

July 18th:  Pambo (ca. 386)  An Egyptian ascetic on Mt. Nitra and contemporary of Abba Anthony the Great.  Pambo was known for not speaking an unnecessary word and eating only the bread he earned by his own labor.  It is said that Patriarch Theophilus visited the monks on Nitra.  they begged Pambo to say something edifying.  He replied, “If he does not benefit from my silence, he will not benefit from my word.”  Fourteen lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.

July 25th:  Eupraxia the Virgin (413)  She was the daughter of a nobleman in Constantinople and relative of Emperor Theodosius the Great.  Eupraxia and her mother moved to Egypt and worshiped at several monasteries.  She became a nun at seven years old growing in ascetic disciplines with age.  She reposed at the age of 30 in Tabennisi.

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