Saints of Africa: October

There is an African proverb that is growing into a rather scary prophecy; “If you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future.” This frightens me for the future of Christianity as a whole and the black church in particular. Many ancient roots of the faith are deeply grounded on our mother continent. Traditional African-American denominations and non-denominational churches failed to learn and share this treasure trove of spirituality from the pulpit to the pews. Even worse, other religious movements have capitalized on the vacuum of a connection between an ancient sense of faith and our lives today. Many statistics have pointed out that blacks are more likely to believe in God than whites. But, that number of believers is decreasing and wandering more into the camps of Hebrew Israelites, Islam, Rastafarai, and even traditional African beliefs.

Unless the African-American church commits it’s self to infusing the stories from ancient Carthage, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nubia into our overall spiritual development, we will continue to lose more of our younger generations (especially men) to these other groups. As with the white population, many of our people are giving up on religious adherence of any sort. Teaching congregations to follow the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is not an easy fix to give America a stronger spiritual life. But, even elementary school kids are taught basic wisdom stories from ancient history. How much more then should all Christians be aware of important spiritual lessons our ancestors of the faith lived and taught by example?

St. Elesbaan: The Ethiopian warrior prince who became a monk

October 4 Ammon (350) He and his wife decided to live separately. She organized a convent while Ammon led a community of monks in the Nitria desert. Three lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers are attributed to him.
Paul the Simple (339) He caught his wife in sin and joined St. Anthony in the Egyptian desert. Despite being illiterate, he was well respected for his spiritual perception and miracle working.
Gaius, Faustus, Eusebius, and Chaeremon (3rd century) martyred in Alexandria.
October 5 Dionysius (265) Born into a pagan family in Alexandria and a student of Origen. Dionysius became the Bishop of Alexandria in 247 during a time of great persecution having to encourage his flock to hold firm against false teaching.
October 8 Thais(Taisia) (340) She was a constant fornicator until she met Paphnutius the Sindonite. He gave her a gold coin and she thought he wanted a sexual favor. Once in her room, the Abba denounced her sins and she repented in deep sincerity and much tears. Thais sold her goods and moved to a convent. After three years of ascetic living, her soul rested in paradise. Abba Paul the Simple had a vision of her there.
October 9 Andronicus & Athanasia (5th century) Andronicus was a goldsmith who lived in Antioch with his wife, Athanasia. They would live off of one third of their income with One third going to the poor and another to the Church. After the death of their two sons and a vision confirming they were in the kingdom of God, the couple decided to live as monastics in Egypt, Andronicus to Sketis and Athanasia to Tabennisi.
Demetrius (231) He served as the Bishop of Alexandria, the eleventh after St. Mark the Evangelist.
October 19 Varus and the Seven (ca. 307) Varus was a Roman officer living in Egypt and a secret Christian. He took care of imprisoned Christian teachers who encouraged him to join them as they were tortured and martyred.
Cleopatra (327) & John (320) Not the Egyptian queen. This Cleopatra was a Palestinian woman and widow of a Roman officer. She and her son, John, were in Egypt when Varus was martyred. She took the saint’s relics and buried them at a village near Mt. Tabor. Later, she built a church their in his honor where Varus would appear as an angel.
October 22 Lot & Rufus (5th century) Both were among the great Desert Fathers of Egypt and had two lessons in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers attributed to them. Abba Lot lived in a monastery near Arsinoe and was advised by Abba Joseph of Panephysis who challenged him to become all flame.
October 23 Petronius (346) A disciple of Abba Pachomius the Great in Egypt.
October 24 Elesbaan (553) This King of Ethiopia was devout in the faith and raised an army to fight against a governor in an Arabian city that was oppressing Christians. Elesbaan wept as his army was being defeated and promised God that if he were victorious, he would leave the throne to become a monk. The Ethiopians won and he made good on his promise. Elesbaan lived in strict asceticism for 15 years and was known to work miracles.
October 28th Terence, Africanus, Maximus, Pompeius, and the 36 (250) Martyrs in Carthage.
October 30 Eutropia, Alexander, Cronion, Julian, Macarius, and 12 Companions (250) Martyrs in Alexandria.

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