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St. Theodosios the Cenobite - Feast Day January 11th

An icon of St. Theodosius the Cenobite.

The province of Cappadocia, Asia Minor, has given to Christianity some of its most illustrious sons, the best remembered of whom are such greats as Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory the Theologian. Into this select company there came from this ancient cradle of Christendom a man named Theodosios, who may not have attained the prominence of his fellow Cappadocians but who nevertheless stands abreast of all of them in their glorious march for Jesus Christ. In his pursuit of Christian ideals he never shortened his stride in a lifetime devoted to God's service.

Theodosios, was born in A.D. 423 with all the attributes for leadership in a century of Christianity that cried out for firm resolve and quiet courage, needed not only for the forces of evil that assailed the Church from without but for the heresy from within as well. At the outset he evinced a purposeful dedication as an official reader in the family church but soon outgrew this slight service and set out for the Holy Land to seek the shrines that were to inspire him to his true greatness, If he sought a living inspiration, he found it in the person of Saint Symeon the Stylite, whose heroic figure beckoned him from faraway Antioch, Syria.

The awesome sight of Saint Symeon, perched atop a pillar that extended skyward forty feet above ground, was enough to bring the visiting faithful to their knees, but when his voice boomed out from above, it appeared to many as a near divine spectre calling them closer to God. Theodosios caught the eye of this renowned ascetic and was advised by him to return to Jerusalem to perpetuate the faith through the formation of cenobite monasteries. He returned to the Holy City forthwith and went to the renowned Longinus, who tonsured him as a monk in anticipation of the harsh service in the years of preparation that lay ahead to qualify himself in the eyes of God and man for the responsibility of directing the establishment of a monastery and its many projects in the name of the Savior.

The life of asceticism which Theodosios assumed for many years went beyond the accepted standards of austerity, but in his strong desire to cleanse his spirit by depriving himself of anything resembling comfort, he evinced a strength of character through self-denial which captured the hearts of those who knew him and which commanded the respect of those who only knew of him. When he was satisfied that he had more than met the requirements to enter the service of God, he setup the first of what was to become a chain of monasteries which in a few years attracted hundreds of pious men dedicating their lives for the cause of Jesus Christ.

In the course of this monastic development, Theodosios also sought to promote the welfare of all the people through a philanthropy which set up hospitals, orphanages and homes for the aged, all of which were administered by the monks with the assistance of many lay volunteers. In tribute to his benevolence, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Salloustios (486-494), appointed him chief abbot of all the monasteries of Palestine, which at that time were great in number and even greater in service to the needs of mankind.

Theodosios saw a menace within the framework of the Church which was outside his sphere of responsibility, but he could not stand by in a passive resistance, even if it spelled danger for him personally. The menance was Monophysitism, a heretical doctrine which held that Christ had only one nature-the divine-a doctrine which challenged the declaration of holy Scripture and holy Tradition that Christ is of dual nature-human and divine, or God and man. His stand in defense of Tradition brought many of the faithful back to the accepted fold, but it did not convince the Emperor Anastasios, who had swallowed the heretical potion and disdained the antidote of Truth. For daring to publicly oppose him the Emperor banished Theodosios from Palestine.

Theodosios remained in exile until the death of the unrelenting Emperor at which time he was welcomed back by the multitudes whom he bad so nobly served. According to his biographer and pupil, Bishop Theodore of Arabia, he resumed his charitable work with renewed vigor, working for God and man until he died on 11 January 529, at the age of 105.

Taken From Orthodox Saints by George Poulos

For a description of this icon and the troparion and kontakion for this saint please click here