Commemorated on February 26
Porphyrios, Archbishop of Gaza, was born in about the year 346 at
Thessalonika in Macedonia. His parents were people of substance, and this
allowed Saint Porphyrios to receive a fine education. Having the inclination
for monastic life, at twelve years of age he left his native region and set off
to Egypt, where he asceticised in the Nitreian desert under the guidance of the
Monk Makarios the Great (Comm. 19 January). There also he met Blessed Jerome
(Comm. 15 June), who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries; he set off
with him to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places and to reverence the
Life-Creating Cross of the Lord (Comm. 14 September), after which he resettled
into the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds. There Saint
Porphyrios fell under a serious malady. For healing he decided to go to the
holy places of Jerusalem. One time, when fully paralysed he lay half-conscious
at the foot of Golgotha, the Lord sent His servant into a salvific
sleep-vision. Saint Porphyrios beheld Jesus Christ, descending with the Cross
and turning to him with the words: "Take this Wood and preserve it".
Awakening, he sensed himself healthy. The words of the Saviour were soon
fulfilled: the Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Saint Porphyrios to the priestly
dignity and appointed him curator of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the
Lord. And it was during this time that Saint Porphyrios received his portion of
an inheritance from his parents – 4 thousand gold coins. All this he gave
away to the needy and for the embellishing of the churches of God.
In 395 the bishop of
the city of Gaza (in Palestine) died. The local Christians set out to Caesarea
to the Metropolitan John with a request to provide them a new bishop, who would
be able to contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and
were harassing the Christians there. The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to
summon the Jerusalem presbyter Porphyrios. With fear and trembling the ascetic
accepted the dignity of bishop, and with tears he prostrated himself before the
Life-Creating Wood and then set off to fulfill his new obedience.
In Gaza he found all
of only three Christian churches, but of the pagan temples and idols – there
were a great many. During this time there had occurred a long spell without
rain, causing a severe drought. The pagan-priests brought offerings to their idols,
but the woes did not cease. Saint Porphyrios imposed a fast for all the
Christians; he then made the all-night vigil, followed by going round all the
city in a church procession. Immediately the sky covered over with storm
clouds, thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down. Seeing this miracle,
many a pagan cried out: "Christ is indeed the One True God!" As a
result of this, there came to be united to the Church through Holy Baptism 127
men, 35 women and 14 children, and soon after this, another 110 men.
But the pagans just
like before still harassed the Christians, passed them over for public office,
and burdened them down with taxes. Saint Porphyrios and the Metropolitan of
Caesarea John set off to Constantinople, to seek redress from the emperor.
Saint John Chrysostom (Comm. 14 September, 27 and 30 January) received them and
rendered them active assistance.
Saints John and
Porphyrios were presented to the empress Eudoxia who at that time was expecting
a child. "Intercede for us, – said the bishops to the empress, – and the
Lord will send thee a son, who shalt reign during thine lifetime". Eudoxia
very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters. And
actually through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial
family... In consequence of this, the emperor in the year 401 issued an edict
directing the destruction of the pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of
privileges to Christians. Moreover, the emperor bestowed on the saints the
means for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on
the locale of the chief pagan-temple there.
Saint Porphyrios to
the very end of his life upheld Christianity in Gaza and guarded well his flock
from the vexatious pagans. Through the prayers of the saint there occurred
numerous miracles and healings. Over the course of 25 years the archpastor guided
veritable flock and reposed at an advanced age, in the year 420.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.