Commemorated on January 20
The Monk Euthymios
the Great came from the city of Meletina in Armenia, near the River
Euphrates. His parents, Paul and Dionysia, were illustrious people and pious
christians. For a long time they did not have children, and finally through
fervent prayer a son was born to them, whose appearance into the light of day
was preceded by a Divine apparition foretelling a great future for the child.
The father of the
Monk Euthymios soon died, and his mother – fulfilling a vow to dedicate her
son to God – gave him over for educating to her brother, the Monk Eudoxios. He
presented the lad to the bishop of the Meletina Church, Otreos, who with love took
upon himself caring for him. Seeing his good conduct, the bishop soon made him
a reader. Saint Euthymios later accepted monasticism and was ordained to the
dignity of presbyter. At the same time, he was entrusted with the stewardship
of all the city monasteries. The Monk Euthymios often visited the monastery of
saint Polieuktos, and during the days of Great Lent he withdrew into the
wilderness. The position of steward of the monasteries weighed heavily upon the
ascetic seeking quietude, and in his 30th year of life he secretly left the
city and headed to Jerusalem where, having prostrated himself before the holy
places, he withdrew into the Tharan Lavra. Having found outside the monastery a
solitary empty abode, he settled into it, securing his subsistence by weaving
baskets. Nearby, the Monk Theoktistos pursued asceticism. They had both one
striving for God, one will, one purpose. Usually after the feast of Theophany,
they withdrew into the Kutilleia wilderness (not far from Jericho). One day
though they left there, having chosen a place in the mountains difficult of
access, and settled into a cave. The Lord however soon revealed their solitary
place for the benefit of many people: shepherds driving their flocks came upon
the cave and told about it in the village. People seeking spiritual benefit
began to throng to the hermits. Gradually a monastic community grew up –
several monks came from the Tharan monastery, among them Marin and Luke. The
Monk Euthymios entrusted the running of the growing monastery to his friend
Theoktistos, and himself became a spiritual brother. He exhorted the brethren:
"Know, that one desiring to lead a monastic life ought not to have his own
will, he is always to be found in obedience and humility and to be mindful of
the thought of death, to fear the Judgement and the eternal fire and to desire
the Heavenly Kingdom".
The monk commanded
young monastics to tackle bodily labour with an inner thought of God. "If
laymen, – he said, – work much, in order to feed themselves and their
families, and besides this, they give alms and offer sacrifice to God, then all
the moreso ought we as monks to work, so as to avoid idleness and not be
nourished by the work of strangers". The abba demanded, that the monks
keep silence in church during Divine-services and at meals. He did not allow
young monks, wishing to fast more than others of the brethren, to follow their
own will, but urged them to partake of all the food at meals with temperance,
not having over-eaten.
In these years the
Monk Euthymios converted and baptised many Arabs, among whom was the
military-head Aspevet and his son Terevon, whom the Monk Euthymios healed from
sickness. Aspevet received the name Peter in Baptism and afterwards he was a
bishop amongst the Arabs.
The fame of the
miracles accomplished by the Monk Euthymios spread quickly. People began to
throng from everywhere; brought with sickness, they received healing. Unable to
bear human fame and glory, the monk secretly left the monastery, – taking with
him only his closest student Dometian. He withdrew into the Ruv wilderness and
settled on the high mountain of Mardes, around about the Dead Sea. In the
quests for solitude the monk explored the Zeph wilderness and settled in the
cave, where formerly holy king David hid from the pursuit of king Saul. The
Monk Euthymios founded there a monastery, and at the cave of David he
established a church. During this time the Monk Euthymios converted many monks
in the wilderness from the Manichaean heresy, he worked miracles, healed the
sick and cast out devils.
Visitors to the saint
disturbed the tranquillity of the wilderness; loving silence, he decided to
return to the monastery of Saint Theoktistos that he had forsaken. Along the
way the monk took a fancy to a solitary place on a mountain and he remained on
it. There afterwards his holy body was buried.
went out with his brethren to the Monk Euthymios and requested him to return to
the monastery, but the monk did not comply. However, he promised to come to the
monastery on Sundays for community Divine-services.
The Monk Euthymios
did not wish to have anyone nearby, nor to organise a general monastery or
lavra, but in a vision the Lord commanded him not to drive away those who were
come to him for the salvation of their souls. After some time brethren again
gathered around him, and he organised a Lavra, on the pattern of the Tharan
Lavra. In the year 429, when the monk Euthymios was 52 years old, the Jerusalem
Patriarch Juvenalios consecrated the lavra church and supplied it with
presbyters and deacons.
The lavra was at
first poor, but the monk steadfastly trusted on God to send down all the
necessities for people. Once there came to the lavra about 400 male pilgrims –
Armenians from Jerusalem who were starving. Viewing this, the Monk Euthymios
summoned the steward and ordered him to feed the wanderers. The steward
answered that there was no such quantity of food in the monastery. The monk,
however, persisted. Going to the room where the bread was kept, the steward
found there a large quantity of bread. With this came forth wine and oil. The
wanderers ate to the glory of God: they ate their fill and after this there
remained a three-month supply of food for the brethren. Thus the Lord wrought a
miracle through the faith of Saint Euthymios.
Once one of the
monastics refused to carry out an obedience assigned to him. Despite the fact
that the monk having summoned him urged him to comply, the monastic remained
obstinate. The monk then shouted loudly: "Thou wilt see what the reward
for disobedience is". The monastic fell to the ground in a fit of raving.
The brethren began to make entreaty to the abba for him, and then the Monk
Euthymios healed the insubordinate one who, having come to himself, asked
forgiveness and promised to improve himself. "Obedience, – said Saint
Euthymios, – is a great virtue. The Lord loves obedience more than sacrifice,
but disobedience leads to death".
Two of the brethren
in the monastery of Saint Euthymios became overwhelmed by the austere form of
life and they resolved to flee. Foreseeing in spirit their intent, the monk
summoned them and for a long time he urged them to give up their destructive
intention. He said: "Heed not that state of mind, of having sorrow and
hatred for the place in which we live, and being prompted to go off to another
place. Let a monk not imagine that, having gone to another place he arrives at
something better, since good deeds are realised not by a place, but by a firm
will and by faith. Whence the tree, which often they transplant to another
place, does not bear fruit".
In the year 431 was
convened in Ephesus the Third OEcumenical Council, directed against the
Nestorian heresy. The Monk Euthymios rejoiced over the affirmation of Orthodoxy
but was grieved about the archbishop of Antioch John who, being orthodox,
In the year 451 was
convened at Chalcedon the Fourth OEcumenical Council against the heresy of
Dioskoros who, in contrast to Nestorios, asserted that in the Lord Jesus Christ
there is only one nature – the Divine, having in the Incarnation swallowed up the
human nature (thus the heresy was called Monophysite).
The Monk Euthymios
accepted the confession of the Chalcedon and he acknowledged it as Orthodox.
News about this spread quickly among the monks and hermits and many of them,
having previously believed wrongly, through the example of Saint Euthymios
accepted the confession of the Chalcedon Council.
For his ascetic life
and firm confession of the Orthodox faith Saint Euthymios received the title
"the Great". Having become wearied by intercourse with the world, the
holy abba settled for a time into an inner wilderness. After his return to the
lavra some of the brethren saw that, when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy,
fire descended from Heaven and encircled the saint. The monk himself revealed
to several of the monastics, that often he saw an Angel celebrating the Holy
Liturgy together with him. The monk had a gift of perspicacity – he saw the
innder workings of the spirit and he discerned human inclinations. When
monastics received the Holy Mysteries, it was revealed to the monk – who
approached worthily, and who unto condemnation of self.
When the Monk
Euthymios was 82 years old, there came to him blessed Sava (the future Sava the
Sanctified, Comm. 5 December), who was then still a youth. The elder received
him with love and sent him off to the monastery of the Monk Theoktistos. He
foretold, that the Monk Sava would shine in the monastic life.
When the saint had
become 90 years of age, his companion and fellow Monk Theoktistos became
grievously ill. The Monk Euthymios came to visit his friend and remained at the
monastery; he took his leave of him and was present at the end. Having
consigned the body to the grave, he returned to the lavra.
The time of his death
was revealed to the Monk Euthymios through a particular mercy of God. On the
day of memory of the Monk Anthony the Great, 17 January, the Monk Euthymios
gave blessing to make the all-night vigil and, summoning the presbyters to the Altar,
he told them that he would no more celebrate with them another vigil, because
the Lord was summoning him from earthly life. All were filled with great
sadness, but the monk commanded the brethren to gather together with him in the
morning. He began to instruct the brethren: "If ye love me, observe my
precepts, acquire love, which is an uniting of perfection. No virtuousness is
possible without love and humility. The Lord Himself on account of His Love for
us humbled Himself and became Man, as are we. We need therefore unceasingly to
offer up praise to Him, particularly we, who have renounced the passions of the
world. Never leave from church services, observe tradition and monastic rules
carefully. If anyone of the brethren struggleth with unclean thoughts, –
unceasingly guide and instruct him, so that the devil does not carry off the
brother into the pit".
"I add likewise
another command: let the gates of the monastery never be bolted to wanderers
and everything that you have, offer to the needy, for the poor in their
misfortune do what you can to help". Afterwards, having given instruction
for the guidance of the brethren, the monk promised to remain in spirit with
all who desired to bear asceticism in his monastery until the end of the ages.
Having dismissed all,
the Monk Euthymios kept about him only his one disciple Dometian and, remaining
with him inside the Altar for three days, he died on 20 January in the year 473
at the age of 97 years.
At the burial of the
holy abba there immediately thronged a multitude of monks from the monasteries
and from the wilderness, among whom was Saint Gerasimos. The Patriarch
Anastasios came also with clergy, the Nitreian monks Martyrios and Elias, who
later became Jerusalem Patriarchs – about which the Monk Euthymios had
Blessed Dometian did
not leave the grave of his preceptor for 6 days. On the 7th day, he saw the
holy abba, joyously having returned with love for his student: "I am come,
my child, in preparation for thee in peace, wherefore I prayed the Lord Jesus
Christ, that thou be with me". Having told the brethren about the vision,
Saint Dometian went to church and in joy offered his spirit to God. He was
buried alongside Saint Euthymios. The relics of the Monk Euthymios were
situated at his monastery in Palestine: the Russian pilgrim hegumen Daniel saw
them in the XII Century.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.