Lives of all saints commemorated on January 15


Venerable Paul of Thebes

Saint Paul of Thebes was born in Egypt around 227 in the Thebaid of Egypt. Left orphaned, he suffered many things from a greedy relative over his inheritance. During the persecution against Christians under the emperor Decius (249-251), St Paul learned of his brother-in-law’s insidious plan to deliver him into the hands of the persecutors, and so he fled the city and fled into the wilderness.

Settling into a mountain cave, St Paul dwelt there for ninety-one years, praying incessantly to God both day and night. He sustained himself on dates and bread, which a raven brought him, and he clothed himself with palm leaves.

St Anthony the Great (January 17), who also lived as an ascetic in the Thebaid desert, had a revelation from God concerning St Paul. St Anthony thought that there was no other desert dweller such as he. Then God said to him, “Anthony, there is a servant of God more excellent than you, and you should go and see him.”

Anthony went into the desert and came to St Paul’s cave. Falling to the ground before the entrance to the cave, he asked to be admitted. The Elders introduced themselves, and then embraced one another. They conversed through the night, and St Anthony revealed how he had been led there by God. St Paul disclosed to St Anthony that for sixty years a bird had brought him half a loaf of bread each day. Now the Lord had sent a double portion in honor of St Paul’s visit. The next morning, St Paul spoke to Anthony of his approaching death, and instructed him to bury him. He also asked St Anthony to return to his monastery and bring back the cloak he had received from St Athanasius. He did not really need a garment, but wished to depart from his body while St Anthony was absent.

As he was returning with the cloak, St Anthony beheld the soul of St Paul surrounded by angels, prophets, and apostles, shining like the sun and ascending to God. He entered the cave and found Abba Paul on his knees with his arms outstretched. St Anthony mourned for him, and wrapped him in the cloak. He wondered how he would bury the body, for he had not remembered to bring a shovel. Two lions came running from the wilderness and dug a grave with their claws.

St Anthony buried the holy Elder, and took his garment of palm leaves, then he returned to his own monastery. St Anthony kept this garb as a precious inheritance, and wore it only twice a year, on Pascha and Pentecost.

St Paul of Thebes died in the year 341, when he was 113 years old. He did not establish a single monastery, but soon after his end there were many imitators of his life, and they filled the desert with monasteries. St Paul is honored as the first desert-dweller and hermit.

In the twelfth century St Paul’s relics were transferred to Constantinople and placed in the Peribleptos monastery of the Mother of God, on orders of the emperor Manuel (1143-1180). Later, they were taken to Venice, and finally to Hungary, at Ofa. Part of his head is in Rome.

St Paul of Thebes, whose Life was written by St Jerome, is not to be confused with St Paul the Simple (October 4).


Venerable John Calabytes “the Hut-Dweller”

Saint John the Hut-Dweller was the son of rich and illustrious parents, and was born in Constantinople the early fifth century. He received a fine education, and he mastered rhetoric and philosophy by the age of twelve. He also loved to read spiritual books. Perceiving the vanity of worldly life, he chose the path that was narrow and extremely difficult. Filled with longing to enter a monastery, he confided his intention to a passing monk. John made him promise to come back for him when he returned from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and take him to his monastery.

He asked his parents for a Gospel so that he might study the words of Christ. John’s parents hired a calligrapher to copy the text, and had the volume bound in a golden cover studded with gems. John read the Gospel constantly, delighting in the Savior’s words.

The monk kept his promise to come back for John, and they went secretly to Bithynia. At the monastery of the “Unsleeping” (Akoimitoi), he received monastic tonsure. The young monk began his ascetical labors with zeal, astonishing the brethren with his unceasing prayer, humble obedience, strict abstinence, and perseverance at work.

After six years, he began to undergo temptations. He remembered his parents, how much they loved him, and what sorrow he caused them. He regretted leaving them, and was filled with a burning desire to see them again.

St John explained his situation to the igumen St Marcellus (December 29) and he asked to be released from the monastery. He begged the igumen for his blessing and prayers to return home. He bid farewell to the brethren, hoping that by their prayers and with the help of God, he would both see his parents and overcome the snares of the devil. The igumen then blessed him for his journey.

St John returned to Constantinople, not to resume his former life of luxury, but dressed as a beggar, and unknown to anyone. He settled in a corner by the gates of his parents’ home. His father noticed the “pauper,” and began to send him food from his table, for the sake of Christ. John lived in a small hut for three years, oppressed and insulted by the servants, enduring cold and frost, unceasingly conversing with the Lord and the holy angels.

Before his death, the Lord appeared to the monk in a vision, revealing that the end of his sorrows was approaching, and that in three days he would be taken into the Heavenly Kingdom. Therefore, he asked the steward to give his mother a message to come to him, for he had something to say to her.

At first, she did not wish to go, but she was curious to know what this beggar had to say to her. Then he sent her another message, saying that he would die in three days. John thanked her for the charity he had received, and told her that God would reward her for it. He then made her promise to bury him beneath his hut, dressed in his rags. Only then did the saint give her his Gospel, which he always carried with him, saying, “May this console you in this life, and guide you to the next life.”

She showed the Gospel to her husband, saying that it was similar to the one they had given their son. He realized that it was, in fact, the very Gospel they had commissioned for John. They went back to the gates, intending to ask the pauper where he got the Gospel, and if he knew anything about their son. Unable to restrain himself any longer, he admitted that he was their child. With tears of joy they embraced him, weeping because he had endured privation for so long at the very gates of his parental home.

The saint died in the mid-fifth century, when he was not quite twenty-five years old. On the place of his burial the parents built a church, and beside it a hostel for strangers. When they died, they were buried in the church they had built.

In the twelfth century the head of the saint was taken by Crusaders to Besançon (in France), and other relics of the saint were taken to Rome.


Venerable Pansophius of Alexandria, the Martyr

The Monk Martyr Pansophius, was a son of the Alexandrian proconsul Nilus. After the death of his father, he distributed his inheritance to the poor and settled in the desert, where he lived in asceticism for twenty-seven years.

During the persecution by Decius (249-251) St Pansophius was brought to trial before the prefect of Alexandria. The monk boldly confessed his faith in Christ and denounced pagan errors, for which he was fiercely beaten with rods. He died from these beatings, thereby receiving a martyr’s crown (249-251).


St Prochorus the Abbot in the Vranski Desert on the river Pshina in Bulgaria

Saint Prochorus of Pshina pursued asceticism in the Bransk wilderness at the River Pshina, and he founded a monastery there. He is renowned as one of the great ascetics of monastic life. He died at the end of the tenth century. Miracles occurred from the saint’s relics. According to the Serbian Chronicles, the pious King Miliutin (1276-1320) built a church in honor of St Prochorus.


Venerable Gabriel, Founder of Lesnov Monastery in Bulgaria

Saint Gabriel, founder of the Lesnov monastery near the city of Kratov. Receiving a large inheritance after the death of his parents, he rejected marriage and became a monk on a mountain at Lesnov. There he built a church in the name of the Archangel Michael, and gathered many monks around him. He appointed an igumen, and left all his inheritance to the monastery. He then hid himself in a mine, where he lived in asceticism for thirty years, conquering demonic temptations through prayer and fasting.

He then returned to the Lesnov monastery and ended his life in peace. After thirty years, his relics were uncovered, and healings worked through them. Long afterwards, they were transferred to Trnovo [Tirnova] in Bulgaria.


St Ita the Hermitess of Killeady

Saint Ita, “the Foster Mother of the Irish Saints,” was born in the fifth century. She, like many of the Irish saints, was of the nobility. Her parents were devout Christians who lived in County Waterford. She founded a school and convent at Kiledy (Cille Ide) which still bears her name near Newcastle West in Co. Limerick. A holy well still marks the site of her church.

When she decided to settle in Kileedy, a local chieftain offered her a grant of land for the support of the convent. St Ita accepted four icons, which she cultivated. The convent became known as a training ground for young boys, many of whom became famous churchmen. She received St Brendan the Voyager (May 16) when he was only a year old, and kept him until he was six. She also cared for her nephew St Mochaemhoch (March 13) in his infancy. She called him “Pulcherius,” because he was such a handsome child.

Many people sought her spiritual counsels, and she also seems to have practiced medicine to some degree. Her life was spent in repentance and asceticism.

St Ita once told St Brendan that the three things most displeasing to God are: A face that hates mankind, a will that clings to the love of evil, and placing one’s entire trust in riches (Compare Proverbs 6:16-19).

The three things most pleasing to God are: The firm belief of a pure heart in God, the simple religious life, and liberality with charity.

St Ita fell asleep in the Lord in 570. Her Feast Day is a local holiday in the district, and her name is a popular one for Irish girls.


Venerable Salome of Ujarma

Saints Salome of Ujarma and Perozhavra of Sivnia were the helpers and closest companions of St. Nino, Enlightener of Georgia. St. Nino herself had converted them to the Christian Faith.

Salome was the wife of Revi, the son of King Mirian, and Perozhavra was married to the ruler of the Kartli region. Both women were queens, but they succeeded in serving St. Nino while retaining their imperial roles. St. Nino taught them to pray, and the0women fasted regularly and performed good works. As a result of their influential social status, the two queens were able to help St. Nino tremendously in spreading the Christian Faith.

After the conversion of Kartli, with inspiration from St. Nino and by the order of King Mirian, St. Salome erected a cross in Ujarma in the Kakheti region.

When St. Nino fell ill in the village of Bodbe, the queens Salome and Perozhavra stood by her bed and wept bitterly at having to part with their beloved teacher and healer. They entreated St. Nino, who was finishing her last hours on this earth, saying, “Tell us, our Queen, how did you come to our country to free our souls, and where were you raised? Tell us how to continue your good works. You who have delivered us from bondage to the enemy, tell us, what shall we do?”

From the information that St. Nino then related to them, Sts. Salome and Perozhavra wrote The Life of St. Nino, Enlightener of Georgia. The Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia commemorates them on January 15, the day following the commemoration of St. Nino.


St Barlaam of Keretsk

Saint Barlaam of Keretsk served during the sixteenth century as a priest in the Keretsk area of the Kolsk peninsula on the White Sea. He was venerated as the patron of White Sea industrial workers and sea-farers. He was glorified by posthumous miracles, saving those in danger of drowning.


Venerable Perozhavra of Sivnia

Saints Salome of Ujarma and Perozhavra of Sivnia were the helpers and closest companions of St. Nino, Enlightener of Georgia. St. Nino herself had converted them to the Christian Faith.

Salome was the wife of Revi, the son of King Mirian, and Perozhavra was married to the ruler of the Kartli region. Both women were queens, but they succeeded in serving St. Nino while retaining their imperial roles. St. Nino taught them to pray, and the0women fasted regularly and performed good works. As a result of their influential social status, the two queens were able to help St. Nino tremendously in spreading the Christian Faith.

After the conversion of Kartli, with inspiration from St. Nino and by the order of King Mirian, St. Salome erected a cross in Ujarma in the Kakheti region.

When St. Nino fell ill in the village of Bodbe, the queens Salome and Perozhavra stood by her bed and wept bitterly at having to part with their beloved teacher and healer. They entreated St. Nino, who was finishing her last hours on this earth, saying, “Tell us, our Queen, how did you come to our country to free our souls, and where were you raised? Tell us how to continue your good works. You who have delivered us from bondage to the enemy, tell us, what shall we do?”

From the information that St. Nino then related to them, Sts. Salome and Perozhavra wrote The Life of St. Nino, Enlightener of Georgia. The Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia commemorates them on January 15, the day following the commemoration of St. Nino.