|St. Eustratios the Wonderworker (Feast Day - January 9)|
Although the spirit of Eustratios is received in the heavens,
His body on earth gushes forth the grace of miracles.
Our Holy Father Eustratios was born in 751 in Tarsios, a small town in the Optimatian theme (Bithynia) of northwestern Asia Minor. Tarsios was classified as a village and subdivision of the village-city of Bitsiani. His parents, George and Megetho, were pious and lived moderately comfortable lives. Having been reared and educated well by his parents, at the age of twenty he was overcome with divine eros. Therefore he left his parents, and departed for Mount Olympus in Bithynia southeast of Prusa, and settled in the Monastery of Agauros. It was in this Monastery that his maternal uncles Basil and Gregory (also commemorated Jan. 9) shined forth in asceticism and virtue. Eustratios was therefore received by his uncles, and tonsured a monastic by them.
Having attained what he desired, Eustratios served all the brethren with a ready heart and humble spirit, with his mind never occupied by the things of this present age, and never acquiring things, except one garment made of goat hair and some bedding made of sheep wool, upon which he rested. It was said among the brethren that Eustratios since he became a monastic would never lie down or sleep horizontally or rest flat on his left side, for the seventy-five years of his life of asceticism. When the Abbot and his successor reposed, namely his uncle Gregory and his cousin Eustratios, he was elected to lead the community as Abbot.
At this time, Leo V the Armenian (813-820) became emperor and restored Iconoclasm. For this reason, the monastics and ascetics of Mount Olympus scattered to avoid persecution and imprisonment, and Eustratios himself dwelt in caves and the wilderness living life as an ascetic. It was at this time that he befriended Saint Ioannikios the Great (Nov. 4), who had compelled Eustratios to leave his Monastery. Eustratios traveled all the way to Constantinople, where he was arrested with other iconophiles and ill-treated. When Leo was killed before the altar of Hagia Sophia by the followers of his successor Emperor Michael II the Amorian (820-829), also an iconoclast, the iconophiles were released from prison, allowing Eustratios to return to Bithynia. However, he was not able to resume direction of his Monastery in Agauros until the Triumph of Orthodoxy in 842.
Saint Eustratios was a living example of all the monastic virtues. During the day he labored hard with the brethren in manual tasks, and throughout the night he prayed and did prostrations. And when all the divine services were being done, he would stand in the sanctuary and repeatedly say to himself, "Lord have mercy." The Monastery of Agauros had about four or five dependencies, and he would often visit them to encourage the brethren. On the road he would not hesitate to give his coat to a beggar or a horse to a soldier in need. He once gave the only ox of the Monastery to a peasant in need. On returning from a visit to Constantinople, he distributed to the local poor all the money he had received from the emperor for the needs of the Monastery. One day on the road, he came across a man who, in despair over his many sins, was preparing to hang himself. Saint Eustratios took the man's hand, placed it on his own neck, and said to him: "May the weight of your sins lie on me from now on, my child. On the day of Judgment, I myself will answer for them instead of you. All you have to do is throw away this rope and hope in God." Saint Eustratios worked so many numerous miracles that one is unable to record them due to their great number, such as healing the sick, restoring the dead to life and quenching fire. In this way God manifested His power before men and His favor towards His servant Eustratios.
While crossing the Propontis on his last visit to Constantinople, the ship struck a rock and began to take in water. Eustratios prayed, and the inflow ceased until everyone disembarked the ship. As soon as he stepped off the ship, it sank. On reaching one of the dependencies of his Monastery in Constantinople, he felt his end draw near. Inviting all his disciples to gather around him, he addressed them saying: "Brothers and Fathers, the time of my life is coming to an end. Therefore, my most beloved children, preserve the sacred trust of the holy schema. You know that these present things are transitory and vain, and that the future things are everlasting and imperishable. Thus, be mindful and diligent, my children, that you may be accounted worthy of a portion among those being saved." He then uttered a prayer and made the sign of the Cross over his disciples. And raising his eyes heavenward he uttered: "Into Your hands, O Lord, I surrender my spirit." Straightway he reposed in peace in the year 846, after having lived ninety-five years.
Read also about the island named after the Saint, where it is said he lived as an ascetic during the time of persecution, here (Greek).
Apolytikion in the First Tone
In Olympus of Bithynia you shined in asceticism, and you departed to God looking peaceful; the fiery arrows of the Iconoclasts you quenched, and showed yourself to be a protector of the island named after you, Wonderworker Eustratios. Rejoice, immeasurable in chastity; rejoice, spring of healings; rejoice, who sanctified Lada by your appearance.
Rejoice, communicant with the Venerable Ones, and fearsome fighter of the Iconoclasts; rejoice, having received the tablet written with a divine hand, as Moses once did.