Monday, February 22, 2016

Saints Thalassios and Limnaios of Syria

Sts. Thalassios and Limnaios of Syria (Feast Day - February 22)

Verses

Limnaios and Thalassios by means of the sea,
Departed this life and have been brought to the harbor.

By Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus, Syria

Tillima is a village in our region, which formerly received the seeds of the impiety of Marcion, but now enjoys cultivation by the Gospel.1 South of it is a ridge neither too rough nor too flat; here an ascetic dwelling was built by the wonderful Thalassios (Thalassius), a man adorned with many other good qualities, but surpassing the men of his time in simplicity of character, gentleness, and modesty of spirit. I say this, not relying on hearsay alone, but having had experience; for I visited the man and often enjoyed his sweet company.

In his choir was enrolled Limnaios,2 now celebrated by all. At a very young age he entered this wrestling-school and received a fine education in this consummate philosophy. At first, knowing the treachery of the tongue, he imposed on it a rule of silence while still an adolescent, and continued for as long as possible saying nothing to anyone. When he had received sufficiently the teaching of the godly old man and made himself an impress of his virtue, he came to the great Maron, whom we recalled above - he came at the same time as the godly James. After reaping much benefit from there again, and keenly embracing the open-air life, he repaired to another hilltop, lying above a village called Targalla.

Here he has continued till today, without a cell or tent or hut, but fenced round by a bare wall built of stones and not joined with clay. It has a small door always sealed with mud, which he never opens to other visitors, but allows me alone to open when I visit him. For this reason, very many gather from all over when they hear of my arrival, desiring to share my entry. To those who visit him at other times he speaks through a small window and gives his blessing, by this means bestowing health on very many; by using the name of our Savior he ends diseases, drives out demons, and imitates the miracle-working of the Apostles.

Not only to those who come to him does he pour out healing, but he has often applied it to his own body also. Some time ago he was assailed by the disease of the gripes. The agonizing pain this causes is known precisely both by those who have experienced it and by those who have been witnesses of it: they roll about like lunatics, turning over on this side and on that, at the same time stretching out and then bending back their legs. At various times they sit, stand, and walk, endeavoring to find some means of repose; and for this reason they sit by baths and often go into them, to enjoy some relief. But why should I describe at length what is known and manifest to all? Struggling with this disease and afflicted with pains of this kind and magnitude, he benefited from no medical help, could not endure a bed, and got no relief from medicines or food; but seated on a plank lying on the ground, he received treatment by prayer and the sign of the cross, and lulled his pains by the spell of the divine name.

On another occasion, when walking at night, he stepped with his heal on a sleeping viper, which caught the flat of his foot and inserted its teeth. Trying to protect his foot, he stooped down and moved his hand to it, which merely transferred to his hand the mouth of the beast. When he then used his left hand to help the other one, he attracted the anger of the beast against it as well. When it had satisfied its rage - it had inflicted on him more than ten bites -, it departed and went to its hole, while he was afflicted with bitter pains all over. But not even on this occasion did he accept medical skill, but applied to his wounds the remedies only of faith - the sign of the cross, prayer, and invocation of God.

I am therefore of the opinion that the God of the universe allowed the beast to rage against his sacred body in order to reveal undisguised the endurance of this godly soul. We see this same dispensation of His in the case of noble Job. He allowed him to be submerged by many and varied waves, through a wish to display to all the wisdom of the pilot. How else would we know the courage of the one and the endurance of the other, if the adversary of piety had not been given room to shoot all kinds of arrows against them? Therefore this is sufficient to teach the endurance of the man.

Let us from a different indication show his humanity: he gathered together many who were deprived of their sight and had been compelled to beg. Building dwellings on both sides, east and west, he invited them to live there and sing hymns to God, telling those who visited him to supply the food they needed. He himself, immured in the middle, exhorts both groups to hymnody. It is possible to hear them hymning the Master continually; and he continues to show such humanity towards his fellow-men. The length of time of open-air contests has been the same both in his case and in that of the great James: they have already completed their thirty-eighth year.

NOTES

1. Tillima has not been identified. The name of Thalassios is Greek for "sea".

2. Limnaios (Limnaeus), whose name in Greek means "lake", was an ascetic of the region of Cyrus (Cyrrhus), who received his formation in a monastery and then became a disciple of the great Maron. Then in 402 he adopted the solitary life, imitating Maron in living in the open air within an unroofed enclosure, near the unidentified village of Targalla. Theodoret knew him personally.

From The History of the Monks of Syria.

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