Thursday, August 25, 2016

Saint Constantia of Paphos

St. Constantia of Paphos (Feast Day - August 25)


You are glorified as a servant of Hilarion,
And perceived as equal to him in honor, Constantia.


Hilarion entered his dwelling above,
And indeed with him Constantia departed.

On the twenty-fifth she found shelter in paternal salvation.

Our Holy Mother Constantia was from Paphos, and as Saint Jerome writes in his book "The Life of Saint Hilarion" she was a disciple of Saint Hilarion the Great who lived as an ascetic in the village of Episkopi in Paphos. Saint Jerome writes of Hilarion:

"In his eightieth year, during the absence of Hesychius, he wrote by way of a will a short letter with his own hand, and left him all his riches (that is to say, a copy of the gospels, and his sack-cloth tunic, cowl and cloak), for his servant had died a few days before. Many devout men therefore came to the invalid from Paphos, and specially because they had heard of his saying that he must soon migrate to the Lord and must be liberated from the bonds of the body. There came also Constantia, a holy woman whose son-in-law and daughter he had anointed with oil and saved from death. He earnestly entreated them all not to let him be kept even a moment of time after death, but to bury him immediately in the same garden, just as he was, clad in his goat-hair tunic, cowl, and his peasant's cloak."

Then Saint Jerome concludes his account of Hilarion by speaking of the grief of Constantia when she discovered the body of Hilarion had been stolen by his discple Hesychius and brought back to Palestine:

"In bringing my book to an end I think I ought not to omit to mention the devotion of the holy woman Constantia who, when a message was brought her that Hilarion's body was in Palestine, immediately died, proving even by death the sincerity of her love for the servant of God. For she was accustomed to spend whole nights in vigil at his tomb, and to converse with him as if he were present in order to stimulate her prayers.

Even at the present day one may see a strange dispute between the people of Palestine and the Cypriotes, the one contending that they have the body, the other the spirit of Hilarion. And yet in both places great miracles are wrought daily, but to a greater extent in the garden of Cyprus, perhaps because that spot was dearest to him."

Stefano Lusignan (1537-1590), also known as √Čtienne de Lusignan, was a priest and scholar and a descendant of King James I of Cyprus. He states that Saint Constantia was considered the patron of the city of Paphos. He writes the following:

"Constantia, a very noble lady of the city of Paphos, was a disciple of the most Holy Father Hilarion, and she died from unbearable grief, when she heard about the death of her teacher and that his body was stolen by one of his disciples. Her true love is worthy of praise: not only did she love her teacher while he was alive but she also gave him complete love after his death."

The memory of Saint Constantia used to be celebrated on the 25th of August. Then for centuries she was forgotten and became unknown, even in the city of Paphos which stopped honoring her. But on August 25, 2011 she was after centuries celebrated again, and a vigil was held in her honor at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Salamiotissa, where there is also an icon of her, and in a church in Anavargos of Paphos.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Having served the great ascetic Hilarion, who dwelled in Paphos, where he trained venerably, and being eminent in faith, you were seen to be a leader of women, and protector of Paphos, divinely-wise Constantia, intercede to Christ without ceasing, on behalf of those who honor you.

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