Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saint Theophanes the Merciful of Gaza

St. Theophanes the Merciful (Feast Day - September 29)

Saint Theophanes the Merciful was an inhabitant of the Syrian city of Gaza. He was very kind, merciful and compassionate. He took in the homeless, helped the poor and the sick, and spent all his substance on helping the needy, while he himself remained in want.

Theophanes did not grieve at all over the loss of his property, but he lost his health, and the sickness of dropsy caused him great suffering. His body began to swell up, to rot, and to give off a stench. This ordeal Theophanes also endured in good spirit, giving thanks to God for all things.

A fierce storm raged while he was dying, and his wife grieved that she would not be able to give him proper burial. The Saint comforted her saying: “Weep not, woman, for up to now the trial has lasted, but here comes help from the Merciful God, since in the hour of my death the storm will cease, by the will of God.” So it occurred: just as he gave up his soul to God, calmness prevailed.

After death the body of Saint Theophanes became completely cleansed of wounds and decay and became fragrant, giving forth abundant healing myrrh by which many were healed of their diseases.

A Reflection by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

In ignorance, many people labor more to avoid suffering in old age and terminal illness than to avoid the torments of hell in the life after old age and death. Such was the case of an unmarried and avaricious man who, from year to year, and with ever greater passion, amassed for himself unnecessary wealth. When asked why he strove so much to pile up excess wealth he replied: "I am gathering it for my old age. This wealth will heal and feed me in old age and sickness." And indeed, his foreboding came true. In old age, a grave and long-lasting illness befell him. He distributed his accumulated wealth to physicians so they would heal him, and to servants so they would care for him and feed him. His wealth was soon spent, and the illness continued. The physicians and servants abandoned him, and he fell into despair. His neighbors brought him bread until his death, and he was buried at the expense of the community. He had used his wealth for that which he had intended it. God had even done for him according to the man's will. God had sent him the illness that he had, in a sense, desired, and for which he had prepared great wealth. Nevertheless, all his wealth was unable to alleviate his sufferings in this world-so with what would he be able to alleviate his sufferings in the other world? Nothing, if he took with him neither faith, nor hope, nor charitable deeds, nor prayers, nor repentance! Someone saw a departed man in the great glory of Paradise, and asked him how he had become worthy of that glory. The man replied: "In my earthly life I was the hireling of an evil-doer who never paid me. But I endured all and served him to the end, with hope in God." Then the onlooker saw another man in even greater glory, and when he asked him, that one replied: "I was a leper, and to the very end I offered gratitude to God for that." But no one saw in the glory of Paradise the man who had amassed money for illness in old age.


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