Thursday, November 3, 2016

Saint Akepsimas of Cyrus

St. Akepsimas of Cyrus (Feast Day - November 3)

Verses

Consuming himself in self-control and pain,
Akepsimas went where there is no pain.


By Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus, Syria

1. At the same time lived Akepsimas,1 whose fame extends throughout the East. Immuring himself in a cell, he persevered for sixty years neither being seen nor speaking. Turning into himself and contemplating God, he received consolation from this, in accordance with the prophecy that says, 'Take delight in the Lord, and may he grant you the requests of your heart.' He received the food that was brought to him by stretching his hand through a small hole. To prevent his being exposed to those who wished to see him, the hole was not dug straight through the thickness of the wall, but obliquely, being made in the shape of a curve. (The food brought him was lentils soaked in water.)

2. Once a week he came out at night to draw sufficient water from the nearby spring. On one occasion a shepherd pasturing his animals at a distance, when it was dark, saw him move. Presuming it was a wolf - for he walked bent double, laden with a quantity of iron - he got his sling ready to shoot a stone. But when his hand lost all movement for a long time and could not launch the stone, until the man of God had drawn the water and returned, he realized his mistake, and after daybreak repaired to the retreat of virtue, related what had happened and begged forgiveness. He received the remission of his sin, not by hearing a voice speak but learning of his goodwill from the gestures of his hand.

3. Someone else, wishing out of malign curiosity to discover what he spent all his time doing, had the presumption to climb up a plane tree that grew alongside the enclosure. But he immediately reaped the fruits of his presumption: with half his body paralyzed, from the crown of his head to his feet, he became a suppliant accusing himself of his sin. The other predicted that his health would be restored by the cutting down of the plane tree - for to prevent another doing the same deed and suffering the same penalty, he ordered the tree to be cut down immediately. The cutting down of the tree was followed by the remission of the punishment. Such was the self-control this inspired man exercised; such was the grace he had received from the King.

4. When about to set out on his migration from here, he foretold that he would come to the end of life after fifty days, and received everyone who wished to see him. The leader of the Church, on his arrival, pressed him to accept the yoke of a priest. 'I know, father,' he said, 'both the elevation of your philosophy and the excess of my poverty, but entrusted as I am with the episcopal office, it is in virtue of the latter not of the former that I perform ordinations. Accept then the gift of the priesthood, a gift to which my hand ministers, but which is supplied by the grace of the all-holy Spirit.' To this he is said to have replied, 'Since I am emigrating from here in a few days, I shall not quarrel about this. If I were going to live for a long time, I would utterly have fled from the heavy and fearful burden of the priesthood, terrified at answering for the deposit. But since in no long time I shall depart and leave what is here, I shall accept obediently what you command.' And so at once, without any compulsion, the one awaited the grace on bended knee, and the other laying on his hand ministered to the Spirit.

5. After surviving the priesthood for a few days, he exchanged one life for another, and took up the one without old age or sorrow in place of the one full of anxiety. Everyone wished to seize his body and proposed to carry it off to his own village, but someone resolved the dispute by revealing the oaths of the Saint, saying the Saint had extracted oaths to commit it to burial in this same place.

6. Thus it was that the citizens of heaven attended to frugality even after death; neither when alive could they endure to entertain haughty thoughts, nor after death did they grasp at honor from men. Instead, they transferred all their love to the Bridegroom, like modest women who are eager to be loved and praised by their spouses but despise adulation from others. Because of this the Bridegroom made them celebrated even against their will, and gave them an abundant share of renown among men; for whenever someone pursues the things of God and asks for the things of heaven, he adds to these things innumerable others, granting their requests many times over. This he enacted when he said, 'Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the rest shall be added to you.' And again, 'He who leaves father and mother and brothers and wife and children, for My sake and for the Gospel, in this age will receive a hundredfold, and in the age to come will inherit eternal life.' This he both declared and accomplished. May we, instructed by word and example and supported by the prayers of these men, be able to 'press on toward the goal for the prize of the high call in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

Notes:

1. Akepsimas (Acepsimus) is mentioned in Theodoret, Eccl. Hist. IV.28(25) as a recluse for sixty years in the region of Cyrus (Cyrrhus), in the second half of the fourth century. It is clear from §4 that he died before Theodoret became bishop of Cyrus in 423.

From The History of the Monks of Syria.

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