Monday, January 23, 2017

Saint Maesymas of Cyrus

St. Maesymas of Cyrus (Feast Day - January 23)

Verses

Tongues of those in Cyrus once spoke of Maesymas,
Tongues of Angels now speak of him to Angels.

By Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria

1. Know that many other luminaries of piety have been conspicuous near Antioch: Severus the Great, Peter the Egyptian, Eutychius, Cyril, Moses, and Malchus, and very many others who trod the same path;1 but if we were to try to record the life of them all, limitless time would not be enough for us. In any case, the reading of a long account is for most people tedious. Judging therefore the lives of those omitted from those recorded, let everyone praise and emulate them, and reap benefit. I myself shall pass over to the meadows of Cyrus, and display, as far as is possible, the bloom of fragrant and beautiful flowers therein.

2. In the times before our own there was a certain Maesymas,2 who was Syrian in his language, had had a rustic upbringing and manifested every form of virtue. Having been conspicuous in the solitary life, he was entrusted with the care of a village. Acting as priest and shepherding the divine flock, he spoke and performed those things which the divine law prescribes. It is said that for a very long time he did not change either his tunic or his goat's hair cloak, but sewed other rags on to the tears that occurred in them and in this way looked after his old age. So zealously did he attend to the care of strangers and the poor that he threw open his doors to all who came. He is said to have had two jars, one of grain and the other of oil, out of which he always supplied those in need, and which he always had full, since the blessing given to the widow of Zarephatha had been attached to these jars as well: 'the same Lord is of all, rich for all who call upon him,' and just as he ordered her jar and cruse to pour forth, providing the sheaves of the seeds of her hospitality, so he gave to this wonderful man an abundance to equal his zeal.

3. He received from the God of the universe much grace also to perform miracles. I shall recall one or two miracles, but omit the rest, in my haste to proceed to other ascetics. A certain woman adorned both in birth and faith had a son, very young, who fell victim to an illness, and whom she showed to numerous physicians. When their art was defeated and the physicians had written him off and said explicitly that the child would die, the woman did not abandon her better hopes, but emulating the Shunnamite womane had her carriage attached to mules. Placing in it herself and her child, she repaired to the godly man, and showing by tears her natural distress begged for his aid. Taking the child in his hands and placing it at the foot of the altar, he lay face downwards as he entreated the Physician of souls and bodies. Gaining his request, he restored the son in good health to his mother. I myself heard this from the very woman who witnessed the miracle and obtained the healing of her son.

4. The story is told that the master of this village once made a visit - he was Letoius, preeminent in the council of Antioch, but engulfed in the darkness of impiety. He demanded crops from the peasants with more severity than was needed. The man of God advised and exhorted him to show kindness, and expatiated on pity and mercy. But he remained implacable, until he learnt by experience the penalty for obstinacy. When he had to depart, and his carriage was ready and, taking his seat, he ordered the muleteer to urge on the mules, they pulled with all their strength, in eager haste to pull the carriage-pole, yet the wheels were as if fastened with iron and lead. When all the peasants together tried to move the wheels with bars and achieved nothing more, one of Letoius' well-wishers, who was seated next to him, indicated the cause, telling how the holy old man was imprecating a curse and that it was right to conciliate him.4 Accordingly, leaping from the carriage, he entreated the one he had insulted, and falling prostrate at his feet and clasping his dirty rags begged him to relax his anger. The other, accepting the petition and transmitting it to the Master, freed the wheels from their invisible bonds and made the chariot move as usual.

5. Many other stories of this kind are told about this godly person. One can learn from them that those who choose to practice philosophy are harmed not at all by life in towns and villages; for this man and those like him responsible for the service of God have shown that it is possible even for those who go about among many to attain the very summit of the virtues. May I ascend a short way the foot-hills at least of this summit, aided by their prayers.

NOTES:

1. Severus, Peter the Egyptian, Moses, and Malchus are likewise listed in Theodoret, Eccl. Hist. IV.28 as monks on Mt. Silpius during the latter part of the fourth century.

2. Maesymas was an ascetic village priest in the region of Cyrus (Cyrrhus). There is a single, and vague, chronological indication: Theodoret, in dating him to 'the times before our own', means that he died before Theodoret became bishop of Cyrus in 423.

3. The Letoii were one of the greatest curial families of Antioch. The best known Letoius was elderly in 364, so the one referred to here is more likely to have been a descendant or relative of a generation or two later. It is evidence of the religious independence of rural Syria that this village was a Christian one, with a resident priest, although it belonged to the estates of a pagan urban family.

4. Cp. the sudden illness and death of a curial of Antioch who was oppressing the tanners and rejected the pleas on their behalf made by Symeon Stylites (Syriac Life 92).

From The History of the Monks of Syria.

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