July 8, 2010

Saint Theophilos the Myrrhgusher (+ 1548)

St. Theophilos the Myrrhgusher of Pantokrator Monastery on Mount Athos (Feast Day - July 8)


Thou hast ascended to the heights of chastity and purity, O Father, 
And the myrrh flowing from thy bones is a token thereof.

Saint Theophilos, the true friend (philos) of God (Theos), was born around 1460 in New Zikhne, in Greek Macedonia, to pious and virtuous parents, who implanted in him the fear of God and the first seeds of the holy and deifying virtues, so that the good ground of his soul might bring forth fruit a hundredfold.

After studying letters and calligraphy, he renounced all the things of the world and dedicated himself to God, being tonsured a monk. Shortly thereafter, he was Ordained to the Priesthood, as one pure and most worthy, and irreproachably served the one Holy Triune God at the fearsome Altar.

He was bound to the virtuous Bishop Akakios of Rendine, who had been Consecrated by St. Niphon of Constantinople (commemorated on 11 August) when he was still Metropolitan of Thessaloniki.

St. Niphon once sent Bishop Akakios and St. Theophilos to Egypt to ascertain the truth of two great miracles that took place there, in 1486, by Patriarch Joachim of Alexandria.

By order of the country’s Arab King — which order was issued following intrigues by certain Jews — this most holy Patriarch moved a mountain and unhesitatingly drank a poisoned drink without suffering any harm.

When St. Theophilos and Bishop Akakios had ascertained the truth of thesemiracles, they worshipped at the ancient Patriarchate, Sinai, and the Holy Land.

The Saint later returned to Constantinople, where the new Patriarch, Pachomios — who, indeed, was his compatriot — appointed him to the service of the Patriarchate, in which post he remained a good many years.

He then went to the Holy Mountain, where he lived in true ascesis, humility, and obedience at the Monasteries of Vatopaidi and Iveron, and later in the desert of Kapsala, being distinguished for his great piety and his love for our Lady the Theotokos.

Various manuscripts of his bear witness to his humility, when he says in self-reproach that he is “the sinful and unworthy one,” “wretched, miserable, and tattered,” and a “wretch, guilty of myriads of evils”!

The renown of his holiness drew near him many devotees of Godly life seeking guidance and consolation.

When Thessaloniki was deprived of its Shepherd, Patriarch Pachomios went to the city, and from there he wrote to the Blessed Theophilos, inviting him to come so that his acquaintances could see him — his aim, of course, being to Consecrate him Bishop of the city.

The Saint discovered this plan and, avoiding the dangers arising from the glory of honors, was tonsured to the Great Schema, having first renounced the Priesthood, to the sorrow, but also admiration, of the Patriarch.

Cultivating virtue in secret and being advanced in years, the blessed one foreknew his death.

Having been administered Holy Unction, he received Holy Communion and, on Sunday, 8 July 1548, he reposed, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit!”

In token of his great humility, he had previously ordered his disciple, Isaac, not to bury him, but rather to drag him to the woods and to throw him there to be eaten by wild beasts.

Later, his Holy Relics were found and reverently placed in the Kalyva of his struggles, at the Church of St. Basil in Kapsala. These Relics began to gush fragrant myrrh as an indication of his God-pleasing way of life and angelic chastity and purity.

In this way, the Lord glorified His faithful servant, St. Theophilos, through whose intercessions may we be vouchsafed the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen!


A Reflection of St. Nikolai Velimirovich

St. Anthony teaches: "Be fearful that you do not become famous because of some work that you do. If they begin to praise you because of your work, do not rejoice in that and do not find satisfaction in that but keep your works in secret as much as you can and do not allow anyone to speak about them." How much more peace and joy would there be among men on earth if a part of mankind would take these holy words to heart! Even though St. Theophilos lived as a simple monk secluded on Holy Mount Athos, he was famous in all the patriarchates of the east, as much for his learning as for his good works and ascetical life of mortification. It happened at one time that Theoleptos, the Patriarch of Constantinople, visited Thessalonica. At that time, the arch-episcopal throne of Thessalonica was vacant. The Christians of Thessalonica unanimously implored the patriarch to appoint Theophilos as their archbishop. The patriarch, a compatriot and friend of Theophilos, wrote a personal letter to him in which he invited him to accept the arch-episcopal throne. Fearing the glory of men and not being able to refuse the patriarch, Theophilos immediately received the "great angelic habit" [The Great Schema] and informed the patriarch of this adding: "If God be willing, we will see each other in the Kingdom of Heaven." Such were the spiritual giants, whom the Church calls saints, afraid of vanity and the glory of mankind.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As a genuine friend of the Savior, and a fragrant lily of Athos, and a noetic alabaster of venerable virtue, with sacred songs, we praise you Father, reverently we flee, to the odor of your myrrh, which always gladdens us, we who honor you, Venerable Theophilos.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
The Lord wanted people, to know thrice-blessed one, that your life, was altogether pleasing, He showed us, that your relic was a source of myrrh, to all of us, being fragrant as we approach you, for this we honor you, we who entreat you, Venerable Theophilos.

Becoming full of the odor of myrrh, Myrrhgushing Father, O sacred Theophilos, redeem us, from everything foul on the earth, and rescue us from every unclean passion, I pray.