June 4, 2011

Saint Sophia of Ainos, Mother of Orphans and Assistant To Those In Need

St. Sophia of Ainos (Feast Day - June 4)

Our Holy Mother was the daughter of pious and distinguished parents from the ancient province of Ainos. As a comely and well-educated maiden, her parents arranged her marriage when she came of age. With her lawful husband, Sophia gave birth to six children. Though she dwelt in the midst of secular concerns and commotion, she was not a lover of the cosmos seeking the external world. Her conduct of life revealed that daily concerns do not have to restrict one's desire to please the Lord. One may still fulfill the commandments and practice actions and virtues beloved of God. She never ceased gathering virtues like a bee from the divine meadows. The blessed woman was never absent from church services and her home was her sanctuary where she would keep nightly prayerful vigils.

At length, all her children and husband died when a plague struck. Conspicuous for her love, a resilient Sophia, combined ascetic and civic virtue. She became the mother of orphans and eagerly assisted widows. Her once empty home became a haven for the underprivileged and homeless whom she abundantly served. Within twenty year, she would adopt over one hundred children whom she would raise in the love and admonition of the Lord.

Preferring to give rather than receive, she distributed her abundance among the poor and needy. Her unstinted almsgiving was always done cheerfully and generously. The thrice-blessed one counted it more blessed to deprive herself than to let the poor leave her home empty-handed.

Her rigorous manner of life was ascetical. Tears always filled her eyes. The Psalms of David were ever on her lips, and she never left off or was negligent in saying her prayers. Her food consisted of dry bread and plain drinking water. In her measureless humility and modest spirit, she considered herself the least of all in worth.

On account of her God-pleasing life, Sophia was deemed worthy of the following paradoxical miracle. The holy woman, specially marked by the grace of hospitality, had a full jug of wine which she would serve to the poor. No matter how much wine Sophia poured out among the needy, the jug remained full. The venerable Sophia did not share this mystery with anyone. However, one day, she desired to proclaim this exceptional miracle of God, and disclosed the secret to her relative. Upon leaking the mystery of the ever-flowing wine jug, she found that it no longer remained full, but would diminish with use until it was empty. This consequence saddened Sophia with all her heart. She reasoned within herself that she was counted unworthy of God's gift. Nevertheless, an irrepressible Sophia did not sulk; instead, she devised new tests of endurance by increasing her ascetic labors. However, after mortifying the flesh by her strict discipline and regimen, she developed difficulties in breathing.

Tenacious and resourceful to the end, Sophia continued to strive amid her other responsibilities, never allowing earthly distractions to lead her off the path of virtue. Her years of austere and humanitarian labors for the Lord, extolled throughout the empire, numbered thirty-four. A year prior to her godly repose in the Lord, at the age of fifty-three, Sophia was tonsured a nun. Though our holy Mother Sophia left behind a memory that flourished among all those she helped, and it is inextinguishable among the choirs of the saints, it suffices to profit those who wish to learn by her example.

From The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers translated and compiled from the Greek of The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church by Holy Apostle Convent.

Top and bottom icon from the Convent of St. Elizabeth the Grand Duchess of Russia, http://conventofsaintelizabeth.org/byzicons/index.html.