February 23, 2015

Saint Damian the Myrrhgusher of Esphigmenou (+ 1280)

St. Damianos of Esphigmenou (Feast Day - February 23)

Saint Damian the Myrrhgusher holds a very prominent place among the saints who lived at the Monastery of Esphigmenou and the nearby hill of Samaria. He was a contemporary and a friend of Saint Kosmas of Zografou who heard instructions from the Holy Mother herself to guard and protect themselves from her enemies and those of her Son, that is, the Latins and those of the same belief system.

Saint Damian desired the yoke of Christ from a very young age. Thus, he came to the Holy Mountain and stayed at the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou. He was completely obedient to his elder and the rest of the brotherhood. The desire, zeal and reverence that he exhibited during his monastic life as he strived to lead a virtuous life quickly set him apart from the other monks, and set him as an example for others to follow. Everybody looked up to him and sought his spiritual advice.

Inflamed with divine love and desire to come into closer communion with God, he was prompt to ask his elder's permission to live by himself so he will not have to be constantly interrupted by other people. As soon as he got the blessing from his abbot he immediately made the hill of Samaria his new residence and started looking for a new spiritual father and a mentor who will help him study the art of arts and the science of sciences, that is, the monastic life. When he found a spiritual father he exercised complete obedience to him as if he was Christ himself and entrusted him with all the cares of both his body and soul. Because of his spiritual father, Saint Damian was taught how to guard himself from the assaults of the demons and escape the traps of the devil which ultimately helped him become a well versed monk. His love for God allowed him to complete all tasks and chores with ease. When the soul gets a taste of divine eros, it becomes stronger and does not worry anymore about the cares of this life. The memory alone of the name of Jesus Christ was enough to ignite a stream of tears which the holy man shed throughout his life. This deep, divine love for Christ was truly a gift that remained with him for the rest of his life.

Countless were indeed the many virtues and feats of this holy man for which God rewarded him with the grace of the Holy Trinity that dwelt in him - all-night vigils, continuous tears, the memory of death, love towards God and man, the unceasing prayer of the heart (a constant companion of his from a very young age until his death), and the hardships and afflictions of his body, are only a few of this Saint's struggles.

One day Saint Damian decided to go and visit with his friend Saint Kosmas of Zografou, who was not there at the time. So the Saint had to wait until it got dark to see him. When Saint Kosmas came, they spent some time talking and then Saint Damian decided it was time to go. By that time, it got real dark and it started to rain. Although his friend asked him to stay and spend the night there, the Saint refused since he did not have his elder's blessing to spend the night anywhere else except his own cell. So he got on the road and started walking home with the heavy rain coming down on him. Suddenly, Saint Damian realized that he couldn't see where he was. He immediately turned to God and started praying, “Lord, I am lost, save me!” Miraculously the Saint instantly found himself in front of his cell.

The time came to leave this world and go to the Lord. God, wishing to honor this holy man, allowed for forty days after his death a great fragrance to come out of his grave. The fragrance was so strong that the fathers at the Monastery were able to smell it at a distance of a mile or longer. Saint Damian fell asleep in the Lord in 1280. His memory is remembered on the 23rd of February.