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July 27, 2015

The Extraordinary Obedience of St. Anthousa the Confessor

The venerable Anthousa, celebrated on July 27th, a confessor of Orthodoxy, who lived and suffered in the period of Iconoclasm during the reign of the iconoclast Emperor Constantine V Copronymos (741-775), was a monastic and founder of churches and Mantineou Monastery.

When Anthousa decided to embrace the monastic life, she went to see a certain holy hieromonk and elder named Sisinios. Elder Sisinios was a wonderworker and Spirit-bearing guide of many souls. For this he was widely known, which is why Anthousa went to him to consult with him. Upon meeting him, she was immediately inspired to emulate him in the contest for virtue.

Desiring to mortify her will and passions, she joyously subjected herself completely to Elder Sisinios as her spiritual father. With the passage of time, in order to perfect her in obedience, as was her desire, he commanded her to enter a lit oven. Showing ready and unquestioned obedience, Anthousa entered the flaming hot oven, yet shielded by grace and bedewed by faith, she exited unscathed.

Unfortunately, no other details are given surrounding this extraordinary event, which proclaims the faith of the holy woman Anthousa. Saint John Climacus tells us: "Obedience is distrust of oneself in everything, however good it may be, right up to the end of one's life" (Step 4:5).

However, Anthousa's exceptional obedience in this instance is outside the general rule and order. This unique event (entering an oven) in Anthousa's life evokes wonder at the ways of providence and the inscrutable judgments of God, which strengthens our faith and hope. Yet, we act in error if we take this isolated experience of Anthousa as a model of imitation. As our guide of conduct, we have the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. One should break with an elder or spiritual father who has proved to be harmful to the soul or breaking the moral tradition of the Church.

Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov adds: "Monastic obedience in the form and character in which it was practiced by the monastics of old is a lofty spiritual mystery. Its attainment and full imitation has become impossible for us. We can only examine it reverently and intelligently, and appropriate its spirit. We show right judgmement and evince salutary intelligence when, in reading about the rules and experiences of the ancient Fathers (and Mothers) of their obedience - equally amazing both in the directors and in those who were being directed - we see at the present time a general decline of Christianity and recognize that we are unfit to inherit their legacy in its fullness and in all its abundance" (The Arena, p. 47.).

Read more about St. Anthousa, here.