August 13, 2015

Holy Abba Dorotheos of Gaza

St. Dorotheos of Gaza (Feast Day - (Gr.) August 13, (Slav.) June 5)


Discerning words flowed from you,
O Dorotheos the boast of monastics.

Our holy father among the saints, Dorotheos, lived at the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh centuries. He was a disciple of the venerable elders Barsanuphios the Great and John the Prophet (Feb. 6).

In his youth, Dorotheos diligently studied the secular sciences, describing himself as being such a lover of reading, that he preferred it over being in the company of his friends. He would be so lost in his reading, that he rested little and would forget to eat. He would only take a break to attend Vespers, then would resume reading until midnight. Studying with such zeal and eagerness, Dorotheos acquired a broad knowledge and developed his natural gift with words.

When he entered a monastery at an early age, he said to himself: "If for the sake of public speaking, so much endurance and fervor is needed fully to acquire the art of reading, how much more is needed fully to acquire virtue!" His model for a life of virtue was reading the Rules of Saint Basil the Great. He understood that in the world it was difficult to progress in virtue, which is why he entered the monastic life.

Before entering the Monastery of Saint Seridos at Thawatha, he gave himself over in absolute obedience to Saint John the Prophet. He consulted him in everything. Forcing himself to acquire virtue, he succeeded. He later explained: "Sin has no existence or substance of its own but is brought into existence through our own carelessness and again through our correction it is destroyed and loses its existence. Virtue or vice are formed in the soul by repeated actions. When we carry out what is good, we generate for ourselves a habit of virtue - that is, we take up a state proper to our nature, we return to a state of health. Vice is foreign to us, something unnatural. A man with a single passion, set into a habit, is destined to punishment. We must go on fighting and praying to God night and day lest we fall into temptation."

While in the Monastery, Dorotheos would hide the defects of his fellow monastics with love, having been persecuted by them out of envy. They would shake their mats and dump their garbage in front of his cell, until it was infested with flies and stinging insects. There were too many to kill. In the morning he would be covered with insect bites. But he bore everything patiently, though he was tormented. Living there for nine years, he never said an offending word to anyone, but rather rejoiced that he was treated harshly and attributed the cause to himself out of humility.

Abba Seridos assigned Dorotheos the obedience of giving hospitality to visitors. This required his attention day and night, causing him to fall ill for lack of rest. He continued to bear everything with patience and diligence. This obedience was followed by being made head of the infirmary, due to many brethren falling ill. Even though he had many assistants, he could barely cope with the work load. Dorotheos became a model of love for neighbor, treating all the brethren as needed. His reputation became so admired, that the brethren began to reveal all things to him, as they would to an elder.

Dorotheos always considered himself fortunate to live the coenobitic life to serve his elder, John the Prophet. When Abba John had taken ill, Dorotheos was ordered to serve Abba Barsanuphios. Dorotheos comments: "I kissed the very doors of his cell from outside with the same feeling with which someone else might bow down to the honorable Cross, and all the more happy was I to serve him." Desiring to live a more hesychastic way of life in emulation of his holy fathers Barsanuphios, John and Seridos, Dorotheos consulted Barasanuphios about managing his prayers and obtaining a discharge from his duties in the infirmary.

Upon the death of Abba Seridos and John the Prophet, Barsanuphios the Great shut himself completely in his cell as a recluse. Therefore, Dorotheos departed the coenobium, and though he desired a life of seclusion, he acquired many disciples, therefore he became abbot of his own monastery. It is probably that at this time are to be dated the Discourses which he spoke to his disciples and were recorded by them. This work is considered one of the great treasures of Orthodox spirituality, answering major existential questions, helping and inspiring Christians to live a God-pleasing life. And having lived a life well-pleasing to God, Dorotheos reposed in peace.