September 29, 2015

Saint Kyriakos the Anchorite

Venerable Kyriakos (Cyriacus) the Anchorite (Feast Day - September 29)


The bitterness of the onions you warded off Kyriakos,
Giving them a sweet taste, or you would be condemned to die.
Onion-eating Kyriakos made his end on the twenty-ninth.

Saint Kyriakos was from Corinth and born in 448 during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II. He was the son of a priest of Corinth named John with his pious wife Eudoxia. When he was eighteen he was ordained Reader by Peter, the Bishop of Corinth, who was his father's uncle. With an ardent longing for God he departed for Jerusalem without telling his family. When he arrived he heard of the ascetic feats of Saint Euthymios the Great (Jan. 20), and became one of his disciples. Saint Euthymios thus tonsured him a Monk, but due to the fact that he was young and lacked a beard, he was sent to Saint Gerasimos (Mar. 4), who dwelt near the Jordan River, since Saint Theoktistos (Sept. 3) had already reposed. Kyriakos diligently served the godly Gerasimos and was obedient to him in all things, to the point where Gerasimos praised him for his strict way of life, and took him with him to the desert of Rouba every year from Theophany to Palm Sunday to spend the time in strict fasting and prayer. It was during their time in Rouba that Kyriakos and Gerasimos beheld the departed soul of Saint Euthymios ascending to heaven, prompting them to go and bury him.

When the divine Kyriakos was twenty-seven years old, Saint Gerasimos fell asleep in the Lord, after being together for nine years. Now he was ready to be accepted into the Lavra of Saint Euthymios, where he at first lived in solitude, then it became a coenobium. He did not stay long here, since the monks were in continual disputes with the Monastery of Saint Theoktistos, situated just below them. Fleeing scandal and trouble, Kyriakos went to the Lavra of Saint Chariton (Sept. 28) in Souka. He stayed there for many years, serving the community in various obediences. When he was forty, he was found worthy of the grace of the priesthood. Throughout his stay there, he never once gave way to anger, nor ate before sunset.

At the age of seventy, Kyriakos left for the desert of Natoupha, where he lived with a disciple and lived on nothing but wild onions, that miraculously lost their bitterness due to his prayers. They lived on these onions for four years, until a devout man would bring them bread to eat as well; at which time the onions regained their bitterness and they had to boil them to eat them. Monks and faithful, attracted to the grace of the holy Elder, sought him out in his retreat, some to be freed from evil spirits, others to be healed of illness, and others to be blessed and hear the word of salvation. To escape human glory he departed for the desert of Rouva, where for five years he lived on the roots of a plant called melagria and the tender shoots of rushes. But his presence there became known also, so at the age of ninety, Kyriakos departed for the more remote desert of Sousakim, fifty miles from Souka, where he lived for seven years.

When famine and a deadly epidemic ravaged the region, the fathers of the Lavra of Saint Chariton in Souka urged Saint Kyriakos to return to the Lavra where he could stay in the cave of Saint Chariton. He obediently gave in to their request and lived in quietude in the cave of Saint Chariton. While there, the Origenist heresy infected many Palestinian monks and clergy, prompting Kyriakos to fight it off with the sharp sword of his spiritual knowledge.

When he was ninety-nine years old, and weary of the troubles that human society brought upon him, he went back to the desert of Sousakim, where he lived in extreme asceticism for eight more years with his disciple John and a tame lion, that served him and protected his garden from goats, as well as drove away thieves and barbarians that came to threaten them. One day, due to a July drought, his garden became dry and he was very thirsty, when suddenly, after praying for rain, a cloud appeared in the sky and it rained abundantly.

When the venerable Kyriakos reached the deep age of one hundred and seven, the fathers of the Monastery of Souka were afraid that they would not know the hour of his repose and thus be deprived of his final blessing, so they entreated him to once again come and stay in the cave of Saint Chariton, which Kyriakos consented to.

His biographer, Cyril of Scythopolis, from the Lavra of Saint Euthymios, who knew Saint Kyriakos and met with him in Sousakim towards the end of his life, concludes his biography as follows:

"I, the wretched author of his life, frequently visited and comforted him. My soul received much profit from his discourse and was edified by his great struggles, for even though he was aged, he loved labor and was a great struggler. He stood at prayer with fervor and was never found idle, but was always either praying or working. He was accessible at all times, clairvoyant, a good teacher, and firm in the Orthodox faith. In spite of his great age, he was vigorous; his whole body was healthy, and he was full of the Holy Spirit and God's grace. After he had undergone numerous struggles, the Lord was pleased to translate him to the repose of heaven, and so the godly Kyriakos fell into an illness of the body in which he remained for a few days. He summoned the abbot of the monastery and the brethren and spoke to them concerning the salvation of their souls. After kissing each one, he blessed them. Then he looked up into heaven, stretched forth his hands, and prayed for all the brethren, surrendering his honorable and holy soul into the hands of the Lord on the twenty-ninth day of the month of September. In all, he lived one hundred and nine years. The brethren wept and buried his holy body with fitting psalms and hymns, glorifying God and bringing to remembrance the labors that His servant had performed for many years. May we sinners in the same manner glorify our God unto the ages. Amen."

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Kyriacos, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The sacred lavra doth at all times rightly honour thee as a sure helper and support and mighty champion, and it annually observeth thy holy mem'ry. And since thou, O venerable Kyriakos, dost possess boldness with the Lord, protect us from our enemies, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O thrice-blessed Father.