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November 21, 2015

Saint Sozomenos the Wonderworker of Potamia

St. Sozomenos of Potamia (Feast Day - November 21)

There are two hermit saints who lived in Cyprus with the name Sozomenos. One lived in the Karpas peninsula and is celebrated on November 20th, and the other lived in the village of Potamia in Nicosia and is celebrated on November 21st. There is no biography existing about Saint Sozomenos of Potamia because in his handwritten divine service there are four absent pages, where it seems that the synaxari of the Saint was also to be found. What is presented here is the minimal information that we get from the Cypriot chronicler Leontos Machairas, some information from the Saint's handwritten divine service, and from some of his miracles from murals that are painted in his hermitage in the village of Potamia.

The handwritten divine service of the Saint appears to have been copied by a "humble John" on the 16th of November in the year 1780, from other older handwritten pages of the Saint's divine service. Thus, through this successive coping, certain historical elements have survived about this Saint.

It is unknown where Saint Sozomenos of Potamia was born and in which year. It appears however that he loved Christ from a young age, and after he abandoned secular life, he followed the life of a monk. Later, during the occupation of Palestine by the Arabs, he left from the place where he lived as a monk-hermit (perhaps in the desert of Jordan or in the desert of Syria) and with an escort of 300 other Christians, he landed in Cyprus.

Since Sozomenos was a peaceful and a desert loving man. Searching to find a deserted and a quiet place, he found his way to the village of Potamia, and to the north of this village he dug and carved out his hermitage-cave into a sandy but hard rock that is found in the region, and which survives up to our days. And thus, after the Saint found shelter, he began to put his energy in the struggles of the ascetic life. With fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground and continuous prayers, but also with the grace of Christ, he overcame his passions, and through his patience and his purity, he became worthy to have bestowed on his the grace to work miracles - to cure the sick, to exorcise evil spirits, to clean people from leprosy, and to cure many other illnesses. For this reason, those that were cured by him named him a wonderworker and made him famous all around this part of the island. Thus, the Christians, and not only them, visited him, and he cured the illnesses of their body and their soul. He taught them and advised them to live in penitence and in accordance with God's will, avoiding sins. Thus, the Saint lived a life similar with that of Saint Anthony the Great, and from the many miracles that he did, crowds of people reached his cave in order to be cured, to be taught by his divinely inspired words, but also from curiosity to see his person.

After Saint Sozomenos lived as a hermit in the cave of Potamia, and was purified of his passions and perfected in virtues, and after he acquired healing powers from God and became a wonderworker, he left the world for his beloved Christ. The grave of the Saint is found today in the left area of the cave which he dug out himself.

In his cave exist murals that were painted between the eleventh and twelfth century, up to the beginning of the sixteenth century. In these murals, four scenes from the miracles of the Saint are presented. These miracles were made for Christians who asked for his help, perhaps while the Saint was still alive, or even after his death.

In the first scene, the Saint is presented outside a church with a bishop's staff in his left hand, while with his right hand he blesses those that came asking for his help. The scene is accompanied by the inscription "Saint Sozomenos healing the sick". In the other three scenes the Saint is depicted curing those who asked for his help, and the following inscriptions are accompanied in these scenes: "Saint Sozomenos curing those who have fever", "Saint Sozomenos makes the one who is in the ground stand up", "The sick woman drinks from the holy water of the Saint". Most of the murals were destroyed by fanatic Turks who especially destroyed the faces of Saints from disrespect and with much fury.

Holy relics of Saint Sozomenos survived up to the fifteenth century, because Machairas reports in his Chronicle that Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch came to Cyprus in 1340 for the purpose of confronting the plague of locusts. For this purpose he made a Cross and he put in it part of the True Cross and Divine Bread from Great Thursday and relics of 46 Saints, among these also a relic of Saint Sozomenos. Next to the village of Potamia, there is the abandoned village of Agios Sozomenos which took its name from the Saint. In this now abandoned village since 1964 due to conflicts with the Turks, there is a church dedicated to Saint Sozomenos.