January 4, 2016

Saints Zosimas the Hermit and Athanasios the Commentarisius of Cilicia

Sts. Zosimas and Athanasios (Feast Day - January 4)


Athanasios died with Zosimas,
Within a rock which they pleasantly inhabited together.

Saint Zosimas was a native of Cilicia and lived in the desert with the wild animals. Arrested by order of Governor Dometian, he confessed Christ as the true God. For this they burned his ears with heated irons and plunged him into a cauldron of boiling water. Emerging from these torment unscathed in a wondrous manner, he was then hung by his feet in the stadium. Suddenly a lion was released into the stadium, and refusing to harm him it confessed the Divinity of Christ with a human voice. This caused the commentarisius (so the law calls those who are appointed to attend to the drawing up of indictments) Athanasios to embrace the faith of Christ.

When Zosimas was released from prison by the tyrant Governor, he returned to the desert and mountains where he first lived in asceticism, and Athanasios followed after him. After being catechized, Athanasios was baptized. Then the two entered a rock which had rent asunder in a wondrous manner, and they delivered their souls into the hands of God.

It should be noted that Saint Zosimas is celebrated alone in the Slavic Churches on September 19th, and there are slight differences in the story from the above Synaxarion of Constantinople. Below is the story of Saint Zosimas from the Slavic Synaxaria of September 19th.

The Holy Martyr Zosimas the Desert Dweller lived during the fourth century. Once, while hunting with his servants through the mountains and deserts, Dometian, the impious governor of Cilicia, saw the Elder calmly and amiably conversing with many animals around him.

Seeing the hunters, the beasts fled. Thinking he was a sorcerer, they then interrogated the Elder, asking who he was. The Elder answered that he was a Christian called Zosimas. Upon hearing this, they arrested and questioned him in the city.

When Zosimas was asked by the governor why he dwelt in the wilderness and by what magic and sorcery he enchanted the wild beasts and conversed with them as if they were men, he answered: "I do not live in the wilderness because I work sorceries. I am a Christian, and I cannot bear to dwell in the city with unbelievers. And so I went into the wilderness, preferring to dwell with beasts rather than with evil men, the enemies of my Lord Jesus Christ. I have as examples other Christians, our holy fathers, who forsook the world to live in the desert, and such men I have sought to emulate as much as possible. God, who knows those who labor for Him and helps them, has in His goodness cared for me, and for my consolation He has made the wild beasts submissive to me. And so I live with them and am comforted by the Lord, in Whom I have set all my hope."

Then Dometian said threateningly: "If you worship the Nazarene, I shall subject you to fierce tortures at Nazareth, and you will renounce Christ."

At Nazareth the tortures began. They tied the Elder head downwards, with a large stone around his neck, and they began to lacerate his body with iron hooks. Dometian would demand that Zosimas admit he was a wizard, but the Elder would respond: "Christ my God sent the beasts to console me in the wilderness."

The torturers taunted the sufferer: "If the beasts do listen to you, tell one of them to come here, and then we will believe in your God." The holy martyr turned to God in prayer, and suddenly a huge lion came forth.

Everyone fled in terror, and the lion went up to the Elder, and began to lift the stone around the martyr's neck with its paw in order to ease the suffering of the saint. The governor implored the martyr to keep the lion calm, and he gave orders to untie the saint, and to bring him to the emperor, but Saint Zosimas was already dead, having given up his pure soul to God. The Christians took the body of Saint Zosimas and buried it reverently, and the lion departed into the wilderness.

The Holy Martyr Zosimas the Hermit

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

To the arid wilderness, far from men,
Early in life, St. Zosimas had fled.
In solitude he conversed with God,
And spent his life in many labors -
In prayer, fasting, all-night vigils,
And in salvific contemplation of God.
He was like an angel in vigil, like a giant in faith.
Even the beasts sensed his innocence.
The beasts, despisers of cruel men, loved the saint,
And obeyed him as children obey their father.
The merciful saint tamed them with mercy,
And the beasts responded with goodness to goodness,
Since beasts remember goodness, and repay it in kind,
With gratitude to their benefactors.
Persecuted by men, but dear to the beasts,
Among the beasts Zosimas took up his habitation.
But the beastly men discovered his home
And killed his body by cruel torture.
Now St. Zosimas rejoices in heaven;
In Paradise, he exults with the saints.
He prays for us, that we may overcome our hardships
And rejoice with him in Paradise.