February 15, 2016

Saint Eusebius the Hermit of Asikha

St. Eusebius of Asikha (Feast Day - February 15)


Gladly fleeing human contact in life,
Eusebius became the wonder even of Angels.

By Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus, Syria

To the Saints described above I shall add the great Eusebius, who died a short time ago.1 During a lifespan of very many years he endured labor equal to this time, accumulated virtue equal to this labor, and carried off therefrom a profit many times greater, for the Umpire surpasses the contests in the munificence of his gifts in return. Entrusting the care of himself at first to others, he followed where they led, for they too were men of God, athletes, and gymnasts of virtue. After passing time with them, and well and truly acquiring knowledge of philosophy, he embraced the solitary life. Repairing to a mountain ridge - adjacent to it is a large village which they call Asikha - and using a mere enclosure whose stones he did not even join together with clay, he continued for the rest of his life to endure the hardship of the open air, covered in clothing of skins, feeding on chick-peas and beans soaked in water; and sometimes he ate dried figs, trying thereby in some way to support the weakness of his body.

When he reached extreme old age, such that he lost most of his teeth, he changed neither his food nor his lodging. Frozen in winter and burnt in summer, he bore with endurance the contrasting temperatures of the air, his face shriveled up and all the limbs of his body wasted away. He so exhausted his body with many labors that his belt could not even stay on his waist, but slipped downwards, since there was nothing to hinder it; for his buttocks and hips had been worn away and provided an easy downward passage for the belt. He therefore contrived to keep his belt up by sewing it to his tunic.

Intercourse with the multitude exhausted him completely; for perceiving the vision of God continuously, he was not willing to draw his mind away from it. Nevertheless, despite the fervor of his love, he allowed a few of his friends to unblock the doorway and pass within; offering them the nourishment of the divine oracles, he ordered them, when they departed again, to block up the doorway with day. After judging it better to avoid meeting these few, he walled up the entrance completely, fixing in the doorway a huge stone. Through a hole he spoke with a few of his friends, but without being seen, for so was it contrived; and through it too he received his meager food. And when again he refused everyone his conversation, he honored me alone with that sweet voice dear to God; and when I wanted to leave, he would keep me for a long time while he discoursed on the things of heaven.

Many visited him to ask for the gift of his blessing, and he was extremely vexed at the disturbance they caused. So without thinking of his old age or reflecting on the weakness that oppressed him, he climbed over the enclosure - though hard to scale even for those in full vigor - and fled to the nearby community of ascetics. Using again a small enclosure at the angle of the wall, he pursued the contest by means of his usual labors.

The superior of this flock, a man full of every virtue, said that Eusebius would take fifteen dried figs to get through the seven weeks of the holy fast. This contest he maintained during a life of more than ninety years, although worn away with indescribable weakness. But stronger than his weakness was his zeal, and his yearning for God made everything smooth and easy. Dripping with these exertions, he reached the finishing-post of his course, beholding the Umpire and eager for the crowns. I myself request the intercession which I enjoyed when he was alive; for I am confident that he is living and has a still purer access to God.


1. Eusebius of Asikha was another ascetic of the region of Cyrus (Cyrrhus). He combined reclusion with the open-air life by living within an unroofed enclosure, like Marana and Cyra. He died 'a short time ago' - i.e. in the 430s.