March 10, 2016

Synaxarion of Saint Anastasia the Patrician

On the tenth of this month [March], we commemorate our Holy Mother Anastasia the Patrician.


The patrician abandoned all things of this present life,
And has ever been appointed a lady in the heavens.

In the days of Emperor Justinian (527-565) there was a woman in Constantinople by the name of Anastasia who feared God and who was born to noble and wealthy parents. She, being a high-ranking patrician at the emperor’s court and having the fear of God in her, walked in accordance with God’s commandments. She possessed a natural serenity and great gentleness so that everyone rejoiced at her virtues, and especially the emperor himself. And since he who is always sowing weeds is accustomed to envy what is good and calumniate it and never gives up or desists, Anastasia was also envied by the empress. When Anastasia learned about the envy from someone, she whose faith was firmly established in God said to herself, "Anastasia, a timely and genuine opportunity has arisen for you: act now and save your soul and you will free the empress of her irrational envy and you will secure for yourself the heavenly kingdom." When she had pondered these thoughts to herself, she hired a boat and gathered together a small portion of her wealth, leaving all the rest behind, and came to Alexandria. Having founded a monastery at the fifth milestone (thus is the place named), she wove together godly threads and remained there, earnestly striving to please God. There to this very day her monastery is preserved, bearing the name Monastery of the Patrician.

Some time later, after the empress had passed away from this life, the emperor remembered the patrician and sent people everywhere, making every effort to find her. When the lamb of God discovered that he was searching for her, she gave up her monastery at night and left to find protection with Abba Daniel (June 7). She told the most blessed old man the details of her life and he dressed her in a man’s robe and called her Anastasios. He led her to a cave far from his lavra and enclosed her, giving her also a monastic rule, and he ordered her never to leave the cell, not even for someone who came to see her. He appointed one of the brothers to bring to her once a week a wine jar filled with water, place it outside the cave, receive a prayer, and return.

There her brave and adamantine spirit completed eight years in addition to twenty, without going out, steadfastly keeping the monastic rule that the old man had given her. What mind or tongue could conceive of the virtues that she cultivated in God’s presence for twenty-eight years or could narrate or put into writing the virtues that she, a solitary, evinced all alone for God each day? The weeping, the groanings, the lamentations; vigil, prayer, reading of Scripture, standing, kneeling, fasting, but above and beyond all of these, the attacks of the demons and the hand-to-hand combat with them, the pleasures of the flesh and evil desires and things equivalent to these? The fact that without exception she never left the cave, spending all her days like this, year after year, a woman of senatorial class, who had always been accustomed to associating with large numbers of men and women at court, boggles the mind and understanding. Battling mightily in all these ways, she became a vessel of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing in advance of her departure to be with the Lord, she inscribed on an ostracon to the old man, saying, "Honorable father, bring with you as quickly as possible the disciple who brings me water and bring implements suitable for doing a burial and come close the eyes of Anastasios the eunuch." After writing these things, she placed the ostracon outside the entrance of the cave. The old man, instructed about these things in a nocturnal vision, said to the disciple, "Hurry, brother, to the cave where lives the brother Anastasios the eunuch, and, looking outside the entrance to the cave, you will find a potsherd with writing on it. Take it and return to me as fast as you can." After the disciple left and returned with the potsherd, the old man read what was written on it and wept. Hurriedly taking the brother and the things they needed for a burial, he left.

When they opened the cave, they found the eunuch burning up with fever, and the old man fell on the eunuch’s breast and, weeping, said, "Blessed are you, brother Anastasios, because by always concerning yourself with this hour you looked with contempt on an earthly kingdom. Therefore pray to the Lord on my behalf." But she said, "It is rather I, father, who need many prayers at this hour;" and the old man said, "Had I known, I would have interceded with God!" She sat up from the mat on which she was lying, kissed the old man’s head, and prayed for him. The old man, taking hold of his disciple, placed him at her feet, saying, "Bless my disciple, your child," and she said, "God of my fathers, you who are standing by me in this hour to remove me from this body, you who know how many steps I have taken in this cave for your name’s sake, and know my weakness and suffering, cause the spirit of the fathers to rest upon him just as you caused the spirit of Elijah to rest upon Elisha." Then the eunuch turned to the old man and said, "For the sake of the Lord, father, do not take off the clothes I am wearing, and let no one know anything about me," and partaking of the Divine Mysteries she said, "Make the sign of the cross over me in Christ and pray for me." And she raised her eyes to the east and shone as though she were holding a flaming torch before her face in the cave, and she made the sign of the honorable cross and said, "Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit," and after saying this she offered up her spirit.

After a grave had been dug in front of the cave, the old man stripped off the cloak he was wearing and said to his disciple, "Child, put this on the brother over what he is wearing." While the brother was dressing the blessed woman, her breasts became visible to him, like withered leaves, but he did not say anything to the old man. After they had finished burying the eunuch, as they were returning the disciple said, "Did you know, father, that the eunuch was a woman?" The old replied, "Yes, I knew, child, but in order that word of this not be spread everywhere, I gave her a man’s clothing to wear and gave her the name Anastasis so she would not be suspected. I did this because the emperor was sending out people looking for her everywhere and especially in these parts. But now, by the grace of God, her secret has been kept by us." And then the old man told the disciple in detail the story of her life.*

* In the year 1200 her relics were translated to Constantinople.