July 13, 2016

Saint Onesiphoros the Wonderworker, Ascetic of Anarita in Paphos, Cyprus

St. Onesiphoros the Wonderworker (Feast Day - July 13)

When Saint Onesiphoros was born and lived is unfortunately unknown to us. We do known he was born in the Queen of all cities, Constantinople. His parents were pious, virtuous and wealthy, and were given many honors and offices by the emperors of the time. Despite such a distinct lifestyle, they remained faithful and humble till the end.

Onesiphoros was brought up in the palace, where he was given the opportunity to be educated to the knowledge of Law, and his special study was that of military seamanship. The emperor, seeing his wisdom and skill, made him Augustalis, that is, the Navarch of the imperial fleet. Onesiphoros built new naval units, repaired old warships, took care for the military exercises, and increased the militancy of the Royal Navy.

At one point well armed enemies attacked the Roman Empire. Onesiphoros along with many warships was immediately sent against them. However, during the great conflict, all of the Roman ships were sunken, except one, on which the Navarch was also saved. For some reason, the heat of the seabed broke up the pitch which clued together the wood of the Roman ships.

Saddened by the loss, the Saint decided to withdraw from the vanity of the world, along with ten of his friends who were equally seeking the silence of asceticism, and left Constantinople and came to the port of Paphos in Cyprus. After disembarking, they kissed and said farewell to one another, and everyone departed to where he was led by God.

Passing from Anarita, Onesiphoros found a cave, which was ideal for the purpose of quietude and asceticism. He settled there and actively strived for the implementation of what he had set for his life. He fasted, made vigils, and prayed to God. At this location, he built a small church (which unfortunately collapsed a few years ago by an earthquake).

At that time, a terrible drought was again plaguing Cyprus. The water springs had dried up, the wells emptied, the crops dried up, the trees had lost their fruit and leaves, the animals were dying of thirst, and for a jar of water someone had to travel many miles away to one of the major water springs or a running well. The threat of hunger was very evident.

For three days Saint Onesiphoros neither ate, nor put water to his lips, nor did he close his eyelids, and with unending tears, made pleading prayers to God. After these three days of prayer passed, thick clouds covered the sky of Cyprus and gave the priceless gift that the Saint had asked from God. When large crowds of people came to thank him, he told them to give their thanks to the giver of all good, and recommended to them, to always live a clean life, which is the only one that God loves and wants.

Even after death, the hermit of Anarita continued to work miracles through his intercession to God. He cleanses lepers, offers vision to the blind, gives voice to mutes, makes the lame walk, cures cancer patients, and heals without pay all those who ask for his help and have faith in him.

In Anarita today, at the southern entrance of the village, there is the new Chapel of Saint Onesiphoros which the community took care in building after the collapse of the old church. The chapel is located in the same area as the old one, but outside the cemetery, while the old church was in the cemetery. Cells can also be seen surrounding the church, indicating it was once a monastic community. The cave where Saint Onesiphoros became sanctified could still be seen up until about twenty years ago, in the area where the old church was built. Today however, it is unknown where it is. It was probably filled up with rubble during the building of the new church which was to the west, by the cliff.

The miraculous remains of Saint Onesiphoros were kept for many years in a shrine in the old church of the village. However, his body has now been lost and nobody knows anything about it. Parts of his relics are kept at the Monastery of Kykkos and the Monastery of Chrysorrogiatissa.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
You were enriched with divine wonders, Venerable Father Onesiphoros, and are the treasured refuge Anarita possesses for the Holy Metropolis of Paphos, having the coffin of your holy relics, which ever gushes forth healings to the glory of Christ of the Trinity.