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September 3, 2016

Saint Theoktistos, Fellow Ascetic of Saint Euthymios the Great

St. Theoktistos the Great (Feast Day - September 3)


You are, Father, he who God the Creator,
Chose before all His creatures.

Our Venerable Father Theoktistos loved God from his youth, and for this reason he departed his native land and went to the holy places of Jerusalem. Arriving at the Lavra of Pharan, six miles outside of Jerusalem, he found a cell, in which he enclosed himself, and bravely battled against the passions and the demons.

At that time Euthymios the Great (Jan. 20) left the world, and came to settle near Theoktistos, in quietude. The passion they both had to acquire the virtues, and the common struggles of these ascetics, united these Saints with such a bond of love, they were as if a single soul in two bodies. In all things they were alike, in mind and action, which is why every year after the leave-taking of Theophany, they had the habit of going into the desert to struggle and pray in solitude, and return to their cells on Palm Sunday.

After five years together, Euthymios and Theoktistos went once again into the desert for Great Lent in 411, and in a wadi they discovered a large cave which later became a church. They decided to remain there, believing that they had been led there by God. They ate wild herbs to sustain themselves, and met with no other people for some time.

The Lord did not wish these great luminaries to remain hidden, however. He wanted their wisdom and holiness of life to become known in order to benefit others. One day, shepherds from Bethany found the ascetics and went back to their village and told others about them. After that, many people came to hear of them, and monks came from other monasteries to visit them. Some even stayed there in order to be instructed by them.

So many monks gathered around them that they were obliged to build a Coenobium over the cave church. Euthymios made Theoktistos the overseer of the Coenobium, while he himself lived in seclusion in cave not very far away. The wise Theoktistos accepted all who came to him, confessing them and treating the infirmities of their wounded souls with appropriate spiritual remedies, thus becoming the cause of the salvation of multitudes. Meanwhile Euthymios made his cave into a Lavra, but when monks came to live with him, he would send them to Theoktistos. Even when the young Saint Savvas the Sanctified (Dec. 5) came to Euthymios in search of spiritual guidance, he sent him to live in the Coenobium under Theoktistos, who guided him in an appropriate manner.

When he had reached an advanced old age and renown among many for his virtues, Theoktistos became very ill. Euthymios (who was ninety years old himself) visited him and took care of him. When Theoktistos went to the Lord in 467, Patriarch Anastasios of Jerusalem (Sept. 3) came and presided at his burial service, a venerable man buried by venerable hands.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Dedicated as God's priest from thy youth, thou didst spurn all worldly aims. O Venerable Theoktistos, thou wast radiant in thy solitude, and strict in the training of monks. Guide those who come to thee and lead them in the way of salvation.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou didst keep thy soul pure and present it to God as His creation. Enlightened by Him, Theoktistos, thou didst rise to the peak of endeavour. By thy works thou hast confirmed the grace that was given thee.