November 12, 2016

Saint Nilus the Ascetic of Mount Sinai

St. Nilus the Ascetic (Feast Day - November 12)


Nilus refreshes Egypt as well as creation,
For the great Nilus refreshed with his words and died.

Saint Nilus had been the Prefect of Constantinople in the late fourth or early fifth century. Having found a modest woman he married and had two children, one son and one daughter. Desiring to flee the glory of this world, they decided to leave Constantinople in order to live monastic lives in Egypt, each taking with them one of their children. From Alexandria therefore Nilus went to Mount Sinai with his son Theodoulos and became a monk, while his wife and daughter retired into a convent. Nilus and Theodoulos lived there in quietude and prayer, until one day the defenseless ascetics were attacked by marauding Saracens, and were slaughtered. Saint Nilus managed to flee, while his son Theodoulos was captured together with another young monk, and they were dragged away by force.

When they were brought to the camp of the barbarians, it was decided to slaughter the youths and sacrifice them to the star of Venus, known as the morning star, which rises before the sun. However, the younger of the two monks managed to escape and fled, leaving Theodolous alone.

After the barbarians celebrated the day's successes with drinking and debauchery, they overslept and did not wake till the morning after the sun had risen. Having therefore missed the morning star, they decided not to sacrifice Theodoulos, rather they decided to sell him at the marketplace of Elusius. Because those who wanted to buy him would only give two gold coins for him, one of the barbarians unsheathed his sword in frustration in order to slaughter him. But when the Bishop saw this, he purchased him and set him free.

In Elusius the Bishop had Theodoulos work in service to the Church, until he was found by his father Nilus who desired to take him back to Mount Sinai. After the Bishop ordained both father and son to the priesthood, they were permitted to return to Sinai, where they lived for a considerable time in austere asceticism.

Saint Nilus wrote an account of the slaughters at Sinai and Raithu, as well as the capture of his son, along with ascetical treatises for the benefit of his fellow ascetics. He reposed after living sixty years in the Sinai wilderness, and soon after his son Theodoulos also reposed in peace after living a life well-pleasing to God. Their holy relics were preserved in the Church of the Holy Apostle Paul, which was found in the Orphanage of Constantinople, buried behind the holy altar, having been brought there by Emperor Justinian. Saint Theodoulos and the Thirty-Eight Slain Holy Fathers of Sinai are celebrated by the Church on January 14th.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears you made the barren desert bloom; and with your sighs from deep within, you made your labors bear their fruits a hundredfold; and you became a star, illuminating the world by your miracles, O Nilus our Venerable Father. Intercede with Christ our God, for the salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
By your vigilant prayer you honorably cut away the undergrowth of the body’s insurgent passions, blessed Nilus. As you have boldness before the Lord, free me from every danger so that I may cry to you: Rejoice, universal Father.