November 10, 2017

Saint Nonnus, Bishop of Heliopolis (+ 471)

St. Nonnus the Catechist of Saint Pelagia (Feast Day - November 10)


Nonnus was entirely filled with the knowledge of God,
Turning even towards the worst as being of beautiful appearance.

Nonnus was renowned as a great ascetic in the Tabennisi Monastery in Egypt, because of which he was chosen bishop in 448 for the diocese of Edessa. Later, he was transferred to the diocese of Heliopolis (modern Baalbek) and there converted 30,000 Arabs to the faith of Christ. After the death of Bishop Ibas, Saint Nonnus again returned to Edessa where he remained until his death in 471.

Through his prayers, the infamous sinful harlot Pelagia (Oct. 8), who was later glorified for her holiness of life, was brought to the faith of Christ. The details of their encounter were recorded by his deacon James. He states that Nonnus was "a perfect monk" from Tabennisi in Egypt who, "by reason of his virtuous life", became bishop of Heliopolis, converting "all its inhabitants" and baptizing 30,000 Arabs. An ecclesiastical synod in Antioch was passed by the entourage of the town's most famous courtesan Margarita, to the scorn of the bishops she passed. which caused Nonnus to condemn those bishops and himself for taking less care of their souls than she had of her body. Soon after she overheard Nonnus preaching on the topic hell, which prompted her to repent. She wrote him a letter and was permitted to see him with other witnesses; convinced of her sincerity, he received her confession and baptized her by her birth name Pelagia. After being pursued by the devil for a few days, she donated the property from her former employment to the Church and lived with the deaconess Romana before departing for Jerusalem to disguise herself as a male hermit, using an old garment of Nonnus, under the name Pelagius. She reposed in peace near the Mount of Olives.

To Saint Nonnus, known for his purity, can be applied the saying of the Apostle Paul to Titus (1:15): "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted."