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January 24, 2018

Holy Theosemia (The Miraculous Rescue of Saint Neophytos the Recluse)

On January 24th we commemorate a feast established by Saint Neophytos the Recluse, called Theosemia, which is translated as Sign of God, that commemorates an event in his own life. The event took place in 1198 when he was moving to his second cell high up a cliff called New Zion, when through divine aid he was saved from a premature death by a rock and a cliff that an evil demon engineered against him, but the most-merciful God, who has power over life and death, cast the rock aside and rescued him. This resulted in him establishing an annual feast beginning in 1199 that he kept on the date of its occurrence, January 24th, for which he composed prayers and a divine office in a book titled Theosemia.

The miracle took place as follows. Saint Neophytos lived on a cliff eighteen fathoms high that was difficult to climb up to and difficult to descend, and if you looked down it brought immediate vertigo. For this reason, he needed to carve out a path in order for him and his fellow monks to attend to his needs without the danger of the climb. This he did with great care and success over a number of days.

As he came to the completion of this task, on Friday afternoon 24 January 1198, the feast of Saint Xenia, where no peril or danger was anticipated, a large boulder came down on him that caught him by his garments on his right arm, and it was pushing him down to the point where he was to fall off the cliff and face certain death. Immediately the Saint cried out: "Lady, help; Christ, help!" As soon as he said this, the boulder was "pushed" in the opposite direction preventing him from falling, trapping his right arm under the rock and leaving his left leg hanging off the cliff. Strangely, although it was his right arm that was trapped under the rock, it did not have a mark on it, instead his left hand which was free was left wounded, specifically his middle finger and palm.

The first to find him was Hieromonk James, who arrived there quickly, and he called out for the help of the other monks, who helped remove the rock which was on his right arm. Hieromonk James had to take a hammer to the boulder and split it into three pieces before it could be carried away. When the Saint was freed, he immediately lifted up his hands to God and glorified Him, who rescued him from a sure death. Then they washed his arm to remove the blood and wrapped him in bandages.

The Saint was then returned to his cave, but for the next six days and nights he suffered from such harsh pains, that he appeared almost dead. By the grace of God, however, the pain stopped after six days and the Saint slowly recovered. He then finished carving the path to help his brother monks reach him, and the boulder now split apart that fell on him he tossed off the cliff so as not to cause any more harm.

His hermitage was opened on June 24th that year, and he named it "The Forerunner" in honor of it being the feast day of the Birth of Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist. Not long after he began to write a book called Theosemia and he commemorated the feast of Theosemia annually in gratitude for his deliverance from death. All those who honor the Saint likewise commemorate this feast annually.

Read the text of Theosemia in Greek here.