April 20, 2019

Saint Theotimos, Bishop of Tomi in Scythia (+ 410)

St. Theotimos of Tomi (Feast Day - April 20)

Saint Theotimos was a native of Dacia Pontica, and was part Roman. He is believed to have been the teacher of Saint John Cassian (Feb. 29) and Saint Germanos, because he was once living in the same monastery as they were.

Some time between 385-390, Theotimos succeeded Saint Germanos as Bishop of Tomis. Saint Jerome mentions him in his book On Illustrious Men (164), where he writes: "Theotimos, Bishop of Tomi, in Scythia, has published brief and epigrammatical treatises, in the form of dialogues, and in olden style. I hear that he is now writing other works."

In his writings, Saint Theotimos speaks of the role of the nous and the heart in prayer. Perhaps because of this he is considered to be the Father of the Romanian Philokalia.

Saint Theotimos sometimes endured hardships from wandering barbarians, but he impressed them with the holiness of his life and the miracles he performed. He also had close ties with Saint John Chrysostom, and visited Constantinople at least twice.

Sozomen, in Chapter 26 of Book 7 of the Ecclesiastical History, states: "The Church of Tomi, and indeed all the churches of Scythia, were at this period under the government of Theotimos, a Scythian. He had been brought up in the practice of philosophy; and his virtues had so won the admiration of the barbarian Huns, who dwelt on the banks of the Ister, that they called him the god of the Romans, for they had experience of divine deeds wrought by him. It is said that one day, when traveling toward the country of the barbarians, he perceived some of them advancing towards Total. His attendants burst forth into lamentations, and gave themselves up at once for lost; but he merely descended from horseback, and prayed. The consequence was, that the barbarians passed by without seeing him, his attendants, or the horses from which they had dismounted.

As these tribes frequently devastated Scythia by their predatory incursions, he tried to subdue the ferocity of their disposition by presenting them with food and gifts. One of the barbarians hence concluded that he was a man of wealth, and, determining to take him prisoner, leaned upon his shield, as was his custom when parleying with his enemies; the man raised up his right hand in order to throw a rope, which he firmly grasped, over the bishop, for he intended to drag him away to his own country; but in the attempt, his hand remained extended in the air, and the barbarian was not released from his terrible bonds until his companions had implored Theotimos to intercede with God in his behalf.

It is said that Theotimos always retained the long hair which he wore when he first devoted himself to the practice of philosophy. He was very temperate, had no stated hours for his repasts, but ate and drank when compelled to do so by the calls of hunger and of thirst. I consider it to be the part of a philosopher to yield to the demands of these appetites from necessity, and not from the love of sensual gratification."

Chapter 14 of Book 7 of the Ecclesiastical History also says: "Theotimos, bishop of Scythia, strongly opposed the proceedings of Epiphanios, who had persuaded some of the bishops residing in Constantinople to approve of the decrees which he had issued against the discourses of Origen, and told him that it was not right to cast insult on the memory of one who had long been numbered with the dead; nor was it without blasphemy to assail the conclusion to which the ancients had arrived on the subject, and to set aside their decisions. While discoursing in this strain, he drew forth a book of Origen's which he had brought with him; and, after reading aloud a passage conducive to the education of the Church, he remarked that those who condemned such sentiments acted absurdly, for they were in danger of insulting the subjects themselves about which these words treated."

Sometime around 410, Saint Theotimos fell asleep in the Lord. Ancient historians also refer to him as “the Philosopher.”