April 4, 2019

Venerables Theonas, Symeon and Ferbinus


Receive the three souls without blemish,
In that divine place of unblemished souls.

Venerables Theonas, Symeon and Ferbinus met their end in peace.

The Theonas mentioned here could possibly be identified with the Theonas mentioned by Rufinus of Aquileia in his History of the Monks of Egypt, where in Book 2, Chapter 6 he speaks of a recluse named Theonas who lived outside of the city Oxyrhynchus in the Thebaid of Egypt. There we read the following:

"Not far away from the city we saw another man called Theonas, in a place bordering on the desert, a holy man shut up by himself in his cell, who was noted for having kept silence for thirty years and who had done so many marvellous deeds that he was held to be a prophet. A great number of sick people came to him daily. He would put his hand out the window and lay it on the head of each person, blessing them and relieving them of all their ills. He was so gracious of countenance and excited such reverence that he was regarded as an angel living among people, so radiant and full of grace did he appear to people's view.

Not so long ago, so we were told, some robbers came one night thinking they might find he had some gold, but he overpowered them by prayer alone and caused them to remain fixed outside the door, unable to make the slightest movement. When the usual crowd arrived in the morning and saw the robbers fixed near the door they wanted to make a bonfire of them. But constrained by this emergency he actually spoke, saying, 'Let these evil-doers go, for otherwise the gifts of healing will leave me.' When the people heard this, not daring to contradict him, they drove them off. When the robbers realized what had been done to them they lost their desire for crime and did penance for their many past wickednesses by going to a neighbouring monastery and embarking upon a programme of amendment of life.

This man was moreover skilled not only in Greek and Egyptian but also in Latin, as we learned not only from those who knew him but from him himself. He evidently wished us to know this, for, desiring to give us some reward for the labor of our pilgrimage, he showed us just how grace-filled and learned his teaching was by writing to us on tablets. He never ate cooked food and it is said that when he went out to the desert at night he was usually accompanied by a great crowd of the wild beasts of the desert. He rewarded their companionship by drawing water from the well and pouring it into a bowl for them. Manifest evidence of this could be seen in the traces of oxen, goats and wild asses which lay about his cell."