(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Christodoulos, whose account is found in Volume 1 of the series.)
Saint Christodoulos of Patmos
The city of Nicaea was not only the site of the First Ecumenical Synod, convened at the order of Constantine the Great, it was also the birthplace of St. Christodoulos, one of the most energetic figures in Orthodoxy, whose unceasing efforts in many areas are a marvel of human endeavor. His peripatetic undertakings were monumental feats of holy action which spanned time and space at a pace that shortened both, so that he crowded into his lifetime the accomplishments of a dozen ordinary men. His energies were prodigious, as were his talents, all of which he applied seemingly without respite.
Christodoulos was born to Theodore and Anna, a Nicene couple who baptized him John and held out a hope that their son would be anything but a monk. Like so many other parents, they considered becoming a monk to be like dropping out of society, but their son John was to prove to them that quite the opposite can happen. Prodded by a deep devotion to Jesus Christ, he left his disapproving parents to go to Mt. Olympus in Prusa, there to remain for several years in the conventional manner of the ascetic, assuming the name of Christodoulos after being tonsured a monk. He grew restive in this passive approach to the service of Jesus Christ and after the death of the abbot he struck out for Rome, after having had a vision in which he saw the apostles who had suffered martyrdom in the Eternal City.
Having paid his respects in Rome, he departed for Jerusalem, where he became active in the monastery there until he was forced to take to the hills by invading barbarians. He settled in the eastern province of Palatia near the mountain of Latros, where he resumed his activities at an accelerated pace. His parents finally got in touch with him and wrote an appealing letter for him to return home, and his classic reply convinced them that he had indeed found his place in the world. He remained in this region long enough to become convinced that certain heresies were eroding the moral fiber of monasticism. Refusing an offer to become abbot of one of the larger monasteries, he again pulled up stakes and this time headed for the Byzantine capital city of Constantinople.
Once in Constantinople, Christodoulos lost no time in going directly to Patriarch Nicholas II to warn him of the heresies that were going unnoticed, particularly in the remote areas of the empire, and the Patriarch was so impressed by his earnestness and interest that he made him an archimandrite of the church and put him in charge of all the monasteries in the area of Latmos Caria. In this capacity, he rooted out the small evils that were detrimental to spiritual advancement and was so intent in his helpfulness that he took no heed that some of his great work was being called miraculous. He acquired renown as a man of peace and a man who was in constant touch with the Holy Spirit. Not content to rest on his laurels in Latmos, he again sought to relocate and received permission to traverse the Greek Islands.
The first stop on the ambitious itinerary of Christodoulos was the island of Patmos, where St. John the Divine had written the Book of Revelation, the last of the New Testament, which deals with things to come. The sorry condition of this sacred spot appalled this ebullient holy man and he wrote a stirring appeal to the Byzantine emperor Alexios Comnenos at Constantinople for funds with which to restore the ruins to their original beauty.
The money was not long in coming, for such was the convincing earnestness of this hardworking monk, and there was erected on the island the Monastery of St. John, a cloister whose breathtaking beauty is without equal anywhere in the world. With Christodoulos in charge, this magnificent cloister beckoned Christians from all parts of the globe in such numbers that the emperor issued a citation of commendation to Christodoulos and then provided a permanent fund for the perpetuation of the monastery.
This seems to have at long last satisfied Christodoulos that he need look for no more fences to mend and he decided to remain on the island of Patmos for the rest of his days. Because of the emperor’s decree, as well as for the sake of Christodoulos, the island of Patmos to this day remains under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople. The holy remains of Christodoulos are enshrined on the island of Patmos.