(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's saint, Patapios, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
God needs but to whisper through a truly pious monk for an echo to roll through a thousand years and beyond in a solemn melody of miracles whose reverberations have been muted by time but can be felt by many who still flock to the shrine of a man of God who lived in the fifth century. The divinely gifted St. Patapios knew that dimension of grace through which the wonders are wrought that are called miracles by ordinary men who must wait until the end of their days to be released from the finiteness of the temporal to find the infinity of the Christian spirit.
Lofty hierarchs would have traded their theological erudition for the gift of this pious monk, a gift which over the years has been claimed by charlatans who turn spurious healing powers to their own ends, thus demeaning those truly gifted, and casting a shadow of doubt on the few chosen of God. Patapios in his lifetime removed the doubts of the most skeptical in an expression of the power of God that has marked him for all time as a saint’s saint.
Patapios was born in the thriving city of Thebes in Egypt and spent the early years of his life in urban upper-class pursuits which he was to abandon as a young man in answer to an irresistible call to the service of Jesus Christ. Unaware of what lay in store for him, he wandered into the desert wasteland with nothing to sustain or shelter him but an abiding faith, which was borne out in the first miracle of his life by his managing to survive the first few days until he was to know the way of the desert and by finding nourishment where none seemed to exist on the arid earth.
The problem of survival which had to be overcome by the poor in urban centers was one which Patapios seemed to overcome in a manner known only to him and to God as the weeks grew to months which turned to years in which he contemplated, prayed and most certainly periodically fasted in a life totally given over to the Savior. When he finally emerged from seclusion, the first human beings he had seen in years stood in awe at a figure that seemed not to have walked out of the desert sands but to have floated down on unseen wings from the kingdom of heaven. He had a serenity as reassuring as the Scriptures he had mastered and the magnetism forged on the anvil of an asceticism from which he appeared to possess the wisdom of the ages. After the one or two people came to listen to a true man of God, crowds amassed because, in the course of his ministrations, there were the ailing who found themselves cured by the touch of his hand.
The rare gift of Patapios was not to be restricted to the outer regions of the Byzantine Empire and he found himself in Constantinople, the heart of the empire, where thousands gathered to see the man already well-known to them. He had made the trip to the capital not at the bidding of the emperor but in answer to a request made of him in a vision of angels of the Lord. His visit to the city created as much enthusiasm as that of a modern pope visiting America, except that where there is pomp and ceremony on such an occasion, there was for this unobtrusive monk the quiet solemnity of devout men and women witnessing what by their standards were miracles but which to Patapios were a natural expression of the Lord through one chosen to be His instrument. This pious monk was the window through which mankind could see the wonders of Christianity.
A touching incident that can be singled out was the approach to Patapios of a blind man led to the pious monk who listened in nodding approval as the sightless wretch proclaimed his faith in Jesus Christ and, instead of bewailing his fate, earnestly prayed that the world be opened to him after a lifetime of darkness. Patapios placed his hand on the afflicted man and, after acknowledging his genuine devotion, stated that if he were to see the creations of God, it would be through Jesus Christ. The blind man’s sight was restored and he walked away thanking the Lord, not the monk, who vanished in the throng.
After his death, Patapios was enshrined in the Church of St. John, but when alterations were made in the tenth century the remains were missing, only to reappear in the Monastery of Geranios Loutrake in Corinth in 1904. Adjoining this monastery a nunnery was built in 1953, an adjunct to the shrine of the patron of the blind.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.