(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 saints, Sts. Xeophon and his companions, come from Volume 1 of the series.)
Saints Xenophon, Maria and Sons John and Arkadios
A tragically splintered family that regrouped after years of involuntary separation to serve Jesus Christ jointly, as they had separately, with such dedication as to achieve individual sainthood, comprised one of the proudest families in the era of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the monarch generally considered to be most responsible for the magnificent Cathedral of Hagia Sophia of Constantinople. The father of this renowned group was named Xenophon, a well-to-do senator. His wife Maria bore him two sons named John and Arkadios, both of whom shared with their parents an intense dedication to the Messiah.
When it was decided that the sons should complete their studies in one of the most advanced schools of the empire, they took passage on a ship bound for one of the greater institutions of Beirut, Lebanon. The vessel must have been something less than seaworthy, for in a sudden storm the craft virtually disintegrated in heavy seas. It is not known how many survived, but it is known that both John and Arkadios managed to cling to separate pieces of timber and were parted by mounting swells and swirling currents that eventually placed them miles from each other.
John managed to clamber onto a heavy timber which, after several days of drifting, washed ashore near the city of Melphythan, not too far removed from the ancient city of Tyre. Meanwhile, Arkadios was carried to a point of land several miles south of the city of Tyre, there to kneel
in prayer of thanksgiving for his deliverance and for the salvation of the soul of his brother, whom he presumed had been lost at sea. Several miles to the north, John was offering identical prayers, unaware that the life of his brother had also been spared.
The battered John, barely alive after his ordeal, was nourished back to health by the monks of a monastery of the desert. They so impressed the devout John that, after fully recovering, he decided he belonged by divine edict in this sanctuary. Turning his back on his past life, he took up the rigorous regimen of monasticism and ultimately proved himself to be a monk in the highest tradition of complete service to Jesus Christ.
Two years elapsed before Arkadios, who had a vision following his recovery that somewhere his brother was alive and well, began a search for his brother. During this search Arkadios also came under the influence of monks and entered a monastery, ultimately demonstrating the same complete dedication to the Savior hat his brother did. As time passed, Arkadios doubted his brother’s survival, but he never weakened in his faith.
An itinerant monk happened to visit Constantinople, where he sought out Xenophon and Maria. The monk suggested to them that the survivor of a shipwreck known to him as Arkadios, whom he had met in the Monastery of St. Savvas of Jerusalem, might be their lost son. Xenophon and Maria immediately set out for the Holy Land, and it was more than mere chance that at about this time their other son, John, decided to visit the Holy Land to pray at the tomb of Jesus Christ. An unseen hand led all four members of the family to the tomb of Christ, where they met in tearful but joyful reunion and knelt in prayer together after long months of doubt and misgivings.
After visiting the Garden of Gethsemane for further prayers in praise of the Lord and his blessing upon them, the family went as a group to the monastery where Arkadios had served, and each told of what had transpired in the intervening years. After many hours of the rapture of reunion the family regained its composure. Following a consultation, they decided that the lives of the parents, as well as the sons, would be given over to the Lord.
Xenophon sent a letter of resignation from the senate and appointed an executor to see that his entire holdings be given to charity. He then undertook to become a monk at an age when most men of his means would have chosen to live out their remaining years in comfort. Maria willingly chose to follow the example of her husband and sons and, with greater joy than she had ever known, entered the service of Christ in a nunnery not far removed from the Monastery of St. Savvas where her husband and sons were to serve. Their names, each of which has been invoked with miraculous results, are remembered on the same day, January 26.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GoArch.org.