(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, St. Hesychios, is found in Volume 1 of the series.)
Saint Hesychios the Miracle-worker
A person who has climbed a mountain of moderate height reaches the pinnacle and then takes in the breathtaking view below. An ascetic who has scaled the mountain may glance for a moment below but then looks upward to the breath-giving view of that which lies beyond. It is this difference in perspective as well as purpose that distinguishes a tourist from a man of God, although nothing says a person cannot be both. Hesychios was no roaming tourist; he was a man of God who did climb a mountain to be closer to God in the physical sense and to attain that perfection of the spirit that places one quite close to God in the spiritual sense.
Of humble origin, Hesychios was born in the eighth century in the area of Galatia, Asia Minor, an area which has seen an outpouring of saints but which in the days of Hesychios was a zone where angels feared to tread because of the lawlessness and violence. Whether driven out of poverty or sloth or immorality or a combination of all three, reckless bands of thieves and highwaymen roamed around the outskirts of the city, ever ready to pounce on an unsuspecting and unwary traveler, leaving him either stripped to the skin or beaten out of sheer cruelty. The law had its hands full within the city walls in coping with criminals, as a result of which none but the most foolhardy or heavily armed groups would venture beyond the city limits after dark.
Hesychios was a man of peace who preached against sin with little success but never ceased to remind the innocent that the blight of violence would end in God’s good time and they would be free to walk abroad, day or night, without being in fear of their lives. His cheerful optimism made the cares lighter for those good Christians whose forebears had seen persecution enough for all the generations to come.
Hesychios had suppressed a desire for many years to go to the nearby mountain of Maionos in order to be among his fellow Christians, but when at last he could no longer suppress the urge to seek the isolation of a hilltop he made preparations for the journey. His alarmed friends reminded him that he would not last beyond a day or two in the open and, lest great harm come to him, urged him to remain. He reassured them that he had placed his faith in God, who would see to it that he would arrive safely at his destination, which was the summit of that forbidding mountain. Kneeling in earnest prayer, he placed himself in God’s hands and walked out of the city.
Hesychios walked leisurely all through the day, camping at night at the base of the mountain before beginning its ascent that would surely be the most likely time to encounter a bandit.
He had neither seen nor heard another soul and the fact that he got to the summit without incident was in itself proof that here was a man favored of God. He remained for several days at the summit in meditation and prayer before deciding to return for a brief period to assure his friends that he was in no danger.
Any doubt as to the miraculous power that he had been granted was soon dispelled when a woman came forward with an epileptic child, asking Hesychios to pray for her cure. He laid his hands on the child and prayed for her, after which she went home with her mother forever cured of the dread disease. Besieged by a host of villagers, he remained to bless them and to preach the word of God as they had never heard it spoken, after which he returned to the hilltop to be alone with the Holy Spirit.
He was sought out by the woman whose child he had healed and was told she had the financial backing required for whatever manner of residence he would like, but he said he would prefer that the money be applied to a better purpose, as a result of which there was erected at the base of the mountain a nunnery which soon housed a good number of nuns. Miraculously, the vermin that had preyed on innocent travelers had taken themselves elsewhere and the people were free to come and go as they pleased.
With this freedom of action, most of the people for miles around came to visit Hesychios the Miracle-worker, as he came to be known, not only in this community but through Asia Minor as well. Hesychios worked for the good of the people to the end. After he died his remains were brought to the basilica of the capital by Bishop Theophylaktos at the request of Emperor Constantine and his mother Irene in the year 781.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.