(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. Malchos, whose account is found in Volume 1 of the series.)
Saint Malchos the Monastic
Had it not been for St. Jerome, a church historian and theologian of the fourth century who chose to recount the events in the life of St. Malchos, the incredible saga of the latter might have come down as another fragment of legend. Instead, we have the highly plausible story by the former who felt compelled to detail the inspirational story of his contemporary. Malchos embodied the virtues found only in men who are the complete servants of God, but of all the attributes to be found in a human being he best epitomized that kind of courageous patience found in the story of Job in the Old Testament.
Malchos did not abide in the stomach of a whale, but he was for an extended period of time swallowed up in a milieu not of his own choosing, from which he was to disgorge himself only after endless months of captivity. Born in Maronia, a scant thirty miles from the historic city of Antioch (the city in which originated the term “Christian”), he was a typical ascetic of the era. But then he came to a crossroads in his life, and the course he chose drastically altered its outcome.
Apprised of an inheritance which had been bequeathed to him, Malchos requested permission to leave the monastery to see to the proper disposition of his newly-acquired wealth. The request was denied by a skeptical abbot who suspected the motives of such an undertaking, fearing the naive monk might fall prey to opportunists and perhaps be led astray. He suggested that the monk appoint an executor within the framework of the Church who would have better knowledge of such matters, leaving Malchos unencumbered by responsibilities that would interfere with his devotions.
The youthful Malchos did not share the abbot’s dim view of the young monk’s ability to cope with whatever might arise, and he surreptitiously left the monastery, confident that he would return after proving himself in the outside world. He fell in with a caravan heading toward his destination, but he never reached that destination. Less than a few hours underway, the caravan was set upon by a roving band of thieves. After plundering what was of value, the brigands took the healthy young monk as a captive, together with a girl that had been in the caravan.
Made a slave to the giant-sized Ethiopian chieftain of the robbers, young Malchos accepted his lot as punishment for having disobeyed his abbot and resigned himself to his fate, exhibiting a patience in his menial service which eventually won the respect of the brute who was his master. The months wore on, but the resolute captive showed no signs of resentment, only a calm detachment which belied the yearning within him to be once again inside the walls of his monastery.
As a reward for his patient loyalty, Malchos was offered the girl captive as his bride. The monk politely refused the offer since he had taken the vow of celibacy, but when told that this would be an affront to the chieftain who had no understanding of such things as celibacy and would tolerate no refusal of his token, the monk acceded. He went through the motions of a wedding which was illegal and never consummated. The supposed newlyweds were given a brief liberty at the edge of the camp which bordered the raging Euphrates, cutting off any chance for escape.
In the cover of darkness Malchos inflated two goat-skins with which the two escapees forded the river and made for the hills. The pursuit was not long in coming, and they soon found themselves near recapture, taking refuge in a cave. They watched in terror as first one, then another of the bandits came into view, seeming to be heading directly for the cave. But at a distance the bandits were attacked by lions. The fugitives did not linger to witness the carnage but took to their heels and eventually made their way to safety.
Welcomed back to the monastery where they never tired of hearing of his exploits, Malchos arranged for the girl’s acceptance in a nunnery, and thereafter the lives of both were given over to the Lord. Malchos, especially, attributed his deliverance to God; he never ceased to be grateful.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.