Saint of the Day: St. Elizabeth, the Miracle-Worker

(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. Elizabeth, whose account is found in Volume 2 of the series.)
Saint Elizabeth, the Miracle-worker

As we scan ecclesiastical history we find some of our greatest saints among the ranks of the ascetics, a good number of whom have been women. But historians have not always looked on them with favor because of their so-called weaker sex. The spiritual, not physical, strength of countless women has in many instances exceeded that of their male counterparts, as in the case of the heavenly inspired St. Elizabeth, called the miracle-worker, because she was endowed with that quality of near-divinity that even some of the greatest of hierarchs or saints themselves were lacking.

The ancient ninth-century hagiographer who chose to place her name in historical annals did not concern himself with her origin, choosing only to place on the record for all time the piety of one who seems to have been heaven-sent. It is enough to know that a spiritual glow emanated from her pretty face at a tender age, and while yet scarcely more than a child, she is said to have pledged to obey the word of the Lord which she quoted, in humility and grace, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” With those words ringing in her ears, she strove for excellence in all things, emulating the Savior with utmost sincerity.

Not to be outdone in her solemn purpose, she gave whatever she possessed to the poor and, in a rare display of the miraculous, wore but one garment for her long life, a simple robe which had the durability of her faith and was to remain as fresh for more than a half century as the first day she donned it. An unseen launderer saw to the cleanliness of her solitary raiment and an unseen tailor saw to its maintenance; otherwise it would have been in tatters. Here then was the first evidence that this lovely girl would age while her dress remained young in a marvel that in itself could make for an Oscar Wilde novel like his imaginative Portrait of Dorian Gray.

The most unlikely place to keep any garment in a state of preservation was the forbidding desert, to which Elizabeth ventured with nothing to sustain her but her garment and her abiding faith. Miraculously she endured the heat of the day and the bi er cold of night without so much as a shawl in all her lifetime. She was mindless of heat or cold, wind or driving rain. When she knelt in fervent prayer and meditation she was heedless of wind or weather even if it were a blinding sandstorm. Her mere survival in the most demanding circumstances was in itself a miracle that offered proof that here indeed was a girl who was close to God.

It has been said that one evening, as St. Elizabeth was immersed in prayer in her monastic cell, she opened her eyes to find that a venomous snake was at hand. Closing her eyes and resuming her prayer, she calmly opened her eyes and beheld a quite dead snake. It can be said that the reptile died of unnatural causes. The girl was spared to go on to do works of wonder that none could have anticipated, not even after this small demonstration of the power that the Lord had placed within her.

The magnetism of her spiritual and personal charm drew the sick as well as the healthy, the former looking for cures and both seeking her blessing. Elizabeth’s fame grew far and wide and she was acclaimed as a true instrument of the Lord by the many who came to see her. Details of her many miraculous works go unrecorded and unnumbered, but well documented is her service to mankind as an instrument of the Lord in ways too numerous to describe.

What amazed those about her as much as her proximity to God was the fact that, regardless of weather, searing heat or bone-chilling-cold, her one simple garment not only seemed fit for all seasons but of indestructible weave as well. She would retire for the night in her spotless attire and emerge the next day, day in and day out, week in and week out, with years passing by and no noticeable change in the remarkable appearance. Even the most menial of chores, to which she was not averse, failed to soil that remarkable garment. The whips and scorns of time and the elements had no effect on it either, causing some to whisper that the fabric had come from the loom of the Lord. When at last her long life was over, she was entombed at a site that became a ninth-century shrine. Her feast day is observed on April 24.

Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.

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