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. Euphrosynos, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Euphrosynos the Cook
Although the paths of righteousness that may lead any Christian to sainthood are many in number, they may not contain any directional signs, nor be limited in access to any particular class of individuals. These holy ranks of men and women come from all stations in life, from the weak and the strong, the humble and the mighty, the simple and the scholarly. God shows no favoritism and accepts among the saints those who served Him best, regardless of their background or extraction.
While Mt. Athos has been a spiritual haven for some of the greatest minds in church history, it has also opened its doors to those of limited intellect whose devotion to God was limitless. Their power was more spiritual than intellectual. Among these children of God who had no academic credentials was a peasant named Euphrosynos, who was admitted to the monastery of Mt. Athos for his pure and simple spirit. His illiterate but devout parents had given him no formal schooling, but had enriched his life through devout prayer.
Unqualified for any sort of intellectual work, Euphrosynos was relegated to the kitchen. There he performed the menial but not necessarily demeaning work of preparing the meals. For this reason he was called Euphrosynos the Cook. While many have looked down their intellectual noses at the cook, none of the more educated monks ever doubted his sincerity. While he dispensed food for the body, Euphrosynos found food for his soul.
While he was not in the kitchen, Euphrosynos sought seclusion in one of the many caves in the area. There he meditated and prayed in his own way, thereby acquiring an intimacy with God for which many of the scholars would have traded their entire knowledge. It was to this seclusion that Euphrosynos had crept after having attended a rather profound lecture and discussion of the kingdom of heaven, conducted by the abbot. He was able to comprehend very little and contributed little, if anything, to the discussion. Retiring in embarrassment and confusion, Euphrosynos crept to his place of seclusion to address God himself in his own simple terms.
In a dream one night, the abbot envisioned a garden of breathtaking beauty. In the center of it stood a lone figure which he discerned to be none other than Euphrosynos. Of the hundreds of monks of Mt. Athos, only the lowly cook occupied the garden. In the dream, Euphrosynos explained to the incredulous abbot that he was looking upon the kingdom of heaven, and then placed a branch laden with apples in the abbot’s hands and walked away into the mist.
When the abbot awoke from the dream, he found himself clutching a real branch with real apples. Excitedly he summoned Euphrosynos and the other monks to share this revelation. The newfound respect and admiration of his fellow monks only made the cook ill at ease and so he excused himself to seek the seclusion he cherished, but now with the knowledge that he had somehow received God’s favor. The apples the abbot found in his hand were said to have miraculous powers, but Euphrosynos himself never bothered to witness this. He left for his place of solitude, which he enjoyed to his last day.
Except for the miraculous apple branch, there was nothing in the life of St. Euphrosynos that was out of the ordinary. If he spent a lifetime acquiring a reputation as the world’s greatest chef, catering not only to monks but to the hierarchy and royalty as well, he would today be as unknown as the many cooks who have looked to work in the kitchen to sustain the temporal life. But a divine manifestation made it clear that St. Euphrosynos was not a run-of-the-mill cook preparing meals for the temporal well-being of dedicated men. At a time when this manifestation proclaimed him to be a true man of God, he sought no advantage that might have come of it, choosing the solitude and isolation of a true saint.
Euphrosynos is usually depicted in icons holding an apple branch in his hand. His memory is celebrated each year on September 11.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GOArch.org.