The Departure Of St. Arsanius The Tutor Of the Emperor's Children
On this day, of the year 445 A.D., the ascetic, fighter, and wise father St. Arsanius departed. He was born in Rome from a very rich Christian parents. They taught him church subjects and ordained him a deacon. He was highly knowledgeable in the Greek culture and endowed with great Christian values. When Emperor Theodosius the Great sought for a good and wise man to teach his sons Honorius and Arcadius, he could not find a better person than Arsanius. He brought him to his palace and entrusted the teaching of his sons to him. St. Arsanius taught them and admonished them, as was fitting. Since he devoted much exertion and toil in teaching them, he inflicted them once with painful beatings.
When Emperor Theodosius their father died, Honorius reigned over Rome and Arcadius reigned over Constantinople. The Saint remembered that he once beat them, and that Honorius desired to do him harm. While he was thinking of this, a voice came from the Lord saying: "O Arsani, get out from this world and you shall be saved." Once he heard this voice, he did not tarry, changed his clothing, and came to the city Alexandria. Then he went to the wilderness of St. Macarius (Sheahat - Scete), where he fought a great fight with fasting, prayer and long vigils.
At the beginning of his monastic life, he reviewed his thoughts to a simple monk for advice. The monks were surprised and said to him: "Does someone like Arsanius who is very well versed in Greek and Roman culture, need the advice of this simple monk?" He told them that the Coptic Alpha Beta of this monk had not been mastered by Arsanius. He meant by this the virtues of that monk.
A messenger came from Rome carrying a will of one of St. Arsanius' relatives who had departed, granting all his possessions to the Saint. The Saint asked: "When did this man die?" The messenger answered: "One year ago." The Saint said: "I have died eleven years ago, and those who died to the world can not inherit others who died."
One of the noble women of Rome came to visit him because she heard of his righteousness. After she visited with him for a short while, she asked him to remember her in his prayer. He said to her: "May God erase all your memory from my mind." She returned sorrowful and complained to the Pope in objection to this statement. Pope Theophylus clarified to her what he meant, that he was afraid, that the devil might use her memory to tempt him.
When Arsanius started his monastic life, he used to select for himself the white beans for his food. When the Abbot of the monastery noticed, he gently struck the monk, who was sitting beside Arsanius saying: "It is not right that you distinguish yourself from your brethren by selecting the white beans." Arsanius said: "This stroke is directed to you, O Arsanius!"
Arsanius mastered the virtue of silence. When he was asked about that, he said: "Many times I regretted that I have spoken, but I have never regretted on being silent." He was a very humble and modest man, who lived from selling the works of his hands by pleating palm leaves, and giving the rest to the poor. He put down many useful sayings and teachings. Whenever he entered the church, he hid behind a pillar of the church so no one would see him.
His appearance was good, his face was bright and very cheerful. He was tall in stature, but he became bowed because of his age. He visited Jerusalem when he was seventy years old, to be blessed by the holy places, and then he returned to Sheahat. When he departed, he was ninety-five years old: He spent forty years in Rome, forty years in the wilderness of St. Macarius, ten years in Mount Torah, three years in the monasteries of Alexandria, then he returned to Mount Torah and lived there for two years.
He had commanded his disciples to throw his body on a certain mountain, so that wild beasts and vultures would eat him. However, fear gripped him, just before his soul departed from his body and his disciples said to him: "Is someone like Arsanius fearing death?" He replied: "Since I had become a monk, I dreaded this hour." He became calm, his soul was comforted, and a peaceful look covered his face as if he was saying: " Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me" (Psalms 23:4). He departed in peace in the year 445 A.D.
When Theodosius II, the son of Arcadius, knew of his death, he brought his body to Constantinople. He built a monastery on the same place where he departed, which was known in history as the monastery of El-Kosair.
From his sayings:
An old monk was sitting in his cell, heard a voice saying to him: "Go out so I might show you the deeds of people." When he went out, he saw a man cutting wood. When he tried to carry it, he could not, and instead of reducing his load, he increased it, and tried to carry it again, but failed, and did this again and again. Then he walked away and saw another man getting water from a well and pouring it in a pot with a hole in it, and the man could not fill it. Then he saw two men riding on two horses, carrying a pole from each side. When they came to the door, their pride prevented that one would stay behind in order to get the pole in, and therefore they remained outside.
St. Arsanius explained this vision to them, saying: "The wood cutter was a man with a multitude of sins. Instead of repenting, he added more and more to his sins. The man who wanted to fill the pot with water was a charitable man who gave alms from what he earned unjustly, and his reward was lost. The two men carrying the pole were carrying the burden of our Lord Christ, but with great pride, and therefore they both stayed outside the kingdom.
May his prayers be with us and glory be to God forever. Amen.
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