Friday, April 21, 2017

The courage of St. Theodore of Sykeon ~ AD 608

"You must first pray that your inward man may be reformed and grow healthy;
for when that is healed, the outward man, too, will be restored to health."
 ~St. Theodore of Sykeon to the east Roman consul Bonosus, ca. AD 608

April 22 is the feast of St. Theodore of Sykeon, a bishop from central Asia Minor who lived during the reign of the murderous Roman emperor, Phocas.

An extensive biography of St. Theodore written by one of his disciples has come down to us from antiquity which makes for exceptionally good reading for historians and devout Christians alike. St. Theodore had the God-given courage to speak the truth fearlessly to those in power, having humbled the cruel Bonosus and rebuked Phocas himself to his face on another occasion.

Here is the above quote in context, taken from The Life of St. Theodore of Sykeon:
About that time the inhuman consul Bonosus was traveling to the eastern parts of the Empire and as he passed near the monastery he heard tell of the inspired man's holiness and felt a reverence for it, violent and cruel though he was. So he sent a messenger in advance to him beseeching him, if he could endure the fatigue, to come down to the oratory of the holy martyr Gemellus near the posting­station in order that he might do reverence to him there and be deemed worthy of his prayers, saying that he himself was unable to go up to the monastery owing to the pressure of urgent affairs. So the Saint went down and received him and whilst he was praying for him the consul stood but did not bend his neck, so the Saint took hold of the hair of his forehead and pulled it and in this way bent his head down (virtue is wont to act thus with courage and not fear human authority 'For the righteous', it is said, 'is bold as a lion.' [ Prov 28:1]) 
We who were present were thunder­struck and terrified at the just man's daring and imagined that the consul would turn insolent and furious, for we knew well by report that his savagery was like that of a wild beast. But he readily accepted the prayer and the rebuke and showed honor to the Saint by kissing his hands, and then putting his hand on his own chest because of a pain which oppressed him he begged the Saint to pray that he might be freed from it. But the Saint gently tapped with his fingers on the consul's chest and said to him, "You must first pray that your inward man may be reformed and grow healthy; for when that is healed, the outward man, too, will be restored to health. Therefore I will pray for you and do you devote yourself to the good and fear God in order that my prayers may be effective. But if I pray and you neglect to amend your ways, my prayers will be unavailing. Be merciful then and pitiful to all Christian people and do not use harshly the authority entrusted to you, but while examining your own consciousness of sins, sympathize with those that go astray and never shed innocent blood. For if there is to be punishment for the mere insult of a spoken word-for calling another a 'fool'—how much more will blood, shed unjustly, be avenged by God?"  
These counsels the Saint gave him like a man sowing seed in unfruitful ground, and the consul fetched out a few coins and offered them to him in token of gratitude. But as the Saint did not deign to accept them, he drew back his hand and took out some 'trimisia' begging the Saint at least to accept those and to give one to every brother in the monastery. But before looking at them Theodore said, "There are only fifty and not sufficient for giving one to each, however, they can be changed into smaller money and then distributed equally."  
But the consul marveled at his discerning words, as being God­-inspired and answered, "Yes, reverend father, by thy holy prayers, there are only fifty as your holy mouth has said; however, I will send as many more at once as are needed to make up the number." This he did, for after being dismissed by the Saint he went to his baggage and sent what he had promised.
Thus the virtue of the righteous knows how to correct the violent and the savage, and by persuasion makes them yield to those who practice it.

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