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Saint Alexis, the Man of God

On March 30th (the 17th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates Saint Alexis, the man of God.

What a wondrous saint and how deeply moving is his life! St. Alexis was born in the 4th century A.D. in Rome, in the reign of the emperors Arcadius and Honorius. His parents, Ephimian and Aglaida, were very pious and a model of chastity and hospitality. Although Ephimian was a rich nobleman, he himself ate only once a day, but every day at his home he fed a multitude of widows, orphans, wanderers, the poor and the sick. St. Alexis also grew up to be a pious and educated young man, well-versed in the Holy Scriptures and other religious writings.

When St. Alexis came of age, his parents had him engaged to a maiden from a princely family, but after the wedding the saint came to his bride and gave her his gold ring, then went into his room, changed into a poor mans clothes, and secretly left his house and his city. Arriving at the seashore, he found a ship that was set to sail for Asia Minor, and so he sailed on this ship, wishing to escape from the vanity of secular life. After wandering for a while, the saint came to the city of Edessa and settled there at the church of the Holy Theotokos. St. Alexis lived as a beggar at the church portal and kept a very strict fast, partaking only of bread and water. From such a severe life his whole body withered and the beauty of his face waned.

Meanwhile, his parents and his bride grieved terribly over his disappearance, while his father sent servants everywhere to search for his son. Some of them even came to Edessa, but did not recognize St. Alexis and, taking him for a beggar, gave him alms.

Saint Alexis, the man of God.
Saint Alexis, the man of God

St. Alexis lived in Edessa at the church of the Mother of God for 17 years, and through his pious life earned Gods grace. During this time the church sacristan had a vision concerning St. Alexis: the sacristan saw an icon of the Holy Theotokos, Who said to him: Lead into My church the man of God who is worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom; his prayer rises up to God like incense, and the Holy Spirit rests upon him like a crown upon a kings head.

After this vision the sacristan began to search for a man of such righteous life and, not finding him, appealed to the Holy Theotokos for help. And once more he had a vision in which he heard a voice issuing from the icon of the Theotokos, saying that the man of God is the beggar who sits at the church portal. Then the sacristan led the saint into the church, for him to live there.

However, since many people began to venerate St. Alexis for his righteous life, once more he secretly left the city, in order to flee from earthly fame. The saint boarded a ship sailing for Silicia, but by Gods Providence a storm arose during the voyage and the ship unexpectedly ended up in Rome. Then St. Alexis decided to return to his own home, but to live there as a stranger. Ephimian, seeing a poor wanderer and not recognizing his own son, greeted him warmly and ordered the servants to build him a small dwelling near the entrance to the house and to serve him.

And thus St. Alexis lived at the entrance to his parents house for another 17 years, overcoming many tribulations by his extraordinary patience: on the one hand, he had to bear insults from his fathers servants, who, at the instigation of the devil, taunted him most harshly; on the other hand, the saint was continuously forced to hear the pitiful weeping of his mother and his bride, who did not cease to mourn him. His heart was torn with pity at the sight of their tears, but his love for God helped him to bear this trial and to continue leading the life he had chosen.

But the time came for the saint to leave this temporal life in which he had experienced such poverty and deprivation, and to enter the joy of eternal life. At this moment a Divine liturgy was being served in the city cathedral, at the end of which a wondrous voice issued from the altar: Come to Me all ye that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28). All those who were present in the church fell to the ground in fear, crying out: Lord, have mercy! Then the voice was hear a second time: Look for the man of God, who is already leaving this life; let him pray for the city. Everyone began to search all over Rome for such a man, but did not know where to find him. Meanwhile, the voice from the altar was heard again: Look for the man of God in the house of Ephimian. At this point the king, who was in the cathedral at that time, turned to Ephimian and asked: How is it that you, possessing such a treasure in your home, did not tell us about it? Ephimian replied: As God is my witness, I know nothing about it.

Then the king arose and went together with his noblemen to Ephimians house, deciding to search there himself for the man of God. Arriving at the gates, they found dead the beggar who had lived at the entrance, but whose face was now shining with an angelic radiance, while his hand clasped a letter to his parents, explaining all that had happened. The king immediately ordered St. Alexis body to be carried into the midst of the city, so that everyone could venerate the saint. And all Rome gathered there; and all the people venerated the saint, from whom there were many healings and miracles. Afterwards the body of the saint stood in the cathedral for a whole week, open to universal veneration, and subsequently, as it was being placed in a marble casket, a stream of aromatic myrrh issued from the body, filling the entire casket. All the inhabitants of the city anointed themselves with this myrrh and were healed of all their illnesses.

Saint Alexis, the man of God, reposed in 411 A.D.

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