The Nun Theoktista

Commemorated on November 9

      The Nun Theoktista was born on the island of Lezbia (or Lesbos)in the city of Mithymna (Asia Minor). At an early age she was left a total orphan, and relatives gave her over for raising to a monastery. The girl was happy removed from the world of sin, and she liked the attraction of monastic life, the long Church services, the monastic obedience, the strict fasting and unceasing prayer. She learned by heart much of the singing, prayer and psalmody. In the year 846 when she was already 18 years old, with the blessing of the hegumeness, she set off on the feast of the Resurrection of Christ to a neighbouring village to visit her sister by birth and she remained there for overnight. Arabs invaded the settlement by night, and they took captive all the inhabitants, boarded them on a ship and by morning they were on the sea.
      The brigands took the captives to the desolate island of Paros so that, having examined them, they might assign a value to each in conveying them to the slave-market. The Lord helped the young maiden to flee, and the Arabs did not catch her. From that time the Nun Theoktista dwelt on the island for 35 years (+ 881). An old church in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God served as her dwelling, and her food – was sunflower seeds. All her time she spent in prayer.
      One time a group of hunters landed upon the island. One of them, pursuing his prey, went far off from the coast into the forest and suddenly he saw the church. He went into the church so as to offer up a prayer to the Lord. After the prayer the hunter saw in a dim corner, not far from the holy altar-table, through thick cob-webs a certain semblance of an human form. He went closer and heard a voice: "Stay there, fellow, and come no closer to shame me, since I am a naked woman". The hunter gave the woman his outer clothing and she came out from concealment. He beheld a grey-haired woman with worn face, calling herself Theoktista. With a weak voice she told about her life fully devoted to God.
      Having finished her story, the saint entreated the hunter, that if only he happened to come upon this island again, that she should bring her a particle of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. During all her time of living in the wilderness she not once was granted to commune the Holy Mysteries of Christ. A year later the hunter again arrived upon the island and brought a small vessel with a particle of the Holy Mysteries. Saint Theoktista met the Holy Gifts in the church, fell down to the ground and prayed long with tears. Having gotten up, she took the vessel and with reverence and in the fear of God she communed the Body and Blood of Christ. On the following day the hunter beheld within the church the dead body of the Nun Theoktista. Having dug a shallow grave, the hunter placed the venerable body of the nun in it and during this he impudently cut off her hand, so as to take with him  part of the relics of the great saint of God. All night the ship sailed upon a tempestuous sea, and in the morning it found itself at the very place from which it began. The man then perceived in taking up the relic that this was not pleasing to God. He returned to the grave and placed the hand with the body of the saint. After this the ship sailed off unhindered. On the journey the hunter told his companions about everything that had happened on the island. Listening to him, they all decided immediately to return to Paros, so as to venerate together the relics of the great ascetic, but they could not find her holy body in the grave.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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