Commemorated on January 15
The Monk Paul of
Thebes was born in Egypt, in the Thebaid city. Left orphaned, he suffered
many things from a greedy kinsman over a parental inheritance. During the time
of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Decius (249-251), Saint
Paul learned of the insidious plan to deliver him into the hands of the
persecutors, and so he fled the city and set out into the wilderness.
Settling into a cave
at the bottom of an hill, and known there to no one, the Monk Paul dwelt in it
for 91 years, praying incessantly to God both day and night. He sustained
himself on dates and bread, which a raven brought him, and he sheltered himself
from cold and frost with a garb made of palm leaves. Through the foresight of
God, shortly before the end of the Monk Paul, the Lord revealed about him to
the Monk Anthony the Great (Comm. 17 January), who also asceticised in the
Thebaid wilderness. One time a thought came to Saint Anthony, that scarcely was
there another so great a wilderness dweller as he, and then he heard a voice:
"Anthony, there is a servant of God more accomplished than thee, and he
hath settled here in this wilderness before thee. Go further into the remote
area and there find him". Anthony went and came to the cave of Saint Paul.
A lesson in humility having been taught Anthony, the Monk Paul came out towards
him. The elders greeted each other by name, and having hugged they entered into
lengthy discussion. During the time of the conversation the raven flew by and
brought them both bread. The Monk Paul disclosed to Saint Anthony that his end
time was approaching and gave him instruction to bury him. The Monk Paul then
expired during the time of prayer, upright on his knees. The Monk Anthony then
beheld, how his soul, amidst Angels and prophets and apostles, ascended up to
God. Two lions ran out from the wilderness and with their claws dug out the
grave. The Monk Anthony buried the holy elder, and having taken his garb of palm
leaves, he set out to his own monastery. The Monk Anthony kept this garb as a
great holy reminder and put it out only twice a year – on Pascha and
Pentecost. The Monk Paul of Thebes died in the year 341, when he was 113 years
old. He did not establish a single monastery, but soon after his end there
appeared many imitators of his life and they filled the wilderness with
monasteries. The Monk Paul is considered a father of Orthodox monasticism.
In the XII Century
the body of Saint Paul, on orders of the emperor Manuel (1143-1180), was
transferred to Constantinople and placed in the Peribleptoi monastery of the
Mother of God. Afterwards it was taken to Venice, and finally to Hungary, at
Ofa. Part of his head is situated in Rome.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.