Science of the Saints, 9 November, Holy Mother Matrona

The Nun Matrona was born in the city of Pergium Pamphylia (Asia Minor) in the fifth century. They gave her in marriage to a well-off man named Dometian. When her daughter Theodotia was born, they resettled in Constantinople. The twenty-five year old Matrona loved to walk to the temple of God. She spent entire days there, ardently praying to the Lord and weeping for her sins.

At the church the saint made the acquaintance of two pious women-elders, Eugenia and Susanna, who from the time of their youth asceticised there in work and prayer. Matrona began to imitate the God-pleasing life of an ascetic, humbling her flesh by abstinence and fasting, for which she had to endure criticism by her husband. Her soul yearned for a full renunciation of the world. After long hesitation Saint Matrona decided to leave her family and besought the Lord to reveal whether her intent was pleasing to Him. The Lord heard the prayer of His servant. Once during a light sleep she had a dream that she had fled her husband, who was in pursuit of her. The saint concealed herself in a throng of monks approaching her, and her husband did not notice her. Matrona accepted this dream as a divine directive to enter a men’s monastery, where her husband would not guess to look for her. She gave over her daughter for raising to the woman-elder Susanna, and having cut her own hair and disguised herself in men’s attire, she went to the monastery of the Monk Bassion. There the Nun Matrona passed herself off as the eunuch Babylos and was accepted into the number of the brethren. Apprehensive lest the monks learn that she was a woman, the saint passed her time in constant quietude and much work. The brethren marveled at the great virtue of Babylos. One time the saint with the other monks was working in the monastery vineyard. The newly-made monk Barnabos noted that her ear-lobe was pierced and asked about it. “It is necessary, brother, to till the soil and not watch other people, which is not proper for a monk,” answered the saint.

After a certain while it was revealed in a dream to the Monk Bassion, the hegumen of the monastery, that the eunuch Babylos was a woman. It was likewise revealed to Blessed Akakios, hegumen of the nearby Abrahamite monastery. The Monk Bassion summoned Saint Matrona and strictly demanded an answer, for what purpose she had infiltrated the monastery, whether to corrupt the monks or shame the monastery. With tears the saint told the hegumen about all her past life, about her pursuing husband, hostile to her efforts and prayers, and about the dream-vision, directing her to go to the men’s monastery. Becoming convinced that her intent was pure and chaste, the Monk Bassion sent off Saint Matrona to a women’s monastery in the city of Emesa. In this monastery the saint dwelt for many years, inspiring the sisters by her high monastic achievement. When the hegumeness died, by the unanimous wish of the nuns the Nun Matrona became head of the convent.

The fame about her virtuous activities, and about a miraculous gift of healing, which she acquired from the Lord, spread far beyond the walls of the monastery. Dometian also heard about the deeds of the nun. When Saint Matrona learned that her husband was come to the monastery and wanted to see her, she secretly went off to Jerusalem, and then to Mount Sinai, and from there to Beirut, where she settled in an abandoned pagan temple. The local inhabitants learned of her reclusion, and began to come to her. The holy ascetic turned many from their pagan impiety and converted them to Christ. Women and girls began to settle by the dwelling of the nun and soon there emerged a new monastery. Having fulfilled the will of God, revealed to her in a dream, the saint left Beirut and journeyed to Constantinople where she learned that her husband had died. With the blessing of her spiritual father, the Monk Bassion, the ascetic founded in Constantinople a women’s monastery, to which transferred also sisters from the Beirut convent founded by her. The Constantinople monastery of the Nun Matrona was known for its strict monastic rule and the virtuous life of its sisters.

In extreme old age Saint Matrona was deigned a vision of the celestial paradise and the place prepared for her there after 75 years of monastic work. At the age of one hundred, the Nun Matrona, having blessed the sisters, quietly expired to the Lord (about the year 492).

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