Science of the Saints, 22 April, Our Venerable Father Theodore the Sykiot

The Monk Theodore the Sykiot was born in the middle of the sixth century in the village of Sykia, not far from the city of Anastasiupolis (Asia Minor), in a pious family. When his mother Maria conceived the saint, she had in a dream a vision that a bright star had overshadowed her womb. A perspicacious elder to whom she turned then explained that this was the grace of God overshadowing the infant conceived in her.

When the boy reached six years of age, his mother presented him a golden sash, since she intended that her son should become a soldier. But in a dream vision by night there appeared to her the Great Martyr George, and he bid her not think about military service for her son, since the boy was destined to serve God. The saint’s father, Kosma, had served as a messenger of the emperor Justinian the Great (527-565), and he died early. The boy remained in the care of his mother, with whom lived also his grandmother Epidia, his aunt Dispenia, and his little sister Vlatta.

In school, Saint Theodore displayed great talents for his study, chief of which was an unchildlike ability for reasoning and wisdom: he was quiet, mild, he always knew how to calm his comrades, and he did not permit fights or quarrels amongst them. At his mother’s house lived also the pious elder, Stephen. Imitating him, Saint Theodore at age eight began during Great Lent to eat only a small morsel of bread in the evenings. In order that his mother should not force him to take supper with everyone, the boy returned home from school only towards evening time, after he had communed the Holy Mysteries together with the elder Stephen. At the request of his mother, the teacher began to send him off to supper at the end of lessons. But Saint Theodore nonetheless skipped off to the church of the Great Martyr George, where the patron saint of the temple appeared to him in the form of a youth and ushered him into the church.

When Saint Theodore reached age ten, he fell deathly ill. They brought him to the church of Saint John the Baptist and placed him in front of the altar. The boy was healed by two drops of dew, fallen from the face of the Saviour on the dome of the temple. At this time by night the Great Martyr George began appearing to the boy, and also leading him off to his own temple to pray until morning. His mother, fearing the nighttime dangers of the forest path, spoke with her son about not going at night. One time, when the boy had already gone, she angrily went after him to the church, and she dragged him out by the hair and tied him to his bed. But that very night in a dream vision the Great Martyr George appeared to her, and threateningly he commanded her not to hinder the lad from going to church. And both Elpidia and Dispenia had the same vision. The women then became persuaded of the special vocation of Saint Theodore and they no more hindered him from his efforts, and even his little sister Vlatta began to imitate him.

At twelve years of age the saint was granted in a vivid dream to behold Christ on the Throne of the Kingdom of Glory, and Who said to him: “Asceticise, Theodore, so as to obtain perfected reward in the Heavenly Kingdom.”

From that time Saint Theodore began to toil all the more fervently. Both the First Week and the Cross-Veneration Week of Great Lent he spent in complete silence.

The devil thought upon how to destroy him. He appeared to the saintly lad in the form of his classmate Gerontios, and urged him to jump off a precipice, and even showed him in what manner how to. But his protector the Great Martyr George saved the boy.

One time the boy set off for a blessing to the wilderness elder Glykerios. During this time there was a terrible drought throughout all the land, and the elder said: “Child, on bended knee let us pray to the Lord that He send rain. And in such manner shalt we learn whether our prayers be pleasing to the Lord.” The old man and the boy, on bended knee, began to pray – and immediately it began to rain. Then the elder said to Saint Theodore that upon him was the grace of God, and he blessed him to become a monk when the time should come.

At fourteen years of age Saint Theodore left home and lived nearby the church of the Great Martyr George. His mother brought him food, but Saint Theodore left everything on the stones by the church, and he ate over the course of a day only a single prosphora loaf of bread. And even at so young an age, the Monk Theodore was granted the gift of healing: through his prayer a demon-possessed youth was restored to health.

The Monk Theodore then fled human glory and he withdrew into complete solitude. Under a large boulder not far from the church of the Great Martyr George, he dug out a cave and persuaded a certain deacon to cover over the entrance with ground, leaving only a small opening for air. The deacon brought him bread and water and he told no one, where the monk had hidden himself.

For two years the Monk Theodore lived in this seclusion and complete quiet. His kinsfolk bewept the saint, and they thought that he had been devoured by wild beasts.

But the deacon finally revealed the secret, since he was afraid that the Monk Theodore would perish in the narrow cave, and moreover he pitied the weeping mother. They plucked the Monk Theodore out of the cave half-alive.

The mother wanted to take her son home and restore him back to health, but the saint remained nearby the church of the Great Martyr George, and after several days he was completely well.

News about the exploits of the youth reached the local bishop Theodosios. And thus in the church of the Great Martyr George he was ordained to the dignity of deacon, and later to priest, although the monk was only seventeen years of age.

After a certain while the Monk Theodore set off for veneration to the holy places in Jerusalem, and there at the Khozebite Laura near Jordan, he accepted monasticism.

When he returned to his native land, he again continued to live nearby the church of the Great Martyr George. His grandmother Elpidia, his sister Vlatta and his mother on the advice of the monk withdrew to a monastery, and his aunt died in a good confession.

The ascetic life of the young priestmonk attracted to him people seeking salvation. The monk tonsured into monasticism the youth Epiphanios, and later on a pious woman, healed of sickness by the saint, brought him her son Philumenos. Then came also the virtuous youth John. Brethren thus gradually gathered around the monk.

The Monk Theodore continued to bear his burdensome exploits. At his request a blacksmith made for him an iron cage without a roof, and so tight that in it, it was possible only to stand. In this cage in heavy chains the monk stood from Holy Pascha until the Nativity of Christ. From the Baptism of the Lord until Holy Pascha he secluded himself in his cave, from which he emerged only for the making of divine services on Saturdays and Sundays. Throughout the whole of the Forty Day Great Lent the saint ate only greens, and on Saturdays and Sundays spring grain bread.

Asceticising in such manner, he received from the Lord the power over wild animals. Bears and wolves came up to him and took food from his hand. Through the prayer of the monk, those afflicted with leprosy were healed, and from whole districts devils were cast out. In the nearby village of Magatia, when locusts threatening the crops appeared, its people turned with a request for help to the Monk Theodore. He sent them off to church. After Divine Liturgy, which he served, the villagers returned home and learned that during this while all the locusts had died.

When the military commander Maurice was returning to Constantinople by way of Galatia after a Persian war, the monk predicted to him that he would become emperor. The prediction came true, and the emperor Maurice (582-602) fulfilled the request of the monk – he sent the monastery bread each year for the multitude of people being fed there.

The small temple of the Great Martyr George could not accommodate all those that wanted to pray in it. Then through the efforts of the saint a beautiful new church was built. During this while the Anastasiupolis bishop happened to die. The people of the city besought the Ancyra metropolitan Paul to install the Monk Theodore as their bishop.

So that the saint should not resist, the messengers of the metropolitan and the Anastasiupolis people dragged him out of his cell by force and carried him off to the city.

Having become bishop, Saint Theodore toiled much for the welfare of the Church. But his soul yearned for the solitary communion with God. After several years he set off to venerate at the holy places in Jerusalem. And there, concealing his identity, he settled at the Laura monastery of the Monk Sava, where he lived in solitude from the Nativity of Christ until Pascha. Then the Great Martyr George led him to return to Anastasiupolis.

Secret enemies tried to poison the saint, but the Mother of God gave him three small pieces of grain. The saint ate them and remained unharmed.

Saint Theodore felt weighed down with the burden of being a bishop and he besought the Constantinople patriarch Kyriakos (595-606) for a release to return to his own monastery and celebrate Divine services there.

The sanctity of the monk was so evident, that during the time of his celebrating the Eucharist, the grace of the Holy Spirit, in a visage of radiant porphyry, overshadowed the Holy Gifts. One time, when the monk lifted the discus with the Divine Lamb and proclaimed “Holy Things unto the Holy,” the Divine Lamb raised itself up into the air, and then resettled itself again upon the discus.

All the Orthodox Church venerated the Monk Theodore as a saint, even while he was yet alive.

In one of the cities of Galatia, a terrible event occurred: during the time of a church procession the wooden crosses being carried began of themselves to strike and chip at one another, with the result that the Constantinople Patriarch Thomas summoned to him the Monk Theodore, asking of him the secret of this terrible portent. Having the gift of foresight, the Monk Theodore explained, that this was a sign of coming misfortunes for the Church of God (he was thus prophetically indicating the future heresy of the Iconoclasts). In grief the holy Patriarch Thomas besought the monk to pray for him for a quick death, so that he should not see the coming woe.

In the year 610 the holy Patriarch Thomas reposed, having besought blessing of the Monk Theodore. And in the year 613 the Monk Theodore also expired to the Lord.

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