Science of the Saints, 12 May, Our Holy Father Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus

Sainted Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, lived during the fourth century in Phoenicia. By descent he was Jewish, and in his youth he received a fine education. He was converted to the Christian faith after he saw how a certain monk, Lucian by name, gave away his own clothing to a poor person. Struck by the compassion of the monk, Epiphanius besought him to instruct him in Christianity. He accepted Baptism and settled in the monastery, organised by his teacher Lucian.

At the monastery he pursued asceticism under the guidance of the experienced elder Ilarion, and he occupied himself with the copying of Greek books and progressing in the monastic life. Saint Epiphanius for his ascetic deeds was granted the gift of wonderworking, but in order to avoid human glory, he set out from the monastery into the Spanidrion wilderness. Robbers caught him there and held him for three months in captivity. By his talk about repentance, the saint brought one of the gang of robbers to the holy faith in the True God. When they set free the holy ascetic, with him also went the robber. Saint Epiphanius took him to his monastery and baptised him with the name John. And from that time he became a faithful disciple of Saint Epiphanius, and he carefully recorded in writing about the life and miracles of his preceptor.

Reports about the righteous life of Saint Epiphanius spread far beyond the bounds of the monastery. The saint set out a second time into the wilderness with his disciple John. But even in the wilderness disciples started to come to him. Thus emerged a new monastery. After a certain while Saint Epiphanius undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for veneration of its holy artifacts and from there returned to the Spanidrion monastery.

The people of the city of Lycia dispatched the monk Polybios to Saint Epiphanius with a request to occupy the bishop’s throne of their dead archpastor. But the perspicacious ascetic, having learned of this intention, secretly set out into the Pathysian wilderness to the great ascetic Ilarion, under whose guidance he pursued asceticism in his youthful years. The saints spent two months in mutual prayer, and then Ilarion sent Saint Epiphanius to Salamis. Bishops were gathered there for the selecting of a new archpastor in place of one recently died. The Lord revealed to the eldest of them, Bishop Papios, that the Monk Epiphanius arriving in the city should be chosen bishop. When Epiphanius arrived, Saint Papios led him into the church, where in obedience to the will of the participants of the Council, Epiphanius was obliged to give his consent. Thus occurred the elevation of Saint Epiphanius to the bishop’s cathedra of Salamis in about the year 367.

Sainted Epiphanius won reknown upon the archpastoral chair by his great zeal for the faith, love and charity towards the poor, and simplicity of character. He underwent much from the slander and enmity of some of his clergy. For his purity of life, Sainted Epiphanius received the granting to see at Divine Liturgy the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Gifts. One time the saint, celebrating the Mystery, was deprived of this vision. He then became suspicious of one of the clergy and quietly said to him: “Depart, my son, since today thou art unworthy to participate at the celebrating of the Mystery.”

On this event the writings of his disciple John break off, since he then fell sick and died. The further record of the life of Saint Epiphanius was continued by a second of his disciples, Polybios (afterwards bishop of city of Rinocyreia).

Through the intrigues of the empress Eudoxia and the Alexandria patriarch Theophilos, towards the end of his life Saint Epiphanius was summoned to Constantinople for a church council, which was convened for judgment upon the great saint, John Chrysostom. But Saint Epiphanius, not wanting to take part in a lawless council, left Constantinople. While sailing upon the ship, the saint sensed the nearness of his death, and he gave his disciples final instructions – to keep the Commandments of God and to preserve the mind from impure thoughts – and two days later he died. The people of Salamis met the body of their archpastor with carriages, and on 12 May 403 they buried him with reverence in a new church built by the saint.

The Seventh Ecumenical Council named Sainted Epiphanius as a Father and Teacher of the Church. In the writings of Saint Epiphanius, the “Panarion” and the “Ankoratos” contain refutation of the Arian and other heresies. In others of his works are encountered valuable church-historical traditions and directives on the Greek translation of the Bible.

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