Orthodox America

   Saint's Lives

St. Hypatius, Bishop of Gangra

Through Adam's disobedience man lost his God-given ability to freely communicate with nature; no longer did he have mastery over the earth. But there exist numerous examples of men and women who labored to restore within themselves the likeness of God and were granted power to move mountains, to still the waves of the sea, to speak with animals, marvelously recalling man's original state in Paradise.

Saint Hesychius the Faster

Commemorated March 5

The wonderworker St. Hesychius lived in the eighth century.  He fasted strictly and God gave him grace to work miracles.

The Saint settled in a desert near Prusa, in what is today northwest Turkey.  There he cultivated a garden where he grew everything he needed to eat.  Once a large flock of birds flew into his garden and ate up his vegetables and the seeds he had planted. The Saint prayed to God, and suddenly the birds, which had robbed him of his hard work, fell to the ground.  They couldn't fly and just lay there on the earth.  Other birds came, and when these ate some seeds they, too, were unable to fly away.

The birds lay there as if they had eaten some poison.  The Saint began feeling sorry for the birds.  He came out from his cell and said to them: "All right.  Fly away from here.  Just see that you don't spoil the labors of a monk again."  The birds rose into the air and never bothered his garden again.

One day the Saint came out of his cell and saw a yoke of oxen pulling a heavy load.  Suddenly one of the oxen stumbled and fell.  The driver of the cart tried to help the ox get up, but his efforts were in vain.   Finally, he broke down in tears from exhaustion.  The Saint took pity on the man. Walking up to the ox, he stroked him on his neck and said: "Get up, you lazy thing!"  He made the sign of the cross over the ox, and straightway the ox stood up and meekly began pulling his load.  The man was astonished, and continued on his way rejoicing.

An angel revealed to the Saint the day on which he would depart this earth. At midnight a light shone down from heaven upon the Saint, illumining his cell and the surrounding desert. "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit," said the Saint joyfully, and his soul was raised up to paradise.  He died in the year 790.

St. Hypatius, Bishop of Gangra

Commemorated March 31

St. Hypatius was a great wonderworker of the fourth century. He healed various diseases and expelled demons from those who were possessed.  Once he made a spring which produced bitter water sweet. In another place there gushed forth by his prayers a spring of warm water with healing properties. The story of how he killed a monstrous serpent came to be well know.

When Constantius II was emperor of Byzantium (he reigned from 337-361), an immense serpent managed somehow to crawl into the imperial trea-sury; he lay with his head near the door, terrifying everyone that tried to enter. The Emperor had heard of the wonderworking powers of the holy Bishop of Gangra and summoned him to the capital.  The Emperor himself met the Saint with honor.  He bowed down before him and asked that he chase away the serpent. "Not by my prayers," replied St. Hypatius, "but according to your faith, O Emperor, may the Lord fulfill your request."

After a long prayer, the Saint asked that an oven be constructed on the field where horse races were held, and a fire kindled in it.  Then he took his bishop's staff and went to the imperial treasury.  He entered the chamber and beat the serpent repeatedly with his staff.  The Emperor and the people looked on from a distance, petrified.  They watched as the Saint put his staff into the serpent's mouth. "In the name of my Lord," he commanded the beast, "follow me!"  The immense serpent, which measured close to ninety feet in length, held onto the staff with his teeth and, like a captive prisoner, crawled after the Saint.  And truly, he was held captive by the power of God manifest in this great wonderworker.

The Saint led the serpent out of the palace and onto the field to the burning oven.  "In the name of Christ, Whom I, the unworthy one, preach, I command you to go into the midst of the flames!"  The serpent obediently curled his body and leaped into the oven, where he perished in the fire.

The Emperor gave thanks to God and to His servant, Bishop Hypatius.  He commissioned an image of the Saint to be painted, and had it placed in the imperial treasury. As St. Hypatius was returning to Gangra, some followers of the heretic Novatian, incited by jealousy, ambushed the Saint and, after beating him violently, threw him down a steep incline into a swamp. The Saint, barely alive, lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed like the Protomartyr Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."  As he prayed, a woman of the company threw a rock at the head of the Saint and killed him.  The murderers took the dead body of the Saint and hid it in a nearby cave. They did not, however, escape God's punishment.  All became possessed by demons and were severely tormented. The woman lost her mind and constantly beat herself with the very rock which she had hurled at St. Hypatius.

Later, the owner of the land where the cave was located and which he used for storing hay, knowing nothing of what had happened, came to fetch some hay for his cattle. Hearing the singing of angels, he was overcome with fear and amazement.  Then he discovered the wounded body, which he recognized as that of his bishop.  Horrified, he ran to tell his neighbors, and soon the news was carried throughout the city.  The people of Gangra hastened to the cave, bewailing the cruel death of their beloved archpastor.   Taking the body of the Saint, they buried it with great honor. The woman-murderess followed the burial procession, beating herself and loudly confessing her sin for all to hear.  There at the grave of the Saint, she was healed of her madness, as were the others who had been possessed by demons.  Even after death, Saint Hypatius followed the Lord's command to do good to one's enemies.   And there were many other miracles and healings experienced by those who came with faith to the grave of St. Hypatius.

Compiled from the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov and accounts by Nun Barbara in Pravoslavnaya Zhizn, No. 3, 1960.