Orthodox America


LIVES OF SAINTS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE - St. Alexis  


St. Alexis was a child born, after many years and many prayers, into a home where the commands of God were not only obeyed, but sought after. His father, Euphemianos, was a wealthy Senator in 4th-century Rome who went to the market daily, just to find poor folk he could bring home and feed, clothe, and comfort. He ate only once a day, per haps with them. In this and other ways, he and his wife Ag1ais gave their generosity and affection while waiting prayerfully for a child.

According to their faith, Alexis was born and brought great joy to the whole house. As a youth he was given a good education and Christian upbringing, which gave right values to all he learned. Alexis understood that our time in this world passes quickly, and he wanted to be fit and ready for the eternity rushing to meet him. Hoping not to be caught by the pleasures around him, he secretly wore a scratchy hair shirt under his beautiful robes and prayed long at night, to keep him self from enjoying his rich and easy life too much.

Because Alexis did not show off his pious feelings, his parents were not aware of his desire to dedicate himself wholly to God. When he came of age they searched Rome and found him a suitable wife. Upon hearing that he did not wish to marry, they considered his youth and feared that later he would change his mind and not find such a good bride; so they insisted.

While submitting to their desires, Alexis planned an escape. Determined to remain pure and avoid the world1y involvements marriage demands, he still wed the girl, stayed for the feast, and was polite to family and guests. Once alone, he prayed until the household was asleep, then went to his bride and handed her his expensive ring and belt. She did not understand his few words right away: "May God be between us until His grace gives us something better."

The next morning he was gone, dressed like a beggar but carrying enough gold to pay his way and help the poor. He went far, by sea and land, to a church with a special icon of the Saviour "not made with hands ~" which the Saviour Himself had sent to the ruler of that city. For seventeen years Alexis stayed near that beloved icon as a beggar. He fasted strictly and helped others with the money he received. He became so changed in appearance that when his grieving family sent searchers in all directions, some gave him alms without recognizing him. In time, people began to revere him as a saint. Fearing earthly glory would rob him of the heavenly, Alexis put to sea again. A God-favored wind blew him to his home city where he begged a corner in his father's palace. Remembering but not recognizing his own son, Euphemianos told a trusted servant to give him a place and see to his needs. But Alexis' needs were few; all he desired was to be able to devote himself to never-ending prayer and the struggle against temptations.

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My Name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting 1ife. (Matt. 19:29)

And here the spiritual warfare increased, for the Saint's corner was very near his wife's room. there she and his mother would mourn and weep, asking why their beloved had been so cruel as to leave them. And all their cries he heard, and they tore at his heart. Another seventeen years he enddured these pains, stricter fastings, and even the mockings of some of his father’s servants.

Finally St. Alexis knew his meeting with eternity was near. At the same time, while serving Liturgy, the Archbishop heard a voice in the altar telling him to find the man of God. During Vigil it told him to look in the house of Euphemianos. There the hierarch led the father to the Saint who had just reposed. His face shone so brightly that it was impossible to look at it. Euphemianos found a paper in the Saint's hand. In it, his son revealed his true identity and explained what he could, begging forgiveness and confessing his great but unearthly love for his parents and spouse. No words can tell the feelings of this man who had lost his beloved son, sheltered him unawares as a pauper, and found him only after losing him a second time. The women, too, hardly knew whether to mourn the death or celebrate the finding. They did both, covering him with tears and kisses.

Trying to get the body to church for all to venerate, the Emperor threw coins to the crowd so they might leave the body long enough for it to be moved. But they were not distracted from such heavenly treasure by the worldly wealth, So the Archbishop promised not to bury the Saint until all had reverenced him as they wished. And what miracles of healing happened then'. Sight was restored to the blind and hearing to the deaf; others were freed from demonic torment. At the burial a heavenly fragrance of myrrh gushed from the grave, healing all who were anointed with it. This was in the year 411, when Innocent was Archbishop of Rome.

May we all be anointed with the prayers of this Saint, Alexis, the man of God, who forsook all, even his beloved family and newly- wedded bride, for the sake of the love of God.

(Condensed for children by Agafia Prince.)

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