Tuesday, 10 June 2014
ABBA KYRIAKOS THE HERMIT
During the times of Pope Benjamin of Alexandria, there lived a righteous man in a village called "Queens Village". This village was later named Tida and was renowned for the sweetness of its natural water.
The Lord enlightened this man's eyes; leading him in the way of solitude. So he arose and went to Pope Benjamin seeking his blessings and advice on the life of solitude with the Lord Jesus Christ. His Holiness prayed on him and directed him to a small cell made of stone beside the sea-shore. Because of its positioning, the cell overlooked the sea and the surrounding countries. The Lord guided and guarded this saint in his life of solitude and isolation, and many people went to visit him in his cell for the purpose of taking his blessings.
In the year prior to the enthronement of the patriarch, an army sent by King Herakel invaded and possessed Syria, and later invaded and assigned a governor in Egypt. The king ordered the patriarch to leave the Orthodox faith or else he would be killed. Accordingly, the patriarch went into hiding. Likewise the Christians were told to deny their faith, or else they too would die. Some, out of fear, obeyed while others obeyed verbally, but not by heart. Great sorrow overshadowed all Christians during this time.
The governor was aware of an ascetic living in an isolated cell beside the seaside, so he ordered his soldiers to find him and bring him back by force. Because of the saint's perfect love and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, he knew by the Spirit of what was taking place, and after finding him, the soldiers ordered that
he believe in the heresy of King Marcoban voiced at the council of Chalcedon. The saint prayed to the Lord to deliver him and protect him from the hands of the heretics and so the Lord listened to his prayer and caused the soldiers to fall into a deep sleep and become as drunkards. The saint was then hidden from
their eyes and so when they awoke and returned to the governor, they reported the ascetic was nowhere to be found. After this incident, the saint arose and ventured into the wilderness to live in and share a cave with wild beasts which rested in it during the heat of the day, and took shelter in the cold of the night. Though wild, they never attacked the saint, but rather, loved him and were friendly to him. Having not eaten for many days, his body became so weak that he could not stand to pray, so he asked the Lord to provide him with bodily food so that he may have the strength to stand up in reverence and pray. While he was praying for this, a wild cow approached him, screaming as if from pain. The saint noticed it laden with milk, so he took from his cave a shell into which he emptied the milk, and immediately the cow was relieved of its pain. The saint gave thanks to God for His tender mercies, and then drank from the cow's milk. This cow returned to the saint every three days, and the saint fed on its sweet milk for ten years without feeling the need for eating or drinking anything else.
The evil one observed all that was happening and how the saint was growing in spirituality and in the fear of God daily, and he became enraged with envy. For this reason, the devil appeared to him in the form of a frightening beast hoping to distract him from his prayers, but when the saint called upon the Lord and
crossed himself, the evil one vanished. Again the devil appeared to him as a vicious beast, wanting to attack him. But the Lord who gives His children power over the enemy, enabled him to overcome through the power of the Holy Cross. These incidences kept happening for a long time, and so the saint thought to himself, "I must have sinned in the sight of the Lord in this place, and so He must want me to leave this cave
and go to another, and I, His faithful servant must do His will." So he got up and moved to a nearby cave, where again the enemy appeared to him as a hermit dwelling in the cave. The saint was so happy when he saw the old hermit, but was surprised when he neither spoke to him or approached him. The saint thought the hermit to be very holy and spiritual from his many years in ascetism, and therefore did not want to disturb
his peace by speaking. The saint spent the night thinking about him, and as he fell asleep he saw someone in a vision warning him about the old hermit, "for he is the devil who wants to take you away from your Lord. He may have power to fight your body, but he has no power over your soul." The vision then disappeared and the saint woke up suddenly and frightened. He looked around for the hermit in the dark of the night, but could not find any trace of him. Assured that he was the enemy and that he will continue to attack, the saint armoured himself for battle and said, "I will not leave this cave!" As he thought about what had just happened, he heard at the cave's entrance the sounds of galloping horses, and words he could not comprehend. So he went out to look and saw a great number of soldiers all mounted on horses, dressed in black with their faces covered.
They were not looking towards him, so he assumed these soldiers must have lost their way and are undoubtedly looking for their enemies. When one of the soldiers saw him standing at the cave's entrance, he approached the saint: "Man, are you living in this cave?" The saint answered, "Yes". He said, "Tell us then which way our enemies have gone so that we may follow them and destroy them." The saint replied, "I have never seen anyone in this wilderness for as long as I have lived here." The soldier turned to him and questioned, "What then do you feed on?" to which the humble saint responded, "The grass of the wilderness is my food." In a fit of anger, the soldier condemned him saying, "You're lying to me, you know where our enemy has gone!" Having said this, he dismounted his horse, took the saint and tied his hands and feet to a tree which stood in the wilderness, and whipped him bitterly. As he continued beating him, the other soldiers approached him asking, "Why are you punishing this weak man? He has no money and no food to give us." One of the other soldiers came down from his horse and said to the saint, "I will save you from this pain and from this evil soldier, if you tell me where our enemy has gone." Again the saint replied, "I do not know
where your enemy has gone." So this soldier, in turn whipped the saint with great hostility. When they lost hope in him, one of the soldiers took the bound saint and threw him on the back of his horse and rode to the top of a mountain. "Here we will throw you from the highest mountain top so that you may die the worst death, and your body be shredded and eaten by wild beasts!" But when they noticed the saint not responsive, they threw him on the ground and departed. After gaining consciousness, he wanted to return to his cave, but he could not find his way. He then realised that the soldiers were devils whose intention was to fight with humans and lead them into temptation. When he prayed to the Lord and made the sign of the Holy Cross on his face, a path suddenly opened up in front of him, leading him down the mountain to his cave. As he reached the bottom of the valley, the devil came to him again dressed in black and mounted on a red horse. The saint thought he must be the king's messenger travelling to a far country, and so he wanted to hide from this soldier. But when the evil one approached him he asked, "Why do you try to run from me? I am going to the land of Morocco with a letter from the king and I ask you to show me the quickest way to get
there. I will give you food and clothing for directing me." The saint answered, "I am not familiar with direction, for I have lived in the wilderness for many years and have always longed for solitude so that I may lead a repentant life and not die in my sin." So the devil dismantled, took a rope and tied his hands and
feet and beat him bitterly. The saint said to him, "You are asking me for something I know nothing about." The devil then threw the saint, bound on the back of his horse with the intention of taking him back into the world and proclaiming, "I found this man in the wilderness, searching for something that should never be (repentance), and looking for precious minerals (gold, which is Jesus Christ)." The devil's idea was to take the saint out of the wilderness so that he would not think of repentance. But as the soldier was about to leave, the Lord enlightened the saint's eyes, and so he realised it was the devil again; the hater and tempter of the godly. The saint immediately made the sign of the cross, and the devil was swallowed up into the earth with his horse. After praying throughout the night, the saint finally fell asleep. However, the devil never left him alone. He came to him as a solid wall, tumbling down on top of the sleeping saint. The saint woke up instantly and frightened, but couldn't find anyone or anything because it was so dark. He got up and began feeling the earth and the walls of the cave, when suddenly the devil grabbed his right ankle and aggressively dragged him and threw him about the cave's ground. Distressed over this vicious attack, the saint screamed...but no one answered. After great strugglewith this evil presence, the saint crossed himself and at once the devil left him. One night after he finished praying, he heard a man calling him by the name Pope Benjamin gave him: "Kyriakos, beloved of God, get up and follow me!" The saint thought to himself, "That's strange, I have never heard a voice like this before." So he arose and went to see where this voice was coming from. At the entrance of his cave, he saw a man resembling an angel with two wings. The saint said to him, "You disturbed me and worried me from my sleep; I do not want to follow you, perhaps you are the devil who tempts and destroys humans; depart from me!" and at the sign of the cross, he found him no more.
Another time when he went into his cave at night to pray, he knelt on the ground and stumbled on a great, black, cold body which felt bigger and more fearful than a dragon. It clung to the saint's neck, and he tried to lift up his head to scream, but could not. In his encounter with this beast, the saint realised that it was an evil presence, and so pleaded with the Lord to save him from it. God at once answered his plea by sending His angel to save the saint and cast out the beast. In all his trials, God was testing this saint's faith and patience,
and when He knew the purity of his heart and his faithful and devoted love towards Him, He strengthened him and saved him from the evil one.
Look my friends to what extent this pure saint suffered from Satanic wars, and consider his patience, love and faith in Christ Jesus in overcoming the enemy..! Our father Abba Benjamin the Patriarch said, "I have often wondered about this recluse and what God has done with him. I prayed that God might reveal to me whether he was alive or not." On the Sunday following the resurrection, I, Pope Benjamin,was praying in St. Mark's Cathedral church in Alexandria, when I noticed a monk dressed in worn out clothes, entering and
standing in one of the church's corners. Immediately I told one of my disciples, "Go quickly and stand near that weak man!" I also ordered another disciple to go with him, "Don't remove your eyes from him for a moment, or else you won't find him!"When the Pope finished the mass, he asked his two disciples to take the monk to his cell. On arrival the Pope greeted the saint, but did not recognise him. When food was brought to him, he pretended to eat, but didn't. The Pope noticed this and when they were alone, he asked him, "Saintly father, where did you come from and where are you going?" The saint did not have the heart to hide anything from the patriarch, so he answered, "I am your son who dwelt in the cell in Tida and Efragon, and you are aware of all that had happened to me during that time. I have since been living in the wilderness." The Pope lowered his eyes to the ground and cried, "Bless me Father Kyriakos, for I glorify the Lord who allowed me to see you again, and thanks be to God who heard my prayer, and did not turn me away from Him, for I have asked of Him to reveal to me whether you are alive. Please bless me!" I asked the saint to tell me all that had happened to him, and so he revealed all. I asked Isezoros the writer to record the story of this saint, as it was told. Abba Kyriakos stayed with me for three days before returning to his place in the wilderness.
He told me God revealed to him that after four months, he will die in his cave, so I made note of his hour of deliverance to Paradise, and as the day approached, I directed Simon the bishop of Rasheed, and Tidor the bishop of Atreeb and Khael the bishop of Dimyat to go to the place instructed to them. I sent with them a guide to lead the way, and gave them food, drink and horses for transportation. Isezoros the writer and
deacon also accompanied them on the journey to attend the saint's departure and bury his pure body.
Along the way the devil appeared to them as a wild beast charging forward to attack them. From fright, they lost their sense of direction, but the saint saw them from afar frightened and lost in the wilderness and so he came forth and comforted them. When the saint took them into his cave, they told him all that had happened along the way. The saint explained to them that this beast was the devil; the one from whom he had had
The saint knew by the spirit that these fathers were sent to bury his body after departure, so they remained with him for two days. On the third day, this pure, beautiful saint passed over into the Paradise of his fathers the saints. The bishops buried him with great reverence, and in a manner instructed to them by the Patriarch.
Isezoros the writer, who wrote the life story of Abba Kyriakos, as I Pope Benjamin told it, added to it what he saw and experienced during the time of the saint's departure, and the wonders which were revealed when his spirit departed his precious body.
Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit now and forever, Amen.