Coptic Date: 13 Pashons
On this day, of the year 445 A.D. the ascetic, fighter, and wise father St. Arsenius departed. He was born in Rome to very rich Christian parents. They taught him church subjects and ordained him a deacon. He was highly knowledgeable in the Greek culture and endowed with great Christian values. When Emperor Theodosius the Great sought for a good and wise man to teach his sons Honorius and Arcadius, he could not find a better person than Arsenius. He brought him to his palace and entrusted the teaching of his sons to him. St. Arsenius taught them and admonished them, as was fitting. Since he devoted much exertion and toil in teaching them, he inflicted them once with painful beatings. After his parents died, his sister Afrositty and he gave all their riches to the poor, and lived an ascetic life. Arsenius became famous for his righteousness and wisdom. He was a disciple of Rophenius the monastic historian from whom he admired the Egyptian monastic life and its fathers, and he wished to meet them.
When therefore after over ten years at the court he seemed clearly to hear the voice of God through the Gospel, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26). After awhile a voice came from the Lord saying: 'O Arsani, get out of this world and you shall be saved.' He left Constantinople and came by sea to Alexandria and fled into the wilderness of Shiheet. When he first presented himself to Abba Macarius the Great, the father of the monks of Skete, he recommended him to the care of Saint John the short to try him. In the evening, when the rest of the monks sat down to take their meal, Saint John left Arsenius standing in the middle without inviting him. Such a reception was a severe trial to an ex-courtier; but was followed by another much rougher, for Saint John took a loaf of bread and threw it on the ground before him, bidding him with an air of indifference to eat it if he would. Arsenius cheerfully sat on the ground and took his meal. Saint John was so satisfied with his behavior that he required no further trial for his admission, and said, "This man will become a monk".
At the beginning of his monastic life, he reviewed his thoughts to a simple monk for advice. The monks were surprised and said to him: 'Does someone like Arsanius who is very well versed in Greek and Roman culture, need the advice of this simple monk?' He told them that the Coptic Alpha Beta of this monk had not been mastered by Arsanius. He meant by this the virtues of that monk.
A messenger came from Rome carrying a will of one of St. Arsenius' relatives who had departed, granting all his possessions to the Saint. The Saint asked: 'When did this man die?' The 344 messenger answered: 'One year ago.' The Saint said: 'I have died eleven years ago, and those who died to the world can not inherit others who died.'
One of the noble women of Rome came to visit him because she heard of his righteousness. After she visited with him for a short while, she asked him to remember her in his prayer. He said to her: 'May God erase all your memory from my mind.' She returned sorrowful and complained to the Pope in objection to this statement. Pope Theophylus clarified to her what he meant, that he was afraid, that the devil might use her memory to tempt him. When Arsanius started his monastic life, he used to select for himself the white beans for his food.
When the Abbot of the monastery noticed, he gently struck the monk, who was sitting beside Arsanius saying: 'It is not right that you distinguish yourself from your brethren by selecting the white beans.' Arsanius said: 'This stroke is directed to you, O Arsanious!' Arsanius mastered the virtue of silence. When he was asked about that, he said: 'Many times I regret that I have spoken, but I have never regretted being silent.' He was a very humble and modest man, who lived from selling the works of his hands by pleating palm leaves, and giving the rest to the poor. He put down many useful sayings and teachings. Whenever he entered the church, he hid behind a pillar of the church and wept so no one would see him.
His appearance was good, his face was bright and very cheerful. He was tall in stature, but he became bowed because of his age. He visited Jerusalem when he was seventy years old, to be blessed by the holy places, and then he returned to Sheahat. When he departed, he was ninety-five years old: He spent forty years in Rome, forty years in the wilderness of St. Macarius, ten years in Mount Torah, three years in the monasteries of Alexandria, then he returned to Mount Torah and lived there for two years. He had commanded his disciples to throw his body on a certain mountain, so that wild beasts and vultures would eat him. However, fear gripped him, just before his soul departed from his body and his disciples said to him: 'Is someone like Arsanius fearing death?' He replied: 'Since I had become a monk, I dreaded this hour.' He became calm, his soul was comforted, and a peaceful look covered his face as if he was saying: ' Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me' (Psalms 23:4). He departed in peace in the year 445 A.D.
When Theodosius II, the son of Arcadius, knew of his death, he brought his body to Constantinople. He built a monastery on the same place where he departed, which was known in history as the monastery of El-Kosair. From his sayings: An old monk was sitting in his cell, heard a voice saying to him: 'Go out so I might show you the deeds of people.' When he went out, he saw a man cutting wood. When he tried to carry it, he could not, and instead of reducing his load, he increased it, and tried to carry it again, but failed, and did this again and again. Then he walked away and saw another man getting water from a well and pouring it in a pot with a hole in it, and the man could not fill it. Then he saw two men riding on two horses, carrying a pole from each side. When they came to the door, their pride prevented that one would stay behind in order to get the pole in, and therefore they remained outside.
St. Arsenius explained this vision to them, saying: 'The wood cutter was a man with a multitude of sins. Instead of repenting, he added more and more to his sins. The man who wanted to fill the pot with water was a charitable man who gave alms from what he earned unjustly, and his reward was lost. The two men carrying the pole were carrying the burden of our Lord Christ, but with great pride, and therefore they both stayed outside the kingdom.
May his prayers be with us and glory be to God forever. Amen.