This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22 -- Feast of Saint Theodore of Sykeon

 Theodore of Sykeon's life seems to have been told in great detail.  This year, I will just focus on his early years, subtitled "What to Expect When You're Expecting a Saint."  Next year, inshallah, I will finish his story. 

Dad, named Cosmas, was an acrobat in the Hippodrome (kind of a race track and circus) of Constantinople.  He was so adept on a camel that he was offered a job as an imperial messenger.  Highways were dangerous places, so folks had to be skilled riders to survive.  Cosmas was.

Mom, named Mary, was the daughter of an innkeeper named Elpidia.  Mary and her sister, Despoinia,  took after their mom in both their good looks and their profession.  The trade was good on the imperial highway, but Mary knew that Cosmas was the dad because she rolled over and told him she had dreamed about a bright star falling from the sky into her uterus.

Ted's on the left

At breakfast, Cosmas told Mary to be good to the child because he might grow up someday to be a bishop.  Then he thanked her for the ham and eggs and so on and rode off to deliver some letters to the Emperor. Mary went to consult the area's wisest man, who lived about six miles away.  He told her that others claim a shooting star in the womb means a king, but that's not necessarily so.  It really means God's blessing, that the child will be righteous and holy.  She thanked him, confirmed his interpretation with Bishop Theodosius, and set about the proper prenatal care for a saint.  Nine months later, the little bastard was baptized Theodore.  (Well he was.)

When Theodore was six, she was planning to enroll him in the imperial service training in the capital, but Saint George appeared saying that the King in Heaven had need of his service instead.  Mary feared this meant the kid would die soon, but instead he throve.  Quick with studies and good with games, he had a gentle disposition that made him popular with classmates and neighboring kids.  Any mom would be proud, even if she didn't think he was anointed by God.

Mom and Grandma and Aunt Despoinia all gave up the trade.  To make up for the lost revenue, they took in an cook named Stephen, a pious old guy who had a way with a skillet.  The inn remained popular (actually, the better sort of people began to stay there) and even though Stephen made some gourmet fare, he preferred to fast, taking only a little boiled wheat.  Theodore was impressed and followed his example.  Mary got worried and harped on him to eat his meat and vegetables so he'd grow big and strong, but he dodged the table by hanging out at the little Shrine to Saint George that he built up in the hills.  Even though (or maybe because) Theodore was getting visions from Saint George guiding his spiritual development, Mary tried to forbid his fasting and shrining.  The boy had a strong will and prevailed.

At twelve, he was miraculously cured of the plague when drops of dew fell on him from the cathedral crucifix under which he had been laid.

Devil's Head Rock -- see below
St. George began waking the boy up in the middle of the night and leading him off to the shrine.  Mom went a little berserk when she found out about this, since there were boy-eating wolves all around; the next night, when he did it again, he got dragged home by the hair, soundly whipped, and tied to a chair.  He also didn't get any supper, but that's no big punishment for a kid who fasts anyway.  That night, Mom, Grandma, and Aunt Despoinia all had the same dream.  In it, St. George drew his sword and told them that since they abused Theodore, he was going to cut off their heads.  In their dreams, they all promised to behave.  Then they woke up, untied the little fella, and let him go about his saintly ways unfettered and unwhipped.  They even let him take his little sister Blatta up with him sometimes.

The Devil set Theodore in his sights.  He pretended to be a school chum named Gerontius and together, they scaled the climbed up to the top of a cliff.

GerontiuSatan:  I dare you to jump down there.

Theodore: No way.  If I didn't die, I'd cripple myself.

GerontiuSatan:  Chicken.

Theodore: Oh, and I suppose you would do it?

GerontiuSatan: I will if you will.

Theodore:  Uh-uh.  No way.

GerontiuSatan:  Then I will do it alone and then tell all the kids that you're a chicken.

Theodore: No, wait.  I will if you do it first.

GerontiuSatan:  [Jumps.  Floats down gently and lands on a rock with a flourish.]  Your turn!  Hurry up or I'll go back to the village and tell everyone that you're a chicken.

Saint George: [appearing suddenly]  C'mon.  You know that's not your friend.  Just walk away.  Put your faith in God, but don't presume to test him.

I figure that was the day that Theodore made the jump from unusually promising boy to holy man.  Check in next year for the continuing story...

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