January 11: St. Theodosius, the Cenobiarch, aka Guru of Death

Theodosius was once again one of those people who sought to leave the world behind, only to find it following after him. Born in an area found in present-day Turkey in the 5th century, Theodosius felt called by God to go to Jerusalem to live, yet he traveled by a circuitous route–he wanted to stop by and converse with Simeon Stylites, the pillar-sitter (see January 5), who deigned to give Theodosius various bits of oracular advice and insight.

Eventually, Theodosius made his way to a cave not far from Bethlehem, where numerous supplicants came for direction, counsel, and healing–so much so that he gave in to the inevitable impossibility of living as a hermit, and instead founded a community. Fascinatingly, the central tenet that Theodosius taught his community was that “the continual remembrance of death is the foundation of religious perfection.” And to make his point, Theodosius ordered that a mass common grave be dug so that all might meditate upon it daily.

After the grave had been dug and the community members had been regularly meditating upon it, Theodosius one day asked them who would be the first to dedicate this grave–that is, who would be the first one to die physically and be buried in this grave. One of his priests, Basil, knelt and declared that he was just that person. So Theodosius essentially celebrated a funeral mass for Basil, and, 40 days later, Basil died without any apparent sickness or infirmity.

Oh, and that designation of Theodosius: Cenobiarch? It comes from the Greek and means something akin to “guru of a commune.”

So now why is it that Jim Jones isn’t a saint….?


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