by Saint Theodore of Studios
This article was posted because we have learned that the ancient Monastery of Studios (which this great Saint was the Abbot of) is sadly being turned into a Mosque. This great gem of the Christian world once held a beautiful monastic community that gave great treasures to the Church, such as playing a key role against the iconoclast heresy. May the Lord have mercy and may monastic life flourish once again in these dark times.
Rejoice, my brethren and fathers so greatly longed for, because the good news is of joy. Once again we, the unworthy, have been found worthy to confess our fair confession. Once again we have both been tortured for name of the Lord. For brother Nicolas too competed bravely and faithfully. We, lowly though we are, have seen blood emptied on the ground from our flesh; we have looked on weals, gore and all that goes with them. Is not this cause for joy? Is not this cause for gladness of soul? But who am I, poor wretch, to be ranked with you, Christ’s worthy confessors, I the most unprofitable of men? The reason that all this has happened is my former instruction, which the ruler got into his hands and sent to the military governor with orders that the commander of the cohort should come to us. He came with his officers and soldiers at dead of night and suddenly surrounded the little house where we were, with loud shouts, just as though he had suddenly flushed an animal when out hunting. With his diggers he rapidly smashed down the fence, produced, examined and displayed the instruction. We confessed that we had composed it, as God wished. He was only seeking one thing: that we come to the emperor’s wish. We said precisely what the truth demanded: God forbid that we deny our God, and whatever was required to reply to our hearers. At this he flogged us savagely. The brother had sustained nothing serious like this in his toils since his first imprisonment and registration, while I, lowly and enfeebled, afflicted by raging fevers and scarcely endurable pains, was within a little of despairing of my life. Nevertheless the good God had mercy on me little by little, the brother helping in what was fitting, even though the wounds are still there and have not yet completely healed. So much for us. I have recounted our suffering to you knowing that you are keen to learn in order to share our pain. What next? The threat is more serious, the confinement stricter. For beatings have been added to the duties of the guards and the gaoler. We are not to grumble, we are not to write to anyone. Shall we cower down then and keep silent, in fear obeying human authority rather than God’s? Certainly not. But until the Lord opens a door for us, we shall not cease to fulfil our duty according to our possibilities, fearing and trembling at the judgement that hangs over silence. ‘If he draw back, it says, my soul will not be well pleased in him’ [Heb. 10,38, quoting Hab. 2,4]. And again the Apostle says, ‘We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith to the possession of their soul’ [Heb. 10,39].
For this reason this present letter of mine is for all the scattered brethren, and who are enduring persecution under pressure, but especially you, the confessors of Christ. Let us endure, my beloved brothers, gaining yet greater power in our sufferings, rather than quailing. They are flesh. Let us not spare them. As we are tormented for Christ, let us be glad. The one who abounds in pains, let him rejoice the more, as he will have a greater share in the rewards. The one who shrinks to bear the pains of scourges, let him then shake off fear as he considers the eternal sorrows. For their wounds in comparison with those are a dream, the arrows of infants. Yes, I beg, I entreat: let us find sweetness in our sufferings for Christ, even though they may be very severe in terms of the flesh. Let us fix our gaze on things to come and which abide. Let us long to mingle our blood with that of the martyrs, our part with that of the confessors, that we may dance with them eternally. Who is prudent? Who is wise? Who is a good business man, to give blood and receive spirit, to despise the flesh and acquire the kingdom of God? ‘He who loves his soul will lose it, says the Lord, and he who hates his soul in this age will keep it to eternal life’ [Jn 12,25]. Let us hearken to his words, and let us follow him. ‘Where I am’, he says, ‘there also will my servant be’ [Jn 12,26]. Where is he? On a Cross. And we, in our lowliness, as we wish to be his disciples, are there too. I ask you to be content with this word of exhortation. For this is only a short letter. Know that we sinners rejoice, we are not cast down, so long only as you stand fast in the Lord. Nicolas my fellow prisoner, my fellow sufferer, my fellow soldier and your most true brother, greets you. Greet one another with a holy kiss [Cf. 1 Thess. 5:26], athletes their fellow athletes, the persecuted their fellows in persecution, all of you those who love you in faith. If any one does not confess our Lord depicted in body, let him be anathema from the Trinity. ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen’ [Thess. 5:28].