St. Moses of Ethiopia
How can St. Moses intercede for us?
St. Moses suffered greatly from his sins of murder, rape, and theft, and after his repentance he constantly remembered his sins. However, he never gave up the hope that the Resurrection of Christ could occur within his own soul. In this way, St. Moses is an example to us of true repentance even in the face of his own terrible deeds.
St. Moses did not forget his sins, but he knew that he was forgiven through the mystery of confession, and this should be a model for us in our own repentance. It is inevitable that we will sin, so what is most important is that we repent and continue moving towards Christ within us, not being dissuaded by our past.
What matters is not how often we fall, but how often we get back up. May St. Moses’ repentance be an example for us in our own repentance, through his prayers before the throne of Christ.
The Life of St. Moses
St. Moses lived in Egypt during the fourth century. In his youth, he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined a band of robbers. Moses and his band of brigands were feared because of their many evil exploits, including murders and robberies. People trembled at the mere mention of his name.
Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would neither be driven away nor silenced. He continued to implore that they accept him.
St. Moses was completely obedient to the abbot and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent his time in prayer and the strictest fasting.
Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about Moses’ repentance, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.
Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the abbot, Abba Isidore, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the Elder taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest restraint. But the passions did not cease to trouble Moses in his dreams.
Accounts about his exploits spread among the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. When he heard of this, Moses decided to hide from any visitors, and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the desert-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: “Go no farther to see this false and unworthy monk.” The servants returned to the monastery where the governor was waiting, and they told him the words of the Elder they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of the Elder’s appearance, told them that they had encountered St. Moses himself.
After many years of monastic exploits, Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop clothed him in white vestments and said, “Now Abba Moses is entirely white!” The saint replied, “Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within.” Through humility, the saint believed himself unworthy of the office of deacon. Once, the bishop decided to test him and he bade the clergy to drive him out of the altar, reviling him as an unworthy Ethiopian. In all humility, the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained St. Moses to the priesthood. St. Moses labored for fifteen years in this rank, and gathered 75 disciples around himself.
When the saint reached the age of 75, he warned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all those who remained there. He blessed his monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples begged the saint to leave with them, but he replied, “For many years now, I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled, ‘All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword.’” After this, seven of the brethren remained with Saint Moses, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed St. Moses and the six monks who remained with him. Their death occurred about the year 400.
Feast Day: August 28
- There are two instances in the story of St. Moses where he rejects external glory from the world and internal glory from his ego: when he lies to the servants about who he is in order to avoid being praised, and when he suffers abuse from the clergy in order to subdue his ego, resulting in his ordination to the priesthood. How is strength in humility revealed in these stories? In what ways was Christ similarly strong and humble? How can we, too, exhibit this kind of humility?
- St. Moses was forgiven many great sins. When you fall into sin, do you find it difficult to believe that you can be forgiven? What do you do when you fall into sin? Do you hide away like Adam instead of seeking forgiveness? Do you run to God right away? Discuss also how sin can trap us and how there is freedom in God’s mercy and forgiveness despite our many sins.
- It is clear that St. Moses had close spiritual guidance from Abba Isidore. What do you think the role of guidance has in one’s spiritual journey? Who in your life do you consider a spiritual guide? How do you find the right person to guide you?
Learn his Troparion
“Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Moses, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given the strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.” (Mode 1)
Pray to him
O Holy Father Moses, divine light shining in the desert, through the great feat of your repentance you shone the way to Christ for sinners. You proved that all of heaven rejoices at the repentance of a single sinner. Now, in times of temptation we pray to you, O Holy Father, beseech Christ that we may have the strength to emulate your repentance every day of our lives.
St. Mary of Egypt
St. Paisios of Mt. Athos