October 20, 2017

St. Hilarion, the Father of Middle Eastern Monasticism

Saint Hilarion of Gaza

According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII, October 21st is the feast of Saint Hilarion, the 3rd century monastic famous for his miracles and sanctity. Born to pagan parents, he studied in Alexandria, becoming a Christian at age 15. Following the example of Saint Anthony in Egypt, he became a hermit instructed by Anthony himself. Hilarion is the father of monasticism in Palestine and Syria.

St. Hilarion was born at Tabatha near Gaza, Palestine, in the year 291. His pagan parents sent him, while still a youth, to study at Alexandria. He was remarkable for his diligence and good manners, and soon became a convert to Christianity, making great progress in faith and charity. He was zealous in visiting churches, in fasting and prayer, in scorning all earthly joys and pleasures. Lured by the fame of St. Anthony, he entered the desert and for two months was his disciple.

While absent, his parents died. Now Hilarion gave all he had to the poor, and although hardly 15 years old, he returned to the desert, built a little hut scarcely large enough to accommodate himself, and slept on the bare ground. His time was spent reading and meditating upon holy Scripture. A few figs and soup from herbs sufficed for his nourishment. This he never consumed before the sun set.

Because of his mortifications and humility, he triumphed over fierce assaults by the evil one and healed many who were possessed. After founding numerous hermitages (he had two thousand followers) and working countless miracles, he became ill at the age of 80. In his last agony he encouraged himself by saying: "Go thither, my soul, why do you fear? Why do you tremble? Seventy years you have served Christ, and now you fear death?" The day of St. Hilarion's holy death is given as October 21st, 371. His was solemnly buried on the island of Cyprus.

Almighty God, who called Saint Hilarion to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his holy intercession that denying ourselves in humble solitude, we may always love you above all things, and look to you alone for our salvation. St. Hilarion, your pursuit of solitude and rejection of the world reminds us to spend time alone with God in prayer. Holy St. Hilarion of Gaza, pray for us.

No comments :