Saint Theodore, Bishop of Edessa, was born in the Syrian city
of Edessa. All his life the holy saint was a bright witness of the
great deeds of God, glorified in His Saints.
At twelve years of
age, after he lost his parents and gave away his inheritance to the
poor, he went to Jerusalem, where he was tonsured at the Lavra of the St
Sava the Sanctified. After twelve years of fervent monastic obedience
and then another twenty-four years of full seclusion and great
abstinence, the Lord called the valiant ascetic to be a bishop, so that
he might enlighten the world. After the death of the Bishop of Edessa,
no worthier successor was found than Theodore, and with the mutual
consent of the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and of the clergy
and laity, this fine man was chosen bishop.
It was not easy for
St Theodore to forsake his solitude, but he submitted himself to the
will of God and undertook his pastoral guidance of the Edessa Church.
This occurred during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Michael and his
mother Theodora (842-855). At the time of St Theodore’s episcopal
consecration, there occurred a great miracle. The people beheld a dove,
white as snow, flying about beneath the cupola of the church, which then
alit upon the head of the newly-made bishop.
St Theodore devoted
all his abilities to the governance of his flock. He was a model for
the faithful in word, in life, in love. By the good example of his holy
ascetic life, he guided the flock entrusted to him by God, onto the path
of salvation. Theodore exerted much effort in the struggle with
heretics, and with a firm hand he guarded the Church from temptations
and false teachings. By his consolation and support for St Theodore, the
clairvoyant Elder Theodosius the Stylite also served the spiritual
community while laboring in asceticism not far from the city, near the
monastery of the holy Great Martyr George.
With the blessing of
the Elder, St Theodore journeyed to Baghdad to the caliph Mavi to
complain about unjust measures against the Orthodox. Having come to
Mavi, the saint found him seriously ill. Calling on the help of the
Lord, the holy bishop threw a bit of earth from the Sepulchre of the
Lord into a vessel of water and gave it to the caliph to drink, and the
sick one was healed. The grateful Mavi, favorably disposed towards the
saint, happily heard his teachings. Finally, together with three close
associates, he accepted holy Baptism with the name John.
afterwards for his open confession of faith in Christ before the
Moslems, the caliph John was killed with his three associates. Having
appeared in a dream simultaneously to St Theodore and to Theodosius the
Stylite, he said that he had been granted to suffer for Christ, and was
numbered among the ranks of the Martyrs. He promised that soon he would
meet them in the Kingdom of Heaven. This was an indication to the saint
of God that his own end was approaching. In 848, again in solitude at
the Lavra of St Sava the Sanctified, he peacefully departed to the Lord.
St Theodore has left Christians his edifying writings. The Life of St
Theodore of Edessa was popular reading in Rus during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, and was preserved in many manuscripts.