St. John the Baptist Parish, A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, Canberra, Australia

Truly beautiful portrait of the Saint

Bishop Augustinos

Excerpted from Devout Syngletiki

Our time, my beloved, our time is a time of fearful apostasy, of a falling away from God. Many signs bear this out. Among the signs that cry out that the world strayed from the path of God is also the aversion, the disgust, the hatred that the modern world feels for whatever the Lord dictates, and indeed toward the virginal life. The virginal life is that which Christ loved above all, is that which he preached as the supreme height of evangelical virtue, and toward it he invited and invites those souls who want to live a superior life.

When it comes to the virginal life, which is a fragrant blossom of evangelical virtue, the world expresses disdain for it. When it is heard that a young boy or girl, from among thousands of young boys and girls, decided to follow the path of perfect self-denial, of totalitarian devotion to the Lord, the world gets all riled up. Friends and relatives set themselves into motion and with various means struggle to obstruct this path. And if they don't succeed, they them turn with a mania against those whom they suspect contributed in that a young boy or girl to make such an heroic decision. The miserable ones! They don't want to understand that the idea of the virginal life and conduct come from the very Lord and as a heavenly seed is sown and takes root in elect souls; and that whatever heaven sows, the entire earth cannot uproot. O, what words of bitterness, of slander, and of calumny come out of the mouths of the enemies of the virginal life! These people are heretics, adversaries of virginity, and opponents of God. For, if it is a heresy for one to obstruct marriage (see I Tim. 4:3), much more is it a heresy for one to obstruct the virginal life.

But the preachers of truth must not cower. The Orthodox Church, despite all the attacks of the carnal and material-minded world against the virginal life, must not take down the flag of truth. On the contrary, it has the sacred duty to preach also on this issue whatever was said by the Lord, whatever the great teachers and fathers of the Church wrote, whatever was declared by the regional and ecumenical Synods. Yes, marriage is honorable, a divine mystery; but above marriage is celibacy in Christ. Valuable is marriage like silver, but the virginal life must be valued like gold. For why, I beg to ask, must mothers be called only those who simply give birth to children - and who many times are not in a position to educate them - , and are not worthy of the title of mother - and the spiritual mothers, those heroic women who came not unto marriage, and did not give birth to natural children, but nurtured foreign children, took in orphans, protected abandoned creatures, stayed up all night next to the bed of the ailing, gave relief to the human pain, sprinkled the balsam of consolation to pained hearts, and melted like lighted candles upon the love of neighbour?

Such a spiritual mother, who acquired thousands of spiritual children who loved her more than their carnal mothers, was saint Syngletiki, whom we celebrate.

Saint Syngletiki was born in Alexandria around the end of the third (3rd) century. Her parents were pious and rich, and were descended from Macedonia. This daughter was not only pleasing to the eye on account of her noble lineage and societal position of her parents, but also adorned with all those things which men consider delightful and pleasant. Many young men proposed marriage to her on account of her beauty, her great property, and the nobility of her parents. But the prudent and heroic daughter didn't listen. She had her mind and heart turned to the love of God. She loved silence, continence, or chastity, strict spiritual training, or ascesis, and fasting (that is, strictly speaking, complete abstention from all food and drink, but by economy - i.e., relaxed monastic rules - from only meat, dairy products, oil and wine on prescribed fast days). She conducted strict spiritual and physical exercises in her paternal home; but she exercised spiritually and physically in such a way as to escape the attention of the others.

After the death of her parents she distributed to the poor all her property, and with her younger sister withdrew to a humble shack outside the city. There she received the monastic habit from a presbyter. At this place of reclusion she began to receive young women from Alexandria, who would visit her, and she taught them the life in Christ. Her fame was disseminated to all of Egypt. Whatever Saint Anthony was to men, Saint Syngletiki was to women.

Regarding devout Syngletiki Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite says, that she was the virgin who offered hospitality to Saint Athanasios the Great, who wrote during his persecutions; and that Saint Athanasios, who wrote the life of Anthony the Great, also wrote the life of devout Syngletiki, whom he presents as an example of evangelical virtue for women. This writing contains a wealth of teachings, deep meanings, wise adages - all extracts of her experience in spiritual life, and expresses the wholesome viewpoint of Orthodoxy on marriage and celibacy (the unmarried state). She paints the beauty of the virginal life, but also attracts the attention of virgin women, who chose this path of the Lord. This path is not some kind of worldly comfort. No. It is the uprooting of vices, the deadening of wicked desires, the denial of the world - in a word, a continual martyrdom. The monastic life is a cross, a life-long cross. And if the virgin is not careful, she can sink under, while, on the contrary, a married woman, if she is careful and has in her heart the divine fear, she can be saved. For all those women and for all those men the danger is great, the devout one declares. We are all sailing, as upon the sea, among reefs and rocks; we have great need of care.

The teaching, which comes from the mouth of the devout Syngletiki, is most sweet. It is like honeycomb, and the souls who yearn for the heavenly teaching, like bees delight in this spiritual honey. And not only those men and women who live in the virginal life, but all those man and women who live in the world and wrestle with various difficulties and hardships, can find edifying instruction in her words.

She recommended love as the continual and unceasing progress of virtue. Our salvation is to perform the commandment of double love: "You shall love the Lord your God with?all your soul" and "your neighbor as yourself." She stressed how important the struggle is for prudence. She taught the value of complete poverty, or owning no property. She admonished us to mention our faults and not our talents, to fiercely combat wicked thoughts, to be careful of thoughts of pride but also of despair, to oust anger, malice, and condemnatory speech. She pointed to the value of humility. All are benefited by her words, particularly, however, the sick who for months and years were found in the bed of pain; if they read her life, they will be greatly consoled. For, devout Syngletiki, toward the end of her life was attacked by illnesses, one right after another, and demonstrated Jobian patience, always glorifying and thanking the Lord.

It is my hope and wish, my beloved, that the study of the life and teaching of devout Syngletiki will contribute to the rekindling of the religious sentiment of the orthodox, so that the fire that the Lord came to alight upon the earth will be reflamed. I hope that many hearts come to love the true bridegroom, Christ, just as she loved him. Thus it will appear, that in our days too, the Lord continues to direct his invitation "Follow me" (Matt. 9:9) and to call elect souls to the supreme sacrifice.

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