St Arsenius

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Fresco, Mount Athos


Monk. Born in Rome, in 354, Arsenius is said to have been a deacon, and later a tutor to the Emperor Theodosius' children in Constantinople.

He was rewarded with money, servants and possessions and lived a luxurious life. But after ten years he felt God calling him, gave everything away to join a group of desert monks near Wadi Narun in Egypt. According to ancient accounts, when he arrived in the community, Saint John the Dwarf, to whose cell he was led, took no notice of him and left him standing by himself while he invited the rest to sit down at table. When the meal was half finished he threw down some bread before him, bidding him with an air of indifference eat if he would. Arsenius meekly picked up the bread and ate, sitting on the ground. Satisfied with this proof of humility, St John kept him under his direction.

In 434 he was forced to leave due to raids on the monasteries and hermitages there by the Mazici tribesmen from Libya. He relocated to Troe, near Memphis, and also spent some time on the island of Canopus near Alexandria. He spent the next 15 years wandering the desert wilderness before returning to Troe where he died in 445 at the age of around 100.

A biography of Arsenius was written by Theodore the Studite.

Saint Arsenius was a very quiet man. He once said: "Many times I spoke, and as a result felt sorry, but I never regretted my silence."


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