Life of the founder of the coenobitic tradition of monasticism

Theodosius the Great, chief shepherd of the divine flock of God

Theodosius the Great

Monk Theodosius the Great is renowned for founding the first coenobitic (common-life) monastery, accomplishing numerous marvels, fighting against heresies and helping people in need.

St. Theodosius was born around 423 AD in Cappadocia. Imitating Abraham, he decided to leave his parents, renounce all earthly possessions and become a monk. For the next 30 years, St. Theodosius lived a solitary, silent and ascetic life in a cave in Palestine. Over years, some other monks who wanted him to guide them spiritually started gathering in his cave until it became overcrowded. Having prayed to God, St. Theodosius went into the desert and founded his famous Lavra, the first common-life monastery which became home to approximately 700 monks.

At the Lavra's entrance, there was an inscription that read: "Let no lazy person enter". St. Theodosius believed that unpaid labour was necessary for every monk, so the monastery was engaged in works of mercy, such as helping the sick, infirm and elderly people, giving shelter to homeless wanderers and feeding the hungry.

During the reign of the emperor Anastasias, who had joined the heresy of the Iconoclasts, he suffered persecution along with the other Christians for opposing Iconoclasm. The monk wrote a letter to Anastasias exposing the false teaching and vouching that the other monks in the Lavra would stand firm in their faith. The persecution subsided somewhat but then resumed. Then the monk came to the main church in Jerusalem, stood at an elevated place and declared anathema to 'whoever did not abide by the teachings of the four Ecumenical Councils'. The monk was imprisoned and was not released until after the death of Emperor Anastasias.

St. Theodosius' most famous marvel is feeding many people during the famine. Hungry people were coming to the Lavra asking for food, but there was not enough bread to feed all of them. By the prayers of the Saint, the bread was multiplying until every person was fed.

Three days before his death, St. Theodosius gathered all the monks to tell them about his oncoming passing. He died peacefully at the age of 105 and was buried in the same cave where he had lived for 30 years.

January 24, 2022
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