It’s by far the favorite moment for our children (and Mary and I as well!) We all love to hear these real stories of courage, valor, sacrifice, miracles, battles, and bloodshed, faithfulness, humility, service and devotion to the Cross. Even though most of these saints, readily give up their lives in martyrdom for Christ rather than betray Him, the beauty of their stories is that they are not defeated, or destroyed, or dead, or deceased or even “passed away“, for in fact they live! Even now they live, and they reign eternal as I write this post, with Christ and with all the saints who die in the Faith of the Church. Today’s saint is pretty amazing. St. Gerasimos… the Lion Tamer…!
Enjoy this wonderful recounting of our brother, a fellow saint, a man we will meet and embrace on that last and great and glorious day. Get to know him now, since you will see him then. A man who like all saints is just like us, prone to fallibility, and weakness and temptations, but a man who battled for his heart with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the Church and the angels of heaven… and in the end he triumphs and wins the Crown of everlasting life. Gerasimos models for us love for all creation, for nature and the creatures, including lions, that so marks and identifies the ancient Orthodox faith.
Let us pray…
Aflame with heavenly love thou didst prefer the desert’s hardship to all the pleasures of the world. Wherefore a wild creature served thee and became obedient till death. God glorified thee with signs and miracles: in thy prayers remember us also, O Godbearing Father Gerasimos.
Gerasimos lived in the fifth century and was the abbot of a community of 70 monks who all lived in the desert east of Jericho, near the Jordan River. Their life was strict, they slept on reed mats, had cells without doors and observed silence. Their diet consisted mainly of water, dates and bread. It is said, that Gerasimos in ongoing repentance for having been influenced by the teachings of a heretic in his youth, lived on even less than the norm. One day while he was walking along the Jordan, Gerasimos came upon a lion roaring in agony because of a large splinter imbedded in one paw. Overcome by compassion for the beast, Gerasimos removed the splinter and cleaned the wound, bounding it up, expecting the lion to return to its cave. Instead the creature meekly followed him back to his monastery and became his devoted pet. The whole community was amazed at the animals conversion to a peaceful nature, life and devotion to the abbot; living on bread and vegetables. The lion was given the special task of guarding the communities donkey, which grazed along the Jordan.
One day, it happened that, while the lion was napping, the donkey strayed and was stolen by a passing trader. After searching, without success, the lion returned to the monastery, it head hanging low. The brothers concluded that the lion had been overcome and had eaten the donkey and as punishment, gave the lion the job of the donkey; to carry water each from the river to the monastery in a saddlepack with four earthen jars. Months later, it happened that the trader was passing through the Jordan with the stolen donkey and three camels. The lion recognised the donkey and roared so loudly that the trader ran away. Taking its rope in his jaws, the lion led the donkey back to the monastery with the camels following behind. The monks realised that they had misjudged the lion; this is how the lion earned his name “Jordanes” from the Elder Gerasimos. For a further five years, the lion “Jordanes” was part of the monastic community. When the elder fell asleep in the Lord and was buried, Jordanes lay down on the grave, roaring in his grief and beating its head against the ground. Finally Jordanes rolled over and died on the last resting place of Gerasimos. The icon of St. Gerasimos focuses on an event of physical contact between the monk and the lion.
The abbot Gerasimos and this story are real as many texts refer to him and soon after his death he was recognized as a saint. The monastery he founded lasted for centuries and is still even today a place of spiritual pilgrimage in the desert.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.