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St Theodosius the Cenobiarch
(entered heaven in 529)
It is possible, you know, to overdo things. Certainly the pleasures of the world are God’s gifts to us, his beloved children, but they were never meant to be the exclusive object of our desires. But judging from the narrative of your exploits during Christmas vacation (which your mother, panic-stricken, forwarded to me amid sobs and tears), it seems that you have either consciously or practically made pleasure your highest priority. This, my foolish nephew, is called hedonism. It is a popular form of idolatry. It is beneath you. Do you remember that rich young man who walked away from Christ because he was so attached to his wealth? If you are not careful, you may find yourself following the same tragic path. I would remind you that the rich young man went away “sad,” because he had preferred the lesser (God’s gifts) to the greater (God himself) treasure, and his heart fell sick because of it. I do not wish the same fate on you.
Perhaps you will still be morally awake enough to take a bit of avuncular advice? I recommend that you take a cue from today’s saint. Theodosius was one of the most remarkable of Palestine’s early monks. He gathered almost an entire city of “cenobitic” (living in a community, as opposed to the hermits) monks near Bethlehem, and tirelessly provided them with spiritual and physical nourishment. Visitors to his monastic city were astounded at the atmosphere of peace, charity, and joy that reigned in that community, which was composed of men from many different nations. Later in life, Theodosius risked his skin by returning to the big cities so he could preach in defense of the true Catholic faith, which was being viciously attacked by the Eutychian heretics, under the Byzantine Emperor’s leadership.
That gives you a picture of the kind of man Theodosius was like. Now I want to point out one of the first things he did when he founded his monastery because I think you should do something similar. He dug a large grave, right in the middle of the cloister. When he had finished digging, the little group of curious monks gathered around to get an explanation. Theodosius said simply, “Here you see a grave. Here we will all one day be buried, and our bodies will return to the dust from which they were made. Remember this, my sons, so that you never stray from the Lord’s sure but narrow road of prayer and self-denial. It is better to die to ourselves each day and rise again on the Day of Judgment than indulge ourselves foolishly now and remain in the grave forever.” I imagine you catch my drift. This life, as beautiful and wonderful as God has made it, is not the whole story, so you oughtn’t to act as if it were. Count on my prayers.
Sincerely (very sincerely), Uncle Eddy