August 28: Moses the Black, Desert Father and Martyr, c. 400
August 28, 2010 12 Comments
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About this commemoration
Moses of Ethiopia (d. c. 405), sometimes called Moses the Black, was a fifth century monk who lived in one of several isolated desert monasteries near Scete in Lower Egypt. He was described as being tall, strong, “black of body,” and in his early life, the hot-blooded leader of a marauding robber band.
Little is known of his actual life, but an imaginative collection of religious legends has accumulated about him. Such tales point to the deep struggles of a Christian soul seeking salvation in difficult settings. Moses was portrayed as a person of deep excesses, a slave who was both a thief and a murderer, a perennial fornicator who, after he became a monk, still struggled for several years with sexual fantasies. To rid himself of sexual temptation he reportedly stood all night in his cell with his eyes open. This endured for seven years, after which the temptations went away.
He led an ascetic life, lived in a simple cell, and ate only ten ounces of dry bread each day. Once when the monks gathered to judge a member who had sinned, Brother Moses arrived carrying a leaky basket filled with sand on his back. He explained that what he was holding behind him represented his own many sins, now hidden from his own view. “And now I have come to judge my brother for a small fault,” he remarked. The other monks then each personally forgave their erring brother and returned to their cells.
Moses was not ordained until late in life; also in his later years he founded his own monastery. At about age 75 he was warned that an armed band of raiders was approaching to slay him. “They who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” (Matthew 26:52) the former robber-murderer calmly replied. He and six other brothers waited patiently, and were slain, after which a monastic account, St. Moses the Ethiopian recounts, seven crowns descended from heaven over the place where they were martyred.
Collect of the Day
God of transforming power and transfiguring mercy: Listen to the prayers of all who, like Abba Moses, cry to you: “O God whom we do not know, let us know you!” Draw them and all of us from unbelief to faith and from violence into your peace, through the cross of Jesus our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
2 Chronicles 28:8–15
Preface of God the Son
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.