Friday, October 21, 2011

A Saint for Solitude and Silence, St. Hilarion (291-371)

Today, 21 Oct 2011, the Church remembers the life of St Hilarion, one of the great Desert Fathers. He longed for silence and solitude, with which to seek the heart of God, but for much of his life it was denied him. So many miracles accompanied his life on earth that we would be wise to get to know him better and thus seek his powerful intercession from heaven.
St Hilarion was born near Gaza to pagan parents. When the time came for him to be educated, they sent him to Alexandria. Excelling at his studies in this city, he grew in ability and character. Here, as a teenager, Hilarion came into contact with Christianity and was converted. Attracted by the reports of the life of St Antony of Egypt, Hilarion set out to meet him. Still only 15 years old, Hilarion embraced St Antony’s lifestyle whole-heartedly. However far too many people were making their way to implore St Antony’s aid, so Hilarion returned to Palestine, settled his affairs, and began a hermit’s life in the wilderness of Majuma ( a locality on the coast road between Gaza and Egypt).
In this place, St Hilarion through prayer, fasting and self denial battled fierce temptations. Many of these battles were with temptations to lust, so he is someone we can turn to with confidence when we are faced with similar battles. Such a servant of God doesn’t remain hidden for long. Those who came to visit him were healed and set free from demons. Prior to St Hilarion there had been no monks in Palestine, but such were the numbers that came to him that desired to live this harsh life in their quest for God that he trained them, and monasteries sprang up all over the area.

***First Miracle--He had now spent twenty-two years in the wilderness and was the common theme in all the cities ofPalestine, though everywhere known by repute only. The first person bold enough to break into the presence of the blessed Hilarion was a certain woman of Eleutheropolis who found that she was despised by her husband on account of her sterility (for in fifteen years she had borne no fruit of wedlock). He had no expectation of her coming when she suddenly threw herself at his feet. Forgive my boldness, she said: take pity on my necessity. Why do you turn away your eyes? Why shun my entreaties? Do not think of me as a woman, but as an object of compassion. It was my sex that bore the Saviour. Luke 5:31They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. At length, after a long time he no longer turned away, but looked at the woman and asked the cause of her coming and of her tears. On learning this he raised his eyes to heaven and bade her have faith, then wept over her as she departed. Within a year he saw her with a son.

***One of these healings contains so much wisdom that it is worthwhile reviewing. A woman who had been blind for 10 years was brought to St Hilarion. She was now penniless, having spent all she had on physicians. As she came into his presence, he told her “If you had given to the poor what you have wasted on physicians, the true Physician Jesus would have cured you.” Since she was a woman of perseverance, she cried and begged for pity. In response, just like Jesus, St Hilarion made a paste with dirt and spittle and put it on her eyes. The woman was cured instantly. 
***After the holy man had already passed 22 years of his life in this desert, God desired to make him known to the world by miracles. A noble lady of Gaza having heard of the holy hermit, came to him and begged him, with tears in her eyes, to go to her house and visit her three sons who were mortally sick. The Saint refused to comply with her request; but the mother ceased not to weep and entreat him until he had promised to come during the night, which accordingly he did. Saying a short prayer, he laid his hand upon the children, and all three rose from their beds in perfect health. Hardly had this become known in the city, when several sick were carried to him that he might cure them. The Saint, by healing all of them, converted a great many heathens to the true faith. Many also came to him who desired to live piously, and to lead, under his guidance, a solitary life. 
As with many other Desert Fathers, the Lord God underlined how pleasing these lives of radical self denial were by permitting them to live to advanced old age. When the thirst for solitude overwhelmed him, St Hlarion had quite a battle to leave Majuma since no one wanted him to leave. He set out for several lonely places around the Mediterranean, only to be discovered as a holy man time and time again. St Hilarion ended his days in Cyprus, and his faithful disciple St Hesychius managed to smuggle his remains back to Majuma. 
As death came, St Hilarion repeated over and over, “Go forth, what do you fear? Go forth, my soul, why do you hesitate? You have served Christ nearly seventy years, and do you fear death?”
No less a person than St Jerome wrote about the life of St Hilarion. You can find a translation of this document at, and it is so much better than my paltry words. Do yourself a favor and read in it of the miracles worked through St Hilarion and his many words of wisdom.

Prayer to Saint Hilarion

To be a Hilarion, and yet to fear death! If in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry. O glorious Saint, penetrate us with the apprehension of God's judgments. Teach us that Christian fear does not banish love, but, on the contrary, clears the way and leads to it, and then accompanies it through life as an attentive and faithful guardian. This holy fear was thy security at thy last hour; may it protect us also along the path of life, and at death introduce us immediately into heaven!

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