St. Matrona, Abbess of Constantinople
Commemorated on November 9
St. Matrona, Abbess of Constantinople, was born in the city of Perge Pamphylia (Asia Minor) in the fifth century. She was given in marriage to a wealthy man named Dometian. When their daughter, Theodota, was born, the family resettled in Constantinople. The twenty-five-year-old Matrona loved to walk to the temple of God. She spent entire days there, ardently praying to the Lord and weeping for her sins.
At the church, Matrona met two pious Eldresses, Eugenia and Susanna, who from their youth lived there in asceticism, work and prayer. Matrona began to imitate the God-pleasing life of an ascetic, humbling herself by abstinence and fasting, for which she endured criticism from her husband.
Her soul yearned for a full renunciation of the world. After a long hesitation, Matrona decided to leave her family and entreated the Lord to reveal whether her intent was pleasing to Him. During a light sleep, she had a dream that she had fled from her husband, who was in pursuit of her. She concealed herself in a crowd of monks, and her husband did not notice her. Matrona accepted this dream as a divine directive to enter a men’s monastery, where her husband would not think to look for her.
She gave her fifteen-year-old daughter over to be raised by the Eldress Susanna, and having cut her own hair and disguised herself in men’s attire, she went to the monastery of St. Bassion. There, she passed herself off as the eunuch Babylos and was accepted as one of the brethren. Apprehensive lest the monks discover that she was a woman, the saint passed her time in prayer and work. The brethren marveled at the great virtue of Babylos.
Ultimately, it was revealed in a dream to St. Bassion, the abbot of the monastery, that Babylos was a woman. St. Bassion summoned Matrona before him and asked in a threatening voice why she had entered the monastery – to corrupt the monks, or to shame the monastery. With tears, Matrona told him about all her past life, about her husband who was hostile to her efforts and prayers, and about the vision directing her to go to the men’s monastery. Convinced that her intent was pure and chaste, St. Bassion sent Matrona to a women’s monastery in the city of Emesa. Here, she dwelt for many years, inspiring the sisters by her high monastic achievement. When the Abbess died, and upon the unanimous wish of the nuns, Matrona was made the head of the convent.
The fame of her virtuous activities, and miraculous gift of healing, which she acquired from the Lord, spread far beyond the walls of the monastery. Matrona’s husband, Dometian, also heard about the deeds of the nun. When Matrona learned that he was coming to the monastery and wanted to see her, she secretly went off to Jerusalem, then to Mt. Sinai, and from there to Beirut, where she settled in an abandoned pagan temple. The local inhabitants learned of her seclusion, and began to visit her. The holy ascetic converted many from their pagan beliefs to Christ.
Women and young girls began to move to where Matrona lived and soon a new monastery was formed. Having fulfilled the will of God, revealed to her in a dream, the saint left Beirut and journeyed to Constantinople where she learned that her husband had died. With the blessing of her spiritual Father, St. Bassion, the ascetic founded a women’s monastery in Constantinople, where sisters from the Beirut convent she had founded also transferred. The Constantinople monastery of St. Matrona was known for its strict monastic rule and the virtuous life of its sisters.
In extreme old age, St. Matrona had a vision of the heavenly Paradise and the place prepared for her there after 75 years of monastic labor. At the age of one hundred, St. Matrona blessed the sisters, and quietly fell asleep in the Lord.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)