Orthodox saints and animals have a close relationship. Some are known for their benevolence to animals, while others have protective roles, such as St. Tryphon, a patron of gardens. In general, Saints are fond of animals, but they also send animals away or kill them if they cause hardship or suffering to man. God, man, and animals are all in relationship, and the animals that benefit man are those that glorify God.
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St. Isaac the Syrian
Saint Isaac was the first Syrian Orthodox bishop. He was consecrated by the Catholicos George I in the year 676. He was sent to the city of Nineveh as a bishop and later resigned his post. During this period, Isaac was devoted to a life of asceticism.
Isaac of Nineveh, also known as St. Isaac of Nineveh, is one of the most renowned spiritual writers of the Christian East. His writings have continued to have a great impact on Orthodox spirituality. His influence has gone beyond monasteries, and can be seen in the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky and many other contemporary writers.
St. Paul of Obnaras
The story of St. Paul of Obnaras begins with his life in remote forest in Russia. He had a flock of birds living around him and often fed them with his hands. He also fed a bear and mingled with other animals without aggression.
Paul undertook his third missionary journey in AD 56-58. In this time, he visited the churches in Asia Minor. In Ephesus, he preached daily for two years. He also wrote his first letters, which were a great help to the early Church. Then, he went to Macedonia with the Apostle Luke.
According to legend, St. Christopher first appeared as a giant pagan named Reprobus. He wanted to become the most powerful king in the world. But when he saw a wayside crucifix, he was terrified. Reprobus then fled to the Cross and found a hermit who taught him about Christ. The hermit then baptized him as Christophoros, which means “Christ bearer”.
While the story of Christopher is filled with mystery, it is generally accepted that he was a handsome youth with an eye for women. Consequently, women were always after him. In order to avoid temptation, he prayed to God to change his head and become a dog. However, there is a controversy about the connection between St. Christopher and the Egyptian jackal-headed god Anubis, and there is no clear consensus regarding the name.
St. Arsenius the Cappadocian
During his lifetime, St. Arsenius the Cappadocian performed many miracles. On one occasion, he was hospitalized, and a relative was about to crush a louse, but Father Arsenius told him not to, because the louse could eat the flesh of the human being. Worms would then feed on the flesh. Two days later, Father Arsenius died peacefully in God’s presence.
Saint Arsenius the Cappadociaan was born in Cappadocia, where many of the Church Fathers had lived. Despite Turkish rule, Christianity retained its vitality in the area. The Cappadocian monk was ordained and sent to his native village to care for the education of children who had been abandoned. The locals of his village knew him as Hadjiefendis, or “father” in the Turkish language.
The orthodox theology of creation does not condone the abuse of animals, particularly in the name of profit. It promotes a moral and ethical approach to life and firmly rejects practices such as dumping strays on the street or putting animals down. Such practices are inconsistent with the Orthodox ethos, as they leave suffering and death to the hands of cruel individuals.
Saint Martinus was a bishop in the city of Lougdoynoy. He once had a lion as a pet, which he tamed by removing the thorn from its paw. In another instance, he was helped by a bear, which he used to run errands for him. He also had an ibex as a companion, which taught him how to separate good herbs from poisonous ones.
The Irish Catholic church has long venerated Saint Columba as the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in County Donegal to the powerful Ui Neill family, who traced their descent to Niall of the Nine Hostages. His parents were Fedelmid mac Ferguso and Eithne. It is not certain exactly when he was born, but he is believed to have been born in County Donegal.
The main source of Saint Columba’s life is the Vita Columbae, a Latin collection of hagiography, which is an account of a saint’s life. It was compiled by scribes and consists of several collections of miracles attributed to the saint.
A legend tells of the story of St. Mercurios, who lived in ancient times. The king appointed him as governor of the kingdom and a captain of the army. However, the people were afraid of Dog-faces, and the king sent soldiers to entice the animals to war. Mercurius and his father were then seized by the soldiers and brought before the king. The governor, not knowing that the two Dog-faces were Saint Mercurios’ sons, was furious.
As a warrior for Christ, St. Mercurius was known as a fierce warrior. In his mystical experiences, Mercurius was blessed by an angel of the Lord. He was reminded that he would be a martyr for Christ, and that he would receive the crown of victory in the Kingdom of Christ. This moment of grace led the holy warrior to remember the time when his father, Gordian, had professed the Christian faith. He then felt that his life had not been devoted to God as his father and grandfather had.
St. Arsenius the Cappadocian
In his day, the Cappadocian Saint Arsenius lived in the town of Ioannina, Epirus. He was given the holy name of Athanasius at his holy baptism, and then he made his way to Kydoniai, Asia Minor, where he was received by Hieromonk Gregory Saraphis. The monk sent Saint Arsenius to a school, where he grew in virtue and learning.
The Cappadocian saint lived a life of prayer and fasting. He was a true example of Christian dignity. He was a living example of the unfailing grace of God, and he performed miraculous healings. When he healed someone, he would never ask the patient’s name, only the type of prayer that was appropriate for the person’s health. For example, he would read a Gospel passage to the sick person, and put the book on their head.
In the early Christian church, a group of believers associated St. Cosmas with animals. In Asia Minor, this group included the unmercenary saints Cosmas and Damian. These saints were associated with animals, and some of them were even buried alongside each other.
Cosmas and Damian were both trained physicians, and their work involved helping people and animals. They never took payment for their work, and their reputation spread across the surrounding region. This earned them the title of “unmercenary physicians” and gained them a large following.
There are many stories and legends associated with St. Damian and orthodox saints with animals. One story tells of a camel who proclaimed itself a saint and whose venerable relics were buried in the same place as Saint Damian. The camel’s voice was so convincing that people were confused about the location of Saint Damian’s grave. Nevertheless, the two holy brothers were buried together in Thereman, Mesopotamia, where miracles were worked.
Saint Damian was a man born in Asia Minor in the 3rd century AD. His mother raised him in the Christian faith, and he was blessed with the gift of healing. In fact, he healed many animals and even cured severe illnesses. Other Orthodox saints with animals include Saint Mary, who was the mother of Jesus. Her icon depicts her holding the infant Jesus, which is a symbol of her maternal role.
The Greek Orthodox Church venerates St. Modestos as the patron saint of farm animals, including cattle and oxen. He is honored with special feast days, and there are various rituals performed in his honor. One ritual involves blessing cattle and oxen with holy water. The practice has been carried out for centuries.
In the 7th century, the patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Modestos, was known to have performed miracles. He is believed to have healed animals. One story recounts how a poor widow asked her beloved holy unmercenaries to heal her oxen. In a dream, the Saints Cosmas and Damian appeared to her, and told her to ask Bishop Modestos to bless her oxen.
When St. Mamas was young, he was tortured by an emperor. He was thrown to lions, but the lions would not touch him. Eventually, he was saved by an angel of the Lord. He then fled the city and went out into the wilderness where he offered his spirit to God. He was later summoned to a heavenly abode by God. Believers buried him there.
Throughout the Old Testament, many saints were known to have animals as pets. For example, St. Mamas owned a lion. He tamed the animal by removing its thorn. He also buried St. Mary of Egypt. Another famous saint, Seraphim, had a bear that ran errands for him and carried wood. Another orthodox saint with animals was St. Martinus of Lougdoynoy, who had an ibex.
Many Saints have a relationship with animals. Saint Makarios the Roman, for instance, was a monk who had lions as company. He was tempted by the thought of flesh, which he deemed a great sin. Saint Gerasimus the Jordanite, a man who was forced to carry water on his back, also lived in a remote area where he lived in a cave with lions as his company.
Saint Trophimos and Dorymedon were once given to a lion, leopard, and wild bear. Eventually, they were torn apart by the beast tamer, but not before praying to their God. Saint Koprios had a bear that ran errands for him. Saint Seraphim also had a bear that he trusted to carry his wood. Another Saint with an animal was St. Martinus of Lougdoynoy, whose ibex taught him.
Saint Arsenius was born in Ioannina in the Epirus region and given the name Athanasius by holy baptism. After he had been confirmed to the holy priesthood, he intensified his spiritual efforts. He began reading the Holy Scriptures daily and the writings of the Fathers. As a result, he was able to pray with an unceasing heart. In addition, he developed a gift of tears. As a result, his body was often covered with tears of contrition.
Saint Arsenius the Cappadocian was also revered for his kindness to animals. He lived in the forest and was known to feed many birds with his hands. He also tended to feed a bear. In addition to being a beloved spiritual father, he also healed many people.