Theodore of Sykeon

One of the greatest saints of the Ancient Church was Theodore of Sykeon (530-613). Today he is a forgotten saint. The saint was a great ascetic, abbot of the monastery, a bishop who left his throne for the sake of ascetism, a miracle worker and seer, similar to the biblical prophets.

Theodore's whole life was connected with the veneration of the Saint George, whom the Orthodox tradition calls the Great Martyr. Thanks to his own genuine personal righteousness, Theodore contributed to the spread of the veneration of Saint George at that time.  

One of the greatest saints of his time, Theodore seems to be forgotten nowadays. Unfortunately, he is a forgotten saint. If the saints can be compared and likened to each other, then, perhaps, Theodore Sykeon was for the north of Asia Minor the same who, two centuries before him, was for the south of Anatolia St. Nicholas.

The vita of Theodore is extremely interesting and rich in details. It was written down by his disciple Eleusis, nicknamed George. It is an interesting coincidence of names in honor of Saint George!

So, Theodore was born around 530 in the village of Sykeon in Galatia, a historical region in the central region of Asia Minor. The capital of modern Turkey since 1923, Ankara, is located in this area. It was the time of Emperor Justinian the Great (527-565), who for the last time united the Empire, East and West, Constantinople and Rome, Spain and Roman Africa into a single Empire.

According to his vita, Theodore's father was a certain Cosmas, an imperial official who set off from the capital to become the ruler of one of the provinces. On the way he stopped in Sykeon in one of the hotels … Theodore's mother was a prostitute.

From his very birth, Theodore was given the special intercession and help of Saint George, Thanks to the miraculous intercession of George he survived and was baptized.

Surprisingly, from a very young age, Theodore showed a particular propensity for ascetic exercises, completely neglecting the rules of moderation. Already at the age of 14, the age of majority according to the laws of that time, Theodore dug a cave for himself under the church of Saint George in order to practice asceticism alone. The extreme severity of self-restraint in the asceticism led to the fact that George had to be saved from wounds and ulcers. Barely alive, he was rescued from the cave and brought to the house of the bishop of the city of Anastasiopolis. 

The bishop was so struck by the spiritual age of the young man that, contrary to the canons, he ordained him a priest, successively raising him to all the previous degrees of clergy in just five days. The bishop also took care of his treatment. 

After his recovery, Theodore went on a pilgrimage to Palestine, in order to get acquainted with the life of the hermits there. There, in the Monastery of Saint George of Choziba near Jericho, became a monk Soon he returned to his homeland, where he founded a monastery near the very church of St. George, where he had spent his youth. There Theodore gathered his disciples around him.

Despite the remoteness of this area from the largest political centers of that time, authorities approached him for advice. Among them was the future emperor Mauritius, who was then at the head of the imperial army. After the victory over the Persians, the commander visited the hermit, who predicted his ascension to the imperial throne, which happened soon in 582.

After the death of the local Bishop Timothy, Theodore, against his will, by solemn acclamation of clergy and people, was elected bishop. He accepted this election only after the threat of a ban imposed on him in case of refusal by the Metropolitan of Ankara, in whose jurisdiction was the neighboring Anastasiopolis.

The main duty of the bishop in those days was the deeds of mercy, a fair trial and helping people. At first, Theodore zealously devoted himself to episcopal work, but soon, contrary to the canons, he left the see and fled to Palestine. There he turned to one of the great hermits with a question about his future. The ascetic pointed out to him that Theodore's disgust for the episcopal ministry meant that by the will of God he had to resign.

Then Theodore returned to Ancyra and asked the metropolitan to appoint a successor to him. The metropolitan refused. Then Theodore went to Constantinople, where, with the same request for permission to leave the see, he turned to the Patriarch and even to the Emperor.

They ordered the Metropolitan of Ancyra to release the saint from the administration of the diocese. 

Rejoicing, like a child, at the fulfillment of his dream of hermitage, Theodore closed himself in his monastery, so as not to leave it again. But one day he still had to go to Constantinople to heal one of the Emperor's sons from leprosy.

At the end of his life, the saint became very known for many miracles and prophecies. The life of Theodore of Sykeon passed under the protection of Saint George. The whole life of Theodore passed near the shrine dedicated to George: there he was baptized, grew up, became an ascetic, founded a monastery, was elected a bishop, and again returned to monastic life. 

The memory of Saint George, 6 May, is always celebrated during the Easter period. By the will of God, the same applies to Theodore. Because according to the vita, Theodore departed to the Lord on the eve of the memory of the Saint George in 613, on May 5.