Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Saint Abraham Kidunaia

Saint Abraham Kidunaia was born into wealth around 296 A.D. at Edessa, Syria. He had been given a “most virtuous” education by his parents, who desired him to marry. Being forced into an arranged marriage at a young age, Abraham fled during the wedding festivities. He had desired to live a celibate, religious life and had told his new wife of his resolve. He hid in a building two miles from Edessa, and holed himself up in a cell, leaving only a small hole through which he could receive food and water. His friends found him at prayer there after a seventeen day search. His family and friends gave in to his wishes, and he spent the next ten years in his cell.

His parents died, and Saint Abraham was left their large estates. He entrusted a virtuous friend to sell these estates and give all the proceeds to the poor. Many came to him seeking spiritual advice, and he taught and comforted those who came to him.

The unrepentant pagan village of Beth-Kiduna was in the diocese of Edessa, and the bishop had sent several holy monks and missionaries there to preach the gospel to the inhabitants. The people of the village had “loaded with injuries and outrages” all who had been sent by the bishop, and none that he sent would or could remain at the village.

Being familiar with Abraham's pious life, the bishop ordered him to leave his cell, and against Abraham's wishes, ordained him, and sent him as a missionary priest to the village. He went to the village, found the inhabitants doggedly determined not hear him speak. He wept and prayed among them without ceasing, built a church, smashed idols, was beaten, badly treated, and was banished from the town three times. Yet, unlike his predecessors, he would not give up, and he would return each time with the same zeal. After three years, his good example along with his meekness, patience, and his extraordinary grace, the entire village was converted and baptised. He remained with them for one more year to instruct them in the faith, prayed that God would send the village a better pastor than he, and he returned to his cell.

Saint Abraham left the cell only twice more, once when a niece, Saint Mary of Edessa, was living a wild and misspent life. Abraham disguised himself as a soldier, which he knew would get her attention, and went to her home. Over supper he convinced her of the error of her ways, and she converted and changed her life, and he returned to his cell. His final trip out was his funeral, attended by a large, loving crowd of mourners.

Saint Abraham Kidunaia died of natural causes around 366 A.D. near Edessa, Syria. Saint Abraham's friend, Saint Ephrem of Syria, wrote his biography.

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