The Life of St Moses the Strong
We all look up to the saints, aspiring to their holiness and love for God, but subconsciously are often resigned that we will never be “a saint”. In our minds, the saints are just born perfect and aren’t really normal humans. In reality, the saints of our church come from a variety of backgrounds, and all attained their sainthood through personal struggle.
St Moses the Strong was not always a saint. He was an Ethiopian living in Egypt, a slave of a master that worshipped the sun. Before finding our Lord, he was a mighty and vicious man who drank, robbed, and murdered. After he left the rule of his master, he became the ringleader of a gang of robbers. People cowered at his sight. They would run the other way in fear of him, preferring to have their belongings stolen than to face him.
Like his former master, and many others during his time, St Moses worshipped the sun. One day he voiced his doubts; turning towards the sun, he proclaimed: “O sun! If you are God, let me know it. And you, O God, whom I do not know, let me know who You are.”
He heard a voice from heaven in reply: “The monks of the wilderness of Shiheet (Scetis) know the real God. Go to them and they will inform you.”
St Moses didn’t need to be told twice. He sprung at the idea of leaving his old life behind and going to find the real God. Entering the wilderness of Scetis, Abba Isidore the priest was the first person he encountered. Understandably, the priest of Scetis was terrified at his appearance. With his enormous figure, muscular body, and horrible reputation, St Moses did not seem like your ideal visitor! But St Moses comforted Abba Isidore: “Do not be afraid. I have come to you to hear about the true God.”
Abba Isidore led St Moses to Abba Macarius who taught him all about Our Lord Jesus Christ and showed him the path of repentance. Eventually, he was baptized and became a monk. Where once St Moses fought vulnerable citizens in the city, now he would wrestle with demons in the desert.
His change for the better angered the devil and brought him great tribulation. Voices would constantly torment him, reminding him of the pleasures of his former life. He would run to Abba Isidore day and night as the temptation became exceedingly great, and by God’s grace he conquered Satan.
Satan also afflicted him with physical ailments. St Moses used his physical strength to serve the other monks; while they were asleep he would fill their water pots for them, though the well was a great distance away. And so St Moses was struck with boils on his feet, making it nearly impossible to move. However, St Moses was never discouraged and kept serving the other monks and worshipping Our Lord and Savior. When the Lord saw his humility and faith, He healed him, showing how He never abandons His people in the hands of the devil.
Later on, he was elected to the priesthood by 500 brethren of Scetis. Before his ordination, the Patriarch decided to test him. He made them cast out St Moses, calling him “an unworthy Ethiopian”. Rather than becoming angry or discouraged, St Moses responded:“It is good what they have done to you, O black coloured one.”
The Patriarch was impressed and called for him to be brought back immediately, telling him:“Moses, you have now become entirely white.”
One day, Abba Macarius said to a group of elders including St Moses that one of them would receive the crown of martyrdom. St Moses replied prophetically:
“It is probably me for it is written: ‘For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52).
This was a reference to his previous life of murder and robbery. Soon after, barbarians attacked the monastery. Before they arrived, St Moses warned his brothers stating:
“Whoever of you wants to escape, let him escape.”
The monks replied:
“And you, O father, why not also escape?”
St Moses answered:
“I have waited for this day for a long time.”
The barbarians entered the monastery, and St Moses was martyred along with seven other brethren. It is said that one other monk was hiding in a corner watching the scene. He saw an angel of the Lord descending and putting crowns on top of all their heads with an extra one in the angel’s hand. He knew it belonged to him so he then stepped out of his hiding place and he too received the crown of martyrdom.
Saint Moses the Strong wasn’t born a saint by any means. He lived many years before beginning the path of repentance. Once a person that people ran the other way from, he became a saint that to whom people came to receive his blessings. Once a man from whom people would protect their belongings, he became a source of intercessions for those who sought blessing upon their family and belongings. Anyone can change for the better; it is never too late to turn back from your old ways of sin and embrace the Lord.
No matter your race, past sins or religious background, anyone can become a saint.
May the blessings of St Moses’ prayers be with us all. Amen.