The Astonishment of Sisoes

On July 6th we, at Holy Resurrection Monastery, along with the other Eastern Catholics, Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox celebrate one of my favorite (as if you can have favorites) saints.  St. Sisoes the Great.  St. Sisoes was a monk who lived in the 4th-5th centuries that had withdrawn to the Egyptian desert.    God had given St. Sisoes the gift of wonderworking.

What is it that I like so much about St. Sisoes?

There are numerous sayings from and about St. Sisoes recorded in the ‘Sayings of the Desert Fathers.’  It is from these sayings that I began to love this saint.  Many of them are pure gems that are just as relevant today as they were in the 5th century.  (I plan on more having posts down the road on some of the sayings.)

In this post, I want to look at the most common icon of St. Sisoes.  The icon is named ‘The Astonishment of Sisoes.’

St. Sisoes is seen looking down upon a skeleton in the grave.

The skeleton is that of Alexander the Great!

In some icons, there is writing that explains the scene.  It explains that St. Sisoes’ heart is shedding tears at seeing Alexander, who was covered in glory while on earth, as a skeleton.

The glorious Alexander the Great is reduced to skeletal remains.  This is the common lot that will befall all of us.  Given time, our bodies will rot and will be reduced to a skeleton.  They will, however, be resurrected and once again we will be human, body and soul.  Seeing the skeleton of Alexander the Great reminds us of our mortality.

It is interesting to note that St. Sisoes is referred to as ‘the Great.’  We have one who is known as ‘the Great.’, pictured in the flesh, while another known as ‘the Great’ is a skeleton.

Is there something significant there?

I think so!

The riches which Alexander the Great piled up while alive are the riches which are of the world.  The wealth and the power cannot be taken into the life to come.  St. Sisoes the Great, however, stored up his wealth in prayers, virtuous living, and love for God.  These treasures accompany us into the life to come.

St. Sisoes had no worldly wealth or power but his treasure, Christ, is eternal!

What a difference!

Please pray for me that I become more like St. Sisoes the Great and desire the treasure he desires.  Pray also that I lose any desire for the rotting treasures that Alexander the Great was known for during his life.

Pray for me.

I’ll pray for you.

Br. Isaac

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