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October 27 Saints of the Day – Nestor the Chronicler and Frumentius

On this day in 1651, English troops occupied Limerick, Ireland. They celebrated by writing haiku.

Nestor the ChroniclerNestor the Chronicler (ca. 1056 – ca. 1114) was a monk in the (Near) Kievan Caves (they did let him out from time to time). In one episode, he (along with two brother monks) was charged with finding the myrrh-streaming (as it turned out) remains of St. Theodosius of Kiev (why or how they had gone missing, my sources do not divulge), which he did. In another episode, he helped the Boyz n the Cave cast out a demon from Nikita the Hermit, who had taken an unhealthy interest in the Old Testament. Ironically, Nestor also said that people who read books “converse with God or the saints.” Wanting to do his part for this conversation, Nestor wrote. Boy, did Nestor wrote.

Nestor was the inaugural compiler/editor of the Primary Chronicle, the first and only complete accounting of the early history of the Rus’. The Chronicle starts (as any good Chronicle should) with the Biblical Flood, in which the Rus’ played no small part (indeed, they played no part at all) (bet you saw that coming). After some stuff about Cyril and Methodius and contemporaries, it settles in to chronicle (hence the name) the history of Kievan Rus’ between the eighth century and 1113, incorporating other chronicles which have since gotten lost (they should have left a trail of pebbles). Unfortunately his manuscript and the earliest copies followed their predecessors to the gingerbread scriptorium in the sky. He incorporated many stories which modern skeptical scoffers consider legendarious, including Oleg getting killed by a serpent that hid itself in his horse’s skeleton. Almost makes one want to learn medieval Russian.

Nestor also wrote an account of the holy passion-bearing brothers Boris and Gleb, a life of the aforementioned Theodosius, and a thing called the Reading, about which I could find no further information (not that I tried terribly hard). Nestor died in peace in the Caves, and other chroniclers picked up where he left off.

FrumentiusFrumentius (d. ca. 383) and his brother Aedesius, natives of Syria, were traveling down the Red Sea coast of Africa one day when their ship ran out of provisions and put in at a coastal city in Aksum (or “Axum”) (the kingdom subsequently known as “Ethiopia”). Suspicious of all things Roman (it was axiomatic), the Axumites slew the crew, permitting only the two young brothers to live, albeit as slaves to King Ousanas. Said king took a liking to them, and made Aedesius his cupbearer and Frumentius his secretary. As he lay dying, Ousanas gave Frum and Ed their freedom, but the queen begged them to stay and help her regentify until Prince (now King) Ezana was ready to rule. This they gladly did. During this time Frumentius discovered that Christianity had a tiny foothold there among the merchant class (whether the merchants had tiny feet, I cannot say), in part a remnant of the faith brought back by the Ethiopian eunuch mentioned in Acts 8.

When Ezana came of age, the two Syrians were given leave to leave. They traveled together as far as Alexandria, where they parted, Ed to his homeland, and Frum to Patriarch Athanasius, to ask for bishops and missionaries and stuffs for the Axumites. Ol’ Contra Mundum gathered his usual advice-givers together, and they all looked at one another and then at Frumentius. “You da man,” they said, and Frumentius was made bishop and sent back to Aksum with his missionaries. (“Frumentius and the Missionaries” would make a great name. . . .)

Upon his return, he converted King Ezana (by way of proof of which, Ezana’s early coins exhibit pagan religious symbols; his later ones, the cross), and established what would become the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo (“united,” referring to the natures of Christ) Church. “You didn’t do miracles before!” Ezana said. “I wasn’t clergy then,” Frumentius helpfully explained. Ultimately Christianity spread throughout the kingdom, and became the official religion. Frumentius was given the titles Kesate Birhan (Revealer of Light), Abba Salama (Father of Peace), and Abune (Patriarch of the EOTC). And, of course, “Saint.”


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
This Day in History for 27th October
Nestor the Chronicler (Wikipedia) – Main source
Venerable Nestor, the Chronicler of the Kiev Caves (OCA)
Theodosius of Kiev (Wikipedia)
Primary Chronicle (Wikipedia)
Chronicles (Encyclopedia of Ukraine)
Image of Nestor from Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule).
The Establishment of the Ethiopian Church (The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahado Church Faith and Order) – Main source
Frumentius (Wikipedia)
St Frumentius the Archbishop of Abyssinia, Ethiopia (OCA)
Ezana of Axum (Wikipedia)
Axum (Wikipedia)
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Wikipedia)
Icon of Frumentius from Villanova University (copyright unknown)

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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