February 7 – Parthenius of Lampsacus and Luke the Younger

Map showing location of Lampsacus (at the western extremity of the Sea of Marmara)Parthenius of Lampsacus (fl. 325), was born in Melitopolis to a deacon (and we presume to a mother, although she’s not mentioned). A fisherman, Parthenius generously gave his proceeds to the poor. When he turned 18, he received the ability to heal people miraculously (I had no idea there were age restrictions on that sort of thing). Eventually he was bishopified and sent to Lampsacus, a veritable hornet’s nest of pagans and demons and things that go bump in the night. He had his work cut out for him, but he got right to it, healing the sick, casting out demons, and converting pagans with a will (actually he converted any who wanted to convert, not just the ones with wills). One day he met a man who had been possessed from childhood with an evil spirit. Parthenius ordered the spirit out, but it begged to be allowed to enter some other person, to which Parthenius agreed. “Okay where is he?” it asked. “Me,” the bishop said, opening his mouth wide. “How can I enter the House of God?” the demon shrieked, and it fled to “deserted and impassible places” (Passaic, NJ, or someplace like that).

When it came time to build a church, Parthenius got permission and a construction budget from (St.) Constantine the Great (May 21) to tear down a pagan temple and rebuild on its site. In the rubble of the temple he found a slab of marble he wanted to use for an altar, but when it was being moved, Satan pushed the cart over and it killed the driver[1]. Parthenius healed the driver and blew a raspberry at Satan (I’m paraphrasing a little here), and the hornéd one fled. The good bishop healed so many people (always free of charge, of course) that he put the doctors in town out of business (I didn’t make that up). Sadly they were not unionized, and our sources don’t say what happened to them. Parthenius died peacefully and was buried in a small chapel that he himself had built.

Mosaic of Luke the Younger from the Monastery of Hosios LoukasLuke the Younger (896–953) was a giver. He often went hungry after giving his food to the poor, and more than once came home naked after giving away his clothes. He drove his parents to distraction by planting more of their seed on the poor neighbors’ fields than on their own. We are told his parents’ crops grew back double, so presumably this only bugged them the first year (or they were very, very thick). When his father died, Luke told his family he wanted to join a monastery. When they said no, he ran away from home. (I’ll bet you saw that coming.)

He was caught and thrown into prison as a runaway slave, but he wasn’t there long. He convinced his captors of his identity and was allowed to return home, but he wasn’t there long. Two passing monks convinced his family to let him go to a monastery in Athens, but he wasn’t there long. Luke’s mother begged the abbot in a dream to send him home, but he wasn’t there long. Finally his mother became convinced of his calling, and allowed him to go.

So, when he turned 18, he built himself a hermitage near Corinth. There he worked many miracles, and (of course) sprouted disciples. When the Magyars attacked the area he fled with the local villagers to a desert island. He stayed on after they went back, but was eventually persuaded by his disciples to return to the mainland. A monastery grew up (go figure), Hosios Loukas, the largest surviving byzantine monastery in Greece and a UNESCO world heritage site. When he knew he was dying, he instructed his disciples to throw his body into a ravine for scavengers. “We don’t think so,” they said. He relented, and his tomb can still be visited at the famous monastery.

[1] Why Satan was hanging around that particular building site on that particular day, my sources do not say. Perhaps he was checking on why so many of his demons from that region were filing for unemployment insurance.