ܕܡܪܥܝܬܐ ܕܐܘܚܕ̈ܢܐ ܡܥܪ̈ܒܝܐ ܕܐܡܝܪܟܐ
|Alexis (Alexius, Alessio) of Rome, July 17|
|Alexis also known as Alexius, Alessio (A.D. 430)|
Early 5th century. Since the 10th century the story of Saint Alexis, called the "Man of God" by his unknown biographer, has been popular throughout the West. It was introduced from the East by some Greek monks who were given the Benedictine abbey of Saint Boniface on the Aventine, which was renamed Saint Boniface and Saint Alexis.
Though much of the legend is probably apocryphal, there is no doubt that there was a man of God called Alexis and that he achieved a great reputation for holiness at Edessa. It is, however, likely that he lived, died, and was buried at Edessa.
According to an almost contemporary account, a nameless man died in a hospital at Edessa in Mesopotamia about 430. He had lived by begging, and shared the alms he received with other poor people. After his death, it was learned that he was the son of a Roman patrician, who had left a wealthy bride on his wedding day and gone to live in poverty in Syria. An account of this man, which called him Alexis, was written in Greek, and a further narrative was produced in Latin.
According to the expanded late medieval version, Alexis was the only son of Euphremian, a Roman senator of enormous wealth and influence, and his wife Aglae (Agloe). They were devout Christians and brought up their son in the spirit of the Gospel. Even as a child, Alexis was known for his charity.
When Alexis reached manhood he allowed himself to be betrothed to an heiress who was related to the imperial family, though he had already determined to give his life to God. Their wedding took place with great pomp and dignity. As soon as the ceremony was ended, Alexis took off the gold ring that had just been placed on his finger, gave it to his bride. They separated by mutual consent and he fled from his home disguised as a beggar.
He set sail for Syria and then made his way on foot to the church of Our Lady of Edessa, famous as a shrine for pilgrims, where he lived in a shack adjoining the church. The Syrian text of his legend says: "During the day he remained steadfastly in the church and in the martyrium, refusing alms from those who offered them, for he wished to do without food during the day and thus forced himself to fast until the evening.
"In the evening, he stood in the doorway of the church and held out his hand, receiving the alms of those who entered the church. But as soon as he had received what he needed, he closed his hand and would take no more. Nor did he ever cease to live among the poor. Such was his life every day. Of his earlier condition and status he said not a word, nor did he even wish to reveal his name."
After living this life for 17 years, his identity was revealed; some say that he was recognized by a sacristan, others that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the people and said: "Seek the man of God." To avoid discovery, Alexis fled and took ship for Tarsus, but a tempestuous wind drove his ship to Italy.
He went to Rome and to his father's house, where he found that his parents were still living. He did not make himself known, nor did anyone recognize him, and when he asked for lodging he was given permission to sleep under the staircase of his own sumptuous home; and so he lived, begging his bread in the streets and working in the kitchen, where he was often insulted by the servants and sharing crumbs of what was rightly his.
Seventeen years later while Pope Innocent I was celebrating Mass before the emperor, he heard a voice saying: "Seek the man of God." Guided by the selfsame voice, he and the emperor went to the house of Euphremian, but when they arrived they found Alexis dead. His body was lying clothed in rags beneath the staircase, and in his hand he was holding a parchment that gave his name and history.
Alexis is the patron of beggars and pilgrims (Roeder).
(Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).