July 17, 2019: ST. ALEXIUS
July 17, 2019: ST. ALEXIUS, CONFESSOR
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love
(James, i. 12)
O God, who didst render blessed Alexius, thy confessor, admirable for his contempt of the world; grant, we beseech thee, that by the help of his intercession, thy faithful may despise earthly things, and ever aspire to things celestial. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Although we are not commanded to follow the Saints to the extremities where their heroic virtue leads them, nevertheless, from their inaccessible heights, they still guide us along the easier paths of the plain. As the eagle upon the orb of day, they fixed their unflinching gaze upon the Sun of Justice; and, irresistibly attracted by his divine splendour, they poised their flight far above the cloudy region where we are glad to screen our feeble eyes. But however varied be the degrees of brightness for them and for us, the light itself is unchangeable, provided that, like them, we draw it from the authentic source. When the weakness of our sight would lead us to mistake false glimmerings for the truth, let us think of these friends of God; if we have not courage enough to imitate them, where the commandments leave us free to do so or not, let us at least conform our judgments and appreciations to theirs: their view is more trustworthy, because farther reaching; their sanctity is nothing but the rectitude wherewith they follow up unflinchingly, even to its central focus, the heavenly ray, whereof we can scarcely bear a tempered reflection. Above all, let us not be led so far astray by the will-o’-the-wisps of this world of darkness, as to wish to direct, by their false light, the actions of the saints: can the owl judge better of the light than the eagle?
Descending from the pure firmament of the holy Liturgy even to the humblest conditions of Christian life, the light which led Alexius to the highest point of detachment, is thus subdued by the Apostle to the capacity of all: “If any man take a wife, he hath not sinned, nor the virgin whom he marrieth; nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh, which I would fain spare you. This, therefore, I say, brethren: the time is short; it remaineth, therefore, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (I Cor, vii. 28-31)
Yet it passes not too quickly for our Lord to show that His words never pass away. Five centuries after the glorious death of Alexius, the eternal God, to whom distance and time are as nothing, gave him a hundredfold the posterity he had renounced for the love of Him. The monastery on the Aventine, which still bears his name together with that of the martyr Boniface, had become the common patrimony of East and West in the eternal City; the two great monastic families of Basil and Benedict united under the roof of Alexius, and the seed taken from his tomb by the monk-bishop St. Adalbert brought forth the fruit of faith among the northern nations.
The Church gives us the following very short notice of our hero:
Alexius was the son of one of Rome's noblest families. Through his exceeding love for Jesus Christ, he, by a special inspiration from God, left his wife still a virgin on the first night of his marriage, and undertook a pilgrimage to the most illustrious Churches all over the world. For seventeen years he remained unknown, while performing these pilgrimages, and then his name was revealed at Edessa, a town of Syria, by an image of the most holy Virgin Mary. He therefore left Syria by sea and sailed to the port of Rome, where he was received as a guest by his own father who took him for a poor stranger. He lived in his father's house, unknown to all, for seventeen years, and then passed to heaven, leaving a written paper which revealed his name, his family, and the story of his whole life. His death occurred in the Pontificate of Innocent I.
Another account of St. Alexius.
In the Fifth Century
St. Alexius or Alexis is a perfect model of the most generous contempt of the world. He was the only son of a rich senator of Rome, born and educated in that capital, in the fifth century. From the charitable example of his pious parents he learned, from his tender years, that the riches which are given away to the poor, remain with us for ever; and that alms-deeds are a treasure transferred to heaven, with the interest of an immense reward. And whilst yet a child, not content to give all he could, he left nothing unattempted to compass or solicit the relief of all whom he saw in distress. But the manner in which he dealt about his liberal alms was still a greater proof of the noble sentiments of virtue with which his soul was fired; for by this he showed that he thought himself most obliged to those who received his charity, and regarded them as his greatest benefactors. The more he enlarged his views of eternity, and raised his thoughts and desires to the bright scene of immortal bliss, the more did he daily despise all earthly toys; for, when once the soul is thus upon the wing, and soars upwards, how does the glory of this world lessen in her eye! and how does she contemn the empty pageantry of all that worldlings call great!
Fearing lest the fascination, or at least the distraction of temporal honours might at length divide or draw his heart too much from those only noble and great objects, he entertained thoughts of renouncing the advantages of his birth, and retiring from the more dangerous part of the world. Having, in compliance with the will of his parents, married a rich and virtuous lady, he on the very day of the nuptials, making use of the liberty which the laws of God and his church give a person before the marriage be consummated, of preferring a more perfect state, secretly withdrew, in order to break all the ties which held him in the world. In disguise he travelled into a distant country, embraced extreme poverty, and resided in a hut adjoining to a church, dedicated to the Mother of God. Being, after some time there, discovered to be a stranger of distinction, he returned home, and being received as a poor pilgrim, lived some time unknown in his father's house, bearing the contumely and ill-treatment of the servants with invincible patience and silence. A little before he died, he by a letter discovered himself to his parents. He flourished in the reign of the Emperor Honorius, Innocent the First being Bishop of Rome; and is honoured in the calendars of the Latins, Greeks, Syrians, Marionites, and Armenians. His interment was celebrated with the greatest pomp by the whole city of Rome, on the Aventin Hill. His body was found there in 1216, in the ancient Church of St. Boniface, whilst Honorius III sat in St. Peter's chair, and at this day is the most precious treasure of a sumptuous church on the same spot, which bears his name jointly with that of St. Boniface, gives title to a cardinal, and is in the bands of the Hieronymites.
The extraordinary paths in which the Holy Ghost is pleased sometimes to conduct certain privileged souls are rather to be admired than imitated. If it cost them so much to seek humiliations, how diligently ought we to make a good use of those at least which Providence sends us! It is only by humbling ourselves on all occasions that we can walk in the path of true humility, and root out of our hearts all secret pride. The poison of this vice infects all states and conditions: it often lurks undiscovered in the foldings of the heart even after a man has got the mastery over all his other passions. Pride always remains even for the most perfect principally to fight against; and unless we watch continually against it, nothing will remain sound or untainted in our lives; this vice will creep even into our best actions, infect the whole circle of our lives, and become a main spring of all the motions of our heart; and what is the height of our misfortune, the deeper its wounds are, the more is the soul stupified by its venom, and the less capable is she of feeling her most grievous disease and spiritual death. St. John Climacus writes, that when a young novice was rebuked for his pride, he said, “Pardon me, father, I am not proud.” To whom the experienced director replied, “And how could you give me a surer proof of your pride than by not seeing it yourself?”
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Missal for the Laity, according to the use of the Holy Roman Church, 1846.
St. Alexius, pray for us.