Thursday, May 22, 2003

St. Serapion the Sindonite: Seller of his own self

A sindon is a linen wrapping sheet. Abba Serapion was called the Sindonite because a wrapping sheet was, most of the time, all of the clothing he possessed. He saw no need to have any more. He was a wanderer, but wherever he was, he lived the poverty, humility, and recollection standard for the desert Christians.

His special giftedness, however, was in giving himself away.

It started with a comic actor, a pagan who was vehemently anti-Christian. Serapion, having pity on the actor's spiritual blindness, sold himself to this actor and became his slave. Subsisting on only water and bread, he served diligently and faithfully, and over the course of several years, he brought his master and the master's entire family to the faith, and also convinced this actor to find a new profession. In gratitude, Serapion was freed.

Very soon he sold himself a second time, to raise money to assist a widow in distress. After a time this new master, in return for graces received, also released Serapion, and gave him a cloak, a tunic, and a Book of Gospels.

Within the hour he had disposed of the cloak and the tunic, giving them to two poor shivering beggars, so he was back to his wrapping sheet. When a stranger came by and asked who had taken his clothes and left him so poorly covered, he showed the stranger the Book of Gospels, saying: This is what has stripped me. Before the end of the week, the Book of Gospels was also gone, sold to relieve a family in desperate need. A friend asked what had happened to the Book ---- "Can you believe it? This Gospel seemed continually to cry to me: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor. Therefore I have also sold it and given the money to destitute members of Christ."

Owning nothing but his own self, he sold himself repeatedly through the rest of his life, whenever the bodily or the spiritual needs of others seemed to require it. He died, having lived to an old age, sometime before the year 388.

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