Today, 21 Oct 2011, the Church remembers the life of St Hilarion, one of the great Desert Fathers. He longed for silence and solitude, with which to seek the heart of God, but for much of his life it was denied him. So many miracles accompanied his life on earth that we would be wise to get to know him better and thus seek his powerful intercession from heaven.
St Hilarion was born near Gaza to pagan parents. When the time came for him to be educated, they sent him to Alexandria. Excelling at his studies in this city, he grew in ability and chatacter. Here, as a teenager, Hilarion came into contact with Christianity and was converted. Attracted by the reports of the life of St Antony of Egypt, Hilarion set out to meet him. Still only 15 years old, Hilarion embraced St Antony’s lifestyle whole-heartedly. However far too many people were making their way to implore St Antony’s aid, so Hilarion returned to Palestine, settled his affairs, and began a hermit’s life in the wilderness of Majuma ( a locality on the coast road between Gaza and Egypt).
In this place, St Hilarion through prayer, fasting and self denial battled fierce temptations. Many of these battles were with temptations to lust, so he is someone we can turn to with confidence when we are faced with similar battles. Such a servant of God doesn’t remain hidden for long. Those who came to visit him were healed and set free from demons. Prior to St Hilarion there had been no monks in Palestine, but such were the numbers that came to him that desired to live this harsh life in their quest for God that he trained them, and monasteries sprang up all over the area.
One of these healings contains so much wisdom that it is worthwhile reviewing. A woman who had been blind for 10 years was brought to St Hilarion. She was now penniless, having spent all she had on physicians. As she came into his presence, he told her “If you had given to the poor what you have wasted on physicians, the true Physician Jesus would have cured you.” Since she was a woman of perseverance, she cried and begged for pity. In response, just like Jesus, St Hilarion made a paste with dirt and spittle and put it on her eyes. The woman was cured instantly.
As with many other Desert Fathers, the Lord God underlined how pleasing these lives of radical self denial were by permitting them to live to advanced old age. When the thirst for solitude overwhemed him, St Hlarion had quite a battle to leave Majuma since no one wanted him to leave. He set out for several lonely places around the Mediterranean, only to be discovered as a holy man time and time again. St Hilarion ended his days in Cyprus, and his faithful disciple St Hesychius managed to smuggle his remains back to Majuma.
As death came, St Hilarion repeated over and over, “Go forth, what do you fear? Go forth, my soul, why do you hestitate? You have served Christ nearly seventy years, and do you fear death?”
No less a person than St Jerome wrote about the life of St Hilarion. You can find a translation of this document at www.newadvent.org/fathers/3003.htm, and it is so much better than my paltry words. Do yourself a favour and read in it of the miracles worked through St Hilarion and his many words of wisdom.
St Hilarion, pray for us.