Saint of the Day – 28 August – Saint Moses the Black (330-405) Priest, Monk, Hermit, Penitent, Evangeliser. Born in 330 Ethiopian ancestry and died by being murdered 405 by Berbers at Petra, Skete, Egypt. Patronage – of Africa. Also known as – Moses the Ethiopian, Moses of Scete.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “St Moses, an Ethiopian, who gave up a life of robbery and became a renowned anchorite. He converted many robbers and led them to a Monastery.”
Moses the Black lived during the fourth century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian and he was black of skin and, therefore, called “Murin” (meaning “like an Ethiopian”). In his youth he was the slave of an important man but after he committed a crime, his master banished him and he joined a band of robbers.
Moses and his band of brigands did many evil deedss. People were afraid at the mere mention of his name. He spent several years leading a sinful life but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert Monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The Monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance but the former robber would not be driven away nor silenced. He continued to ask that they accept him.
Moses was completely obedient to the Abbot and the brethren and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while, Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest fasting in a very austere lifestyle.
Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon his cell. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the Monastery, where he asked his superiors what to do with them. The superiors ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became Monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of Moses, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent Monks.
Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the Confessor, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the his Confessor taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest moderation. But the temptations did not cease to trouble Moses in his dreams.
Then he learnt of the all-night vigil. The Monk stood the whole night at prayer, so he would not fall asleep. From his prolonged struggles Moses fell into despondency and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, his Confessor instead, strengthened the resolve of his disciple.
Moses undertook a new penance. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the superiors, who lived far from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. Once, kneeling over the well, Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, lying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the Monk for his victory over them. In the morning the Monks carried him to his cell and he lay there a whole year crippled.
Accounts about his conversion spread even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the Saint. When he heard of this, Moses decided to hide from any visitors and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the Hermit. Moses. The Monk answered them: “Go no farther to see this unworthy Monk.” The servants returned to the Monastery where the governor was waiting and they told him the words of the Monk they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of his appearance, told them that they had encountered Moses himself.
After many years of monastic obedience, study and piety, Moses was Ordained Deacon. The Bishop clothed him in vestments and said, “Now Moses is entirely white!” The Saint replied, “Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within.”
Through humility, the Saint believed himself unworthy of the office of Deacon. Having put him to the test, the Bishop then Ordained Moses Priest . St Moses laboured for fifteen years in this rank and gathered around himself many disciples.
When the Saint reached age 75, he warned his Monks that soon brigands would descend upon the Monastery and murder all that were there. The Saint blessed his Monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples began to beseech him to leave with them but he replied: “For many years already, I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: “All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword” (Mt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with him and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed Moses and the six Monks who remained with him. Their death occurred in about the year 405.