Spoons and Simplicity

Orthodoxy, Chronic Illness and a quest for authentic life

St Euphrosynos (11th September)

St Euphrosynos the cook has been one of my favourite Saints for a very long time. When I was first getting into Orthodoxy I combined my love of religious history stories (I discovered Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the more modern similar books very early in life) with the internet and my lack of anything else to do due to illness and devoured the lives of Saints. Some of them just make your heart sing, and this was one of them for me. His life can be found in varying places on the internet, this is one of my favourite resources for it.

In a nutshell, he was a monk at a monastery who had the lowly task of being the monastery’s cook. He baked bread, made the simple food of the monastery, and lived a life without praise, prestige or even much thanks. But he kept the ultimate Christian virtues – constant prayer and vigilance, obedience, and service to his neighbour, and lived in the monastery quietly until one night a holy priest prayed that he might be granted to see the reward of the righteous. In his dreams he found himself in a beautiful garden, and wondered to himself if this could be paradise. Suddenly he noticed another monk there in the garden, the cook from his monastery, Euphrosynos. He asked the monk if it could possibly be Paradise where they were, and the cook assured him that it was, and the priest asked if he could have a gift from the garden, of the apples he could see growing there, which St Ephrosynos said that he might and took them, giving them to him. At that moment the priest awoke hearing the call to prayer for Matins, and found to his astonishment that the apples were in his kerchief, on his bed! He left them there and went to Church for the service, and when the service ended he found the Saint and asked him where he had last seen him, receiving the answer that it was ‘in that place where we both were’, confirming the dream of the priest. The priest shared this with the other brethren, who ran to give due reverence to their brother the cook, but he had fled the monastery, not wanting human glory or fame.

I love his humility, his simple but steadfast faith, and there’s something about the image of the two monks in Paradise, one who had only just come to see it and one who had dwelled there before and had the authority to share its gifts with others, and the apple tree in paradise with fruit that was physically present in this world. It reminds me of the story of St Irene Chrysovalantou, who was also given three apples from Heaven. There’s something about these images that are described in the lives of the Saints that strikes a chord in me, and I remember them as keys to the stories.

When I can’t get to Church I try to keep the feasts in some way at home, in decoration, candles, reading their lives, singing hymns and making special food. For St Euphrosynos I decorated his icon with rosemary (what better flower for a cook?), replacing last year’s dried stems, and put flowers by his icon – all culinary ones, because why not? 🙂

St Euphrosynos on a sunlit window in my kitchen, with his heavenly apples.

Culinary bouquet for a cook Saint! Nasturtiums, rosemary and plum blossom.

I also came across a wonderful post about St Euprosynos as the “humble Saint in our midst” which I found inspiring, read it here.

I also love the idea of eating apples (especially golden apples like golden delicious) on his feast day, which I found here. What a wonderful way to remember the Saint and the symbols of heavenly blessings.

Thou didst live righteously in great humility, in labors of asceticism and in guilelessness of soul / O righteous Euphrosynos. / Hence, by a mystical vision, thou didst demonstrate most wondrously the heavenly joy which thou hadst found. / Do thou make us worthy to be partakers thereof by thine intercessions. ~ Troparion, tone 4

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