Post published 13/10/2016, text from
“The Byzantine hagiography of Sicily: the life of Sant’Elia di Enna”
report by Father Alessio and Roberto Raciti, editing F. Emma.
The Conference: “The monastic figure, the spirituality and the grandiose work of Sant’Elia di Enna ..”
Life of St. Elias of Enna
The life of this holy monk lived between 823 and 903 AD is handed down to us by two Greek manuscripts, one kept at the University Library of Messina and the other at the National Library of Naples. Writings after the year 1300, these two volumes are in turn copies of a previous manuscript now lost, compiled around the tenth century. Giuseppe Rossi Taibbi in 1962 transcribed and translated the text into Italian from the Greek and published it under the title: “Vita di Sant’Elia il Giovane” for the “Sicilian Institute of Byzantine and Neo-Hellenic Studies”.
The Conference of 27 and 28 September 2016: “The monastic figure, the Byzantine spirituality and the grandiose work of Elia di Enna in the Sicilian and Calabrian tradition” began with the biography of the saint, born in Enna in 823, told in the report “The Byzantine hagiography of Sicily: the life of St. Elias of Enna”, by Father Alessio, Archimandita of the sacred Hermitage of Candelora (Santa Lucia del Mela, Messina), and by Roberto Raciti, scholar and scholar of Sant’Elia.
The summary of the life of St. Elias is extrapolated from the report below.
In italics the quotations from the aforementioned book of the Taibbi, the images come from the manuscript “Madrid Skylitses”, a 12th century code from Sicily, kept at the Library of Madrid, illustrating some episodes of Elijah’s life in the context of the history of time .
Father Alessio & Roberto Raciti
The saint, known by various names: Sant’Elia di Enna, the Younger, the New, the Sicilian, was born in Enna around the year 823
This most holy man and our father Elijah, a citizen of heaven, … the perfect model of the monks … .the earthly angel and the celestial man, was a Sicilian lineage, originating from the city named Enna (1), and the son of illustrious and pious parents, descendants from a noble family, the Rachites (2). When his mother was born, he called him John, so that even in this it would be evident that, as he had the same name as the precursor Baptist and had been worthy of the same great grace from his mother’s womb (4), he would have walked the same way of Elijah Tesbite and would have enjoyed the same grace of his.
His parents moved to the castle of “Santa Maria”, around the year 828, (identified by Paolo Vetri with the place where now stands the Church of Carmine in Enna together with its bell tower, called “Sant’Elia”), rejoicing for the gift of the prophecy of the son who in the meantime had turned eight.
When the aforementioned city of Enna was about to be devastated by the Saracens of Carthage (5), his parents took him along with a few of their possessions and reached the castle of Santa Maria (6). While they lived there and already the boy had turned eight years, they were happy for that truce from their evils and for the progress of their son towards God; the Lord in fact showed him the fulfilment of future events and granted him the grace to see the facts from afar, as he had in ancient times granted it to Samuel (7)
Later John had a vision that heralded his slavery in Africa:
Once, while at night he slept, he had a divine apparition that told him: “John, you must reach Africa as a prisoner and be a servant, and many of those who are wavering in faith in that land lead you to the truth “. After exposing this prediction to his parents, he waited, without them allowing him to leave the city, even for a short time.
When he was twelve years old, he began to prolong his prayers by meditating on the Scriptures. He also predicted a second assault by the Muslims and a massacre of citizens:
“…was then illuminated by the Spirit, the inspired boy began to foretell the future events of that country; he affirmed that after three days the enemies would assail the inhabitants of that place [Enna] and would have carried out a massacre of many citizens, saying the names of those who were to be killed. All the people then gathered near him, wanting to hear his word, and he opened his mouth from the divine afflatus and exhorted them to repent, to keep away from evil deeds, to pursue virtuous life, unconditional charity and, as the Apostle says. , holiness, without which nobody will see the Lord … ”
The Saracens were waiting for the opportunity for yet another attack around the year 837 AD, John was aware of it and warned the people, but here is that:
“… His parents left for a certain country, those remained alone in the house. One day some of his peers went to see him and forced him out of the city with them for a short time. Parties left and moved far away, suddenly the Saracens fell upon him and they all captured them. And this child of God was also taken along with the others and was dragged by force on the ship and continually wept, remembering the speech addressed to him by the divine power, that is, that he should have been taken prisoner in Africa. ”
An appearance on the ship encouraged him by announcing his release and return to the family:
“The same apparition was also shown to those who had the command of the ship, saying:” Come back quickly and free this child, for he is a servant of God; otherwise, you will be handed over to the hands of Roman soldiers today “. Those however, as if they were mocking the apparition and the proffered words …. navigation continued. ”
A Byzantine ship moved from Syracuse reached the ship and freed the prisoners. Giovanni remained for three years from 837 to 839 near the family, and his father died a new apparition renewing his mission in Africa. Around 839 another more serious raid occurred. John who was away from the castle was captured and sold to a slave merchant who sold it to a rich Christian tanner in Africa. He noticed Giovanni’s ability to put him in charge of the house. However, the wife of the master, taken by malice, continually tried to slander him because of the resistance of the saint to his flattery:
“Have you conducted this young Sicilian here to scoff me? For he dared to invite me to unworthy action. But I kept my ears and looked away, as dear is the truth to honest and chaste women. In truth I was astonished, as it is natural, for his extraordinary audacity and I would have liked to hit him, but, fearing the escape of the bad servant, I was forced to stifle the shame of the outrage, refraining my tongue in silence. So now you have heard and do what you need, because it is not a legitimate husband to hide the offenses against his wife. ”
Believed guilty and subjected to torture, he is finally recognized as innocent by the master, discovering his wife in flagrant adultery with a lover. In return, Giovanni receives freedom, being able to move where he preferred. While meditating to go to Palestine to become a monk, an apparition gives him the thaumaturgical power:
“Two men, one Christian and one Ismaelite, contended among themselves, and the Christian gave a sledgehammer and broke the head of this Ishmaelite. The family members of the affected one grabbed and tied, the other spread out on an agonizing stretcher, and both led before the emir (10). The latter, astonished by this unusual matter, commanded that the Saracen, now awaiting death, be transported home and the Christian be beheaded. The admirable man was aware of the incident, quickly went to the struck and, clasping his head with both hands and occultly marking him with the cross, restored him healthy, so that he could immediately get up and go to the emir and announce to the people the miracle. The emir, having seen and changed the outrage in admiration… diffed the manager and granted that the saint freely his work performed. ”
Other miraculous healings and conversions of Saracens followed that were baptized by the local priests led by the bishop Pantoleone, a sign of a still active and present Christian hierarchy. The continuous teachings and works are taken as a threat by the leaders of the Arabs. John is accused before the emir to introduce a “new religion”:
“Thus, as has been said, accomplishing these miracles by the saint and his teaching spreading throughout the region, the leaders of the Ishmaelites accuse him before the Prince of the Believers, saying that he wanted to introduce a new religion, which taught the son of Mary, together with a certain Consubstantial and coeternal Spirit of God, and who despised the Prophet and disdained his prophecies …. ”
He was condemned to death but released the following day by a miraculous intervention. Later he took his leave and went to Jerusalem. It is possible to hypothesize from the analysis of the text that the saint spent almost forty years of his life in Aglabite Africa from about 839 to 878 AD.
In April 878 the saint arrives in Jerusalem, meets the patriarch Elijah III who dresses him in the sacred habit of the monks changing his name to Elijah. The saint travels to Palestine visiting the sacred places and then spends three years in the monastery of Mount Sinai perfecting the monastic virtues.
Reached Alexandria of Egypt prays in the temples of St. Mark, Peter, Mena, Cyrus and John but annoyed by the honours he went to Persia and then change route and reach Antioch of Syria because of an uprising in Persia, probably the Zang uprising from 877 to 883. A new apparition shows him the mountain on which to build a monastery in his homeland. Elijah embarked on the journey to Ifriqiya, he came across some Saracens who converted by exposing the superiority of the Christian religion.
Arrives in Sicily and finds the elderly mother in Palermo, then heads to Reggio Calabria. In the city Elijah predicts the victory of the Byzantine army (occurred in the waters of Milazzo in August 880) led by Admiral Basil Nasar with a fleet of forty-five ships against the naval expedition of the emir and reassures the population that wanted to escape ‘indoor.
The saint goes to Taormina and welcomes a young disciple of a noble family who will be called Daniel. Warned by revelation of an imminent attack, he embarks with Daniele to the Peloponnesso. While they live in the neighbourhood of Sparta near the temple of San Cosma and Damiano, Elijah healed the sick …
“Then, when the night came, because both Elijah and Daniel had finished their usual prayers, each on his own account, as they used to do, went off to sleep. There was near the temple a deep and dark cave, in which Daniel entered and stayed all night to pray. The devils could not bear it, for they were lurking in the recesses of the antrum, and they fell upon him suddenly, and among the violent beatings they dragged him out, leaving him half-alive. At the dawn the divine Elijah looked for him and found him lying in front of the cave and moaning. When he learned of this, he said to him: “Do not be surprised, son. For you were not only you to suffer this evil, but also others, the teacher and guide of the monks [St. Anthony] (11) ”
At that time happen the events that the saint predicted for Taormina in the summer of 881. After Sparta the two monks reach Butrint, Albania:
“From there the holy fathers left, they sailed towards Butroto, which is the port city of Epirus Vetus. At that time he was the one who occupied the position inferior to the strategist, a wicked man, arrogant and arrogant. These, seeing the holy fathers and not understanding the grace of the Spirit that housed in them … .so consequently harsh words in their regard, calling them impious Agarenes and spies of the cities. Prostrating themselves, they pleaded that he did not have such suspicions towards foreign monks. The man was also invited by the strategist, to whom Blessed Elias was known, to change his mind, but he did not convince himself, nor put down his anger, even with arrogant and arrogant mind he ordered them to be thrown into the prison, they were firmly guarded and the tomorrow, since it was evening, they would be punished as troublemakers … ”
“And what then? Did God persist in making revenge for his servants? Certainly not, but the next day that little judge was hit in the chest by his horse and immediately died. The people, known the ready vengeance of the holy men, raised hymns of thanksgiving to God, saviour and lord of all. ”
The two holy men decided to go on pilgrimage to Rome, but unable to succeed in their intent first stayed in Corfu Episcopio, then landed in Reggio and went to the place called “Saline” in which Elijah founded the monastery, according to the revelation in Antiochia, we are about 884 in the year.
“Elijah and Daniel alone cultivated the divine paradise of the virtues and in many they stimulated similar ardour and for many were the way of salvation, turning them from vice to virtue … For this precisely the Lord gave his disciples these teachings saying: your light shines before men in such a way that, seeing your good works, give glory to your Father who is in heaven “(12).”
Elijah in the monastery exercised the virtues of a physician of souls, of a prophet and a miracle worker. He was affable, pleasant in conversation, humble in human relationships, and subjugated flesh with fasting and prayer.
“The need arose to find himself on the sides of Pentadattilo (13) and he passed from the pond that is in those parts, together with the disciple Daniel, who, going near him, showed the master the very pretty and exact psaltery, which he claimed to have procured from himself. Those addressed to him said: “Go and throw it into the pond”. Blessed Daniel did not know disobedience and fulfilled the order of the teacher. Then they travelled six miles, and the divine Elijah said to Daniel: “Go back, son, and resume the psaltery.” Then Daniel came back and found it not damaged by water. When he reached the saint, he showed him the psaltery again, marvelling as if he had remained intact. The great one said to him: “The psalter, O son, your obedience preserved unscathed”
After returning to the monastery, they found themselves near the temple dedicated to St. Panteleemone, and in that place appeared the Saints Peter and Paul who invited him to leave immediately for Rome with the disciple Daniel, we are around the year 885:
“At the cock crow he took the disciple with him, he embarked and left for Rome. Arrived in Rome, having completed the vote, he did not enjoy the bishop of common honours. These were the admirable Stefano14, who at the time held the rudder of the Roman Church and his life accorded the dignity of the priestly magisterium. ”
While in Rome, Elia tells Daniele about the death of his father Giona, despite the enormous distance from Taormina. Back at the Saline monastery the news is confirmed by some travellers.
One day while Elijah was in Reggio attending the morning liturgy he predicts to Demetrius, superior of the priests who would become bishop. In fact, this happens around the year 887 when he met the Patriarch of Constantinople and was elected bishop of Corfu, succeeding Pachomius.
Around the autumn of 888 Elijah predicted the assault of Reggio by the Agareni and left the monastery sailing to Patras. Returning to the monastery after the departure of the enemies he took refuge in Mesiano, (province of Catanzaro) together with the disciple Daniel to escape the annoyances of fame that prevented them from living in peace and prayer. This happens between the year 889 and 899. The premonition of an enemy raid in those places encourages the saint to return to the salt pans where he predicts the death of his mother, an event confirmed by some travellers who came from Palermo. A certain Costantino di Scilla recovered from arthritis, but these fell into worse vices and died miserably.
The attack on Reggio by “Bulambes” ie Abu-al-Abbas son of Ibrahim is predicted by the saint on 10 June 901 and he worked to make the inhabitants obtain God’s forgiveness by avoiding the catastrophe. They did not listen and many were taken prisoner while the two holy fathers awaited the disaster in the castle of Santa Cristina (towards the Aspromonte).
“… then the master of the naval fleet arrived, named Michele (15), who was a friend of the divine father and for him he had esteem and veneration, and sent to ask him to know for divine illumination if the Lord would happily lead his path and if he would have won the enemies; all in fact they considered him as a prophet and man of God.
Those in return send him to say this: “If you want, oh dear, to have the upper hand over the enemies and win them by force, purify your people, according to God’s command to Moses. …Therefore, do not allow these men to live in fornication and debauchery and shamelessly contaminate themselves in such ugliness, and you yourself turn the eye and the mind to God and you will see the vanquished enemies “.
The prayers were heard and the second attack was thwarted thanks also to the commander of the Byzantine fleet Michael who followed the advice of Elijah, removing his army from debauchery and sin. So many Reggio prisoners could return to their homeland. We are in the spring of 902.
Elijah was now old, in fact he was almost 80 years old, and he remained in the monastery receiving the visits of many faithful and bishops to listen to inspired words. Even the emperor Leo VI whose fame had come, sent ambassadors asking the saint to pray for the fortunes of the empire.
“Many of the bishops went to him and wanted to hear his speeches; and he received them with devotion, as fathers welcomed them and as shepherds he revered them and asked them to pray for him. Indeed, if he was of sublime life, yet he did not exceed the right limits. His fame then came to the emperor; in fact the most emperor Leo, whom we have already mentioned, informed of his virtues, admired him and sent him to say to pray for the imperial majesty and for all the empire. ”
Some time later the monks wanted to go to Taormina to revere the relics of San Pancrazio. While they were there Elijah predicted the attack of Ibrahim II and the slaughter that he would do, warning the inhabitants and exhorting them to make amends for their sins. Similarly, the patrician of the city Constantine warned. But the Taorminesi did not listen to the words of the venerable father and he, together with the disciple, left the city for Amalfi.
“Standing to rest on a bed of the Crunch house [in Taormina] because of old age, the saint said to Crisis:” See the bed on which I lie? It will welcome the bloodthirsty Brachimo to sleep, and many of the notables of this city (14) in this palace they will perish by the sword “. But Crisis by concealing laughed at his words. Then the old man rose and announced to leave for the city of Amalfi.
When he had already arrived in the middle of the city, he lifted his robe up to his knees. Daniel, amazed by the unusual action of the man, said: “What is it that you do, Father?”. He replied: “I see a great tide of blood here. Do you then see these conspicuous and large buildings? From the descendants of Agar they will be cut down.”
Welcomed by the bishop of the city, after a few days they had news of the conquest of Taormina. Ibrahim after destroying the city and slaughtered the majority of the inhabitants moved against Reggio and then focused on Cosenza. The continuous prayers, fasts and invocations of Elijah had the best and the hated enemy died in Cosenza on October 23, 902.
“The prefect of the city of Amalfi17 had a seriously ill grandson and asked the saint to visit her. Those allowing went into the house of the sick and, as soon as he passed the door, the fever immediately ceased, and the pulsations returned to the natural condition, the forces, which had come less completely, were fully restored, and sleep, which was previously defect and was interrupted by jolts, he came back very sweet; and the woman was healthy, the disease dispelled by the mere presence of the celebrated father. ”
Among the other miracles and prodigals of Elia we remember:
– the miraculous release of a young prisoner in Africa since the conquest of Reggio.
– the release from the slavery of a farmer who announced the capture by giving him a message for the emir.
– the end of a severe drought that lasted five months thanks to prayers.
– crossing through the river Secro in full, under the astonished eyes of the disciples Daniel and Saba.
– the intercession of a source of water to quench the disciple Daniel.
-A Santa Ciriaca, that is Gerace, the healing of a paralytic priest named Malachi.
“He was the meekest of all men, as we hear of Moses, but in regard to those who opposed and spoke against good, he was very good at refuting them and completely impartial. In fact, he did not behave according to the opinion of each … .but he was constant and sensible in his purpose, and gave nothing to anyone beyond the right, … It was then possible to see him very often judge and pronounce fair judgments … ”
“He always fasted and delicious foods were bread and salt; and drink, spring water; bed, the grass; party, the remaining standing all night; lavacro, the moans and the incessant thought of death. In this harsh existence repressing and subduing the flesh, he appeared more resplendent and more ready than those who were at the most vigorous age and lived in every comfort of life. However, if sometimes he went away to go to some of his acquaintances, he simply took the food prepared for him. Such was his life. ”
Michael, who had triumphed over the Ishmaelites, was sent as a strategist to Calabria to stifle a sedition raised by a certain Columbus. He is captured and ready to be executed, but Elijah intervenes and intercedes for the prisoner. The strategist refused to listen to the supplications and after seven days he was hit by an illness and died.
Elias, now elderly, remained in the monastery when the emperor Leo VI sent him an invitation to go to Constantinople to enjoy his prayers. Elias, in spite of her old age, accepts on condition that she can take Columbus with her. Secretly he reveals to the disciple Daniel that death would have prevented seeing the emperor, but the journey would have allowed Columbus’s salvation.
They sail towards Ericusa, where he meets Crotto di Taormina to whom Elias predicts unfortunate death. At Naupatto he learns that the Arab fleet was going to attack Constantinople, but the saint, to everyone’s amazement, predicts that the fleet would divert to Thessalonica halfway, plundering it, which happens on July 31, 904.
Elijah crosses the Eliade, gets sick but not seriously. He then sends Colombo forward with a letter to the emperor to obtain the grace of liberation. Reached the suburbs of Thessalonica stops at the temple of the Holy Apostles, the next day visits the temple of St. Demetrius and its ciborium, but back to the bridge outside the city feels the torments of evil that afflict it and asks for a bed to rest. The place was not suitable and is moved to the place called “The Kilns” near the Baths where called the disciple tells him:
“Daniel, my son, as I have written 19, I set out for the way of the fathers, because it is now time of my dissolution (in fact I am eighty years old). You followed my teaching, my rule of life, my purpose; in these principles persist, never neglect them in the ascetic life, but esteem to live as if every day you must die20. This also recommends to the brothers. Do not leave my body here, nor on the other hand you must allow it to be transported to the imperial city; I know in fact that the Emperor will try to get it. I knew it by divine premonition, and I have long since given you a letter to the emperor, whose content is that, after death, my body is transported to his monastery. …So, my son, goodbye, that Elijah passes through and is no longer in this world “.
So he spoke, and those and others who were present embraced him. Then, after having welcomed as friends all those who came to greet him and rejoiced greatly for their presence, Elijah with happy face died and he also joined the fathers on the seventeenth day of the month of Loo, that is August (22).
A large crowd of monks and lay people is worthwhile in the next 10 months, and the same strategist paid tribute to the corpse with the army. Later came the patrician Vardas Focas who asked to venerate the remains. When the tomb was opened they found the body uncorrupted, informed the emperor, and asked that the spoils be brought to Constantinople. Elijah, having foreseen this fact before his death, had Daniel give the emperor a letter asking for his burial in the monastery of the Saline in Calabria. Leo VI arranged for a Calabrian named George, so that the body could be translated. The parade goes to Rossano and from there continues towards the castle of Bisignano, warned by Daniel that the monks of the monastery moved to meet the corpse in Tauriana, at that time the bishop’s seat. From there the remains were taken to the monastery where they do not cease to work miraculous healing. The emperor then gave many rents to the cenoby so that he became the most illustrious of all the monasteries of Italy.
“May it happen to us, not only as auditors of the works of our divine father Elias, but also his imitators in all of life, so that we may feel worthy of glory equal to that enjoyed by us in the present, and to that which he will enjoy in the future in the kingdom of heaven … So be it. ”
1 Enna, called by the Romans Castrum Ennae, from which derived Qasr Yannah (al-Baladuri, IX century) and then Castrogiovanni, in 1927 became the provincial capital and took back the ancient name.
2 The existence of a surname “ῥαχίτης” in Sicily is attested for the XIII century. In fact two diplomas of 1217 and 1245 of the monastery of St. Philip of Fragalà have in the text “Γουλλίελμος ό Ῥαχήτης and Γουλλίελμος ό Ῥαχίτης.” [This surname is then attested in the province of Catania under the form “Rachiti” in 1456 in an act of notary Pietro Marotta di Randazzo, vol.5, c.110r-v, “Pietro de Rachiti alias apaturi of Linguaglossa” and later in the surname Raciti present in the territory of Jaci since the sixteenth century.]
3 In 823, according to the date of death, which occurred on August 17, 903, at the age of eighty.
4 Luc. 1, 13-15.
5 The text refers to the attack launched in the summer of 828 by the Muslim army who had survived the siege of Syracuse. V. Commentary.
6 Location identified by Paolo Vetri in the modern church of the Carmine of Enna to which the bell tower called “Torre di Sant’Elia” is annexed, see The story of Enna p.211-214.
7 1 Reg. 3, 19 ss.
8 Cf. Rom. 6, 22; 1Thes. 4, 3
9 See Genes. 39, 17.
10 Probably the aglabite Muhammad II (863-875).
11 St. Anthony (+356), hermit in Egypt. The episode, to which the text refers, is narrated by Athanasius, Vita di Antonio, PG 26, 2, 856 A.
12 Matth. 5, 16.
13 Pentidattilo is today a fraction about 6 km. north of the municipality of Melito Porto Salvo (Province of Reggio Calabria). The village, which has very ancient origins, is perched on the slopes of a hill (320 meters), whose spiers form like five fingers of a giant hand. In its vicinity in the locality called Lacco (<λάκκος), there was a pond, cf. Minasi, Lo Speleota ,. p. 183.
14 Stephen V, who was Pope from 885 to 891.
15 Around this Michael, captain of the Byzantine fleet and winner of the Muslims, and subsequently the strategist of Calabria (text 184.108.40.206) lacked secure news. G. Da Costa-Louillet, Saints, p.104 would propose to identify him with Michele Charactos, who sources tell us he was present at the siege of Taormina.
16 See Exod. 19, 10.
17 Manso Fusilis was prefect of Amalfi from 896 to 914. From the 900 he associated his son Mastalus to the government. V. Grumel, Chronologie, p. 442; Gay, L’Italie mer. et l’empire byz., pp. 249-251.
18 Num. 12, 3 and cf. Eccles. 45, 4.
19 See Josue 23, 14.
20 Antonio, according to the Life written by Athanasius, thus recommended to the brothers (PG 26, 2, 872 A):
Εἰς δὲ τὸ μὴ ὀλιγωρεῖν ἡμᾶς καλὸν τὸ τοῦ Ἀποστόλου ῥητὸν μελετᾷν, τὸ, “Καθ ‘ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω” (1Cor 15, 31). Ἂν γὰρ καὶ ἡμεῖς, ὡς ἀποθνήσκοντες καθ ‘ἡμέραν, οὕτως ζῶμεν, οὐχ ἁμαρτήσομεν. See also Commentary.
21 The text from 1. 1529 to l. 1553 draws inspiration and adheres also for the form to the Life of Antonio, PG 26, 2, 969 B – 972 B.
22 Of the 903. The year is surely determined, since the 31 July of the 904 Thessalonica was conquered by the Arabs.
Elias of Enna
Saint Elias of Enna, born John Rachites (Greek: Ἰωάννης Ῥαχίτης; 822/823 in Enna – August 17, 903 in Thessaloniki), is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Elias is also known as Saint Elias the Younger, or Junior, to distinguish him from the biblical prophet Elijah. He lived a very adventurous life during the ninth century and was the protagonist of repeated ups and downs. He is commemorated on Aug. 17.
Because of the Muslim conquest of Sicily, John forced to abandon the town, which was conquered by the Saracens in 859, despite its strength as a military stronghold. The Arabs still managed to imprison Elias, who was taken to Ifriqiya to be sold as a slave. After managing to regain his freedom, Elias decided to preach the Gospel, putting more times to risk his own life, and arrived in Palestine, he received the monastic habit from the Patriarch of Jerusalem. After three years in a monastery of Sinai, Brother Elias undertaken an adventurous travel series, going first to Alexandria in Egypt, and Persia, Antioch and again to Africa. After 878 Syracuse also fell into Arab hands. Elias returned to the island, where he met his elderly mother in Palermo. At Taormina he met Daniel, his new disciple. Going north, Elias lived in Calabria, where in the year 884, in the “Valley of Salt” and precisely on Mount Aulinas (now Mount Saint Elias near Palmi), he founded a monastery later named after him. subsequent Arab invasions forced Elias to repair to Patras in Greece, and then at Santa Caterina in Aspromonte.
Elias then went on a pilgrimage to Rome. The adventures, the wonders and the work of evangelization that Elias had undertaken on three continents extended his fame to Constantinople, where the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise invited him to visit. Elias, however, now seventy, though he had begun the journey to Constantinople, fell ill and died at Thessaloniki. The most faithful friend and companion, the monk Daniel, buried him in the monastery of Monte Aulinas, at Palmi, founded by the saint.
Places of worship dedicated to the saint
In Italy the following churches are dedicated to him:
Church of Saint Elias of Palmi
Orthodox Monastery of Saints Elias and Filaret of Seminara
Church of Saint Elias of Reggio Calabria
Giuseppe Rossi Taibbi, The Life of St. Elias the Younger, Sicilian Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1962
A. Basile, The New Monastery of St. Elias and St. Philaret at Seminara in ASCL XIV, 1945, n. 2;
N. Ferrante, The Monastery of St. Elianovo and Philaretos Seminara in Historica XXXII (1979);
Anonymous (Monaco), Life and Works Of Our Holy Father Elijah Young (Siculus) (ed. editorial and translation into modern Greek Monaco Hagiorite Cosma, Stefano Italian translation of the Island), Joseph Pontari Editore, Rome
Elia di Enna, santo, santi e beati.it (in Italian)
Sant ‘Elia the Younger (of Enna) Monk
Enna, 829 ca. – Thessaloniki (Greece), 17 August 904
Etymology: Elijah = my Lord is Yahweh, from Hebrew
Roman Martyrology: At Thessaloniki in Macedonia, in today’s Greece, the transit of St. Elia the Younger, a monk according to the teaching of the Eastern Fathers, who, after having suffered greatly for the faith of the Saracens, led with great force a soul in Calabria and in Sicily a severe life of austerity and prayer.
His ‘Life’ was written immediately after his death, by an anonymous Greek monk and therefore sufficiently reliable. Elijah was born in Enna around 829 with the name of John, who changed when he became a monk; it was a Sicilian-Greek ascetic from the adventurous life, marked by the rigidity of the Italo-Greek monasticism of the Byzantine Middle Ages.
His was an itinerant life, interwoven with adventures, journeys on foot, foundations of monasteries, worked miracles; he was forced to abandon his city Enna (the ancient Henna), besieged by the Saracens and conquered by them in 859; he fell into their hands anyway and was sold into Africa.
Freed later, he began to preach the Gospel at the risk of his life; forced to flee, he fled to Palestine, where he received the monastic habit from the patriarch of Jerusalem.
He spent three years in a Sinai monastery from where he passed to Alexandria, then to Persia, to Antioch and finally to Africa. After the fall in the hands of the Arabs of Syracuse (878), Elijah who had returned to Sicily, went to Palermo to see the old mother again; from there he passed to Taormina where he met the monk Daniel, who became the companion of his wanderings, emulating him in his virtues.
Crossed the Strait he went to Calabria where, around 880, he founded the Saline monastery near Reggio Calabria, which then took its name. Threatened by the Saracen raids he was forced to leave first to Patras in Greece and then to S. Cristina in the Aspromonte.
The indefatigable monk also went on pilgrimage to Rome and upon his return, he founded the monastery of Aulinas (900-901) on the mountain which took its name from Palmi; the fame of his marvelous activity, preaching and numerous miracles, also came to the East, whereby the emperor Leo VI the Philosopher (866-911) invited him to Constantinople.
Once again, the now old Elia set out on his journey, but could not reach his destination; when he arrived in Thessalonica, the ancient Thessaloniki, in Macedonia, fell ill and died here on August 17, 904.
His body was transported by the faithful monk Daniel to Aulinas near Palmi and according to his desire, buried in the church of the monastery, which as mentioned above took its name, to which two centuries later it was added that of s. Filerete, another Sicilian-Greek monk.
It had public worship until the end of the eighteenth century, that is, until the monastery building remained, then demolished; one of his relics is venerated in Galatro (Reggio Calabria) where there was also a Greek monastery named after him.
Its name remains linked to Monte S. Elia, today a very popular tourist destination and on which stands an oratory in his honor.
Author: Antonio Borrelli
St. Elias the New (Feast Day – August 17)
Saint Elias was born in Enna, Sicily in 823 where he was given the name Giovanni. His anonymous biographer reports that at the age of twelve he wisely taught those who were older than him, having himself the mind of an old man, and they listened to him like a prophet. His childhood coincided with the first period of the Arab occupation of Sicily, and he himself suffered its disturbance.
Ioannis Rachítis (Elias of Enna)
He was born about 823 in Enna (Sicily) and received at baptism the name of the Precursor of Christ, John, Ioannis .
In front of the threatening advance of the Arabs, his parents had to flee.
At the age of twelve, Ioannis devoted himself to a life of prayer and reading of Scripture.
In 859, however, the Saracens took him captive to Africa, but he was released, perhaps miraculously, in any case unexpected. He began to preach the Gospel.
In 878 he went to Jerusalem, became a monk near the basilica of the Resurrection; after some time he emitted the profession in the hands of the patriarch Elias III, who imposed him the name of Elias.
Elias, then, retired at first three years in a monastery of Mount Sinai, then carried out long pilgrimages: Egypt, Persia, Antioch. Then he returned to Sicily, where he could see his old mother again in Palermo. From there he went to Greece with his new disciple, Daniele, before returning to Italy, where they settled in Calabria, leading a life of asceticism. Elias founded the first Calabrian monastery from the Sicilian monastic line.
The miracles wrought by Elias, his holy life, his gifts of prophecy, the reading of hearts, made him famous in spite of himself, and he was summoned to Constantinople by the Emperor Leo VI the Philosopher.
Elias set off on a journey, but when he reached Thessalonica, he surrendered his soul to God, begging his faithful Daniele to carry his body to the Seminary of Seminara, which he had founded.
It was in 903.
There will be another Elias from the same period, says the Speleologist (see 11 September).
Our holy Elias is said to be the Younger , as opposed to the Old Elijah Prophet (v. 20 July).
Saint Elias the Younger is commemorated on August 17 in the Roman Martyrology.
Elias of Enna (d. 903 or 904). This less well known saint of the Regno was born at today’s Enna (EN) in Sicily shortly after the Muslim conquest of the island had begun. His baptismal name was Joseph and he was Greek-speaking. According to his tenth-century Bios (BHG 580), when J. was twelve he was captured by Muslims who were besieging Enna and was transported to Africa, where he was sold as a slave. By divine providence, he was bought by a local Christian. Not long afterwards he was returned to Sicily and to his parents by an East Roman raiding party that had come from Syracuse. A few years later Muslims captured him again, sold him again into slavery in Africa, and again he was bought by a Christian.
This time, though, J. was sold on to another Christian, very rich, who brought him up with respect and affection. But the rich man’s wife lusted after J. and when he refused her she accused him to her husband of attempting to seduce her (in the text, the parallel with Potiphar’s wife is explicit). J. then left this unhappy household, began to preach the Gospel, was imprisoned, escaped, and undertook a pilgrimage to Palestine and Egypt. In Jerusalem he entered religion, taking the name of Elias. After further travels in the East, E. returned to Sicily where he visited his mother, who now lived in Muslim-ruled Palermo.
Moving on to Taormina (the last city in Sicily still in East Roman hands), E. met the monk Daniel who became his faithful companion and later the chief informant of the writer of this Bios. Foreseeing the town’s Muslim capture, E. warned both the citizens and the governor but was not taken seriously. So he and Daniel left for Calabria, where E. founded a monastic settlement near today’s Gioia Tauro (RC). Muslim raids caused him to move on again and he spent some years in various parts of southern Italy and in Greece, preaching the Gospel and operating miracles. He founded another monastery near today’s Palmi (RC) and was living there when the emperor (who will have been Leo VI) invited him to Constantinople. The aged E. died en route at Thessalonica. David brought E.’s body back to the monastery, interring it there on the height now known as Monte Sant’Elia. Thus far the Bios.
Both of E.’s monastic foundations were subsequently named for him; both became important places in the history of Greek monasticism in southern Italy. Neither remains today. But at Monte Sant’Elia one can see the very spot where, it is said, the devil appeared to E. and tried to tempt him with a bag of money. E. took the bag and flung the coins against the mountain, where they came to rest as black rocks. Students of “body print” relics (a recurring topic on this list) should not fail to note the devil’s hoofprints in the final view on this page:
E.’s Bios is a monument of Italo-Greek literature. Though not as impressive as that of Nilus of Rossano a century later, it too presents a varied and engaging portrait of a holy man operating in a secular and often hostile world. A less effective moment that nonetheless is historically interesting is the brief sermon comparing Christianity with Islam that is put into E.’s mouth in paragraphs 23-24. The now standard edition of the Bios is that of Giovanni Rossi Taibbi, _Vita di Sant’Elia il Giovane. Testo inedito con traduzione italiana_ (Palermo: Istituto siciliano di studi bizantini e neoellenici, 1962).