Thursday, February 29, 2024

Saint Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

Saint Sampson (Σαμψών) was born in Rome, the son of wealthy, but devout and virtuous parents. He received an excellent education, studying philosophy and medicine, among other subjects. From his earliest childhood, he lived an exemplary Christian life. After the death of his parents he transformed the family estate into a clinic for the sick. Word of his healing skills spread, and so many people came to him that he had to hire a staff to care for the increasing numbers of people who sought his help. When he had an adequate staff, he donated all of his wealth to the clinic, and was content to live in poverty (Luke 12:33-34).

Saint Sampson went to Constantinople, where he hoped to spend the rest of his life in asceticism. He found, however, that there was just as much need for his skill in Constantinople as there had been in Rome. He bought a modest home and began to treat the sick. God blessed Saint Sampson’s work and gave him the grace of working miracles. He healed the sick not only by his medical skill, but also as one filled with the grace of God. News of Saint Sampson spread rapidly throughout the Queen of Cities.

His piety and love for his neighbor brought him to the attention of Patriarch Menas of Constantinople (August 25), who ordained him to the holy priesthood. When Emperor Justinian became ill, and his physicians were unable to provide any relief for him, Patriarch Menas suggested that he send for Sampson, who healed the Emperor. Justinian offered him gold and silver to show his gratitude, but the saint refused, saying that he had already given all his wealth away. Instead, he asked Justinian to build a hospice for travelers.

His Life was written by Saint Symeon Metaphrastes. The historian Procopius, however, implies that Sampson lived before the sixth century, and that the hospice had existed before his own time (Buildings, I, 2, 14). When Sampson’s hospice (xenon) was burnt and destroyed in 532, Justinian rebuilt it and endowed it with a generous annual income. It was intended for the destitute, and those who suffered from serious illnesses, as well as those who had lost their property or their health.

Saint Sampson reposed quietly, following a brief illness, in the year 530 at a ripe old age. He was buried in the church of Saint Mokios (Μώκιος), which was built by Saint Constantine the Great. Many miracles of healing took place at the tomb of Saint Sampson.

Even after his death, the Saint continued to watch over his hospice. Twice he appeared to a lazy worker, and chastised him for his negligence. Later, the hospice became a church, and a new building for the homeless was constructed beside it. A terrible fire once raged in Constantinople, but did not damage the church or the new building. Through the prayers of Saint Sampson, a heavy rain extinguished the flames.

The appointed Scriptural readings for his Feast are from Galatians 5:23-6:2 and from Luke 12:32-40.

Through the prayers of Saint Sampson, may we also find the treasure which does not fail, in Heaven.

Saint Samson was from Rome and flourished during the reign of Saint Justinian the Great. Being a physician, he came to Constantinople, where he so distinguished himself for his virtue and his love for the sick and the poor that Patriarch Menas ordained him priest. The Emperor Justinian was healed by him, and out of gratitude built him a large hospital, which was afterwards known as “The Hospice of Samson.” Saint Samson is one of the Holy Unmercenaries.

Sampson was born of wealthy and eminent parents in ancient Rome, where he studied all the secular sciences of that time, dedicating himself particularly to the science of medicine. Sampson was a compassionate and unmercenary physician and administered cures to the sick, both for the body and the soul, counseling everyone to fulfill the requirements of the Christian Faith. He later moved to Constantinople, where he lived in a small house, from which, as the sun disperses its rays of light, he spread forth upon the whole land alms, comfort, counsel, hope, medicine and, in general, help to the helpless, both spiritually and physically. The patriarch heard of the great virtues of this man and ordained him a priest.

At that time, Emperor Justinian the Great became ill and all his physicians were convinced that the illness was incurable. Then the emperor prayed to God with great fervency, and God revealed to him in a dream that Sampson would heal him. And indeed, when the emperor learned of Sampson, he invited him to his court, and as soon as the elder placed his hand on the ailing spot the emperor recovered. When the emperor offered him enormous wealth for this, Sampson thanked him but did not want to accept anything, saying to him: “O Emperor, I had gold and silver and other goods, but I left all for the sake of Christ, in order to gain eternal, heavenly wealth.” When the emperor insisted on doing something for him, holy Sampson implored the emperor to build him a home [hospice] for the poor. There Sampson served the poor as a parent serves his children. Mercy toward the poor and helpless was natural to him. Finally, this saintly man, completely filled with heavenly power and goodness, reposed peacefully on June 27, 530 A.D., and was interred in the Church of his relative, the Holy Martyr Mocius. After his death, Sampson appeared many times to those who called upon him for assistance.

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