Today, March 13, the Church remembers Saint Euphrasia of Constantinople, a fourth-century nun, an important figure in female monasticism in antiquity.
protected from the emperor
Euphrasia was the daughter of Antigonus, a senator from Constantinople, related to Emperor Theodosius I. A year after Euphrasia’s birth, Antigonus died, leaving the little girl and her mother under the protection of the imperial household. The emperor personally took care of both women.
When Euphrasia was 5 years old, according to custom, Theodosius decided to commit her in future marriage to the son of a wealthy Roman senator. Meanwhile, her mother, also called Euphrasia, was becoming more and more committed to her Christian faith, so she decided to leave Constantinople and move to Egypt with her daughter. Euphrasia was about 7 years old when she arrived in that country with her mother and she came into contact with the hermits and monks of Tebaida. Egypt was a land in which Christian spirituality flourished, where great saints and saints testified to the greatness of God. There, the two women began to frequent the monastery of Santa María, founded by Saint Cyril of Alexandria and Saint Sara, becoming close to the nuns who lived there and adopting many of their customs.
A flower blooms in the garden of holiness
To a great extent, for this reason, little Eufrasia began to feel more and more attracted to hermit religious life and, when her mother died, she begged the nuns to allow her to remain with them in the monastery, taking the novice’s habits at the age of 8 years.
Upon turning twelve, Emperor Arcadius wanted to make good on the promise made by his predecessor Theodosius I, and he sent a message to the monastery where Euphrasia was, asking him to return to marry the senator to whom she was promised.
The saint refused to leave the convent and wrote a letter to the emperor begging to be released, in exchange for selling all the assets inherited from her parents and freeing all the slaves in her household. Euphrasia asked the emperor to distribute the proceeds among the poor. Finally, despite being opposed to her disposing of her inheritance, the emperor acceded to Euphrasia’s wishes.
The young woman continued with her life in the monastery, coping with the discipline and difficulties of everyday life, also facing the temptations that invited her to look back, or dream of what would have become of her enjoying the privileges that corresponded to her. Euphrasia fought “the good fight” with the help of grace, practicing charity and invoking the name of Christ.
on the fight
Tradition has it that the abbess of the convent, Sara, had a vision in which the glorious Christ took Eufrasia as his wife in paradise. And it is that the saint lived deeply in love with Christ, keeping herself in eternal fidelity to Him. However, there are numerous stories in which Satan tempted the young woman while she was working or fasting. Sara had provided a special discipline for the saint, between fasting and penance, accompanied by prayer. Eufrasia emerged victorious from many spiritual battles, more attached to the Lord, with a strengthened soul. Then, the Lord, because of her proven love for her, granted her the gift of performing miracles and casting out evil spirits. Euphrasia healed many sick people and freed many possessed; as was the case of a child who could not walk because a demon had him paralyzed, or a nun whose soul had fallen into the hands of the tempter.
Heading to heaven with her sisters
When the saint was around 30 years old, she became seriously ill with a fever, and on her deathbed, both Julia, her cellmate, and Sara, the abbess, implored her to grant them the grace of being with her in Heaven. Three days after Eufrasia’s death, Julia passed away and just a few days later, she succeeded the abbess as well. Those two were crowned with the same laurels of holiness: they were Santa Sara and Santa Julia.