'You blossomed from faithful and noble stock, you came from a city illustrious and regal, O most-wise Alexios, all things disdained that are mortal and passing, you hastened to be united to Christ the Lord. Pray therefore, always to Him for our souls.' - Apolytikion of Saint Alexios
There are several striking characteristics and details about Saint Alexios' life and example. The first being his rejection of wealth, freely choosing to exchange the materially rich environment he was brought up in, with a life of poverty and self-sacrifice. He remained faithful to his calling and vow of chastity; resulting in him foregoing his own arranged marriage - transforming his body into a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit through fervent prayer, fasting and ascetic struggle.
He was born of wealthy parents, Euphemianos and Aglaia, who initially became engrossed and dominated by their own worldly success and vanity. However, God offered them an opportunity of renewal and repentance. As they experienced difficulties having a child, they pleaded about their situation, simultaneously offering generous amounts of wealth and food to those in need (orphans, the sick, widows and travellers) and offering time and effort to daily prayer. Aglaia's particular prayer was 'remember me Lord, your unworthy servant, and grant me a child to be the consolation of my soul and my support in old age.'
With God's grace, Aglaia conceived and gave birth to their son Alexios. Though he was born into a prayerful, pious family, as he grew older he began to question and reject the wealthy way of life (with servants accompanying him to school for example) and environment, contrary to his desire for a simple, humble way of life. After several years of dedicated study, his parents decided it was time to arrange his marriage. After selecting a young maiden, purchasing a house for them, and organising a grand ceremony, Alexios decided it was not God's will for him to remain in this affluent environment with his wife. Consequently, on the day of his wedding, he lovingly explained to the young maiden that he must leave, assuring her that God will bless both of them in their separate ways. He gathered his belongings, a small amount of money, and travelled to Laodicea, in Asia Minor, praying:
'O God, You Who provide more than abundantly the things which we request of You, open for me Your door upon which I am knocking and grant to me now the fervent desire of my heart.'
From there he reached Edessa in Mesopotamia. Offering all his minimal possessions to the poor, he spent his days outside a church (dedicated to the Theotokos) begging, simply in order to eat a little each day. He spent the majority of his time in the Narthex of the church on a daily basis, for seventeen years, in prayer. Alexios had remained silent for all these years, not mentioning to anyone the fact he was originally from an extremely wealthy and powerful family. One day however, an attendant persuaded him to talk and discuss his personal life. After hearing the details, the attendant boldly said :
'If that blessed man, who grew up in such great luxury and comfort, is now willingly enduring such utter deprivation for the sake of the spiritual life, how much should we, the unworthy, endure for the sake of our salvation?'
Once this was known in the area, Alexios realised it was best to leave, probably because the community (including the local Bishop) began to see him as an exemplary, holy figure; something which can puff up ones ego. He realised it was time to return to Rome, albeit it as an unknown, unrecognisable figure, to see his parents and loved ones. Though his father did not completely recognise his son when meeting him after such a long period of time, he did remind him of his dear Alexios. They welcomed him as a slave and treated him very well (not knowing who he was) in their home. It is said that during a Divine Liturgy in Rome after his return, there was an unknown and invisible sound of a voice proclaiming 'seek the man of God who will pray for Rome. Soon he will die but the Lord will receive his soul into Heaven.' Saint Alexios would continuously keep vigil, indeed praying for his city, his family and all of humanity. After some time living in Rome, his father Euphemianos found his body after passing away peacefully in the Lord. In his hand was a parchment, letting his family know that he is their beloved son. Although there was pain, not having had the chance to see their son alive but passed away, they were also moved, proud and astonished. His tomb exuded fragnant myrrh, and those who anointed themselves with it received many blessings and help from Saint Alexios' source of humility, endurance, chastity, prayer and love; Christ our God.
May we, like Saint Alexios, put our trust in God; placing our lives (our future, our career paths, our children's prospects) in the Lord's hands, as difficult as it may be.
The Life of Saint Alexios, the Man of God, a publication of the Metropolis of Atlanta