St. Moses the Ethiopian

St. Moses the Ethiopian was a former gang leader, murderer, and thief in ancient Africa. However, he became a model of transformation. His story is one of the most inspiring among the African saints.

Moses, an escaped slave, was the leader of a group of 75 robbers. He was a large and powerful man, who with his gang terrorized the entire region. Moses was transformed after he and his group attacked a monastery, intending to rob it. The abbot, whose peaceful and warm manner overwhelmed him, met him. He immediately felt remorse for all his past sins, sincerely repented, and begged to remain at the monastery.

Moses was tortured by his past and for years was tempted to return to his old ways. One day, as he was confessing his sins to St. Macarius, an angel appeared with a tablet full of his sins. As he confessed, the angel began wiping the tablet clean. The more he confessed, the more the angel wiped, until by the end it was completely clean. After meeting St. Macarius and St. Isidore, he completely left his old ways behind him and became a monk.

Later, St. Moses was ordained to the priesthood – a rare honor among the Desert Fathers – and founded a monastery of 75 monks, the same number as his former group of thieves. He was known for his wisdom, humility, love, and non-judgment of others.

Once a brother had been caught in a particular sin, and the abbot asked St. Moses to come to the church and render judgment. He came reluctantly, carrying on his back a leaking bag of sand. When he arrived, the brothers asked him why he was carrying such a thing. He simply said, “This sand is my sins which are trailing out behind me, while I go to judge the sins of another.” At that reply, the brothers forgave the offender and returned to focusing on their own salvation rather than the sins of their brother.

In 400 A.D., at age 75, St. Moses suffered a martyr’s death, when his monastery, which had 75 monks (the same number as his former gang), was attacked by a group of barbarians.

He told all of the other monks to flee saying: “For many years now, I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: ‘All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword’” (Matt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with Saint Moses, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed Saint Moses and the six monks who remained with him.

On that day, St. Moses exhibited outward calm but stood with perfected, inward peace. He is remembered on the 28th of August. He is the Patron Saint of non-violence and non-judgment.

This article was originally published by Orthodox Christian Initiative for Africa.

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