Feast Day : August 28
Also known as: Moses the Ethiopian
Moses the Black was born around 332 in Nubia. He became enslaved to a government official in Egypt, who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of outlaws that roamed around the Nile Valley, terrorizing people. Moses was large, imposing, ferocious and strong, and became notorious for his crimes. When local authorities pursued him, he hid among monks at the Petra monastery in Skete, in the western desert near Alexandria. The monks had a positive influence on him. Over the course of time, he gave up his life of crime and became a monk himself. Moses was a zealous perfectionist and became a prophetic spiritual leader. Some credit him with establishing the paschal fast that developed in the fourth century and later became the Lenten fast. According to lore, the abbot ordered all the monks to fast during a particular week. When some brothers came to visit Moses, he cooked a meal for them. But when other monks confronted Moses about breaking the commandment, they told him that though he had not kept the commandment of men, he had kept the commandment of God. Another story told of Moses concerns a brother who committed a fault. A council was convened to judge the brother; Moses was invited but he refused to attend. He was summoned, and so went to the meeting carrying a leaking jug filled with water (or, by other accounts, a basket of sand with a hole in it). Asked for the meaning of this, Moses said, “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” Shamed, the council forgave the brother. Moses was ordained a priest by Theophilus of Alexandria, which was uncommon at that time for desert monks. He became the spiritual leader of a colony of hermits near Skete. Around 407, when Moses was about 75 years old, the colony learned that a group of Bedouins planned to attack them. Moses forbade the brothers to defend themselves, telling them to retreat rather than to fight. All but seven monks and Moses left the colony. When the Bedouins arrived, they were welcomed by the hermits, but turned on them and murdered them. Moses was buried at Dair al-Baramus, the Monastery of the Romans, in the Valley of Natron. His relics are now in the Church of Al Adra (the Virgin). He is regarded as the apostle of nonviolence. His wisdom is included in the Sayings of the Fathers, a collection of wisdom of the desert monks.