I just heard of him today, St. Moses the Hungarian. Evidently his feast day was on July 26. Since my normal Orthodox orientation is Byzantine (under a Greek (Crete) patriarch of Alexandria and a Cypriot Archbishop of Kenya), I'm still learning about the rich traditions of other jurisdictions. I attend a Ukrainian Orthodox Church (St. Nicholas Church in Crozet, VA) while I'm in the States, and am enjoying this glimpse into the riches of the Ukrainian Orthodox tradition. And today it was St. Moses.
St. Moses is the kind of man desperately needed in our churches today. I appreciate his single-mindedness and his purity of heart, two qualities that have gone missing in recent decades in the lives of too many Western Christians. So many of us men struggle with the same things. And the palette of sexual sin has, if anything, only expanded, especially in this age of the internet.
So it's a timely thing for me, at least, to consider St. Moses, his battle, his commitment, his purity, and to see that in Christ such a thing is possible. Below is his story, borrowed from the blog Full of Grace and Truth.
The impure enemy of mankind struggles mightily against a person who is susceptible to the passion of fornication, so that such a person might remain darkened by this passion and will not be able to look upon God. «For, only the pure in heart will see God. It was upon this field of battle that our holy father Moses fought and defeated the power of the impure enemy, giving us an example of such a victory.
Saint Moses was a Hungarian by birth. Together with his brother George, he was in the service of the pious prince, Boris the Passion-bearer, who loved Moses very much. During the battle on the Yalta River, in the war between Prince Boris and Prince Svyatopolk, Saint Moses was the sole survivor of Boris’s forces. blessed Moses fled to Kiev, where he hid from Svyatopolk in the home of Predislava, Prince Yaroslav’s sister. Here, Moses spent his time in prayer. Finally, Prince Yaroslav defeated Svyatopolk, who then fled to Poland. Later, Svyatopolk returned with Boleslav of Poland and his army. They drove Prince Yaroslav away and occupied Kiev. King Boleslav returned to Poland taking as captives two of Yaroslav’s sisters, several boyars and St Moses. The blessed one, who was huge and muscular, and exceedingly handsome, was led away chained by his arms and legs.
A certain wealthy and powerful Polish noblewoman saw the saint and was seized by the lust of carnal desires toward him. She went to Moses and asked him how he had fallen into such a cruel condition. He replied, «It is thus pleasing to God.»
The woman then continued, «If you will yield to me, I will deliver you and make you great in all Poland, and you will rule over my estates.»
The saint, however, understood her unclean lust and said to her, «What man who has listened to a woman acted well? Adam listened to a woman and was banished from paradise. Samson, who overpowered everyone with his strength, by the unclean enchantment of a woman, was given into the hands of aliens. Herod, who had won many victories, yielded to impure passions and was enslaved by a woman, and he beheaded John the Forerunner. How can I listen to the unclean advice of a woman, whom I do not even know?»
But she continued, «I will deliver you from death and make you renowned. I will have you as my husband, for I cannot bear to see your youth go to waste.»
Saint Moses sharply replied, «Know that I will not fulfill your desires. I want neither power nor wealth, but I seek spiritual and physical purity. May I not ruin my five-year long struggle, and now I innocently endure torments so that I may be delivered from eternal torments.»
The woman then conceived a new evil scheme. «If I ransom him,» she thought, «then I can force him to submit to me.»
She sent to the master of the captives and bought Moses for three thousand gold pieces. Now that St Moses was her slave, she ordered that he be clad in rich attire and fed with rich foods. She began all the more to entice him to fornication. The blessed one, however, when he saw the woman’s frenzy, prayed and fasted all the more diligently, taking only dry bread and water. The woman, being thus shamed, fell into a rage and ordered the blessed one thrown into a dungeon, intending to starve him to death. But the Lord, Who ever gives food to all flesh, Who once nourished Elias in the wilderness, and also fed Paul of the Thebaid, did not forsake this blessed one. One of the servants of this woman secretly brought Moses food. Other servants tried to convince the saint, saying, «Moses, our brother, what prevents you from marrying? You are young and this widow lived with her husband for only one year. She has beauty, her wealth is countless and her power is great. The king himself would not disdain her, while you, a prisoner, do not want to be her lord. If you are afraid of violating Christ’s commandment, He Himself said, ‘For this sake a man will leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh’. Also, the Apostle said, ‘it is better to marry than to burn’, and that ‘young widows will remarry’. You are not bound by monastic vows, you are free. So why do you cause yourself to suffer such torments? How will it benefit you if you die? Even the righteous ones: Abraham, Isaak and Jacob, had wives. It is better for you to submit to a woman and be free and be the lord of this house.»
Blessed Moses replied to them, «Oh brethren and good friends! You advise me well, but I know it is worse than the advice the serpent gave Eve in paradise. You advise me to submit to a woman, but I shall not accept your advice, and even if I die in these chains and torments, I shall not yield to her flattery. Though many of the righteous were saved with wives, I am a sinner and I will not be saved with her. I want neither kingdom nor power in the Polish land, but I seek the higher, heavenly kingdom. Even if I am deprived of life, I will not listen to the advice of this woman, and I will remain like a monk, for Christ said in His Gospel, whoever has left his home and brethren, father and mother or foregoes a wife or children or village for the sake of His name will inherit eternal life. Shall I heed Christ, or you? The Apostle says the same, ‘The unmarried worries about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord, while the married worries about the mate, how to please the mate.’ I ask you, whom ought one to work for — the Lord or a wife? Therefore, this woman’s beauty will never seduce me and will not separate me from Christ’s love.»
When the woman heard of all this, she was aroused to madness with evil thoughts. She had Saint Moses dressed and seated upon a horse, and, surrounded by a large retinue, she rode with him among her villages and the town, saying to him, «All this is yours; do what you wish.»
To the people she said, «This is your lord, and my husband.» Everyone bowed to Moses.
The saint felt pity toward the woman’s madness, and said to her, «You are doing all this in vain. You cannot entice me with the corruptible things of this world, and you cannot steal from me incorruptible spiritual wealth — please, try to understand this and do not go through all this in vain.»
In a rage, the woman said, «Do you not know that you have been sold to me? Who will deliver you from my hands? I will not let you go alive! I will have you tortured and executed!»
The blessed one answered her with boldness, «I fear no evil, for the Lord is with me. I intend to work for Him in the monastic life.»
At this time, by God’s mercy, a priestmonk from the Holy Mountain who was travelling in the area, heard of Moses and came to him secretly. After speaking with the saint, he tonsured him and taught him much about spiritual and physical purity. When the woman heard of this, she lost all hope of leading Saint Moses into sin, and she began to have him tortured. He was stretched out and beaten with metal rods until the ground was covered with his blood. The torturers pleaded with Moses to submit to the woman. «There is no limit to the tortures she will inflict on you before having you killed.»
To all this, Saint Moses replied bravely, «Brothers! Do what you have been ordered to do. It is impossible for me to renounce monasticism and God’s love. No torment, nor fire, nor swords, nor wounds can separate me from God and the great angelic tonsure. I will not submit to the accursed will of this shameless woman, who has brazenly displayed her shamelessness before all people, inciting me to defilement and fornication.»
In desperation, the woman wrote to King Boleslav, accusing Saint Moses and asking the king to influence him to accept her.
The king ordered the woman to come to him with her slave Moses. When he saw Moses, he tried to compel the saint to take the woman. Finally, he said to Moses, «Who is so insensitive as you, that you refuse so many benefits and honour, and give yourself over to torture? You must choose either life or death. If you fulfil the will of your mistress, you will receive great honour and power; if you disobey, you will receive death.»
Then the king said to the woman, «This captive, whom you have purchased, cannot go free. As his mistress, do to your slave what you will, so that the other slaves will not dare to disobey their masters.»
Our holy father Moses replied to the king, «What use is it to a man to acquire the whole world and lose his soul, or, what will a man give in return for his soul? You promise me glory and honour, when you yourself will soon die, and this woman will be killed.»
The saint’s prophecy was truly fulfilled. The woman began to torture Moses all the more, ordering that he be given a hundred lashes each day, so that he would eventually die from bleeding. Meanwhile, King Boleslav raised a great persecution against the monks and drove them out of Poland. In the midst of all this, Boleslav fell ill and died suddenly one night. At his death, a great rebellion broke out in the land and the people rose up and slew their bishops and nobles, including this shameless woman. The slaves were freed.
Saint Moses, the good warrior of Christ, had suffered for six years. For five years he had struggled in his chains, showing the patience of Job, but in the sixth year, he suffered courageously for purity more than Joseph. After his liberation, he made his way to the Kiev Caves, where he struggled as a hesychast for ten more years. Here, he radiated the grace of God and attained to great spiritual heights. He reposed on 26 July, while St Antony was still alive. His sacred relics repose uncovered and uncorrupted in the cave of St Antony. Through his holy prayers, many have been delivered from fornication and impure passions.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, and of St. Moses the Hungarian, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on me and save me.