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St. Narcissus

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Facts

Feastday: October 29
Birth: AD 99
Death: AD 216

St. Narcissus was born towards the end of the first century in AD 99. He was almost 80-years-old when he was placed at the head of the church of Jerusalem, making him the 30th bishop of that see.

In 195, he and Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, presided together in a council of the bishops of Palestine held at Caesarea regarding the time Easter is celebrated. It was then decreed that the feast of Easter is to be kept always on a Sunday.

Bishop and historian, Eusebius says this particular Easter miracle can be attributed to Narcissus "One year on Easter-eve the deacons did not have any oil for the lamps in the church, which was necessary at the solemn divine office on that day. Narcissus ordered those who had care of the lamps to bring him some water from the neighboring wells. This being done, he pronounced a devout prayer over the water. Then he bade them pour it into the lamps; which they did. The water was immediately converted into oil, to the great surprise of all the faithful."

However, not even the veneration of all good men could shelter Narcissus from the malice of the wicked.

Three persistent sinners, fearing Narcissus' severity in the observance of religious discipline, accused him of an unimaginable crime. The sinners maintained they were telling the truth by adding additional security into their claims. If they were not speaking the truth, one wished he might perish by fire, another, that he might be struck with a leprosy, and the third, that he might lose his sight.

Nevertheless, their accusations were found to be false and Divine Retribution was called upon them.

The first was burnt in his house, along with his whole family, by an accidental fire in the night. The second was struck with a universal leprosy; and the third, terrified by these examples, confessed the conspiracy and slander, and by the abundance of tears which he continually shed for his sins, lost his sight before his death.    

Soon after, Narcissus decided to leave Jerusalem for a life of solitude. His reasons for doing so weren't clear. Some believed he left because he could not bear the shock of the bold slander, and others believed leaving had always been a wish of his.

He spent several years undiscovered in his retreat, where he enjoyed all the happiness and advantage which a close conversation with God can bestow.

After he departed, the neighboring bishops chose a new pastor for Narcissus' church until he decided to return.

Once Narcissus returned, years later, the faithful rejoiced and convinced Narcissus to once again assume the administration of the diocese. He accepted.

As Narcissus started to reach an extreme old age, he made St. Alexander his coadjutor.

A coadjutor is a bishop appointed to assist a diocesan bishop, and often also designated as his successor.

St. Narcissus continued to serve his flock, and even other churches, by his diligent prayers and his earnest exhortations to unity and concord, as St. Alexander testifies in his letter to the Arsinoites in Egypt, where he says that Narcissus was at that time about 116 years old.

St. Narcissus passed away soon after in AD 216, at the age of 117.

He is often depicted as a Bishop holding a thistle in blossom, with a pitcher of water next to him or with an angel shown carrying his soul to heaven.    

His feast day is celebrated on October 29.


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