He Played the Long Game

Today the church gets a double feast!

Not only do we honor St. Augustine, but we also honor St. Moses the Ethiopian, a 5th Century monk and martyr.

St. Moses was an Ethiopian slave to an Egyptian official who sent him away on suspicion of theft and murder. Moses gathered together a gang of thieves who roamed the Nile valley wreaking havoc on the travelers they met.

This gang, led by St. Moses, attacked a desert monastery near Alexandria, intending to pillage, but they were so impressed by the soft-spoken and even tempered Abbot, that Moses decided to abandon the life of a thief and join the monastery.

He was later ordained into the priesthood, which was rare for a desert father, and founded his own monastery of seventy-five monks equal to the number of thieves in his former gang.

St. Moses became known for his humility, wisdom, love, and his generous perspective when it came to the life and failings of those he met.

In the year 405 his own monastery came under attack by some roaming Berbers. St. Moses forbade his monks from fighting back. Most of them fled, but St. Moses and seven others stayed to welcome their new Berber guests.

Unfortunately the Berbers did not react to Moses’ hospitality in the same way that Moses had reacted to his former Abbot’s welcome.

All 8 of the monks, including St. Moses, were killed.

The monastery St. Moses founded is still active, and his remains are buried there.

St. Moses is remembered as one who practiced non-violence, and is considered the patron saint of African Americans.

St. Moses,who is often referred to as “St. Moses the Black,” is a reminder for me, and for the whole church, that though non-violence is not always effective at stopping violence in the immediate, it is always remembered in the annals of history because it is such a rare practice. Non-violent movements of today stand upon these shoulders.

Non-violence, Beloved, is playing the long game.

St. Moses, with his life and example, pleads with us even today to continue playing the long game when it comes to violence in this world.

-parts from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations

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