A field guide to renewers, reformers & martyrs recognized and commemorated by
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Moses the Black

Moses the Black (also known as "the Strong" and "the Ethiopian") was a fourth century Egyptian monk, spiritual leader, priest and advocate of non-violence. He was born into the service of an Egyptian government official. After being discharged for robbery, Moses formally entered a life of crime, leading a notorious gang of murderous thieves. Running from the law, Moses took refuge with a desert monastic order near Alexandria. He was so taken by their way of life that he became a Christian and joined their order.

One night, Moses was attacked in his room by bandits. He overpowered the four men, tied them up and drug them to the chapel where he told his brothers that, "he didn't think that as a Christian he should hurt them -- but that he wasn't quite sure what to do with them." The four criminals were converted and also joined the desert community at Scetes.

When a fellow monk was charged with committing an infraction, a meeting was convened to decide on the appropriate punishment. Moses refused to attend. When asked again to attend, Moses arrived carrying a leaky bag of sand over his shoulder. When asked by his brothers why he was carrying the bag of sand, he replied, "My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another." Convicted by the truth of his statement, the brothers forgave the offending monk.

Moses later became the leader of a monastic colony in the Western Desert, where he was ordained a priest. Around 405 AD, word came that they were soon to be attacked by Berbers. The monks wanted to take up arms and defend the monastery, but Moses forbade them to do so. He and seven others remained and greeted the attackers with hospitality. All eight men were martyred.

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