St. Theodosius: The Ideal Rus Christian

St. Theodosius (or Feodosii, as he is called in Life) is portrayed to be on the far side of Christian devotion. The text portrays Feodosii as an idyllic Christian, able to purge himself of any and all earthly needs and desires. From a young age, he appears to be completely and utterly devoted to God. Feodosii wore ragged, patched clothes and preferred to study divine books, rather than playing with children. Life provided any Rus citizen with the perfect painting of what it meant to be a Christian, while simultaneously setting the bar so high that it appears no Rus citizen could ever compare.

Reading the text from today’s mindset, St. Theodosius’s actions appear utterly ridiculous. What child would completely forsake playing, in order to study diving books with “submissiveness and obedience”? Though the text quite clearly spells out the author’s idea of an ideal Christian, it completely neglects the notion that people are human, and therefore prone to the occasional bout of selfishness or the odd desire for enjoyment and pleasure.

Despite seeming far-fetched, though, I feel that the author painted St. Theodosius’s life to be such a struggle so that readers can take note of the degree of piety. A rational human wouldn’t expect another average human to take beatings without fighting back, to perform self-harm to prove religious devotion, or even to forsake all earthly goods in the name of their Lord. By making the story of St. Theodosius’s life so extreme, the author ensured that the audience would take something away from the story, even if they couldn’t be the ideal Christian that Feodosii embodies.

The fantastical image of the ‘ideal’ Christian (one who constantly studies divine books, bakes bread for the Church, performs labor with slaves, who travels on pilgrimages, and who ultimately devotes their life to a monastery) gave Rus citizens something to strive for, even if it was unattainable. The high standards would ensure that Rus citizens always had to something to work on and emulate, ultimately creating generations of devout Christians.

4 thoughts on “St. Theodosius: The Ideal Rus Christian

  1. The ideal Christian has clearly varied depending on the region. But what was most fascinating is how Rus’ society seemed to be much more literate than most of western Europe. Most of western Europe used a priest to deliver the message of God while Rus’ society seemed to be much more into learning the word of God on their own. Reading the story of St. Theodosius made me question how much of the Rus’ population was literate, and who had access to books.

  2. I agree with your idea that Theodosius served as a role model for the ideal Christian. The standards to which he held himself were very extreme, and nearly impossible to achieve by any normal human being. While I understand the implications of this story, and the reasons for it being told to the masses, I wonder what manner these stories and subsequent lessons were conveyed. Was religious education the responsibility of only the Church? Or were parents and family members expected to educate each other in their homes?

  3. You mentioned in your last paragraph that Theodosius sets the image of the perfect Christian studying books etc and that it gave Rus’ citizen something to strive for. Do you think such story could be one of the reasons that literacy was so (relatively) widespread.

  4. On of the things that I find interesting about Theodosius is that he seems to represent the influence of Byzantine Christianity on Russian religion. Whereas Boris and Gleb were praised for their honorable actions in war, Theodosius is held in high regard because of his monasticism and his study, things that were not inherent in Russian society before Christianity. The stories of the Russian saints show two cultures evolving simultaneously. However, I think that both show the importance of actions to Russian religiosity, especially in a culture that was not totally literate and therefore could not expect bible study to be a main component of religious practice.

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